By Capt. Mabior Garang de Mabior
Fellow South Sudanese!
In these uncertain times in our people’s history, it is a matter of survival for us to be vigilant in the defense of our hard-won freedom. The current civil war has now entered its fifth year. With no end in sight for the war and peace being so elusive, it is easy to be confused about current events in our beloved country. The hardliners within the regime -the traditional elites- have made peace a zero-sum game and to them, “peace”, means the maintaining of a status quo that is untenable. The position of the Movement and that of the regime are diametrically opposed; with the regime insisting on maintaining the status quo and the people’s movement advocating for radical reforms. This has made the parties to the conflict view peace as a hostile venture. In this struggle for political survival, the SPLM (IO) has been fighting a war of self-defense against an unpopular regime, while at the same time trying to unite other revolutionary forces in the country. The people of South Sudan should understand that not all groups purporting to be “opposition”, are in fact opposed to the regime and not all the interest groups within the regime are for the status quo. Anyone who wants to maintain the status quo in our country is the enemy of the people of South Sudan. The SPLM/SPLA (IO) is a political force opposed to the regime and it is a coalition of revolutionary forces who have come together with the objective of bringing about fundamental change in our country. The following are a few points to help understand the situation with the “opposition” in our country.
1. The first thing we must understand is the genesis of the idea of opposition in our country. In the minds of our naïve grassroots population, the idea of opposition inspires negative emotions left over from the anti-colonial wars. The idea of “opposition” has come to be associated with collaboration with the colonial secret police. The entrenchment of Abrahamic values in our society has also reinforced this negative perception as opposition is associated with Satan, who is considered the opposer of God and its juxtaposition that the government is ordained by God.
2. This misconception about the role of “opposition” in the imagination of our people has allowed the regime to flaunt our civil rights and liberties with impunity.
3. The reality is that there is no real opposition in our country in the traditional political pluralism sense of the word. It would be a fallacy to view the current civil war as a conflict between an opposition and the incumbent. The regime’s propaganda machine has worked hard to portray the conflict as a mere struggle for power; as the hunger of one man for power.
4. The coup narrative, fabricated by the regime as the catalyst for the war, has gotten so much airtime that it has become part of the political mythology of the regime. The hardliners in the regime continue to insist that the war is the result of a coup attempt, despite the fact that this was dismissed by the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan (commonly referred to as the Obasanjo Report).
5. The current civil war is not being fought between an opposition and an incumbent for political power; no. This is a war between those forces in our country who want to maintain the status quo and those forces in our country who want to bring about fundamental change in our society, which has been ravaged by the legacies of colonialism and slavery.
6. The slave trade was abolished in our country. However, the social system which upheld this economic system still exists today and is a threat to the civil rights and liberties of the ordinary citizen in our nascent Republic, which is emerging from centuries of isolation from the world.
7. The concept of “opposition” in the traditional sense does not exist in our country. It only exists as a matter of procedural democracy and not as a system of checks and balances to curb any potential abuse of power by the incumbent. The traditional political parties in our country are dependent on the SPLM for funding and not on membership dues or fundraising. This is a conflict of interest to say the least.
8. The militarization of politics in our country caused by the history of the SPLM with the SPLA, makes the armed forces loyal to the incumbent SPLM regime, rendering any potential opposition impotent.
9. The SPLM (IO) is only called “opposition” by name; however, in essence it is a revolutionary people’s movement, a coalition of various social, political and military forces in our country, who are leading a resistance against an anti-people regime.
10. The misconception about what opposition represents in a modern democracy is being used by the regime in their strategy of using peace as an instrument of war.
How has the regime used opposition politics to undermine social reforms?
11. The regime has created some opposition groups and used existing ones as a political counter insurgency tactic to destabilize the SPLM/SPLA (IO).
12. The genesis of the collusion between so called opposition and the regime to scuttle the peace process can be traced back to January 2014, when Dr. Lam Akol, the leader of the traditional opposition came as a member of the government delegation to the peace talks. If Dr. Lam Akol was really leading the opposition, he should have been allied to the SPLM/SPLA(IO) and not the regime.
13. The SPLM leaders who challenged President Salva Kiir on December 6 2013 became divided and after their controversial release from detention, decided to take a neutral stand in the war (becoming the SPLM Former Detainees), helping the regime to depict the conflict as a tribal war in the process.
14. The SPLM FD’s also helped the regime’s propaganda by supporting the violent abrogation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) in 2016. The silence of the FD’s when the regime attacked the SPLM/SPLA (IO) and used Gen. Taban, the Chief Negotiator of the SPLM(IO) to illegally take up the post of First Vice President, helped the new regime which emerged in isolating the SPLM/SPLA (IO) diplomatically and in the illegal detention of the Chairman and Commander in Chief of the people’s movement in South Africa.
15. This illegal detention continues to this day in Khartoum despite all the hullabaloo of peace. The SPLM FD’s (wittingly or unwittingly) colluded with the regime in order to give legitimacy to this conspiracy. The SPLM FD’s have had more in common with the government they purport to be against than with those revolutionary forces in the country who are opposing this genocidal regime. In the end they have proved this to the people by surrendering to the regime, using the Arusha Agreement as camouflage.
16. I would like to reiterate, there is no real opposition in the country in the traditional sense. Those we are calling “opposition”, are now dancing to the tune of the regime in Juba and none of them has the capacity to hold the regime’s feet to the fire, as it were. The South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) are leading this dance in Juba through their failure to highlight the regime’s intransigence in the implementation process and leaving it all to the SPLM/SPLA (IO).
17. These groups purporting to be “opposition” are sabotaging the SPLM/SPLA (IO)’s efforts to ensure the regime does not renege on the agreement they have signed and are assisting the regime in isolating the SPLM/SPLA (IO) politically. These moves only give impetus to the propaganda machine of the regime, which is trying to portray peace as a supernatural event; when in reality peace can only be arrived at through implementation of the provisions of the agreement. This is what will bring fundamental change to our country.
18. The regime has succeeded through various means at their disposal to divide the revolutionary forces in the country who have been demanding a change to the unbearable conditions our people have been subjected to. This has facilitated the regime’s counter insurgency tactics of portraying the conflict as inter-communal fighting and their use of tribe against tribe. This counterinsurgency tactic has been used to circumvent the agreement by using the idea of “peace” to undermine the peace process.
19. The President, instead of fast tracking the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), has opted for SPLM Reunification, a process that was dead on arrival. If this is not surrender in disguise, then what will be the difference between this reunification and the several attempts made from Entebbe to Cairo? The SPLM Reunification process does not address the fact that we live in a failed state. It only returns us to the status quo- prior to the outbreak of war in 2013- when the same SPLM leaders plunged our nascent republic into the abyss.
20. The regime knows which individuals and which groups it shares the same values with and some of these so-called leaders have accompanied President Salva Kiir on his ill-timed tour. The people of South Sudan should not allow themselves to be fooled by this so-called tour the regime purports to be for peace. If this was true, then the “peace tour” would have been organized in such a way that the leaders of the various stakeholders who signed the agreement would be part of the tour, not least among them the leader of the main armed opposition, Dr. Riek Machar Teny-dhurgon, who continues to be under illegal detention in Khartoum. This would have inspired confidence in our civil population. The fact that the President is accompanied by known hardliners in the regime and so-called opposition leaders who share common values with the regime is an indication that this is not a peace tour, but mobilization of what the President perceives as his support base. This is despite the fact that the recent attempt at forced conscription was rejected by the intellectuals and chiefs of our civil population. Our people have seen through the deception that this is just a continuation of the regime’s strategy of using the idea of “peace” as an instrument of war.
21. In these uncertain times in the history of our country, it is very important that our people are not moved by emotions. We must constantly be vigilant in countering the regime’s lack of political will to embrace reforms and have some semblance of democracy. How long shall the intelligentsia in our country allow this state of affairs to continue? The peace we all aspire to shall never be achieved through pious proclamations, nor imagination. The only way for peace to be restored to our beloved land is to commit to the implementation of the negotiated settlement. Anything short of this is treachery.
A luta continua!
Cpt. Mabior Garang de Mabior
28/02/2019 -19:21 Hrs.