20 Oct 2021


Juba’s Political Machinations: Peace By All Means

"What about the constant rebellion that was always never punished but forever rewarded? Would it stop this time? In answer to the last question, no it wouldn't stop if what is desired is not granted."

By Martin Garang Aher 

Events in South Sudan are revisiting the early and mid-1990s, the periods of rebelliously callous militias shuttling between Khartoum and the bush, unable to zero in on what they wanted.  It was the period that saw many unpatriotic southerners trained their minds on the benefits of intransigence and insensitive retraction from the popular discourse of liberation.

Throughout those times, many rebel groups that self-ostracized due to detest of the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M Mainstream) for one reason or the other, fell to Khartoum’s political machinations in the most daring manner. When allegiances were thus remapped, the enemy of yesterday became today’s comrade. The reasons many groups defected from the SPLA/M mainstream then were not celebrated for long when they reached Khartoum because of cold reception and displays of certain kinds of triumph by the former enemy. Could such scenarios replay themselves in Juba as now demonstrated by ongoing detrimental internal rebellion in SPLA/M in opposition rebels? 

There should be no surprises in the SPLA/M in opposition’s rebellion bursting into smithereens of factions following the defection of a key spokesperson, Brigadier-General Lul Ruai Koang to join the government in Juba. For once, the path of a cracking rebellion was paved right in Juba in December 2013 when violence surged. 

When the government arrested most of the politicians, now Group of 10 (G-10), who were numerically and influentially key to Dr. Riek’s aspiration to win the chairmanship of the SPLM, the gamble was on in the minds of those skimming for clues to predict what would become of a rebellion that was taking off in the most unexpected way. Critical voices have stated in the beginning of war that if the coup-implicated political detainees were released and failed to join Dr. Riek’s camp that it would be the end of organised formality in the rebellion. That line of thinking was not far from the truth. The fact that Juba is well into the game of winning over some rebels is not untrue as well. It is widely known in South Sudan that militias and their leaders have always come back to where they started because they suffered irreparable internal fighting. 

Juba might be playing a significant role in wooing some rebel generals to abandon rebellion through availing and displaying advantageous political drawings. Whatever game Juba plays, they are playing it well just as Khartoum used to do. The same thing that made Khartoum so powerful that it pulled almost every rebel in the South to play by her rules is going to make Juba powerful against her own rebels. This alien nationalistic chess board game was actually the kind of leadership that the citizens of South Sudan wanted their leaders to pursue all along for the benefits of the country. Not looking inwards.

For certain, no one expected that the country’ leadership, particularly the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, would take eyes off Khartoum’s rhetoric that was purporting to dismember it eternally following Heglig’s battle. The spirit of nationalism was in the air and Mandellas of the nation were needed in multitudes. Leaders were expected to rise above their differences and upwards to the podium of nationalism for which they fought since their youth. Nobody knew that they only ‘wanted jobs’ just as they used to charge the Anya Nya one fighters when that movement accepted peace in 1972.  

Many thought that through many years of struggle and strife, South Sudanese leaders were better armed with modern political sanities to combat poverty, illiteracy, hunger, disease and meditate on how to haul their nation out of dimness of history to the limelight through holistic development. There were many expectations for the country. 

But suddenly, the country turned so violently inwards to the laughter of her enemies. It was a bitter pill to swallow. It was a great shock to the commoners who eventually had to drag their feet into fraternal battles hoping for quicker end to fighting because of its ‘senseless nature.’ War then became so real and as it assumed its name; its impacts reverberated across the country. Funerals are being emotionally held in South Sudan, in USA, in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and in continental Europe, Africa and everywhere, anywhere a sizeable South Sudanese population is found. The maladies are beyond leadership contest.

To date, nobody boasts about war anymore but counting the heavy losses it so far generated. Not even the euphoric ‘regime change’ is mentioned with threatening frequency in peace talks, not even the figure of the dead is recited as it used to be, not political accusations are traded for fear that peace may never come. If anything of significance is talked about as a prerequisite for peace, it is the position of power in an old guards’ hierarchy that was once seen as ineffective. Peace in itself has become foreign intervention prevention mechanism. If it is not achieved, politicians might be thinking, foreign powers may chip in with heavy-handedness.  

Who are these foreign powers coming to discipline in a broken country if peace is not achieved: the commoners who are already dying or the leaders who are still questionably being pampered with positions in a yet to be instituted transitional government? If the rush for peace is this immense, what was the problem in the first place? With soul searching questions like these, even selective memory serves no good. You wonder, was the problem in the minds of the leaders or in the system they created? Was it the new order that was needed or the old order that should have been built on for peace to reign and lasted! 

What about the constant rebellion that was always never punished but forever rewarded? Would it stop this time? In answer to the last question, no it wouldn't stop if what is desired is not granted. Violence would continue. That was the courageous utterance from Brigadier General, Lul Ruai Koang, who just formed his own parallel revolutionary movement to the one being led by Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon.

South Sudan Revolutionary Movement/Army (SSRM/A), as he announced it in a press release attended largely by members of South Sudanese embassy in Nairobi on February 18, 2015, could be understood as an achievement of a nominal political machinations by Juba, a blow to Dr. Riek and his camp since Lul represented the White Army. 

The power of the White Army was easily discernable from his cool answer to Garang John of South Sudan TV. Simply put, that according to the interview, General, Lul Ruai Koang’s frontline was still Juba, the city whose power he stood protected. That was very innocent on his part.  

To the SPLA/M in opposition, General Lul Ruai Koang was just a sell out. Rather than shuttling between the bush and Khartoum, Juba has now taken over the role of Khartoum with her own troops of ‘Dr. Ali Al Hags’ of peace combing the streets of Nairobi and Kampala looking for heartbroken and pocket empty warlords.   

However, given there are no mechanisms in place to punish rebels involved in the killings of thousands of people when they come back, Juba will be bringing them back with nothing to offer to peace but old places of power to be occupied.  

It is now unto Dr. Riek Machar to play his cards well and jump on board with G-10 and disserting generals like Lul to pre-empt peace. He is well equipped with history and temerity to know this. Like some of the Anya Nya forces that heard about 1972 Addis Ababa Peace Agreement over the radio, the numerous South Sudanese militias that only saw CPA on TV or heard about it over the radio before rushing in for integration with South Sudanese army, it is the right time to put the cart before the horse. What is wrong with that? 

Martin Garang Aher is a South Sudanese living in Australia. 


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