Why We Must Embrace Homegrown Solutions to End Conflict in South Sudan

Posted: April 12, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan, Kerubino kocrup

In the Footsteps of Dr. John Garang: Why We Must Embrace Homegrown Solutions to End Conflict in South Sudan

By Kerubino Kocrup Makuach, Nairobi, Kenya

Garang, Kiir, Riek and Wani

John Garang, Salva Kiir, Riek Machar and James Wani Igga

April 12, 2018 (SSB) — In December 2013, war broke out as a result of political disagreements within South Sudan`s ruling party – Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). The nucleus of the disagreement was a power squabble between the Party Chairman, President Kiir Mayardit and the Deputy Chair, Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar.

The two leaders disagreed over voting modalities in electing the Party’s Chairman. The chair of the party was a greatly contested position. Owing to the popularity of the SPLM party on the ground, it was assumed that the man clinching the seat would automatically carry the day in the soon to be held presidential general election.

The SPLM’s National Liberation Council meeting held in early December at NYANKUORN Hall ended with some party members feeling disgruntled. A motion fronted by Dr. Riek Machar and the former Political Detainees (FDs) group who had been shot down by a show of hands. A modality the Riek side of the divide in SPLM could not agree with.

The standoff degenerated into an open squabble aired openly to the general public. Unfortunately, the same spat spread seamlessly to the members of the public. It was first a fight of words amongst a few party enthusiasts which later escalated and intensified and subsequently took a tribal dimension across the country.

Precisely, the initial bloody fighting occurred when the national army (the SPLA) split into two. A faction siding with the President and another standing by the former Vice President. The killings of civilians by both factions, during the early days of the clashes, forced some civilians from both sides to join fight. This escalation nearly pushed the conflict into becoming an outright ethnic war.

As a result of this senseless war, South Sudan has witnessed hundreds of thousands killed, destruction of properties, rape of innocent women and millions of South Sudanese displaced internally and to neighboring countries. South Sudan’s predicament has been described by many international entities as possibly the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the in the history of the world!

In the following month, the two warring factions in the ruling party were summoned by Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) with an aim to find a peaceful settlement to the conflict that had by then spread to the entire nation. A number of peace agreements have been signed under this IGAD led talks. Unfortunately, the parties to the agreements violated the accords.

They did not adhere to the cessation of hostilities call. Appeals from the members of the international community did not lull the continuation of the war. This culminated in the famous Addis peace accord held in August 2015.

Re-Unification Effort

In the effort to support the Addis accord, SPLM leaders were summoned by the Tanzania ruling party (CCM) in Arusha. The subpoena was done under the leadership of the former President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete. The summon was partly because it was realized that the ongoing peace talks were ruined by short- leg stories and antipathies founded during the 2013 SPLM convention in Juba.

CCM hoped to model to the SPLM leaders’ ways in which to manage crises amongst themselves and to remind them of their liberation role that concerned the citizens of South Sudan. The forum was meant to remind them of their liberation promise to the citizens. It was to deliver them from poverty to prosperity. The idea was for SPLM to learn from CCM.

SPLM leaders agreed and signed a Reunification Agreement in Arusha, Tanzania, 2015 under the auspices of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). The Renunciation agreement was also to “combat the culture of tribalism, corruption, impunity, injustice, militarism, and sectarianism” in politics, and to work towards building a South Sudan where political efforts are focused on democracy and development.

Though the Arusha forum was timely and served as the necessary ingredient to a much-needed consensus in the party leadership, a majority of the South Sudanese population saw the agreement as a corpse and relic of the past. Many felt that the accord failed to address the root causes of the 2013 war which emanated from SPLM power wrangling.

The SPLM Challenges Background

This kind of a leadership challenge was however not strange to SPLM party. During the Liberation struggle against the Khartoum Government, SPLM/ A party under the founding father and late hero, Dr. John Garang de Mabior had experienced the same problems which the country and the party are undergoing currently.

From the tenebrous years of 1991- 2002, SPLM/ A had split pitching the top principles; Dr. John Garang, Dr. Riek Machar, Dr. Lam Akol and other faction groups against each other. This hairsplitter resulted in fragmentation and disintegration of the party and subsequently became a textbook demonstration of ethnic conflict that pitched the Dinka VS the Nuer tribe.

This led to a vast spread of tribal undertones that prey on the unity endeavors in South Sudan. This also led to decades of hostilities that culminated into brink collapse of SPLM/A Movement and loss of civilian population.

But in 1994, Dr. John Garang reconvened the SPLM’s Chukudum National Convention; the main aim in this was to establish means and strategies to resuscitate the Movement’s vision and objectives that were ruined as a result of SPLM’s leader’s infighting.

One of the First SPLM National Convention resolutions, in April 1994, was to give the name of the New Sudan to the five regions of Bahr el-Ghazal, Equatoria, Upper Nile, Blue Nile, and Southern Kordofan (Current South Sudan). In his speech that day, he sent a message to Khartoum saying, “let us not be misunderstood in the rest of the regions of what we call the Old Sudan. We have the interest there also.

We can compare it to a nail. We are like a new fingernail. When a nail becomes old and rotten, another one comes from underneath. It is a matter of time and it takes over the whole finger. So, let us start with the New Sudan and we shall see in the future whether we can advance forward or not. Whether it is enough or not”. The confidence in his call and articulation of vision could never have come from a position of a division. The SPLM leadership had come together.

In 1999, the SPLM party hosted a conference in Wunlit within Tonj State. The forum dubbed `the Dinka-Nuer West Bank Peace and Reconciliation Conference` was a major step towards the much needed inter-tribal revulsion healing. This was a continuation of the healing strategies laid out by Chairman of SPLM/A, Dr. John Garang.

The Reconciliation Conference was presided over by the current SPLM’s Chairman and President of the Republic of South Sudan, H.E Salva Kiir Mayardit. The conference was designed to be the roadmap to Peace, Unity, and Reconciliation. It was also meant to cement the social fabric in the country and within SPLM/ A party.

As a culmination of successful grassroots’ reconciliation efforts at the Wunlit People- people conference, SPLM/A gained momentum and reconvened yet another reconciliation process in 2002. This time the reconciliation forum was jointly hosted by Dr. John Garang and Dr. Riek Machar. This led to successful Sudan’s peace talks later held in Naivasha, Kenya under the aegis of IGAD.

However, in 2004, there was sharp disagreement within SPLM/A again. The squabble this time was between Chairman, John Garang and his Vice- Chair who is our current President, Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit. The political infighting between the two put the SPLM/ A movement to a brink of collapse, fragmentation, and disintegration.

Fortunately, the two leaders reconvened a Reconciliation meeting in Rumbek, discussed their differences objectively and comprehensively until the entire SPLM’s leadership reached mutual understanding and solved their sharp differences peacefully and amicably.

This led to the successful signing of Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Nairobi- Kenya which finally put the last nail to the longest standing of African conflict. The warring parties had found the solution to their differences, bringing an end to the conflict by themselves.

The SPLM/ A journey and history of successful challenges resolution is a testimony to South Sudan`s leadership ability to embrace homegrown solutions to the problems within SPLM and the nation at large. The big question now beckons; why is it hard to find a peaceful solution to ongoing South Sudan’s civil strife?

Failing Leadership

Since the 2013- 2016 deadly fighting at the Presidential Palace, SPLM’s leaders keep traversing the continent holding series of abortive reconciliation meetings. We have witnessed their presence in places like Kampala- Uganda, Arusha- Tanzania, Nairobi- Kenya- Addis- Abba- Ethiopia and Cairo- Egypt.

With this rate of unsuccessful meetings, the people of South Sudan are perplexed and weary of a peaceful settlement to the conflict bedeviling the nation. From where I sit, I see lack of leadership in our leaders for failing to find homegrown solutions like the late Garang did and without involving third parties in the resolution. Can peace be attained in South Sudan? Yes, it can!

This is a possible occurrence only where the South Sudan leadership is not blind and short-sighted to see the suffering of its masses. The country`s economy is in ruins with the budget registering deficit. Hyperinflation has reached alarming proportions, war is raging all over the country and UNMISS foreign troops are active looting national resources and abusing the rights of the civilian population. The war has drained our human and material resources.

You cannot have a healthy economy when more than a million South Sudanese are devoured by the ongoing civil war machine. You cannot have economic stability when the natural resources are unexploited because of the war. You cannot build a giant country like South Sudan with a begging bowl in the hand.

The economic situation has reached an unbearable low, life is miserable; the people want an end to the war and want peace so that the country ushers in a new era of rapid socio-economic development and prosperity.

Abortive Treaties& the Elements of Conflict

For the last six years of ongoing civil war in South Sudan, our leaders have signed a series of peace agreements yet none hold water. Instead, they have embarked on socio-political mutation of agreements signed simply for their sectarianism and parochialism. In fact, they have adamantly refused to commit themselves to the agreements so that they can establish a multinational country. One that is divided along tribal lines and established by the bullet and not by the ballot.

Our leaders have left our doors open to foreign countries. Now foreigners violate our territorial integrity. Since last year, the country has been experiencing a series of sanctions which have impinged on South Sudan’s sovereignty. This is a serious threat to peace and stability for the country.

Our old Sudan’s foes have been using South Sudan’s problems as a pretext to destabilize and make the country ungovernable in order to loot our natural resources and annex the land. Since South Sudan’s independence, the Khartoum’s government has been aiding militias with guns and bullets. Their aim is to destabilize the state. Their pay is in form of the lucrative loot they get from the field. The militias have zero chills to the blood of the locals. In the course of the dirty trade, they became dehumanized and have lost all sense of being South Sudanese.

While the few rich of SPLM bureaucratic leaders live lavishly both locally and abroad, the vast majority of South Sudan`s citizenry struggle to survive. The sons of the rural and urban poor are the ones who are being recruited by both sides in the war to fight this costly civil strife. The sons and daughters of the SPLM’s rich and powerful leaders attend higher education abroad so that when they return, they can take over the machinery of the state from their fathers. A Shudder of shame and selfish unpatriotic ends.

It’s sad that the effort shown by President Salva Kiir to reunite the South Sudan leadership has been scoffed at. The olive branches that the President offered, exiled politicians were turned into guns while the olives turned into bullets.


The solution to South Sudan`s challenge can only be addressed amicably by tracing the foundations of the conflict. We all know that the egregious suffering of South Sudanese population is as a result of a trickle-down effect from a squabbling leadership. This makes it easy to solve since it’s not unprecedented. Dr. John Garang on many occasions successfully pulled the divided country`s leadership together.

From where I sit, the onus is first on the SPLM chair and President to continuously reach out to the breakaway party factions with a mind of the national good. President Kiir`s initiative of an olive branch to political detainees is not enough. He must seek inspiration from his predecessor, Dr. Garang. Someone said that the backstops with the leadership and that’s true. President Kiir must be seen to do more.

While Military intervention may be good at some point, appealing to the minds of fellow leaders can prove counterproductive too. Second, the SPLM leaders must themselves make efforts to find peace amongst them.

You can reach the author via his email: Kocrup Makuach <aleumakuach1234@gmail.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, commentary or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. PaanLuel Wël website (SSB) do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

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