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40 years on, did the SPLM live to its vision

By Ephraim Modi Duku Sokiri

Today marks exactly 40 years since the first bullet was shot by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) kick starting a civil war against inequitable distribution of wealth, injustices among others being perpetuated by the then Sudan regime. The war raged on for 21 years.

In the past four decades, SPLM has been championing the slogan “Justice, Liberty and Prosperity” and its vision of “Taking Town to the People,” as stated by its founder and late Dr. John Garang De Mabior.

But how far has the party gone with that vision after 40 years of its inception?

Since the inception of the SPLM/A vision 40 years ago and with exception of guiding the then Southern Sudan to independence in July 2011, many analysts say the historical party ideology seemingly remained on paper and tongues.

The independent South Sudan came out of the glitches of the previous government of the Sudan to end the years of civil unrest due to self-rule, inequitable distribution of wealth, and identity issues which prompted the South Sudanese to vote in favor of the separation from Sudan in 2011.

Speaking to No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper ahead of the 40th Anniversary of the SPLM/SPLA Day which is commemorated every 16 May annually, the SPLM Secretary for Political Affairs, Mobilization and Organization, Kuol Atem Bol has insisted that the historical SPLM party is still persistent to its vision except being adversely manipulated in the minds of the leaders.

SPLM Secretary for Political Affairs, Mobilization and Organization, Kuel Atem Bol. (Photo Credit; Ephraim Modi Duku Sokiri)

“The vision has not been lost; it is the mind of the people who implement the vision that got lost. The disagreement within the leadership of the SPLM in 2013 was the problem. South Sudan was supposed to go for elections in 2015 but others would not wait for the legitimate time,” he said.

Atem believed that those who are indulging the vision of the country are the people who were not in the armed scuffle and are now employed in the government offices.

“There are some of us who don’t care about South Sudan, they only care about themselves, and these are people who were not in the bush, they don’t know the value of the land, they don’t know why people were fighting the Khartoum regime and joined the government by vague of being a South Sudan,” he added.

After gaining independence, South Sudan is still locked in senseless conflicts of power wrangles that relay the minds of the citizens back to the vision of the SPLM as a ruling party. This fetched the question of whether the SPLM still gains the trust of the public and has in mind their vision of fighting the Khartoum regime for 21 years.

“Yes, the public only know SPLM because they know that it started the war in 1983 up to 2011 where people voted for independence. So, it is very strange that others can claim that they were part of the struggle when they left SPLM,” argued Atem.

First Deputy Speaker of the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA) who doubles as the Deputy Chairperson of the SPLM IO Lt. Hon. Nathaniel Oyet/ Courtesy photo.

On the other hand, the First Deputy Speaker of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) who doubles as the Deputy Chairperson of the SPLM-IO Rt. Hon. Nathaniel Oyet Pierino nullified the claims that SPLM is still living to its vision, saying it’s lost along the journey after independence.

“The original vision of the SPLM which was against the abuse of powers in Khartoum, that vision disappeared along the way, the vision to liberate ourselves, to enjoy freedom, social economic and political freedom disappeared along the way,” he said.

“From 2005, there were disagreements within the SPLM by our colleagues who came from the bushes. Disagreements were on directions that South Sudan should take on the management of our economy, and resources, and how we can use it and to whose benefits. Some of our colleagues turned the resources to be their personal property.”

“The resources that are meant for public good, for commonwealth, for the benefit of all became a resource for the few privileged, those who found themselves at the top arsenal of the SPLM, they took these resources for themselves, either by looting physical property like vehicles, land, houses and other privileges or they loot cash from the ministry of finance and the Central Bank,” Oyet exclaimed.

He said the resources were looted in the name and on behalf of the state for private benefits which has been their (leaders) oath of discrepancy.

“Resource management has been our fundamental disagreements, come to the vision, the vision to free our people, and improve their living conditions was lost up to now, South Sudanese are the poorest in the region and the world,” said Oyet.

“We run a failed state; South Sudan has been topping the list of most fragile and failed states in the world. All this is attributed to mal administration, poor governance and misuse of resources. So, the vision to become free citizens, look at the political space now, are we free citizens?” he questioned.

“We don’t have independent judiciary, civil liberty is being controlled, and they don’t allow members of other political parties to use the national broadcaster.”

The Judiciary of Southern Sudan, or JOSS, is a constitutionally mandated government branch that oversees the justice systems of South Sudan. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Sudan is the head of the judiciary and is held accountable to his job by the President of South Sudan.

Hon. Oyet as well cited lack of political will to give freedom of political space, press and the civil society which led others to flee to exile.

“The political will is not there to open the political space, otherwise the civil society that left the country should come back, the freedom of press, should be there and the independent of judiciary,” he said.

He further retorted to late Dr. John Garang’s illustration during the struggle, reflecting to current state that says that another generation will take up the country after them and will cut a large piece of land with pangas and sell it cheaply for a bottle of beer.

“We have elements within the Republic of South Sudan that do not put the interest of the country first, they put their interest first. That’s why we see looting, robbery, abuse of power, and poor governance, such practices are castrated by individual members of the system who doesn’t care about the SPLM original mission,” he said.

“The original mission of the SPLM was brotherhood, fraternity, prosperity, equality, justice, but today we see rich and poor; strong and weak; majority and minority; this tribe and that tribe; this region and that region; we fought, you did not fight; they own property at the expense of others.”

Many of the leaders in the country have their families far away from the country.

“Why do South Sudanese leave their country and take their children abroad and you have the poor citizens remaining in the country and ironically, those whose families are not here, are the ones who are in charge on the day-to-day decision making over the affairs of the country,” he questioned.

“People want peace, they don’t want to give peace; people want resources, they don’t want to release resources; people want development, they don’t want development; people want employment, there is unemployment. These are the paradoxes of the SPLM,” Oyet cited.

Executive Director for Institute for Policy and Research, Analyst James Boboya (Photo Credit; Ephraim Modi Duku Sokiri)

Meanwhile a policy analyst James Boboya who is the Executive Director for Institute for Policy and Research, attributed the SPLM’s loss of vision to the death of late Dr. John Garang.

“Where SPLM lost it was when John Garang died because there were issues at the mind of Dr. John Garang, they were issues that were not put in the transitional process, so when John Garang died and Salva Kiir became the interim president of Southern Sudan,” he expressed.

Boboya said the members of the party were fell out of hope of the interim leader who took over after the death of Garang is also another element to the downfall of the SPLM vision.

“There were issues that made the vision of SPLM to turn out at that time; one of it is the feeling of the current leadership as not very experienced in governance, and leadership but building to be a leader and at the same time, building relationship with Sudan to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA),” he added.

“Salva Kiir focused a lot of his time in building relationship to implement the CPA, when John Garang died; there was a silent split of the SPLM between loyalties to John Garang and Salva Kiir”.

Boboya as well articulated the current state of the politics in South Sudan and termed it as politics of survival.

“The politics in South Sudan is monetized; people use the money to practice politics, officials being bought by party, some parties’ compromise to survive, the politics in South Sudan is more of survival. When you oppose, you are threatened to leave power. Facts are being slept on,” he submitted.

Executive Director for Sudd Institute, Augustino T. Mayai (Photo Credit; Ephraim Modi Duku Sokiri)

For his part, the Executive Director for Sudd Institute, Augustino T. Mayai said SPLM has not lost its vision however, he blamed the members of the party for not being proactive in realizing its vision.

“SPLM has not lost its vision, but I think the SPLM chose not to be proactive enough to implement the vision. The SPLM speaks the vision when you talk to them; they know what their vision is. The vision of the SPLM is very clear, is having a society that is peaceful, just and prospers,” said Mayai.

“Implementing the vision and its operation items, the SPLM hasn’t done enough of that, although there have been a lot of distractions, not necessarily a loss of the vision. That distraction includes the fighting within the SPLM.”

Mayai is hopeful that the unity government will change the trend of politics in the country despite its variances in the ultimate privileges.

“I am very optimistic given the implementation of the current peace agreement, given the fact that the parties are working together, that the politics is going to change down the road, from personal base to an issue base,” he said.

“The political difference is ok, as long as they focus on the fundamental issues that face the people of South Sudan, the differences of which come as a result of approach adopted by different political parties.”















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