Friday, April 28, 2006

Draft Darfur Peace Agreement (DDPA): A Just Peace or Peace at all Costs?

By John A. Akec

The government of Sudan and Darfur armed Movements have been given 48 hours ending Friday night to present opinion on a draft Darfur Peace Agreement proposed by African Union mediators after more than two years of grilling negotiations. If signed, it will put an end to a devastating war that broke out in January 2002 and which has claimed more than 300,000 lives and displaced 1.5 million people from their homes.

The agreement offers Darfur Movements a position of Senior Assistant to the President in the Government of National Unity (GONU), who will be the fourth highest-ranking official in the government and will exercise wide powers and political influence. SLA/M and JEM will nominate 3 persons among whom the President will choose a Senior Assistant. An Advisor to the President from Darfur will also be appointed by the Senior Assistant to the President.

And according to the Draft Peace Agreement seen by this author, a Transitional Darfur Regional Authority (TDRA) will be set up that will be charged with responsibility of implementing Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), supervising reconstruction and economic development, and helping in return and resettlement of the refugees. It will consist mainly of the Senior Assistant to the President, the Governors of the three Darfur States, Heads of the Darfur Rehabilitation and Resettlement Commission, Darfur Reconstruction and Development Fund, Darfur Land Commission, Darfur Security Commission, and Darfur Peace and Reconciliation Council. SLA/M and JEM will have representatives in TDRA. Also, a nominee of SLA/M and JEM will be governor of one of 3 Darfur States, in addition to 2 cabinet ministers and 1 advisor to the governor in each of the 3 states. The Senior Assistant to the President will head Transitional Darfur Regional Authority (TDA)

Darfur Movements will also have 3 state ministers in the federal government, 1 cabinet minister in the executive of Khartoum State, in addition of four cabinet ministers already held by Darfurians in the government of national unity. The Darfur Movements will also occupy 12 seats in the National Legislative Assembly .

In wealth sharing, the share of Darfur will be worked out by a new body called Fiscal and Financial Allocation and Monitoring Commission (FFAMC) that will be formed as part of this agreement. FFAMC will be an independent body that will make recommendations about the formula to be used for funds allocations to the President and the National Legislative Assembly. A Panel of Experts aid FFAMC in its work. Members of the Panel will be nominated by FFAMC and approved by the National Legislative Assembly. Darfur will be appropriately represented. Mechanisms have been deigned into FFAMC in order to protect its independence against government interference.

To speed up reconstruction process of the war ravaged region, Darfur will receive a payment of US$ 300 million from the National Account Fund in 2006, and another two consecutive payments of US$ 200 million in 2007 and 2008. This is in addition to its allocation from National Account as will be determined by the FFAMC.

There will be a referundum by July 2010 at the latest in which Darfurians will decide between the amalgamation of current three Darfur States into one administrative unit called Darfur Region, or retaining the status quo of three self-governing Darfur States with no Region. There will also be a boundary commission to delinate Darfur's North-South boundary as of first of January 1956.

The SLM/A and JEM combatants will be disarmed, demobilised, or redeployed. Those qualified and competent will be integrated into Sudan Armed Forces. The agreement calls for fair representation of Darfurians at all levels of Sudan Armed Forces and security organs. The combatants who will be integrated into Sudan Armed Forces will not be transferred away from Darfur region in the next 5 years and are protected from being laid off by any new redundancy plans in the armed forces over that same period. The government of Sudan will also be required to downsize its forces in Darfur and in border with Chad. The process will be heavily monitored and policed by Security Commission through African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS).

Since April 2004, the government of Sudan has been negotiating with Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and Justice and Equality Movement to bring a peaceful end to war in Darfur. In March 2006, the UN and African Union peace mediators gave Darfur warring parties a deadline to reach an agreement by 30th April 2006. On Tuesday 25th April 2006, the AU's chief mediator, Salim Ahmed Salim, presented to the government of Sudan, and the Darfur Movements with a draft peace agreement which he described as 'balanced and fair" to all the parties. All the parties were given 48 hours to respond to AU draft proposals.

Both the SLM/A and JEM demanded for the position of vice president (currently held by Ali Osman Taha), the governorship of Khartoum State, 8 federal cabinet ministers, and a single Darfur State (or region) instead of the current 3 unconnected but self-governing states. In addition, SLA and JEM are demanding compensation for each individual who suffered loss in the war.

On its part, the NCP dominated government of Sudan is ready to make concessions without compromising its 52 percent majority in the National Assembly, and the post of vice president, and argues that administering Darfur as 3 states will bring power closer to people.

One glaring problem with this agreement is that SLA/M and JEM combined will still lack the majority to decidedly influence policies in the 3 Darfur States to achieve their goals for taking up arms. Hence, while Darfur Movements will be represented in the government, they cannot dictate the terms to the current Darfur states administration that was installed by the government of Sudan. This situation is unlike that of the Government of Southern Sudan where 70 percent of the executive and Legislative Assembly, and executive and legislative of branches of 10 Southern States, are held by the SPLM.

Furthermore, the agreement talks about what will be done and how it will be done. It does not give specific numbers or targets or how much is good enough. This is a great weakness as it leaves much to be decided in future. It is potential minefield for conflict, greed, and dishonesty. In order to succeed, the implementation of the agreement will demand very close involvement of the international partners and third parties to verify, interpret, or arbitrate disputes.

In fact, this agreement with its dependence on third parties to monitor compliance with terms of the agreement, it will open up Sudan to the greatest international community ever.

Sudan government is optimistic that a deal will be struck on Sunday 30 April 2006, which is the deadline set by the UN to warring parties in Darfur to reach an agreement. SLA/M leader Abdalwaheed Al-Nur said that it would be impossible to sign the draft agreement as it leaves out much of Movements demands, specially that related to the position of the vice president. As of Friday night, JEM was yet to send their comments on the draft agreement to the AU mediators.

Implemented correctly, the agreement can bring justice and peace. And without spelling out how much is just, it leaves the agreement hanging on the good faith of the government of Sudan and the willingness of the international community to closely get involved. And that is a minefield.

It should go without saying that much energy has been injected into the negotiating process since the vice president Ali Osman Taha joined the Abuja peace talks earlier this month. The miracle maker that he is, there could still be many surprises in the pipeline that could dramatically change the situation between now and Sunday, 30 April 06.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

African Union Makes Final Proposals to End Darfur War

Rayaam (Abuja, 26 April 2006) - Report by Abu Obeda Abdalla
Translation from Arabic by John Akec

The African Union (AU) has presented a final proposals to break the deadlock in Darfur's peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria, last night. The proposals comprised 3 papers dealing with political power, wealth sharing, security arrangements, and Darfur-Darfur dialogue. The AU mediator has given both the government of Sudan and Darfur movements (SAL and JEM) 48 hours to give their views on the 3 papers. No comments have yet been made by either SLA or JEM, but Dr Majzoub Al Khalifa, head of Sudan government delegation at Abuja talks said that the government is serious to find a solution to Darfur's war. Khalifa refused to divulge the contents of the papers but said that the proposals will be studied carefully.

However, Rayaam has learnt that the AU proposals include the creation of a position of chief presidential assistant to be selected by the president of the republic amongst 3 nominations made by Sudan Liberation Army (SLA - two factions) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). The post holder will rank in the fourth position of power in the country (That is, after the president, first vice president, and vice president). The chief presidential assistant will be a member of the national Council of Ministers and will have wide privileges and will exercise siginficant political influence in national politics.

Furthermore, Darfur Movements will have 12 seats in the national parliament. They will be given rights to govern the national capital, Khartoum, through one state cabinet minister (instead of the position of governor of Khartoum which they have demanded earlier) until elections take place in Khartoum. There will also be an interim administration of Darfur with responsibility of overseeing the implementation of the peace agreement and return of the refugees.

The proposals were presented by Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, the AU chief mediator, in general meeting which was attended by the head of government negotiating team, Dr Majzoub Al Khalifa; Menai Arkoi and Abdalwahid Mohamed Al Nur, heads of SLA Factions; and Ahmed Nugud Lisan, the head of JEM's negotiating team. There was not a great deal of discussion about the proposals in that meeting.

In an open meeting, Dr Salim urged the parties to the conflict to rise up to the challenge and take bold decisions because the people of Darfur are waiting for results to emerge from the current peace talks. He asserted that the proposals are fair to all the parties, and are the best anyone can expect from these negations adding that the views of Darfur movements have been taken into account when these proposal were made by the AU. He asked the parties to bury their differences and overcome doubts over power sharing in the centre and Darfur region, and over issues of wealth, borders, and representation in the national parliament and to take decisions on the proposed solutions. He assured the parties that the underlying principles for the proposals is to maintain the unity of country as a valued member of African Union.

Salim also reminded the parties that the time for political manoeuvres, delay tactics, and rhetoric is over. The chief mediator, Ahamed Salim, also praised Sudan's vice president, Ali Taha, whose presence in Abuja during the recent talks he believes has helped greatly in "narrowing the gap" between the negotiating parties.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Rumbek (2) and Re-launching of the SPLM Vision

By John A. Akec
22 April 2006

SPLM is a strange animal. All the eyes of the Sudanese people are always fixed on it to deliver. If it falters, all falter. It is like Noah’s great Ark. It must stay afloat, or else, we will be carried away by the torrents. Therefore, for SPLM, surviving internal and external crises becomes absolute necessity, not an option.

Rumbek has always been famous as the town that hosted the first, as well as one of the oldest secondary schools in Southern Sudan. The school in which generations of Southern Sudanese leaders were once educated.

In recent years, the name of the Southern Sudan town of Rumbek has come to gain significance in the life of SPLM as a political organization. It was in this city that the SPLM leadership managed to overcome potentially catastrophic rift in November 2004, just a month before the signing of Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between SPLM and the Government of Sudan. The conference that took place between 27th and 29th November 2004 enabled John Garang, the founding head of SPLM, to be reconciled with his deputy and the current head, Salva Kiir. This will be referred to in this article as Rumbek Conference 1, or Rumbek I.

Again amidst rumors of attempted coups and internal conflicts, all the eyes were focused once again on Rumbek as members of SPLM's new 34-member political Bureau met there between 2nd and 5th April 2006 to assess the progress in the implementation of CPA, restructure the party's internal organs and assign responsibilities, revaluate party's own performance, address internal issues, and relaunch a revised vision into the future. This will be called Rumbek 2.

Rumbek 2 was a timely event which came at the critical period when the concerns about the vision and policies of the SPLM under its new head, Lt. Gen. Salva Kiir were reaching a tipping point. It could have taken place earlier. But one must be grateful that it took place at all. And as Helmut von Moltke chief of staff of the German army in the World War I once observed: no plan survives contacts with enemy. It was therefore unthinkable that SPLM was going to proceed as it was - participating in the government of national unity (GONU), and running the government of Southern Sudan (GOSS), on an open-ended plan without a single pause to take stock and assess achievements and failures, and see how any mistakes could be rectified.

The minutes of the conference have not been published and what has been learned about the conference either was extracted through the final communiqué or through informal or other media sources.

First, there were the rumors of attempted coup by the SPLA chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Oyai Deng Ajak. It turned out to be of no basis. However, what actually did take place was that some of SPLA's heavy armory were relocated in positions around Juba by the orders the SPLA's chief of the staff. The UN peacekeeping forces were not informed of the plan, nor were GOSS security authorities made aware. That relocation of the troops and military heavy equipment triggered security alarm bells up and down the system. According to some sources, that troops relocation was caused by flooding of some areas of the city and therefore necessitating relocation of some heavy military equipment.

Second, there were issues of administrative nature to be sorted out. The president of the government of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit was said to be deeply concerned about many unreported travels by various Southern government ministers without clear mission or without notifying the cabinet affairs office about their programs. Kiir is also said to have raised concerns about the overlapping and even conflicting responsibilities of some GOSS ministers. One case in point is that of White Nile Petroleum Ltd, a joint venture between SPLM and private shareholders in Britain giving the company rights to explore and drill for oil in Southern Sudan in areas previously awarded to a French oil company, Total. The formation of that company sparked great controversy already. And as if that was not enough, deals and other important matters related to operation of this entity are still being carried out by former SPLM officials who now hold other positions of responsibility. The SPLM stakes in White Nile Petroleum Ltd are yet to be undertaken by the new GOSS Ministry of Energy.

In short, there are issues of change from the way the SPLM used to operate as a guerilla movement with adhoc procedures and murky boundaries of responsibilities that are like nothing close to that expected of an accountable ruling Party. It is essentially the problem of "change" that needs careful management in order to succeed, and succeed smoothly!

Third, there was the issue to do with the conduct of a number of SPLM ministers in the government of national unity (GONU). Chief among them were Dr Lam Akol of foreign affairs, Dr Nyot Kok of High Education, Science and Technology, Mr Aleu Ayeing of Internal Ministry, and Mr Telar Ring, of Cabinet Affairs.

To borrow professor Eric Reeves' description of Dr Lam Akol policy line on Darfur, they were "the willing tools" for serving the National Congress Party's political interests. Each minister was culpable of the accusation to varying degree. Dr Nyot Kok looked away from student’s unrest at the University of Juba in Khartoum that went on for months and let to loss of lives and property at the embattled Southern institution. And despite the calls from Southern academics to relocate the University back to the South, the minister concerned took no action. Mr. Telar Ring went out to the media to declare that the statements that were expressed in February 2006 by president Salva Kiir about slow pace of CPA implementation were "personal opinions". While Mr. Aleu Ayeny, the state minister in Sudan's Interior Ministry, publicly undermined the condemnation by Yasir Arman, the SPLM Parliamentary group head, of NCP policies in IDPs areas around Khartoum by suggesting that Araman's criticisms of the NCP were ill informed. This is not an exact quote of what the minister said, rather it is what can be deduced from the interpretation of it when he proposed to Rayaam that Mr Arman should first visit the ministry of Interior to find out facts for himself before making his criticism of NCP.

Overall, the conduct of the ministers described above showed SPLM in the worst light possible as a movement that has abandoned its roots, and its mission to represent the interests of South Sudanese and that of marginalized people of Sudan, such as Darfur, Abeyi, Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, and Eastern Sudan. That its policies lacked coordination and coherence with the party's previously stated vision of striving to tackle Sudan's chronic political, social, and economic hegemony by a minority clique in Khartoum in the name of Islam, Arabism (Auroba), or otherwise.

Although many voices were heard calling for the resignation or dismissal of some of these ministers, others, including this author, saw it as too heavy-handed a penalty and not necessary. What were required were clear policy directives from the SPLM leadership to which the ministers should adhere to as much as possible, and to regularly report back to SPLM leadership. And that was exactly the sort of redress that emerged from Rumbek conference. No one was dismissed, but the concerned ministers where brutally rebuked and advised to serve the Party's interests and advance its vision.

In fact, change of tone and action by some of the ministers was apparent just a few days after the conference. This indicates to us that some policy recommendations were made to guide the ministers concerned in the government of national unity in line with SPLM political mission.

Some of the important outcomes of the conference were the appointment of Pagan Amum as SPLM national secretary general and spokesperson, Dr Luka Manoja as secretary of SPLM Southern sector, while Abdal Aziz Hilu was named as secretary of the Northern Sector, Yasir Arman as acting secretary for Northern Sector and head of SPLM Parliamentary Group in the national government. Dr Luka Biong was appointed as SPLM national treasurer. The appointments of those individuals to these strategic leadership positions within SPLM were well received by a wide sector of Sudanese community in both the South and the North based on track records of those SPLM members.

The relationships with National Congress Party were reviewed. Outstanding matters such as GOSS' share of oil revenues, controversies surrounding oil accounts, and delays in implementation of Abyei Boundary Commission recommendations were all discussed as well as the need to agree a policy on Darfur acceptable to both ruling parties.

Most important of all was the endorsement of a new and clear stand on many pressing national and regional issues. Here SPLM has come out with a resolve to get involved in the resolution of Darfur and Eastern Sudan's conflicts. It also made policy recommendations in dealing with the problem of LRA in Southern Sudan.

All the above measures are beginning to bear fruits. The conference has been hailed as "success" especially by SPLM allies in the North who began to doubt the commitment of Kiir's leadership to SPLM's vision. The minister of High Education has now suspended the operation of Juba University and promised setting up a national review body to study problems of the University and make recommendations within one month. The SPLM has recently made contacts to encourage LRA to negotiate with Ugandan government and initial outcomes look positive. President Salva Kiir addressed the Assembly to flesh out his government policies, plans, and programmes. The statement was patchy in places and there were few targets. However, it was an excellent improvement on previous statements and the most comprehensive policy statement by the SPLM chief to date.

With unsteady and unsure start, and with many challenges of change still ahead, President Salva Kiir has re-launched SPLM vision once again. It is the vision that impacted Sudan in ways beyond measure. Its full fruits will be evident once peace has been restored in Darfur and Eastern Sudan, and once the National Islamic Congress party is made to adhere to the terms of CPA and any other terms to come out of peace settlement in Darfur and Eastern Sudan.

Like any political organization, SPLM is made of several factions and ideologies. These factions and ideologies can be confusing at time as they are destined to pull the party in different directions, all of which do not necessarily serve the best interests of marginalosed people Sudan, Southern Sudan included. Therefore it is the duty of President Salva Kiir to keep these factions in check and working in harmony with each other. If they don’t, or if the president becomes the captive of the wrong ideology or faction, all will be swept away by mighty NCP party that has never honoured any agreement.

Salva Kiir has been referred to as the "Joshua" of SPLM since he took over the affairs of SPLM after the demise of the founding chairman, Dr John Garang. What responsibility and what challenge that come with that name!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What were the sticking points of differences between Sudan and Uganda investigation teams over the causes of Garang's chopper crash?

A question addressed by Sana Abbas (Rayaam, 19Th April 2006)
Translation by John A. Akec

It was not an easy task for both Uganda and Sudan to overcome their differences over the final wording of the report and to draw the curtain over the plane crash wish killed the head of Sudan People Liberation Movement, and Sudan's First Vice President, Dr. John Garang. It has been a drawn out and painstaking process involving Sudan and Uganda, despite the contribution of third party countries. By blowing the whistle signalling the agreement on the final report, it is hoped that Garang will rest comfortably in his grave and brings an end to all the doubts and murmurings!

Khartoum was taken by surprise to receive complaints from Ugandan government expressing their reservation about the wording of certain clauses in the report on 11Th April 2006, a day before the set date to announce the findings of the investigation committee and to deliver the final report to parties concerned. At that time, all subcommittees agreed that the report was acceptable as is including the Ugandan members of the investigation.

The differences did not only arise between Uganda and Sudan, but also between the US investigator and Uganda, and between Kenyan representatives and all other teams.The American aviation accident investigator , Denis Jones, accused Uganda of subversion and obstructionism in refusal to hand over all the official press releases in relation to chopper crash to technical committee. This was followed by a formal complaint in October 2005 to president Museveni regarding these objections in addition to presenting a new method of investigation in which answers to 47 questions where demanded of Ugandan government. The questions relates to number of instruments on the chopper, examination of new documents, the need to reexamine parts of the wreckage, the number and the names of all the Ugandans and Russians who were involved with the chopper (maintenance or otherwise) before its final destination.

The investigators wanted to examine all the conflicting press reports by Ugandan government during the first 72 hours of Garang's chopper crash which caused great embarrassment to all concern. On its part, the Ugandan government continued to ignore the request by the committee. Not only that, but the Ugandan representation at the committee's meeting began to shrink!!

All this and more, led the head of Sudan national investigation team, Ambassador Saraag Al Din Hamid to announce in October 2005 that Uganda is hindering the work of the crash investigation committee by choosing not to co-operate with the committee for "unknown reasons." Furthermore, Saraag Al Din Hamid also revealed disappearance of a number of vital instruments on the wreckage which suggested that there was "a party" working hard behind the scene to deflect the finger of accusations being point at them. The pronouncements of the Sudanese Representative and the US investigator were met with "angry" statement issued Ugandan charge DE affairs in Khartoum in which Uganda categorically denied the accusations. Yet, continued to ignore demands by the committees to hand over vital information.

And after tiresome travels between Kampala, Entebe, Juba, and Russia during which the national and the international committee investigated federal and state ministers in the government of Southern Sudan, SPLM members and military commanders, the security personnel, and those who used to accompany John Garang in his travels; and amalgamating all the information with the findings of the Russian investigators on black box and cockpit recorder; the committee concluded that there was no foul play. The investigation, however, concluded that the accident must have been caused by the inexperience of the pilots and their inability to cope with the weather conditions at the time. That showed some "negligence" from Ugandan part. The committee had no way to prove if that "Ugandan negligence" was "deliberate or accidental".

However, a few hours before the report could be finalised, Ugandan government demanded that clauses which seem to put blame on Uganda should be modified. And to complicate matters, the announcement by an insurance company to pay a compensation amounting to US$ 3.4 million to Uganda before the publications of the findings caused more embarrassment to the government of Uganda.

However, last Wednesday the Ugandan and Sudanese teams in present of the US aviation investigator spent a whole day and the evening thrushing out their differences over the wording of the final report in Sheraton Hotel in Kampala. That continued until 3 am on the following day. During that time Uganda put pressure on the committee to modify clauses in the report. This was met with flat refusal by the Sudanese team. After wide consultations, it was finally agreed to incorporate the Ugandan amendments.

The final report was signed last Thursday by Mr Abel Alier on behalf of Sudan, and by Ugandan Communication Minister, John Nasasaria. It as also agreed that the report will be delivered to Sudan's and Ugandan head of the states next Tuesday which will be accompanied by a joined press release in both Khartoum and Kampala.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Why Anthony Makana is My Mould of a Politician and Charles Kisanga a Model Citizen?

By John A. Akec

The exchanges on SPLM-Diaspora Internet Forum between the GOSS' Minister of Commerce and Trade, Anthony Makana and Charles Kisanga, a Southern Sudanese engineering consultant currently residing in the UK is like the story of David and Goliath, except that in this occasion, both David and Goliath won!

Anthony Makana intervened to respond to comments made by a fellow Azande, Charles Kisanga about the recent attempts by GOSS' Vice President Riek Machar to establish contacts with LRA leadership in Western Equatoria. However, the discussion spiralled out into a heated debate not just about the issues being debated, but on personal integrity and credibility of each. Politics is like that, you can't easily untangle the two: personal integrity, and personal political views. If one suffers, the other suffers too. That is why, in civlised world, when a politician has been proved dishonest in small matters he or she is judged unfit for the high government office.

Many well meaning individuals advised the Minister not to get involved in such discussions on the Internet in future (presumably because it is a place for lunatics, the irresponsible, and idlers?!). Others blamed him for "stooping too low!" to exchange views with Charles Kisanga (a confused commoner and liar?). I believe, such comments were well intentioned. However, I could not disagree with them more. Here is why.

The token shown by Minister Anthony Makana when he rolled up his sleeves to take part in an Internet discussion is of great significance to the development of our democratic values. Although the word "democracy" is used these days as a pepper and chilly to spice up our speeches, our political articles, our books, and our liberation slogans, it has no meaning in our political reality. And nothing could be demonstrable of that state of affairs than our mental models of the state and the politicians which are in fact the result of our long suffering under totalitarian systems. That is, systems cloaked in official secrecy, where politicians are insulated in their Ivory towers (in the Upper Room) until they lose their ministerial jobs, then and only then will they be accessible to the public again! That is what we believe to be "government", and those who keep tight lips are our mould of politicians proper!

In fact, this is not what happens in true democracies. In a real democracy, politicians are never insulated from the public. From a prime minister, to a back bench member of Parliament, all make use of any opportunity that avails itself to them to reach out to the wider society and to exchange views with citizens through newspaper, televised interviews, discussion panels, or taking part in popular TV programmes such as "I am a celebrity, get me out here!" in the UK.

A politician who exposes himself/herself to public scrutiny and opens his/her mouth wide for public to view, hear, or examine, and still survives intact, is a better "tested" politician than the one who hides behind "Official Secrecy Act" and who are "too clean" to engage in mud-slinging exercise with the general public.

When Makana engaged Kisanga, my prayers were with Kisanga to win the argument. This is because Kisanga is a normal citizen like me, and yet brave enough to take on a government minister. Furthermore, I have a deep rooted belief that what government officials say to the public, needs to be taken with a certain dose of scepticism. So my first personal commandment ought to be: don't trust the government. My second commandment is: don't trust the government, and the third commandment: don't trust the government. Then everything else follows. This does not mean I am necessarily anti-government boffin, but one who believes that we can make the most of our politicians if we keep them on their toes - guilty and untill proven innocent!

Here is why. While minister Makana agreed that Vice President Riek Machar has been in contact with LRA leaders in Western Equatoria, he claimed the purpose was not to "negotiate" with LRA but to "deliver a final warning" to leave Southern Sudan, or else. And while the recent address by President Salva Kiir to the Assembly speaks of a policy of using military force to drive out the LRA, RumbeK's SPLM leadership Conference policy recommendations did not rule out encouraging LRA and Ugandan government to negotiate a political settlement to war in northen Uganda. However, one understands that GOSS is aware of the sensitivity of LRA issue amongst the general public, and so tends to play down the pursuit of peaceful options in preference of a military solution. And that, I believe, was what the minister was trying to achieve. Charles Kisanga, on his part, tried his best to give the minister hard times. After all, not all that Charles said was empty rhetoric as some of his comments met with some appreciation from a number of members on the discussion board.

That said, I can hardly conceal my admiration for the positive attitude that has been displayed by the Commerce Minister, Mr Anthony Makana, by leaving his official high towers to get engaged with the public directly, and thereby putting his reputation on the line. Any politician with nothing to hide and who believes in politics of transparency and honest accountability need not shy away from taking part in this sort of discussion on the Internet as an official who has full information and as citizen in his or her own right.

It is my unshakable belief that we need not discourage the minister from engaging in the future in discussions on the Internet which are of interest to him. In fact, all the politicians except civil servants should be encouraged to post or respond to information and opinions expressed on the Internet, when time allows it.

We need to challenge the now embedded misconception that engaging on the Internet is not a job of self-respecting politician. It is the only means that is accessible to a significant sector of our community across the globe to receive information on the function of our government.

This is because it is not only the Top SPLA commanders who follow up discussions on the Internet these days, but also housewives, and young people. The question "Have you not read it on the Internet?" is very common among members of our community these days, specially among moms and housewives. And that is an audience that is often left out of our male-dominated politics in Southern Sudan. They are now fully tuned in and watching everything very carefully. So the influence of the Internet as prime tool of communication is much deeper than one might think. And with it comes the opportunity to reach out with the government message to a much larger audience.

And although I disagreed with arguments advanced by Minister Anthony Makana, he has more than compensated for the shortcoming by showing that he is one of us, that he is from us, and is working for us. I can't find better words to express his young and geeky spirit. It is the spirit of this age.

His risky act is not an oddity to be disbanded, but one to be emulated by other ministers. A new model about how a politician ought to act and get involved with the general public.

This model says: be simple, be honest, and be brave, and your reputation will remain intact, while the trust between the people and their government will be strengthened.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

South Sudan: Tapping into Knowledge Economy

By John A. Akec
15 April 2006
When I was a pupil in intermediate school, I was told an anecdote. It went like this [adding to it my own memory distortions]:

"When the German army were defeated by Allied Forces in 1945, all the German scientists were taken captive and then distributed as loot among three powers: the US, Britain, and Russia. The Russians executed their captive German scientists immediately and did not want to do anything with them. Britain did not kill their German captives but kept them unemployed and penniless to rot in poverty. The US treated their loot of German scientists with great compassion and gave them meaningful and fulfilling jobs, each according to their abilities and speciality. The result? The Russians have remained technologically backwards ever since; the US are technologically more advanced than any country on the planet; while the British are just managing OK, but still can't catch up with the Americans!"

The morale of the anecdote shall be apparent shortly after reading the proceeding passages of the artilce.

Southern Sudan nation is starting a new life in 21 st century. It is therefore vital that politicians and business leaders be thoroughly familiar with many concepts that should be embedded in government policies and business strategies. These are: information society, knowledge economy, globalisation, and sustainability. Though interrelated, each of these buzzwords is a field unto itself. I will only look at the implications of knowledge economy for us. To do this, I will begin by attempting to define it.

Knowledge economy, literally speaking, is what it says on the tin. It is an economy where expertise, ideas, skills, and intellectual property are commoditised and play very significant part in national wealth creation and contribution to the GDP. Though also referred to as "new economy", knowledge economy is not new at all. Only its significance has become more apparent as we begin the third millennium.

Since the dawn of civilisation, teachers, lawyers, singers, writers, artists, architect, and doctors, to name but a few - have been paid fees in exchange for their services. Increasingly, many of these "knowledge workers" are being highly valued and paid premium. This knowledge economy is a result of what some thinkers called second industrial revolution.

In the first industrial revolution, goods were produced utilising intensive and low-skilled labour. Here, companies valued their tangible assets, such as land, machinery, and raw materials, more than they valued their employees' skill, creative ideas, and expertise from blue-collared manual worker working in the machine shop, to white-collared scientist in company's R& D lab, to dark-suited administrator or boardroom manager. As far as it went, any of these "soft" elements of the product value chain were dispensable.

Furthermore, the invention of steam engine, and discovery of electricity and its generation and subsequent utilisation, enabled the launching of the first industrial revolution. Electricity (generated from coal-fired steam engines or hydro) was used to power factories and light up homes and street. The steam engine also led to invention of automobiles and trains. That facilitated the movement of goods and raw materials from one part of the country to another with great ease and at low costs. Steam engines also powered ships, while a more refined version powered the aeroplanes. Exciting as it was, the first industrial revolution is dwarfed by the second.

The second industrial revolution, one can argue, was given a kick start with the invention of transistor followed by the development of the microchip (the building of millions of tiny electronic circuitry on a piece of silicon wafer on an area half the size of a finger-nail) . That in turn led to invention of computer. Computer technology in turn led to improved data processing and transmission. The power of computer continued to increase as as the the number of transistors that can be housed on a unit area of silicon wafer continued to double every 18 months for the last 4 decades, in accordance to the predictions made by Gordon Moore (who cofounded Intel Corp. with Robert Noyce in 1968, the inventor of integrated circuit). At the same time, the price of electronics and computing equipment continued to drop markedly while the speed continued to increase.

The use of computers led to drastic efficiency improvement in manufacturing industry and increased factory automation, and therefore higher productivity. Computers also led to the birth of the Internet. Further advances in satellite communication and fibre optics technologies, combined with computer technology and the broadband Internet access, led to the convergence of television with the conventional landline telephony, and wireless mobile phone, and ushered in the arrival of the digital age, or information society in which information is widely accessible. Thus, computer and the Internet are to the knowledge economy what the steam engine and the railway were to the old economy that was born out of the [first] industrial revolution.

The ubiquitous availability of information, that is, information on accessible on the move: how you want it, where you want, and when you want it; has created exciting new ways of doing business or running a government. It made economic globalisation a reality and enabled businesses in the developed economies to outsource non-core and non-strategic activities such as telesales, and component manufacture and assembly to less developed but rising economies such as those of India, China, Mexico, and Brazil.

These countries with skilled and well educated, English-speaking workforce are reaping the benefits of the exciting opportunities which digital technology provides to improve the living standards of their citizens substantially. As low-wage economies, they provide competitive edge enough to lure away significant businesses from West and Japan. As a result, services such as banking, accounting, finance, tourism and travel, advertising, and entertainment now make up more than %70 of the GDP of most Western economies. Previously, manufacturing contributed the largest chunk of GDP.

For us in Southern Sudan, we should begin as early as possible to lay foundations for such an economy. First we need to recognise the importance of educational institutions (specially high education) in generating and managing knowledge. We should therefore invest substantially in education from primary to university. We should particularly build universities of technology besides the current traditional universities. The university or universities of science and technology should teach things like microelectronics, Internet and communication technologies, computer engineering, environmental and civil engineering, mechanical engineering, systems engineering, architecture and design, business enterprise and entrepreneurship, technology management, among others. Indeed, a good start could be building Garang's University of Science and Technology in the South which I proposed last December as an investment in the future and as a means of creating knowledge.

In addition to that, the government of South Sudan should also fund research in appropriate technologies. Successful economies make use of academics beyond the lecture theatre through their involvement with relevant government departments at advisory level and as consultants to business and industry. The government of Southern Sudan should also form specialist panelsl composed of top academics and professionals inside the country and in the diaspora to advise on policies, plans, and programmes on science and technology and on how to align policies to extract maximum benefits from new economy. It also need to appoint chief government science adviser.

Furthermore, instead of continuing to import expert indefinitely, the government should make sure it trains homegrown experts and fully recognise and make use of their talents by "buying" their services. For example, those who have specialised in economics and business management at universities should be given amble oppurtunities to advice private businesses to improve productivity and services, reduce costs, and increase profit margins.

As one amongst 1,500 immigrant scientists and engineers who are registered jobless in the UK, I would like to declare my interest in regard to the anecadote above in which Britain's lack of appreciation of foreign talents was apparent. To this day, while UK has done very well in services and finacial sector such as retail, banking and stock market, it is lagging behind amongst OECD countries in terms of investment in research and development in science and technology.

While this is a mere anecdote, it has a message to convey to all of us: appreciating knowledge workers can give a nation just that extra competitive edge.

Wish all a very happy Easter.

Garang's University of Science and Technology (GUSTEC)

Would it not be great if the Assembly for South Sudan should pass a resolution to commemorate the memory of Dr John Garang by establishing a well funded and prestigious institution of its first kind in South Sudan. Departments should include:
Engineering (Mechanical, Civil and Environmental, Architecture, Electronics, Software Engineering and Information Technology)
Communications Engineering,
Journalism and Media Studies
Business, Management, and Enterprise
Arts and Design
Music and Drama
It should be open to all South Sudanese students from all backgrounds to compete with prestigious Scholarships for top students that would include a summer course and and most able students at top world institutions of learning (e.g. Harvard, Oxford, California, Yale, Princeton, Cal tech, Standford, Cambridge, as well as African Universities etc).
It should strive to attract the best academics across Africa, Middle East, and the world with an excellent remuneration package.
It should be led by one of our most visionary academics.
It will be a great ticket into the bright future for many generations to come and remember the founder of a nation.
Just a thought for you and our decision-makers to ponder on.

John A. Akec
9 December 2005
"The future belongs to those who have the courage to will, and act"

Supporting GOSS Policy Statement On Hydroelectric Plants??!

By John A. Akec*

Hydro power has always been hailed as the solution to the increasing world energy needs. But since mid 1980's, the hydro power sector of the energy industry has been plagued with difficulties as political opposition to construction of new dams and allegations of corruption began to mount.

So much that the hydro power sector has acquired the image of high risk, low return sector. Some of image problems include: cost overruns, expensive schedule slippages, inaccuracies in output prediction at design stage, high costs of decommissioning, and political campaigns by those displaced by dam projects and their international supporters, for compensation.

First, a research commissioned by the World Bank showed that in 70 of projects it funded, the final project costs were 27% higher than in original budget. Another survey by the World Bank of some 80 hydro projects completed between 1970 and 1980, revealed that in three-quarters of them, the final construction costs were over the budget. In half of the projects surveyed, the costs were at least 25% over budget. In 30% of the projects, the budget overrun was in excess of 50%. That is, a project budgeted at a cost of $ 2.0 billion could cost $ 3.0 billion to be completed even with inflation adjustment. Only in 25% of the projects surveyed were the final construction cost below the budget.

A good example of costs overrun is 3000 MW Xino dam in Brazil which was built by ABB (of Sweden) at a cost of US$ 3.2 billion; and took some 7 years to complete. The final cost was double the original budget.

According to a former World Bank Economist, John Beasant-Jones, the capital cost of a hydro dam represents 80% of its lifetime cost (excluding the cost of decommissioning). Whereas the capital cost of a coal-fired power station is only 50% of its lifetime cost. That means a 30% costs overrun for a hydro dam is more expensive than the equivalent percentage cost overrun for a coal-fired power station.

Second, the real output of a hydro power plant tends to be lower than the predicted output. This results in lower than expected financial returns and thereby ruins investors' confidence. And in many occasions has led to legal suites being filed against companies involved by the investors. A dam output can be reduced significantly by leakes which are expensive to repair and by variation in rainfalls.

Is hydro the solution to problem of global warming?

Not according to World Bank's environmental findings which say that hydro dams in tropical regions produce more greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and methane) more than their equivalent coal-fired power plants because of plants rotting in the reservoirs.

Is hydro power option a dead end?
Not necessarily. According to Anil K. Malthorta, World Bank's Regional energy adviser in Asia's Infrastructure Unit of the World Bank:

"Current technology used to generate power can be economic at around 50MW. When projects are small scale, it is easier to secure financing for them; quicker execution is possible; and social and environmental dislocations may be more easily handled. Rather than constructing a single large project, developers may wish to consider building a portfolio of smaller projects in a country or across the region"

Because of the above technical, political, environmental, and economic difficulties associated with hydro dams, the World Bank funding of hydro projects has fallen dramatically from 26 projects per a year between 1970 and 1985, to just 4 projects per a year in 1990s. A World Bank official described the Bank's involvement with dam projects worldwide as "inefficient and painful process".

Therefore, both World Bank and the IMF have been placing increasing funding restrictions on the governments of the developing countries (South Sudan is no exception) regarding construction of dams.

Even a country like Norway, where contracts in hydro projects form a large chunk of its export earnings, is reviewing funding development assistance of energy projects involving the construction of dams. Hence if Fula, Badden, and Kenty were viable in 1970s, they may struggle to find donors ready to commit fund to those projects. Moreover, fresh studies and environmental impact assessment will be needed to restart them.

What are alternative sources of enerygy options for GOSS?

Roughly speaking, it looks as though we will have to build plenty of diesel-fired power stations given availability of oil locally, suplmented by solar, and to a lesser extent, wind in rural areas where demand for energy use is not heavy. I do not know about geothermal or nuclear. There are few technical problems with solar: the high prices of solar pannels and the problem of storage of excess capacity of energy for use in the night or a cloudy day. But the potential of solar is very huge in Southern Sudan. There is also a scope for biomass energy (the burning of plant waste to generate steam for industrial use or to turn turbines).

But one need to look at any availabe data on the projected energy demands in Southern Sudan and to factor in other issues in order to come up with a better analysis regarding choices we can make in regard to energy problem.

There is no altenative, all governments have to put money where their mouth is and fund research or seek advice. Just waving our hands in the air will not do us much good.

In conclusion, instead of rushing to lobby the government of Southern Sudan to push for construction of hydro dams, it is better to first understand the economics, environmental, and social impacts as well viability of alternative energy sources for Southern Sudan. Plenty of research is already in the public domain and there are knowledgeable Southern Sudanese in these fields out there who can be complemented by independent or World Bank experts.

Yap, GOSS is right to have appointed advisers in legal, foreign, economic, and religious affairs. However, it also needs advisers in energy and environment!
Failing that, we will continue to fumble and grope in the dark when it comes to devising the best energy strategy and policies for us.

That is my humble opinion regarding this matter.

*This has been adopeted from posting I made on ssnet and splm-diaspora on 13 April 2006

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dr Hassen Al Turabi Goes Secular and Sets Women Free!


Translation by John A. Akec

In a lecture entiltled "The Role of Women in Just Governance" which was delivered by Dr Hassen Al Turabi (74) at the headquarters of Umma Party in Khartoum, Turabi said a Muslim woman can mary a Christian or Jew. He described the teachings that a Muslim woman should not marry a christian or a Jew as misguided teachings intended to confuse and keep women behind. He explained that the practice has its origins in war times and was only used against those fighting the Muslims, but which ceased once hostilties were over.

Turabi also said that Al Hujab (women face and head cover) was meant for women to cover their breasts as one of good practices and was not intended to be generalised to wrap up all the woman body according to the Quaranic verses given by Alah for this particular purpose. It was worn as sign of respect and as a curtain to separate Prophet wives from his guests.

Regarding the right of women to lead in paryers at the front, Dr Turabi said that women can lead at the front if they are more knowledgable in Quaran and Hadeeth (Prophet sayings) than anyone in the congregation. He gave two examples: First, that Prophet Muhammed once gave permission to a woman Muslim scholar to lead members of her family in regular prayers including men. Second, that one of the Prophet's wives, Aaehisha was more versed in Quaraan than many men at the time and hence was often allowed to lead in prayers at the front.

Turabi also sanctioned mixed prayers between men and women on condition that men and women should not sit too close or rub against each other in order to avoid arousing sexual feelings that could distract attention from paryers and devotion.

He also denounced the perceived superiority of men over women saying that the fact that men dominate business and trade life does not mean that they are superior to women. It is only a question of specialisation as opposed to superiority, adding that some women can far outperform men in certain activities or trades.

Regarding women witness in the courts, Dr Turabi said that a woman witness is as valid as that of a man, if not more reliable in some instances. He denounced the belief that the witness of two women in court is equivalent to that of one man. He said that all such beliefs and teachings have nothing to do with Islam. That they wre meant to confuse, mislead, and imprison the minds while keeping Muslims in darkness! He challenged anyone who can come up with Islamic verses to prove such teachings.

Regarding women rights, Turabi said that Islam accords full rights for women even better than how Western cultures treated western women in the past.

He called for women to play greater role in the creation of a just society. That women should be allowed to enter all fields of activities including politics, art, sport, culture and creative thought, and sport. He described the current government as corrupt, unjust, undemocratic, and lacks transparency. He called for the rights of women to particiapate in the coming elections to be upheld by the constitution so that women can take part in the running of the country on equal footing with men.

Regarding alcohol, Turabi said drinking alcohol is not a crime unless it turned into a hostile act. Turabi also casted doubt on the correctness of using the term "martyers"to describe [Northern Sudanese] killed in the war in South Sudan!

The lecture was attended by a huge number of political and religious figures.

Friday, April 07, 2006

In Defence of Democracy, Basic Freedoms and the Constitution: Integrity checks on judiciary post holders ought to be mandatory


By John A. Akec *
16 March 2006
London, UK

The University of Khartoum experienced many violent confrontations between South Sudanese students and student members of National Islamic Front in mid 1980s. During that time, there used to be a saying amongst South Sudanese students at the University of Khartoum that went like this: " When attending students open air debate, and if you see South Sudanese students from Abeyi area charging forward, then you too must charge." The reasons? Because, goes the explanation, the Muslim Brotherhood students must have dispatched some disguised abuse or insult in their own language (Arabic)! Though a very significant number of those who entered Khartoum University in early 1980s understood, spoke, and wrote very fluent Arabic, it came to be recognised that those from Abeyi understood it much better than most! For them, it was almost like first language.

This concept of "understanding" or appreciating the value of what is at stake, I suppose, rings true about almost everything else including such things as freedom of speech, democracy, and basic freedoms. Jesus told a Samaritan woman seeking help that food reserved for children must not be given to dogs. Therefore, we are better advised to think before throwing something of worth away, where it may not serve the purpose it was intended for in the first place. This concept of "understanding" the worth of something or appreciating its "true meaning" spans everything we hold dear in life not just the importance we attach to such things as democracy, equality, freedom, and the rule of law. Because our fellow Northern Sudanese always understood where the centre of gravity of power resides, they have often persisted on retaining positions which they regard as the levers of power, by hooks or crooks. The best we can do when we wake up is attempt damage control.

Probably because of our African ancestors' generosity with their gold, folk tales have it that Arab traders whose caravans crossed the Sahara Dessert into West Africa and interior carrying salts, were able to exchange their salt with native African gold: a kilo for a kilo, and an once for an once. This was a highly unfair barter economy which many of us would find today too naive to be true. But we know for certain from recorded history that by AD750, Arabs armies had already overrun North Africa from which Muslim spread their faith to Western Africa. Amongst many of the Western African kingdoms and empires was kingdom of Ghana founded by King Magan Sissie (modern-day Gambia, Guinea, Mali, and Senegal and lasted from AD770 to AD1070). We are told by historians that Arab traders "marvelled at African warriors with gold-mounted swords and gold-decorated shields." Even dogs at kings' palaces wore gold collars. Salt, gold, and slaves were the main traded goods in addition to leather goods, ivory, and kola nuts. The invention and subsequent use of fire-arms by Europeans and Arab invaders might have led to decline and disappearance of many great African civilisations, but one may still suspect that no enough economic controls were exercised by the founding fathers of those early African civilisations to prevent the loss of their scarce economic resources to the outside world. The traces of that early inequitable barter economy between Africans on the one hand, and Arabs and later Europeans on the other; and apparent lack of negotiating prowess are still to be seen in Navasha Agreement and in the implementation of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that we have negotiated in twenty first century.

However, other enduring civilisations did and still do comparatively better when it comes to matters of life and death. That is, they fought and still fight tooth and nail to preserve their hard-won heritage. For example, in the US late last year and early this year, Republicans and Democrats have been locked in grilling battles over appointment of a new Chief Justice, and over nomination of a judge to replace a retiring member of the 9-member US supreme court. The issues at stakes not only strained bi-partisan co-operation in the Senate to the limit, but also created tensions within the Republican party itself. The the stakes included death penalty, affirmative action, and women right to abortion. But at the heart of it all, was to preserve the integrity of American Constitution as the founding fathers delivered it in 1787.

The appointment of Chief Justice Roberts to replace late William Rehnquist sparked fierce confrontations between pro-choice and anti-abortion campaigners at all fronts. Pro-choice campaigners dreaded that Chief Justice Robert, the Republican nominee who eventually won the post, will swing the court to the right and may lead to overturning of Roe v Wade ruling responsible for legalising abortion. His nomination was passed in Senate (controlled by the Republicans) by 78-22 majority.

The nomination of a new a member to supreme court, however, proved more tortuous. Ms Harriet Miers who was the first choice by president Bush, was forced to withdraw following a fierce criticism from conservatives over her lack of credentials. The second choice, Mr Samuel Alito, faced a grilling questioning in the Senate. Many accusations were made against Mr Alito such as the concern raised by the Democratic Senator, Dick Durbin:

"[Judge Alito] your records raises troubling questions about whether you appreciate the checks and balances in our constitution - the careful efforts of our founding fathers to protect us from a government or president determined to seize too much power over our lives."

And that of Senator Edward Kennedy, siting Mr Alito 15-year record on Federal appeal court in Philadelphia: "In an era when the White House is abusing power, is excusing authorising torture, and is spying on American citizens, I find Judge Alito's support for an all-powerful executive branch to be genuinely troubling."

In defence of Mr Alito, the Republican Senator Charles Grassly said:

"[Judge Alito] has a reputation for being exceptional and honest judge devoted to the rule of law, and a man of integrity". Others described him as "fair-minded judge who will respect supreme court precedents.".

President George W. Bush defended Mr Alito nomination saying:

"Sam's got the intellect necessary to bring a lot of class to the court...He's got the judicial temperament necessary to make sure that the court is a body that interprets the law and doesn't try to write the law."

Good luck Judge Alto in your torture chamber, short may your pain last, and long may democracy live in that land of the free called America.

As we can see from the arguments and counter arguments, both the Republicans and the Democrats are fighting to preserve their greatest heritage: the American Constitution written by its founding fathers and named after Alexander Hamilton's mother (Constitution). Hamilton, James Madison, and George Washington (who was later elected to become the first American president) were amongst the 55 state delegates (or wise minds) who drafted the Constitution in Pennsylvania in 1787. The constitution was to be the manual into a bright future for the new nation that came into being on July 4, 1776, the day on which American independence from the British Crown was unilaterally declared.

The strength of American constitution hings on a system of checks and balances which separates the powers between the executive (the presidents and his administration), the legislative body (the Congress comprised of the Senate and House of representatives), and the judiciary. According to this principle which was first proposed by Edmund Randolph of Virginia, the executive runs the country and devices and executes policies guided by the constitution. The legislative body (the Congress) approves and supervises the executive, writes new laws and amends the existing laws if necessary. The judiciary interprets the law and brings to books those who contravene it without necessarily writing the law themselves. Pleased with their creation one of the founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, quipped:

"The only way it [the constitution] could fail is if one party gained control of not just the Executive but also the Senate and House chambers, and upon doing so, proceeded to bring in liked-minded judges!!!!"

Upon hearing that clever remarks, the wise farmers who wrote the constitution laughed uncontrollably. They had good reason to celebrate. It was unfortunate, however, when they conspired not to tell the existence of such a constitution to black Americans lest they rebel and call for their rights to be upheld by the same constitution. That job was left to Civil Rights movement in 1960s to bring to light, some 200 years later.

For South Sudan, it is still open question whether enough care is being taken to ensure sufficient checks and balances are being operationalised. True, Article 54 of our constitution stipulates the separation of powers between the executive government of South Sudan, the Southern Legislative Assembly, and the Judiciary. Understandably, the executive positions and those of legislative assembly were filled mostly by presidential degrees after consultation with political parties and communities, guided by broad criteria spell ed out in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The process as a whole was far from perfect as it allowed commanders and those close to the president of the government of the South to appoint their family members, their relatives, and the "like-minded" political allies with impunity into the government organs. All of which could undermine the constitutional checks and balances.

The focus of this article is on judiciary appointments in the government of Southern Sudan. While many developing countries claim to maintain the separation of powers according to the American model, independence of judiciary has always been found lacking. And until now one is not clear about the criteria used to fill legal appointments such as those who head our justice system and the members of supreme court of Southern Sudan. One cannot be sure if all those appointed to head our judiciary are fair-minded people with enough integrity, courage, and intellect to uphold the spirit and the letter of law and protect the citizens from an "all-power executive branch" that may decide to spy, torture, or take full control over our lives. Prior to appointments, nominees to South Sudan supreme court ought to undergo integrity checks such as finding out their views on issues such as freedom of the press, the right to criticise the government of South Sudan, and the right to protest. The nominees' public views and records of service should also be examined to see if they are up to the mark to hold the post. Also, judicial appointments that may lead to conflict of interests need to be avoided by all means. For example, a judge should not be a member of Southern Legislative Assembly and at the same time be a member of Supreme Court. Doing so would mean that she or he will be writing and interpreting the law at the same time. This also applies to government's legal advisers. They can be one or the other, and not both. These are the AB Cs of democracy and good governance. They can only be ignored at our own peril.

Sudan has been a dysfunctional state since Independence and has not been able to provide justice to all its citizens. This is not because it lacks a good constitution but because in most part, the constitution has not guided decision-making. South Sudan can do well avoiding the pitfalls that plagued the Northern dominated central government of the past 50 years. New laws and better laws will always be welcomed. But it is imperative that we live by the existing laws before thinking of enacting new ones.

Fredrick Douglas, the great American Civil Rights leader once observed :

"The problem in America is not Racism, but rather is the question whether the American people are honest enough, committed enough, determined enough, and courageous enough to live by their own constitution."

See if we can measure up to such a high ideal.

*This is was written and published elsewhere as dated. This is for the benfits of those who have not read it.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

South Sudan: Where Silence Pays Dividends

A few days after SPLA attack on SPLM-United conference in Pinykor, near Kongor, Jongeli State (March 31 1993), that resulted in the capture of the veteran politician Joseph Oduho and his on-spot execution, a friend paid a visit to my home. This friend told me that he was going to support SPLM. That he will no longer criticise the policies and human right abuses in the movement. Previously, this friend used to fight with me in the same bunker. I told him that he is free to express his opinion and join any political organisation he likes. That we will continue to be good friends despite our diverging political views.

As I accompanied him to the door, he started to woo me to do like he did. That is stop criticising SPLM mainstream and join as a supporter (or rather as a choir boy- as I saw it then!). I told him there was no way I was going to do that. He then gave me a rather chilling warning: "if you continue to preach this kind of politics, you will never have a future in Southern Sudan." I replied that already I do not see myself fitting into the current political system and mindset. That I did not imagine the political climate in the movement sinking any lower that it had already done. From my point of view, it looked more honourable and right to continue to fight to change things for the better for everyone. Another friend of mine also once asked me: You are a good boy, do not destroy your good name with this kind of [critical] attitude!

My friend was not alone in that frame of thinking. As they say: "reward determines behaviour." In academic world, for example, promotion of a university faculty is based on the number and quality of publications, and research citations under one's name. Quality of teaching does not count to anything. Hence, in Western universities, professors have shifted their energies to their research away from teaching future generations. Hence, students often miss out from picking the top brains. And unless the reward system changes, that behaviour will continue to persist in the university system to the detriment of the of high education.

In Southern Sudan, political appointments and other favours are allocated not on the basis of how an individual is active or contributing to the cause, but by how one can comply and fit in with the dominant mindset. For this reason, you will find that your typical state MP or minister in GONU (Government of National Unity) or GOSS (Government of Southern Sudan) is a quiet politician who likes only to be seen and not to be heard. They will never question the status quo, nor ask how things could be improved.

I recall a few years ago meeting a fellow South Sudanese on a train while travelling from Birmingham to London. He commended me for writing on the Internet. However, he quickly added that he only reads messages and would not dare to comment. As he said that his body language betrayed a culture of fear. Most recently, I learnt that my friend has been appointed to be a member of a state assembly in Southern Sudan, while I am still blogging away on the net. So, it would appear, my friend and those like him got their priorities right.

So I learnt quite a while ago that if I have to speak truth, then I have to forget about political appointments, favours, and promotions. In Southern Sudan, I am convinced, it is contradiction in terms to try to win both. And that is quiet liberating.

Those who prefer silence over self-expression will continue to walk the walk, while some of us will continue to talk the talk. The nation need both. This is Adam Smith's division of labour.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

What are the Chances of a Coup de ta Against Salva Kiir?


Nasir Coup of 1991
Everywhere, history is a guide to the future except in Southern Sudan where significant events take place and sooner forgotten. Big mistake.

Forgetting the past is as useful as an ostrich burying its head in sand in face of an advancing predator. Worst, we think we might try to mine gold where others failed before.

In my view, the so called Nasir Coup in August 1991, should accurately be described as Nasir split or rebellion. There, a number of members of SPLM High Command leaders managed to convince a significant number of SPLA soldiers to come out in the open and condemn the ideological direction of the movement (mainly the objectives) and human rights abuses. However, because of lack of communications between various SPLA units, it was difficult to coordinate such uprising or gain support of the majority of SPLA commanders. So was it coup? No. Split? Yes. Nasir coup makers had noble objectives: giving self-determination, protection of human rights, freedom of expression etc. They managed to send the May-Day call out to the South and the world, and then in their isolation and slow response from the populace and the world, they began to sink and choke under their own weight. However, the core message did reach all the ears and the rest is history.

Salva Kiir's Rumoured Coup of 2004 and How Eminent South-South Civil War Was Avoided

We were told that some SPLA members and supporters were openly accusing Salva Kiir of plotting to oust John Garang and install Bona Malwal. The question was often asked mostly in humorous manner. But that is how politics works. An accusation which Salva Kiir denied. Then came the rumours that John Garang was planning to dismiss and replace Salva Kiir. That too was denied by John Garang. But between those two extreme views, there were personal differences and power struggle.

Neither John Garang had power to dismiss Salva Kiir, nor Salva Kiir had enough support of rank and file to oust John Garang in a coup. However, trust between the two men was at an all time low. Great majority of SPLM members had no stomach for any adverse move from either of the two. They had no choice but to reconcile and show solidarity in public in Rumbek Reconciliation Conference that took place between 27th to 29th November 2004.

Had John Garang lived, continued frictions between him and Salva Kiir could have led to bloody military confrontations and probably to outbreak of a full blown Southern Sudan civil war for the first time. That could happen only if Kiir were to be dismissed or arrested. But apart from that, it was hard for Salva Kiir to start that confrontation unprovoked. One potential flash point was whether or not John Garang should hold both posts of vice president and that of president of Southern Sudan. Kiir's adherents were opposed to that arrangement.

Where will military support come from to each camp? During marathon Navasha peace negotiations and following a long cease fire, sources say that John Garang was recruiting and training an army aggressively near New Site. At the same time commander Malong Awan of Northern Bhar Al Ghazal was recruiting and training aggressively in Malwal Koun near Aweil. A part from those two centres, there was no recruitment or training going on anywhere. In fact, the rest of the SPLA soldiers apart from those working in Rumbek and Yei headquarters were totally neglected, under armed, unclothed, and were allowed to disperse and roam as much as they pleased. Some travelled as far as Khartoum without any permission!

Hence, were there to be a military confrontations between John Garang and his number two Salva Kiir, the bulk of Kiir's army was going to come from commander Malong Awan who is is rumoured to command more than 200,000! John Garang would get his forces from New Site and from Yirol and Nuba Mountains. The forces in Gogrial, Tonj, Rumbek and Equatoria, and Upper Nile could decide who was going to win depending on whom they think is "right" and would protect their interests. It would in large depend on who was to blame for initiating the conflict. As I said, it was unlikely John Garang was going to initiate it. Thank God, there was no such confrontation.

What are Chances that Oyai Deng Ajak would Organise A Coup?

The chances are negative to none. The main reasons for remoteness of such attempt is that the majority of South Sudanese would not buy it. It is unnecessary. It would not get international support. It will destabilise the already unstable South. It will derail the implementation of CPA. It is the last and worst thing the can welcome from anyone. Anyone with brain in his or her head knows full well that the current arrangements, historical records, and the Southern Sudanese cultural mindset is not attuned to coups. Everyone has to come through the main door. The arrangements within SPLA high command makes it hard for anyone to carry out illegal military activity such as planning a coup.

It was easier to install Salva Kiir as Garang successor because it maintained the existing order and avoid a damaging chaos that would see SPLA disintegrating into an army controlled by self-interested vote wielding war Lord commanders. Even if SPLA has its own internal contradiction, moving as one pack is the strongest deterrent against external predators!

And in a very sarcastic way, its therefore much easier for Riek Machar to oust Salva Kiir than Oyai can do, by doing something to get rid of him such as car crash or a good dose of cyanide or ricine. Then as number two, Riek Machar can be installed. That too is a remote scenario, though more plausible than the coup by SPLA Chief of Staff!

One last quetion: why are we still getting these accusations? Probably those who created the problems between John Garang and Salva Kiir are not yet confident enough that current arrangements will serve their short and long-term interests. They want to cultivate the idea and test the waters. These are wishful thoughts by real people. So I would not dismiss them. It is not Oyai Deng Ajak plotting a coup, it is a coup against Oyai Deng Ajak.

It is therefore vital that South Sudanese people are armed with enough information and how the pieces of the jigsaw fit together so that they do not easily fall prey to the schemes of power poachers.

Monday, April 03, 2006

SPLM Leadership Conference in Rumbek and the Lost Ministers in Khartoum!

The SPLM Leadership Conference in Rumbek which took place beginning on 1/4/06

As always, the NCP mouthpiece, Rayaam, was the first globally accessible media to publish information on the deliberation in the conference .

It says, the first vice presdident of Sudan, and president of government of Southern Sudan, Lt. Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit has encouraged SPLM leadership in his opening speech to play greater role in national issues such as ending the war in Darfur and Eastern Sudan, and Abyei in order to allow SPLM to concentrate on the job of economic development of Southern Sudan and other war-affected areas.

It also reported that a number of SPLM ministers in the central government (GONU) came under intense criticism by members of SPLM leadership for "serving external interests which contradict and undermine the interests of the South."

According to Rayaam, the conference has assessed the progress in the implemenation of CPA and Abyei issue and explored the ways in which SPLM can get involved in bringing about peaceful settlement to war in Darfur, Eastern Sudan, and Abyei border problem. It also heard a report presented by the SPLM secretary Genear, Mr Pagan Amum, on the performance of SPLM political organs in the South and the North.

"Lost Ministers" in Khartoum?
No, they are not talking about the so called "Lost Boys" in America but "lost SPLM ministers" in the government of national unity (GONU) in Khartoum. For quite sometimes, many ministers who took up the SPLM's share of seats in the central government have not been visible on the political landscape since they were sworn in. However, those who were vocal and visible did so for all the wrong reasons.

Recently in Feb. 2006, Mr Tellar Ring (can't remember which ministry he is serving in) was in the news to describe the statement of Salva Kiir regarding the slowness of CPA implemenation as "personal opinion [not SPLM's?]". He then called for co-ordination and harmonisation between NCP and SPLM when communicating with the media in order to avoid sending out "contradictory message" to the world. Is that an easy thing to do when there are contradictory interests?

Then came the news of Dr Lam Akol condemning SLA and JEM former SPLM political allies) in Darfur (calling them disorgnised rebels, and other very nasty adjectives), and contradicting the statement of president Salva Kiir on the slown progess in CPA(Comprehensive Peace Agreement) implementation, and playing Osman Ismail (the former Sudan foering minister). That is, if we read Lam's statements on Darfur and the role of UN, and then comapre them with those previously made by Osman Ismail the former foreign minister of Sudan, and we would hardly notice any difference! In other words, Omer Al Bashir, Sudan president, and the NCP (National Congress Party) have lost nothing in replacing Osman Ismail with Dr Lam Akol. Surely, not everyone is pleased with such an outcome, specially the SPLM constituency.

Then we have the state minsistr in the Sudan Interior Ministry, Mr Aleu Ayeiny Aleu, coming out to openly criticise (even talk down) Mr Yasir Araman, the leader of SPLM's paliamentary group in the national assembly for lambasting the NCP policies in areas of IDPs around Khartoum and on the legal position of the national capital on Islamic laws. In the real democracy, Mr Yasir Araman should be the Cheap Whip of the SPLM party, and not Mr Aleu Ayeiny. But there you are. All out of copntrol!

Then we have Dr Peter Nyot Kok keeping a low-key while the NCP allied security forces wreak havoc on the University of Juba. Troubles at the Southern university based in Khartoum has been many over recent months and has peaked in the recent shooting and killing of one student and arest of tens of students by government security forces. All, under the watchful (or is it sleeping) eyes of Dr Nyot Kok. Worst may still to come.

Yes, these are "lost SPLM ministers in Khartoum." Unlike the so called Lost Boys in America who still remain faithful and true to their roots in Southern Sudan, these ministers seem to have lost all the connection with the motherland and with the mother party, the SPLM, and its agenda: implementation of CPA to the letter, protection of rights of marginalised African Sudanese in Khartoum and everywhere in Sudan, solidarity with marginalised people in Darfur and Eastern Sudan, a secular national capital, and the role of international community in peace-building etc.

That these ministers went there first and foremost to direct the ship called Sudan in a direction that will not only continue to serve the ineterests of National Congress, but also that of South Sudan and the whole Sudan. It would appear what they are doing with those SPLM posts no body's business. Can president Salva Kiir and SPLM leadership regain any form of control over these lost sheep?

Is the South of 21rst century still been seen as South of 1960's and 1970s? Can any of these politicians treat Southern Sudanese as if they are the same backkward people in the age of internet and dotcom?