Political Ground But No Tribal War
There is No doubt that the death of John Garang De Mabior, certainly left a vacuum. South Sudan has had sixty years of nationalist struggle which eventually lead to their independence; sadly short-lived. Some say this is a tribal war, a conflict over power but I wonder.
John Garang De Mabior’s vision was not one of independence for the South, but a New Sudan which would encompass the North, freeing all of Sudan; his death though put an end to this dream. Independence came to South Sudan, primarily because of the “Machakos Agreement” of 2002, which gave the SPLA the right to demand a national referendum for independence. This is important because Salva Kiir was certainly not strong enough to win the planned elections of 2010 and so the Machakos agreement became a safety net which Kiir used to keep himself in power.
98% of the country voted for independence but what were they really voting for. The new government would have no political experience and its beginnings would be by people who were all serving military and were used to finding their way with the barrel of a gun. All these military leaders, now pretending to be politicians can only be described as thieves. The countries over all budget is nearly completely financed by oil, oil that Salva Kiir’s administration has been stealing. It is said and apparently by Salva Kiir’s own admission, out of $7 billion dollars of oil revenue, $4 billion has been stolen. Which makes it probably one of the most corrupt governments in all of Africa.
When Salva Kiir dismissed his whole cabinet in July 2013, including the vice president Riak Machar, it showed in many ways that the split now so clear, was not a tribal or ethnic one since those dismissed belonged to all ethnic groups. The coup that supposedly happened afterwards (there is no evidence of it ever happening) was used by both parties to explain the violence that blew up on 15th December 2013. The civilians are now paying the price since both sides are extremely violent and blood thirsty. There are now Over One million IDP’s, over 250,000 are now refugees abroad and nearly 20% of the population are directly affected by the conflict and the death toll could be as high 80,000 and right now with no end in sight.
There is though, the emergence of a civil society, a society that might never have happened under John Garang De Mabior who unquestionably feared educated people who might give him competition. As for Salva Kiir, a mini dictator if you like who seems to think the less the Southern Sudanese population know the better. But this way of thinking, this treatment of the population is certainly showing Salva Kia as weak president and one who has not won the respect of his people. Riak Machar and his mainly Nuer fighters have certainly helped to weaken the government and claiming to be a reformist, he has some quite unlikely backing, with Mrs Rebeca Garang (John Garangs wife) Mabior Garang (Garang’s son a Dinka) Peter Adwok Nyaba (a Shilluk) and many more prominent communal tribal leaders from ethnic groups such as a Bari, Kakwa, Makraka, Pojulu and many more, showing how this is not a tribal or ethnic conflict as the one thing that brings all these people together, is the thought of political reform.
Political potential exists and grows while the SPLA slowly dies. It is a national liberation movement without proper government status and it has failed the people. Tribes all over South Sudan are emerging from the bush as new political organisations appear and develop and they do so under their own steam having no help from their government. It would seem that all the ethnic groups of South Sudan are stepping forward.
The Rebels have certainly helped push this situation and highlight the corruption of the government, it’s a wonder the people of South Sudan can take any more pain but maybe the emergence of a new nation must endure this period of hell to come out the other side with any true chance of change. Political reform and the sense of a civil society is essential, If South Sudan can make it through yet more bloodshed and impending famine it will have done so quite simply by extraordinary means.
Writing And Photography By Thomas W. Morley.