Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 23 June 2015

Return of Former Political Detainees: the saga of hopes and disappointments


By Jok Madut Jok

There is no doubt that ordinary South Sudanese who suffer the consequences of the on-going political violence are desperate for peace and would make any compromises for the return of stability if given a chance. However, they are hostages of the politico-military elite and hardly have any say in the many political developments that shape the future of their country. Nothing can be more indicative of this morass than the recent hoopla about the return of the ex-political detainees from their self-exile in luxurious Windsor Hotel outside Nairobi, Kenya. It is evident that most people would swallow whatever grievances they may have and let many of these elites off the hook if there can be any assurances that these leaders will not simply revert to their old ways in which they prioritized their egos, pockets and political power. If their return could bring political unity, an end to the violence, a program of reform within the ruling SPLM, a vision for development, commitment to post-war reconstruction and repatriation of refugees, a genuine reconciliation project that goes beyond the usual lip service, reform of the security sector and nation-building project, I can bet that most South Sudanese would look away from the past misdeeds of this shameless crowd of politicians. Yes, it takes two to tango, or three in the case of South Sudan. If these gentlemen are honest about the search for a settlement, and having chosen to stay away from violence may be evidence they are, it will take comparable commitment from the government and Riek Machar’s rebellion.

Unfortunately, have we not been here before? For the past 18 months, from Addis Ababa peace talks to Arusha Intra-SPLM dialogue to numerous other efforts by world leaders to reconcile South Sudanese leaders, all that we have seen in response has been vindictiveness of the former political detainees against the president, trying to absolve themselves entirely from responsibility for the causes of the crisis the country is in. We have only seen intransigence of the SPLM in Opposition, blaming the crisis entirely on the President despite the failures and misconduct of the office of the former Vice President that are known to everyone in this country. Likewise on the part of the government we have also seen lack of compromise, wedging the country between talking peace while committing to war. Meanwhile, the furnace of violence continues to consume too many lives. Towns being overrun at the speed of lightening, only to be retaken just as fast, racing them to the ground, abusing civilian residents, and wasting resources in what everyone calls a “senseless war.”

So why should this ballyhoo about the return of exiles be trusted as the panacea for the country’s crisis? Is it not evident that, coming on the wings and protection of the South African and Kenyan governments, these people are being imposed on the country by the international community, and that these men are simply posturing for a return to public office on the back of our desperation for peace? Have South Sudanese become so politically invisible as to have the world community determine who should lead their country? What have they done, beyond the empty mantra of “we liberated this country” for them to imagine themselves as the saviors of this country? Who did not participate in the liberation? To what end did they liberate the country, to give themselves the right to a looting spree?

Their return has spurred a slew of debate on social media and Juba tea stalls, with some expressing cautious hope that these men may have become politically born-again and could be genuine in their quest, and others entirely dismissing any talk of peace and political value of the return. If all that the SPLM could do is to simply reinstate them and free up their ill-gotten properties that had been frozen in the wake of the violence in 2013, without such an action being accompanied by any accountability, handing the party powers over to them without any program of internal democracy and without plans to groom and make room for a younger leadership to shape the future, the party may well start digging its own grave, for it will die together with this aging leadership.

The author is a fellow of the Rift Valley Institute and a co-founder of the Sudan Institute, a policy research center based in Juba, South Sudan.

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  • 23 June 2015 08:43, by Eastern

    Good questions to the politico-military rag tags, Dr. Madut. A person how has tasted the venom of this group can certainly have that kind of discerning lense you are wearing!

    • 26 June 2015 22:03, by Lotodo Awino Odug

      This article got Jok fired! Kiir does not like dissent, he wants to work with (yes) men only.

  • 23 June 2015 12:41, by Akol Liai Mager

    Dr Jok Madut, problems of South Sudan are so many, but can be summed up as follows; Seniority, hatred between some Jaang and Nuer, Jealousy, nepotism, corruption from top of the Pyramid to the bottom, Generals taking law into their own hands, forgetting rural supports enjoyed by SPLM/A for more than 21 years and every general having a magician or spear-chief. Capabilities and merits will work.

  • 24 June 2015 00:49, by Mr Point

    Joke completely forgets the current crisis was started by forces of the President who massacred civilians in juba on December 15 2013.

    Without that massacre there would have been no civil war.

    Who was responsible for the forces of the President who carried out the massacre in Juba?

  • 24 June 2015 05:10, by Kim Deng

    What if Dr. Riek accepts to be reinstated back to his previous position within "Dinka Kingdom?" Here is the answer to that question.


    • 24 June 2015 05:47, by Lotodo Awino Odug

      There is nothing wrong in bringing them back to the SPLA mainstream. sinc,SPLM-IO is administratively colapsing,it would be necessary to let them fizzle first, destroy seprately,humiliated and forced to to surrender. by doing this, then the death of SPLA soldiers will be justified.

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