Open Letter: "Former Political Detainees Decided"

"We issued our joint statement not in the name of Riek Machar but in the name of those in the SPLM party dissatisfied with and worried by the way the President was running the country and the party."


Open letter: SPLM former political detainees are ‘decided,’ not ‘undecided’

The former SPLM secretary-general, Pagan Amum, addressed the following open letter to people of South Sudan. The politician is part of the ‘third bloc’ of SPLM leaders who oppose the government leadership but do not support armed conflict as a means of changing it.

Dear Beloved Citizens of the Republic of South Sudan,

Of late, it has come to my full notice that there are unsubstantiated media reports to the effect that we, the former political detainees of the SPLM ruling party, are “undecided.” This is not true because we have unequivocally decided to be (1) against the heinous war in our country, and (2) for the peaceful resolution to the conflict in South Sudan through the IGAD-led peace talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

On May 20, 2014, the Sudan Tribune, in a report attributed to the armed faction of the SPLM led by Dr. Riek Machar, has flagrantly claimed that the “12 former colleagues freed from detention in Juba including the former secretary general of the party, Pagan Amum, have not decided which side to join in resolving the new nation’s five-month old conflict.“

Moreover, in the same article published by the Sudan Tribune, a certain James Gatdet Dak is reported to have said, “the former detainees have not yet made up their minds about which side to join. In recent consultations with our leadership in Addis Ababa, they felt they needed more time to think [about] whether to remain neutral or join us or the other side.“

Citing unsourced analysts, the Sudan Tribune audaciously claimed that “analysts see the position adopted by the former detainees as an attempt to make themselves look like ‘good guys’ in the eyes of the international community so that they [might] snatch the proposed interim government’s leadership if both president Salva Kiir and opposition leader, Riek Machar, were to be forced to step aside.“

Joining the bandwagon, Mabior Garang de Mabior, to paraphrase him, said that it is one thing to go on a hunt if it is not your day and bad luck makes you come back empty handed, because then you are justified to share in the hunt of the luckier ones. But to lay in the shade while others hunt and then demand that the whole giraffe including the tail should be yours and that those that were involved in the hunt should be condemned because those who preferred to rest in the shade don’t believe in hunting…that is quite another thing. (Mabior Garang de Mabior’s Facebook page, on Friday, May 23rd, 2014)

The Implications of Kiir-Riek’s Position towards the Third Bloc

Yet, the position adopted by the armed rebels is not new, for the government has been singing to the tune that the former political detainees should either join the armed rebels of the SPLM or side with the government. Now the armed rebels have joined the choir, and are telling the country that the SPLM’s former political detainees should make up their minds between joining the government or the armed rebels’ side. Put differently, they are inviting us to partake in the killing, maiming, displacement and destruction in our country.

To them, the idea of a third party to the peace talks in Addis Ababa is anathema. In other words, they are telling us that they can’t negotiate with those who have not killed enough citizens of South Sudan, who have not destroyed properties and desolated cities, who have not maimed and displaced untold numbers of our citizens and who have not destabilized our beloved country. Apparently they think we don’t have enough blood on our hands to be in Addis Ababa.

It is not hard to postulate the position adopted by the government under President Kiir and the armed wing of the SPLM under Riek Machar. They are telling the entire country that for us, the former political detainees, to be part and parcel of the Addis Ababa peace talks, we should first go back to our respective political backyards and launch an armed rebellion against either the government or the rebels or both.

It means that I, Pagan Amum, as well as Oyai Deng Ajak and Dr. Adwok Nyaba, should go back to the Chollo Kingdom and set South Sudanese (Chollo) against other South Sudanese (non-Chollo members of South Sudan); that Gier Chuang Aluong should go back to his Ngok people and begin killing civilians; that Deng Alor, Chol Tong and Madut Biar should go back to the Bahr el Ghazal region and start maiming and killing civilians; that Dr. Majak Agoot and Mama Nyandengdit should go back to the Bor area and start displacing and killing civilians the same way that the white army have devastated their home area; that John Luk and Ezekiel Lol should go back to Nuerland, join the white army and launch an armed rebellion on the government; and that Cirino Hiteng and Kosti Manibe should go back to the Equatoria region and commence killing, displacing and maiming unarmed civilians.

Thanks to the above confession from Mabior Garang, the reason why the group around the President and those allied to the armed rebel leader, Riek Machar, badly want us to join them is simply to share the hunted giraffe. Unlike us political detainees, both sides of the armed conflict—the government and the armed rebels—see the on-going carnage in terms of who would get which top positions in the interim government. Of course, at first it was all about who would defeat whom and take over the entire “giraffe“ for themselves. Having killed, maimed, and displaced civilians and having destroyed properties and towns without any decisive military victory, the two warring sides have resorted to sharing the “giraffe“ in the proposed national government.

In effect, Mabioor’s statement is tantamount to turning the unfortunate carnage that occurred in our country into a question of who is entitled to which part of the remains of South Sudan. For the armed rebels, it was a question of going to the bush to kill, maim, and displace as many unarmed civilians as possible—their version of hunting—and then demanding their “turn to eat“ in the proposed interim government. Meanwhile for the government in Juba, it is the question of digging their “kandak“ to protect the carcass of the “fallen giraffe“ from the marauding white army.

My Response to Kiir-Riek’s Opportunistic Stance

To hunting rebels like Mabior Garang and James Gatdet, and to the watchful eyes of those on guard protecting the carcass from the hunters, the thought that any third party should be “invited“ to the “feast“ is an abomination. Since both camps perceive everything in terms of sharing the carcass, they can’t countenance that we, the political detainees, should be a party to the peace talks and the proposed interim government.

We do understand where they are coming from and where they are going: let me reiterate once more, we are never going to be a party to the bloody war going on in our country. Nor can we be a party to any interim government merely meant to reward evil. We can only be a party to peaceful negotiation toward ending the current evolving catastrophe in South Sudan. We can only be a party to the peace talks and an interim government meant to heal wounds and to initiate peace, unity and reconciliation among our beloved people.

First and foremost, we are not undecided because we have already made up our minds that we can’t be a party to the killing, maiming and displacement of our people and the unwarranted destruction of our country. We are saying that there is more to a failed government under President Kiir and to the doomed armed rebellion under Riek Machar. The paths they have chosen only succeed in bringing more suffering and death and heartache to our people and shame on our new nation. Yes, we were allied with Riek Machar before December 15th in opposition to the creeping dictatorial tendencies of President Kiir who was taking (and has indeed succeeded) our country into the abyss.

It was a political alliance, but it was never the case that Riek Machar was our leader. Riek wants to be the president. Mama Nyandeng wants to run for the Presidency and I, Pagan Amum, too, aspire to that high office. Technically speaking, we were and still are political rivals because we are seeking the same office. But we all converged together in issuing the press release of December 6th not as Riek’s supporters but as senior members of the SPLM party who wanted to avert the then looming political catastrophe. We issued our joint statement not in the name of Riek Machar but in the name of those in the SPLM party dissatisfied with and worried by the way the President was running the country and the party. As founding members of the SPLM/SPLA, it was never our intention to overthrow the government because it was and still is our government. A military coup entails war, death and destruction and that was never our cause.

In 2004 there was a misunderstanding in Rumbek between Chairman Dr. John Garang and his deputy, commander Salva Kiir Mayardit. It resulted in a scathing attack launched by Kiir against Garang. A good-faith meeting was convened, which both leaders and all the top members of the SPLM/SPLA attended. All the participants were free to air their opinions. The misunderstanding was cordially discussed and amicably resolved in frank and brotherly conversations. No arrest warrants were issued. Garang was humble enough to explain himself and own up to his mistakes.

That was all that we were asking our comrade, President Kiir, to do in the present circumstances so that the rank and file of our historic party could again be united and the party energized. We talked to him as a group and on an individual basis, and he was not hostile to the idea of convening a meeting of the top leadership of the party for political unity and reconciliation. This was particularly imperative after the dismissal of the vice president, which unnecessarily raised the political temperature in the party. The country had to be reassured that what happened was constitutional and in it’s proper place, even if political incorrect. However, no sooner did we leave the President’s house or office than we would never hear from him again. It appeared some of the people of his inner circle were happy to egg him on toward a confrontation, for reasons best known to them.

On December 15th we were collected from our bedrooms like kindergarten children, and locked up on suspicion of instigating a coup. At best, the allegation was a dangerous joke. All of us are former freedom fighters: we are all soldiers. As Mama Nyandengdit once said, there is no way anyone would carry out a coup and then go straight to bed with their children and wife. No wonder the unfounded case against us faltered much to the embarrassment of the President himself.

I can’t help but pity the young government prosecutor, Mayen Oka, for trying to convince the judge that the coup took place, when the only “evidence” thereof was the December 6th press release. Should we also say that the 2004 Yei-Rumbek crisis was a coup against John Garang, given the fiery words of Salva Kiir? Is that what the government wants history to record? The prosecution’s case was a sheer fabrication designed to remove us from the SPLM. I am sure if it had not been for comrade Pieng Deng Majok (the police inspector) and comrade James Oath Mai (the chief of general staff), we would have been killed.

Once the false case against us was over and we left for East Africa, it became imperative that we work toward ending the armed conflict. It is our duty as senior members of the party and as leaders of South Sudan to bring about a peaceful resolution to the senseless war. We want to work towards peace and reconciliation between Riek Machar and President Kiir in order to halt the ongoing bloodbath in our beloved country. The first priority is to stop the war; the second one is to initiate political reforms in the country. For South Sudan to achieve political stability and socioeconomic prosperity, there must be cessation of hostilities, formation of interim government and democratic transformation in the country.

This is why we decided to form a “third bloc“ in South Sudan’s laborious search for peace and reconciliation. This third bloc is made up of the former SPLM secretary general, Pagan Amum; the presidential advisor and former minister of road and transport, Mama Rebecca Nyandengdit; the former cabinet affairs minister, Deng Alor; the former justice minister, John Luk; the former finance minister, Kosti Manibe; the former security minister, Oyai Deng; the former minister for roads, Gier Chuang; the former minister of telecommunications, Madut Biar; the former deputy defense minister, Dr. Majak Agoot; the former youth minister, Cirino Hiteng; the former Lakes state governor, Chol Tong; and the former ambassador to the US, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth.

Unlike the armed rebels, the third bloc represents the true face of the republic of South Sudan. Firstly, we are senior members of the ruling SPLM party with solid and proven credentials going back to the war-of-liberation era. If President Kiir thinks that Riek is not patriotic enough because of the 1991 Nasir coup, then the South Sudanese people know that we are every bit as patriotic and loyal to their cause as President Kiir himself. We have no historical baggage to hold us back. Secondly, in terms of regional representation, we have Deng Alor, Madut Biar and Tong Mayai from the Bahr el Ghazal region; John Luk, Madam Nyandengdit, Majak Agoot, Ezekiel Lol, Gier Chuang, Oyai Deng, Adwok Nyaba and Pagan Amum, from the Upper Nile region; and Cirino Hiteng and Kosti Manibe from the Equatoria region. Thirdly, in terms of tribes, we have Dinkas (Deng Alor, Madut Biar, Majak Agoot, Mama Nyandengdit, Chol Tong, and Gier Chuang), Nuers (John Luk, and Ezekiel Lol), Shilluks (Oyai Deng, Adwok Nyaba and Pagan Amum) and Equatorians (Kosti Manibe and Cirino Hiteng).

We represent not only the face of South Sudan, but also its integral leadership, both in the war for independence and post-CPA. As such, South Sudan is our heritage; we own it and we can’t be expected to join in the senseless destruction of our most exquisite possession. It is our gift to future generations, not a carcass to be scrambled for. That South Sudan is a giraffe to be auctioned off to the most brutal hunter is the mindset of those whose hands are dripping with the precious blood of innocent South Sudanese. We can’t be cajoled nor forced to join in the bloody orgy. There are more than two choices to this horrendous conflict. Ours is the third choice—of working for peace and reconciliation instead of fuelling the ridiculous war.

Being members of the third bloc does not equate to being neutral in the current conflict. We are part of the peace talks and part of any future government that would bring about political reform within the country. Both the government and armed rebels prefer a military solution but we in the third bloc fully support the IGAD peace process as the best alternative to the war in our country. This makes us more than neutral bystanders: we are not part of the bloodshed, but of the sustainable solution.

Unashamedly, some people have misconstrued our stance to mean that we want to be “good guys in the eyes of the international community so that [we] may snatch the proposed interim government’s leadership if both president Salva Kiir and opposition leader, Riek Machar, were to be forced to step aside.“ Never in the course of our opposition to President Kiir’s creeping dictatorship or the rebels’ penchants for shedding the blood of unarmed civilians have we ever said that we are angels. We agree with our colleague, Governor Chol Tong Mayai, that we are all responsible for the mess we are in and should therefore sit down in peace and talk like brothers and sisters to sort out our issues.

According to Governor Chol, when one of our leading party loses his position, he should not go back to mobilize his tribesmen. The average citizen doesn’t share our fat salaries. While we treat ourselves and our families to ice cream and our children to the finest toys, the rest of our people don’t even know what ice cream is, nor have their children ever played with real toys. We rule over our people as if we are foreigners. We don’t know the poor state of our country’s hospitals because our own women deliver in the very best hospitals. When we get a headache, we don’t suffer but go to Nairobi or Uganda for treatment. That is the deplorable state of affairs our country is in.

President Kiir refused to listen to us, and then December 15th happened. Consequently, Riek Machar took to the bush and joined the armed rebellion and the fighting ensued.

Our commitment to the citizens of South Sudan is to end this senseless war; to bring about long lasting peace and reconciliation and social prosperity to our beleaguered people. SPLM Oyee.

By Pagan Amum Okiech

Photo: Pagan Amum addresses a gathering at the home of former deputy defense minister Majak d’Agoot in Juba (Radio Tamazuj)

RSS comment feed
29/05/2014, 4:26 PM
 - Posted by Akol Maduok Madut Akol
Mr. Pagan you are not Mr. clean in this situation. How many dollars of SPLM did you steal? You had stolen billions of dollars. Shame on you all.
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