Open Letter to UN Security Council: IGAD Leaders behind Riek Machar’s Detention

Posted: July 28, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël in Commentary, Contributing Writers, Dak Buoth, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Eligo Dak Buoth, Nairobi, Kenya

Riek and Emma

Riek Machar and Emma McCunne

July 28, 2017 (SSB) — There are strange reasons that compel me to talk about Riek Machar even when I don’t want to do so because I’m not a member of any of the embattled SPLM factions. Anything to do with SPLM has nothing to do with me for we are incompatible in form and character. This excerpt is not meant to exonerate Riek from what is currently bedeviling south Sudan. I’m just making the general appeal to the international community to be fair and just in their engagement in our political affairs.

Over times, the international community has been supporting Riek and defending Kiir at the same time, and this subjective approach has had severe repercussion on our populace. Instead, they should provide level playing field to all actors in South Sudan. As I said therein I’m not supporting Riek per se. I simply want to point out where he was wronged and mistreated, and if that will be misconstrued to mean that I’m supporting him, so be it.

As civil society member, I’m cognizant of a dictum opined by one civil society guru that ‘‘civil society is political Actor; that civil society is distinct from the opposition and the state, and that it will be dereliction of duty of civil society actor if he don’t engage the state and the opposition to governance, democracy and the human rights’.

In other words I’m exercising my roles which are clearly stipulated in the Africa Union Youth charter enacted in Banjul, Gambia, that youth shall embrace and sustain a culture of voluntarism and human rights protection as well as participation in civil society activities; Promote patriotism towards unity and cohesion of Africa; That youth shall work towards a society free from violence, Coercion, crime, degradation, exploitation, and intimidation.

And this is exactly what I have been doing all this along. Africa needs friends who understand their problem and offer solutions, and Africa and her true friends will resist false friends, locals, and internationals that toil and moil to impoverish them by means of violence. I long for Africa devoid of dictators, neo-colonialists who are out to exploit its citizenry.

This month in history

In this month of July, President Salva Kiir sacked Riek Machar twice and subsequently attacked him at his residence in Juba. On 23 July 2013, he was irregularly fired as Vice President. A few months later on 15th December, President Kiir launched military action against him that led to the ongoing rebellion across the country. In the wake of the 2013 crisis, propaganda was peddled to vilify him that he tried to overthrow the government. President Kiir was the first person who parroted this propaganda.

Coup claim quashed

On 16th December 2013, he convened press conference while wearing a military fatigue. In his press statement, he said ‘‘yesterday at about 6:30 pm, during the closing of the SPLM National liberation Council (NLC) meeting an unidentified person near Nyakorun cultural center, released gunshots in the air and escaped. This was followed later by the attack on the SPLA HQ’S near Juba University by a group of soldiers allied to the former vice president Dr. Riek Machar Teny and his group’’.

The latter group he was referring to comprises of Dr. Peter Adwok, Dr. Kosti Manibe, Dr. Cirilo Hiting, Dr. Majak Agoot, Eng. Chol Tong, Hon. Rebecca Nyandeng and other Political dissidents. Good enough, his coup claim was soon dismissed as rubbish by the international community and the High court sitting in South Sudan.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni who fought alongside Salva Kiir later attested in broad day light that there was no coup attempt in Juba and that he entered into South Sudan on the pretext to protect key installations in the capital.

Up to now no single person has been produced and convicted before a court of law in connection with this fictitious coup attempt. Of course, President Kiir’s forces have not stopped killing and maiming thousand innocent people since 2013. Other than the SPLM former detainees whom he released via IGAD pressure in 2014, still there are many in detention in connection with the false coup attempt.

Simple questions

The simple question that lingers in our minds is, if President Kiir unleashed violence on the mere assumption that there was a coup against him in 2013, what do you think can be done to him now that his claim has bounced and is proven to be nothing but fear only. In other words, what can we do to him as a causative of this bloodshed?

Is it to soldier on and continue with war until he is ousted and apprehended or we sit and fold our hands as if nothing has happened? I feel this excerpt will be remiss if I don’t pose these questions for readers to grapple with. Voltaire once says ‘‘judge a man by his question rather than by his answer”.

Beacons of hope

I must say that the aforementioned political leaders are the beacons of hope and justice in our country. And they still enjoy considerable respect among us. Truth be told, none of them thought of coup let alone planning or executing it. But even if they thought and orchestrated a coup, vast South Sudanese majority will still back them on the presumption that they did it for the best interest of the country as they did over the years.

At the onset, our clamor for independence was pegged on three cardinal objectives: to achieve political independence which is geared toward democracy; to reduce abject poverty and improve our well-beings; to eliminate illiteracy and disease. Those were the major aspirations of the people of South Sudan, and Dr. Peter Adwok and the likes epitomize those ideals of humanity.

However, when our independence became elusive due to President’s lack of vision and forgetfulness, the aforesaid revolutionary leaders went back into their trenches with a view to redirecting the country on the path of democracy, peace, and development. After they were summarily sacked from the government, they continue involved in the democratization process.

And by so doing they became critics to President Kiir’s pervasive misrule, run away corruption and impunity. In nutshell, the likes of Dr. Adwok and the rest were merely expressing dissenting voices accompanied with a suggestion to put the country on the right track. As we all know, dissent is not an offense but an obligation to every citizen who owes his country a duty of care.

In fact, dissenting voices are allowed and appreciated in a democracy for dissenters are the fertilizers for democracy the world over. The Failure for Salva Kiir to face political dissidents manifests total ignorance and dishonesty on his parts as head of state.

State house clash

Last year, on 26th July 2016, President Salva Kiir fired Riek again few months after they signed the Agreement on the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS) in Adis Ababa Ethiopia. The facts of these deadly incidents differ slightly but the motives remain the same. President Kiir perpetrated these attacks on Riek to takes away his life without substantial reasons.

On 8th July 2016, Juba city dwellers woke up as usual. In noon time President Kiir invited Riek to state house alias J1 for a special meeting on how they will address the Independence Day on 9th July 2016. However, upon reaching the state house premises, Riek’s body guards were attacked both in and outside the compound leaving over 500 soldiers dead. The fighting ensued until the following morning.

On the night of the fighting, President Kiir thought well by giving Riek his personal vehicle and presidential guards to escort him to his residence at Jebel Kujur after Riek’s personal guards were all killed and his convoy dismantled. At first, this sympathetic gesture look to us as if the President does not have hand in the J1 clash, but we later became shocked when he ordered the helicopters to bomb Riek’s residence forcing him to flee to Congo.

The fighting in the state house and the subsequent removal of Riek and his replacement with his erstwhile comrade Taban Deng reignite the war in South Sudan. In other words, it is what undermined the peace deal.

Principal signatories resigned

Moreover, it was not Riek’s brutal purge alone that threatened the peace agreement. There are other contributing factors that lead to the demise of this accord. You would recall the Agreement had four major principals who were signatories to it. There were three embattle SPLM factions namely SPLM-IG led by President Kiir, SPLM-IO led by Dr. Riek, SPLM-FD led by former SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum. The other political parties led by Dr. Lam Akol.

However, President Kiir had also frustrated these principals and grantors who invested a lot in that peace agreement. This month July, the peace grantors vowed not to fund the dead accord. In view of these, IGAD, AU, and JMEC do not need rocket science to know the peace is dead, and what caused it.

Hon. Pagan Amum tendered his resignation way back before the J1 fighting occurred, and Dr. Lam Akol, the former Agriculture Minister resigned in Addis Ababa fortnight after the renewed fighting in July 2016. Both of them cited lack of respect and political will on Kiir to implement the agreement to the letter and spirit.

In a bid to conceal the truth, President Kiir single-handedly appointed remnants of the SPLM-FD, SPLM-IO and junior cadres from other political parties to replace Pagan, Lam, and Riek. He did that to make it look that the transitional government of national unity still operational.

The regional blocks namely IGAD, AU, EU and UN whose representatives participated and witnessed the signing of the agreement in August 2015 knew that President Kiir never wants the accord to be implemented for his strange reasons best known to him.

Culprit

When the Mediators brought the document on the table for signing, President Kiir did three things: first, he refused to sign the agreement with the rest; secondly, he issued a decree creating 28 states without prior consultation. Third, he announced that he had reservations on the peace accord.

Later when pressured to sign peace kept mounting on him, he invited the IGAD leaders in Juba to witness his signing; there he reiterated his reservations adding that this agreement was neither a bible nor Quran books. And that to him means it was optional and not compulsory to implement the accord. His initials moves, sentiments and actions speak for themselves.

Those who heard him uttering such sentiments must hold him responsible for the demise of Addis Ababa Accord signed in 2015. Kiir has perfected the arts of forgetfulness and sheer disregard to the rule of law. As he was doing the above mentioned, there was no statute that grants him powers to act in such manner.

He could just wake up in the morning and issued irregular decrees without making references to the Southern Sudan interim constitution or the agreement itself. He must be compelled and told to shunt such disrespectful behaviors failure to which the country is not yet off the hook.

In view of the foregoing, we ask how can we operate in that system where the president does not follow and respect the stipulated rules and laid down guidelines and principles. President Kiir does not want war, change, and progress as well. But he launched a war to prevent change and progress. He knew change and progress succeeded war.

If today he is assured that you will not be removed from the presidential seat; that we will just remain the way we are without roads, health centers, schools, and clean water, he will certainly call off the war. But who will want to remain in the current life style without food, shelter, and future, none.

Peace objectives

President Kiir knew that the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement was based on three pillars namely, stability and reconciliation, general election, accountability, and justice. However, when he hears of those pillars, he begins fidgeting uncontrollably. There is old adage which says ‘‘guilty are always afraid’’ He knew he is a culprit and that nothing favor him among those pillars.

If we conduct free and fair election today, Kiir will lose in humiliating defeat; if you take him to an independent court and tribunal to answer charges of war crimes, he will be convicted and put behind bars. He sees himself as someone who does not have hope for the future. Normally, if one lost hope, the only option he opts for is to commit suicide until or unless he spots mirages of hope again. But still, people can grant him hope if he shows an interest to change.

His victims are Ngundeng (God) fearing people. I’m sure they won’t wish him dead as he did to them. What many of them desired for is his immediate exit from the helm. Some say they can rehabilitate him to become better, and that they won’t just keeping him idle as a silent statue for warning the aspiring young leaders to lead well and become the role model for Africa.

Riek was abducted not arrested

Riek was abducted and not arrested that is why I called his captors as abductors. He was neither arrested nor imprisoned because ‘arrest’ and ‘imprisonment’ are legal orders issued by judicial officers after an accused person went through a fair trial. He was said to be under house arrest in South Africa. House arrest is an archaic and dictatorial term not known to law.

As we all know, Riek first went to South Africa for medical treatment after the J1 clash that forced him to trek on foot for 40 days. He has been in confinement for quite some time now; so far no substantial has reasons has been communicated for his detention. Moreover, his captors too have not come public to declare what they are up to. We wonder why he was held up there.

We still believe he has no hands in the J1 clash of July 2016. If his abduction has something to do with J1 clash than those people are misinformed and misguided. Thus, they should do a thorough investigation to establish who the real culprits are. Unless his captors had the ulterior motive for we already told them who the J1 causatives are.

The architects of the J1 incident are none other than President Kiir and his surrogates. Recently, the two deputies of chief of staff Gen. Cirilo Swaka and Gen. Bapiny Munytuil had told us what transpired on that day after they resigned. The duo said in their respective statements that Riek was innocent in as far the 2013 and 2016 crises are the concern.

Thus, his Captors owe us an answer for his confinement.

IGAD leaders behind Riek detention

I suspect and blame some IGAD heads of state. To avoid blanket blame, I must say I suspect President Museveni, President Uhuru, and President Mariam Delasgn. We think these guys are privy and culpable of Riek Machar’s house arrest. Now we realized the trio had little interest to resolve our crisis amicably. They simply want to prolong it by taking the wrong side of the political divides.

It is common knowledge that President Museveni was sworn foe of Riek Machar. Since 2013, Museveni fought alongside President Salva Kiir. We don’t know where he picked his enmity with Riek from. I presume the guy is just feeling uneasy and jealous of Riek. He assumed when Riek become President of South Sudan perhaps he won’t enjoy the Political monopoly in our country and the region at large. But with Kiir, he can say and do anything at whim.

At first, President Uhuru was seen to be the good comrade to Dr. Riek. In 2014, Uhuru received Riek on a red carpet and allow him to make live television address to the Kenyan Nation. This was historical and an unusual gesture that was never seen before in the histories of all rebellions. It was the first time for any Rebel leader to address a nation on live television in the foreign country.

I think even the past rebel leaders like Fidel Castro and Nelson Mandela did not get such courteous treatment from any seating head of state. However, I could not believe that Uhuru and Riek would soon become erstwhile Friends. On hearing that Riek received red carpet reception, President Kiir cried foul and said that was too much, that even Dr. John Garang was never accorded such heroic welcoming.

Secondly, Uhuru later severed his relationship with Riek on the allegation that he was the close friend of his arch rival Raila Odinga, the former Kenya Prime Minister, and presidential candidate for 8/8/2017 general election. They say your enemy’s enemy is your friend, but what about your enemy is the friend? Of course, it is the open secret that Raila and Riek are close friends.

When Raila alias Jakom returned from United stated on Saba Saba day rally dubbed ‘‘while you’re away’’. One of my informants told me Raila came straight from the Airport to the venue at Uhuru Park where the said rally was held, and that after he was through he went straight to see Riek at Safari park before going home to meet his children.

In the wake of 8th July 2016 crisis, President Uhuru later felt provoked by Riek when his spokesperson James Gatdet Dak applauded the dismissal of General Kimani Ondieki who was fired by the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-moon. By the time of his removal Gen. Ondieki was the head of United Nation mission in South Sudan.

James Gatdet’s alleged backing to the latter’s sacking marked Uhuru and Riek’s departure point. From there on Uhuru decided that he can no longer treat Riek with kid gloves. Uhuru in his angry reaction irregularly deported three of Riek’s lieutenants namely Lawyer Dong Luak, Gatdet Dak and Idris Aggrey.

As we speak, many of us believe that Presidents Uhuru and Museveni hold grudges against Riek on aforesaid grounds. The Ethiopian Prime minister felt that it was Riek’s rebellion has something to do with the reawakening and revival of the Oromo uprising which ousts him in 2016.

By then Riek used to reside in Addis Ababa before he returned to Juba for peace implementation in 2016. At the end, Riek was chased back when he tried to land in Addis Ababa from South Africa.

Riek Machar factor

In 2014 up to 2016, there was something known as Riek Machar factor. The tussle for power in South Sudan attracted huge international attentions. The crisis in South Sudan was seen to have the potential of causing and inspiring more insurgencies in many east African countries. Many dissident groups in East Africa were said to be rethinking their strategies in a manner that reflects that of Riek and Kiir.

In June 2016, Star newspaper columnist and Jubilee government’s mouthpiece Ngunjiri Wambugu wrote an article entitle ‘‘Raila is trying to be Riek Machar’’ In the tail end of his piece, he argued that ‘‘Raila has borrowed from Riek Machar’s playbook’’ In August 13th, 2016 after Machar was forced out of Juba again, the Star newspaper published another article titled ‘‘Riek Machar spotted in Dodoma as Raila Rush to Tanzania’’.

These authors wrote these pieces to frustrate and fracture Uhuru and Riek’s relationship, which they did. By then some opposition movements were said to be opting to go violence like Riek so as to be seen by the international community. And to avoid that, the IGAD leaders have resolved to withdraw their support from Riek and to frustrate the international community’s support to him.

Furthermore, the aforesaid IGAD leaders have now humiliated Riek so as to scare away other opposition groups in their countries. They are sending a warning message that should any group rebel, they will be dealt with by them altogether.

Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda have the interest in South Sudan.

Other than their political interests, the aforementioned leaders also have economic interests. Museveni, Uhuru, and Mariam have now divided South Sudan among themselves. Their agreement is called ‘Food, Hotel, and Banking’. In this accord, Ethiopia took hotel industry, Uganda preferred to import food stuff and used clothes commonly known as Mutumba, and Kenya chooses to invest in the banking industry.

If you go to South Sudan today, you will find that most Banks in Nairobi are housed there in Juba. I have been informed that if one deposited his Money in South Sudan, he is not allowed to withdraw money outside South Sudan including Kenya. You can imagine how many South Sudanese fled to neighboring countries.

Anything to do with food and other basic commodities is imported from Kampala, Uganda. In Juba, the best hotels are owned by the Ethiopians. By the time South Sudanese realized and stop the war, they will find themselves in the rude shock.

We have left Arabs oppression in Khartoum just to find ourselves in another oppression perpetrated by East Africa elites. It is my prayer and hopes that this oppressive tendency ceases so as to avoid xenophobia in future as happened in South Africa in 2016.

Riek Machar’s captors favor him

Riek was falsely accused of coup twice; that he does not have hand in J1 clash of 2016; and that IGAD leaders are victimizing him for no good reason, that IGAD leaders want to keep the status quo by supporting SPLM regime and President Salva Kiir; that they just want to do away with any leader who can bring peace and change to south Sudan.

This talk is currently ongoing, and soon they will make resolve on the way forward. In any event, you will find that Society often backs an underdog and side with the victim. The Nuer of South Sudan and Ethiopia love glorifying and defending an underdog with their blood. All South Sudanese knew Riek was victimized by those three IGAD leaders, and they will stand by him at all cost.

As you can see, there is an unprecedented armed uprising in Equatoria region. South Sudanese from all walks of life are now facing biting starvation violence conflict. They are living in difficult time ever. Any leader in South Sudan who is holding position is deemed to have failed them, and they accused him or her of being behind their woes. They believe change will come from outside Juba.

And they put their trust in those who oppose the SPLM regime. Right now when youth organizations are electing their leader in and outside the South Sudan, and the certain candidate is alleged to have a link with Juba government he will terribly be failed. This is because they consider Salva Kiir’s government as the common foe.

The vast majority don’t expect anything good to come from the Kiir’s regime. In 2015/2016 when food crisis began sky rocketing in Juba, civilians were praying for Riek to return and turn thing around. Finally, when he went back in 2016, people felt the sign of hope. Many people rejoiced and hoped that things will change to better. But even if Riek was still there in Juba, nothing significant can change.

Of course, his absence creates an assertion that things will change when he returned. However, now that Riek is forced out again, many people will believe thing will change only when Riek is back. As we speak, anything bad happening in South Sudan will not be attributed to Riek notwithstanding that his forces are also making thing unworkable. His SPLM-IO will continue to make the government ungovernable by all means.

Riek will sit quietly in South Africa; he will just strategize and continue to write his memoirs. He knows he will soon be back in his case is the political case. I think Riek Machar’s captors favor him. They are now putting him in the book of history as the freedom fighter and not mere ruler.

Dr. Riek joined the struggle in 1984 after completing his Ph.D. in England at the University of Bradford. He knew he hail from less educated society, and by virtue of his education, he was going to rule them. He did come and ruled us from then to date. Up to now, he is still holding onto his dream of becoming president of South Sudan.

Hence, those who abducted him are only building and adding merits to his political profile in a better way. People will now view him as a freedom fighter and ruler, and to him, that is a thumb up and kudos. You will recall Many Africa leaders like Nelson Mandela, Mugabe, and Jomo Kenyatta rose to prominent because they were illegally detained by the colonialists.

In the end, people in their respective countries considered them heroes throughout their life times. Normally when someone with power victimized an underdog, the society will consider that person as theirs; and at long last, that person will soon rise into the celebrity. Moreover, Riek’s Captors are washing away his sins in as far as the ongoing conflict is the concern.

When he returns later, he will be accorded heroic welcoming. In the end, he will make huge triumph to the presidency should an election be held tomorrow. In the unlikely event that he does not return soon, Still South Sudanese will never trust anybody else and his supporters will increase day by day.

They will do whatever they could to make the Government of the day ungovernable. The likes Kiir and Taban Deng who are celebrating Riek’s arrest are clueless about what will happen next. The return of Riek will bring the wave of change that will be swept them away too first. It is unfortunate that the duo thinks they will always rely on violence to main their grip on power.

They don’t know there is time for everything. There is time for war and time for peace where the contest for ideas will take roots. Hence, I considered them naïve. I presume Kiir and Taban are unaware of the political histories and factors that had shaped and propelled many leaders into the helm. If I were them, I should now demand Riek’s release before things run out of hand. Riek’s detention largely works to his advantage.

Therefore, let Riek come back so that people can see what he would do. We all know he cannot do anything alone without the contribution of others. He has been there with us; we know what he is able and unable to do. And when he comes people will know he is like anybody else. But when he is kept in detention, people will rate him ahead of his peers.

Moreover, by allowing him to return soon, people will recall his dash times as Vice President from 2005/2013. Failure to do so, people will forget his tainted history as first Vice President and consider him as the political messiah. President Nelson Mandela was considered as Joshua when he was imprisoned for 27 years.

Nothing took place in his absence until he was set free. He later became wiser by exiting the presidency to avoid being compared to another person in South Africa. If Mandela had spent two or three terms in office, people would have accused him of failure and they won’t accord him the glowing tributes that he earned for his short stay in office.

As an Actor in South Sudanese affairs, I feel that Riek’s continue detention will disadvantage many of us now and in future. As such, I call on United Nation Security Council to make an effort to release him sooner than later. We don’t want people to commit serious offenses in his name.

If this appeal is not heeded, I will continue to demand his release until substantial reasons are provided to us. Release him from his confinement has no legal basis, it only makes thing worse.

The Writer can be reached for comments via eligodakb@yahoo.com

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing from.

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