The beautiful beginning
December 22, 2017 (SSB) — On 9th of July 2011 the people of South Sudan gathered to celebrate their new won independence and freedom. State leaders from many African countries, heads of governments, foreign ministers, UN top officials and other dignitaries from all over world were gathered in Juba to take part in the celebrations.
Statements of well wishes and international support for the development of the newest state in Africa came in abundance. Hardly ever were so many statements of goodwill for a new state heard. SPLM and its Chairman, Salva Kiir as a candidate for the Presidency, had in the elections that took place in 2010 secured an overwhelming majority. The people had trust in their liberators.
There were many hurdles and shortcomings to be overcome for SPLM and the new government with President Salva Kiir at the helm. Lack of experience in governance, lack of infrastructure, lack of schools and primary health centres, and a population ravaged by a long liberation war, poor and vastly illiterate.
But there was money available in the plenty. More than one hundred million of USD a month was to be received for oil exported, and the UN and the World Bank together with tens and tens of bilateral donors stood ready to do their utmost to contribute to peace, development, and a new democratic state on The African continent.
On the surface, developments seemed to make a good start even though there were many outstanding issues with the former enemy, the regime in Khartoum, that created tension and conflict in periods.
But shortcomings with regard to governance soon surfaced together with the legacy of a long war, a militarized and brutalized society.
The President, Salva Kiir, had a long experience as the deputy Chief Commander of SPLA and the Head of the SPLA Intelligence, but he had very little education and whatever little he had, it was military, and he had no experience in civil governance at all.
Growing internal conflicts within SPLM/A
SPLM, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Organization, had not before independence succeeded neither in developing a political platform with clear political principles and values for the governance of the country, nor a political action programme for the development of the society. Factions within SPLM tried hard in the period between 2008 and 2013 to get relevant policies in place, but the Chairman and President, Salva Kiir and his henchmen demonstrated less and less interest for the idea of having a proper political programme for the development of the society. Kiir at least five times during this period turned down proposals by the SPLM Secretary General for meetings of the SPLM organs to have such policies adopted.
This caused tension within SPLM and finally conflict. The discontent with the way the President governed and managed his government, grew steadily. New elections were set for 2015, and there was a growing demand both internally in SPLM and among others for a new candidate for President. Salva Kiir was increasingly seen as unfit to govern.
The catastrophic Summer and Fall of 2013. A Dictator emerged
The conflict both within the government and within SPLM was growing, and President Salva Kiir increasingly showed his dictatorial tendency. In the spring of 2013 he reduced the powers rendered with the Vice-President Riek Machar because Machar had stated that he wanted to run for President in the forthcoming elections.
In July Kiir sacked the whole government, accusing his ministers for corruption and inability to govern, and he removed the Secretary general of SPLM, Pagan Amum, from office, accusing him for corruption, disobedience and opposition to the views of the President. Not only that, he banned Pagan Amum from travelling outside Juba and from making any statements in public, a clear violation of Amum’s basic human rights.
In August, the President appointed a new government that was marked by two features. There were only very few new ministers who had fought in the liberation struggle while there many with experience from working with the dictatorial regime in Khartoum.
The opposition to all this within SPLM increased rapidly, and the opposition went into the open declaring that they would fight the President and the SPLM Chairman inside the organs of SPLM with the aim to have him replaced in the forthcoming elections. This infuriated Salva Kiir.
The conflict picked in the meeting of the National Liberation Council that took place on 13th and 14th December 2013. Ahead of the meeting, the church leaders and other religious leaders had strongly appealed to both Salva Kiir and the leaders of the opposition to avoid confrontation and work for reconciliation and compromise. The opposition agreed while Salva Kiir showed the deaf ear and gave a very belligerent speech at the beginning of the meeting in which he rejected all demands by the opposition and demanded the Secretary General of SPLM, Pagan Amum, expelled. The majority in the meeting with bribes paid, followed the demands of their President and voted accordingly. SPLM was de facto split.
The Day after, the Civil War
On 15th December 2013 President Salva Kiir in the uniform of the General addressed the nation on TV, stating that he and his loyal forces had prevented an attempted coup d’état by Riek Machar and the other members of the opposition, and that arrests of the same were being carried out.
It has been documented again and again that there never was any attempt to seize power by the opposition. The ones who made a coup d’état were president Salva Kiir and his henchmen.
What happened first, was a planned massacre of Nuer-people living in Juba. How many were killed, is hard to know, but many, many thousands, some say 20 000 i a few days. There was a clear attempt to kill the sacked Vice-President Riek Machar, but he escaped while his house, being state property, was turned into ruins and most of the people inside killed. 12 other SPLM leaders who were seen to be in the opposition, were arrested and put in house arrest and then accused for treason. All of them have later been freed, and they are now living in forced political exile.
The Cost of the War
The civil war started at the same time on 15th December, and it is still running even though now as a low intensity war. The costs are horrible. No-one knows for sure, but some 200 000 people may have lost their lives because of the war and the sufferings they have been exposed to. Rape has been used as a mean of war, and tens of thousands of women and children have been raped in the most brutal manner. Tens of thousands have been maimed physically and mentally for life. Thousands of towns and villages have been severely destroyed. The oil production has been reduced to some 40 % of what it was in 2011.
The state is technically bankrupt, and salaries have not been paid for months neither to civil government staff nor soldiers. The state debt is vast and unsustainable, and inflation galloping. The President and his court have brought the art of corruption and kleptocracy to a new level. Between 2005 and 2016, South Sudan has received some 20 billion USD in payments for oil exported. Approximately 50 % of this money has been used by the government to carry out a war against its own people. The other half, 10 billion USD, has either been squandered away or stolen by the ruling elite, led by the President himself and his family.
Another striking feature with the acts of the rulers in Juba is that they do not care the least about the sufferings of their own people. Not only that, UN has documented that the Kiir government now applies as a mean of war the same mean as the rulers in Khartoum did during the liberation war. It hinders that emergency aid reaches the needy in areas where the people is hostile to the government. The Kiir government is starving its own people.
South Sudan has some 11 million people. At present some 4 million are displaced by the war, and two million of them are refugees in neighbouring countries. Another 5 million are dependent on food aid from the international community, and for some hundred thousand of all these people, hunger and death might strike in the weeks ahead simply because the challenges for the international aid community are getting too big.
A solution in Sight?
IGAD under the auspices of the Africa Union and UN has since January 2014 done a lot, first to create the conditions for a cease ‘fire and then to propose peace agreements acceptable to the warring parties. All efforts have however failed, for long and mainly because the rulers in Juba believed that the war could be won militarily. Now the reason might be different. The crimes committed by the rulers in Juba are so severe that not only the President, but many others are obvious candidates for the ICC in The Hague. Now they fight to stay in power to escape from the verdict waiting, and they are pretty good at this.
Uganda plays along with Salva Kiir and continue to provide arms to continue the war. A new partner to South Sudan, Egypt, has surfaced lately as a supporter of the Kiir regime and probably also as an arms supplier. Egypt is historically known for one thing in the Horn of Africa, it fishes in dirty water, meaning, it has a permanent interest to keep conflicts a life so that there is neither strength nor time with the others to touch the water of the Nile. Egypt has lost out in this when it comes to Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya. They are strong enough to resist Egypt. But the rulers in Juba are weak and desperate and clinging to whatever apparent support they can get from Egypt, a wolf in the cloths of a lamb. What the motives and intentions of the rulers in Kampala are for the continuing support for Kiir, is difficult to see, apart from the fact that Uganda makes big money out of the conflict continuing.
In the summer of 2011 the people of South Sudan, SPLM and President Salva Kiir and his government had all the goodwill in the world. At Christmas in 2017 absolutely everything of that goodwill is squandered. The world is fed up with Salva Kiir and his henchmen, the destroyers of South Sudan.
I strongly wish I could end this article stating that I, despite all problems, see light in the tunnel for the people of South Sudan who has suffered for so long and continue to bleed, that peace might be coming. But I do not see any light in the tunnel as long as dictator Kiir and his henchmen continue their misrule in Juba.
*Halle Jørn Hanssen, born in Brønnøy, Norway, is the author of the book, LIVES AT STAKE. South Sudan during the Liberation Struggle.