The SPLM Political Bureau vs. grassroots citizens

Category: Commentary
Published on Friday, 19 February 2010 23:13
Written by Mabior Atem de Kuir, The New Sudan Vision (NSV), www.newsudanvision.com
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Winnipeg MB, Canada- The SPLM Political Bureau as a higher organ of the people party has disrespected the grassroots citizens as political commodities. The SPLM has an obligation as a party that fought to free marginalized communities by bringing human equality and dignity in Sudan regardless of race, religion, colour, gender, as well as freedom of expression, freedom of speech and right to vote as it’s the case of upcoming election.

The SPLM Political Bureau has obstructed the selection process for the upcoming election; some of candidates have met the legitimacy of democratic process, some have not.  Individuals who were chosen by the grassroots voters during the pre-election were replaced by the SPLM Political Bureau in Juba without consultation with grassroots citizens as political commodities.  The SPLM Political Bureau decisions of selecting loyalists and long-term savers have become detrimental in some parts of semi-autonomous region.  What is the point of having a democratic process if individual names that were not on the lists have appeared while the ones who were on list disappeared? 

 In some areas, there was no collaboration between the Political Bureau’s decision - made by the 27 persons - and grassroots citizens at each level of the government, including: payams, counties, states and country at large.  The Political Bureau has neglected citizens’ right to choose by appeasing their personal loyalists rather than accommodating the best interests of citizens.  Candidates are elected by the grassroots people at different constituencies to represent them at each level of the government.

 In my view, they are ‘political commodities’ similar to ‘market commodities’.  Their choices are more valuable in this democratic arena.  Without grassroots on the ground, the SPLM as a people party cannot operate, but local communities can function without the SPLM.  Consider the example of the Islamic government in old Sudan where local people from marginalized communities were mistreated and denied social services intentionally.  One could not imagine how many atrocities were committed against local communities and they survived.

The SPLM Political Bureau has obstructed the selection process in following ways: first, The SPLM Political Bureau should have done a screening by short listing all the candidates contesting in each post and then sent them to their respective constituencies.  This step would have allowed the SPLM Political Bureau to make sure he/she has the criteria and then leave it open for the citizens to decide which candidate they want to represent them and in what level of the government.  By doing so, citizens would have the opportunity to experience the democratic process.  This election is the first multiparty election as well as it would be a first time for majority of Southern Sudanese to cast their votes.  Secondly, Southern Sudan Electoral College should have received the names of candidates from Juba Office then sent them to different constituencies; it would have avoided misunderstanding between some candidates that their names were screened out and the Electoral College officials. 

Thirdly, the SPLM Political Bureau would have only to congratulate individual candidates who made it on the SPLM tickets by winning the interests of citizens at grassroots, which will allow the SPLM to function as a democratic entity to bring institutional changes in Sudan as a whole.  Keeping that order would also propel the SPLM to win more seats at different levels of the governments.  This would have credited the system rather than discredited the system as the Secretary General has admitted that: “On Tuesday, February 9, during a press interview with journalists, in the regional capital of Juba openly admitted existence of irregularities in the selection of candidates for various positions”.

Not utilizing the above three steps have caused two distinctive challenges: First, it has discredited the people party system that the SPLM portray. The Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) appears incapable of making a healthy decision on behalf its citizens.  Secondly, it has created a concept of independent candidates within the same party that may put the SPLM Party on a weakened position because voters will be split up into so many selected vs. independents candidates.  Equally serious, the SPLM Political Bureau should know that these Independent Candidate groups are motivated by what I have termed ‘political commodities’ because they are in touch with grassroots citizens.  They clearly indicate that they do not want to let their supporters down -that is a promise!  These grassroots voters are the engine of the democratic process anywhere in the world, so neglecting their choice is a political risk, miscalculated by the SPLM Political Bureau, unknowingly.  If the system was not done in reverse, 340 independent candidates across Southern Sudan should not have run independently. As well, they are calling on the Secretary General to resign from the SPLM higher post because of that mess!  Consider this, if they were to screen through pre-election done at the grassroots level these independent candidates would have been left with no option other than respecting political commodities decisions because nobody else they expect to vote them in any constituencies they would want to represent.

In short, the SPLM/SPLA has taken up arms against an oppressive regime in the name of marginalized communities.  With that, the SPLM Political Bureau should respect that protocol by refraining from the mass not to interfere with the selection process in order to educate its people and Islamic government about democratic values.  However, advancing such transparency, open process and a fair pre-election process will translate into a smooth election in April as well as continuity of that accountability will further the ends of the referendum in 2011.  The SPLM political Bureau should know that SPLM/SPLA is an engine of change in Sudan: West, East, South, North and Central, and in turn will allow for changes on a larger scale: socially, economically, culturally and politically.  The case in point is that, in the past, there was no Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) without sacrificing of two millions lives, there was no Government of National Unity (GNU) without SPLM to negotiate and there was no sharing of natural resources without people party to advance that course.  I believe that the SPLM is vanguard for all marginalized communities without looking at different identities, geographical location, religion and race.  Being a vanguard means taking a lead by addressing various issues at different levels, of government, be visible at grassroots levels and be protective of political commodities as well as respecting their choices as it was the case of the last two months pre-election process in the autonomous South Sudan.

*David Mabior Atem de Kuir, Canada, is a Masters candidate in Public Policy and Public Administration Program, Specializing in Strategic Planning and Management at the University of Manitoba with proposed Thesis on Immigration Policy. He can be reached at: E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.