The institutional factors swallowing the SPLM/A-IO and the consequences on civilians under its control

An Opinion by Latjor Yang Pidor

Every movement led by Machar always suffered the same issues regularly from his first attempts in his own movements in 90ths as we witness it from the present one.

Those issues are:

1- The system of deploying every senior military officer to his/her own birthplace, and its consequences on both civilians and the military institution.

Since 1991and during the coup made by Dr. Lam Akol and Riek Machar against the main opposition leader then late Dr. John Garang. His administrations always face the same problem many times.

Riek has his own random and informal military system of deploying the senior officers to their respective birthplaces. This has serious consciences not only on the military wings of his movement but also on the civil population of those particular areas/villages.

Since most of his movements including the SPLM/A-NASIR FACTION from 1991-93, SPLM/A-UNITED from 1993-94, South Sudan Independent Movement or Army (SSIM/A) from1994-97 he then changed the (SSIM/A) for South Sudan Defense Forces (SSDF) with its political wing as United Democratic Salvation Front (UDSF) from 1997-2000 and SPLM-IO are mostly composed of the Nuer community as the majority mainly depending on his mobilization strategies, he deployed/ordered every senior officer to their home areas.

He deployed the officers from Lou Nuer such as General Wang Chioh Koaryoam ex-IO sector commander in Lou areas, Utong Lie and Mabor Dhol plus many others to their birthplaces in Jonglei, he did the same to Bentiu Nuer officers/generals to their home towns including late Peter Gatdet, Maguek Gai, Biel Wie, and many others. Nasir officers including General Thok Chuol Luak, Tut Riek, and Ruach Wie plus others to their hometown around Sobat River.

Everyone almost is deployed to his/her home area except him and his bodyguards who are in a mobile base from Ketbek in Nasir to Pagak after government-controlled Nasir.

The bizarre and scandalous consequences are more than bringing failure to the movement but extended to bring inter-communal conflicts.

Since the generals/senior officers reached their birthplaces, their bodyguards begin to deserts in form of taking a short leave on the pretext of visiting the long-separated family. They never come back, and if some soldiers try to bring them back by force, their extended families or lineage use to take arms against the ordered soldiers, since it is common in African civil wars that civilians acquire arms through theft, buying, and direct confrontations against the military. They arm themselves to the extent of having almost an equal power with the rebel movements. Since the general that is also the native of the land remains with only a few soldiers, whom most of his/her troops deserted or sneaked themselves and never comes back, the general is exposed to any crime which may emerge. Because in every civil war, it is likely to be no police in the small towns and villages, this transferred the roles of the law enforcement agencies to the military/army. And because the Generals/officers remain with only a few soldiers, dealing with crimes of the armed civilians/militias become a very difficult task to handle. Either, the area’s Commanders leave the criminals unaccountable or take a risk. Both options make the situation worst.

By leaving their crimes unpunished, the cattle theft, robbery, and revenge killing spread like a wildfire.

Any attempt by the commander with few bodyguards lead to clashes between the armed civil populations against the few soldiers that are also natives of the land that have their own lineage/family in the same land. It is not better whether killing the soldier or the civilian because Killing soldiers transfer the conflict to the killers’ lineage and the lineage/family of the murdered soldier’s in an act of revenge. The soldiers are left untouched and the cause becomes an inter-communal conflict.

If the soldier killed the civilian, the military is also untouched but the family of the deceased goes straight to the family of the killer in taking revenge.

A clear live example happened in Ulang county of Upper Nile state which is under the SPLM-IO leadership of Riek Machar.

A brigadier general by the name of Dak Kier was ordered by his senior commander/general to confiscate a Gun that was for a deceased SPLM-IO soldier during the war against the government and left the gun to his younger brother. The gun was confiscated by force and the deceased soldier’s brother complained to sell the gun for feeding the orphans of his deceased brother, the soldiers refused and continued to take the gun by force. Finally, the young man took another gun and killed the brigadier general who was just with few bodyguards on the mission.

The brigadier is from the same county as the killer, hence the lineage of the brigadier took the law into their own hands and took revenge, and the same was done again by the opposite side leading to the loss of around 38 lives.

Since the general feels at home in the state of deployment position, some of them begin to interfere in local issues such as local politics. The rigid military rules begin to relax due to an influence of the local people who feel the military, not as an independent institution but part of their community due to the influent and existence of their son as the Area Commander or general.

Because the General gets some grievances against the highest level of leadership, the general would use both armed civilians/militias and the local people to exercise his interest, in cause it becomes unachievable, the general take arms against the movement through militias. The few guards he has that come from different communities get no option but to desert where they belong to(home town).

The conflict begins to shift sometimes between the specific small communities against the entire movement. If the community is overwhelmed by the power of the entire movement against one community, that general and his community switch/defect to government as a way out for their life which lowers both morale and power of the movement.

This example happened in Maiwut County where General Ochan Puot, a native of Maiwut County had differences with the governor, finally, he mobilized his own lineage and took the arm against the movement, and finally, they both lost a lot of lives from the community and defected to the government after that mass killing of the community.

As Bible said that “no prophet is ever respected in their own land”.

This also contributed to the disrespect by the local community against the general which makes them view him as their son at home. This also raised serious corruption in the military rank and deployment. Nepotism and high inflation of ranks without proper professional and experience, the situation of everyone almost believe in his own lineage than the movement they are serving.

Another chaos it brings is the inter-communal conflict that is mainly fueled by some generals who side with their own people against another community who does the same indirectly.

A clear example of this was between Lou and Jikany of the Nuer tribe’s first-ever sectional fighting in 1993 from the time they inhabitants their presents geographical locations.

2- The mistrust of the chairman on military and giving all their duties to militias, and the consequences on the movement:

The other serious problem weakened SPLM-IO to date is the mistrust of Riek Machar in the military.

Riek switched the normal role of the military to the armed militias. The political consequences of the ill mobilization for more militias:

Riek usually uses the civilians as the main fighting force for the movement and reduced the military to the role of a law enforcement agency that is attempting to enforce justice. This is always unsuccessful due to the low capacity of the underpowered army.

Since the militias are purely from the Nuer community as I said earlier, the main mobilization strategy for them by Riek Machar is tribalism by Kiir from Dinka against the Nuer community.

According to him, the aim of the movement is to remove president Kiir which is Dinka away from power, and Nuer take control.

This mobilization of the untrained fighting militias has serious consequences.

It makes the militias commit brutality against everyone from different tribes in any area they excess regardless of any future alliances they may anticipate from any community.

This created the image of SPLM-IO as a purely tribal movement and not a national one. It created a huge mistrust by other communities against SPLM-IO, except the politicians who have nothing to do with mingling with those militias in the field but live in the towns/cities where they lobby for positions. Even if, they have the same feeling of labeling SPLM-IO as a Nuer movement, they still join it for the sack of positions.

The militias find their own bullets and weapon at their own risk, either sneak with a gun from the government during defection or buy from someone who steals it from government soldiers. The other means is by collecting them during direct combat after defeating the government forces. According to Riek Machar, he instructed them to fight with a belief in Ngundeng to provide some mercy, no need to buy a gun as long as they are able to defeat the government forces.

The consequences on SPLA-IO;

Due to the reduction of the military normal task to the limited law enforcement role, as a result of their role being overtaken by ordinary civilians. The reason behind this is a fear by Riek Machar of suspecting a coup against his leadership because he empowered the SPLA-IO military.

This led to demoralization and mass defection of the senior generals in the top administration of the SPLA-IO.

Because of the inflation in ranks and deserted junior military personnel’s plus lack of logistical support including feeding, it left only one option for the senior generals/commanders, overcrowding in the movement headquarter to seek unattainable assignment and promotion. This lack of assignment raised a serious political struggle by the Generals for both assignment and seniority in the headquarter (Pagak). A lot of criticism for lack of both logistical supply and military equipment raised against Riek leading him to accuse them of the floating coup and ordering some of his loyalists to arrest some generals. Immediately a mass defection of many generals that contributed a lot to the suspected failure of IO and automatic failure of the Leadership under Riek Machar is witnessed more than ever before. Among those who defected include late Peter Gatdet, General Gatwech Chan, General Chuol Gakah, General Gathoth Gatkuoth, and some junior officers.

3- The means of silencing the political critics through means of accusations of defection:

The other very challenging strategy that seems like a suicide mission is a mass accusation against anyone who tries to at least mention any movement weakness.

This is deeply rooted in the mass recruitment of untrained ordinary civilians in national security, Military intelligence, and criminal investigation department. As a result of pleasing or motivating the civil population to fight more, he recruited them in those security sectors and promoted them to the very high ranks. This recruitment is done in two ways, his relatives in the top level; an example is Dhiling Keak Chol who was a junior soldier to be the director of military intelligence, and Yiey Dak Wie as the director for National security. His wife, Angelina Teny as head of the SPLM/A-IO defend and Security, Simon Bangoang Tuong as Chief protocol, all from Bentiu and most are close relatives, just to mention those few among many of them.

The rest are the leaders of militias who are not trained but randomly recruited as a reward for the war they fought.

Because they aren’t trained in the art of intelligence, they accuse easily without having valid evidence of defection. Some even involve some personal issues that have nothing to do with the movement.

This blemishes an image of the accused and demoralizes them. They lost the trust of the administration and push them to defection due to mistreatment by the administrations who distrust them. The only option remains to become an immediate defection for them.

4- The vague political appointment criteria and military deployment:

SPLM-IO leadership under Riek Machar has an unclear system of nomination in politics and promotion in the military, which gives him a free choice to implement his will at ease, the first is through dividing the ministry’s positions based on the four clans of the Nuer community. The other Sometimes he does is in form of seniority, the third is through profession which has no clear standard apart from the assumption on his will. These are all justifications he gives Every time.

Those strategies are the means of sidelining any internal critics against his leadership and those he felt capable enough to win the trust of the movement that fit to replace him. This created mass confusion and many options for Riek Machar to impose his will free of any condition obstructing him. That is why many incompetents, who benefit Riek of nothing but passivity are many.

It is a system of blurring his dictatorship in the eye of others.

In my point of view as a concerned citizen who feels to express his opinion about the SPLM-IO political situation and future, the movement/party will fail absolutely if no different leadership is taking over apart from Riek Machar. And the chaos in the country will never be stopped ever as long as Riek Machar is still running a political party/movement as the head. The situation will remain fragile always.



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