By James Nguen
South Sudan has been at war by itself since 15 of December 2013. This internal strife sent the new country to a new low and finally to a failed state status by all accounts. This failed state status is undeniably tragic development.
So much so, it’s a heart-rending confirmation that our peoples’ expectations and hopes during independence have been shattered. Sadly, at the moment, the same people who were so jubilant 5 years ago are now running for their dear lives.
Some are disturbingly starving to death in the north part of the country, particularly in Leer and Mayiendit Counties, Unity State because the same failed state’s authorities denied them humanitarian aides.
It’s even more troubling to report that peoples’ hopes for prosperity and prosperous South Sudan were crushed through an ill-conceived tribal hegemony of one tribe led by Salva Kiir and his tribal group –the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE).
As such, the implications of this tribal project are enormous. For example, these implications destroyed our nation’s social fabrics, which in turn rendered the new country worthless and then brought profound disgrace to the nation’s pioneers and martyrs.
During the Sudan’s second civil war, South Sudanese including Salva Kiir blamed northern Sudanese’ for their marginalisation policies toward the rest of us in the Sudan. But, ironically, in a reverse satanic devised policy, Salva Kiir followed the similar dogma of marginalisation and neglect against other nationalities in South Sudan for Dinka Community rule.
In this regard, unknowingly, Salva Kiir set up the Dinka community against the rest of South Sudanese which will take years to reverse. Salva Kiir’s discriminatory policies allowed him to deny humanitarian aides reach those in need simply because they are not from the Dinka Community.
Salva Kiir has effectively used this card of starving innocent civilians from other tribes in South Sudan as a weapon of war, while on the other hand undeniably advocating for humanitarian aides to Dinka.
By all measures, this is dreadfully appalling and it must be condemned morally and on the ground that all South Sudanese are one and that South Sudan shall ever be one nation, where everyone ought to be treated with respect and dignity irrespective of their tribes.
In an attempt to achieve stability in South Sudan, the agreement aimed to address its internal strife was signed in August 2015. Internationally, it was an agreement on the resolution of the conflict in the Republic South Sudan broker by the IGAD and the international community.
Unfortunately, this agreement formally collapsed on July 8th, 2016, ten (10) months after signature for reasons beyond the scope of this commentary.
After that brief cessation of hostilities in most part of the country, when the agreement was signed, all armed oppositions’ leaderships converged in juba to implement the peace. However on July 8th, 2016, South Sudanese’ common men were once again forced to take up arms against Kiir’s regime in order to reduce another ethnic -driven killing of innocent civilians, raping women and girls, looting of properties, arbitrary arrest and burning down of villages, mostly in non-Dinka areas in South Sudan.
While Salva Kiir was progressively pursuing ethnic cleansing, another policy took a centre stage. For example, military officers of non-Dinka nationalities, who sided with Salva Kiir’s regime all along fighting for Salva’s tribal agenda were now rendered irrelevant and sometimes openly harass and told that their services no longer needed after Kiir consolidated and emboldened his grip on power.
Recently, this new policy forced some military officers divorced the regime. For example, LT. Gen. Thomas Cirillo Swaka defected and called for a removal of Salva Kiir by force while citing abuse and Dinkanization of South Sudan. On March 7th, 2017, Mr. Cirillo formed a new movement called “National Salvation Front/Army (NAS).
The NAS’s aim is to depose Salva Kiir from power militarily. Many applauded Mr Cirillo’s defection citing that it was a right step in removing the dictator. For some, it was a good decision because it further explained and justified the Dinkanization of South Sudan led by Salva Kiir and the JCE.
Above all else, I should say, Mr Cirillo’s defection declaration statement was a serious indictment of Kiir’s regime. The document speaks to the truth why other oppositions took arms against Kiir in the first place.
Despite these positive underpins, there are worrying signs of mistakes on Gen. Cirillo’s move. Therefore, if these worrying mistakes are not dealt with carefully and with care, they may undermine the whole badly needed possible alliance of convenience among the armed oppositions in the Republic of South Sudan.
These mistakes which I will note shortly were more or less due to lack of political foresight and experiences on Gen. Thomas Cirillo Swaka part. Precisely, Gen. Cirillo is full of himself and clearly not thinking.
Therefore, the best thing he should do now, if I may suggest, is to take a leap backwards and rethink strategically of what he really wanted to do to achieving the NAS’s goal. Frankly speaking, recent Gen. Cirillo’s statements and that of his supporters are not in any way helping the NAS.
Since Gen. Thomas Cirillo declared his movement, the NAS, the move was welcomed by many including the SPLM/A (IO) as I mentioned earlier. For example, the Governors of Greater Equatoria in the SPLM/A (IO) wrote a well thought-out letter of appreciation to Gen. Cirillo. In the letter, the Governors called for an alliance of convenience among the armed opposition and with Gen. Cirillo. By all standards, that letter was welcomed the news and a great way to start moving forward.
However, some shortsighted opportunists and more so Mr Cirillo himself sees this as a weakness on the SPLM/A - IO part. Evidently and wrongly so, Gen. Cirillo and others sees the NAS as an opportunity to springboard the Equatorians’ “cause”.
Frankly, this is a wrong thinking and it must be discouraged strongly. As matter of fact, there is no Equatorians’ “cause” without the cause of the people of South Sudan, Equatorians included.
For example, those who jumped ship or switched sides from the other oppositions and joined the NAS, notably from the SPLM/A (IO) attacked the SPLM/A –IO and accused its leadership falsely.
These attacks on other armed oppositions, particularly the SPLM/A –IO were somehow endorsed by Gen. Cirillo himself as he detailed some of these claims on his letter to Hon. Moussa Faki, the newly elected chairman of Africa Union asking for recognition.
In my view, these kinds of thinking and action are genuinely a cause of concern. As a result, Gen. Cirillo and supporters must be call out.
They must be warned and reminded that there is no Equatorians’ “cause” without the rest of us in South Sudan. Also, it must be made crystal clear that all armed oppositions are in this together, and must work as a team if Gen. Cirillo’s intention is indeed to remove Salva Kiir from power.
Hence, as far as this commentary is a concern, the above narrative was a “cause” of this pierce. It was basically intended to warn all armed oppositions in South Sudan that the prevailing undertaking is a mistake and “NO GO ZONE” or cannot be repeated whatsoever.
More importantly, I must point out that recent Gen. Cirillo and supporters’ rhetoric serves no moral and military interest to any armed opposition but the common enemy. It must be made categorically clear that all armed oppositions are victims of misrule. All took arms to oppose the Dinkanization of South Sudan spearheaded by Salva Kiir and the JCE, nothing else.
Similarly so, I like to remind Gen. Cirillo about previous mistakes along the same vein and I would like to draw his full attention particularly to the G10 and Dr. Lam Akol’s faction.
First, the G10.This group is headed by Gen. Pagan Amum and has committed the same mistake that Gen. Cirillo is about to commit or has committed. To recap this point further, when G10 were detained, the other armed oppositions particularly the SPLM/A (IO) advocated for their release.
However, when the G10 were released, Mr Pagan Amum and his group took the high road and betrayed the other armed oppositions by declaring neutrality in the war.
It was even reported that Mr Pagan Amum went as far as saying that the killing of 20, 000 innocent Nuer civilians shouldn’t be the “cause” for war in South Sudan. This was a serious mistake on their part.
Since 2014, the G10’s position didn’t only failed but prolong the war and in reverse has emboldened Salva Kiir’s grip on power. In this light, I would think, Gen. Cirillo and supporters would take note and are smart enough to do the math.
Similarly, Dr Lam Akol’s action was another mistake. Around November 2016, Dr Akol’s forces attacked SPLM/A (IO)’s positions in Upper Nile State. The consequences of this miscalculated manoeuvre were not good simply because it resulted to unnecessary loss of lives of two brave Generals from Dr Akol’s faction.
Such death was uncalled for and would have been avoided if Dr Lam was indeed thinking at the time. More importantly, these unnecessary loss of lives were not only detrimental to Dr Akol’s faction but more so to all armed oppositions. As such, Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirillo Swaka and supporters must be warned that they MUST not repeat the same mistake.
Logically, I surely believe that as much as other armed oppositions needed this supposed holy coalition of convenience with Gen. Cirillo, Mr Cirillo himself needed this alliance the most to prove that he is indeed genuine and not just a poor soul sent to distract brave Equatorians who are fully committed to toppling Salva Kiir’s regime by all necessary means .
However, given Gen. Cirillo’s moves in the past few weeks, the question of trust has emerged and is in everyone’s mind. At this point, I should point out that no one is certainly sure of Gen. Cirillo’s serious allegiance.
To bring this issue of trust closer to home, Gen. Cirillo has served in Salva Kiir’s regime in many capacities and for many years. Most of all, he has helped Salva Kiir’s regime in the Dinkanization of South Sudan than any other person in the country.
For example, Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirillo Swaka was a point man for Salva Kiir’s arms sale and logistics for many years. Hence, all the sophisticated weapons used by Salva Kiir’s regime today against civilians in South Sudan were approved and purchased by Gen. Cirillo himself.
Adding more doubts, Gen. Cirillo has declared his defection and formation of the new armed group in the hotel room in Ethiopia. Imagine, a person of his calibre and coupled with his position in the army has defected without a single bodyguard and has not taken to the bush, why? I leave this lingering question for military experts to ponder.
On the question of trust again, I am afraid a seed of mistrust between Gen. Cirillo and other armed oppositions is already planted. In my personal opinion, it’s simply unbecoming for any armed opposition to attack other armed oppositions falsely and especially when their ultimate overall goal is to topple the regime of which they oppose, militarily.
To support this point, in the past weeks, Gen. Cirillo and supporters attacked or made grandiose claims about the SPLM/A (IO)’s establishment falsely and this is a cause of concern for me.
Further, against all odds, Gen. Cirillo has requested recognition from the Africa Union’ chairperson. Therefore, it’s high time for someone to tell Gen. Cirillo that no revolutionary has ever requested recognition either directly or remotely from anyone.
It’s rather wrong for Gen. Cirillo or anyone of his calibre to beg for recognition from anyone. Gen. Cirillo must be told that his approach or strategy in this regard is flatly wrong and raised a lot of questions among many moving forward. At least for many like me, it displayed a lack of self-worth and inexperience.
Moving forward, I like Gen. Cirillo to consider the following recommendations:
I. Never again ask anyone to recognise your stand, prove it to them, if indeed your intentions were genuine and for armed opposition.
II. Never attack other armed oppositions on baseless grounds, for they are your best companions in armed. If anything, cherish their successes in defeating the enemy.
III. If your intentions are genuine and for armed opposition, be vigilant and never fall prey or allowed yourself to be manipulated by hovering crooks or never solely believe in any promises. Know that promises are just promises until proven.
IV. Take a leap backwards and immediately change your tone toward other armed oppositions and formally apologise to the SPLM/A (IO) establishment for the inconvenience.
V. Call for armed oppositions’ alliances’ conference to dispel any misinformation about your loyalties.
VI. Never claim military supports falsely from any other armed opposition, for the reverse rule is you would be their first target to prove that you are not one of them.
J. Nguen is the chairman of Nuer Supreme Council (NSC), South Sudanese advocate, political commentator and analyst. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org