By Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak,
November, 9, 2014. If Salva Kiir survives the call to step down as the head of South Sudan for ordering his private army to massacre Nuer to give peace a chance, will he also retain an absolute power to run the country as his own property by the so-called presidential decrees in an awaited transitional government of national unity?
This article is looking at the current IGAD summit on South Sudan and remind the readers about the historical facts that lead to this crisis. On November 6-7, 2014 the IGAD assembly summit convened by the heads of State and governments of East Africa countries attended by Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, the president of Sudan; Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya, Ismail Omar Guelleh, the president of Djibouti; Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda; Sheikh Hassan Mohamud, the president of Somalia; Hailemariam Dessalegn, the prime minister of Ethiopia and Salva Kiir Mayardit the president of South Sudan in present of Dr. Riek Machar the commander in-chief of the SPLM/A in opposition, Dr. Dlamini Nkosazana, the chairperson of the African Union commission: Mahboub Maalim, secretary of IGAD: the IGAD special envoys for South Sudan Seyoum Mesfin of Ethiopia , Lazaro Sumbeiywo of Kenya and Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa of Sudan; in addition to the representatives of the United Nations, China, Denmark, Japan, European union, the Troika governments of Norway, united Kingdoms and the United States of America made very mere progress as far as final deal to South Sudan crisis is concern. The two parties have been given 15 days to convey the progression deal to their subordinations. Currently, we are anxiously waiting to see what will happen after 15 days dateline and also see if the SPLM juba will agree that the structure is: 1, President, 2, Prime minister, 3, vice president, and finally the deputy of prime minister.
During the summit, the above important institutions pressured South Sudan warring factions to reach a compromise deal. Out of that pressure, two key leaders, Salva Kiir juba faction leader and Dr. Riek Machar the leader of the SPLM/A in opposition, were locked up in a room for six hours in present of President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia to deliberate on what would be the transitional national unity government which IGAD chief mediators had proposed.
According to their proposal, the government of South Sudan president, will retain the presidency and rebels will be given the newly created prime minister position. The president and Prime minister will have separate functions as well as joint functions. For instance, the president shall remain the commander in-chief of the armed forces and chair the council of ministers, while the prime minister shall chair subcommittee of cabinet and oversee government activities, in addition of being a commander in-chief of SPLM/A in opposition armed forces during an interim period.
Then, the president will have powers to appoint senior positions including the prime minister, vice president, ministers and deputy prime ministers, in accordance with the peace agreement—which is expected to include a provision requiring the appointment of the SPLM/A in opposition members to certain roles. On the other hand, the Prime minister will have powers to appoint undersecretaries and heads of public corporations, as well as executive directors, commissions, and other senior civil servants pertaining to approvals of the parliament and so on and so forth.
What do the public think of retaining Salva who have killed their loved ones aimlessly as president in the upcoming national government? Profoundly, one would like to argue that, IGAD proposal has given Salva Kiir more powers over the prime minister and some of the reasons why we are in these mess is because of an absolute power 2011 Transitional Constitutions of South Sudan had given to Salva Kiir.
That mistake cannot be made repeat itself. Which mean, some of the functions that are designated to Salva Kiir at the moment need to be reduced further or taken away. For example, the provision that Salva is tasked to appoint Prime minster can be taken away from him.
During the interim period, a Prime minister can be appointed by the leadership of rebels rather than Salva Kiir and the appointment of the council of ministers would have been added to joint functioning duties. Other functions such as the statement that both president and the Prime minister “Shall jointly appoint State Governors and may remove a State governor and/or dissolve a State legislative assembly in event of a crisis in the State that threatens national security and territorial integrity subject to approval of the council of States” would have been restated.
One would like to state that, Governors should be elected by the people Instead of being appointed. In term of a territorial integrity threat, council of the States can impeach the governor by a 2/3 majority vote when the later fail to keep the peace in the State rather than federal government interfering to remove governors. In that regard, such a statement should be reversed. Not only the governors, county commissioners, and members of legislative assemblies in both federal and State levels would be subjected to election as the constitution is rewritten.
Although we categorically oppose military solution to our current crisis in South Sudan, and support the calls of the IGAD countries, the African union, United Nations security Council, China, Denmark, Japan, European union, Norway, and the united States of America amongst many other nations, for an immediate end to this crisis, yet, we urge these powerful international community bodies to refrain from making premature judgments aiming of finding a quick fix approach to the problem that would immediately resurfaced again tomorrow had root causes of the conflict been addressed amicably.
We want the above mentioned nations to note that Salva Kiir failure is the cause of this mess. Conferring and absolute power on him again is not different than taking South Sudan out of today’s headline in the meantime and make another headline again in the near future. I am saying this because the current crisis is driven into this dangerous stage by an absolute power Salva have in South Sudan transitional constitution of 2011. If IGAD and the world at large are not familiar of Salva Kiir mischiefs, bellows are the details and the processes that lead into this dark chapter of our story.
Succinctly, the genesis of the party power struggle began when the SPLM leadership dispatched members of the political bureau to ten South Sudan states—- to thank masses of South Sudanese people for their unwavering overwhelming support rendered throughout the years of liberation struggle and for leading a successful referendum that subsequently bring the unquestionable overdue independence. While in the States, these political leaders had quickly found out that, what was planned to be a congratulatory interaction between them and ordinary citizen–turned out largely to be a condemnation of the party. In the view of ordinary grassroots citizen, the ruling party (SPLM) had lost vision and direction, due to the fact that, it had not been able to deliver badly needed essential basic services such as roads networks, health facilities, security; education and clean drinking water.
The grassroots’ message of disapproval disturbed the leadership. Upon the return of the dispatched leaders from the field, figure pointing has emerged as to who should be blamed for this apparent failure. The affair did not just stop at figure pointing, declaration of contest or intentions to unseat the president from chairpersonship of the party engulf the political arena. Dr.Riek among ambitious contenders, had highlighted six critical issues including herein “rampant corruption, rising tribalism, overwhelming insecurity, dwindling economy, poor international relations and that the country’s ruling party (SPLM) is losing vision and direction.”
He believes he could tackle these tough challenges once he had given a chance to hold the country’s number one job. Meanwhile, party secretary general Pagan Amum Okiech, accused both President Salva Kiir and vice president Riek Machar for failing the country. Instead, he wants himself to lead the party and subsequently run for presidency comes 2015. Rebecca Nyandeng as well has the same ambition.
Rather than taking charge of the emerging situation as the SPLM party chairperson, Salva Kiir allowed matters to slide taking different turns until when the country find itself being ruled by more presidential decrees. Hence, on April 15, 2013, Salva Kiir issued a presidential decree to withdraw powers delegated to the vice president which include stopping him from conducting the “ National Reconciliation” that was stipulated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to be carried out in order to heal the bitter hatred that had built among Sudanese communities during the wartime mainly between South Sudanese.
A week later, Salva Kiir has sugar-coated the move he had taken by delegating Dr. Riek to lead a team of delegations to Khartoum to iron out some outstanding issues between South Sudan and Sudan especially oil reproduction and Abyie demarcation. After the delegation had returned, there was no signaling changes of the party internal agony; only rumors had heavily occupied Juba from end to end and masses were bragging on implications new political development will bring. It was an anxious political development waiting to be resolved once convention is ultimately convened.
Promptly, the month of May that party elections supposed to be conducted had arrived and Salva tactically delayed the function. Instead, he had decided to “influence” inner circle confidential individuals to conduct regional conferences. Urgently, Equatorians and Bahr el Ghazalians begun to conduct conferences and declare their support to Salva Kiir. A move Riek Machar had rejected. He discouraged Upper Nile conference conduction, saying “conferences should be conducted on political parties’ bases rather than regional bases” which sound so logical to those who understand democratic functioning process.
In that particular period, negative accusations are usually interchanged and the atmosphere in Juba was cracking sluggishly. While the issue of party rivaling dominated the media, Suddenly, on June 18-19, 2013 Salva Kiir had decided to sack two political bureau members Kosti Manibe and Deng Alor Kuol through another presidential decree and order them to appear before an investigation committee to answer questions relating to the transfer of nearly 8 million dollars to a firm called “Daffy Investment Group Limited.”
The money was allegedly said to have been transferred to buy special fire-proof materials for the government offices. While the two men investigation process were pending, Dr. Riek and Pagan Amum continue to be vocal, criticizing Kiir’s arbitrary actions. Sooner thereafter, on July 23, 2013 Salva Kiir issued another presidential decree dismissing Dr. Riek Machar from vice presidency, dissolving the whole cabinet and suspending the SPLM party Secretary General Pagan Amum and subjected him to criminal investigation over corruption charges. Pagan suspension came as the result of his outspokenness against the dismissal of Manibe and Alor in addition to many remarks he previously made about the ruling party’s failure attributed to kiir mismanagement and dictatorial tendency. Ultimately, the party was sharply divided.
In the period of July 31 to August 4, 2014, Salva Kiir issued a series of Republican Decrees, aiming of restructuring the government by appointing new ministries, deputies, and moving and repositioning some appointees. Many long time SPLM leaders he had fired, are left out and new appointees including individuals who previously associated with NCP in Khartoum had been brought to picture. In another word, the group in his new administration is clustered with new faces, those who were coming from Khartoum after South Sudan secession and the group outside made up of most of the dismissed ministers who were movement former commanders plus two unconstitutionally dismissed governors of Lakes and Unity States respectively.
These two governors are chol Tong Mayai and Taban Deng Gai. Chol was removed on January 21, 2013 because rumours were suggested that he is too close to Riek Machar. Then, Taban was removed on July 7, 2013 for opposing a further presidential term for Kiir. In both governors’ removal cases, many south Sudanese people accused Salva Kiir for violating the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan. For instance, article 101 of the (TCSS-2011) states that, “the president can remove a state Governor and/or dissolve a State Legislative Assembly only in the event of a crisis in the State that threatens national security and territorial integrity.”
However, in the case of Unity State, there was no proof of any crisis that threaten national security and territorial integrity. Then, in Lakes State, there are some minor disputes between civilians which sometimes involved national army but, such skirmishes could not be termed as the threat to territorial integrity or State insecurity. But, Kiir remove Chol Tong anyway without any justification.
These two cases are clear violation of the supreme law of the land by the head of the State and such an act is unacceptable in a democratic society. The same article had stated that, “the president can appoint a State care-taker Governor who shall prepare for elections within sixty days after the removal of the seating serving Governor.” Nevertheless, Salva failed to order his care-taker appointees to conduct elections within 60 days as require by the constitution.
As power struggle was continuing, the nation became deeply concern and worried that this political maneuvering might result into something uglier. Some elders particularly the church group, made many attempts to persuade both leaders to raise beyond their differences. Thus, efforts to reconcile the differences between the two rivalling groups fell on the deaf ears especially from the members of the faith groups who made many attempts urging leaders to sort their differences out.
As the situation was turning here and there unbearably, Salva travel to Khartoum on august 2, 2013 and reportedly promises Omar El Bashir that, he will suspended all aid to the SPLM-North, which he always denied providing. In South Sudan, he began touring Bahr El Ghazal region preparing for worse days ahead.
In Akon his hometown, where he address a large group of people in Dinka language, which was aired on SSTV. He had the following words to say. “Look, this power which I have belongs to you. You fought and died for it…..now some people want to snatch it from me….will you accept that?’ The whole mass reply by saying “ace be gam” meaning we will not accept. That trip lasted by him requesting 15,000 militias he has secretly trained under the watchful eye of Paul Malong Awan to be deployed to Juba. The move caused shape disagreements between Salva and James Hoth Mai. Hoth opposed the nature of illegal recruitment of tribal militias without his knowledge as a chief of general staff and also urged the army to stay away from political influence. Then the two men remain at odd and Kiir kept his new militias separate from the country main army near Juba.
Day after day, rivaling kept widening and the voices that were clamoring for change of the attitudes went through deaf ears. Kiir proceed ahead with his presidential decrees and sometimes threaten to even dissolve the parliament if the later fail to approve his appointees. This warning came after a vetting committee chaired by Hon. Abuk Payiti Ayiik, wife of dismissed minister of education peter Adwok Nyaba, reports concerns to the national legislature about the qualifications of the president’s appointee for minister of justice, his close ally Telar Ring Deng.
The committee also highlights Telar’s role in a proposed deal to purchase land for the Bank of South Sudan. Parliament, in a closed ballot, votes to reject Telar’s appointment. All other cabinet ministers were approved. On august 23, 2013 Kiir issues a decree appointing James Wani Igga, speaker of the national legislative Assembly, as vice-president. After many Nuer refuse to occupied the office. He is confirmed three days later by the parliament. Then, on September 2, 2013 he appointed Magok Rundial as the new speaker of the parliament, he nominated him while there were many voices favoring Dr. Riek Machar for the position.
After Salva has done with nominations, his sacked former ministers and the vice president still wanted him to call SPLM party meeting since they all are still senior members in the party. Yet, Salva kept to avoid calling a meeting. While officially opening the new offices of the SPLM Secretariat on November 15, 2013 in Juba, Kiir announced he is dissolving all political structures of the SPLM, which include the highest executive organ, the political Bureau and the National Liberation Council (NLC).
Salva declared SPLM had dissolved itself except his position as the chairperson despite the fact that the dateline in which SPLM convention would have been held has passed. A tone that the sacked seating SPLM members were not happy about. They responded by calling a press conference on December 6, 2013.
On December 6, 2013, a group of senior SPLM politicians sacked by Kiir on July 23, 2013, held a press conference at the new premises of the SPLM Secretariat Kiir had just opened while Kiir was on an official visit to Paris. The group is led by the former vice president and the deputy chairperson Dr. Riek Machar in present of Rebecca Nyandeng (widow of the late John Garang), Pagan Amum Okiech, Deng Alor Kuol, Alfred Ladu Gore, Oyay Deng Ajak, Majak D’Agoot Atem, Madut Biar Yel, Gier Chuong Aluong, Peter Adwok Nyaba, Chol Tong Mayay, Taban Deng Gai, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, John Luk Jok, Kosti Manibe Ngai, and Cirino Hiteng Ofuho.
They call on Kiir to hold a meeting of the SPLM Political Bureau—which he declined calling since March meeting—to discuss differences over the management of the party. They accuse Kiir of dictatorial tendency. They also announce a public rally to be held on December 14, 2013 in Juba, at the site of John Garang’s mausoleum. By hearing that a rally is going to be held on the 14th, Salva and his group had subsequently announced that, the SPLM’s long-awaited Political Bureau meeting must be met on the same day. The fact that Salva had conflicting the days by scheduling the meeting on the day sacked group scheduled their rally is that he wanted to create different party members and those who are with Riek may decide what to do next.
Instead of proceeding with plan, Riek issued a statement on December 13, 2013 declaring that the planned rally by his group will be postponed until 20 December, aiming to allow more time for the dialogue. He did this for two reasons. Once, he doesn’t want to conduct rally while Salva is convening a meeting and second, he was responding to calls by the elders and religious leaders who were demanding more dialogue between the two groups. During the meeting, Salva ton was to declare the war and in the next session, the sacked party members decided to avoid showing up given the insult words Salva was expressing. Then Salva ordered the arrest of all senior party members. This is a power abuse IGAD and the whole international community need to avoid as they are pressuring two parties to form a national unity government with Salva as the president.
In summing, from the above historical facts, it is easy to see that South Sudan had been a victim of Salva Kiir misrule, giving him the same power, the country will continue to suffer under him miserably and probably fall backward again. Many international experts and South Sudanese alike know that Salva Kiir is the only person who plunge the country into war through above describing presidential decrees. It is now clear that the war is coming to an end, but let us be mindful that Juba massacre and the horrors that follows are not repeating again. This is the reason we want the power to be balanced between Salva and the Prime minister. We are for peace, but at the same time we want to caution IGAD, African Union, and the whole international community to carefully look at the facts one have written in this article and consider our call for less power to Salva Kiir Mayardit.
Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak
The author is a political commentator: he should be reach at firstname.lastname@example.org