A Quiet Monologue with SPLM Secretary General, Pagan Amum (Part1)
John A. Akec
I was very fortunate to listen to a long speech by Mr. Pagan Amum, the secretary general of Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM), during a fund-raising event organised by Abyei High Council for Civil Society under his patronage on Friday 5th May 2008 at St. Matthews Catholic Church in Khartoum. The event was intended to raise funds to help the hundred thousand or so Abyei citizens who have been displaced by recent fighting between Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and Sudan Armed forces (SAF). Mr Amum explained to the gathering the suffering inflicted on the people of Abyei as a result of refusal of National Congress Party (NCP), SPLM’s coalition partner in the government of National Unity, to implement Abyei Protocol as well as rejecting the recommendations of Abyei Boundary Commission (ABC).
The event that was planned for two days running featured many poets and musicians from all over Sudan, including South Sudan’s international artist Emmanuel Kembe. At the height of celebrations, Mr Amum and his wife madam Suzan Deng Amum took to the floor carrying baskets around and asking audience to dig into their pockets to make monetary contributions (besides what the attendees might had paid at the entrance). I thought this was shrewd and cool of the couple. This fund-raising event was crowned by Mr. Amum himself making a personal contribution that was worth one-month of his salary.
In his approximately one hour speech, Pagan Amum did not mince his word but put the responsibility for the Abyei’s carnage squarely at the door of NCP and president Omer Al Bashir: "All these atrocities were committed by the so called People’s Armed Forces which never fired a single bullet against a foreign army since Sudan’s independence in 1956!….President Bashir is responsible for the death and displacement of 100 thousand Abyei citizens 100% " he told his cheering audience. I agreed with comrade Pagan 100%.
As I watched Pagan Amum and reflected on his marked departure from what older generations of South Sudanese politicians would have said given an opportunity to use the same platform I breathed a sigh of relief that perhaps my generation of politicians is doing something right by continuing to fearlessly confront the status quo. This if anything, is a taste of freedom, and a step towards the establishment of democratic culture in Sudan.
However, the purpose of my article was not confined to singing the song of praises of Pagan Amum for the good that he does to our communities (important that is occasionally) but to raise some concerns with him about where his party is faltering. I would like to do this by raising a sample of issues that SPLM as a South Sudanese ruling party and a senior coalition partner in the government of national unity should have addressed effectively but so far has not done so. Pagan Amum is a man of power and has numerous avenues to communicate with Sudanese people from all walks life (myself included), but for me I am merely a blogger. This is still good enough for us to communicate, albeit monologuely.
THERE ARE MANY ABYEIs IN SOUTH SUDAN NOT JUST ONE
I went to the fund-raising event to support the people of Abyei that is undisputedly southern. Six years ago, I warned our political establishment that the region could become a Sudan Kashmir, that it is the responsibility of Southern Sudanese to return its administration to South, not that of people of Abyei. I am not so sure if my warning was heeded, but I am pleased that some attention is being paid by SPLM to the region.
However, despite my pleasure to be part of fund-raising effort, I went to the event with heavy heart. Some of my colleagues I spoke to declined my invitation not because they have anything against the people of Abyei, but because of what they perceived as SPLM leadership hypocrisy and double standards: "As the Abyei fund-raising event is being launched by SPLM secretary general, many South Sudanese citizens in Lietnhom, Alek, Gogrial, and Kuajok are hiding in the bush in fear of being attacked by their own Dinka tribesmen. Many of them have lost everything including their loved ones…., and no one in SPLM cares", one of them told me by phone. And this is a bitter truth.
Thousands in Gogrial East and West Counties in Warap State have been forced to evacuate their homes and move to neighbouring areas to avoid being further victims of 3-year old Apuk-Aguok conflict. Unlike the people of Abyei, the citizens of Warap State affected by this vicious tribal war are directly under jurisdiction of the government of South Sudan (GOSS) controlled by the SPLM. Me and many of my friends from the affected areas have been watching the situation for the last 3 years with utter dismay at the lack of will by authorities to seek a fair and speedy resolution of the conflict.
Not only that, the common man and woman caught up in the conflict are increasing loosing faith in neutrality of their government in this conflict. The ammunition stores have been broken into many times, partial disarmaments have been carried out followed by attacks on the disarmed groups by those who have not been disarmed, SPLA trucks have been suspected to have been used to facilitate transport for some groups to attack their neigbours who apparently are less favoured by the government, the intervention of security and armed forces to end the conflict has been non-existent at best and partial or selective at worst, the conflict is increasingly taking a regional nature with different neighbouring tribes taking sides morally or materially. And the response of government of South Sudan to the conflict has been ineffective.
Back to camrade Pagan Amum, despite many great speeches here and there it is great shame that people of South Sudan in general and of citizens of Gogrial East and West, can say that they are yet to see the glowing slogans turned into security, peace, justice, equality. People of East and West Gogrial who are not part of the power struggle suspected to pull the triggers of this devastating tribal war long for a taste of New Sudan and can’t find any.
It is no good for SPLM leaders, Pagan included, to feed us with smooth speeches similar to that of an opposition party (that is powerless) when the fact is that it has a piece of land with size of France and billions of dollars income and yet has been incapable for 3 years to provide security, led alone development to people under its care. As things stand, the writing on the wall is that SPLM party is letting down people of Sudan Sudan.
New Sudan should begin with Southern Sudan, else, after a while everyone will be fed up with empty slogans and speeches that are never translated into tangible actions.
Comrade Pagan Amum is reminded here that power does not last forever. It is something that can be lost. What I am seeing as a citizen of South Sudan is that SPLM power is being squandered with nothing to show for; and despite many cheers of last Friday at St. Mathews Catholic Church, I would like to remind my comrade in struggle that there are many angry and hungry people in South Sudan; that the hunger and anger of the underdogs of South Sudan will soon or later catch up with SPLM.
To be continued.