By Malith Alier
It is true that President Kiir reiterated that he would not take the people of South Sudan to war many times since independence. He also promised that the events of 1991 would not be allowed to happen again during the National Liberation Council (NLC) meeting on the 14th December 2013 a day before it all unravelled into the current distressful conflict. Both, the promises of not taking people of South Sudan to war and the prevention of 1991 have come to negative. What does the President tell the people of South Sudan as the situation untangle further?
It is four months now since the beginning of the conflict, but no solution is insight. Yes there is the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) led peace process in progress in Addis Ababa. However; this may not yield instant fruits. The government negotiators are telling us that IGAD is dragging its feet and so much worse are rebels who are emboldened by easy capture of towns from the government. This precarious scenario prompted the writer of this piece to alert the government in order to devise a new approach to tackling this war.
This viewed is shared by many concerned citizens within and without the country. I have read two important articles by concerned citizens one from Australia and another from Malaysia. Both articles have one thing in common, alerting the government to change gear on the current conflict. It is now up to the government on the other hand to heed to these calls for its own survival and that of the majority of South Sudanese.
Now let’s analyse both statements by the President in the lens of management. Consider ideal and practical standards in management circles. The President thought it ideal not to take the country back to war or allow the event of 1991 to happen again. This was his vision for the country that has been in war since creation. He thought that the country could not afford another war because its people are war wary at best and with that in mind he wanted people to rebuild their lives in peace at least during his presidency. This proposition did not materialise why because he failed to take practical steps to realise that. The proposition that there will be no war is a mere wishful thinking without demonstrated path for peace.
This is where something called SWOT analysis comes in. SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. I wonder whether the government advisers committed themselves to this process of identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and possible Threats to a country called Southern Sudan or later South Sudan. One expected that the late Dr. John Garang had this in mind and that was why he fought hard to retain the SPLA as one of the strengths in Southern Sudan.
Now let’s list these in turn.
1. The SPLA
2. Southern Sudan Interim Constitution
3. The Troika: USA, UK and Norway
4. The CPA
5. UNMIS or United Nations Mission in Sudan
1. Too many agreements dishonoured
2. Militias allied to government in Khartoum
1. Oil revenues
2. The CPA – referendum
3. Autonomy during interim period
4. Vast prime agricultural land
5. MTDF or multi Donor Trust Fund
6. Goodwill from International Community
7. JIUs or Joined Integrated Units
1. SAF or Sudan armed Forces
Our existential threats as a country have now multiplied as opportunities diminish in the current conflict. There is a gathering cloud over the nation where rebels kill everything that has life, UNMISS is double-face, USA wields sanctions, destruction of oil infrastructure and forced oil shut down, Sudan support of rebels, IGAD dragging feet and the looming famine in about five months as predicted by UN agencies. Can the current government emerge intact under such weighty threats? The guess is yours and mine. Some people may argue that the situation is not yet desperate to require desperate measures. Whatever the case, the time is now. Formation of a war Cabinet is long overdue. The talk about government of national unity, interim government or coalition government is a non-event. War cabinet is the answer.
The essence of war Cabinet
President George W. Bush said during Iraq war in 2003 that the war was not going to be a campaign of half measures. True, there is no small war that one should handle by a campaign of half measures not least the current rebellion. South Sudanese know themselves better. They fight to the best of their ability when the fight is among themselves compared to when they fight foreign invaders or Arab colonisers. Big towns like Bor, Malakal and Bentiu have exchanged hands eleven (11) times in four months, something that did not happen in 21 years of the SPLA versus SAF war. Malakal like Juba and Wau never came nearby by the SPLA rebels leave alone being captured despite efforts by all South Sudanese to liberate Sudan from the Arab minority rule. Only Bor exchanged hands at least three times, but not in four months as seen recently. This is a breakneck speed!
The American assistant envoy to Sudan and South Sudan reminded us that it is not business as usual during his meeting in Washington with the Minister in the Office of the President, Mr. Awan Guol Riak. Nobody should remind the President and people of this country about this position. It is self-evident. Having more than twenty ministries and subject to expansion not only flies in the face of the lean government proposal but also a hindrance to a successful conduct of the war.
The war Cabinet (Ministries) should comprise of no more than fifteen ministries as follows:
1. Ministry of Defence
2. Ministry of Interior
3. Ministry of National Security
4. Ministry of Health
5. Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Preparedness
6. Ministry of Cabinet and Parliamentary Affairs
7. Ministry of Dams and Water Resources
8. Ministry of Transport Roads and Bridges
9. Ministry of Communication, Broadcasting and Telecommunication
10. Ministry of Finance and Commerce
11. Ministry of Energy and Mining
12. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
13. Ministry of Education
The main aim is bringing the war to an end perhaps a benchmark of six months is in order. To do this, there are two main frons i.e. the domestic and international fronts. The domestic face of South Sudan needs to change to reflect the new realities of the war. Fuel and food rationing should apply, travel restrictions particularly that of foreigners should be imposed, recruitment which is in progress should continue, emergency laws which are ill defined in greater Upper Nile should be strengthened, contract with UNMISS should never be renewed and so forth.
On the international front, the country should try to identify hostile countries and keep a low profile from them, should strengthen cooperation with friendly nations so that more breathing space is created, do away with missions of hostile nations existing in the country and limit travel abroad by ministers and other government officials who waste scarce public resources even if they go outside to talk ill of the country and its leadership and then come back like angels to continue draining the very country they have no love for.
The former Sudan successfully resisted the massive efforts by the SPLA by metamorphosing regularly as conditions change. Neimeri was deposed by the military and General Sawara el-Dahab took over after which elections were held. Sadig El Mahdi who won the elections was deposed by General Beshir who is the current President of the Republic of Sudan. When General Beshir came, a lot of changes took place domestically including the ones earlier cited in this article.
In order to stay abreast with the Khartoum war tactics, Dr. John who was as shrewd as the Arabs employed creative reasoning premised on the commitment and motivation of the SPLA and the people of South Sudan. A training of no less than six months was accorded to recruits before going to the field. The recruits were divided into military formations and given interesting names derived from well known fierce African animals like Lion, Cobra and others. Some situational names like “Dhalan” the angry and “Majnun” the mad one were also given. Further, some targeted campaign names were also the norm. Bright Star Campaign or BSC and Operation Jungle Storm or OJS among others were operational names that caught the attention of every SPLA and were like catch phrases.
Time has come now for the President to try those solutions that work. The government of South Sudan tried reintegration of militias, pardon of military renegade officers who should have instead face the music for various crimes including treason charges went unappreciated.
The SPLA soldiers fighting the rebels needs a regular morale boosting particularly visits by the minister of Defence and the President on other more important occasions like the fall of Bentiu, Malakal or Bor. They also need replenish of military supplies and not forgetting regular salary and perks for their families’ upkeep.
The Addis Ababa peace is not coming anytime soon. This necessitates full commitment to the war by formation of a War Council. This helps solve lots of problems like waste of scarce resources.
Identification of existential threats is half the solution to the current conflict which is sometimes misunderstood as ethnic conflict between the major tribes in the country. Therefore, the government of the day should identify and effectively utilise available opportunities to achieve maximum advantage over the rebellion.