What is the genesis of the conflict pitting South Sudan President Salva Kiir against Riek Machar?
The media and some interested groups will describe it as a struggle between two communities, Dinka and Nuer tribes. That is not true.
Riek and some other groups were removed during the Cabinet reshuffle in July 2013. And within four months, we were in the process of re-organising the party because the SPLM constitution, manifesto and all the documents were about the whole Sudan. We wanted to adjust the SPLM constitution, manifesto and values through the new dispensation, the shifting of the paradigm to be South Sudan, and not the Sudan anymore.
All the posts applied to the Sudan. So the independent South Sudan requires the adjustment of all these documents so that we register as a political party of South Sudan and not of the Sudan.
The manner in which we discussed the documents was that we had members of the liberation council elected from all over South Sudan. We were in a meeting. We discussed article by article. We voted. The majority views were the ones that prevailed.
Riek was there on the first day. On the second day, he withdrew. He didn’t want the clause that would give the chairman of the SPLM power to appoint a certain percentage of the members. Machar didn’t want that. He described that as a dictatorship. But it is the same principle that brought Machar in 2008.
Machar withdrew from the meeting. It was on that same night that he launched his bloody attempted coup. Many people were caught unawares. So, on December 15, 2013, that unfortunate event happened and many people died.
Ms Rebecca Nyandeng, the widow of John Garang, told the Standard newspaper in December 2013 in Nairobi that they pulled out of the meeting because they were not being allowed to speak…
She’s lying. I am sorry that a lady we had respected because of the legacy of her late husband, Dr John Garang, turned out to be just that.
I was in the meeting. I am the SPLM secretary for Information, Culture and Communication.
I assure you that everyone who put up his or her hand had an opportunity to say something.
What would have been the basis of organising such a conference and then singling out who should speak? There would be no basis. Those people talked, even Riek talked.
There was a suggestion about the appointment of some members; the president was to be given the powers to appoint five per cent…
During the 2008 convention and later during the elections, most of these people who are now in this group were not elected in their areas. It was actually the chairman who used the same powers to appoint them into the government. Which election did the wife of Dr Garang pass?
There is a school of thought that says because Kiir allowed the Chinese to manage the oil resources the Americans are angry and therefore they are supporting Machar. Is that true?
Yes, the Americans are angry. But those are double standards. During the signing of the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement], we had said we would not abide by the contracts the Chinese had signed with the Sudan. They – Americans – said “you must abide by those contracts”. We were being identified as people who were against the CPA. On that basis, we signed.
What should be done to restore and maintain peace?
First of all, let it be understood that the current government was democratically elected.
If you want to mediate, understand that basic fact.
Our constitution says the only time we can change the leadership is when we go for elections and the people of South Sudan elect a new leader. We will abide by the choice of the people of South Sudan.
The second thing is that if this is a legitimate government, then the lessons that have worked in other places supporting a legitimate regime should be the work of IGAD, of AU and any country that loves democracy.