Home | Comment & Analysis    Thursday 19 March 2020

Angelina’s appointment as defence minister is good and bad for South Sudan


By Dak Buoth

The appointment of madam Angelina Jany Teny as South Sudan Defence and Veterans’ Affairs Minister had caused legitimate discomforts and comforts among the members, supporters and sympathizers of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement- in -Opposition (SPLM-IO) led by the First Vice President, Dr Riek Machar. The former is the first wife to the latter.

Her appointment is a trending topic on social media platforms. Supporters from Riek’s home turf welcome the news, and they are still in celebration mood. You can imagine, they are laughing to the extent that you could see one’s molar from a distance of one meter away. It is like a day that they have been waiting for. Of course they have a reason to smile about, because in South Sudan, when your area man or woman landed in one of these lucrative national positions, it is all your turn to eat. However, the ones feeling uncomfortable ‘’have an axe to grind.’’

On 16th March, revered SPLM-IO Army commanders namely Lt. Gen. James Koang Chuol, Maj. Gen. Gatkhor Gatluak, Maj. Gen. Wang Chany, Maj. Gen.Joseph Yata Erasto defected to President Kiir’s side, citing Angelina’s meteoric rise. Some Supporters of these army generals such as US-based social media commentator or propagandist, Chief Brown Bol are spewing venom on social media, promising a brutal return in one way or another.

Their discomforts are legitimate in the sense that they are right in their arguments. In their one page statement, these generals described SPLM-IO as a blind party that has become a family enterprise. I pity General Koang Chuol and company when they stated that ‘‘the recent appointment of the minister of defence and veterans affairs without consultation with military command council in the movement is case in point.’’ It seems like they were unaware that Dr Riek Machar does not seek advice and consultations. Dr Riek is often known as a know-it-all opposition leader, and this is where his owes emanated from. Unlike President Kiir, Riek can meet people who want to talk to him but he hardly implements their suggestions on the particular issue at hand.

Well, known political brokers who are opposed to peace will now take advantage of this trouble. They will first sharpen their knives before jetting in to widen these cracks with a view to finish or push both SPLM-IO and peace down to their limits. An inquisitive citizen like us would ask: are these feelings of discomfort and defections going to have an impact on the TGoNU and implementation of this peace accord (R-ARCISS)? I would say yes, but not to a large extent.

It will not generate another dogfight as happened in State-house in 2016 when similar squabble emerged over cabinet appointment. What I can predict is that this SPLM-IO fractious habits will impede the peace implementation process. Other than slowing down the implementation process, I fear this SPLM-IO trouble will also infect the entire TGoNU. I know some of these party problems are contagious in nature like COVID-19. Pandemic. In 2016 when the same problem emerged between Riek and Taban Deng, now vice President over scramble for petroleum ministry, it caused deep mistruth which eventually became a national problem that led to the collapsed of the peace accord.

Riek Machar is the key principal to this peace deal dubbed (R-ARCISS). We can also say he is the co-president. This means without him this political marriage between him, President Kiir and others cannot last. The agreement under chapter 1 provides for 34 cabinet ministers, one President, First Vice President and Vice President.

In these 34 national ministries, the agreement allocated 9 ministers to be nominated by Machar. The President was accorded, 20 ministers. The South Sudan opposition alliance (SSOA) was allocated 3, and the Opposition parties (OPP) was authorized to appoint 1 minister.

On 16th March, these Parties forwarded names of their nominees to President Kiir for hasty swearing-in. Actually, before the cabinet nominees were televised on South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (SSBC), all eyes were on Riek Machar. Most South Sudanese were eager to know the people he was going appoint. This is because he purported to be a champion that was fighting for change, democracy and the rule of law. In the SPLM-IO, they sang the communists’ slogan VIVA which means ‘long live.’ The question is, long live who? Is it long live Riek Machar or South Sudan?

Most eyes were on Machar’s camp for two simple reasons first, his SPLM-IO camp comprised of all marginalized communities who fought to see themselves in governance. However, the vast majority were not bothered with president Kiir’s nominees because his SPLM-IG camp represented at least three groups namely his Dinka community, cronies and handful political elites who vowed to support his iron hold on power. Even as we speak there is no discourse about his nominees on both print and online newspapers. President Kiir has recycled his longtime allies majority of whom are in US sanction list for obstructing peace and committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Former US immediate first lady, Michelle Obama recently said ‘‘the Presidency does not change you, it reveals who you are.’’ If by any chance Dr Riek Machar becomes President, the presidency will not change him. It will only reveal who he is in terms of how he does things. I know he is the staunchest capitalist who is seeking ‘self-actualization’. Dr Riek has perfected the arts of alienating people of their energies before dumping them. In his quest for this last need, he prioritized the elites’ interest. But I commended him for appointing youthful leader, Puot Kang Chuol as petroleum minister. It is the first time for him to pick a youth from the dust. I shared podiums with Puot, and he seems to be a young man who means his words.

Angelina Teny’s appointment is good and bad for the reasons discussed below. Let me begin with the former. FIRST, Riek has made history for doing two things at ago. He gave the powerful defence ministry to a female who is his wife. These things never happened before. Any sound-minded person cannot just oppose the appointment of a woman just because he is a woman.

I believe she was not in SPLM-IO as mere wife to Riek but also as a female member whose contributions are seen and felt. Given that women are a marginalized group in South Sudan, she deserves that position to represent women in decision-making.

SECOND, she deserves that position on her own right by virtue of her huge contributions in the SPLM-IO. Angelina was very committed and consistent in the struggle since 2013. Even when the war erupted in 2016, she decided to trek with other foot soldiers to up Congo for 40 days.

At that time, many men feared and surrendered but she managed to walk and reach bravely. I’m sure her present in the Bushes gave soldiers enough courage to soldier on. I must say her journey to Congo in 2016 proved an old adage that, ‘‘what men can do a woman can do.’’

THIRD, her appointment will make Riek reduces his fears in Juba. Of late, Riek appeared so afraid and he is not trusting anybody. Now that he gave this top security docket to her wife, his fears will be reduced. He will now know all the happenings within the Defence ministry. If at all Riek Machar is a serious strategist, he can even ascend to the throne before the election slated for 2023. I’m not advocating for a coup, mine is just an example. In a nutshell, giving the Defence docket to his wife, Angelina means Riek is actually the Defence minister in one way or another.

On the other hand, her appointment is bad for these simple reasons. ONE, her appointment is a perfect example of nepotism. Nearly all people who defected or left SPLM-IO accused Riek Machar of favouritism and nepotism. That he is favouring his Clan and family members. And with the appointment of his wife, Angelina, he has now proved this serious accusation beyond a reasonable doubt. Hence, People are entitled to oppose any person appointed through nepotism regardless of gender and age. If I was Riek Machar, Angelina would have just remained as party official to continue reorganizing the SPLM-IO party. These are tangible reasons to convinced and make her understand this political situation.

SECOND, her appointment explicitly shows lack of regional balance. In distributing the 9 slots, Riek was supposed to appoint his ministers base on regional balance and merit. And because Riek and Angelina hail from Leer County in Unity State, there was no reason at all to appoint her into this powerful docket. These ministries namely Petroleum, Defence and Health ministries were supposed to be allocated to persons from different Regions or States.

We are not saying she can’t be appointed because she is Riek’s wife or that she is not qualified, no. All I’m saying is that the current political situation doesn’t favour her. The fact that she is a wife to Riek disadvantaged her to get appointment owing to the fact that the positions are scarce. Thus, she can wait like the rest of SPLM-IO cadres who missed out in the cabinet appointment twice.

Eventually, when you weigh the good and bad parts of her appointment, you will find that the bad aspect is heavier than the good aspect of it. The bad aspect of it talks about the breach of the political principle of regional balance and equal representation of people from various states and counties in South Sudan.

Dr Riek Machar should be reminded that it was the offence of nepotism that prompted the hasty fall of former immediate Zimbabwe’s President Robert Gabriel Mugabe and Libyan Longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi. As we all know, Mugabe openly wanted his wife, Grace Mugabe to succeed him than other ruling ZANU-PF stalwarts. Mugabe would have been impeached if he didn’t resign due to this political blunder. Equally, late president Muammar Gaddafi too wanted his son, Said El Islam to succeed him after his 42 years reign in power, and this angered revolutionary Libyans populace, prompting an armed uprising and revolution which led to his ousting and subsequent death in the Libyan town of Sirte. In view of this, if Riek wanted to remain relevant in politics, he should go slowly in his quest to bring up his wife. Power belongs to the people in the country, and not people to a family.

General James Koang, in particular, deserves the position of Defence Minister because he fought hard. He was the second commander to defect in Unity State after General Gatdet Yaka who defected at Jonglei state in 2013.

On 15th March, I read the Facebook post of my namesake James Gatdet Dak, former Riek Machar’s spokesperson that "minister of Defence is a civilian post. He or she is simply a policymaker. It doesn’t necessarily need to be headed by a military person.’’ With due respect, I think this is not true.

In 2018 when Zimbabwe army forces toppled President, Mugabe, they brought back then vice President, Emmerson Mnagagwa from exile in South Africa and put him in power as President. Later as a sign of giving back, President, Mnangangwa appointed then chief of General Staff, Constantine Guveya Chiwenga as his vice President, and he also appointed Maj. General Moyo Sibusio who announced the coup against Mugabe as foreign Affairs minister. What General Gatdet and General Koang did was equal to what these Zimbabwean generals did, and they deserve appointment in government if they so wish. However, Riek is doing little to appreciate them. Instead, he is blatantly betraying them. Commander James Koang Chuol is brave, patriotic South Sudan commander, a leader who deserves to be accorded what he is suitable for.

The Writer is the Chairman of Liech Community Association in Kenya. The views expressed here are his own, and he can be reached for comments via eligodakb@yahoo.com

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