By Taban Abel Aguek, Rumbek
March 3, 2014- Dr. Riek Machar Teny, South Sudan’s former Vice President now turned a rebel leader, may have only confined himself to a very tiny fraction of the globe when he said in an interview with the Guardian newspaper last year that South Sudan was “going in a wrong direction”. But from the way the world has been trying to handle the political crisis triggered by his rebellion, it can be easy to believe that it’s the whole world that is totally losing its truest direction. And leading the way, of course, are the elites of the Western World.
Past and present events, factually substantiated, have highly indicated that the West’s influence on the global decisions have by far been more of a disaster than a cure of any considerable nature. For as long as the UN and the US stay intertwined; and continue to call themselves the world, many of us remain enclosed in the box of unknown. The difference between the UN and the US have thinly remained in the letters ‘N’ and ‘S’.
Alarms have been ringing now for some time and the world is about to wake up. Africa in particular has watched the world after it was badly used and dumped for so many centuries. But the world game about the world’s problems are about to be understood by everyone.
The recent problems in Middle East and Africa have portrayed a world without a positive direction. Until today, the UN and the Western policies on Syria have achieved no any tangible results. The US role in Iraq and Afghanistan has left the two countries in unending chaos. The regime change strongly supported by the West in Libya has reversed its proper intention and barely becomes what they beautifully called a “misgiving”. What the West had perceived as an introduction of democracy in Egypt did not only backfire; it also unexpectedly brought to power the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), a party dominated by absolute anti-West Islamists. For several months and years now there has been a lot of ‘do and undo’ activity in Egypt ushered by the same hands. Egypt, one of Africa’s giants, now has its own future now lie in the balance. The French peace efforts in Mali already seem to be hastily fading away and Central African Republic still dangles confusingly from one hand to another every single moment.
From the way the west presents its solutions to Africa’s problems, it is easy to suspect that they also have a hand in the creation of Africa’s conflicts. Regardless of what nature Africa’s conflicts are – political, social, religious or even tribal – the West always uses them to settle some scores.
No one denies that South Sudan’s struggle for independence was supported strongly by the whole world and especially the West and the UN. But it is true to believe that this young country is at the moment being immensely thrust into a total collapse in an equal measure by the same forces that helped created it.
The world powers have unilaterally been forcing their interests on the world’s poorer and weaker nations without their consent. Can South Sudan be an exception? No!
Prof. Abraham Chellaney from the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research in his article “How World powers break International Law” ran by www.project-syndicate.org argued that “… unilateralism remains the leitmotif of US foreign policy, and this is also reflected in its international interventions, whether cyber-warfare and surveillance, drone attacks, or efforts to bring about regime change”. It can be of significant essence that their influence in a country where they have a vast presence in form of aid agencies and UN mission like South Sudan can be as good as bad any time.
Yet, as stated by Prof. Chellaney “Might remain Right”. But who doesn’t agree? South Sudanese say that ‘when the big boys speak, the small ones should be seen but not heard.’ So, anybody’s job is to know who ‘might’ are but it is nobody’s work to question what their interests are.
So, in the case of this country, the Might can be indeed Right to choose which version of the story of the feuding parties to support and impose on the world. And that is why and how the world was informed that what happened in Juba on the 15th Dec, 2013 was not a coup. The prominent media outlets reported a much-hyped propaganda amidst strings of warning against the constitutional actions of the country’s democratically elected government to try the suspected individuals.
On the contrary, the world turns a blind eye to the daily carnage heavily inflicted on the civilians by the rebels. In fact, the UNMISS position still looked ‘mild’ even after they had their staffs killed and property looted.
UN and the US funds have invested a lot of funds in the demobilization of child soldiers in South Sudan. But Dr. Riek again recruits now in their tens of thousands back into forceful military service. Young untrained Lou Nuer children got forcefully conscripted and were issued with AK 47, instead of books, to fight Riek’s political war. But the international community, notably the UN and the US gives no hint, not even a mention of it. The rebels committed atrocities of all kind: killing of women, children and patients on hospital beds, rape and kidnapping of young girls and women. But the UN and the US seem to downplay that all.
Now in the mind of a neutral South Sudanese citizen, Dr Riek’s aspirations are considered to have their chauffeurs in the West whose belief is that South Sudan must be led by someone who possesses education, conviction and understanding of western nature. In this, Riek’s may altogether have nothing to do with South Sudanese cause, but upon him may only be a project to manage. The level of trust in UN has seriously dropped. Public statements by US and UN prominent figures like UN Secretary General Ban ki Moon, former US envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, and US assistant secretary for African Affairs only helped compound the already spreading suspicion that the West and UN are supporting a regime change in South Sudan.
The manner with which the attacks were coordinated and how Riek fled Juba on the night of coup clearly indicate that he had knowledge of all that was to take place in Juba. Good enough Dr. Riek himself admitted in a BBC interview that he leads the rebellion only one day after the crisis.
The power scheme by Dr Riek was long known. The reality behind all crises this country faces is that Dr. Riek was directly throwing in his last card. It fell upon him apparently that he was losing to Kiir again in the contest for SPLM Chairmanship. The last confident speech by Kiir and a great applause he received in the NLC meeting left Riek badly humiliated. The NLC is a bigger body – the party body – that endorses or rejects proposals made by PB. That means even if Dr Riek had played it well at the former ministers dominated PB, the NLC would still have had its say before it could finally be stamped by the National Convention, the highest organ of the SPLM.
The fact is that Dr Riek weighed all democratic options and he firmly established that he had no any realistic chance of winning either SPLM party chairmanship or the country’s Presidency. It is why he never chose the easiest of all options every popular politician makes: form a party and contest in the general elections. Dr. Riek’s much publicized rally failed to take place simply because no numbers were available to fill up Dr. Garang’s mausoleum.
Dr. Riek’s last card was to use his well instructed armed forces to overrun Juba. This was also based on faulty assumptions. As a believer of Ngundeng superstitions; he thought it would be an easy ride to the top since it was prophesied that a left-handed Nuer son, married to a kawaja and with spaces between his teeth would rule South Sudan after all skirmishes. That ended just as a mere superstition but he only managed to plunge it almost successfully into a Dinka-Nuer thing. The foreign media reported everything with hype and that gave ethnicity a stronger push. Moreover, the rapid evacuation of foreigners even in states of South Sudan where there is no problem at all sent panic all around; and it enhanced the creation of deep tensions between the Nuer and the Dinka tribes.
That aside, the biggest surprise of international ignorance South Sudanese came to vividly see is how Riek, after all the mess he has done in our country, still passes as an angel. He brought down to rubble cities that were built long ago. His rebels continue to commit heinous crimes even after the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. Much as the Government does all to respect the agreement Instead, it stayed the one on the receiving end – getting brutal blows from the rebels as well as containing pressures exerted by the same West.
After the seven detainees were released, there is a continued pressure for the remaining four prisoners to be released and the Ugandan forces to withdraw from Bor and Juba.
From now anything can happen. A political agreement can be reached in Addis Ababa, the rebellion can be defeated or a regime is changed in Juba but how South Sudanese view of the world shall never again be the same.
Even from bad days good lessons can be learnt, that is my belief. South Sudan is undeniably in deep crisis now, but still out of these crises something positive can be drawn from it. From here on South Sudan will get to know its true friends from the real enemies.
Taban Abel Aguek is a member of Lakes State Legislative Assembly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org