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EDITORIAL: Apology by President Salva Kiir Now Rightfully Due!

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UNT – Now the whole world has acknowledged that there was absolutely no coup attempt on President Salva Kiir’s regime on December 15, 2013. It is now clear that the South Sudan crisis was sparked by in-fighting of President Kiir’s presidential guard brigade.

Kiir informed the world that his former vice president, now rebel leader, Dr. Riek Machar planned an overthrow of the Juba regime, sparking the South Sudan crisis. But Riek Machar insisted all along that Kiir organized the chaos to forcefully purge political opponents from government. The chaos in South Sudan has resulted in thousands of loss of lives as well as a devastating and spiraling tribal-based civil war.

This new position on what sparked the crisis, follows a revelation by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni reported on June 11, 2014. Many media sources believe that Museveni’s soldiers (UPDF) were already deployed in Juba a few days before fighting erupted there. Museveni made the statement while attending a Kiir-Machar unity summit at the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) meeting in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia.

With this new light, the honorable response that President Salva Kiir owes the world and South Sudanese is an apology. It shouldn’t be only the damage control well calculated pep talk that this week Sudan Tribune reported that Kiir gave to his ruling clique in Juba purposely to save face for his embattled regime. The President reportedly warned the ruling clique against saying any ills about Uganda and Museveni. But Kiir should now deliver a humble apology for the deliberate misleading of the world about the chaos that he apparently planned and executed.

On the day of the fabricated coup, Kiir calculatingly arrested several former government ministers and SPLA officials and detained them for months citing their participation in that alleged plot to overthrow Kiir’s regime. In the ensuing chaos, it is believed that Kiir’s presidential guard brigade and especially the Tiger Battalion unit owned personally by him massacred hundreds of Nuers and other local citizens. Kiir’s men also went on rampage after former vice president Riek Machar allegedly to harm or arrest him. And the army reportedly cleanly obliterated Machar’s government Juba home and killed most of his bodyguards.

For weeks, Kiir’s regime determinedly tried some of the detainees who were audaciously charged with treason. On many occasions, the government threatened that any convicted detainees would carry the maximum sentence for treason. That could mean the death penalty. But pressure built up by the International Community on Kiir to release the detainees untouched. Kiir then changed the tone saying the detainees would be tried and if found guilty, could be pardoned as a gesture for peace. And in a calculating twist, Kiir’s regime court acquitted all of the detainees on accounts of their total innocence.

Had there not been sufficient pressure from the International Community, the innocent detainees could have been convicted and perhaps imprisoned or executed. Additionally, Kiir calculatingly made a bias pre-judgement of the detainees assuming their guilt even before their actual court trials started. He insinuated granting a presidential pardon after court trials to save the detainees. Political experts suggest that this strategy was aimed at inflicting humiliation on the feared detainees in a calculated move to kill their future political ambitions.

But the real pressure that released Pagan Amum and his group came from Dr. Riek Machar’s mass and effective military resistance. That resistance has threatened to overthrow the regime. Machar maintained the innocence of the detainees and demanded their immediate release. Machar fought and captured towns and held on to them in a real show of strength for the bidding. The South Sudan crisis has yielded a federalism debate as perhaps best suited for governing the war-weary and the highly tribally-aligned nation.

However, some prominent politicians have been quickly dismissal of federalism as dangerous. But some South Sudanese are saying the nation’s electorate deserves a national referendum on the matter. They are arguing that the impulse and legitimacy of federalism can be gauged in a national referendum, not through decisions of corrupt politicians. Kiir is asserting that federalism will break the unity of the internal front. But people are asking what internal front means? Is internal front the dictatorship ruling clique in Juba? Or, is government rejection of federalism for preservation and protection of the status quo for the privileged current regime rulers? These are some of the questions that politically enlightened South Sudanese are assertively asking.

Genuinely, some ordinary South Sudanese voices are rising against federalism rule for South Sudan. Some of the arguments are that federalism must grow naturally before its embrace by a population. So, therefore, it ought to be a consideration only for a distant future for South Sudan. But is this a valid argument even when many nations around the world have embraced federalism rule right at their births and prospered? Many people would ponder this question.

And, a prominent Kiir regime official, Vice President James Igga Wani, is prematurely killing the federation debate. His argument for rejection of federalism is interestingly fuzzy. Wani says federalism is bad for South Sudan because government enemy Dr. Riek Machar is advocating for it. But many South Sudanese have questioned Wani’s main motive, basically because, Wani did embrace the federalism idea while serving as the speaker of South Sudan parliament. Contrarily, federalism or no federalism, re-structuring the power structure is what could be key for political salvation of South Sudan. The real curse of South Sudan politics is emerging from the absence of a viable national ruling Constitution.

The present South Sudan power structure is deeply centered in the presidency branch of government. The parliament is merely a rubber stamp of the president and so is the nation’s judiciary. Typically, in a centralized rule, the heaping of power in the presidency is what seeds authoritarianism. Authoritarianism revolves into a regime and not into administration. This is the strongman leadership phenomenon that is commonplace practice in Africa’s politics. Salva Kiir leaped into dictatorship in the very same manner.

The absence of transparency and checks and balances in the Constitution is itself a revelation of South Sudan’s tremendously deceptive democratic system. It is a fuzzy democracy. The fallacy in the ruling Constitution is what empowers the president to fire even an elected state governor and other elected government officials. Salva Kiir has wielded this power exclusively in the past. This is politically a cancerous train wreck for a nation. However, if put into real action, the recently proposed political reforms for South Sudan could be the milestone for tomorrow’s hope!

The IGAD-sponsored peace talks in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, have endorsed the formation of an interim government that will lead to holding fresh presidential elections. The plan also proposes the re-writing of South Sudan national Constitution and will introduce other meaningful reforms in the governing body of the nation.

But, because of the nature of politics in Africa and despite the regrettable excesses of Mr. Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar, IGAD is putting the two men in the very center of any major political reforms in South Sudan. These leaders are the major political players of the moment because of the military power they wield.

As for the contribution of the former Kiir political detainees, many now view them as politicians imbued with ungratefulness and opportunism interests. The group’s leader, former SPLA Secretary General Pagan Amum, has formed own political platform possibly vying for president of the interim government proposed to hold presidential elections. Soon as their hard-fought release got secured, the former court-acquitted detainees selfishly dumped Dr. Riek Machar.

Pagan Amum has released press statements saying he rejects the senseless war and killings and that he and his team are independent from both Salva Kiir and Riek Machar. But had it not been for Machar’s rebel resistance movement, Pagan Amum and his colleagues could perhaps not been released. Pagan Amum apparently forgot all about the December 15, 2013 Juba city massacre of the many innocent South Sudanese, the majority of whom were said to be Pagan’s own Nuer people.

In the wake of this crisis, South Sudanese ought to rise up to defend and protect their bittersweet sweats and expectations of national independence. They should rise up in protection of the oil-rich nation and halt it from sliding to a strongman dictatorship and mismanagement rule. And this will also mean having no tribal lenses in viewing the politics of the day.

The starting point for now is stopping the spiraling bloodletting and the offering of a humble apology and political repentance by Mr. Salva Kiir for causing the first pain of the young nation.

NOTE: The Opinions expressed herein are entirely for the author of the article. The Upper Nile Times has no authority on the contents published here.

The Upper Nile Times

Jacob Odong
Jacob Odong is a journalist by profession. He has served as school teacher and currently works for the State of Texas. Odong lives in the United States of America. For any comments on this article, contact him at kapplan11@yahoo.com

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