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South Sudan crisis is struggle within SPLM

Ikebesi Omoding

South Sudan crisis is struggle within SPLM

President Salva Kiir’s announcement of a “coup” attempt and subsequent arrest eleven senior members of the SPLM was on the heels of a fractious SPLM conference which broke up inconclusively and with some delegates exchanging blows within the conference room. His main problem was to forestall, Dr. Riek Machar from taking over the chairmanship of the party.

The talk about the altercation between the two being purely a tribal conflict between the Dinka and the Loul Nuer, James Maku Wani Iga, who itm is said was Garang’s anointed successor. But at the time, Iga is said to have given the nod to Kiir, ahead of himself and Machar.

Probably Garang would not have considered Machar because they had had disagreements before, within the SPLM/A.  Indeed, by the time of signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), in 2005 in Nairobi,  Machar had recently returned to the SPLM/SPLA after initially breaking away to form his SSPLM/A, and allying himself with Sudan’s regime of Marsahall Mohammed al Bashir, whom both of them had fought against.

So SPLA is merely a collection of militia groups betoken to “warlords” such as Kiir, Machar, Iga and the rest. In fact, it is said that Mrs. Rebecca Garang, the wife of the late leaders is an influential brigadier in the SPLA. When Iga became the Speaker of the Parliament of South Sudan, he did not come with all his militia to join the SPLA. It was only in the last six or seven months when he succeeded Machar as vice president that his militia was integrated into the SPLA.  

As SPLM vice chairman, Machar was instrumental in boththe SPLM and the SPLA. In the process he got endeared to the party electorate who compose both the military and political organization, ahead of Kiir, because he had earlier deeper roots within.  

Secondly there is unbelievable corruption, nepotism and cronyism practiced by Kiir. To try to  get a foothold within the SPLM, he has traduced the Constitution and has actively been replacing the locally elected officials all over the country with his relatives, in-laws and friends. Also, his style of leadership is laid back with his opponents saying that he spends some of his valuable time in night clubs.  

It should be noted that Machar run the oil portfolio as the vice president, having been put there by Garang on their coming to power. He set up the National Oil corporation  and as such  would have had considerable influence in its say-so.

So when Kiir first sacked his finance minister, Kosti Manibe, before the sacking of the whole cabinet in July last year, the issue boded on the oil and 4 billion dollars that was stolen. Cabinet minister, Deng Alor and SPLM Secretary General, Pagan Amum., were also mentioned in the investigation that was taking place in connection with the disappearance of this money. Perhaps Kiir wanted a cut of the pie, too. These are the three officials that Kiir is refusing to release, accusing them of being criminals.

On sacking the whole cabinet, Kiir promoted Wani Iga to vice president. This was to entice Iga to integrate all his 60,000-strong militia into the SPLA. This process was going on as a conference of the SPLM was being summoned to debate the issues for the next elections in 2015. One of the contentious issues was the election of the party office bearers to its executive committee.  Those vying for the chairmanship, apart from the incumbent Kirr, were; Machar and Amum, but with Machar as a clear front runner.

In the present interviews he is giving, Machar has been at pains to stress that he wanted to be the “flag bearer” of the party. The thing which sparked off the fighting was the disagreement within Kiir bodyguard. It is now known that there was an attempt to replace the Loul Nuer soldiers who formed his body guard with some of the soldiers from Wani Iga’s recently incorporated militia to the SPLA. This is the genesis of the South Sudan crisis.




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Ikebesi Omoding is the acclaimed author of a weekly column titled: From the Outside Looking In

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