Augustine Ruzindana

Military forces cannot resolve South Sudan’s political problem

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By Augustine Ruzindana

Posted  Friday, January 17   2014 at  02:00

In Summary

Thus Bor can be considered the birth place of the SPLA/M. In 1991, another incident took place at Bor. Dr Riek Machar split from the SPLA and in the fighting between his faction and SPLA at Bor, a large number of civilians died, most of them Dinka.

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This year, Africa may need divine intervention more than ever because whichever region you turn to, you find trouble. The Great Lakes region, the West African (Boko Haram, Mali, Niger) and Central African regions (CAR, DRC, Chad) are in crisis. The Arab Spring has rendered northern Africa ungovernable and unstable and religious fundamentalism has taken political centre stage. In southern Africa, the Mozambique peace settlement is in serious danger of getting unstuck, while the Malawi president seeks political inspiration from her pastor in Nigeria.

While the celebration of Mandela’s life has released pressure on President Jacob Zuma, the economic and political trajectory, a dark shadow continues to hover over what should be an exemplary South Africa. Yet the year could also have been considered a year in which democracy will be consolidated as elections, national, local, municipal and regional are due to take place in almost 20 African countries.

However, there is more urgency for a solution in Central African Republic and South Sudan. Because of space, I will concentrate on South Sudan. The current internal SPLA/M conflict is not the first but one hopes it will be the last. Bor in Jonglei State is a place of symbolic importance in South Sudan. In 1983, a mutiny of Sudanese army units took place at Bor and the Khartoum army leadership dispatched a Colonel Garang to suppress the mutiny. Col Garang instead joined the mutiny and offered it leadership. Among the officers who joined the rebellion at its inception was Captain Salvatore Kiir.

Thus Bor can be considered the birth place of the SPLA/M. In 1991, another incident took place at Bor. Dr Riek Machar split from the SPLA and in the fighting between his faction and SPLA at Bor, a large number of civilians died, most of them Dinka. Machar later rejoined SPLM a few years before the peace negotiations that resulted in the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that gave South Sudan independence. He served Garang and Kiir loyally until recently when he announced his intention to challenge Salva Kiir for the leadership of SPLM and of the country.

The situation facing Riek Machar is similar to what Salva Kiir faced about 10 years ago. During 2004 while peace talks were taking place at Naivasha, there were rumours that Dr Garang wanted to remove Salva Kiir as his deputy. A three-day meeting, in which Machar played a mediatory role, was then held at Rumbek from November 29 to December 1. It is this meeting that safeguarded the unity of the SPLM and paved way for the signing of the CPA a month later.

The SPLM needs a similar meeting to resolve the internal political differences that are now being resolved on the battlefield. IGAD was in attendance at the Rumbek meeting and IGAD is now involved in resolution of the current SPLM internal conflict. Riek Machar is the deputy of SPLM chairman Salva Kiir. That only two of the imprisoned 11 other top SPLM leaders are Nuer indicates that, despite the ethnic pogroms and overtones, the conflict is not primarily an ethnic one.

The release of the imprisoned 11 is necessary for an internal political settlement.
The SPLM being essentially a military organisation, the top leaders have resorted to the use of security/military forces to resolve a political problem and this must stop. Military intervention by any neighbour for any of the sides is, therefore, a serious error as there are no ‘rebels’. The solution lies in functioning of SPLM structures as it happened at Rumbek in 2004. This should be the outcome of the Addis Ababa talks.

Mr Ruzindana is a former IGG and former MP. a_ruzindana@yahoo.com