The Menace of political opportunism in South Sudan

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Political analysts and observers must be finding it difficult to deal with the sort of politics in South Sudan nowadays.  A great deal of it is unprincipled and appear to be dominated by Machiavellianism. We have seen over the past few years how political positions shift from one end to the other often in a dramatic manner. Therefore, how could a political analyst produce credible materials in a political environment that is essentially in a state of flux? Such analyses are based on known positions of the political entities and logical projections. As changing sides has become commonplace, the political analyst often ends up swallowing his or her words.

I came across an article by Sam Mednick on Vice News, a couple of days ago, where a statement by Mr Henry Odwar, the Deputy Chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM IO) caught my eye. One particular excerpt reads, I quote “What will happen to Thomas Cirillo? He’ll be a fugitive, the way Kony is a fugitive today and that is not good for him.”

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t bother commenting on what Henry Odwar says let alone writing an article about it. He has long fallen from grace and was proven time and again to be a weak leader. But what he said is quite outrageous and shows how some politicians have become entangled in absurdity. There is absolutely no logical reason to equate Lt. General Thomas Cirillo Swaka, the Chairman and C-in-C of the National Salvation Front (NAS) with Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). 

Perhaps it’s more befitting to analogise Odwar’s boss Dr Riek Machar to the LRA leader. It’s widely known among the political elites that a special friendship did exist between the SPLM IO leader and Joseph Kony after he mediated peace talks between the government of Uganda and the LRA in April 2006. Riek Machar was then the Vice President in the government of Southern Sudan (GoSS). It didn’t take too long for the peace talks to collapse and the blame was placed squarely on Machar’s poor mediation skills. The Ugandans were furious and accused him of siding with the rebels. Lack of trust was evident between the two sides and was made much worse after the revelation that Riek Machar handed Joseph Kony 20,000.00 USD. From that point, the relationship between Odwar’s boss and the Ugandan government went downhill fast. 

The National Salvation Front (NAS) is a National Movement that embraces all the communities of South Sudan and draws members from all corners of the country. Therefore, It’s audacious to liken NAS to a Movement like the LRA whose members hail from one ethnic group and confined to a part of Northern Uganda. It was reported on Nyamilepedia, the mouthpiece of SPLM IO three days ago, that the civilians fleeing the joint onslaught by the SSPDF/Mathiang Anyoor and the SPLM IO in Yei River State – seek safety in the areas under NAS control. It’s a testimony that NAS forces are well disciplined and protect civilians and their properties.

While NAS remains steadfast behind resolving the root causes of the conflict as the basis for sustainable peace, Odwar’s Movement wobbles and falters. The SPLM IO is no longer talking about federalism, accountability or the nullification of the 32 states. Its top leaders are more concerned about positions and personal benefits. They have grown so impatient to the extent of skipping some of the provisions of the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) that they had signed.  

Of late, we saw Henry Odwar becoming more vocal and visible. It was a surprise to many people because he was mostly mute when Riek Machar was under house arrest in South Africa. Many have been asking why Odwar was denied being the Acting Chairman while his boss remained in captivity? The events at the peace negotiations provided the answer. Despite leading the SPLM IO delegation at the High-Level Revitalisation Forum (HLRF), Odwar’s authority was undermined by Angelina Teny, the wife of Dr Riek Machar. She was the one running the show. But the worst was yet to come with moving the peace talks to Khartoum. He was utterly sidelined and never featured on the negotiating table.

The above remark by Henry Odwar generated a wave of disapproval and dismay among many people because he was previously known to be an advocate of federalism and political reforms. At the same time, it didn’t surprise those who have been following the SPLM IO politics. The Movement is in full retreat with its leader waving the white flag. Therefore, it’s plausible that we are now witnessing the dealings in the political marketplace where dropping previously held opinions and loyalty turn into “commodities”.  Of course, they get priced, and the highest bidder wins.

Lotole Lo Luri

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