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Democratic reforms in South Sudan after FMs joining Kiir

Will SPLM/A-IO, SSOA and OPP bring much-needed democratic reform after their key ally FDS give in and abandon their reform agenda; or all opposition groups are going to die down after a rubberstamp coalition government is put together?

By Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak

The five years old South Sudan civil war between the government and multiple rebel groups in the country is set to come to an end by September 2018 Peace Agreement. Though it seems guns had now silent between the government and all the oppositions signatory to peace, especially the IO that has been the main opponent to Juba regime, except NAS which stayed aloof during the peace signing, yet, future of South Sudan is surrounded by a high level of uncertainty; no one knows for certain whether September 2018 R-ARCSS, will remain a genuine sustainable peace. The signatories to the peace agreement comprised of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGONU) of the Republic of South Sudan, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), the South Sudan opposition Alliance (SSOA), the Former Political Detainees (FDS) who have just announced their surrender on January 29, 2019 to rejoin their cracked house and Other Political Parties (OPP). The agreement had called for a peaceful settlement to the conflict and reconstitutionalization of South Sudan through a federal democratic system of governance, aiming of getting rid of the current centralized authoritarian and totalitarian government. It also laid out the foundation for a united peaceful prosperous society which governance must base on justice, equality, respect for human rights and the rule of laws. These provisions are said to be reflected by devolving more powers and resources to the lower levels of the government.

Furthermore, the agreement had proposed an independent boundary commission who will study the map of tribal boundaries currently in dispute as for the result of 32 States proposal. Such documents seem to rehabilitate the destruction that engulfed the country for the last five score years. At this juncture, on the eyes of peace document readers, if Satan of J1 does not spoil the process again, the whole intermission will be terminated through the fundamental pillar of the adult franchise after three years interim period in 2021. However, reaching that margin without roundabout junction or detour is a challenge that requires divine intervention. Though drums of peace had been beaten with mallets following the signing of the R-ARCSS, by Sudan and South Sudan when the two sisterly countries proposed peace celebrations which were attended by the leadership of the parties to peace, viewers around the globe deem it as a waste of energy and resources given lack of commitment like what happened in 2016.

Momentarily, the duration is a Pre-transitional period, where some members of oppositions are in Juba to jumpstart the implementation of the said revitalized peace agreement. However, many people both natives and internationals are doubtful, given the magnitude of mistrust among the South Sudanese ruling elites, which meltdown to common ordinary citizens who have no influence of their own, but depending on orders of their superior tribesmen. It remains to be seen whether the parties will not return to war and start working collectively for the sake of peace and stability of the country. Henceforth, the question that begs answer is, will the three opposition groups, which one of their key ally in the struggle for reform by the name (FDS) bring much-needed reform as they claim to achieve? Readers will determine their justification all along as events of the peace implementation unfold. After all, one’s definite chief aim of writing this article is to demonstrate how rebel movements can be a success or a failure.

Since human transitioned from nomad and settled in towns, civil disobedience began to arise. During those uprisings, there always been people who question the way existing systems of governance operate. Oftentimes, future of the rebel movements always remained intermediate, whether during the war or peace times, given that some rebel movements end up as a failure or success both during the rebellion or peacetime. Though many countries around the world came on being as the result of national rebellions. There were those who are inspired to attain their Statehood or any freedom reforms, through peaceful mean. In some occasions, nonviolent reformists failed miserably despite multiple issues, especially when their hierarchical leaders failed to coexist or play smart during the transitional period. Regularly though, misunderstanding and rivalling begin to take place whenever those who called themselves government and those who are deemed as rebels, begin to fight over political domination rather than focusing on the balance of power. Therefore, one of the most challenging areas of post-war transformation for insurgency movements is how to establish themselves as a legal political party after many years of physical confrontation, illegal existence, exile or underground operations.

Profoundly, transitioning from armed resistance movement to conventional politic, require adaptation of a new political culture and formulation of new programs, which could win the heart of ordinary folks who can champion the organization values particularly those who have been neglected inside the country and those who sought refuge in neighbouring countries during the conflict. In that regard, SPLM/A-IO, SSOA and OPP with exception of FDS who had just abandoned their opposition stand, must at the moment restructuring their civilian apparatus to conform to the State administration divisions. They need to train their cadres for political actions and peaceful revolutionary change before the establishment of the now awaiting Transitional Government of National Unity (TGONU) comes May of 2019.

Ultimately, for change to manifest itself in South Sudan, all these three remaining opposition parties to peace must have to expand and strengthen their political wing during the peace implementation by establishing parallel State structures at all levels of administration. They need to prove that, they can run the country better than the Juba regime. Their aim must be to work extra harder to increase their political skill and capacity ahead of 2021 general elections and be able to compete for the first time with other political parties particularly the SPLM of Salva Kiir and FDS. If any party among them could not do well during the upcoming elections, such a party will remain the minor political party for sometimes until when the unexpected change had availed itself.

Personally, one’s a bigger worry is that these three remainder political groups will not form an alliance to defeat Salva Kiir and FDS SPLM-Party. Some of them may eventually follow suit to reunite with Kiir and FDS’ party or they may begin to work against one another which will allow Kiir to remain victorious and continue ruling the nation with an iron fist as that has been the case for the last 14 years.

Usually, the electoral design in post-conflict systems has a greater impact on the post-conflict democratization process and the political party system. Which mean, the choice of the type of electoral system always depends on the country political culture. Culturally, South Sudan is one of the tribal mindset nations where citizens would not choose their leaders base on candidate ideas, instead, citizens choose their bosses according to the leader’s ethnic background and nothing else.

Hence, opposition groups must understand that there is no perfect electoral system for a country which is divided between its ethnic groups and elections are usually manipulated or rigged. An immediate example is the 2010 election where opposition candidates were daily harassed. There is no respect for the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly. Such practices of arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, and mistreatment of political party members, civil society activists, journalists, and students need to stop otherwise the future of our country is leading to doom.

Lastly, we are a society that has no basic knowledge on democratic function, rather, we are only familiar with underground guerrilla warfare dealing with bullets instead of ballots. For that reason, opposition peace partners have an enormous task lying ahead of them. If they fail to have collective decision-making during the peace implementation process, their as being an opposition is going to be a waste, given that, they unsuccessfully achieve political reforms they have been advocating for heaven forbid.

Lul G. Gatluak can be reached via lulgatluak09@gmail.com