The SPLM/A Split of 1991 An Apocalypse, Not a Blessing

"The Comprehensive Peace Agreement is totally a distinct agreement from the 1997 KPA agreement signed in ‘Lion’s Den’, and which was riddled with numerous loopholes that led to its abrogation afterwards."

By Garang Lual

Mr Gatkuoth Deng article entitled, ‘The 1991 split is a blessing in Disguise’, dated 18/03/2010 and posted on Gurtong Website prompted me to make an analytical rebuttal about the so called positive side of the SPLM/A Split of 1991.

I strongly argue against most of the points made by the author, in which he believed, had benefited Southerners politically and had led to the acceptance of self determination as one of core objectives of the movement and subsequently, the most important protocol of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement being enjoyed in South Sudan today.

Mr Gatkuoth moreover argued that, the self-determination clause, now enshrined in CPA, Interim National Constitution and Interim Constitution of Southern Sudan, came as a result of the so called split and hence, in his argument, benefited Southern Sudanese greatly.

I intend to differ with Gatkuoth because the 1991 split engineered by Riek and cohorts, caused untold suffering and destruction to the people of southern Sudan. The two Doctors of doom stated explicitly that they wanted to change how the affairs of the SPLM/A were run by one man and to put a hold on the widespread human rights violations prevalent within the movement in that period, which includes long detention without due process of law and summary execution of political prisoners. The author purported that through this split came democratic transformation and inclusion of self-determination clause as one of the core objectives of the SPLM/A.

I want to let readers know that the SPLM Politico- Military High Command met in 1991, in Torit, to assess the political and military situation in the light of new geopolitical changes after the fall of international Communism. But the two Doctors made their declaration before the PMHC meeting, in which they called for self-determination for the people of Southern Sudan. Albeit this situation, PMHC went on with the meeting in Torit and later resolved that self-determination for the people of Southern Sudan, Southern Blue Nile, Abyei and Nuba mountains to be made one of the core objectives of movement.

This has got nothing to do with infamous Nasir Declaration. It was a spontaneous democratic transformation in the SPLM-PMHC. This clause was again ratified in the well known 1994 Convention in Chukudum. Therefore, it is not true that the self determination clause was adopted in 1994 Chukudum convention, it was just ratified in the convention.

With above mentioned meetings, this shows that democracy already existed and that was why they were able to agree on the mentioned issues.

The author argued that the split led to recognition and respect for human rights within SPLM/A. It is quite ironic here that the SPLM/A-Nasir Faction, which called for respect for human rights take unprecedented lead in the violations of the very human rights they called to uphold. After the Declaration in Nasir, the two Doctors got their arms from the people’s enemy, the Khartoum Islamic Regime and declare war on innocent civilians.

They declare war on Bor District in which over 5000 civilian’ lives where lost, their cattle looted, girls and women raped. Is this a blessing in disguise or betrayal in disguise? It is up to Southern Sudanese to answer.

The SPLM/A-Nasir faction also murdered most of the Dinka officers on their side, this shows that it was just a tribal outfit. Why would a legitimate movement, committed to the respect for human rights, eliminate all Dinka officers in its ranks, if it were a true Southern Sudan movement? This does not convince me that SPLM/A-Nasir faction was for protection of human rights.

The author further argued that the self-determination championed in 1991, signed in Khartoum Peace Agreement (KPA) and enshrined in the Sudan Constitution, 1998, and confirmed in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and interim constitution of Sudan, 2005, in which the people of South Sudan will determine their political destiny in January 2011 by choosing between creating their own independent country or to remain in the current united Sudan.

The author, Mr Gatkuoth, should not equate the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with 1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement (KPA) and likewise, should not state that, right of self-Determination was confirmed in 2005. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement is totally a distinct agreement from the 1997 KPA agreement signed in ‘Lion’s Den’, and which was riddled with numerous loopholes that led to its abrogation afterwards.

The author is not aware that in any agreement, there is need for adequate safeguards and guarantees to protect the agreement from faltering. The fact that this agreement was signed in Khartoum made it prone to abrogation because this same regime was the paymaster for Riek and cohorts. There was need for a formidable force and own source of logistics, not necessarily relying on the enemy if Riek wanted an agreement implemented in letter and spirit.

This could not have happened because the next movement, after further splits, the Southern Sudan Independent Movement/Army SSIM/A was further plagued by many splits and virtually every Nuer clan had a Commander-in-Chief and defunct movements and therefore, were not in a position to defend this agreement.

SSIM/A was such an amorphous movement and did not have the structures that Riek and Lam stated were lacking in SPLM/A. The leader of SPLM/A, John Garang, was vindicated when the agreement faltered.

Riek knows it very well when the agreement was not being implemented in letter and spirit and his UDSSF were routed out of Western Upper Nile by Matip’s forces when the election results favoured Riek nominee, Taban Deng Gai, for the position of governorship in Bentiu. UDSSF forces where pushed further south when Matip’s forces got reinforcement from the Khartoum Regime. This was a period in which the scorched earth policy was initiated and implemented in oil rich Unity state. Again, people may ask, is this the blessing in disguise to the people of Southern Sudan? 

Riek came back to the SPLM/A, in 2002 apparently with the death certificate of Khartoum Peace Agreement, vanquished and humiliated to find a breathing space to mourn the KPA. He was welcomed with open arms back to the movement, aware very much that he will not achieve anything as a lone ranger.

Before the split took place, SPLA was preparing to launch a major offensive to take Juba and declare attainment of New Sudan. The forces that were thrown around Juba were rolled back to face the onslaught of the SPLA-United. These skirmishes further helped in the destruction of SPLA forces and this internal division was exploited by the enemy as it has boosted their morale psychological and demoralise SPLA forces, knowing very well that this will be demise of SPLA. The Sudan Armed Forces launched their own offensive against SPLM/A-Torit Faction and they were able to re-take major towns from SPLM/A. This is the blessing in disguise that Gatkuoth is talking about.

Later on, SPLM/A proved formidable militarily, when it weathered this period and was able to face two enemy fronts of SAF and UDSSF forces relentlessly. This forced the NIF Regime to come to a negotiating table having realised that there will be no military solution to the war in the South.

The SPLM/A, on the other hand accepted to negotiate a peaceful settlement of war with NIF regime. This set the two antagonistic sides to look for a political settlement to end the conflict. They sat down in 2002 and started rigorous negotiation which led to signing of Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

The most important provisions in the CPA are the right of self determinations for the people of Southern Sudan and Abyei, in a referendum which is to be held on the same day. The people of Abyei and Southern Sudan have the right to vote in the internationally supervised referendum to choose were they want to go. The people of Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile have to decide their political destiny in a popular consultation.

Besides, the CPA unlike KPA, has adequate safe guards to protect it. It was agreed in security arrangement that SPLA with Joint Integrated Units were to remain in the South and the bulk of SAF forces were to cross the 1956 borderline. This provision was not in KPA and that was why it was not implemented.

When Riek and Lam project of democratic transformation of SPLM/A failed to materialise, personal rivalries and long standing divisions between different classes of politicians, tribes and clans, which had been more or less successfully muted by the common struggle against Garang so called dictatorship, resurfaced or intensified. These rivalries and differences became dominant features of political life in newly formed SSIM/A. These rivalries further produced political instability in South Sudan and often threatened the viability of the nation of South Sudan.

The subsequent fighting that followed, consumed resources (both human and economic) that might have been devoted to war efforts in South Sudan against the common enemy.

The 1991 split led to signing of KPA in 1997 which was a mere sell out. Moreover, the split was a treachery in disguise and Southern Sudanese are still bearing psychological and physical scars up to this day. Furthermore, the split distracted the people’s movement, the SPLM/A, from achieving a very crucial mission, the capturing of Juba. It has led to destruction of property and lives of Southern Sudanese.

The split also gave the enemy a breathing space in which they launched their counter offensive in which they retook many liberated towns from SPLM/A-Torit faction. So, to me the 1991 was a betrayal in disguise not a blessing in disguise.

The author is a South Sudanese in Juba and can be reached at
Garang Lual

Posted in: Opinions
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