Why SPLM Reunification is Bad for South Sudan

Posted: May 8, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

“When they (the SPLM) divide, they kill us and when they reunite, they loot our resources” by South Sudanese veteran journalist Nhial Bol Aken

By Malith Alier, Perth, Australia

Tuesday, May 8, 2018 (PW) — The above quote was a result of many instances when the SPLM party disintegrates and reunites. All the time the result is the same. The SPLM which was founded in Ethiopia in 1983 encountered on its journey obstacles particularly pertaining to leadership and direction of the movement.

In that year, it was Garang versus Akuot Atem and Gai Tut. Both Akuot and Gai were permanently kicked out of the SPLM. Came 1991 when Riek Machar spearheaded a rebellion against Garang. This time devastating consequences of famine in Jonglei area. More than 2000 civilian lives lost.

This mostly affected the Dinka Bor where John Garang hailed. After so many years of futile pursuits against each other, the SPLM under Garang later known as mainstream and that under Riek Machar re-joined through a truce with Garang to the dislike of those who endured the carnage.Forward to 2013 in the independent South Sudan, the same old foes face off initially in Juba. The mayhem quickly spread to the countryside when the masterminds, Riek Machar and Taban Deng sneaked out of Juba in the dead of the night.

Within a few days the historical town of Bor was invaded by tens of thousands of Lou Nuer militiamen causing death of pregnant women, children, elderly and the sick. Religious worshippers weren’t spared either. The target of the mobilised militiamen was to capture the seat of power in Juba.

They were only to be defeated and forced back less than 50 kilometres from Juba by the Ugandan army. After this, the war intensified in greater upper Nile where towns of Malakal, Bentiu and Bor exchanged hands between government rebel forces up to five times.

This time, the death toll is estimated to be above 10,000 and counting. Those who are still alive today accepted permanent displacement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) and refugee camps in neighbouring countries including Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Congo CAR etc.

Reunification of the SPLM is bad for the following reasons

Old Suspicion and power struggle

How many times do we need to suffer under united SPLM. We have learned that both unity or lack of it there off isn’t good for the country in the long run. We have tried unity and it is the same result – killing or loot.

The period right after the CPA and independence saw us go through unprecedented corruption where 4 billion Dollar bill squandered under the watch of the SPLM united as it were. Dura saga, lack of development, high military spending, were some of the issues under the party.

The SPLM tries to project that it has a history of resolving internal problems but this is a window dressing as we witnessed. The 2002 agreement was superficially conducted and was therefore, a marriage of convenience between SPLM Riek and SPLM Garang.

The 2013 disagreement was a direct result of glossing over internal democratic processes for the purposes of winning independence from Sudan. Power relations and mechanisms of power transfer were not addressed.

Sooner or later the suspicions resurfaced leading to the second disintegration of the party with devastating catastrophe to the civilians.

Need for effective opposition

Bringing the SPLM together again may be sawing the seeds for future catastrophes as the case above. Second, bringing the SPLM party back together is effectively killing opposition in the country.

The result would be a yes parliament, nondependent and compromised judiciary and the partisan military.

That is exactly what the SPLM leaders are trying to do here if nobody has seen. In pursuing reunification, they have not elaborated to us how things are going to be different this time round.

How they will fight corruption, how they will separate the party from the army, how they will reorganise the judiciary. These matters should be addressed prior to meaningful reunification of the party.

This author doubts that south Sudanese would like to remain in a single party state where things remain stagnant.

The Nuer versus Dinka divide

The 1983, 1991 and the 2013 upheavals are a Nuer versus Dinka fissure which nobody is willing to recognise. Despite being the second largest after the Dinka, the Nuer is not willing to play the second fiddle.

On the other hand, the Dinka would want to be the natural leader of the country based on numerical strength and natural tendency known among South Sudanese as “bany/beny” syndrome.

The Nuer always resorted to rebellion and accommodation each time a Dinka heads any form of government in the country. What we have in South is the Kikuyu versus Luo scenario. The difference is that, Luo – Kikuyu relationship is not as violent as ours.

Reunification per se will not solve the SPLM problems and those of the country. Historically, the SPLM emerged for the common theme of fighting or liberating South Sudan from the Arab hegemony.

Apart from that, it has no other ideology to chart the way forward in the country. Cronyism, corruption and power struggle are some of the bad things that engulfed the party right after self-governance from 2005 to 2011 and continued to 2013.

Pursuing reunification without exploring other avenues may not be good for the country in the long run.

Old suspicion and power struggle may come into picture soon after reunification. The same old guards with the same old methods of doing things in the party won’t break the deadlock. No country would want to be a single party in the age of multiparty democracy.

South Sudan was such a country since independence. Lastly, the violent Nuer Dinka divide should be viewed in different goggles.

The Dinka would want to be the natural leader of South Sudan based on numerical strength while the Nuer is not willing to play a second fiddle.

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