SYNOPSIS: The recent rush of decision or indecision by President Kiir to lure and force the stranded IO Ministers in hotels to denounce their chairman is another attempt to derail the peace process. As evidences of what triggered the recent j1 fight continue to surface, Kiir actually had a handful disgruntled gentlemen within IO whom he trusted and can lean on to if it was all then a gloom and doom for Dr Machar. On the same context, fortunately or unfortunately when the IO chairman survived the onslaught on his life, Kiir leaned successfully on the disgruntled men, this time using his misunderstood clauses in the peace agreement to force a decision from the group to denounce, and to finally replace their leader Machar. For Kiir, a lot of events and deadly spins had to occur then to force this coerced decision through IO Ministers and supporters throats:
1) firstly, Kiir said he didn’t know who started the fight at J1. Here He’s trying to make a case that a different force (rather than his) caused the fight. Throwing the blame in open air for further interpretation and manipulation. Interpretation: because the IO officials in hotels then wouldn’t know who caused the fighting. And as they would be disconnected from their chairman, the whole thing would then go down as that their chairman’s guards caused the fight, putting their (Ministers) lives at risk. Hence the reason for IO officials statements in hotels whom through this calculated misunderstanding fell debunked by their chairman.
Manipulation: in a sense that loose elements in the form of Dau Aturjuong could easily be compelled that the ‘Nuer’ started the war again and they should reconsider their positions from IO.
Also that truth spinners like Ateny, Morgan and Buay etc can be deployed in between the confusion to croak the truth with statements like : “Machar was carrying a pistol “…..”his forces had 20 trucks when they came to attack J1” etc. Here, the idea is to isolate and force Dr Machar out as quick as possible
2) Before the fight, and way beofore the earlier murder of IO intelligence chief Col George Gisma, Taban had already fallen out with the IO and its leader. The upshot was due to Ministerial selections. 10 of which were allotted to SPLMIO by ARCISS. Taban wanted an oil Ministry portfolio, Dr Riek instead appointed Dak Dup in the recommendations of IO hierarchy. For Gen Taban, the oil ministry must be his or his contribution in the movement isn’t appreciated and underlooked. Taban as a result refused to attend IO leadership meetings but refuses to denounce IO. Instead he wished to stay in AWOL. The then meeting called by the IO chairman to defuse the tension didn’t bear fruits as Taban assured him of allegiance, a false one. Smartly, President Kiir saw the opportunity to deepen the friction. He would make Taban engage with his subordinates, the likes of Makuei and Akol Paul to make him closer to him. When J1 fight broke out, it was only Taban ‘from IO’ standing shoulder to shoulder with Makuei to reassure the public that all is well and “the President is in control of the situation”. You wonder why Taban and not Ladu Gore the Deputy Chief of IO who was also in the hotel with Taban? The plan was to anoint and position Taban, and throttle him down the throats of IO as a forced successor to his hated boss. Under the blankets of crown hotel, Taban found a reason to sleep and snore without any fear for his life. As he secured himself, he wanted to extend the same political “olive branch” to his fear-gripped comrades guarded in hotels by Mathiang Anyors. Here, the comrades either have to heed to his call for a different change of direction or they would live in fear for good. Obviously, a man heavily guarded by his own enemy can make any promise in the world and submit to any request in return for his live. Through the help of Kiir, his subordinates, Taban succeeded (with little effort and under no serious duress) in convincing some IO comrades in the hotels in the pretext of safeguarding the peace agreement.
3) The recent appearance of Gen Taban, Ezekiel Lol and Alfred Ladu on SSBC served the same organised plan by President Kiir to dismantle Dr Machar and the IO, and consequently the ARCISS to the point of no return. Contrary to what Napoleon once said : “Never interfere with an enemy while he’s in the process of destroying himself”, President Kiir helped the group in their attempt to destroy their IO; and all in the interest of keeping him in power. Because a toothless handpicked Deputy can never mount a challenge. He/She can’t bite the hands that feed him/her. So the trio’s appearance on SSBC this week is to lay-bare what Taban and Kiir have been cooking under the blankets all along and right before the J1 incident. Its also truth-worthy to note that the appearances at J1 by the ‘Nuer Elders’ served the same purpose; that the hungry ‘anti-Machar groups within the Nuer community must be brought out, shown on the TV, meet with the president’ to fulfill the agenda of eliminating Dr Machar in perpetuity. For President Kiir, it doesn’t matter which way he gets rid of his ambitious VP of 8 years and FVP for 3 months, deadly or otherwise. However, one thing the trio led by Taban and Kiir fatally ignored was the power of ARCISS in TGONU in relation to replacement of any cabinet minister or FVP. ARCISS clearly spelt it out that: In event that the post of a cabinet minister or FVP becomes vacant, its incumbent upon that party (where the minister, FVP or President come from) to replace him or her”. In the case of IO, the post of FVP wasn’t vacant, the occupant was only militarily chased out by his president in breach of the ARCISS. If otherwise, the replacement too need to be discussed by the hierarchy of IO chaired by a chairman (which the IO at hotels don’t have as a result of this breach.)
4) Kiir’s 48 hours ultimatum only serves the same thing. that if Machar doesn’t turn up after those hours, Gen Taban in particular will be appointed by Kiir himself as the FVP. Two days ago, President Kiir confided to the CCTV that ” there is an idea coming from the IO ministers that they can replace Dr Machar to allow the peace agreement to go a head” . He went on to say that he will study the legality of the idea before talking about the appointment. Of course the idea is not legal as it contravene the ARCISS and he knows that. But for him, any illegal means of survival is admissible. and that’s the creed of every dictator, past and present. But a regrettable one in the face of the tribalised South Sudan politics as the appointee, in this case Taban won’t add anything to Kiir’s desire to stay on power.
On the ultimatum, Dr Machar too has no desire to come back quickly knowing that he survived gunships onslaught in his home. Unless a buffer force is brought by IGAD as promised or his troops reinforced and airlifted, the 48 hours ultimatum will come to pass. You can only give an ultimatum to someone under your command or whom you can defeat militarily; which is not the case here. So after 48 hours, Kiir can go a head with the appointment but the magnitude of the conflict will remain the same but the direction of the peace agreement will change.
WHY IO AND DR RIEK ARE INSEPARABLE TWINS
If anything taught us about decades of intra-South Sudan conflicts, the attempts made by Kiir and the disgruntled group within the IO against Dr Riek Machar will only make his base community stronger. In the SPLA wars if 1990s, there was no one with astoningly huge fan base in Nuer land than Riek Machar. You would think that a divided community then with various warlords with different loyalties to Dr Garang, Bashir and Machar than would weaken him but never. This fan base was carried on and reflected in the eruption of the crisis in December, 2013; when a marauding deadly white army threatened to storm Juba, only to be thwarted back by the might of UPDF with fighter jets and cluster bombs.
Coupled with the new alliances in Shilluk and Equatoria, this fan base is still intact. With this type of decades old loyalty, Dr Machar feel secured politically. Succinctly for the loyalists, its no more about just the objectives he is fighting for but what part of the aisle he is in at a given situation.
In the context of this loyalty and his new broad-base of support, its impossible to detach, replace or remove Dr Machar from any party (SPLMIO or otherwise); he’s a chairman of unless decided by him or by vote (which he often prefers). Any individual too under his command risks the possibility of being isolated by this base. The recent example being Gen Peter Gatdet Yak, Gen Tanginye, Gen Gathoth Gatkuoth and Gen Chuol Gakah. War-hardened Generals whose careers now appear to be in tatters. The ongoing attempt by Taban and group of some IO officials will likely go the same way. Because neither of the senior rebelling IO officials have any base to claim any legitimacy to undermine his leadership. You would say, they have nothing to bring to the political mortgage market a part from showing up on TVs and Press.
But the current ARCISS peace agreement provides a good platform for any of his opponents to lessen this loyalty: through formation of a diverse coalitions driven by ideas. This can be done through promises for development (something Kiir himself should have done in 2013 before running in havoc targeting a specific ethnicity) in his strong bases and not through wars or attempts on his life. A platform for peace, democracy and fair competition based on good policies is the only way to remove and detach Dr Machar from his strong base instead of short-term loyalties, war threats and group interests. Some of which his bases don’t entertain nor care about, as they see that they are only using their beloved son for political projects of ascending to somewhere, tribal weakness and as such viewed as betrayers.
NOTE: THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED HEREIN DO NOT REFLECT THAT OF THE UPPER NILE TIMES.