By Telar Deng
The events that led to the 2013 dissolution of the cabinet can be traced back to the deep mistrust that fermented back in 1991 when leaders failed to close ranks. After the 1991 Nassir declaration, President Salva Kiir Mayardit did not see eye to eye with Dr Riek Machar. He had developed a strong dislike for him because he believed that Rebellion was not to be rewarded. On January 6th, 2002, after vigorous negotiations, the declaration for the reunification of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) was signed in Nairobi.
Upon signing of the declaration for the reunification of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Dr John Garang de Mabior the co-signatory to the declaration travelled to Yei where he held the leadership council meeting. They discussed and approved a document that allowed Dr Riek Machar back as the 3rd in command.
Throughout the discussions, President Salva Kiir Mayardit, then a commander, who was evidently furious, demanded that the matter be subjected to voting and indeed it was but unfortunately the ballot went in favour of Dr Riek Machar. James Wani without bitterness accepted to take the fourth position in the hierarchy of the SPLM. However, this order didn’t go down well with Kiir.
Later on after Dr John Garang’s death, President Salva took the leadership of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, subsequently; Riek and Wani were second and third in command respectively in the SPLM hierarchy. In 2008 convention, Salva and his group wanted to replace Riek as the 1st deputy chairman of the SPLM with Wani Igga and Taban Deng Gai to replace Pagan Amum as the secretary general of the SPLM. This cemented Kiir and Riek’s sour relations for the second time.
Through the strenuous efforts of the elders, Moulana Abel Alier, General Joseph Lagu, amongst others from Warrap, the planned efforts to change the leadership were averted and status quo was maintained in order to avoid the disintegration of the party. This was the beginning of the power struggle from within the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.
With all these turns of events from the year 2002 to 2008, Salva felt that within the government and within the party, he could not consult either Riek or Pagan on any matters including the formation of the cabinet.
On the 5th of March 2013, attempts were made to reconcile Salva and Riek in a meeting that was chaired by Deng Alor and attended by Wani Igga, Kosti Manibe, John Luk, James Kok Ruea, Paul Mayom Akech, Pieng Deng Majok and James Hoth Mai. The attempt to reconcile Kiir and Machar failed. What transpired was that Riek declared to challenge President Salva Kiir in the upcoming SPLM convention and Pagan also declared his intentions to be a candidate for the chair of the SPLM. Since there was no headway, the meeting was adjourned. It was to be reconvened at a later date, but this never happened. With all this opposition, Kiir realized he was under serious political challenge from Riek and Pagan within the party. This then made Salva take his first step; he withdrew his delegated powers from Riek as the Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan. He went ahead and cancelled the national reconciliation process that was chaired by Riek Machar and he reconstituted it and gave it to the church leaders.
Salva realized that he could not form the cabinet without assistance from his vice president and Secretary general of the Party, he decided to reinstate un-officially the Politico-Military high command with the membership of himself (Salva), Wani Igga, Daniel Awet Akot and Kuol Manyang. The four avoided all party and government structures and went ahead with their plans and conducted series of meetings.
It was at those meetings that the President made most, if not, all political decisions. Consequently, in 2013, it is this group of the four members of the defunct Politico-military High command that made all the decisions to dissolve the entire cabinet and appointed a new cabinet to the exclusion of those Salva suspected to be against him or who seemed to be allies of Riek.
After all these, Riek Machar, Pagan Amum and everyone else who was relieved of their constitutional posts played their cool with the intention of making a comeback in the national convention that was to be held in December.
The convention was held and Riek and those who were alleged to be his allies raised a few issues of contention. These were issues that President Salva Kiir and his allies and Dr Riek Machar and his allies could not agree on.
The issues of contention were:
1. The method of voting either show of hands or secret ballot.
2. The chairman of the party who is Salva Kiir should not appoint five per cent of the total members of the convention. Riek wanted this to be scrapped out.
3. The deputy chair should be elected by the convention instead of being nominated by the chair to the national liberation council for approval. Riek wanted this to be subjected to the convention and not at the whims of the chair to appoint him and not to appoint him.
On the 14th December 2013, the national liberation council deliberated on these three contentious issues. Salva Kiir and his allies outwitted Riek by mobilizing members of the national liberation council to defeat any proposal from Riek and allies Therefore Riek and allies were defeated. On the 15th December, Riek and his allies boycotted the meetings of the National liberation council. After the boycott, the rest of us and the public woke up to gunshots at about 10:15 pm. The rest remains history.
As the events unfolded, it became very evident that there was a power struggle within the party and the government. The prime movers of the said power struggle were, President Kiir, the Secretary General Pagan Amum and his then Vice President Dr. Riek Machar. The differences they had polarized the government, the public and the party and it was no longer cohesive. President Salva Kiir and allies believed that it was a power struggle, However Riek, Pagan and allies maintained that it was not a power struggle. To them, it was about the nature of the state, democracy and the rule of law.
I have noted that I have on many occasions been blamed for misadvising the President on the dissolution of the cabinet then, yet I, like many of you learnt of the same when it was already too late. Importantly, the main issues raised by the parties that were formed after the incident have never raised the dissolution of cabinet as their reason for opposing Salva Kiir but they raised issues such as lack of democracy, proper governance, the rule of law in the country, nature of state and other issues that are in the public domain.
After I left the country for my assignment in Russia, there have also been quite a number of issues that have been dealt with contrary to the constitution and the August 17th, 2015 peace agreement. I will list just but a few that we all know:
1. The creation of 28 states (which are now 32), the government-led delegation to Addis peace talks in 2015, objected to Riek’s suggestion on the formation of 21 states (this was based on the 21 Districts during the British colonial rule) and argued that 10 states are maintained. This was then signed and incorporated into the peace agreement but as soon as they left Addis Ababa, the President went and decreed into law the creation of the 28 states.
2. Currently, the Council of States is responsible for the creation of the counties. The local government act stipulates that the President creates the counties and then in consultation with the Local government chair then issues a warrant of the establishment. By default, the Council of States was allowed to exercise powers that are not stipulated in the local government act. The powers that the Council in this respect has are only two. These are the name of the county and the map of the county
3. In the August 2015 Peace Agreement that was signed, the President appoints ambassadors and other senior diplomatic representatives to foreign countries as proposed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and approved by the Council of Ministers but as it stands currently, President Salva Kiir Mayardit appoints, deploys and dismisses ambassadors and senior diplomats on his own volition. This has brought conflict between the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs who made a decision to stay out of South Sudan as the President has usurped all his powers.
4. The Civil Service Act is being violated. The President dismisses and appoints under secretaries without due procedure as stipulated in the civil service act.
Is it still Telar Deng advising the president to violate the August 17th, 2015 agreement, the Constitution, the local government act and the civil service act and other violations of the rule of law?
The author is the former South Sudanese Ambassador to Russian Federation and former presidential legal adviser