Wednesday, January 09, 2008

SPLM: New Year, new energy, and new hope

By John A. Akec

The return of SPLM ministers to the government of national unity (GoNU) on 27th December 2007 has marked the end of 67-day protest. There is no question that the walkout has strengthened SPLM politically across the board. It has heightened awareness amongst the Sudanese populace to the perils facing the implementation of Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement. It raised the issues of democratic transformation, the necessity of involving all political forces in the peace-building process, as well as the need to have peace and justice in all corners of the country. It has revived SPLM New Sudan ideology that ties the attainment of freedom for people of Southern Sudan to freedom of the marginalized people of Sudan wherever they are. It helped SPLM reconnect with its support base, including its strategic alliances with Northern democratic political forces inside and outside the government. Furthermore, it helped SPLM relearn the lesson: abandon your cause, your principles, your ideology, and perish. A reminder of a statement by Chairman Garang in Rumbek reconciliation conference of November 2004: "If we abandon the principles that guided our Movement in the last 22 years, we will all be swept away."

The message from SPLM to NCP, if I might venture to figure out, has been: "If you margninalise us, as you often do after signing an agreement with a second party, we will rock the boat, and we will all be losers." And as we all know, he who has more [power] will be greater loser than he who has less. This protest, to my knowledge, has been the greatest political challenge the NCP has faced since coming to power in July 1989, and has helped to concentrate the minds of NCP leaders – that Naivasha peace agreement is no kids game nor a time passer that is soon forgotten. Here, we have seen SPLM leadership deploy those political tactics and manoeuvres that once made SPLM such a formidable foe: ambushing the contender at every corner and promising more nasty surprises in the next turn. This time around, it was a war fought not by guns but by intellect and words through the exercise of democratic right: right to protest, and a right to express oneself freely without fear of persecution or hindrance by anyone.

And after two months of confrontations came compromise and reconciliatory tone from Naivashian partners. By so doing, both coalition partners are telling the Sudanese people that they take their responsibility seriously to maintain peace and prevent the country from sliding back to war. That both parties are political animals of the first degree who perfectly understand politics to be game of give and take.

An important element in the new makeup of SPLM cabinet in the government of national unity is the assignment of foreign ministry to Deng Alor and the Ministry for Presidential Affairs to Pagan Amum, the SPLM secretary general. In addition to many new names and faces, all of which indicate that the SPLM aims to strengthen its position in steering the country into the future as an equal partner. The road of which is full of uncertainties, thus demanding great wisdom and rare political skills. In a sport jargon, SPLM team now boasts new energy and new spirit, which are a good reasons for the Party supporters to pin higher hopes.

How far the NCP will go to honour the implementation of outstanding issues in CPA, remain to be seen. When you have oppressed a people for so long, it takes tremendous courage to led go of the slave. For example, the Mesyria of Kordofan have long been told that Abyei which is unmistakeably South Sudanese, is Northern. They have been programmed by consecutive central government to think so. Now, the time has come for central government to tell Masyiria the whole truth: that, after all, Abyei territory is Southern. And when I think of Masyria claim on Abyei, I recall the plight of Jewish settlers of Gaza and West Bank in Israel who had to move as a price of peace. What is more, it is hoped that more transparency will be exercised as to how much oil revenue is generated month-by-month.

And as for SPLM , the onus in this new year is to take bigger strides towards the provision of services in South Sudan. So far, things have been too slow for anyone’s liking. This has led to SPLM being accused by NCP as well as by a number of analysts of staging the walkout in order to deflect attention from its failure to achieve progress in the development of South Sudan. And if no new money is forthcoming, SPLM government will have to learn to do more with little.

Before concluding this article, it is worth mentioning that President Kiir Mayardit has proved himself such a very able leader and a fierce fighter of first class. He managed the crisis (or shall I call it battle) very skilfully. Something which has earned him the confidence of wide sectors of Sudanese people, especially in Southern Sudan. Truly, Mayardit has shown has his "true colour." Many would say: a good one!

This author had previously written an article saying that SPLM walkout could either lead to total collapse or to comprehensive revival of the CPA. Let us hope the outcome will be a positive one.