Home | Comment & Analysis    Wednesday 5 November 2008

Paramilitary forces can help in South Sudan


By Mariar Wuoi

November 4, 2008 — Kenya has escaped many internal problems plaguing its neighboring countries due to in part to the capabilities of its paramilitary unit popularly known as the General Service Unit (GSU). Whether it is confronting post-elections violence, pursuing cattle rustlers, or dealing with unruly students, the GSU has always performed marvelously. People of varying opinions can debate the methods that the GSU apply to neutralize situations that might otherwise get out of hand, but there is no dispute that the GSU invariably comes out on top. One can only look at history to understand that Kenya has had problems that might have degenerated into a full-blown civil war. During this past post-elections violence, Kenya was gripped by protests, destruction of vital infrastructure such as railway tracks, and targeting of certain groups perceived to have had played a role in stealing elections. The GSU was deployed alongside the administrative police units to trouble spot to restore order. Kenya Army did not play any significant role. South can learn from Kenya’s successful experience with paramilitary force that can be called upon to deal with issues such as inter-tribal killings and clan wars.

In fact, the SPLA can be left to deal purely with external northern aggression while the GSU confronts internal issues. It may not necessarily be called GSU, but a name that implies the specialized range of services it can render to maintain internal security may fit. Recent events in the Lakes State reinforce the need for a strong paramilitary unit that will be under the Ministry of Internal Security. From what this author gathered from various news outlets, it appears that a number of SPLA elements tasked with disarming civilians decided to let their tribal affiliations cloud their interpretation of their mission. This would have been avoided if a powerful paramilitary unit not affiliated with any party was sent in to deal with the disarmament process. SPLA for all the good that it has done to guarantee the South a secure future, is still identified with the SPLM. It would help if a number of the SPLA were retrained in areas of maintaining law and order to form the nucleus of this envisioned paramilitary force.

When one talks about the need for a paramilitary force, it triggers negative images of quasi-secret police out to commit murders and disappearances. It is true that this has been the case in some Latin American countries such as Argentina and to some extent Peru. These are case where excesses committed by paramilitary police have done more damage than good. This author is very aware of the risks that such a force can bring to bear but it is also true that there are cases such that of Kenya where such a force can be advantageous. With right training and clear mission, the specialized police units can complement regular administrative police. Regular police units are always the first line of offense when civil disobedience turns violent. However, they are usually under armed, underpaid, not motivated, and just plainly overwhelmed by simple situations. Paramilitary units get their orders from higher up and their chain of command is clear-cut. They respond better and save lives and country. As I have outlined, such a force can be useful when used wisely and given a clear mandate.

SPLA as it exists in its present form is not impartial in the minds of citizens. Past experiences with the SPLA were not pleasant and it was, and still is, perceived as a ‘Dinka force’ out to impose the ‘hegemonic’ designs of this particular tribe. Of course this is absurd and has no basis in truth whatsoever but that is what is unfortunately ingrained in the minds of many. The Southern parliament can enact a legislation authorizing the formation a paramilitary unit that can enjoy a federal status. This means that it can carry out its mandate without being answerable to the state’s authorities. Such a force can have powers that transcend those that apply to regular police units in order to do its job. Its powers can be regulated by the Ministry of Internal Security which in turn has to answer to the parliament. Not even the president has the power to decide how to use such a force as instances of abuse can become real when a president is faced with a determined opposition.

The future of security in the South depends on the outcome of the referendum. When that is out of the way, we will be forced to look inward and confront sources of insecurity emanating among ourselves. Kenya inherited the GSU from the British but it has come to realize just how indispensable such a force can be. We need to take cues from their experience and design a better force that can maintain law and order across the South.

* The author is a Sudanese based in US. He can be reached at mariar_jon@hotmail.com

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  • 5 November 2008 03:51, by Michael Madit Magot

    Thanks Mariar Wuoi for your well-thought article.
    Having paramilitary or GSU in the South could stop many intertribal anarchies.
    The best way the Goss can think is to create such organs with adequate pay in all states.
    Though our government is poor it has an obligation to accommodate such crucial ideas as yours.



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    • 5 November 2008 08:50, by Sundayw

      Thanks Madit for your comment on the article. I am glad there are others like you that share my insights. We will keep in touch through emails.
      God bless. MW

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      • 5 November 2008 18:12, by ukech

        Paramilitary to do what in the South to fight who? I thought we have had enough of this kind of formation in Sudan: Popular defense force; militias; mujahideen of various types; security organs and so on and so forth. Khartoum trained and equipped these paramilitary forces with having in mind the "unruly civilians" and rebels and that these forces shall enforce law and order better that the army. Yet we all know that these paramilitary forces whose main mission is to suppress internal dissent did not succeed in Sudan. In fact we have witnessed tense resistance offered from from the South and new rebellion in Darfur is on going in spite of the Janjaweed paramilitary being used against the dissent there.

        The other point I want to make against the idea of a paramilitary force in South Sudan is that it can be used as a tool by certain groups in power against their opponents. Such forces operate outside the law, unconstitutional and answer to the whims of the big man who sponsor them and their loyalty to the nation is zero, but 100% to their tribal leaders and big guys.

        In a complex situation like Sudan where group and tribal loyalties are strong, allowing formation of bogus armies will open ways to legitimizing militias loyal to certain leaders. This will feed into and sustain nepotism and patronage system which is now ruining the South. Under these armies the South will become Somalia of some sorts.

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        • 6 November 2008 04:36, by DOOR!

          Ukech or whoever you are,

          Nobody will waste his time on your senseless argument.
          Are you Arab that you are talking of paramilitaries formed by the Khartoum Government? Your mentality is still with your masters but soon you will change.

          Mariar Wuoi was talking about SouthSudan issues not Arabs as you put it.
          Have not heard of daily tribal fighting in lake state? What do you think is the solution?
          Fearing that Dinka hold the power and may use the paramilitary against the other tribes is a naive thought.
          There are laws that could guide the paramilitary. They could be operating within the laws not like the way your crooked mind perceive it.

          If we the law abiding tribes stripped ourselves naked of rules and behave chaotic as you do, the South would be too small for us.
          Even a mouse’s hole could be your room to seek hide.



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          • 6 November 2008 07:40, by ukech

            Door or whatever,

            Why do you think by opposing Mariar’s idea gives you a notion that I am an servant to some Arabs? If you know whom I am and what role I played in the armed struggle for this country, you will just shut up. Why resort to insults if your idea and that of your tribesman of advocating for militia is right? If it is a Dinka project of conspiring to repress others as you seem to allude to, then rest assured that other warlords will take the cue and form theirs if they have not done so.

            I have a feeling that you as a person have never been any where near a war front. Those of us who fought for years are aware of the consequences of formation of militias whether in the South or North.

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            • 6 November 2008 18:45, by Sundayw

              Ukech (if that is really your name),

              Do you really expect anyone to believe that you are who you claim to be when you are clearly nothing more than a tribalist? I will be conservative enough to believe that you are not Khartoum Karl. It would be a tragedy to our future if indeed you are the aforementioned individual. But you are probably just posing in order to give you tribal ideas a platform.

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              • 6 November 2008 21:35, by mack waweru

                Dear participants on this article, I would add my opinion to either sides. It would be vital for GoSS to have security organs under the ministry of interior, whatever they can be called, will rest only with bodies concerned, but one sure thing is to ensure that such forces must have national standings, interest and well disciplined.
                I quite agree with the author, because as a sovereign nation, we must have that, and with the critics, because we don’t want any security force to be used for political or tribal agendas. That is the fear I see in them. South Sudan will be a nation with her laws where by no any force would be used by whoever in charge to opress any tribe or group, but against any rebellion that might be a threat to national security, whether be they tribes or groups.
                The author was just giving and idea that we would earn for soon or later and that cannot be taken out of its true context that he brought the issue up because he is Dinka. This idea if adopted, it would gruantee our security all and not of Dinka or any other tribe. What we need to know as Southerners is that, not all people can suggest good or bad ideas at the same time, but individuals, and then others got in to support them. So, if an idea came from Dinka person, it doesn’t mean that it was so because he / she is Dinka but, a person as God created him/her.
                In our "Old Sudan", we have various security organs such as popular defend force, special security force, state security, riot police, civil defend force which ensure that Southerners must not make alcohol or drink it in the north, police and SAF. Some of these can be created in the South and I think that would be possible after 2011.
                So don’t injure your feelings brothers because there are mechanisms how such sensitive issues are handled and not on internet or by individuals like us. The concepts that some people have against Dinka will never happen in South Sudan. The whole Dinka tribe have no any ill intentions or strategies to dominate, annihilate or sideline any tribe in South Sudan. Our common enemies are known by all and Dinka cannot tolerate them, the outsiders, I mean. Yes, if any groups stand up and forces a threat to the South, we can deal with them and I believe the other tribes can do so. Our ideals, morals and experience convince us that our interests as Southerners are interwined. God brought us to this land as tribes and no one tribe have a right to eliminate the other and this is our destiny all. Let’s stop talking of tribes, but groups or individuals. It’s ethically and morally wrong to judge and condemn a people because of wrongs and injustices committed by the few. Our brother Mariar doesn’t represent Dinka tribe, nor does he when he suggested this good idea we can accept or refuse, but as an individual and citizen.It was not our choice be created as Dinka people and more demographically,but HIM chose so.

                Mack Waweru

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                • 7 November 2008 00:11, by Sundayw

                  Well put Mack! You have approached this topic from a very mature and wise perspective. Thanks for your great insights.

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                • 16 November 2008 17:23, by Jakok Loakloak

                  Mr. Ukech,
                  You are on the right path in your analysis to the Para-military/para-militia idea. It would be desasterous for the south to have such a force at the present; given our strong reliance on tribe and the extended family. Such a force would be the best tool for opponents’ assassinations and promotion of tribal agendas. At current, we as individuals and collective tribes, are too far from obeying orders from officilas different from our own. How can we take casualties sustained from this unit commanded by a son of our rival tribe? It is a good idea suggested ahead of its time...
                  On a personal note, take no offence when those dumb-minded idividuals attack or mischaracterise you.


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