The Application of Tribocratic Dispensation to the Hurting Stalemate of the South Sudanese’ Peace Talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
By PaanLuel Wël, Juba
“In the life of every person there comes a point when he realizes that out of all the seemingly limitless possibilities of his youth he has in fact become one actuality. No longer is life a broad plain with forests and mountains beckoning all-around, but it becomes apparent that one’s journey across the meadows has indeed followed a regular path, that one can no longer go this way or that. The desire to reconcile an experience of freedom with a determined environment is the lament of poetry and the dilemma of philosophy.” – Opening Sentence, Henry Kissinger’s Undergraduate Thesis, Harvard University, 1949.
March 6, 2015 (SSB) — During the intra-SPLM/A reconciliation meeting in Rumbek, Lakes state, between Chairman John Garang and his deputy, Commander Salva Kiir Mayaardit following the 2004 Yei crisis, Garang told the gathering that the SPLM was entering a new era of democratic dispensation in which anyone dissatisfied with the way the party and/or the country would be governed will not have any excuse to resort to a military coup to make his or her point.
With his characteristic humor, Garang gave an example of Commander Riek Machar, saying that there would be “no need for coup d’état anymore, so for example my friend, Dr. Riek Machar, will not need to make a coup because he can form his own party if he is discontented with the SPLM.”
Barely two years after the independence of the Republic of South Sudan, Riek Machar is back in the bush, accused of having instigated a failed military coup against the government of President Salva Kiir Mayaardit.
In his own words, according to Riek Machar, he is fighting for political reforms and democratic transformation in South Sudan, but according to the government, Riek Machar has eschewed democratic means in preference for a military force to remove a democratically and constitutionally elected government.
The government’s supporters insist that the government is legitimate and constitutional because the people of South Sudan gave it a resounding 98% of their votes, democratically electing it.
As explained in “Bullet or Ballot: Resolving the Burgeoning Conflict in South Sudan—Part One, Two and Three” and in “The Hurting Stalemate of South Sudan’s Peace Talks—Part One and Two”, the conflict that erupted on December 15th, 2013, was triggered by a perilous power struggle within the ruling SPLM party.
At the commencement of the conflict, the government wanted nothing but the blood-dripping head of Riek Machar while the rebels, backed by the white army, were shouting, “Kiir must go”.
The civil war ensued with the repeated gain and loss of Bor, Bentiu, Malakal, and Nasir towns. The rebels’ momentum began to fizzle in mid 2014. Presently, the government controls all the major towns of South Sudan. Nonetheless, some of these cities are vulnerable to rebel attack.
The rebels can potentially retake Nasir and/or Bentiu and use them as their assembly points in preparation for the interim government. More likely, the rebels might use such strategic towns as their military bases throughout the interim period since they are campaigning for two separate but equal armies in Addis Ababa.
Whereas preliminary peace talks had began in earlier 2014, it was not until the stalemate on the military fronts that the warring factions began to appreciate the IGAD-led South Sudan peace talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The current military standoff has compelled the two warring parties to seek a political settlement of the crisis.
With the help of IGAD leaders, President Kiir and Riek Machar have, in principle, agreed to a power sharing deal under the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGONU), which would run for 30 months.
Nonetheless, the warring factions are yet to compromise on the leadership structure and the power sharing ratios for the interim government. Moreover, there is no agreement whatsoever on the thorny question of security arrangements (during the interim period) and integration of the rebel forces and their allied militias into the national army.
The rebels demand the position of the first vice president and separate armies during the 30-month interim period while the government rubbishes both ideas. Apparently, on the power-sharing ratio, both sides might grudgingly consent to the IGAD-proposed formula of 60% for the government, 30% for the rebels and 10% for other stakeholders such as the G-10 and other political parties.
In the third part of this article, I am going to apply the tribocratic dispensation to unravel the excruciating stalemate of the South Sudanese’ peace talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In part one of this article, I have argued that the most coherent and effective method to achieve an equitable, fair and just system of governance in South Sudan in particular and Africa in general is to adopt and institutionalize tribocracy.
As revealed in part two of this article, under a tribocratic system, South Sudan would be divided by four major tribes, namely the Dinka who are about 38.18% of South Sudan’s national population; the Equatorian who are around 31.82%; the Nuer who are approximately 19.33% and the Minority Group who are roughly 10.65%.
In a fair and just system of governance in which representatives of a particular ethnic group hold a number of government posts proportionate to the percentage of the total population that the particular ethnic group represents, the Dinka would take 38.18% of the national government, the Equatorian 31.82%, the Nuer 19.33% and the Minority Group 10.65%.
When this doctrine is applied to the political mindset of the South Sudanese people that habitual swings between “our” government versus “their” government, it portends a revolutionary impact. Were we to take the idea to its logical conclusion, it means that a tribocratic government is truly the government of the South Sudanese, by the South Sudanese and for the South Sudanese.
It is a government in which each and every ethnic community is fairly and justly represented. With each tribe holding a number of government positions proportionate to the percentage of the total population that the particular tribe in question represents, the government would be seen as “ours” by those to whom justice has been done by a tribocratic system that enshrines fair and equitable political representation across all ethnic groups comprising that particular country.
Under a tribocratic system, how would we contrive and apply a workable formula to the political gridlock in Addis Ababa?
Well, the first logical step is to realize that the rebellion is overwhelmingly Nuer while the Dinka occupy the state security apparatus. Secondly, the IGAD-led peace process is likely to shortchange the Equatorian and the Minority Group, both politically and militarily.
In the recent session concerning security arrangement during the forthcoming interim period, for example, the crescendo of heated debates that ensued between the two warring factions reached a level where each party was accusing the other of a “tribal tendency to control the army for narrow political interests.”
In turn, Hon. Peter Bashir Bandi, a government deputy minister for foreign affairs who is an Equatorian, took sides and attacked the two warring parties, accusing “them of deliberate intent to make the army [a] monopoly of Nuer and Dinka.”
Evidently, although the rebels would pretend to be fighting for freedom and democratic transformation—while the government would pretend to be protecting the legitimate and constitutional institutions—in South Sudan, it is crystal clear that this is far from the truth.
As pointed out by Hon. Bashir Bandi, the Dinka and the Nuer communities are taking the Equatorian and the Minority group for a ride in Addis Ababa. If this dangerous slight is not rectified in time, the Dinka and the Nuer could end up dominating both the political and the military posts of the transitional government.
Firstly, not only will this be grossly unjust to the underrepresented communities, but is likely to incentivize violent rebellion in the sense that one must rebel and kill in order to get his or her fair and just share of the national cake.
Secondly, there is no viable and effective formula to share the transitional government of national unity in a way that would allow each of the four political tribes its fair share of the national government. Under the current peace negotiations in Addis Ababa, the Nuer would still end up dominating the national army in the interim period just as before the December 15th conflict.
Given the ominous way Riek Machar bragged to the Americans in May 2013 that President Kiir should remember that 80% of the South Sudan national army is Nuer, another domination of the national army by one community in South Sudan would herald more trouble in the not-so distant future. It must be avoided by all means if peace and political stability are to reign, once more, in South Sudan.
Most importantly, any government of national unity that would result from the Addis Ababa peace talks would never be “our” government. The Equatorian and the Minority Group would trash it as a government of the “Dinka” and the “Nuer”.
Meanwhile, the Dinka and the Nuer will not perceive it as “their” government either; instead, they would be jostling for absolute control of the pillars of power, a dangerous game that could reignite the conflict.
First of all, for the Addis Ababa peace talks to be meaningful, they have to produce a fair and just government of the four tribes of South Sudan. Secondly, the fair and just government should be seen by all South Sudanese as “their” government, rather than a government of the Dinka, of the Nuer, of the Equatorian or of the Minority Group.
To put it differently, the proposed transitional government of national unity must be 38.18% Dinka, 31.82% Equatorian, 19.33% Nuer and 10.65% Minority Group, both politically and militarily.
What this means is that should the warring factions end up with the IGAD-proposed ratio of 60% for the government, 30% for the rebels and 10% for G-10, then out of the 60% share of the government, 38.18% of the 60% should be given to the Dinka, 31.82% of the 60% to the Equatorian, 19.33% of the 60% to the Nuer, and 10.65% of the 60% to the Minority Group.
In other word, from the 60% allocated to the government, the Dinka under President Salva Kiir would get 22.91%; the Equatorian under President Salva Kiir 19.09%, the Nuer under President Salva Kiir 11.60% and the Minority Group under President Salva Kiir 6.39% of the interim government.
Likewise, for the 30% share given to the rebels under Riek Machar, the Dinka would take 38.18% of the 30%, the Equatorian 31.82% of the 30%, the Nuer 19.33% of the 30%, and the Minority Group 10.65% of the 30%.
Thus, from the 30% allocated to the rebels, the Dinka allied to Riek Machar would be given 11.45%, the Equatorian allied to Riek Machar 9.55%, the Nuer allied to Riek Machar 5.80%, and the Minority Group allied to Riek Machar 3.20% of the transitional government.
The same logic applies to the 10% slated for the G-10. Of the 10%, 38.18% of it should go to the Dinka, 31.82% of it to the Equatorian, 19.33% of it to the Nuer, and 10.65% of it to the Minority Group.
This would translate to 3.82% of the Dinka with the G-10, 3.18% of the Equatorian with the G-10, 1.93% of the Nuer with the G-10, and 1.07% of the Minority Group with the G-10.
The resultant transitional government of national unity under tribocratic dispensation would be seen and taken as “our” government by all the communities of South Sudan because it would be a fair and just government in which every tribe is equitable represented at the “eating table”.
This is because the total share of the Dinka under President Kiir (22.91%) plus those allied to Riek Machar (11.45%) and those with the G-10 (3.82%) would simply add up to 38.18%, which is exactly the percentage share of the Dinka proportionate to the percentage of the total population of South Sudan.
The total share of the Equatorian under President Kiir (19.09%) plus those allied to Riek Machar (9.55%) and those with the G-10 (3.18%) would simply add up to 31.82%, which is exactly the percentage share of the Equatorian proportionate to the percentage of the total population of South Sudan.
The total share of the Nuer under President Kiir (11.60%) plus those allied to Riek Machar (5.80%) and those with the G-10 (1.93%) would simply add up to 19.33%, which is exactly the percentage share of the Nuer proportionate to the percentage of the total population of South Sudan.
The total share of the Minority Group under President Kiir (6.39%) plus those allied to Riek Machar (3.20%) and those with the G-10 (1.07%) would simply add up to 10.65%, which is exactly the percentage share of the Minority Group proportionate to the percentage of the total population of South Sudan.
The above application of the tribocratic dispensation to political sharing of power during the interim period is also relevant to the security arrangement during and after the interim period. In order to avoid the abuse of and fear for the national army, the interim armed forces should be divided up among the four tribes. 38.18% should be Dinka, 31.82% Equatorian, 19.33 Nuer and 10.65% Minority Group.
If the warring parties conclude that the formula for army integration would be 60% for the government, 40% for the rebels, then the Dinka soldiers under the government should have 38.18% of the 60%, which is 22.91% of the national army; Equatorian 31.82% of the 60%, which is 19.09%; Nuer 19.33% of the 60%, which is 11.60%, while the Minority Group get 10.65% of the 60%, which is 6.39%.
Similarly, for the 40% assigned to the rebels, 38.18% of the 40% would be given to the Dinka, which amount to 15.27% of the rebels’ army; 31.82% of the 40% to the Equatorian, which is 12.73%; 19.33% of the 40% to the Nuer, which translate to 7.73%, and 10.65% of the 40% to the Minority Group which is 4.26%.
If we add up the percentage of the Dinka soldiers under the government (22.91%) to those allied to the rebels (15.27%), it would sum up to 38.18% of the national army, which is exactly the percentage share of the Dinka proportionate to the percentage of the total population of South Sudan.
Equally, the sum total of the Equatorian soldiers in the interim national army would be 31.82%, the Nuer 19.33%, and the Minority Group 10.65%, all of which are exactly their percentage shares proportionate to the percentage of the total population of South Sudan.
Indeed, the application of a tribocratic dispensation to the hurting stalemate of the Addis Ababa peace talks would untangle the deadlock over power sharing ratios and security arrangements in the most logical and effective way possible.
However, the lingering question in the mind of the reader is: why would the warring factions—the government under President Kiir and the rebels under Riek Machar—embrace the tribocratic dispensation as the best way to solve the political deadlock and security impasse in Addis Ababa?
Let’s begin first with the armed rebel leader, Dr. Riek Machar: what is his main interest in the current conflict and what are his core challenges to achieving that particular goal?
Contrary to his public utterances that he is fighting for political reform and democratic transformation in South Sudan, Riek Machar’s short-term political interest is to get himself back into the government as the first vice president or prime minister of the Republic of South Sudan.
His long-term goal is to capitalize on his position within the interim government to endear himself to and gain more political support from all sections of the South Sudanese society in order to win the next presidential election at the end of the transitional government.
The main political challenge bedeviling Riek Machar, since the days of the 1991 Nasir Coup, is the tag of “Nuer leader”. The Nasir coup fell apart and Riek Machar had to surrender to Khartoum precisely because he failed to get political and military backing from other South Sudanese communities with the exception of the Nuer—his tribe.
In this current war, Riek Machar has only succeeded in mobilizing the Nuer nation. While there are some few Dinka and Equatorian and Minority Group within the rank and file of the rebel movement, the fact of the matter is that about 99.99% of the armed men fighting and dying on the rebel side are Nuer. More than 99% of the rebel leadership is Nuer, too.
Naturally, Riek Machar is a Nuer leader in charge of a Nuer movement fighting for the interest of the Nuer community in the Republic of South Sudan. Chances of a Nuer leader—riding on the wave of the white army and the Nuer political backing—actually winning the next presidential election are very slim, if not utterly impossible.
Therefore, the most logical favor that Riek Machar can do himself is to wean himself off the ideology of Nuerism. This is informed by the fact that if Riek Machar can’t take power by force when the Nuer, in his own bragging, were “80%” of the national army, then the military option is out of the question.
Given what happened on December 15th, it is inconceivable that there will ever be another day that the Nuer would be “80%” of the South Sudan national army.
Consequently, for Riek Machar, the only road leading to the presidency is the democratic means—of ballot rather than bullet. In highly tribalized nations like South Sudan, the size of the community of the aspiring leader does really matter.
Those from larger communities do have better prospects of winning the presidency relative to those from smaller ones.
Unlike his arch-rival President Kiir whose ethnic constituency constitutes about 40% of South Sudan national population, Riek Machar’s ethnic community amounts to around 20% of the national population.
Riek Machar, for that reason, needs more support from the Dinka, the Equatorian, and the Minority Group than Salva Kiir. That is to say, on the surface, Riek Machar has more reasons to embrace and advocate for the tribocratic dispensation as a power sharing mechanism in Addis Ababa than President Kiir.
Tribocracy will give Riek Machar a much-needed foothold within the political constituencies of the Dinka, the Equatorian and the Minority Group. Through tribocratic dispensation, Riek Machar can redeem himself—changing from being a Nuer leader leading a Nuer movement for Nuer interests to a South Sudanese leader leading the South Sudanese people for national interest.
His political base in the interim government would shift from its current predominantly Nuer army and Nuer political base to 38.18% Dinka, 31.82% Equatorian, 19.33% Nuer and 10.65% Minority Group. Once his core supporters are fairly distributed all over the Republic of South Sudan, Riek Machar will definitely have a better shot at the presidency than at any time in the living history of South Sudan.
How about President Salva Kiir: what is his overriding interest in the current conflict and what are his cores political and security challenges?
Contrary to his public declarations about the sanctity of a constitutional government, President Kiir short-term political interest is to lead the interim government while his long-term interest is to win the forthcoming presidential election at the end of the provisional period of 30 months.
However, his main challenge is how to prevent the Nuer from re-dominating both the government and the army in the forthcoming transitional government of national unity.
Before the dissolution of government in July 2013, the Nuer, who are around 19% of South Sudan national population, reportedly made up about 70% of the national army and were more than fairly represented in the government. The vice president was a Nuer, and so was the chief of general staffs, the minister for defense, and the minister for justice.
Of the three sectors of the South Sudanese national army, two were (and still are) headed by Nuer, and of the eight divisions of the national army, about half were occupied by Nuer. The number of Nuer ministers in the government was more than 19%, their proportionate percentage relative to the national population.
The main challenge confronting President Kiir now is twofold. Firstly, President Kiir will try to prevent the re-domination of the national army by the Nuer, a security scenario that the government believes contributed to the outbreak of the war in December 2013.
Secondly, with most of the top Nuer politicians still on the side of the government, it would be a dizzying dilemma for President Kiir to satisfy his Nuer allies without creating a precarious situation where the Nuer dominate the transitional government politically.
In addition, President Kiir’s political and security dilemma is complicated by the fact that while the rebels are predominantly Nuer, there are still many Nuer soldiers and senior politicians on the side of the government.
First and foremost, the number of Nuer politicians coming into the transitional government plus those already on the side of the government would obviously mean that the Nuer would get more than their fair share of the transitional government.
The application of tribocracy would enable President Kiir to kill two birds with one stone—scale down Nuer political representation in the interim government without appearing to have betrayed his Nuer allies who have stood steadfastly on his side.
Unlike the Dinka and Equatorian and Minority Group on the side of Riek Machar, President Kiir’s allies have mobilized sufficient political and military manpower in the current conflict. Hardly any member of the Dinka, Equatorian and Minority Group are fighting and dying on the side of the rebels while thousands of Nuer, Equatorian and the Minority Group are fighting and dying on the side of the government.
The best thing one can say about those Dinka, Equatorian and Minority Group members supporting Riek Machar is that they are simply camping in foreign capital cities while the Nuer are the only ones fighting and dying in the war against the government.
In sharp contrast, about 25% of the government forces could still be Nuer, fighting and dying mostly in and around Bentiu, Nasir, Malakal and Renk. What this mean is that without the application of tribocratic dispensation, the Nuer soldiers (the rebels plus those who elected to remain on the side of the government) could still be more than 70% of the national army during and after the interim period.
Discernibly, President Kiir and his camp would feel threaten by that reality given the alleged failed military coup launched by Riek Machar on 15 December 2013. President Kiir has every legitimate reason to worry about the re-domination of the national army by the Nuer not least because of the ethnic dimension in the present civil war.
Indeed, in May 2013, Riek Machar ominously hinted at the possibility of violence and reportedly boasted to Akshaya Kumar, a Sudan and South Sudan policy analyst with the Enough Project in Washington DC, USA, that President Kiir “should know that the army is 80 percent Nuer.”
One of the security guarantees that the IGAD-led peace talks in Addis Ababa should sufficiently address is a scenario whereby political leaders like Salva Kiir and Riek Machar resort to using the national army to advance their political ambitions.
The best—and the fairest—security guarantee is to divide the national army among the four major tribes—38.18% to the Dinka, 31.82% to the Equatorian, 19.33% to the Nuer and 10.65% to the Minority Group. For President Kiir, this will solve the security quandary about the re-domination of the army by the Nuer.
And while the question of the white army, Mathiang Anyoor and Dot-ku-Bany, plus other ethnic-based militias, has been a deal-breaker in Addis Ababa, under tribocratic dispensation, the question would be about the maximum number of soldiers in the national army that South Sudan can economically maintain, which would then be smoothly carved up according to the tribocratic ratios.
The main concern would be that none of the four major tribes should be allowed to exceed their respective percentage share of the national population according to the official results of the May 2009 Sudan fifth population and housing census.
Most importantly for President Kiir, who has been touted by the rebels as a Dinka president of a Dinka dominated government protected by state security apparatus run by Dinka men, the application of tribocratic dispensation will free him from creeping “Dinkocracy” in the Republic of South Sudan.
In readiness for the next presidential election at the expiration of the transitional government of national unity, President Kiir will have a well-entrenched political base among the Dinka, the Equatorian, the Nuer and the Minority Group.
Combined with the trappings of the incumbency, tribocracy will enable President Kiir to stride ahead of his political contenders such as Riek Machar, Pagan Amum and Madam Rebecca Nyandeng in the next presidential race.
Through tribocratic dispensation, the South Sudan people can amicably and satisfactorily unravel the frustrating logjam of the South Sudanese peace talks in Addis Ababa. Because tribocracy works like a machine, everything is predictable, and everything is preordained.
Certainly, tribocracy is the most equitable way to allocate power in a power sharing transitional government because each representative of the Dinka, the Equatorian, the Nuer and the Minority Group would hold a number of interim government posts—political and military ones—proportionate to the percentage of the total population that each of these particular four tribes represents in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Naturally, this would be a free and fair system of power sharing. Justice would be done because each political camp would be allocated its fair and rightful share in the transitional government of national unity as predetermined by their population size. No political group would feel unjustly marginalized in the political, economic and security aspects of the interim government.
Political stability would ensue; peace and national development would flourish and the evils of the tribalized war that have been battering South Sudan would be greatly blunted.
Holistically speaking, each of the four tribes would represent its fair and just share of the national government, politically and militarily. Hence, the question of Dinka domination, the threat of Nuer rebellion, the resurgence of Equatorian neo-kokora-ism, and the marginalization of Minority Group would be resolved, once and for all.
Surely, an interim government in which the Dinka represent 38.18%, Equatorian 31.82%, Nuer 19.33% and the Minority Group 10.65%—both politically and militarily—is truly a transitional government of national unity.
PaanLuel Wël is the Managing Editor of PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB). He can be reached through his Facebook page, Twitter account or email: email@example.com
 “The Minutes of the Historical 2004 SPLM Meeting in Rumbek” in “The Genius of Dr. John Garang” edited by PaanLuel Wël (2013).
 Bullet or Ballot: Resolving the Burgeoning Conflict in South Sudan—Part 1, 2 and 3, by PaanLuel Wël (2014)
 The Hurting Stalemate of the South Sudan’s Peace Talks—Part 1 and 2, by PaanLuel Wël (2015)
 Heated Debate over Security Arrangement in Addis Ababa, 1 March 2015, on paanluelwel.com website.
 Heated Debate over Security Arrangement in Addis Ababa, 1 March 2015, on paanluelwel.com website.
 Unmade in the USA: The Inside Story of a Foreign-Policy Failure, by Ty McCormick who is an associate editor at Foreign Policy magazine in the USA, (March 2015)