Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 7 August 2018

Machar at cross-roads grappling with Khartoum deal

By Deng Vanang

Back on August 28th, 1991, Dr Riek Machar was on all accounts a sensation and extremely celebrated towering figure, prodded to the fore of national geo-politics by popular yearn for a separate statehood John Garang trampled under feet.
Proofing up the man further on the high political rating to become the father of self-determination that led to independence then, was cheer, but still objective crave by Nuer political elite to supplant the enduring Dinka power barons.

While the Nuer village elders’ renewed hope to retain their once glorious pre-dominant past and the energetic youth seething with venomous revenge to exact on sworn traditional enemies made a perfect combination spicing a more vigorous rhetoric of a messianic figure as prophesized by Nuer Prophet Ngundeng Bong.

Twenty-eight years on this month, the manipulative political comedian than to celebrate the would-be long-awaited victory of a dream comes true has instead rightfully sounded sceptical on the difficult implementation of peace agreement he just signed. As the delighted opponent, Kiir openly stated his optimism, indicating who is the actual winner and loser in the deal.

Their divergent views on what supposed to be of mutual understanding and interest elicit a stark reminder to all and sundry of no one can fool all people all the time.

The scene of an eye-opening revelation is Khartoum where he Machar was the first gullible signatory to initial the agreement aimed at saving him from depressing isolation in South Africa. A slightest discomfort he could bear but chose to laugh off the folly of ones offered to perish pushing his struggling career.

The deal generally lacks all the ingredients of what he fought forever since the onset of conflict back in 2013 with elite political accommodation being prioritized over desperately needed democratic reforms for a new beginning of lasting peace and shared prosperity. Hence, its roundly rejection as too weak to restore much sought after peace by its key financiers, the Troika Member States. Whose opposing stand only emboldens other notable, but still influentially growing and belligerent opposition factions coerced by attending regional heads of state to sign with a promise of further negotiations to smoothen the rough deal into a refined one. Particularly the pariah Sudanese President al-Bashir gleefully in hurry to mount an international diplomatic coup, apart from pulling a nosedived economy from the brink of an imminent collapse due to knock on effects of South Sudan’s dysfunctional oilfields.

Other despondent lots are the vociferous media paternity and coterie of more isolated and equally enraged civil society groups. All of which opposition and civil rights groups are sceptically admonishing the agreement as a negotiated surrender totally devoid of an everlasting political settlement.

The most worrying absentee ingredients are collegial Presidency, federalism, democratic reforms and transitional justice for war crimes committed. Whose inclusion in the agreement would have provided deep-rooted pillars of any promising peace accord needed to withstand any wave of political vibration.

Besides offering him Machar among others a leg up to climb a slippery transformative leadership’s trajectory in post-transition’s election.

The absence of the said ingredients are equally by and large complicated by Kiir and company insulation from the responsibility for wanton massacres they perpetrated. Not to mention the malicious sneaking in of more contentious 32 states which served to rob a lot more citizens opposed to Juba establishment of their ancestral lands.

Those darkening grey areas of concern are just a few painful body scratches among more visible injuries in what is largely viewed as Machar’s indirect admission of defeat. Not consumerate with the realization of a lifelong quest for the top leadership he engraved in his ‘’Nasir Creeping Revolution’’ back in August 1991.

Now a revolution that is apparently seen as crippled and laughably termed Khartoum peace agreement number two in light of 1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement Dr John Garang sarcastically referred to as surrender agreement.

Needless to speculate so much about its other contents which make the deal even superlatively beneficial to its mediating IGAD member states than to its supposed beneficiaries, the long-suffering people of South Sudan.

A slide from hope to despair

The hope many harboured in the past for a better state of affairs to follow a return to a peaceful country has now precipitated into despair to secure any meaningful change.

The first nail to hit on the opposition’s coffin and SPLM/A-IO, in particular, is an immediate revival of the oil industry on 2nd September this year. Aimed at strengthening Kiir’s loosening grip on power even before the start of the pre-transitional period.

Closely panting on its heels is an Independent Boundaries Commission (IBC) slated to deliver the second fatal nail on the opposition’s coffin. This is with regards to the fate of 32 states in which all opposition groups are lumped with 5 representatives as government romps home with other 5 on the commission.

Stipulated in the agreement is 3 against 7 to decide whether states remain as they are or opt for a referendum in case of a tie vote. With government currently stripped of cash and largely displaced population, the referendum is not viable.

Government is already on course with a head start of 5 representatives in addition to one from its friendly internal opposition.

It will then only take it to buy off just a single weakling from the remaining four. That is more than enough to amputate a beleaguered rebel opposition coalition’s last leg.

Executive presidency as the fulcrum around which everything governance revolves strictly remains in the tight hands of the incumbent President Kiir to continuously perpetuate his genocidal escapades.

Both the National Assembly and Council of States are effectively swept under an overbearing control of his parliamentary majority, meant to upset or bypass proposed balance in cabinet’s deliberations.

While States and their local administrative units succumbed to the incumbent’s will with nearly 60% power-sharing quota to keep the feet of his ruling and liberation party, SPLM firmly on the ground.

Security agreement signed recently leaves no doubt as to who shall wield the discretionary powers to either dispense with or keep peace deal alive whimsically.

Yoweri Museveni government as the current driving force behind the peace bandwagon and fighting the opposition brigades in the killing fields, while similarly at forefront of Kiir’s diplomacy in the region and abroad, will definitely ensure an absorption of opposition forces back into government’s stranglehold under friendly Kiir as a Commander-In-Chief. With the sole aim to demobilize opposition credible officers from the army to civil life.

Under the guise of forming an army inclusive of all 64 ethnic groups, the same Museveni shall ensure opposition backyards have fewer recruits, while areas supportive of the regime get the lion share in the recruitment drive to build a façade called a national army.

During deployment of forces by Kiir, the commander-in-chief, pro-opposition military officers shall never be deployed to sensitive and strategic military postings. Especially in the training, operations, logistics, artillery and air force units as was the case in the run-up to the conflict in 2013.

Given the history of selective civilians’ disarmament, opposition areas will face the wrath of a thorough clean-up of arms in favour of pro-Kiir’s strongholds to shore up his military capability.

Followed by a gradual purge of pro-opposition military officers who still matter as peace process progresses into its more decisive last lap, the general election he must die to win.

Negative reaction
Negatively reacting to such a raw deal is a myriad of Machar’s harsh critics scepticalical supporters alike disparaging it as the resounding and disgraceful fall for the status quo.

The rest still stubbornly loyal to the man including a string of parroting Spokesmen either plunged into hiding speechless or having their voices drowned in an anti-Khartoum fiasco’s confusedly rumbling pandemonium.

The anti-face-saving peace movement is growing in both lips and bonds, spreading like a wildfire into every nook and cranny of the homeland and diaspora which constantly reflect back on shilling memories of 2016 deadly clashes in Juba.

Machar the Messiah, tribal chief and politician’s desperate attempt to lay hands on Ngundeng’s oracle and possibly railroad the door to door roaming caravan with enough is enough message isn’t bearing any promising fruits so far.

The much revered Prophet prophesized a century ago that no amount of peace process would stop the current devastating South Sudanese civil war, except helping the left-handed, gap-toothed man wade into power in a pool of blood and leaving no any quest work in everybody’s mind as to who will survive the onslaught and stand to benefit.

An opportunity his pawns in the game are denied since the prophecy as usual never named names of would be unfortunate dead and lucky survivors.

That is a frightening story too scary to comprehend by the gagged and likely Juba-air bound audiences keenly listening to the cunning, but an increasingly waning acrobatic dinosaur of South Sudanese blood stained politics.

Deng Vanang is the Secretary for Information, Public Relations and Spokesperson for Federal Democratic Party/South Sudan Armed Forces, FDP/SSAF. He is reachable at: dvanang@gmail.com