There are a lot of things going on now in the South that requires urgent actions before the referendum period scheduled for January 9, 2011. The political dissidence, arms rebellion, and internal division among Southerners are the most pressing issues in the South that calls for political solutions right away at this critical hour. The Government of South Sudan (GOSS) under the leadership of President Kiir has a window of opportunity, like in 2005 and 2006 when stakes were high, to once again bring all Southerners on board before the “Big Picture” (Referendum.)
Bringing everybody on board is a workable formula needed at this moment. The 2006 Juba Declaration between SPLA/M and other arm groups did work. The same formula is again needed so badly given the stakes at hand and the pressure from the international community.
For me and many other Southerners, pardoning those Generals, Kiir and Lam meeting, and up-coming South-South dialogue are the right things to do. If all are achieved, this would serve as a prove to the international community and many cynics in the region that we (Southerners) are a people capable of tackling not only big things, but also impossible things. These developments would also create conducive atmosphere and guarantee the security in the South so that peaceful conduct of referendum exercise go uninterrupted on time.
In a nutshell, the future of South Sudan is a shared responsibility and that cannot be achieved if we are divided internally. In other words, the future of the South cannot be achieved by A or Y alone, but by all of us when we have internal unity. Our internal divisions have caused us huge prices for so long and we cannot afford to live with that anymore. We have to move forward as one people with clear political direction and objectives.
On October 6, 2010, The President of the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) and Commander-in-Chief of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), General Salva Kiir Mayardit, has issued an Executive Order, pardoning senior army officers who rebelled or fought against the SPLA forces before and after April’s elections. Among them were those of Major General Gatwech Chan, also known as Gabriel Tanginye, Lt. General George Athor Deng and Colonel Gatluak Gai. The presidential decree also urged those Generals to rejoin the ranks and files of the SPLA forces and move freely in the South. Kiir also said that the pardon will not come into effect unless the three officers unconditionally lay down their arms and rejoin the SPLA.
Major General Tanginye was accused by GOSS of causing military confrontations with the SPLA in 2006 and 2008, which left about three hundred people dead in the Upper Nile state’s capital of Malakal. General Athor and Colonel Gai have also rebelled and clashed with the SPLA in protest of the outcome of the gubernatorial elections in Jonglei and Unity states, respectively.
Causes of their rebellions
Many could conclude that both Gen. Athor and Col. Gai were either wrong or right in rebelling against GOSS under the SPLM leadership given the way the last April elections were conducted. It depends on what side you take and what you believe in.
On the other hand, Major General Gatwech Chan (General Tanginye) rebellion against the SPLA/M is a long story that goes back to the eighties when the SPLA Movement was still in its infancy. There is no clear reason known by many Southerners of why he rebelled. What I personally can say is that he might either have disagreed for whatever reason with the SPLA leadership or being influenced by other senior officers who had been opposing SPLA/M for one reason or the other.
Consequences of their rebellions
Their rebellions have caused some precious lives in our communities. Those caught-up and died in the processes of the fights were innocent ones. They just died in vain when they should not have been victims. There is a saying that “causative never been a victim, but the innocent one.” Those who have died were either civilians or armed soldiers executing orders of their bosses or defending their bosses in such unnecessarily wars. Gabriel Tanginye has been accused by the Southern authorities to have caused the death of about 300 persons and destruction of uncounted properties in 2006 & 2008 Malakal clashes between his forces and SPLA army. This was a big loss at the time when civilians in Malakal were supposed to be enjoying relative peace like other cities in the South.
General Athor was forced to rebel against orders ordering him to go to Juba. This happened when he lost the governorship election to Kuol Manyang Juuk in Jonglei state in April 2010. The plan to attack and capture him in his hometown resulted into SPLA forces division into two camps. Those who wanted to execute the orders of his capture and those who rejected such orders. As a result, those who opposed the orders rebelled and took lives of their friends at Doleib Hills. Those who committed those atrocities later reported to Gen. Athor in his home village. He never attacked any civilian villages or SPLA army barrack; he would always act in self-defense when attacked by SPLA forces.
Col. Gatluak Gai was said to have attacked SPLA army barrack in Unity State at the time of his rebellion. Some people were killed when SPLA soldiers and his men exchanged gunfire. He was then defeated and chased from the area. Because he was overwhelmed by the SPLA forces, he chose to live in the hideout places somewhere between Warrap, Unity, and Southern Kordofan states. He is said to have been promised to be appointed for commissionership position in one of the counties in Unity State by former candidate, Angelina Teny for Unity State governorship had she won the election.
These military consequences have shaken our communities. This also caused social and economic consequences in the areas where confrontations occurred. Human rights violations were also committed against the innocent civilians, especially in Pigi County where Gen. Athor belongs. Young and old women alike were tortured, beaten, and raped at gunpoint against their will by the people army, the SPLA. Villages were also burnt to the ground. And as a result, there are humanitarian and health crises in the area now as we speak today.
The only viable solution is justice that serves as win-win solutions for parties to the conflict. What President Kiir did has exactly underscored the win-win solutions formula. Both parties have achieved or lose parts of their claims. Common sense and public opinion too have convinced General Athor to accept the presidential amnesty. Maj. Gen. Tanginye and Col. Gai have yet to confirm their positions publicly so that the process of their incorporation into SPLA is accelerated once and for all.
For those who are opposing the General Amnesty for these Generals for one reason or the other, I say to you that you are on the wrong side of history my friends. We cannot afford internal division throughout the South at this critical moment when the international community is watching us in how we deal with our own political differences and the referendum processes for possible secession of South Sudan in 2011. We have gone through trials and difficulties during the liberation era. These crises always happen in great revolutions. Our journey of struggle and liberation can be well characterized as a revolution by its all accounts, if you will.
President Kiir and Dr. Lam Akol Meeting
The meeting between Dr. Kiir and Dr. Lam was a good gesture for internal unity among Southerners. Many Southerners welcomed the move and once again praised President Kiir Leadership for reaching-out to those political opponents who opposed GOSS under SPLM leadership for one reason or the other. The 2006 Juba Declaration that brought on board major rebel factions did work, and reduced the would-be major military confrontations between SPLA army and other armed groups in the last five years in the South.
Our internal division has cost us huge prices for so long. What is needed now is internal unity among Southerners rather than internal division. For those who are ignorant about internal division, those who benefit from it are our external enemies in the North. Southerners never benefited from such divisions with the exception of politicians who use such divisions for their own gains at the expense of other innocent ones in the South. Lam is a dangerous being who cannot be ignored or isolated politically. He got to be engaged and be part of the political processes in the South given his personal interests and ambitions. He does not wants anything more than political recognition and the likes. If he does not have all these, he would always work hard to spoil what is good for the South for the sake of destroying it. And because of all these, he has to be always involved in whatever the South does such that he does not spoil our political achievements.
I personally welcomed the reconciliation meeting between him and President Kiir mediated by Bona Malwal. I also welcomed Dr. Lam statement that he has no personal differences with President Kiir, but political differences caused by last April elections.
What is funny here is that Bona Mawal has mediated President Kiir and Lam. His current position on referendum is not clear to the Southern public. Beside, he had already created enough enemies in the South for a long time. He too, needs to come on board as well instead of mediating between other political foes.
The upcoming South-South is something that has been done before. The SPLM with other political parties convened some years ago and agreed on major issues related to governance, CPA implementations, and Referendum exercise among others. Those opposition parties that have been left out during the previous dialogue and the newly incepted ones like the SPLM-DC are the ones working for such dialogue to happen given their political activities in the region and the upcoming referendum.
The main agendas, I believe would not be the renegotiation of the previous agendas, but resolving the political differences caused by the last April elections and how to incorporate those opposition parties which were absent during the previous negotiations and agreements.
Yes, for South-South dialogue for Southern united front. We welcome that, however, the talk should dwell on the broader issues in general and specifically on issues such as political association and operation of political parties in the South as well as the referendum arrangements. These two agenda should top the list of the negotiation items as far as Southerners are concerned.
We want to unite before referendum exercise not only to create peaceful atmosphere for the exercise, but also to prove those who have been going around arguing that South Sudanese are not capable of ruling themselves when they become separate nation should the vote confirms separation of the South from old Sudan of inclusivity and injustice to new Republic of South Sudan of inclusivity and justice.
That those pardoned Generals be incorporated as soon as possible. That contact between them and SPLA HQs is established to pave the way for reunification of their armed soldiers and mother SPLA.
President Kiir also asserted that the pardon will not come into effect unless the three officers unconditionally lay down their arms and rejoin the SPLA. I am a little bit confused here of what the President meant by this. If he meant that those Generals to stop fighting and join the mother SPLA without leaving any military possessions, then that would be clear because we need those of Athor and Gatluak Gai to bring whatever military possessions with them. If they leave them behind, these ammunitions will fall into the wrong hands and ultimately be used by wrong people for other purposes. I hope that I made myself clear on this point.
The Southern government also needs to reach out to other generals such as Gordon Kong Chol, Mabor Dhot, Tom Daldum, and the rest of Southern Generals in the North so that they too decide early should they become interested to return to SPLA army.
That all Southern parties, especially those base in Khartoum be relocated to Southern capital and not be based in Khartoum. If they are relocated to the South, people of the South will then be familiar with political operations and once this happened, this will create trust once and for all.
The South-South dialogue should not start and finishes there in Juba alone; it should also be done at states, counties, payams, and bomas levels. Sudanese Diaspora living in Diaspora too needs to unite their ranks and files as well. There are people who have disserted their counties because they were intimidated by the local authorities for supporting independent or other opposition candidates during the elections. Some who also disagreed on daily basis of how things should be run by the local authorities were chased away, arrested, or even killed.
In conclusion, pardoning those Generals, President Kiir and Dr Lam meeting and upcoming South-South dialogue are welcome. These achievements will serve as a recipe for Southern internal unity.
Lastly, we need those involved in these processes to be faithful and confident in themselves, especially when Southern interest is in the lead rather than individuals’ interests.
I would like to finish here by quoting the former US president, Franklin D. Roosevelt that: “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself … Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”