Kiir or Riek (Part II): Is the 2015 Presidential Election a Definitive Contest between the Two Chiefs of the Leviathan? Assessing Candidates’ Records to Ascertain the Validity of their Campaigns Platforms

 

Kiir or Riek (Part II): Is the 2015 Presidential Election a Definitive Contest between the Two Chiefs of the Leviathan? Assessing Candidates’ Records to Ascertain the Validity of their Campaigns Platforms

By Santino Ayuel Longar (aka Santino M. Dau Deng Agieu Kur)

  1. Introduction

k or_r Canada- Everyone knew it was just a matter of time. But it is now official. The long simmering political rift between President Kiir Mayardit and his Vice President, Riek Machar, has ultimately bubbled up to the surface and brought to an end the ostensible cordiality that initially characterised the working relationship between the nation’s two principals. The reason: power struggle within the party. This momentous twist of political events in respect of the relationship between the two leading chiefs in the land has set the stage for the first and, certainly, the most contentious political showdown yet in the two year-old nation’s independence history, since July 9, 2011.

All this came to light in a meeting— held by the notorious; undemocratic, communist-styled body, known as Political Bureau—chaired by President Kiir[1] himself. It was in that meeting that Mr. Riek is reported to have gone public when, though not unexpectedly but for the timing, he took every attendee by surprise by announcing his intention to vie for the position of the ruling SPLM party’s chairmanship, a position which Kiir has hitherto occupied following the untimely demise of the South Sudan’s Founder, Chairman John Garang de Mabior— a man of enormous talents and remarkable charisma. In eyeing for this highly prized and coveted political position, Mr. Riek prepares to position himself to be the Second President of the sovereign Republic of South Sudan, giving him an easy ride into the Presidency and making the battle for the succession of the current Man On The Throne, President Kiir Mayardit, virtually a non-contest formality.

Mr. Riek, a Mechanical engineer by training, has cited numerous (seemingly valid) reasons and motivations for his long nurtured, if not nursed, desire to oust Mr. Kiir rather now than later. Among a host of others, Riek cites Kiir’s ‘utter failure’ to curb systemic tribalism and corruption in the country; failure to devise effective national political and economic plans and miserably failing to design policy programs for cementing the new nation’s national identity as well as sharing the fruits of independence among all communities as envisioned a priori.

 In contradistinction, Mr. Kiir, a career military general, who has portrayed himself as a genuine steward and guardian of South Sudan’s peoples’ aspirations for sovereign statehood, appears more determined than ever before to hold onto “his” throne, quite contrary to his earlier utterances that he would quit once the country became independent. Instead, Kiir now maintains that his priority during the turbulent Interim Period had been to singly ensure that South Sudan became independent, but now that South Sudan has robustly secured its (perhaps political) independence, he ought to be given another four-year-term to enable him focus on more fundamental aspects of national economic and political development.

But how realistic are these men’s claims? To answer this question, let’s briefly look at their past and present records in order to enable us to reasonably gauge the validity of their respective claims and what we can expect should one of them be the South Sudan’s chief executive (CEO), come 2015 or any time thereafter. The author forewarns the subject individuals, their supporters and readers alike that some comments herein are quite unflattering. They may or may not excite your raw emotions. Reader’s discretion is thus advised.

 2. Part I: Salva Kiir Mayardit Kuethpiny (covered previously)

 

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 3. Part II: Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon.

 

(A) From Academic to a Senior Guerrilla Leader

Dr. Riek Machar, an engineer by training from University of Khartoum, obtained a PhD in Strategic Planning at the University of Bradford (United Kingdom) in 1984, subsequent to which he joined the SPLM/A in Ethiopia where he was, according to Professor Adwok Nyaba, warmly received and immediately promoted to a very senior military position (without training whatsoever). He shortly thereafter rose to become the 7th highest ranking member of the SPLA Military Command and an Alternate Member of the High Command Council.

 Such an accelerated promotion—blamed for all the ills that would later befall the Movement as a result— to a position of enormous authority and influence in the Movement was quite baffling, given that Mr. Riek had no prior military, or even an equivalent administrative, experience. It also raised questions as to what might have been lingering on Chief Garang’s mind at the time. Was Chairman Garang possibly concerned that another PhD holder[2], like Riek (and Lam, who was similarly treated), would rock the boat from within if not enticed with a glamorous position of authority and influence? Was Beny Garang truly moved by the necessity for diversity within the highest level of military command or was this seemingly suspect promotion entirely based on merits?  If so or otherwise, could this explain the fates of those of Dr. Juac Kerjok (who was killed by firing squad, in Bunga in 1984), Dr. Madut (who was allegedly tortured and killed by own forces) and Dr. Bol Akok (who mysteriously disappeared on his trip upon leaving Addis Ababa) and many others with similar or equivalent qualifications? We may never know some or possibly all the answers to these questions.

The principal question, in relation to Mr. Riek’s extraordinary rise in a sea of highly qualified and experienced personnel, is what, if any, could have been avoided but for Mr. Riek’s undeserved promotion. This inquiry is particularly pertinent since it is out of this slip in history that what would later ensue, in 1991 and thereafter, may substantially be explained. Indeed, it is this sheer historical misstep or antecedent that explains why Mr. Riek currently occupies the second most senior position in the country, thereby giving him the platform for portraying himself as the ‘messianic’ leader that South Sudan has eagerly been waiting for.

(B) What Should the 2015 Voters Know About Mr. Riek Machar?

(1) Past Records: Why Riek’s Ongoing Campaigns should Spur Inspection of His Records

 In citing Kiir’s reluctance or inability to stump out rampant tribalism, nepotism, corruption in public service or failing to provide a clear and intelligible direction for the party as his chief reasons for wanting to unseat the President through a democratic process (which is highly commendable), Mr. Riek, by all accounts, portrays his candidacy as a more preferable option for 2015. 

But the cardinal principle of natural justice dictates that where a party puts another party’s credibility on the line, as Riek has done, there is an obligation to provide the party whose creditability is being questioned with a corresponding opportunity to disabuse himself or herself or to similarly inspect the questioning party, or both. Thus by questioning Mr. Kiir’s competence and presenting himself as a transcendent; political redeemer with ‘clean hands,’ the Vice President, by default, places his own character in issue. But in lieu of the party who would otherwise be in a position to inspect his political adversary, voters have the right to know, by assessing Mr. Riek’s records to ascertain the validity of his assertion by examining (a) Mr. Riek’s leadership scores as an SPLA commander (after joining the SPLM/A in 1984); (b) Mr. Riek’s performance with respect to the events and the aftermath of the 1991 Coup; as well as (d) Mr. Riek’s record as Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan since 2005.

(a) Riek’s Leadership Record as an SPLA Zonal Commander of Western Upper Nile (1986-1989) in Perspective: A Substandard Achiever?

 It is interesting how, of late, Mr. Riek Machar has been criss-crossing the country making a case against various impediments to nation building, with special focus on tribal segregation and nepotism under a government in which he, ironically serves as vice president. While a move against such social evils is truly commendable and praiseworthy,   many observers wonder not so much about whether Mr. Riek has the will and ability to live by principles and the ideals he claims to uphold but whether he has the moral authority to even wag a finger against such evils given his long shady leadership records, beginning from his home turf in Western Upper Nile State. It is instructive to learn that when Mr. Riek’s records, as the Zonal Commander of Western Upper Nile, including Ruweng County[3] and as a long time political player in the country, are properly scrutinised, there is found to be a consistent pattern of ethnic extremism, incompetence as well as intolerance to the views of others on his part, a pattern which reasonably affords evidence as to the existence of leadership deficit well played out throughout his political and military careers.

(i) Riek’s Abysmal Performance on the Frontlines During the Struggle: A Military Fiasco?

It would apparently be an understatement to maintain that, due to his poor organisational and impaired strategic planning ability, Mr. Riek’s military performance during his six and a half years (1984-1991) as an SPLA commander was, in pith and substance, dismally suboptimal. This was self-evident from his first days on the job as a frontline commander when his military planning abilities were put to the test immediately in the first battle of his assignment as the Zonal Commander of Western Upper Nile and Ruweng County in 1986.

On his arrival in Ruweng County with Gol (Wolf) Battalion in the early part of 1986, Riek and his forces encountered incoming Enemy forces from Pariang Town after the Enemy had intercepted the movement of his troops. Despite the superiority, in terms of numerical weight, of the Muormuor forces under his command, Riek was disastrously defeated at the Battle of Bom Adol in the southeastern part of the county. Not too long after that first defeat, Riek and his forces fought the next battle at Biem Alony in the northeastern part of the county. That, too, went down as one of the failed battles marking the beginning of Riek’ history of endless military debacles in the region. As if that was not embarrassing enough, he was once again miserably dealt a blow by the Enemy at the Battle of Panthur Diaar, just a few miles, north of Biem Alony. On separate operations, several attempts to attack the military garrisons in Pariang Town ended in utter failure.

To keep the morale of his forces high enough, Riek later led his forces into the Nuba Mountains region, hoping to make successful retaliatory attacks against the Enemy. As expected, Riek never achieved any significant military victory in the Battle of Yoi. Sadly, on his way back to Ruweng County from Nuba Mountain, his forces fell into an Enemy ambush and were badly battered, losing heavily to the Enemy in both men and equipment. To save face and break the chain of embarrassment, Riek eventually relocated most of his forces southwards after crossing River Bhar el Ghazel to set up his headquarters at Bielbar which remained his base till1989. From Bielbar, he would occasionally order a few raids here and there against various military garrisons in the region but never scored any single remarkable military success, contrary to the resounding victories that  Late George Athor Deng made in Ruweng County in a very short period, from 2000-2001, notwithstanding the significant lack of military equipment relative to the Enemy’s.

Nevertheless, Riek may claim the credit for the capture and occupation of Mayom Town in 1987 where the current ICC indictee, the Sudanese military junta leader, Omar el-Bashir was wounded. But that brief occupation too was a result of joint operations between his forces and those of the then Bhar el Ghazel Overall Commander, Daniel Awet Akot. Had it not been for Awet’s strategy, it is possible that even Mayom would have not been captured. That brief occupation, nevertheless, lasted for less than 72 hours, as the town was retaken by the Enemy, just and 24 hours after Awet forces had left.

From outside Western Upper Nile region, the only credit that Riek could reasonably claim is the capture of Melut Town, in 1989, in the today’s Upper Nile State, by forces under his command after he was transferred from Western Upper Nile to northern Upper Nile region. But analysts contend that many variables, which are beyond the realm of this discussion, explain why such a victory came to pass.

That is what can briefly be said about Riek’s military performance as an SPLA commander. As such, no term can better describe Riek’s military record, than a “military fiasco,” much to the detriment of our own gallant forces under his control.

(ii) The Failed Nasir ‘Revolution’ and the Sham Peace Agreement with Khartoum

Perhaps the most material example pertaining to Riek’s disastrous military performance, due to his consistent patterns of weak organisational ability and lack of proper strategic planning, can be explained by his disconsolate leadership, following his aborted coup against the SPLM/A from his base in Nasir in 1991. Not only was Mr. Riek incapable of controlling the forces loyal to him, he also miserably failed to competently organise his new movement, nor translate his blind grassroots support, into a formidable political or military organisation capable of challenging the Enemy in Khartoum. Instead, in the first 24 hours of the so-called Nasir Declaration, Riek’s forces went on killing spree, virtually butchering every “suspicious” SPLA soldier, officer and civilian (including minors) who happened to be in the zone under his control. Thus most soldiers, army officers and even civilians, who were deemed to hail from Chief Garang’s ethnic background, were rounded up and summarily killed, execution style. Some were savagely tortured before being slaughtered. A good example is that of Kuol Deng Kuol, who was a brother of the current Inspector General of Police of South Sudan, Pieng Deng Kuol. Kuol, an SPLA officer then was allegedly tortured, and then tied up before being immersed into a drum of boiling water.  But Mr. Kuol’s unusual and cruel punishment was not an isolated incident.

Shortly after such a wild carnage, Mr. Riek cleverly made up yet another elusive reason to justify his attacks on civilian areas under the control of the SPLM/A. This resulted in what may be described, in Riek’s own words, as ‘Corridor War.’ The lame argument in support of this trifling farce was that forces loyal to Riek were justified to fight those loyal to Chief Garang in order to open up the Kenya-South Sudan corridor (an idea which Garang vehemently rejected) for the delivery of military lifeline to the Nasir forces. But the corridor argument was essentially a euphemism for invading civilian settlements in Southwestern part of Jongeli State, especially in the triple counties of Bor, Twic East and Duk. Journeyman reporters tell of a savage, barbarous and most wanton destruction of human life, livestock and pillaging of homes and all forms of economic structures in these areas, exposing both livestock and humans to the most cruel and unforgiving form of hunger, exposure to mosquito and attacks by wild animals. No single writer can claim to comprehensively, meticulously and exhaustively capture and meaningfully detail the magnitude of human sufferings and miseries brought about (in these areas and beyond) by Riek’s inhumane and frivolous enterprise for power that totally disregarded the very essence for which those who yearn to lead must show their personal commitment to its preservation before they can legitimately claim the privilege to lead. To wantonly destroy the society for any reason, including the vexatious aspiration for political leadership, as it was in the case of Riek’s, is the ultimate expression of human folly of immeasurable magnitude. By doing this, Riek had, as Collin Roberts puts it, then and forever thereafter, joined the ranks of the Sudan’s many failed leaders who have shown no respect for the sanctity of human life.

Having failed himself and failed to give life to his own ideas, Riek’s movement was destined for doom. In different words, the general assessment as to the long term survival of the ‘Nasir Revolution’ was that, it was not a matter of ‘if,’ but ‘when,’ its leaders and their unruly supporters would begin to turn their own hatchets upon themselves. This was evidenced by the fact that the “Nasir Revolution” had plainly started on a wrong footing, and as such, inherently bound to fail. Rarely was anyone surprised then that shortly thereafter, fractious spite; backstabbing; infighting for influence and control in the SPLM-Nasir (Later renamed SPLM-United Movement), disorganisation, lack of direction and above all, Riek’s inability to translate his theories into practical policy programs, among other acts of indiscretion, led to the disintegration of Riek’s forces and fragmentation of the party into largely insignificant splinter groups. This consequently led to his falling out with his close comrades, culminating in the dismissal of his deputy and the party’s Secretary General, Mr. Lam Akol, who later moved his forces to settle at Fashoda in the Shilluk Kingdom. Riek also fell out with his Deputy Chief of Staff, Kerubino Kuanyin Bol whom he also eventually dismissed because it was impossible for them to reconcile their mega differences. Indeed Riek became so weak and vulnerable that he quickly metamorphosed himself into a political desperado who eventually resorted to taking refuge in the wings of the Enemy he once avowed to destroy.

The net result was that, Riek was ultimately forced to partner up with Khartoum against his own brothers and sisters in the SPLM/A, despite his prior rhetoric that he was fighting for an independent state in southern Sudan. When pressed to explain how logical and fathomable his claim of achieving an independent state in southern Sudan (having regard to the fact that he had joined forces with the Enemy from whom he was seeking independence) was, his answer was modeled after the famous Mazzini’s memorable dictum for self-defence,[4] arguing that his collaboration with Khartoum against the SPLA was compelled by the resolve of the SPLM/A to eliminate him physically. Verbatim, Riek maintained that “if your brother is determined to eliminate you physically, you are entitled to ensure your survival even with the help of the devil.”  Surely, Riek might have been thinking that a drowning man has all the reasons to cling onto a serpent to save his life even for an hair’s breadth at the moment of a terminal peril. Anyone would surely agree that at such a moment, uniting with a devil would be justified. Unfortunately, there were no probable or reasonable grounds to believe that his life was in danger. He was under the illusion that he was. A reasonable man in his shoes would have not acted the way he did. It is regrettable.  Such a compulsive and erratic behaviour is a reliable indicator that such a person cannot be trusted with the esteemed office of presidency.

But as  Chief Garang had predicted prior to Riek’s joining forces with al-Bashir, Riek had to later storm out from the Republican Palace in Khartoum, having been treated like a doormat by, and some say he might have well deserved such a treatment because he apparently surrendered to, the Enemy. Riek knew that Khartoum, afterall, does not compromise its interests when dealing with the weak-hearted. From that moment, the so-called Nasir democratic revolution simply crushed like a house of cards, and Riek, had he not wisely chosen to come back to the SPLM/A, would have been anything but a quantity simply relegated to the footnotes of the history of the peoples’ mighty struggle.

(iii) Accusation of Incompetence, Mismanagement and Intolerance

Those who have known Riek as colleagues or support staff tell stories of how conflicting a personality Riek is. They often comment of a Riek who is highly warm, humble and friendly. Dr. Adwok Nyaba in one of his books talks of a Riek who can be exceedingly informal, particularly with foreigners. Nyaba might have added that such an informality sometimes goes against the protocols of a person of his stature, and portrays him in a light that is less flattering in character. Riek is also said to be so down to earth that he can mix and associate with anyone irrespective of age or status. Mr. Riek is also reputed to be generally a likeable guy because, in contrast to his lack of persuasive skills (discussed herein), Riek is undoubtedly a nice guy as a human being. He comes across as a less assuming and an understanding man, a guy that everyone would want to socialise with because he can be quite down to earth and truly caring, some observe.

Conversely, Mr. Riek visibly exhibits a restlessly wild spirit; a spirit of extreme intolerance to those who question his leadership style. As mentioned earlier, his quick fall out with Mr. Lam Akol, his then close confidante and co-schemer in the so-called Nasir Declaration; his irreparable relationship with Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, Arok Thon Arok and all those who stormed out of the Movement for being at variance with Chief Garang, tells something of a different Riek, probably the one who currently sits at the rooftop, chastising the Man On The Throne. In fact his fallout with these men arose from the fact that Riek preferred to listen to himself rather to dialogue. He wanted to be the kuor and the only kuor because after all, in Nasir, he had the superiority of numbers on his side, a position that gave him the feel that he was entitled to call the shots or that he could make do with the situation on his own. In addition, Riek is known for being a good listener during the day, but the views that he takes into account in making his ultimate decisions are those that he receives behind the scenes, further suggesting that Riek is not a leader that can reasonably foster a sense of transparency and collective decision making. He is not a consensus builder. Yet, collegiality is a quintessential tenet of good leadership, the kind of leadership that South Sudan needs for 2015.

The most telling of Riek’s high intolerance to other people’s opinion is perhaps his relationship with his erstwhile Deputy in Command in Western Upper Nile in 1986. In his first military mission as the Overall Zonal Commander of Western Upper Nile and Ruweng County, Riek was deployed with Commander Bol Agaany Dau as his Deputy Zonal Commander. But upon his arrival, and following the chains of military defeats that riddled his military campaigns due to his poor military strategy, Bol Agaany was reported to have approached Riek with the intention of brainstorming on the way forward respecting military, administrative and management matters. Unfortunately, Riek did not take lightly the positive suggestions that Bol was making, accusing  his Deputy, instead, of insubordination.[5] In the end, Riek ended up disagreeing with Bol within months of their arrival in the region. He reportedly asked Chairman Garang to recall Mr. Bol to the Headquarters in Bilpam, a request which Chairman Garang respectfully obliged. Bol was later reassigned to serve as the Deputy in Command to Salva Kiir Mayardit in the Operation Kon Anok campaigns till he was martyred in Rumbek in 1989. 

Put two and two together and the most inevitable conclusion is a Riek whose military skills are as disastrous as are his management skills. In fact his political skills are just as worse. Yet all these skills go to the very core of competency in leadership. Choose Riek for 2015 and that is who and what you get.

(iv) The 1997 Riek-Bashir Agreement: A Short Cut to Freedom or a Surrender Ploy?

To most lettered and reasonable people, taking up arms as a way of obtaining political redress is, and should be, a means of last resort. This is because war, arguably, is the cruelest and most brutal existential threat to humanity, irrespective of the type of weapons used. It destroys the society from within and from without, physically, socially and psychologically and, needless to say economically. In fact economists often believe that a period of economic growth that would have been attained but for the war, can never be recovered, no matter what. The litany of factors as to why war should be a means of last resort is not exhaustive.

However, when your very survival is threatened; when someone or a group treats you with such disdain and arrogance that he/she sees you as good for nothing or even a curse to humanity (just as Francis Deng says in the ‘War of Visions’ that the Arabs in the Sudan see Africans as a cursed race), and then acts on such a subjective or ill-informed perception of you to deny you your very basic rights of self-preservation, it is plausible to argue that natural law entitles you to claim your right by any means necessary, including the use of force.

The intermittent armed struggles, such as the Anya Nya I War (1955-1972), Any Nya II War (1975-1983) and SPLM /A Struggle (1983-2005), which South Sudanese of all stripes, ethnicities and regions have waged for decades since Sudan’s independence from Great Britain in 1955, were premised on the natural principle of self-preservation. When you have reached a point of no return upon attaining a just cause threshold, an armed struggled can be and is indeed justified.

There is one more other thing though: once you have taken up arms to liberate your people from political and economic bondage, however long, hard and arduous the struggle may be, taking short cuts to freedom, Chairman Garang once warned, is not an option.  In saying this, Chairman Garang was acutely aware that when the road to freedom appears to be uncompromising and hopeless, fainthearted participants are tempted to capitulate and resort to taking steps that fall short of full freedom. But there are no short-cuts, nor is there an easy walk, to freedom, Chief Garang concluded. This was Bany Garang’s answer when pressured by the international community and civil societies to accept peace with Khartoum because, they argued, too many people had died and the magnitude of sufferings especially of South Sudanese was utterly unbearable. Chief Garang retorted that when the SPLM/A started in 1983, the Movement did not set out to determine how many people would have to die or what threshold of sufferings would have to be reached before agreeing to sign a peace deal with Khartoum. “What we want,” Chief Garang said, “is a just peace.”

Unfortunately, there is no gainsaying (having regard to Riek’s chains of failed political experiments) that Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon, is a man well known for his propensity to taking short-cuts. For instance, after spending just six and half years in the Movement, he had had just enough. The walk to freedom, he thought, was too illusive. He believed it was time to fight for an independent state in southern Sudan. That belief precipitated his ultimate decision to declare that he had ousted Beny Garang and that he was now the new Chief in town. But he also confused his supporters and sympathisers as to what his principal goal was. At one time, it was about changing gears to fight for an independent country in southern Sudan, and then at another, it was a question of democratic deficit in the Movement, since he also claimed that the atmosphere was too undemocratic for a collective struggle. But all these excuses were symptoms of a man who had never set out to achieve a particular objective. In fact Riek might have misconstrued the objectives of the SPLM/A. But the objectives of the Movement were self-evident from the start and he joined the struggle knowing full well what those objectives were. Furthermore, guerrilla movements are rarely democratic. A guerrilla movement is an irregular military fighting against a state. Militaries, whether regular or irregular, whether conventional or otherwise, are rarely democratic. The SPLA was a guerrilla army of volunteers whose goal was to establish a secular democratic state in the Sudan.  It was thus a tool for democratisation. “A [military] tool,”   Chairman Garang rightly argued, “cannot be democratic.”

When put together, Mr. Riek’s political skills boil down to one thing: Riek is a man who lacks consistency and persistence. He is a politician who is contented with suboptimal objectives. In fact his 1997 sham Peace Agreement with al-Bashir clearly shows the depth with which he appreciated the magnitude of the cause of war in the Sudan and the underlying philosophical values..

While some call the 1997 Bashir-Riek pact a peace agreement, many observers think that the pact was actually a disguised; tactical, ploy for surrender. These observers contend that Riek was basically at his final straw since his movement was on its own self-inflicted death row. He had to think long and hard and save face. Surrendering to Chief Garang at that moment was too embarrassing. It was unthinkable. It was thus better, he thought, to “make it out” with Bashir before storming out of Khartoum back to the SPLM/A.  He saw this move as reasonable enough to later justify that he had a legitimate reason for rejoining his own brothers and sisters in the Peoples’ parent Movement. But Riek’s violent move to call for liberation of South Sudan under the banner of a ‘Nasir Revolution’ was not just a matter of taking a short-cut to freedom. It was also complete act of double betrayal: betrayal against his comrades in the SPLM/A and against the cause of our brothers and sisters in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, who had been standing firm with our people, shoulder to shoulder, during the struggle. It also showed his superficial understanding of global politics at the time. Knowing full well the position taken by the defunct Organisation of African Unity (OAU, now African Union) [6]  since its founding in early 1960s, the position held by the Government of Ethiopia regarding self-determination and the fact that most supporters of the SPLM/A preferred a united Sudan, it was preposterous for anyone to think that calling for a separate state in southern Sudan was feasible. In fact calling for a democratic secular Sudan was the best strategy for obtaining a separate state in southern Sudan as a fallback position. When you want half of a cake, you ask for the whole cake, so goes the maxim.

It follows that when Mr. Riek lashes out at President Kiir respecting the loss of vision and direction of the party, Riek has to justify, based on his records, that there are well reasoned expositions to believe his claims. Unfortunately, his hands are not as clean. It is so obvious.

As a legal and equitable principle, the ‘clean hands doctrine’ states that a party must be free from unfair conduct in respect of the matter at issue, otherwise that party would be misleading a neutral arbiter, which in our case are the voters. Riek has failed South Sudanese people for far too long. It is about time that someone makes him understand that South Sudanese are not a laboratory for political experiments or second chances. Even more deplorable is his latest call for more bloodshed. Right-minded South Sudanese will not allow Mr. Riek to shoot his way into the presidency this time around nor allow themselves to be used as a doormat of the grand entrance into a political empire, whether real or apprehended.  No they should not and they must not.

(b) How Riek’s Recent Campaigns Against the President and His Disingenuous Apology for the 1991 ‘Bor Massacre’ Puts his Own Character on the Line.

Abhorrent as tribalism and corruption may be, it is here opined that Mr. Riek’s recent rhetoric in respect of tribalism, corruption or President Kiir’s poor leadership is, ironically, lacking in both substance and seriousness. As mentioned earlier, Mr. Riek does not have the moral authority to speak out against such practices when much more than mere ethnic extremism and corruption have consistently reigned supreme in his own backyard in Western Upper Nile State; a state in which the state government, then under one notorious Taban till last week, is shockingly dominated by one ethnic group. One ethnic group, conscionably or subconsciously, occupies all areas of leadership at all levels, from Governor to Deputy Governor to Speaker, from state staff in the ministries to state directors of commissions, from police to wild life and virtually every single state agency. While minorities have been given 3 out of 15 ministries, these three ministries have simply been used as symbolic visuals for big picture purposes and to give a false sense of diversity at the level of state government. But from top to bottom, we see more of the same.[7]

 There have also been numerous reports that in order for work applicants at the state level to be hired as government employees, one has to speak the Nuer language. While the overt persistence on meeting such a requirement appears to have insignificantly subsided after quite a considerable amount of non-legal challenge mounted against public employers by job applicants themselves, such a requirement continues to be an unspoken reality; indeed an unwritten consideration. The strategy is not simply to employ speakers of a particular language but to ensure that those who have access to job are people of one ethnic group. This is in addition to the blatant constitutional breach where Dinka language has been intermittently banned over the state radio, for no reason other than sheer malevolence.

As regards corruption, report after report has consistently ranked Western Upper Nile State as one of the poorest regions in the country. Despite that state’s beneficiary status as a recipient of extra 2% of oil revenues to which an oil producing state is entitled, amounting to millions of petrodollars every month, both during the Interim Period and after independence, there is not a single shred of evidence that the standard of living of its citizens has improved relative to what it was prior to 2005. What happened to that money?

Public resources have been diverted into private projects, ranging from business ventures in Main (United States) to huge investments in Arab banks and business ventures in Khartoum and the Middle East, real estate business in America and Australia, where most of these are registered either in spouses’ or children’s names.

Notwithstanding this pattern of domination and adverse treatment of, and intolerance towards, certain ethnic groups at the state level, Riek has never made any reasonable efforts towards eradicating such insidious harm on the target groups in his home turf. As such, Riek cannot in any way prove with preponderance of evidence that he has the will and ability to fight corruption better than his Boss. In fact, in 2010, both men appeared on the Transparency International Report respecting South Sudanese government officials who were found to have stashed millions of dollars in European banks. Whether one chooses to believe or refute the credibility of the report is a different thing altogether. Most informed readers will have no reason to doubt the bona fide reporting of such a well established institution.  Thus in order to wage a meaningful and believable campaigns; and to make credible promises, Riek has to show that he has tried within and outside the system to change things and that he possesses both the will and ability to deliver on them. To the author’s recollection, no record appears to show that Riek has exerted such efforts to back up his overwrought claims. Ergo, the claim that he will do business differently is not supported by established facts, whether past or current.

On the contrary, Riek’s image as a tribal chieftain has firmly been established in Western Upper Nile and beyond. An example to afford such evidence is the discriminatory pattern with which he distributed the kalaazar[8] medical services in the region when he was the overall Zonal Commander. The deadly kalaazar broke out in the region between 1987and 1997. The relief medical services that were able to reach the region were confined to three areas, all located in one ethnic region, on the southern part of River Bhar el Ghazel ( Kong Kiir), namely at Duar, Bielbar and Leer. Patients in the far northern-most part of the state were to be carried on shoulders by their relatives for treatment to such clinics, through hundreds of kilometers. In most cases, those who carried their sick relatives themselves became ill along the way. Most of them, including patients, died before reaching their destinations. To make matters worse, a few lucky ones who managed to reach the clinics spent weeks, and sometimes months, before being seen by any doctor. In fact patients from that part of the region were given a second tier order of priority and were asked to line up separately. Consequently, at least 90% of those who managed to reach any of those clinics died before they could be seen by the doctor. Worse still, after Riek declared his failed coup in Nasir in 1991, all the patients from this part of the region who were hospitalised in those clinics were slaughtered on their hospital beds just because of their different ethnicity.

In general, the deliberate failure to locate at least one clinic or even provide mobile clinic services in Dinkaland appeared to be an insidious plan on the part of Mr. Riek to ensure that one ethnic group was left to fend for itself. Locally compiled statistics and reports on Sudan by Sudan experts such as Eric Reeves show that the population of Ruweng County was reduced by the order of 50% of the population that resided in the area at the time. While Riek will be quick to deny being responsible,[9] such a denial or defence will not get him off the hook. There are probable and reasonable grounds to believe, not just to suspect, that Riek had the culpable intent to engage in ethnic cleansing, by doing indirectly what natural or positive law would not allow him to do directly.

Observations have also been made of a Riek who is inherently less honest in character. A case in point is made regarding his recent move to apologise to the “Bor Community.”  While it is less disputable in the eye of the public that Bor (Athooc and Gok), Twi (Lith, Nyuak, Ajoung and Pakeer) and Duk ku Duk (Hol and Nyarweng) truly bore the brunt of his 1991 aberration, Riek’s decision to confine a well deserved apology to these communities in southwestern Jonglei State is and should be seen as a mere tactical strategy to score political points. It does not appear to show an act of true repentance from the senseless act of high moral turpitude that followed his 1991 delusion. This is because other communities even within Jonglei State (such as Paweny, Rut, Thoi and Luach) were more or less affected and deserved to have been apologised to. In fact the entire family of Late George Athor Deng Dut was wiped out by Riek’s incorrigible forces. This explains why George Athor (a man considered by many as a hero) was so bitter that he ended up committing exactly the same atrocities against innocent people in the Lou area in 1992, on his way from Khorflus-Atar area (Pigi) to Bor and back. While it is un-African to talk ill of the dead, such an act was unacceptable and should be condemned in the strongest of terms. As a decorated war veteran, Athor should have known very well who was responsible for the killing of his family and should have gone after legitimate military combatants, not innocent people.

Nevertheless, Riek should have apologised to Athor’s family and other families around the country who suffered as a result of Riek’s reckless yearn for political power.

But an apology made in the manner it was made cannot be said to be genuine. Such a selective; disingenuous apology, is only a political posturing and does not express any element of sincerity. Put differently, an apology that appeared to confine itself to some and not other communities who similarly fell victims to such genocidal acts cannot be said to have been intended to be a serious expression of remorsefulness but a calculated political objective. Analysts have observed that Riek is well aware that the powerful influence of the ‘Bor Group’ within the SPLM cannot be snubbed. The only way by which he thought he could get some political support within the party and pull them to his side, and away from his main challenger, is to give a timely and selective apology well ahead of the ‘D-Day.’

Because it was not bona fide in character, questions abound regarding the effectiveness of such an apology. A remedial act that is intended to serve a different purpose (secondary purpose) other than the very purpose or relief (primary purpose) it is sought for is good only for the secondary purpose it intends to achieve. In this regard, Riek’s apology is good for its political end (secondary purpose) and nothing more. The victims of his 1991 ‘Bor Massacre’ and others who deserve being apologised to, it follows, should live as if an apology has never been made in the first place. It is an act of disingenuity of the first order and should be rejected as such.

Even more absurd about Riek’s  ‘Bor Apology’ is in relation to his latest utterance that since he had given his apology in respect of his 1991 atrocities, someone from the ‘other side’ (understood as implying the ‘Dinka side’) should apologise to Gajaak Nuer for the 1987 SPLA inequities carried out on the community. It is true that the SPLA committed heinous and horrendous atrocities against our people in the Gajaak area, especially around Ulang and Nasir strips. Such atrocities are contemptible and someone should seriously take responsibility for them. These are some of the issues the Reconciliation Commission must deal with and make sure that every suspect makes affordable reparations (including owning up and apologising directly) to the victims as part of the healing process to enable our nation to move forward as a strong and united country.

Yet who does Riek really expect to apologise to Gajaak? Riek himself was part of the SPLM/A in 1987 and given that he was one of the high ranking leaders at the time, he is well positioned to give that apology in his own behalf and on behalf of the Movement because he was part of a system that was responsible for decimating its own people. Pointing a finger at the “other side” sends a clear signal that Riek is inappropriately and perversely using an ethnic card. But no one should be surprised. His entire political career has been about exploiting ethnic cleavages in South Sudan. His recent reaction to the Presidential decree removing Mr. Taban Deang Gai (his life-time colleague in a long-term stealthy collusion for an insatiable yearn for power), from his gubernatorial position strongly affirms the validity of this assertion.

Another element pointing to doubtfulness, as to Riek’s sincerity, relates to his critical approach to Mr. Kiir’s handling of national affairs. It is not arguable that Kiir’s leadership has equally failed South Sudanese in more ways than one. But Riek is part of the government. In fact he is the Vice President. Under the principle of responsible government, members of the cabinet are collectively responsible to the electorates and to the House. Where a government loses a vote of confidence, the cabinet members must resign en mass and a new government, through elections, is instituted. Related to the principle of responsible government is the principle of individual responsibility. Under this principle, a member of a cabinet in whom the House loses confidence or who feels the government no longer represents the people satisfactorily should resign.

In the specific reference to Riek then, it is disingenuous for him to go around criticising Kiir’s performance while he remains part of the system. If he truly meant his words, Riek would have first resigned from the government and criticise Kiir from the outside. Sadly, he is criticising a system that has made each of his own sons and wives millionaires. To be a beneficiary of a dysfunctional system and yet be critical about it, indeed reflects poorly both on the sincerity and the validity of his claim.

(d) Riek’s Questionable Democratic Credentials and Negotiation Skills

Riek’s democratic credentials are also in serious doubt. This is clear from his records, starting from his days in Nasir as leader of the failed Nasir ‘Revolution.’ Dismissing all his colleagues from a ‘revolutionary party’ that idealised democratisation of public institutions and structures constitutes an antithesis, and showed his defective understanding, of the democratic values he claims to cherish. Moreover, Riek’s lack of democratic ideals was once again reinforced in 2011 when he threatened Members of the State Assembly (MSA) of Warrap State from impeaching Governor Nyandeng Malek,[10] especially in the wake of the death of more than 300 returnees (from the Sudan) of hunger, something that could have easily been prevented. When the MSA moved to impeach the Governor for failing to show leadership on many occasions, Riek vehemently rejected the idea and allegedly threatened those who dared to carry out their parliamentary responsibility, as mandated by the people, with consequences. Riek’s move to blackmail MSA flew in the face of the principle of separation of powers, especially the idea that the executive cannot dictate what MSA should or should not do. The blackmail, in whole, was unconstitutional, hence null and void ab initio.

Mr. Riek has also shown an exceptional deficit in his negotiation skills. For instance, since becoming the Vice President, he has been vested with an exclusive authority to negotiate different deals on behalf of the people of South Sudan. But as it turned out, Riek was not the shrewd, skillful leader he was thought of or he claims to be. This has had the effect of changing the perspective of how South Sudanese now view their Vice President. One South Sudanese eloquently stated that “Riek’s decision after decision in his capacity as Vice President of this Republic has miserably failed our martyrs.” Yet what is ironic about Riek’s claims is that, some of the very decisions he denounces or attributes to Kiir are decisions made by him on behalf of the President. Furthermore, he is part of the Presidency as mentioned earlier; hence any decisions made by the government in which he is the Vice President are directly attributable to him as they are to the President. Even when viewed in isolation from the President, no single decision can be identified as representing Riek’s most important, most distinguished achievement not only as a Vice President but during his entire political career. The same Riek who has been given an abundance of opportunity to right wrong cannot surely be expected to give different results at any other time when he has squandered such opportunities time and time again.

(e) Riek’s Malevolent Yearn for Power as an Ultimate End in Itself: The Search  for and Fulfilment of the Ngundeang Prophecy

Much has been written about Dr. Riek’s infamous 1991 Coup and its aftermath. It is thus pointless to pedantically elaborate the sequential occurrence of the events of such a painstaking moment in our history. The episodes following that coup can safely be described as res ipsa loquitur, a Latin expression for “let the things speak for themselves.” Worth mentioning about Mr. Riek’s leadership qualities though, in respect of these tragic events are two things.

The first is that Mr. Riek’s one and the only dream is and has always been the goal to become a President, not the desire to serve the people of South Sudan. In fact Mr. Riek scrupulously believes that the presidency is his entitlement; a heritage which, by some oracular and apocalyptic accounts, is believed to have been prophesied in the 20th century by some wild Ngundeang spirit that a son of Teny-Dhurgon, conjectured widely in some circles to be Riek himself, would be a president of an independent South Sudan, who would ultimately establish an ethnic Empire. As such, the only thing Riek has to do now is to grab it at all cost. This prophecy, according to Dr. Adwok Nyaba, is what drives Riek’s relentless ambition for leadership. Does that sound like a spirit of someone who wants to serve or is this self-evident of a person trying to chase the wind of a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Another variant supporting the contention that Mr. Riek is a power hungry man can be inferred from his famous phrase “over my dead body,” a phrase which came to light in an apparent reference to his insatiable yearn to lead and never to be a follower of Chief Garang. To put it in perspective, Mr. Riek, after his ambitious move to oust Chief Garang in 1991, was asked whether he would reconcile with Chairman Garang and transitorily subordinate his leadership dream to Bany Garang’s. Riek acknowledges having responded that he would only do so over his ‘dead body,’ implying that under no circumstances would he accept to be part of a system in which he is not in charge. This clearly shows that despite his rhetoric that the reason he defected from the SPLM was lack of democratic space in the Movement, the truth about his defection was actually that he wanted to be the one in charge. Any argument to the contrary is not defensible in respect of the pertinent facts at issue.

Critics of this proposition may be quick to point out how this argument could hold water, given that Riek later went on to accept to be absorbed back into the fold under Chief Garang in 2002. The simple answer is that Mr. Riek, at that time, was at the trough of his political fate. He was in distress call after the unravelling of the so-called 1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement— a sham agreement which was written on a few hundred pages worth of ink and without adequate guarantees for its fulfilment— fell apart. Clearly, at this point, Riek had nowhere else to run to, save where he truly belonged: the South.

But to his credit and for the first time in the public eye, Riek had shown an immaculate amount of wisdom. Whether the decision to return to the SPLM/A came from him or some spiritual revelation, we may never know. Nevertheless, one has to hand it to him that his coming back to the fold in 2002 was and will always be his singularly most enlightened and perspicacious decision. He continued to show this wisdom during the Interim Period. Had it not been for this wisdom, one would wonder if, not when, South Sudan would have achieved independence. This is an exception to the general contention that no single decision can be considered to be Riek’s most important decision in his entire political career.

It is uncontroversial that Riek has a democratic right to seek the presidency. That is his constitutional right and no one should and nor must take it away from him. Only voters have the right to. But Riek must show civility in his quest for the presidency. Indeed, and unfortunately, once possessed by a wild and absolute yearn for power, always possessed. In this vein, there are those who have observed of Riek that he is in fact possessed in this manner. If true, then it is certainly worrisome that his old past may be creeping back into South Sudanese politics. Appearing to affirm the validity of this contention is his recent bellicose rhetoric which is full of warning and potential for bloodshed, for instance. Put another way, his remarks respecting the possibility of violence unless Taban is reinstated, appears to boost the validity of the argument that Riek will never go for nothing less than his tempestuous dream of ascending into the presidency at all cost, including spilling of blood, if necessary. This is reminiscent of the precursors of the 1991 Nasir Coup. Let those who have ears listen and let those who have eyes read the signs of time.

Another important lesson to learn about Riek from the 1991 Nasir Coup is that Riek is a very superstitious man. Riek strongly believes not in the power of knowledge and reason but in the blind faith in the powers of the magical world. Evidence of this can be found in his unfounded reliance on the spiritual fantasies of one magician in 1991. After the coup, all Riek’s military campaigns against the SPLM/A were undertaken, not on the basis of sound military calculations, but on the advice of one self-professed ‘prophet’ (actually a magician) called Wutnyang. Wutnyang was the driving force behind every single one of Riek’s military decision. Wutnyang fraudulently claimed to have divine powers that gave him the ability to predict the outcome of any battle. He also falsified that every single one of Riek’s then ‘White Army’ soldiers would die in the battle and rise again. In modern terms, Wutnyang would pass for a psychic. The difference between a psychic and Wutnyang is that while a psychic works for material gains, Wutnyang feasted on human blood. He used his powers to encourage violence and lawlessness.

Yet Wutnyang was the right hand man of Mr. Riek, the potential commander in chief of our armed forces. Here again is where Riek’s belief in his entitlement to the presidency and superstition converge. In this regard, it argued that the Nasir Declaration was commenced on the basis of the Ngundeang prophecy which foretold that a heir of Teny-Dhurgon was destined to become the President of South Sudan, a divine will or sacred ordination that can only be withdrawn by Kuoth (God) alone, and as long as Kuoth was at peace with a scion of Teny-Dhurgon, this predetermination would come to pass through that heir apparent, generally believed to be none other than Riek Machar. It was this magical charade that was ultimately responsible for the risk that Riek took in Nasir in the hope of becoming the overall Chief of SPLM/A and ultimately the President of South Sudan someday. Unfortunately, that day, it must be shown, has certainly passed.

Those who are well acquainted or thoroughly conversant with Riek, his mindset and records are of the opinion that if anything; Riek’s actions continue to be informed by the delusional dream of creating an ethnic Empire. In fact when he became the leader of SSIM/A (an offshoot of his SPLM/A-United), he is said to have embarked onto building that Empire. He even gave most state ethnic names such as Latjor for Upper Nile, Liech State for Western Upper Nile etc. It is also said that when he became the Assistant to the President of the Sudan and President of the High Executive Coordination Council for southern affairs, all those who were employed in his office; starting from those who prepared tea to office managers, among others, were all from the same ethnic group. If there is any difference he has shown at the moment, it is argued, it is just only a prelude for propelling himself into the office before embarking on establishing the Ngundeang Apocalyptic State. But for what good to the nation is a man who puts spiritual fantasies above and beyond the rational understanding of the objectives for which he chose to join the peoples’ struggle, in the first place?

A nation founded on the basis of superstition will only buckle under the weight of ignorance, and ultimately subject itself to an outright eternal damnation. To import such a psychotic mischief into national affairs would be too embarrassing for South Sudan, both for its moral and intellectual deficit. It is the author’s hope that the 2015 presidential election is not going to usher South Sudan into the mythic contemplation of the Ngundeang’s ominous and apocalyptic divination.

(e) Failure to Mediate LRA-Ugandan Peace Talks and to Convince Lou Nuer Against Pibor Attacks—A Confirmation of Riek’s Lack of Persuasive Skills and Command Authority?

Riek’s desperate move to surrender to the Enemy in Khartoum under the so-called Internal Peace Agreement in 1997 was a litmus test for his political and leadership skills. Coupled with the fact that Mr. Riek has consistently shown considerable deficiency with respect to persuasive skills and proper articulation of ideas, a Riek Presidency is bound to be fraught with lots of challenges for the country, owing, but not limited, to the factors aforementioned. He cannot competently represent the people and the interests of the people of South Sudan.

A related reasoning, in support of Riek’s inability to competently represent the people of South Sudan, can be seen in his inadequate capacity to properly negotiate on behalf of the country not just in respect of the sham deal he negotiated in 1997 but also respecting other subsequent negotiations. For instance, after the CPA was signed and the Government of National Unity (GNU) came into existence, Riek was tapped by the President to be the top negotiator on behalf of the SPLM with the NIF respecting the outstanding issues that were relegated by the CPA to be discussed at a later date. Very few South Sudanese would be doubtful that every deal that Riek negotiated on behalf of South Sudan simply ended up being suboptimal, a result of which was the later tapping of Pagan Amum for that task.

Besides his defective1997 Peace Agreement with Khartoum, the other most remarkable evidence of Mr. Riek’s lack of persuasive skills is perceived to be his failed mediation efforts between the Ugandan Government and the rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of Joseph Kony between 2006 and 2007. While framing Riek’s persuasive power in this context may appear superficial because supporters and sympathisers may argue that there is nothing Riek could have done to persuade the parties to reach a negotiated settlement, a general analysis as to the philosophical differences between these parties appear to be one that is apparently bridgeable, unlike the differences that existed or continue to exist between the SPLM/A and the NIF, for example. But the talks ended the way they did because Riek did not provide an environment where parties could rise above their deep misgivings in order to negotiate a deal in a manner that would reflect the strong desire for peace in northern Uganda.  Riek’s handling of these talks can also be adjudged negatively for the reason that his partisan approach to the parties, a result of which he was often accused of being biased towards the Ugandan Government, did not reflect good mediation skills.

A mediator is generally expected to be fully aware of the parties’ positions, their underlying interests and priorities. Yet Riek’s failure to provide a meaningful dialogue by acting as an honest broker, coupled with his inability to enlighten the parties or to contain external pressure from influencing the talks subsequently led to the breakdown of those crucial talks.

More importantly, the most powerful argument yet in respect of Riek’s impaired persuasive skills is believed to be his failed attempt to convince the Lou Nuer Youths not to attack the Murle community in and around the Pibor area in 2011. This argument is compelling given that Riek was even speaking to the audience in the language that the audience understood best, and more especially that this audience hailed from the area that had been his ardent support base during his Nasir Coup attempt in 1991. The fundamental inference to be made in this specific circumstance is that Riek is substantially lacking in terms of his command ability. The fact that he was unable to command respect even among his fanatic supporters could be seen as an indication of what one might believably expect under a Riek presidency. A leader who attracts such a weak sense of command authority even from his most reliable base cannot be expected to reconcile a wide ranging array of diverse political and economic opinions at the national level, leave alone being a commander in chief of wayward armed forces like the ones we have in South Sudan. Worse still, Riek is generally believed to be a “softie” who cannot make tough choices and, as such, cannot be expected to make bold decisions, especially in time of serious national crises.

A society as highly fragmented as South Sudan is right now, is a society that hungers for a strong leadership; a leadership that provides its citizens with a well grounded philosophy to believe that every citizen’s future is wrapped up in the future of every other citizen and that the fate of every single one of its citizens ultimately determines the societal fate. This leadership must provide the substance for believing in the fundamental tenets and ideals of nationhood, not ethnic chauvinism.

(f) 1991 Coup as an Ultimate Betrayal of South Sudanese Aspiration—a Breach of Trust 

Upon joining the SPLM/A in 1984, Riek was virtually an unknown quantity. But Chief Garang took the unusual move to polish his image such that within a short period of time, Riek was riding on a soaring and an unprecedented wave of popularity, taking the Movement like a mighty storm. In fact until 1991, Riek was not just a rising star. He was actually a risen star in the party and in the military. His academic package was classic, a whole kit and caboodle, especially in a country where a PhD holder is the alpha and omega. He was thus treated with such a tender care. Sadly, he took such a treatment for granted, probably in the belief that he was entitled to anything and everything. More to his advantage, Riek was, shortly after his joining the SPLM/A in 1984, whisked away to Western Upper Nile, a move which saved him from the close scrutiny of the party’s inner circles. While in Western Upper Nile, and briefly in Upper Nile, Riek continued to keep a low profile in a manner that was seen as an expression of humility. Back at the Headquarters, his reputation remained steadily high, in fact till 1991. But this was generally the view of those who never had insights into his questionable tricks in his home backyards.

His destructive rage, following the 1991 Coup however, reveals the real toxic side of Mr. Riek’s enigmatic personality. The violence with which he sought to install himself as the leader of SPLM/A was quite unprecedented. Indeed, Riek is seen today boasting in a youtube video saying “we wiped out the SPLA in Bor.” While having killed on a massive scale is not disputable here, what is far from the truth in his statement is the identity of his victims. For the record, what he actually “wiped out in Bor” when he unleashed his gargantuan reign of terror on the today’s Bor, Twi and Duk ku Duk areas of Jonglei were  actually civilians, not the SPLA as he claimed.  Yet quite frankly, there is nothing heroic about the killing of civilians, since they were not legitimate military combatants. The horrific stories told by survivors and victims of his genocidal acts in both eastern and western banks of the Nile cannot be exaggerated.

In the wake of his risky decisions in 1991, the very trust that was bestowed upon him from the moment of his joining the Movement in 1984 was now shattered. He perniciously betrayed the SPLM and fought with tooth and nail to crush it before deciding to join it again in 2002.  Even though he has come back to the fold, he is still an outsider not a full blown member of the party. To allow him, thus, to be the leader of the party he once swore to destroy by shedding innocent blood would be too much a compromise to make.

For our nation to meaningfully find a way forward by promoting peace, economic and political development, forgiveness is indispensable however grave the crimes committed may be. But South Sudanese cannot purchase peace and development by rewarding genocidaires with presidency. It would be an indelible stain on the soul of our nation, and an ultimate transgression against the victims of such unimaginable crimes. Those of Madam Rebecca Nyandeng Chol Atem,[11]  Benjamin Mijak Dau Bol,[12]  John Luke Joke, James Wani Igga, etc, who are rumoured to be politically flirting with Riek should not expect their supporters to approve their political marriage.  An insider turned deadly on colleagues cannot fully regain his/her trust. Hence the fact that Riek has been forgiven is not absolute in the sense of being granted the ticket to freely ride into the highest office in the land. Denying him presidency should therefore be seen as an ultimate expression of the society’s strong disapproval of his egregious conduct in 1991. Indeed, it would be unreasonable to hand over the banner of the party to a person who once wished them nothing less than total destruction. Mr. Riek gravely betrayed the trust bestowed upon him by the party and the people of South Sudan. Such a fundamental breach of trust should seal his fate and no amount of even spiritual contrite can repair the scars left by his wilful decision to destroy South Sudan “with the help of the devil.” Instead, Riek and his co-conspirators should be known, as Chief Garang once said, “in history as people who stabbed us in the back...at the moment when we were at the verge of victory.”

(g) Lacking in philosophical Sophistication

Good leadership is generally a function of a myriad of factors including, among others, persuasive skills, steadfastness, assertiveness and strong articulation of the philosophical ideals underlying one’s values, which values and ideals can be translated into practical public policy programs. 

Such leadership skills are even more compelling when one is fighting for a just cause. The ability to articulate one’s views in a succinct and precise manner in such circumstances is  an indispensable, fundamental aspect of strong leadership for the reason that establishing a plausible premise for one’s argument for that cause is just as fundamental as the cause itself, since these premises are two sides of the same coin. One has to articulate the case in a way that meaningfully “wows” a third party or an independent observer.

During the liberation struggle, for instance, the SPLM/A leadership articulated the objectives and ideals of the struggle in a way that attracted an immense sympathy for our cause worldwide. Chairman Garang’s proficiency in effectively and unambiguously formulating the ideals of the New Sudan, by precisely but comprehensively, premising their validity within a universal framework, having regard especially to the nature of the global politics at the time,  is credited with the success of the CPA. No sane observer would object to the creation of a Sudan that belongs to all irrespective of race, religion, gender or ethnicity. Without this firm anchor within the context of what may reasonably be referred to as universal set of values, our struggle would have long been swept away by the floods of the ideological war between the East and the West, particularly after the fall of the Soviet Union, since the SPLM/A at that time was a communist leaning Movement. Yet Chairman Garang did not find it difficult to later switch gears and argue that the relationship between the SPLM/A and the East “was a marriage of convenience.”

Chairman Garang's  power of persuasion and skilful articulation of big ideas are not new. A highly venerated African literary giant, the one and the only Chenua Achebe, once said “a chick that will grow into a cock [rooster] is known from its early age.”  Chief Garang’s ability to powerfully articulate the views of the Movement in this manner, similarly, was not at all surprising. In fact his philosophical sophistication came to light when he was just a 27 year old Anya Nya I captain, precisely at the time when he was strongly opposed to the then ongoing peace negotiation between the Nimeiri Government and the Anya Nya I Movement of Joseph Lagu, in Addis Ababa, likening any settlement arising therefrom to a virtual surrender to the Enemy. In a strongly worded letter (a copy of which is in possession of the author), addressed to the Anya Nya Delegation to the talks in Addis Ababa in 1972, Captain Garang (as he then was) argued that material conditions were not ripe yet for such a settlement. Captain Garang went on to suggest conditions which ought to have been met before any settlement was reached. One of such conditions, he thought, was the maintenance of a separate Anya Nya army during the interim period. He also suggested adoption of a diverse and multicultural Sudan instead of a Sudan whose identity was premised on Arab nationalism and chauvinism. He similarly suggested that any peaceful settlement arising from such talks had to be concluded on a fair and equitable basis for both regions of the country; a just peace that is. If such conditions were not met, Captain Garang suggested the creation of two separate states.

A close examination of these conditions leads one to discern that these very suggestions actually became the most important structures adopted during the CPA negotiations in Naivasha. All this goes to show Chief Garang’s farsightedness, competent leadership and above all, consistency.

But Mr. Riek is not Chairman Garang. He is a different kettle of fish altogether. A close inspection of Dr. Riek’s intrinsic leadership qualities  lays bare an image of a politician who not only lacks sophistication but a politician who, as already mentioned, largely survives through short-cuts (often at a gross cost) to reach his goals and for short-term objectives.

Anyone who has had an opportunity to scrutinise the Declaration of the 1991 Nasir Coup will be shocked to discover that the outlined substantive objectives were merely a reflection of personal grievances. An attempt by Dr. Riek to write a position paper to expand these objectives ended up being a narration of historical injustice against South Sudanese since 1821 without delineating the problem and its possible solutions.  Because of the narrowness with which the objectives were defined and articulated, any settlement deal based on such objectives would be expected to reflect exactly that. In this regard, one needs not look further than the deal that Riek got for South Sudan in his 1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement. He basically got a raw deal that never even came to fruition because apart from lacking in substantive aspects of solving the real problem he was supposed to solve in the first place, there were never adequate guarantees to enforce it.

The kind of leadership that South Sudan needs from Riek for 2015 can only come from a Riek that we have not seen. But that Riek does not exist, it seems. This is clear from the records.

(h)  How Riek and Taban Duped Kiir and the Nation in the Name of Political Rivalry: The Case Against An Alliance of Uncontrite Tribal Zealots

For quite sometime now, the public has been made to believe that Dr. Riek and Mr. Taban are eternal political arch-rivals; competing over the control of a large section of Western Upper Nile State. Very few critical observers however, will buy this narrative lock, stock and barrel. In fact such a contention is largely an illusion. Instead, Taban has been in cahoots with Riek for as long as history can recall. This is a fact. It is unarguable.

No one will dispute that they both conspired against the SPLM/A in their phantom Nasir plan to overthrow Chief Garang in 1991. No one will dispute that after surrendering to al-Bashir in 1997, they openly collaborated with the said Bashir against South Sudan till they came back to SPLM in 2001 and 2002. This too should be very clear. No one will dispute that they  similarly conspired with al-Bashir in their grand plan for displacing civilian populations in the oil areas in northern Western Upper Nile after the Khartoum Peace Agreement, subsequent to which they became the Governor of Western Upper Nile and President of Southern Sudan Executive Coordinating Council in that order. Even after both were welcomed back to the SPLM/A just shortly before the CPA negotiations were launched, they were still making clandestine plans for their political future both as individuals as well as a team. Both men also consider themselves vested with a sacred mission to fulfil a ‘prophetic mission.’

After the formation of the southern Sudan Government in 2005, the two were shrewdly able to orchestrate a show, giving the verisimilitude of a political rivalry between them. So many people have long bought into this clever orchestration and honestly believed it as presented. Even the President was duped into believing that Taban was his true ally in the fight against his ambitious Vice President even though well wishers persistently cautioned the President against such a naive assumption. So let no one be hoodwinked by their tactical and strategic games, for these are part and parcel of the political caricatures they are wont to. It is firmly established that the two have long been scheming together against their common adversaries but in different milieus.

There is little room for doubt, if any, that Taban was scheming from the inside as a member of Kiir’s inner circles. His strategic manoeuvres gave a semblance of an image of a trustworthy partner, earning him a prominent position in the innermost part of Kiir’s political coterie (an exclusive group that determines who is who in the GOSS) and becoming privy to virtually anything and everything that was said and done. This privilege gave him an unprecedented access to the centre of power; to study the mindset of Kiir, his philosophy and weaknesses, all of which were slated to be used later against him. That too should be very clear. 

Riek on the other hand was working from the outside where he initially gave an image of a loyal Vice President. But it soon dawned on the President that appearance is one thing and intention is yet another. After the President realised that Riek also has a PhD in this art, things turned sour and the President first moved to ‘clip the powers’ that were delegated to Riek by a presidential decree, not by any statute. Their dream to work together as a team has apparently come to a grinding halt. With all the gloves off for both chiefs now, one wonders how the Leviathan can effectively deliver the badly needed services.

It is also clear that the President has lately realised that he has been duped into believing that Taban was his perpetual supporter. He was wrong and he got that. As a result, he also moved to dismiss Taban from the position of Governor.

But in all honesty, Mr. Taban deserves more than dismissal from his position. He should be held to account for all the inequities he has committed against SPLM/A and the people.  This is a man who should, never once again, be allowed access to public authority. Despite the fact that he received the minimum penalty of termination, it is amazing that Taban still has the audacity to question the President’s authority to dismiss him.  President Kiir might have done the right thing at the wrong time, but his move to dismiss Taban was overdue. It is not improper

But Taban has rushed to use ethnic card and termed his removal “tribally motivated.” He was not the first governor to be removed though. This makes his argument cheap. He should have tried ‘political motivation.’ But that too is a cliché now. Sorry Mr. Governor. But the mess he has created, including land grabbing and redrawing of county boundaries and encouraging of settlement of his supporters (this could ultimately lead to bloodshed between Guit and Ruweng County and has occasionally done so), getting involved in foreign affairs including his unilateral decision to surrender Aliiny to Kordofan, etc, are too grave to be overlooked. The International Crisis Group was correct in its 2011 observation that Taban was a “ticking time bomb.” Besides, Taban, as a governor, had always changed commissioners like pants. One wonders why he now thinks he should be treated differently and stay in power indefinitely. The Governor Removal Clause was truly meant for abusers of public authority like Taban.

The cardinal point in respect of the political machinations long hatched by Riek and Taban is that, South Sudanese have the right to know those who have long manipulated their thoughts and emotions for mere political gains. Mr. Taban, for instance, is an extremely controversial man (more so than Mr. Riek), owing to his divisive approach to all things political and tribal. He is a man who strongly believes that in order to control people, you have to divide them. This is a strategy he has consistently utilized and very well to his political advantage, not only against his political rivals but also against various communities he has led as a governor. It is for this reason that Taban, even in his own state, has remained incongruously discordant. Yet he has, till just a week ago, managed to remain an important political player because he knows how to effectively manipulate any Man On The Throne, the current one being not an exception. Such tactics have conveniently worked for him, for example in the 1980s in Itang under Chief John Garang, in the 1990s under Bashir, and then under Kiir Mayardit, before choosing to switch gears for Riek. This is why he had remained the governor of Western Upper Nile since 2005 until a week ago.

Yet despite monopolising everything, from owning every hotel in the oilfields; misusing public resources to keeping himself in power; to ignoring public outcries against his iron first rule, from grabbing and annexing land to owning his own militias, any attempt by various groups in Western Upper Nile to remove him from power had often fallen on deaf ears. This is because so long as the Big Man’s consistent requests to Taban to help the former’s for medical fees for sick relatives, pay tuition fees for his countless nephews and nieces, etc Taban was considered a loyal and trustworthy ally. In fact Taban’s strategy of using charming gifts for false loyalty had perfect results for him: he deserved to remain a governor and to use his enormous influence, paved by direct money supply and lucrative contracts to those at the echelon of power. That is really who Taban is.  Even Riek knows how dubious in character the man is.

But as divisive and tribal minded as Taban is, Riek Machar, the master beneficiary of the grand plan for power, has whole heartedly embraced him, and has reportedly made him his campaign manager. As such, the most controversial element of Riek’s campaign is not just his past record as a stabber of the Peoples’ Movement, or his lack of the power of persuasion or absence of ability to command respect and loyalty but his unqualified embrace of arguably the most ethnic extremist there is in South Sudan.

Taban Abdallah, now known as Taban Deang Gai, then Governor of Western Upper Nile from 1997-2001 under Bashir, is a man whose heart, mind and soul have utterly been consumed by his insatiable lust for power, domination and wealth, all of which he is determined to acquire by any means necessary and at any cost, including material inducement, deceit, threat and fabrication of any situations that would entice the government to believe him and support his cause, including fabricating a non-extant security situation. For Taban, the end justifies the means.

 In some cases, fingers have been pointed at Taban for cold elimination of opponents who hail from certain ethnic groups in his region. Indeed some have argued that Taban remains to be investigated for the deaths of Choch Kiir Juaach during his time in office as Governor under Bashir in 2000 and the death of Zachariah Bol Deng in 2010, during his time in office as governor of Western Upper Nile under President Kiir.

What may be surprising to some is the fact that Taban’s political manoeuvrings have seemingly been used against his own master: Riek Machar, particularly between 2005 and 2010. This substantially waned after the 2010 general elections. Reliable sources maintain that the man would, during this period of time, say anything to the President just to make sure that Riek and Kiir did not have cordiality of relations. He allegedly told Kiir how ambitious and desirous of Kiir’s position Riek was, and told him how anti-Dinka Riek’s plans are and that if it had not been for him, the Dinka in Western Upper Nile State would have long been badly oppressed. This is contrary to his earlier statements (when asked why his government had marginalised minorities in the state) to The Citizen’s Editor that he should not be nagged about having oppressed the Dinka in his state since Kiir himself has marginalised them in federal government.

All this goes to show that Taban should have been removed a long time ago. Doing the right thing at the wrong time is more likely to invite more conspiracy theories as to the purpose of his termination.

Kiir’s response to such allegations— in an honest belief that they were told by a confidante in good faith—had been the urge to act on them, a response that gradually exacerbated his relationship with Riek, not knowing, unfortunately that he has been, just as the nation was, terribly duped.

Not surprisingly, the same Taban would give a different version of his story to Riek, singing him lullaby as the greatest kuor there is and will ever be, while bragging how easily he can pull strings with respect to Kiir. But in all honesty, and as alluded to earlier, both Riek and Taban have long been working together. It is at such times that Taban and Riek would scheme together and feed their supporters with versions that would easily spark fire in their belly. This truly explains why Riek has never come out to openly oppose Taban especially when his own wife, Angelina Teny, competed against Taban for the gubernatorial position during the 2010 elections, a clear confirmation yet again that their political game has been one and the same, even at the expense of certain communities including Bul, Jegai, and needless to say, the Dinka, in the state. The Bull Nuer community for example is quite bitter with Taban because they have partly been used as the lightning rod for the political games played by these men, and are often in fact branded as Kiir’s supporters.

The political solidarity between Taban and Riek that was for the first time made manifest following Taban’s removal by the President is not really an  “unholy alliance” as asserted by some elsewhere. Most Riek’s fervent supporters, including the newly appointed Caretaker Governor, Dr. Joseph Monytuil, have not largely been kept in the loop about this long term political plan. And when they discovered that Riek and Taban have long hatched underground political machinations and crafty schemes, they decided to desert Riek.

What is unfortunate, about the 2013 Riek-Taban Alliance is that they two are calling for more bloodshed. This is clear from Riek’s recent reactionary outburst following Taban’s ouster in which he threatened that more blood would be shed unless the President reversed the decision. What is also interesting about the Vice President is why he is reacting so strongly now against the ouster of Mr. Taban, especially in light of the fact that he never uttered even a single word when the former Lakes Governor, Chol Tong Mayay, was summarily dismissed under similarly obscure circumstances. It all goes to show how ethnic minded the two are. The two have never have had enough of bloodshed since 1991 and have never felt a sense of remorse for what they did during their time as sworn zealots against the aspirations of the people of South Sudan. They are not contrite about their past record of violence against civilians in South Sudan. In essence, Riek and Taban are once again exploiting tribal sentiments for their political gains.

The consolation in respect of this alliance is that, the two men’s claim to represent and speak on behalf of a particular section of our population is buckling. One Gordon Buay observed that “Riek Machar cannot fool the Nuer ....We the Nuer know that he is a greedy person who should be taken to ICC [International Criminal Court] for crimes against humanity he committed in the past.”  Moreover, a letter written and signed this week by a group that called itself ‘Nuer Leaders and Intellectuals’ did not only reject Riek’s self-appointment as their spokesman and representative but also asked the President to remove Riek from the position of Vice President. This shows that it is possible that Riek’s call for more bloodshed to defend his political interest will not go unchallenged. Our people are awake. They are no longer to be used as stepping stones or bargaining chips for self-aggrandisement. Those times, it appears, are gone.

(i) Conclusion

Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon is a decent man as a person. He has, in his capacity as an individual and a politician, also made reasonable contributions to the freedom of South Sudan. His decision to come back to the SPLM/A in 2002, for instance, is a laudable one.  But there is a long list of reasons why he may not be the most suitable candidate for president in 2015.

From his failed coup against the SPLM/A leadership in 1991 to his sham 1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement, to many failed negotiations on behalf of people of South Sudan to the failed LRA-Ugandan Government peace mediation, one can boldly proclaim that Riek is not just a failed leader. He has been in fact the cause of failure for yet others. His role as Vice President of South Sudan has failed both his Boss and the country as a whole.

In terms of other leadership qualities, Riek’s political skills are highly deficient. He lacks the power of persuasion which is an essential condiment for managing a diverse array of political opinions. Furthermore, Riek has consistently shown that he lacks philosophical sophistication. Without this ability, one wonders how Riek will be able to steer the country effectively in a more integrated global economy.

It has also been observed that Riek is highly intolerant to other people’s views. The fact that he was not able to get along with some of his colleagues in the SPLM/A-United in Nasir and ended up dismissing them from the party means that Riek cannot provide the necessary collegial leadership for which South Sudan is hungry. In addition, Riek is not known for being bold enough. Boldness is especially necessary when it comes to decision making. Without it, Riek will likely not be able to take on the oligarchs’ or his own, sacred cows. South Sudan needs a leader who will be able to take on those who are wont to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense of the nation. Mr. Pagan Amuom’s recent thoughtless and capricious statement that the suspension of Deng Aloor and Kosti Manibe was political motivated and may lead to violence is a clear indication yet that the kleptocrats are determined to defend their loots with more of our people’s blood. South Sudanese should never allow themselves to be used for such cheap ends.

In totality, Riek’s political feebleness, including his short sightedness and lack of organisational ability that ultimately leads him into settling for suboptimal choices including taking short cuts can be very disastrous for South Sudan under a Riek Presidency.

It is therefore ironic that Mr. Riek who has perpetually perfected the art of ethnic extremism can portray himself as someone with the audacity and moral authority to fight tribalism and corruption. All this rhetoric is simply an attempt to dupe South Sudanese into believing that he can deliver. No, he cannot. That is why he is ratcheting up his rhetoric with the threat of the use of the sword he is accustomed to. Voters have the final verdict to determine who leads them in 2015 not someone who wants to shoot his way into presidency.

Santino Ayuel Longar is a columnist for The New Sudan Vision. You can contact him via E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Footnotes

[1] The author uses middle names as opposed to surnames; as it is the case in the West, because it is customary to South Sudanese such that a person is referred to by their given names, such as Kiir or Riek instead of Mayardit or Dhurgon.

[2]A PhD title, in South Sudan, is often seen as the ultimate fulfilment of self-actualisation, attracting quite a critical mass of tribal supporters irrespective of the holder’s relevant qualifications. Chief Garang might have seen that making Riek one of the chief decision-makers would add more legitimacy to his leadership. Same can be said about Lam Akol.

[3] Ruweng County is technically a part of Western Upper Nile, although historically, it was part of Bhar el Ghazel till 1905 when it was transferred to Kordofan, alongside northern part of Twic County and the whole of Abiei but it was later transferred back to Bhar el Ghazel in 1929.  In 1931, however, the Colonial British Government, due to administrative difficulties related mainly to transport and communication, decided to annex it to Western Upper Nile. The historical differences between the two areas have not disappeared.

[4] Geuseppe Mazzini was an Italian Politician, journalist and activist who fought for the unification of Italy in the 19th century.

[5] Although it is not always the case, ‘insubordination’ is a euphemistic term sometimes used by superiors who have been accused of incompetence, by their juniors, to conceal the underlying cause of disagreement with such juniors.  

[6] The OAU/AU, from its very founding, adopted the principle of uti possidetis under Article 4 (b) of its Charter, which is an international law principle, stating that Members would respect and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each state and thus no attempt will be made to redraw the boundaries between independent African countries other than those inherited from colonial masters. This practically meant that a call for a separate state within an independent African state was impermissible. That was why Anya Nya I got it hard to win international support for a separate state in southern Sudan, and opted for a regional autonomy instead.

[7] This does not reflect the will of the majority of the good people of Western Upper Nile State. It only reflects the will of a governor who has long used ethnicity as a yardstick for measuring his political success. In fact majority of the people of Western Upper Nile are absolutely opposed to this undesirable practice.

[8] kalaazar is tropical a disease, usually spread by protozoan Leishmania donovani.

[9] In fact some of the apologists of his impugned actions have recently mounted a robust defence in an attempt to wash his dirty line in public.

[10] Ms. Nyandeng Malek is the only female Governor in South Sudan. An impeachment would have meant that all 10 governors are male. The author was not pleased with move by parliament to impeach her but democracy should be allowed to take its course.

[11] Rebecca Nyandeng is the wife of late Chairman Garang. The author prefers to use their maiden name because, unlike Western culture, it is part of South Sudanese culture that a woman takes on her husband’s name upon marriage.

[12] Benjamin Majak Dau is the Former Commander of Pariang Independent Brigade, known as Brigade 20 (1994-1998). He is also the former SRRA Secretary General (1998-2001), and is a senior member of the SPLM National Liberation Council.


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