President Salva Kiir, First Vice President Riek Machar, and their ilk have now made it clear that they are not willing to leave the volatile political scene in South Sudan despite their monumental failures and taking the country repeatedly to war to remain in or attain power.
Their quest, to retain ultimate power, for Kiir, and to attain it, for Machar, has come at the cost of many innocent South Sudanese lives, and suffering and has reduced the people to the wretched of the earth.
The leadership of Kiir, his cabal, and the SPLM has been a monumental failure of epic proportions. Name just one thing or development project this lot has seen to fruition. They even unabashedly go to the citizenry and try to take credit for what donors have done. The latest is Freedom Bridge which fortunately we know as a gift from the Japanese people.
Kiir and his unscrupulous lot have thrived on mendacities which have resulted in the continued suffering of the people. Ultimately, when their deceit has been challenged, they have resorted to Khmer Rouge tactics of illegally detaining, disappearing, and killing vocal voices.
The top leadership in South Sudan has over time recurrently shown gross ineptitude and that they are in power for the perks and money and not to do the work and serve the people. Scandal, treachery, and corruption are their stock in trade.
The latest scandal arose from the cabinet’s unilateral decision to dredge the tributaries of the Nile River and look into the resumption of works to complete the controversial Jonglei Canal-naturally at the behest of Egypt.
When the media reported the arrival of river dredging equipment in Unity State, all hell broke loose, the shit literally hit the fan and the inept government in Juba found its fractured ranks facing a people united for the first time. The members of the cabinet and other government officials who have always regarded the South Sudanese people with disdain went into panic mode and outdid each other in telling even more lies.
A few ministers and presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek even denied knowledge of plans to dredge the Bahr el Ghazal Basin and said they were not informed about the arrival of the Egyptian equipment. A blatant lie, since it came to light that President Kiir actually chaired the cabinet meeting which approved the river dredging project. Anyway, as the adage says, there is no honor among thieves.
This journalist has seen a leaked document titled ‘Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Government of the Republic of South Sudan for flood mitigation in Bahr el Jebel Basin Project in the Republic of South Sudan’.
The agreement was signed on 28 July 2021 in Cairo by Dr. Mahamed Abdel Aty, minister of water resources and irrigation on behalf of Egypt, and the late Manawa Peter Gatkuoth on behalf of South Sudan.
The salient point in the document, which pertains to this piece, is Article 11 which deals with confidentiality. It states:
“Both parties are obligated not to disclose, use, or publish information and documents exchanged, or any results related to the implementation of the memorandum of understanding, except after obtaining the written consent from the other party,” it adds. “This obligation remains in effect during the validity of the memorandum of understanding and this commitment includes employees of both parties and any other parties affiliated with any of them and participating in the implementation of the memorandum of understanding.”
Clearly, the unity government in Juba blessed and is determined to go ahead with the project. The so-called public consultations which ended last week in Juba were a charade to hoodwink the nonconforming public. As it is said in the Boondocks, “It is a charade, wrapped in a facade, covered in a lie”.
There was a convoluted web of lies before, during, and after the death of the late minister of irrigation and water resources, Manawa Peter Gatkouth (May his Soul Rest in Peace). Unfortunately, it is now clear that the leadership in Juba threw him under the bus.
However, the government’s consummate character trait of closing civic space and stifling public debate was voiced by Cabinet Affairs Minister Martin Elia Lomuro when he referred to South Sudanese debating national issues on social media as “social media criminals”.
Interestingly, only a few years ago, before he started enjoying the perks of being in cabinet, Dr. Lomuro was an avid ‘democrat’ and advocated for inalienable freedoms of the citizenry.
Before the CPA, he was the chairman of the London-based South Sudan Democratic Forum (SSDF). Grippingly, the outfit’s motto was; ‘To be a Nation we must be united. To be united we must espouse justice, equality, peace, and freedom to all our people regardless of their tribe, clan, gender, region, religion or political affiliation’.
In February 2005, Dr. Lomuro put out the mission statement of the SSDF which among other points said they believed in the democratization of Sudan.
“The South Sudan Democratic Forum believes in the democratization of the political system in Sudan – South Sudan in particular. The people of South Sudan have a political right, to mandate their government through free and fair democratic elections, that will prepare, supervise and conduct the referendum on Self-determination on their behalf towards the end of the interim period,” he wrote at the time. “Only a government freely elected by the people has the right to claim the legitimacy of leading the people to exercise their right to Self-determination in confidence and without the fear of having the referendum sabotaged or rigged.”
At the time Lomuro was fiercely and feverishly opposed to Dr. John Garang and the SPLM but ironically he wrote in SSDF’s manifesto that they supported the SPLA. The Irony!
One wonders at what point the good minister underwent a ‘Pauline reversal’. I still remember him cutting a debonair figure at the bar at Bros Hotel in Juba circa 2006, imbibing his then favorite Famous Grouse whisky while enthralling and hypothesizing about the development of the new country that would soon emerge from the ruins of war. He has since turned into an abrasive and cavalier trumpeter in defense of the failed Kiir administration.
The same Dr. Lomuro is now castigating and calling the citizenry who have found a voice on social media due to the truncated civic space in the country criminals. Imaginably, the good doctor, being a veterinarian, may be accustomed to his patients being speechless even when prodded with hot metal but he should know that humans, even perceivably browbeaten ones, react when they have had enough. The people of South Sudan have had enough!
I digress if only to paint a picture of the current crop of leaders at the helm of the now eviscerated aspirations of the people of South Sudan.
Back to the failure of the regime in Juba, the government seems to have now surrendered the management of the water resources of the country to Cairo. This is the accurate perception on the streets and among the citizenry both within and outside the country. How can one blame them when there are reports from officialdom which said the crude oil of the country has been auctioned off till 2027?
Transparency, in matters of the national coffer, acquisition of loans, and public expenditure, is anathema to Kiir and his lot. They rather keep the public in a dark silent grave on such matters. The regime simply failed to manage the expectations of the people and stopped paying heed to them altogether.
Should the people of South Sudan continue trusting these consummate plunderers and fibbers? Well, we shall soon know in the event of a free, fair, and transparent election! Failing this, it is an inalienable right of the people of South Sudan to ask them to step aside or run them off into the Nile.
Kiir and his cabal have been leeching off the people and the financial chest of the country since 2005, in the process siphoning off billions of dollars. The CPA era was aptly referred to as the ‘crude accumulation phase’ and the leaders were left to their devices because it was thought that no one should upend the peace and scuttle the referendum. It was also thought that the ‘liberators’ deserved to ‘wet their beaks’ in appreciation for the sacrifices they made during the war. Little did we, the people of South Sudan, know that their thirst is insatiable and would soon turn into an unquenchable addiction for our very blood?
To paraphrase the renowned Pan Africanist Professor PLO Lumumba, our leaders habitually behave like hunters and gatherers. The only difference is that they nowadays gather money, land, houses, and cars.
After the independence which was the result of a plebiscite, however, it was believed that the ‘liberators’ were satiated and would embark on developing the country and delivering much-needed services to the people. Alas, this was not meant to be. The looting continued unabated, with even more gusto. That is when the people started to wake up to the reality of the vices of the leaders. Kiir became ultra vires and started manifesting his true dictatorial prowess. The SPLM fragmented in the latter half of 2013 and the nascent country went into a war of attrition which is still killing innocent people to date. The rest is history!
Ever inventive in their maladroitness, they have now come up with a novel way of duplicity in uncultured larceny. They simply take loans in opaque ways in the name of the country and against the crude oil. They are literally drinking crude oil from a hosepipe! There is no transparency in how and for what said loans are taken and or spent.
We are better off paying them out of power I say before they leave future generations destitute and in unpayable debt.
Isn’t what they have pilfered enough? Do the current leaders want another government in the future to scrutinize their wealth, institute back duty investigations, and or take possession of their assets? Perhaps this is why they are clinging to power? I would rather they negotiate their way out peacefully-even if it means us paying them off. Late Baba Moi did it next door and Kenya is now flourishing democratically.
Fascinatingly, Kiir keeps repeating that he will not take the country back to war. Don’t his handlers tell him that English is a generic language and that by saying he will not take the country back to war, he is explicitly implying that he took the country to war?
Kiir, in one of his many gaffes sometime back, said he would not send soldiers or the police to intervene in communal clashes but would rather use them to surround and protect himself. For once he lived up to his word and now there is indeed runaway communal violence across the country, including in Warrap State where Kiir hails from, where over a dozen senior officers of the SSPDF were recently killed by armed villagers. Is this a leader worth being given the mandate of the people?
The debilitating effects of the senseless war are still and will continue to be felt by the next generations.
This is precisely why we must pay off this lot to leave power. In the long run, it will be a very affordable and a minuscule price as juxtaposed to leaving them in power. Trust me!
Kiir, his cabal, and the elements in government do not know the meaning of a social contract with or their obligations to the people of South Sudan. They have demonstrated this often by killing them and gobbling up monies meant for service delivery.
Purported leaders who are not used to being held accountable by the citizenry have now gathered in Juba under the auspices of a unity government and are stuffing themselves with the spoils of war. However, they now find themselves annoyingly faced with the prospects of elections and a raging debate on whether they ceded power over the management of the county’s water resources to Cairo.
They are now scared after the rude realization that the people are now woke and tired of their shenanigans. This however makes the inept leaders even more dangerous as they will gang up to disenfranchise the people, yet again.
SPLM and the late Dr. Garang had many rosy, but actionable plans for the people and country. Those ideas seem to have not only been shelved but set ablaze.
One wonders what campaign platforms Kiir, Riek et al will stand on if they go ahead with what will clearly be a sham election-in the event they go ahead with it without implementing the peace agreement to the letter and proper preparations.
The report cards of Kiir, Machar, et al over the years returned F-Fail and have only gotten worse. The final report card is out and they have nothing to write home about for there is no failure in leadership that they have not committed. The so-called leaders in Juba have been the bane of the South Sudanese people from the time Dr. Garang died in 2005, through 2013 to date.
Pay them $5 billion each I say, if it will see them out of power, for the price of keeping them in power is more exorbitant. The suffering people of South Sudan can even give them, their families, and cronies amnesty, if only to sweeten the deal.
Like Oliver Cromwell told the Rump Parliament in England on 20 April 1653, we the people of South Sudan also tell Kiir, Machar, and their lot, “It is not fit that you should sit here any longer. You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing lately… In the name of God, go!”
The author, Koka Lo’Lado, is a journalist and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org