Friday, June 15, 2007

MASDOFORPSIS : Many Sudans and Darfurs but one foreign policy, ridiculous

By John A. Akec

The recent stand by Mr. John Ukech Lueth, the new Sudan’s Ambassador to the US, on the recent American sanctions on Sudan and war in Darfur has surprised both disaffected Sudanese and Sudan watchers and left a great number of them bewildered and unable to make sense of it. In a televised press conference at National Press Club in Washington on 30 May 2007, the Southern born Sudanese ambassador in Washington criticised the latest US sanctions on Sudan, asserted that there is no genocide in Darfur, and called Darfur’s armed groups "terrorists." He then issued a thin veiled threat that his country could retaliate by blocking the exports of Gum Arabic to the US. Gum Arabic, the Ambassador declared, is indispensable ingredient of Coca-Cola. Washington Post’s Dana Milbank coined the term "Khartoum Karl" to describe the ambassador. SPLM Chapters in the US signed a press release to distance the Party from the unpalatable position taken by the Sudanese ambassador in regard to Darfur as well as condemning the hostile posture by the Amabssador towards United States.

Many were shocked not just because John Lueth is a South Sudanese, and therefore should know better, but also because of the well known fact that he was appointed to fill a position allocated for Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the Sudan new government of national unity (GONU), a coalition dominated by National Congress Party and SPLM, the signatories to Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) concluded in Kenya in January 2005.

And as we are all aware, the position of SPLM on Darfur issue is diametrically opposed to that of its coalition partner, the National Congress Party (NCP). Namely, the SPLM publicly acknowledges that grave human rights abuses have been committed against the people of Darfur through counter insurgency strategies that support an armed ethnic group against the other. That people of Darfur are politically and economically marginalized like those in Southern Sudan, Nuba Montains, Blue Nile, and Eastern Sudan. That the SPLM leadership has come out in support of UN Resolution 1706 authorising the deployment of 22,000 peacekeepers in Darfur. And while SPLM leadership has avoided the explicit use of term "genocide" per se, it is implied that what is taking place is genocide (deliberate and systematic elimination of specific ethnic groups). All that has not been reflected in Ambassador’s press release. The Ambassador’s stand, many reckon, echoes that of NCP and ignores SPLM view. And this is odd, as many were bound to conclude.

Angered like so many Sudanese, and trying to come to terms with the controversy sparked by SPLM man [Mr. John Ukech Lueth], Dr. Abdalla Osman Al-Tom who is a leading figure in the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in Darfur wrote recently:

"As a matter of fact, membership of all political movements and the SPLM is no exception includes the wise and the foolish, the doves and hawks" (Sudan Tribune, 11 June 2007).

Mr. Al-Tom has definitely laid his finger on the correct note and, to some extent, has been able to partially decode the controversy for himself and his readers. However, I want to argue that truth is much deeper than that.

For once, underpinning the current confusion in Sudan foreign policy and unenviable SPLM dilemma is what I would call Masdoforp. Namely, many Sudans and Darfurs, one foreign policy, ridiculous. Masdoforpsis is a manifestation of web of conflict and alliances of political interests, ideological divisions, power struggle, greed, opportunism, and much more which permeates Sudan’s political fabric at all levels, and is to be found everywhere even within one party such as the SPLM.

Can masdoforpsis explain Sudan’s foreign policy crisis jigsaw?
I want to suggest it possibly could. By "many Sudans" I mean not all Sudanese feel strongly about the possible adverse impacts of economic sanctions imposed on their country. I do not know about the exact statistics, but an estimated 4.5 millions Darfurian are affected by war and 900,000 have been killed since its break out in January 2003. 4 millions Southern Sudanese were internally displaced by the 22-year north-south conflict in which about 2.5 million Southerners lost their lives. The north-south war officially ended in January 2005 (but nevertheless continued to be fought peacefully to this day…). About 8 millions citizens of central, eastern, and northern Sudan were forced to migrate or seek asylum in a foreign country since the arrival of Ingaz Revolution (Natioanal Salvation Revolution) in July 1989. Add that up, and you have roughly about 16.5 million war affected, displaced, and political fugitives. This does not include those who continue to live in the country to face daily economic hardships, suppression of opinion, human rights abuse, and fear for their own lives. Hence more than half of Sudan population (out of estimated total of 35 millions) have been affected in one way or another. Small wonder Sudan has one of the largest Diasporas in the world in terms of the proportion population that has been forced to flee and seek refuge elsewhere.

A great many Sudanese still feel disposed, disfranchised, and stake-less in the Sudanese state. Sanctions, according to these marginalized sections of Sudanese society may be the only hope to hasten the pace of political change for the better. It is the only hope that might force the all-powerful National Congress Party to make real concessions and accept true democratic transformation to take place. They do not live in the present but live in a future yet to materialise. This "Sudan" is symbolised, represented, and championed by vision of Sudan Liberation Movement in the government of National Unity (GONU). At least, that is how it is seen.

The "other Sudan" is one whose stand and interests are represented, symbolised, protected, and championed by the ruling National Congress Party (NCP). To them, it is Sudan’s sovereignty that is at stake. Sanctions or deployment of UN peacekeepers is nothing but attempts to occupy and re-colonise Sudan. This ‘other’ Sudan believes it has everything to lose and must resist anything to topple the status quo or compromises it.

Between those two polar extremes, all the Sudanese of all political persuasions, shades and colours have tried to align their personal and political interests. Hence, all of us must be warned that there is more to what we see than mere dove-ness, hawkish ness, or foolishness. Some of the actors on our political scene know exactly what they are doing, for whom they are doing it, and what they will gain from it.

Masdoforpsis within the SPLM
SPLM is both political and historical entity. Hence, nothing can be said about it without reference to this fact. By the very nature, SPLM has always been a broad church embodying wide spectrum of political colours, ideological inclinations, and agendas that are bound by common cause but occasionally driven apart by diverging interests. And in this regard, one needs to point out that a significant membership of SPLM never really subscribed to the vision of "new Sudan" which has been the fundamental philosophy that shaped SPLM political struggle. Some favoured the label of "separatists." When Salva Kiir Mayardit came to power, he was welcomed by elements within the SPLM, which under John Garang leadership would have counted themselves marginalized and not close enough to the centre of decision-making within the party. Understandably, Salva Kiir welcomed everyone on board. And when political appointments were made, a large chunk went to this "SPLM constituency." This "constituency" has the tendency to elevate "separatist" values within the SPLM over the new Sudan or the ‘unionists" values. The NCP has often been attracted to flirt with the "separatist" camp in the SPLM by appearing to favour self-determination of the South as the ultimate solution to the question of power distribution and political dissent by the South. And one would have thought that the demise of Khartoum agreement has exposed the NCP credibility. So far it hasn’t.
Moreover, since coming to power as SPLM Chairman and president of the government of South Sudan (GOSS), this author has come to conclude that president Salva Kiir prefers a liases-faire (do-as you-like) mode of leadership. He delegates power to his ministers and gives them space and autonomy to device their own policies and opportunities to make mistakes and (and hopefully learn from it). He has been slow to pull plug on ministers or top civil servants despite glaring errors that some of them do fall to from time to time (for example, the former finance minister was not expected to last that long in the job with all controversies that surrounded him). Few ministers have been sacked. Kiir’s leadership style is therefore in stark contrast with that of his predecessor, Chairman John Garang who liked to be fully in control of what his (then shadow) ministers were up to (not a bad thing for a guerrilla movement). The advantage of Kiir’s style are numerous. Decision-making is not centralised. It encourages individual ministers to be independent and innovative. It promotes experimentation. Power is shared and responsibility for running the government falls on all. Every one is responsible for their mistakes and not just the leader. Future leaders are prepared and trained. It is very much in line with the long perceived wisdom that says: "a good leader surrounds himself with people better than her or himself and gets out of their way." This can be perceived at times as a sign of a weak and undecided leadership. Not necessarily true.

Besides, everything (delegated authority included) has its optimal point after which the law of diminishing return begins to chip away any further utility to be gained from addition of more of the same. Early intervention and a healthy dose of autocracy have their place in wise leadership. It is a matter of personal judgement. Delegation is not error free nor is a panacea for all problems of governance. It comes at a prize (such as giving the impression that no one is in charge). Delegation is good so long as the leader always remembers that it is his responsibility to inspire and bring the best out of his colleagues in the government. I am not suggesting that president Kiir is failing to inspire. I am saying it is very pivotal if he is to succeed.

That said, delegation alone couldn’t sufficiently explain why President Salva Kiir Mayardit continues to tolerate ministers and top civil servants despite many glaring faults by some of them. Perhaps Kiir is wary of sort of divisions and schisms that wrecked and nearly destroyed SPLM/A in the past. It is unthinkable that some of those appointed to critical positions in the government of National Unity (GONU) on SPLM ticket would have held the positions under Chairman Garang. Many of them have always been sceptical about new Sudan vision and it is doubtful that they would change their opinion overnight. Kiir has sought to give those who once claimed they were being marginalized despite their potential an opportunity to make a difference and shine (or fall by their own sword). It takes an incredible strong mindedness and patience such as Kiir’s to keep South Sudanese, with our well-known volatility, moving as one big pack. Kiir’s "quiet wisdom" is increasingly getting through, winning him an increasing number of quiet admirers.

Take Ambassador John Ukec Lueth as an example. Few would claim to understand where he stood in many controversies that faced SPLM in the turbulent years from 1991 onward and where his allegiance lies within SPLM’s broad church. As far as I can tell he has not exercised sound judgement when responding to American sanctions. He may not have what it takes to navigate the complex terrain that characterised the history of Sudan-US relationships given the commitment of the later in the ending of human tragedy in Darfur. However Masdoforpsis could be a contributing factor.

And Many Darfurs?
In the past large army recruits from Darfur, Nuba Mountains, and Kordufan were deployed in South Sudan to quench the first armed rebellion (Anya Nay I). Darfur also acted as source of recruits for membership in Islamic Movement led by Hassesn Al-Turabi, particularly amongst university students. Government militia from South Darfur, and South Kordufan wreaked havoc in Northern Bhar Al Ghazal and Abyei regions and played a central role in abduction and slavery of thousands of women and children from Bhar Al Ghazal and in cattle rustling during most parts of the second armed rebellion led by SPLM/A. Dhaein massacre in which thousands Dinka internally displaced persons lost their lives in 1986 was masterminded by Ruzeigat tribes from Southern Darfur. Small wonder, there are still a tiny section of South Sudanese who carry grudges against people of Darfur. The same section of South Sudanese also looks at any alliances of SPLM with some northern traditional parties with the same scepticism as they view the idea of new Sudan.

The other view of Darfur is a revolutionary one. Namely, that advocated by SPLM which sees Darfurians as marginalized and oppressed like their African brothers in South Sudan and Nuba Mountains. This vision holds no grudges against people of Darfur and fosters joint struggle in order for the people of those regions to bring about an end to slavery, political and economic marginalization, and oppression in all its forms and guises. A loud and outspoken membership of SPLM subscribes to this vision.

Many people have had their eyebrows raised by the views and stand taken by Ambassador John Ukec Lueth on US sanction and Darfur. They realise that the position of US Amabssodor went to SPLM because of the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement). And without serious US backing, there would not have been CPA. Waging war of words on the US is seen as undermining the CPA. It is shooting the hen that laid the golden eggs. So indebted are South Sudanese to the current US administration that nothing short of long-term special and lasting relationships can repay the debt.

Furthermore, the biggest challenge facing SPLM is how it can influence Sudan foreign policy instead of leaving it to be d driven solely by the NCP’s agenda and interests.

One way for achieving this is by forming a subcommittee/ commission on foreign policy to formulate and guide foreign policy in consultation with the Council of Ministers and institution of Presidency in GONU.

That way, Mr. Salva Kiir Mayardit, the GOSS president and SPLM Chairman may minimise the damage being caused by Masdoforpsis to his leadership.

And good luck Mr. president in the difficult job of keeping the South and SPLM united despite the widely divergent views and ideological inclinations and interests within it.