Political leaders, elders and intellectuals from South Sudan have – in early April, 2009 – held a conference in Kenana. The conference was supposed to discuss the Government of Sudan (GOSS) non-committal stance to the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment of the President of the Republic, Field Marshal Omar Hasan Ahmad Al-Bashir, and the political, economic and security situations in South Sudan.
In its closing remarks, the conference "categorically rejected the ICC warrant against the President of the Republic and demanded Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) to support this stance; and that SPLM should avoid isolating itself and South Sudan from opposing position to ICC procedures as expressed by the Sudanese people and their political parties." (The Advocate Newspaper, April 5th, 2009, p. 3.).
The conference – as usual – met very strong rejection from the SPLM and its supporters. The common phrase used by some of these SPLM and their supporters to describe the conference is that "the conference was born dead." Why should the conference be born dead? This article will try to discuss the importance of the Kenana and other conferences on South Sudan; reasons for "stillbirths" of conferences in the politics of South Sudan; and whether or not such conferences could add rather than reduce the unity in South Sudan.
Currently politics in South Sudan seem to be driven by SPLM and its supporters. This is not a bad idea at all so long as it does not interfere with the rights of other people who are not necessarily SPLM officials or supporters. But those who refer to a conference that has not even concluded its deliberations as "born dead" are undemocratic.
There are many parties in South Sudan – some of these parties call themselves differently when they are actually part and parcel of the SPLM. There are also those parties which have different names but are actually allied to the National Congress Party (NCP). All this is fine in party politics. But it should not be ignored that there are independent political parties in the South that do not belong or support any of the two major Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) partners.
Thus, any group – not related to SPLM like those that are independent – trying to call for any conference or even gathering in the name of the people of South Sudan have always been discouraged. There are a number of reasons for this kind of behaviour:
A mistaken belief that SPLM, its allies and supporters should draw a roadmap for future developments; be they political or otherwise in South Sudan.
That any other party that does not support or toe the SPLM line is an enemy of the people – 'you are either with us or against us';
That SPLM must be consulted before anything is done about South Sudan; and
That such a conference held without SPLM blessing is "born dead".
The mistaken belief referred to in this article is a fact. For example, the South-South Dialogue which was conducted in Nairobi, Kenya, during the Naivasha negotiations was misunderstood by the SPLM as a power struggle. The South-South Dialogue was and remains a very important issue. Unless misunderstood; but the South-South Dialogue was aimed and would still be aimed at providing a forum for the people of South Sudan. It's a fact that apart from South-North conflict, South Sudanese fought each other in the period prior to the CPA. Forgiveness of each other and opening a new page for relationship between the people of the South were, and remain to be, the main agenda of the South-South Dialogue. What seems to be disuniting the people of South Sudan now is that there are people within the SPLM who believe that those who worked against the SPLM from the South should be thrown away into the dust bin of history.
Either with us or against us
"You're either with us or against us" was a phrase used by the former United States President, G. W. Bush, when drawing the redline between terrorists, those who sponsor terrorism and those who wanted to fight terrorism after September 11th, 2001, terrorist attack - see here bellow: http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/11/06/ret.bush.coalition/index.html For Bush, the phrase wasn't negative because he really wanted to know who amongst his allies were standing by his side.
But this cannot be true in the situations of the SPLM. SPLM is a political party that should endeavour to welcome into its party Sudanese from different walks of life. But a party that considers anybody who might actually be making up his/her mind to join it or has no interest in joining it as an enemy is detrimental to the party. Such a party may not survive for long because it does not trust itself and certainly has no future plans to accommodate more in itself.
SPLM as the main political party governing South Sudan needs to be consulted only when requesting for permission to hold any big political gathering in South Sudan. But referring to Kenana conference as "Born Dead" just because SPLM and its supporters from the other parties think permission was not granted for them to so, is unfair. Kenana is Sudan and certainly those who chose Kenana are sending a clear message to the SPLM that security in South Sudan is not alright. But as South Sudanese they feel that they need to contribute by reminding the SPLM of its obligations as a de facto GOSS.
Kenana Conference" Born Dead"
Why do some people within the SPLM and the parties that support them believe that any conference on South Sudan convened without them is ill-conceived and condemned for a stillbirth? It's important for this question to have an answer, even if it's speculative, it would do the reader good.
It has been misconceived, misconstrued and irrationally understood by some people within the SPLM and its army, SPLA, that they are the South and the South is them. It is on this basis that the mentioned group of SPLM/A has created a serious divide between the people of the South. This same group has divided the people of the South into three categories:
SPLM/A (reference to those who joined SPLM/A lately); and
Those they claim are used by the Arabs (or Jallabah) as they like to call it.
Whether in the SPLM, SPLA or an ordinary citizen, an SPLM/A Proper is always given VIP treatment. This member is supposed to have contributed to the liberation struggle more than the other two categories. AS such s/he deserves to reap from where he saw, whether in political, military or economic spheres.
This is supposed to be an ordinary membership and it refers to those who joined the SPLM/A after the 1990s. It's true though that those who joined the SPLM/A in the 1990s have a mistaken believe that they are part and parcel of the Proper. It's not true and the way they are being treated by SPLM/A Proper testifies to this fact. People falling under this category have security from the Proper planted in and around their workplaces in order to check their activities and ensure that they are not infected by the last group: Those used by the Jallabah.
Those Used by the Jallabah
This group of those South Sudanese who worked with the government in the organised forces and the civil service before and after the CPA have problems reaching the South because if anyone of them does, s/he will be followed or even arrested for false accusations like s/he is sent by the Jallabah to buy people for the NCP. Many of these people are under lock and key in South Sudan's various states.
What SPLM/A should know
SPLM should know that trying to search for an invisible enemy is not a simple thing to do. It's called 'fear of unknown.' This fear of unknown would be bogging the SPLM and its leadership down from trying to do many good things for the people of the South. The enemy the SPLM should really be searching for is within itself not outside. Those in the SPLM who cannot tolerate non-SPLM members of the South Sudan public are the enemy the SPLM is searching for. SPLM may know, but these people may not, that South Sudan does not belong to SPLM or any other political party? The SPLM is just a political party like any other political party that would come to power and shall depart from such power when the time comes.
Importance of Kenana Conference
Kenana conference was necessary because it reactivated the leadership of the South to understand its role in improving the welfare of the South Sudanese people. This is a responsibility which SPLM cannot shoulder alone. The resolutions of the conference are not against the GOSS. They are aimed at improving the general welfare of the people in South Sudan and the welfare of GOSS itself. The importance of the conference is represented in its resolutions. For example one of the most important of this conference's resolutions said that it is "motivated by the desire to see the GOSS succeed in fulfilling the duties assigned to it by the CPA, especially providing peace, security, freedom and peace dividends to (the South Sudanese) people." (The Advocate Newspaper, April 5th, 2009, p. 3.).
Another example from the conference said in one of its resolutions that "the ICC has no legal basis to indict the president of the republic; and that a strong and vocal opposition of the South to the ICC's indictment of the president will certainly influence the decision of the UN Security Council in one way or the other." (The Advocate Newspaper, April 5th, 2009, p। 3.). Another one also said that, "the GOSS must ensure that all political parties and individuals have unhindered freedom to propagate their ideas." (Sudan Vision Newspaper, April 7th, 2009, p. 7.). This is a very important point because parties and individuals opposed to the SPLM/A have been hindered from carrying out their individual and collective responsibilities in South Sudan.
Other Kenana Resolutions
"SPLA as the professional army of South Sudan must be kept away from supporting or obstructing one political party or the other and should not be used for political purposes." (The Advocate Newspaper, April 5th, 2009, p. 3.). This too is an important point because the SPLA has been paying allegiance to the SPLM/A and South Sudanese from SPLM party.
"The first duty of a government is to provide credible and sustainable public and personal security for every citizen." (The Advocate Newspaper, April 5th, 2009, p. 3.). This is also an important point to note; because the South is never secure. The SPLA in the South is known to take law into its own hands and that somehow undermines the role of the police and the ministry of internal security in trying to maintain peace and quiet in South Sudan.
Relationship between the North and South are bad। One of the resolutions said that, "To our dismay, the last four years have been characterized by unnecessary friction and lack of cooperation on important issues related to the CPA. A successful implementation of the CPA can only be realized if the two partners are seen to be cooperating with each other." This too is an important point; because the CPA may end up dead if the partners to it continued to be on each other's throat.
This author has made his views about GOSS and what GOSS ought to do in order to manage the South. To know more on this author's previous articles, please visit: http://ohiyok-oduho.blogspot.com or http://ohiyok-newsanalysesonline.blogspot.com. The Kenana conference is an additional voice to those that have already been ignored by the SPLM/A leadership. But those within the SPLM/A leadership, who know that they are accountable to the people of South Sudan in whatever they do, need to know that the Kenana conference resolutions are digested well and implemented where applicable. Those who met in the Kenana Sugar complex are South Sudanese. They are not calling for the overthrow of the de facto GOSS. They are simply asking it – as an obligation imposed to it by the CPA – to implement the Kenana resolutions without hatred and/or tribal inclinations.