Since 2001, members of South Sudanese Diaspora in the Western Hemisphere have been building cordial relationships with the United States Government and its public. As a result, Dr. John Garang de Mabior started to receive generous receptions from the U.S government, schools and think tanks. The members of the South Sudanese Diaspora continued to raise awareness for the conflict in the then Sudan until CPA was achieved and the nation of South Sudan became independent. The relationship that the United States had developed with South Sudan during the war, CPA and post-independence period was a huge asset for South Sudan in helping it take off and become a fast growing African economy. Unfortunately, these dreams evaporated as prospect of John Garang’s developmental state programs were left in oblivion due to misgovernment and false-start. This was all the more exacerbated by the uncertainty that the current senseless war has brought. The country has now plummeted into deep crisis and is on a freefall! Therefore, warring parties must prioritize peace and immediate termination of the conflict in order for this divided nation to reconcile again and live in peace and harmony.
The coming to the U.S. of Dr. D’Agoot has rekindled a dying flicker of hope for a viable and mutually respecting relationships between the U.S and South Sudan and a possibility of restoring peace to South Sudan, if more efforts are deployed. Dr. D’ Agoot presented programs and initiatives of strategic insights and solution scenarios to South Sudan conflict in meetings with some members of U.S Congress (South Sudan Caucus and Congressional, who in March 2014, wrote a letter to President Obama about South Sudan crisis); The U.S Department of State Department – Office of the Special Envoy; think tanks, such as, The United States Institute for Peace (USIP), Center for Strategic, and International Studies (CSIS), George Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, and Woodrow Wilson Center; schools, such as, The George Bush Institute of Policy Analysis at Texas A&M University, National Defense University, and University of Florida; Human Rights groups; and Press and Media.
In these meetings, Dr. D’ Agoot elaborated that the country did not just drift to war but came as a result of collective failures of the SPLM leadership manage political risks. He said that given country’s colonial legacy, it did not inherit any viable institutions at the independence and post-CPA SPLM perpetrated sectarianism and patrimonial system which failed to deliver security, development and social services, build peace or build a nation. In the absence of unifying external enemy that Khartoum was, and given lack of transformational leadership, the lid on age-old tribal animosities and conflicting nationalisms was removed, and it resulted into these dire consequences, he added.
Dr. D’Agoot urged South Sudanese to rise above their bitterness parochialism and unite in order to secure a prosperous future for the country. He called for peace and peace now! Dr. D’ Agoot is very optimistic that South Sudanese people will overcome this major drift and the crisis that it has borne – and, together united in search of destiny will emerge stronger. He told the South Sudanese Diaspora while paraphrasing Massimo d’Aziglo that “what we have achieved by bullets (war) and ballots (referendum) is a country called South Sudan; what has however remained to be achieved by consent and compromise is the nation of South Sudanese.” He further illustrated that many deeply divided societies in Iraq, Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia and even Sudan, have achieved statehood before, but that did not automatically translate into nationhood. In other word, he implicated sectarianism. He urged South Sudanese that we must take pride in our diversities and work our way out to achieve ultimate South Sudanese citizenry with unified sentiment, new narrative and purpose.
Dr. D’ Agoot On the Root Causes of the South Sudan Civil War:
Dr. D’Agoot described that since 1983, violence has not relented in South Sudan even though warring factions had concluded a number reconciliation pacts which did not have clear impact on the grassroots’ peace. Because of focus on the referendum, genuine reconciliation and healing based on justice and accountability did not take place. He narrated that whilst the violence is South Sudan was stoked by the current civil war as a political factor, it also has its origins in historical, cultural, social, and economic factors. The 15 December 2013 incident only acted as a trigger but it was not the only single cause to the crisis. If the conflict was not complex and multi-dimensional, nothing would explain its spread outside Juba, upward trend in ethnic mobilization and atrocious acts that followed the outbreak of conflict and which were clearly a prelude to genocide.
Dr. D’ Agoot gave riveting accounts of the SPLM internal rivalries since its first split in July 1983 which led to internal bloody conflict with an unacceptable human costs and civilian devastation in eastern Upper Nile and Jonglei. In the subsequent years, the SPLM also experienced series of arrests of its top cadres, defections and also disappearances while in detention. In the wake of the 1991 split, the political contestations within the SPLM resulted in a ‘degenerate war’ when forces allied to Nasir Faction carried out a mass slaughter of civilians in Bor. Even though reconciliation of the factions was achieved in 1988 and 2002, justice was not served. He also alluded to near-cataclysm of November 2004 at Yei when Cdr. Salva Kiir Mayardit almost split from the SPLM. He lauded Dr. Garang leadership dexterity in the Rumbek meeting that resolved the crisis by creating a thaw in frosty relationships and ultimately reconciling the differences – an attribute which helped the country sailed on a rough wave to the CPA.
Dr. D’Agoot stated that the current conflict started immediately after the death of the father of the Nation – Dr. John Dr. Garang de Mabior on July 30, 2005. As General Salva Kiir Mayardit and Dr. Riek Machar assumed the mantle of leadership, it became abundantly clear that the SPLM party was suffering from acute malady of internal divisions along the lines of previous splits or near-splits. Eventually three loose centers of power emerged – namely, the Yei Faction, The Nasir Nasir and the Torit Faction – with the Yei Group calling the shots,he clarified.
Dr. D’Agoot told the diaspora that in 2008, South Sudan escaped another near-catastrophe when the SPLM Convention was almost rocked by power struggle – prompting three eminent South Sudanese elders and statesmen – namely, Uncle Abel Alier, Gen. Joseph Lagu and Gen. Andrew Makur Thou – to intervene to defuse the situation when the SPLM hierarchy was kept intact. This became part of the broader consensus building framework that brought the SPLM election victory of 2010 and the overwhelming vote for independence at the referendum in 2011. He clarified that the rule of the thumb is that compromise than rigidity worked then and can still work in the future. This fragile equilibrium was maintained until when president Kiir ratcheted the tensions through his ‘Nuclear Option which he called Tsunami’ and ineptly calculated plot to destroy the SPLM and hand over its power to his newfound friends and allies including the NCP converts and hire-guns.
Dr. D’ Agoot stated that what finally happened was not that the country just drifted to war, or the crisis struck as thunderbolt from the clear blue sky. The crisis was precipitated and midwifed by the risky acts of its leaders – especially the SPLM leaders and its chief executive officer, and the vice chairman. This war could have been averted had the SPLM leaders acted responsibly by promoting internal dialogue and democratic debate; or heeded to the advice graciously given by the South Sudanese religious leaders, ANC, AUHIP, and the USG.
Dr. D’ Agoot On the Juba Attempted Coup Narrative:
Dr. D’Agoot explained that what transpired on 15 December 2013 was a mutiny within the Presidential Guard/Tiger Division even though it was deliberately mischaracterized by the Juba Government as a coup d’état to justify clampdown on peaceful dissent. A coup d’état could have targeted the Palace, key public installations, Radio and Television, the Airport, Juba Bridge, Communication Centers, the Central Bank, or even some key ministers and personnel in the government, he highlighted. If indeed they were part of an alleged coup, they could have physically participated in the fighting bringing along with them many of their supporters who have now died or are still fighting in defense of President Kiir.
He asserted that the composition of the presidential guard division was partially responsible for the crisis. Because it was formed from two ethnicities; Dinka and Nuer with overt allegiances to the president and former vice president, this unit was always volatile flashpoints because the majority of this unit came from Warrap and Unity States. Given the lack of professionalism in the SPLA and disproportionate inclination of the elements of the presidential guard unit to partisan and political influence, it goes without saying that Kiir and Machar quarrels could have a ripple effect in the security sector.
Dr. D’Agoot narrated that, on 6 December 2013, they organized a press conference to address the issues of reforms in the party after the chairman had resorted to use state instruments of power to emasculate opponents and suppressing debate. He explained that a huge legion of SPLM cadres including those still in the government – notably Nhial Deng, Mayom Akec and Deng Athorbei – came out openly to advocate for reforms and democratic transformation of the Party and the country. He stressed that 6 December Press Conference was a nonviolent political action which convened legally and dispersed peacefully. In a similar vein, those representing an opposing view, gathered in the same venue to outline their response which was equally bellicose and critical of the group.
Dr. D’Agoot described how he and his colleagues (SPLM Leaders – Former Political Detainees) were picked up in their houses on 16 December 2013 and whisked away by the security agents to detention cells. Following their unjust detention on trumped up charges, they were put through a botched court process on trumped up charges of treason, violence, insurgency, murder, insulting the president, etc., he explained. He stressed that even though they were subjected to undeserving treatment by their government; they are not bitter and have forgiven their jailers. “We consider our ordeal as a fleabite (which is not a killer) and the plight of our country as snakebite (which is a real killer and which requires an urgent treatment), he humbly said.
He stressed that although majority of his colleagues are veterans of war of liberation, they are opposed to violence but will pursue nonviolent methods of struggle against the Juba Government to effect change and reforms in the management of public affairs – for in this ongoing war there are no glories to make. He added that he and Pa’gan Amum had chosen to remain inside the country but were forced into exile by the Government to join the rest of their exiled colleagues. He suggested that there is a dire need to charter new course for justice, accountability and reconciliation in order to possibly restore stability and peace in our country.
Dr. D’Agoot asserted that crimes against humanity and war crimes were committed in South Sudan by both the government and the SPLM (IO). He also pointed out that the SPLM leaders collectively must first accept the responsibility for grave social and economic injustice to people of South Sudan in the loss of vision of the SPLM. He stated that thousands have been killed; hundreds of thousands displaced and almost half the population is at the brink of starvation.
On Human Rights abuses, Dr. D’Agoot scorned the futility of lame excuse often provided by President Kiir and his associates that the killings of Nuer civilians in Juba and subsequently attack of the Nuer IDPs in Bor happened because of the so-called attempted coup or atrocities committed by the ‘White Army’ when they took control of Bor. He argued that when Sudan was one country, many coup attempts took place in Khartoum and there were no targeted killings based on ethnicity and region. Granted that there was a coup attempt by Nuer officers; would it justify a wanton killing of innocent civilians because of ethnicity? He exclaimed! He further described as unacceptable the illogical justification and victim posture advanced by the rebel leadership to justify actions of their fighters in Akobo, Bor, Malakal and Bentiu as retribution provoked by atrocities committed in Juba. He said that South Sudan was already on a dangerous road, and this war was exacerbated by susceptible situation for conflict.
Dr. D’ Agoot asserted tha the tendency to encourage reprisals on the basis of ‘Coalitional Guilt’ because President Kiir or Dr. Machar happened to be from this or that tribe and that all those linked to them by tribe or ancestry are culprits by extension is a heinous crime of the first order, he added. He applauded the AU for constituting the Abosanjo Commission of Inquiry of war crimes in South Sudan. He also saluted the UNMISS for preventing genocide and ethnic cleansing in South Sudan. He then called on the warring parties to end hostilities and US Government to take stern action against perpetrators of violence in the country.
Dr. D’ Agoot On Corruption and His Role in the GRSS:
Dr. D’Agoot made it clear that he had served as a Deputy Director General for Sudan National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) for five year and half (March 2006 – July 2011); and later as Deputy Minister for Defense for the Republic of South Sudan for one year and half (September 2011 – July 2013). He was appointed as a deputy defense minister at the height of crisis between Sudan and South Sudan when oil was shut down and austerity measures introduced. The kind of cash that saturated the government departments of the GoSS was not even there given the resource drought caused by the oil shutdown. We simply managed all the national security and defense challenges, including the border war on a shoe-string budget. However, while in the National Security he said he was well-salaried and had earned good fortune like any other Spy Chief in the world! Dr. D’Agoot said that he made declaration of assets when he came to serve in the GRSS and during his time in the Ministry of Defense, he squeezed the paymasters and recovered SSP79M (Seventy Nine Million South Sudanese Pounds) which he returned to the Ministry of Finance. He made it clear that he has never been implicated in corruption.
Dr. D’ Agoot On Prospects for Lasting Peace in South Sudan:
Dr. D’Agoot emphasized that ‘Giving War a Chance’ to take its course is not the route to go. South Sudan is fragile and might rot in the process before that the war is ripe for settlement. The only option available is to ‘Give Peace a Chance’ and generate necessary ripening effect to pressure the parties to compromise, he said. “We call for an immediate termination of the conflict”; he stressed.
He also alluded to the need to ensure unimpeded access to the provision of humanitarian aid to the vulnerable population – further suggesting that any attempts to use food as a weapon of war must be met with vehement opposition that it deserves including the use of sanctions and prosecution for crimes against humanity.
He also described the IGAD Protocol of August 2013 as contentious given the roadblocks and choke points that are inherent to it. In order to achieve peace, a careful bypass must designed around those roadblocks such as leadership architecture, eligibility or non-eligibility of the leaders of the warring parties in the next election, the issue of power sharing quotas and the President veto on the appointment of the Prime Minister. He also urged the United States government to remain seized with the peace process and to ensure that the people of South Sudan achieve peace and stability the soonest possible. He also asked South Sudanese communities in Diaspora to work together to destroy tribal fragmentations and create ‘South Sudanese’ eliminate hate speech in the cyberspace.
He suggested that justice and accountability are critical for the attainment of the lasting peace in the country. He said that South Sudan is a country that has precariously positioned itself at the crossroads and this nation must emerge from this conflict and set itself on a path towards sustainable peace. He urged South Sudanese people that there is a need to strategize ways of promoting peace, accountability and reconciliation to ensure healing. He is optimistic that the inquiry into the war crimes being conducted by the AU Special Commission under the former President of Nigeria, General Olusegun Matthew Obasanjo, will release its findings soon. He hopes that, eventually, justice will be served in South Sudan and normalcy will return.
Dr. D’Agoot said that his group (the G-10) considers the issue of security sector transformation in the postwar period as the wicked problem of the entire peacemaking that might offset the peace; and called on the U.S. Government to redouble its commitment to help South Sudan out of this trap.
On the Arusha Intra-SPLM Dialogue, he maintained that in the absence of alternative national platforms, SPLM fragmentation – as we have seen – comes with dangers that impact negatively on national unity and stability of the country with far reaching consequences on society harmony.
In conclusion, It is important to point out that the audience that attended Dr. Majak D’Agoot’s meetings was diverse and engaging. It brought supporters of the Government, SPLM-IO, SPLM, FD, and others. They also came from different states and ethnicities of South Sudan. Given this medley of backgrounds, interests and expectations were diverse and these were manifest in the questions asked. It is common knowledge that some people came to Dr. D’Agoot’s events with the expectations that he will go viral and bitter against the government that detained him and his colleagues and caused them a great deal of vilifications. Others came to understand clearly where he and his colleagues really stand on the current crisis facing the country and to hear from the Horse’s Mouth their alternative narrative of 15 December 2013 incident. Others came to justify the claim by the government that they took part in plotting a coup d’état while other had come to argue why they took a middle course and did not join either President Kiir or Dr. Machar. Overall, the tour has achieved its desired outcomes and the organizing team would like to seize this opportunity to thank all who listened to him for their interest and the time they have invested to interact with him at various social and political levels. Finally, he said that “may God bless our Country South Sudan.”
This Statement Release was Prepared and Signed by Dr.Majak D’ Agoot USA Tour Committee in the following States: Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, New York, Texas, Missouri and Washington DC (USA).