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A Case for Genuine Change in South Sudan: SPLM/A Failed Our People

BY: Dr. Matur Gorjok, South Sudan, MAY/27/2019, SSN;

That “South Sudan is a failed State” is an obvious fact that even an ordinary bystander would know. The Independence of South Sudan was a hard-won achievement and a dream come true to many of its citizens- past, present and in those to come many years from now.

The attainment of our nationhood and sovereignty was a long objective to which our people throughout our recorded history devoted their time, resources and lives to realize. Many generations were born into those conflicts from Anya-Nya to the SPLA /SPLM.

Children were born and grew up in it and became key players in the struggle. Some lost their lives as a price for freedom; others were left maimed, while the lucky ones are ageing out one by one, having been neglected by the self-centered ruling elites.

That is also the sorry case for thousands of widows and orphans who are homeless, with nobody caring for them. To them, there is no greater disappointment than to be discarded and even scorned by the very elites who once claimed they were the servants of their people, especially the most vulnerable members of their society.

Instead of reaping credit for liberating their long suffering compatriots, those leaders are now subject of cruel jokes at national, regional and international levels as tormentors of their people. This should have not happened; we, and the whole world were expecting our leaders to be our Mandelas, or at least to emulate the great South Africa and revered son of Africa.

What’s next after the Independence? Prior to answering that question, I’d elaborate first on the narratives, not the objectives of the liberation struggle.

• The “mighty SPLA/SPLM” when we talked of the “mighty SPLA/SPLM,” we meant the glorified army from 1983-2005, under our able and charismatic leader, Dr. John Garang de Mabior (RIP). What follows after that’s a reshaped and redefined SPLA/SPLM that’d be relegated from the glorious history of the Movement.

We salute our brothers and sisters in the “mighty SPLA/SPLM” whose contribution to the liberation struggle is immeasurable. We’re deeply indebted to them. Their footprints and legacy shall remain in the history of our
country for generations to come.

We also remember and salute each and every one of our martyrs for their selfless contributions in the liberation struggle and the ultimate price they’ve paid. We’ll never forget them. Their names will be displayed one day on eternal war monuments that’ll be constructed by their fellow citizens in honor of their remarkable contribution to the liberation struggle.

• To have an effective movement as it’s with the “mighty SPLA/ SPLM,” the following key elements must avail to constitute a formidable armed liberation movement:
• Political objectives and will
• Manpower
• Morale
• Military support; weaponry and logistics
• Political and popular support.

The parameters listed above were interlinked and contributed collectively in the liberation movement and each should be given a considerable acknowledgement, as none of the success would’ve been achieved without fulfilling each of them.

Therefore, the success and credit of the liberation struggle necessarily goes back to the entire people of South Sudan and their allies.

First, the political objective was very clear that we’re fighting against marginalization politically, economically and socially. Hence the decision made by each and every individual to join the SPLA was a political decision, rather than a military one, as Dr J. Garang used to say. It’s a political decision to address the core political issues that’re bedeviling our former country, Sudan.

Second, the manpower (human resource), which was epitomized by the role our brothers and sisters in uniform; the “mighty SPLA” played during the liberation struggle. They’re the pillars of the Movement and their contribution was paramount for the attainment of the liberation objectives.

The army was derived from all sections of our communities in their cultural, linguistic and gender or age divides. It’s a national based military entity, not an ethnic one as others of late would claim of liberating the country by themselves without any contribution from other tribes or ethnic groups.

No, it’s a collective effort of the people of South Sudan in their entirety. This is a fact. Period. The mighty SPLA was a principled army with a specified military doctrine.

Third, the morale was essential for any combat to thrive and grow in strength and experience for decades in order to achieve the objectives upon which the Movement was founded. Given the clarity of vision and objectives of the Movement, our people joined, with sky-high morale, their vanguard army of liberation in their thousands.

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“The Radio SPLA battalion” was the guiding star in boosting the morale across the board, whether for the combat liberators at various war fronts or the general public in Sudan or in the neighboring countries, the role played by that radio was equivalent to battalions in the SPLA.

The SPLM/A journalists who informed the public were the unsung heroes of our liberation, among them late Michael Aban & late Marko Yusbai (RIP), both lost their lives in the frontline. We honor the memory of all the martyrs; history will never forget their noble contribution, which was a cornerstone of the struggle.

Other Journalists who weren’t part of Radio SPLA in the liberated areas or in Khartoum did their part in the struggle as well and have to be appreciated too. Late Alfred Logune Taban (RIP) was one of our unarmed media warriors for peace, justice and freedom.

Furthermore, the role of our singers across the country in composing and singing national and liberation songs in different languages and dialects urging support for the Movement and encouraging people to join the struggle. Besides that, there’re singers in different battalions and other formations of the SPLA who composed songs to boost
the morale of their comrades and compatriots. No success would’ve been possible without high morale. With a low morale, an intransigent enemy could readily defeat a well-equipped powerful army.

Fourth, the military support in terms of weaponry and logistics was essential because without sophisticated weapons even a million soldiers with heightened morale could be easily routed.

This signifies the role played by our friends and allies regionally and internationally, “a friend in need is a friend indeed.”

Our sincere thanks goes to the Troika; USA, United Kingdom and Norway, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Libya, Egypt, Cuba and humanitarian NGOs and the Church leaders, among them Sudan Council of Churches, All Africa
Conference of Churches, and not least, the World Council of Churches as well as the UN and many other countries who’d offered an enormous support during the liberation struggle in terms of their various support for the war victims, in form of provision of shelter, food, education, training for self-reliance within the civil society.

To the amazement of the South Sudanese people some countries which were the main suppliers of weapons to our enemy then, which were used to kill our people, are now the darling friends of the regime in Juba. No wonder why the country is in a mess. This is the result of poor judgement and wrong friendship. This could explain some of the
problems in South Sudan.

Finally, the political and popular support, the above-mentioned countries and friends come into play as well. Without their support we wouldn’t be here today, South Sudanese people would ever be grateful to those countries and nations.

In addition to that, the invisible role that was played by South Sudanese in diaspora across the globe as well as our refugees in the refugees’ camps or elsewhere regionally, and the displaced persons internally had help in enhancing enlightenment of the International community of the magnitude of the Sudan’s problems.

This element had contributed positively in the decision making of those governments and countries towards the policy on Sudan leading to their political and occasional military support to the liberation movement.

Moreover, the support from the Sudan Sudanese masses inside South Sudan through chiefs, civil society organisations in providing food, shelter and contributing young men to the Movement was a vital component of the Liberation struggle and their role too, should be appreciated.

Notwithstanding, the role of some insiders; the South Sudanese politicians who’re in Khartoum then, not the former NCP affiliates, isn’t appreciated by many South Sudanese, they too, had supported the Movement politically and morally and that contribution should be recognized as well.

This above brief narrative of the liberation struggle has been necessitated by the fact that it’s become part of the current political dispensation in the country of who actually liberated the country, instead of focusing on what to be done after the liberation.

There was no any entitlement attached to any role played by any group or section during the liberation, with the outcome of the liberation struggle. Success belongs to the people of South Sudan as a whole. It was a mission accomplished and we’re all proud to have played one little bit, which contributed to the overall victory in the end.

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After that magnificent achievement of the independence, the priority should’ve been to build our country and change the lives of our people for better and speed up development, build stronger nation in our diversity, invest in our children by providing free and quality education, provision of the needy services; healthcare, clean water,
decent roads and power, concrete infrastructure and an agricultural revolution.

But due to greed and selfishness, the country has been driven into abyss, by the very people who’re supposed to be the guarantors of the Independence, due to the pivotal role they’d played during the liberation struggle; instead they went into reckless paranoia and plunged the country into catastrophic tragedy, rendering our country and its people
hostage, by sparking a senseless war among themselves only for power and self-enrichment, not because of the suffering people.

This is vindicated by their marathon peace negotiations every now and then for positions in government above all else including the welfare of the millions of the ordinary people. We’ve never heard of any party to this conflict that was asking for provision of services to the people, for instance, building a school or hospital in his or her electorate as a precondition to signing the peace agreement.

All we’ve heard has been how many “lucrative positions” shall each acquire prior to signing the peace agreement, which is beyond pathetic!

Although, the peace agreement is deformed, but as peace loving people, we’d embrace it, hoping, it’d not be torn to pieces or abandoned as it was the case with the previous peace agreement.

All political prisoners must be released and freedom of speech and movement must be guaranteed. The transitional arrangement should work towards fair and free elections at the end of their mandate.

The country has been left in ruin; around 400,000 of innocent lives were lost. Thousands are still holed up in various UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) protection camps inside South Sudan including the capital Juba, just a stone throwaway from J1 (President’s residence), under UN protection in fear of their own government. This is outrageous.

Millions of our people dwell in the refugee camps in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, DRC, CAR and Sudan. These’re the forgotten people of our country, both inside and outside our borders. Your suffering is ours and you’ll be rewarded with peace and prosperity by the people of South Sudan when these mobs in charge are long gone… please be strong and united. May God bless you all.

Our people have been polarized to unprecedented levels. Hatred and divisions have become an ideology of those who think the country belongs to them and their cronies alone. This is unfortunate as these primitive views are held and propagated by the very people who’re supposed to be the safeguard of unity of the people of South Sudan.

Every South Sudanese citizen should be living in freedom and enjoying the dividends of our national Independence, as a human and citizenry right. There’d be no majorities or minorities in the country. Tribal groupings should’ve no place in our politics.

Nobody should be above the law in the country, no matter what their mandate is in any branch of the government.
Corruption is at its peak and lawlessness and insecurity have become the norm. Being a decent and law abiding public servant is now looked on in the ruling circles as an embodiment of being a certified batch of a fool; thieves are judged to be “smart people,” in that skewed thinking.

Our people are getting even poorer than before the Independence. Here come the questions: what did our people fight for? Generations followed by generations? Is this the country we wanted? Is this the country millions of lives were lost for it? Is this the promised land of happiness and prosperity?

The answer to all these questions is a big No.

The people of South Sudan must, however, understand that their country has been hijacked by the heartless, the “gun-class” as our respected veteran Dr Majak D’Agoot would always say. They don’t care about their welfare, peace and security. Enough is enough.

It’s time to do the right thing and take back our country. Our country is at crossroads either to be or not to be. It’s time to organize a peaceful national revolution for a genuine change in our country. The nationalists among us, from every corner in South Sudan, must come together and isolate those hegemonic leaders who’ve taken the country hostage.

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We’re fed up with rebellions; joining and defecting to various armed movements all year round must stop. We can’t afford igniting more fires or adding fuel to the already burning house. Violence can only produce further violence, not peace, namely, if we’re to change this government violently, the result wouldn’t be peace, but another rebellion even on a larger scale, thanks to the vast and dense bushes of South Sudan and the culture of violence.

The cycle of violence and counter-violence would continue endlessly. Therefore, it is imperative that we work for a non-violent approach to politics in the country and let the South Sudanese people choose their leaders in fair
and transparent elections under international observation and monitoring if need be.

The worst of it all is that the very culprits to the messing in South Sudan are the ones insisting and blackmailing the regional and international community and governments that they’re the ones to bring about Peace and reconciliation back to the country, which is untrue.

You can’t be the accused and the judge at the same time. If they’re unable to settle their differences in peace as SPLM fraternity prior to the war, how on earth would they be able this time around to settle them at gunpoint whilst they’re
armed to the teeth?

This is a fallacy. The people of South Sudan aren’t stupid. The status quo is untenable. Change must come and a new political dispensation must ensue in our country to clean up the mess and lead the efforts of rebuilding and bridging the lethal divides created by those leaders whether in government or in a rebel organisation.

Accountability is the basis of any genuine and sincere reconciliation for forgiveness and peace. You can’t just turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed on both sides of the conflict and assume that by apologizing to the people of South Sudan, your sins would be forgiven.

That isn’t acceptable. Justice must be served for the rightful closure of that dark page in the history of our country and open a new page for a brighter future.

The other issue is, coalescing around the SPLM as the people’s party at present, is misplaced and out-dated and should be circumvented. The change that we envisage can’t be achieved within the current SPLM, which has been turned into a vehicle for looting and misrule.

Absolutely, no change’d come from within the SPLM and enforcing change from within through democratic means, would be a recipe for a deadly war as we have witnessed in 2013. “Democracy” is the word they hate the most and
they wish it never existed.

Therefore, a genuine change can only come from outside the SPLM. It’s time to move away from this morphed SPLM and form a peaceful national movement for a genuine change and restore our dignity and pride among the nations.

For instance, myself, as a true and a loyal SPLM member since its inception has come to terms with the inevitability that the SPLM as a party as well as its vision have sadly died with our hero and is no more. We’d consign the SPLM to history in our hearts and minds and move on.

We’re faced with another challenge, which needs our collective efforts to triumph. We can’t stay idle and wait for the unknown to come to rescue whilst we’re capable of getting it done ourselves. The people of South Sudan emerged triumphant against all sorts of oppression from the Anglo-Egyptian rule to the Northerners’ rule by Sudan’s elites.

We’d not let ourselves be divided by the ruling clique in Juba along tribal lines. We aren’t just a collection of tribes, but we’re proud South Sudanese people, qualified as a nation state.

Last but not least, let’s come together and get it done. Nelson Mandela once said; “it always seems impossible until it’s done”, yes, we can do it. Long live the struggles of the people of South Sudan.

This statement was released to mark the glorious 16th May, the day when the people of South Sudan took up arms for the third time.

Dr Matur Gorjok Gak, the Chairman of the “National People’s Movement” (NPM)
24 May 2019

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