Politics of generals never succeed; will the SPLM-IO Kit-gwang generals succeed in their movement?

By Ruon Puk Ruei

The peace agreement signed on September 2018 between the government and opposition parties which resulted into the formation of the transitional government after a long debate on power sharing and later compromise was reached. After the formation of the government, parties allocated positions to their respective candidates of which opposition members felt disappointed whereby differences emerged especially from the main opposition faction the SPLM-IO under the first vice president Dr. Riek. This resulted into an unprecedented split where many politicians and generals started defecting into the IG seeking appointments.

As a result, top generals within the IO movement broke away including former chief of staff Gen. Simon Getwech and sector commander Gen. Johnson Olony who declared themselves to having overthrown and disowned the SPLM-IO chairperson Dr. Riek who at the same time signed on behalf of the SPLM-IO in the peace deal as Commander-In-Chief until the end of the transitional period.

The group made their declaration on 27th January 2021 calling themselves the real SPLM-IO. After the declaration, the former chief of staff was appointed as an interim chairperson followed by Johnson Olony as his deputy. The group accused the SPLM-IO Juba of nepotism, loss of vision and surrender groups who had forgotten their comrades in the bush. With these reasons, the group got support from the forces on the ground, local population as well as sympathy from other South Sudanese more especially those in the Diaspora.

After the declaration, fighting erupted between the Kit-gwang faction and their mainstream faction leading to the loss of lives from the both sides, subsequently the government started contact with the group which later resulted into the signing of the Khartoum Peace Agreement on 17th January 2022 between the government team led by Tut Gatluak who signed on behalf of the government and Kit-gwang group led by two generals namely; Simon Gatwech and Johnson Olony.

Following the signing of the agreement, the President issued directives for the integration of Kit-gwang forces into South Sudan Peoples’ Defence Forces (SSPDF) to show government seriousness on Kit-gwang Peace Agreement. On the other side, Kit-gwang groups dispatched an advance team into Juba to prepare the ground before the arrival of two commanders which was said to commence after two weeks of the agreement. Since then, everyone has been waiting to see integration of Kit-gwang group, as well as the arrival of two generals in Juba. Had their forces been integrated or it was just empty promise? Have the two generals; Simon and Johnson arrived in Juba or one week still to come? Until now neither the integration of the forces nor arrival of the two generals in Juba and thus it can be concluded that Kit-gwang group will not achieve any objectives.

Looking at the groups whether or not there will be a success in their movement, it is very clear that Kit-gwang faction lacks a common goal and interest uniting them to run the movement which will last for long. The two generals, Olony and Simon have different ideologies pursuing different interests. Olony for example, has been fighting for Shilluk land as the main goal while Simon on the other hand was just a frustration due to lack of security arrangement. Looking at this, no common goal which can permanently unite two generals to remain in one camp rather than just a temporary friendship that cannot last for long.

The second reason, two generals cannot lead a successful movement in the 21st century. Political movements require people with political ideologies to direct the movement towards specific objectives which military commanders can hardly do. It is known that military generals acquaint themselves with military ideologies contrary to the political ideology. It is through the political ideology that support is built to the movement both the local level and international level. Without having clear objectives, the movement cannot get support from the local people as well as from the region. Thus, two cannot run the movement in the 21st century which requires diplomacy and flexibility.

Also, the timing for declaration to overthrow their commander in chief who is a signatory to the agreement is just a destruction to convince the public and international guarantors.  Chapter (2.4.1) of the agreement stipulates that all the Heads of opposition armed groups shall continue as Commanders-In-Chief of their forces until the end of the unification process. Meaning that no room for any military commander who can crown himself as a Commander-In-Chief of the armed faction apart from what has been stipulated in the agreement and if so, it is a clear violation of the agreement. The movement of two generals is short lived without sound reasoning that can convince the public.

Another flaw of Kit-gwang group is the lack of political IQ, new term introduced into the field of politics which requires high level of political awareness, culture and civilization using the power of the brain to analyse and deal carefully with political changes. However, military generals believe in muscle ability which is the use of force to deal with the situation which cannot be applied in the political arena. Kitgwang group comprises purely of military junta but lack political wing that can run the movement and the big mistakes they made were their rejection of political leaders who wanted to join them to form political wing and direct the movement. Are these generals capable of running the movement?

Furthermore, Kit-gwang faction lacks supporters more especially intellectual elite, coupled with the narrow base of the movement that concentrates within Upper Nile region. The few supporters are in the diaspora with no impact on the ground just from the far distance. Also, the one-week peace deal which was signed in Khartoum proved lack of agenda from Kit-gwang group; the time for negotiation process was just a matter of two days which means there was nothing to be discussed. Thus, the declaration was for no good reason than interrupt and get some Dollars as indeed happened.

From the above reasons, Kit-gwang faction under two generals will not achieve any objective given the fact that reasons for their defections are contrary to their actions. Where is the security arrangement they cited as weakness for Dr. Riek? Is their peace implementation?

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