An Observer’s View of What Ails the SPLM—And the Government of South Sudan

JUBA, South Sudan— For months South Sudanese citizens have been scratching their heads wondering why President Salva Kiir and vice president Dr. Riek Machar have been very slow in coming up with any effective policies since they took the helm of the government. The citizens are not happy with what is going on. But I think, kiir, Riek or anyone has to be cautious lest South Sudan goes up in flames out of unfounded rumors and suspicions. Having been here for slightly over a year now has put many things into perspective for me. Here is why:

I have had the unrequited honor/curse of observing the SPLM and GoSS  up close and I have come to realize that SPLM/GoSS is a forum of competing interests! There are various factions and unlike what people like to portray as tribal alignments, it is not very simplistic that the issue is always Dinka for Dinka and Nuer for Nuer etc. The Party is composed of the following factions:

1. SPLM Mainstream: This is mostly composed of those who did not leave the Movement in 1991 or at any stage and see themselves as the custodians of the Party and the victims since the death of Dr. John Garang. They are made up of other factions, namely:

a) Garang Boys – Chief among them are Pagan Amum, Deng Alor, Bior Ajang, Mama Nyandeng, Oyai Deng, Luka Biong, Luis Lobong, Joseph Bakosoro, Dr. Lual Achuek, Deng Dau Deng Malek etc. This faction is mostly of those who were the inner circle of Dr. John’s HQs.

b) SPLM Core – these are unattached members who have no particular allegiance to anyone but SPLM and who view themselves as the true custodians of South Sudanese Freedom; they never despaired, never defected. They are distinguished by the fact that they were not necessarily within the inner circle of Dr. John or Salva. These are the likes of Gens. Kuol Manyang, Majak Agoot, Lual Diing Wol, Kuol Diem, James Hoth, John Koang, Wani Igga and most remnants of SPLA/M Torit Faction of 1991.

2. November 2004 Group: This is composed mainly of those who precipitated the near defection of Salva Kiir Mayardit, his Loyal HQs Staff, and some of his close relatives and clansmen. It is also made up of a number of factions:

a) Tribal Halo – aka Presidential Assistants and Unofficial Advisors: These are effectively the people who run the country. They advice the President and help in decision making process. These are the people who make or break you if you’re a minister. These are the likes of Telar Ring Deng, Ayendit (The First of the First Ladies), the tribal Chiefs (Cier-abun and Nyal Chan Nyal), Gregory (the President’s in-law) and Marial Chinong etc.

b) SPLM Salva: These are the still loyal and chief architects of near defection by Salva in November 2004. Chief among these are Aleu Ayieny Aleu, Bol Madut, Salva Mathok Gengdit and Paul Malong Awan and most of the President’s Clan and fellow clansmen. Malong Awan has fallen out of favour recently – but thats a long story for another day.

c) SPLM Bahr El Ghazal: This is a faction of people from Bahr el Ghazal who see themselves as the protectors of the President and custodians of Power in South Sudan. These are those who view everyone as a threat especially those from Bor, Ngok and Nuer. These include the Chief of Security Service Akol Khor etc etc.

3. SPLM Returnees: By far the largest group with numerous factions. It is made up by ex-1991 plotters, Anya Nya II remnants, NCP Defectors and plain opportunist who defect the rejoin so that they can be reincorporated with better ranks and positions. The factions are as follows:

a) Nasir Returnees: these are the likes of Dr. Riek and his Entourage who defected and rejoined SPLM. This faction tends to work behind closed doors to play various groups and factions within the SPLM against each other. They are largely not trusted by the first two groups.

b) SPLM-NCP – These are the loyal troops and militias of the NCP who fought against the SPLM until the dawn of independence when they joined the SPLM because they had no choice since they were Southerners and must go south. These are the likes of Clement Wani Konga, Gatluak Deng Garang, Riek Gai, Rezieg Zachariah, Chol Tong Mayai etc etc. This faction is the beneficiary as a result of appeasement and tribal politics propagated by the November 2004 Group to keep the SPLM Mainstream less influential and thus has created the current crisis. They dominate the government and civil service.

c) Opportunists: these are the likes of Alfred Lado Goro who defected from the SPLM to obtain higher positions upon return. They also consist of those like Gen. Peter Gatdet etc and all those who left SPLM not out of malicious reasons but just to obtain positions.

d) Returnees Non-Aligned: These are mostly those who previously defected from NCP or SPLM or those who came from the North and were not particularly aligned to NCP or SPLM during the war. This faction is made up largely of professionals and diplomats like Amb. Manyang Awuol, Ministers Stephen Dhieu Dau, Elizabeth James Bol etc.

This has been the daunting challenge that has been facing Pagan and those trying to reform the SPLM. How does one reconcile such groups with strongly entrenched interests with some liking the status quo? So Kiir or Riek or anyone has to be cautious because there are so many people so eager to prove their loyalty and be rewarded or else they will threaten to commit murder using baseless and dubious reasons.

Deng A. Dekuek is a South Sudanese Geologist and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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