Tag Archives: Dinka

Selective flexing of continental muscle?

The African Union (AU) has said it will impose “targeted sanctions” in response to the violence in war-torn South Sudan where two weeks of fighting between the mostly Dinka forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and the mostly Nuer forces loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar is feared to have left thousands dead and several thousand others displaced. The AU made this western-like pronouncement even as the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), another member state, was reporting that “forty people who took part in an uprising Monday in Kinshasa, taking hostages and firing at the airport and a military headquarters were killed…” in a conflict that has been raging since 1996!
http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2013/12/40-attackers-killed-in-uprising-in-dr-congo-capital/
That the preeminent political body in Africa has yet to stake such a “muscular” position on the continent’s other conflicts in the DRC, Mali, Nigeria or Central African Republic (CAR) begs the following:
– Why is the AU threatening military action in South Sudan and while remaining mute, certainly passive, on the other three conflicts in Africa all which pre-date the conflict in Southern Sudan?
– Why is Mr. Museveni ready to go to war against the mostly-Nuer rebels loyal to Riek Machar even as the country’s beleaguered president Salva Kiir of the majority Dinka tribe seemingly makes decisions that alienate the other tribes in a trend consistent across most African countries since independence?
Of the afore-mentioned conflicts, the one in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been raging since 1996 and recently saw government forces repulse an attack by several youths aligned with Christian leader Paul Joseph Mukungubila who had attacked the airport, military barracks and the state radio and television stations. Regarding the civil strife in Central African Republic, one can make a compelling case that the country has been at war since Jean Bedel Bokassa overthrew the presidency of a distant cousin David Dacko who had appointed him to head the armed forces back in 1966! The CAR is the definition of a “failed state” and as recent as late December 2013, a spokesman for the African Union peacekeeping mission in the country reported the discovery of a mass grave in the capital Bangui. Mali’s civil war begun in the country’s northern region when in early 2012, insurgents began fighting for independence and greater autonomy from the central government in Bamako. Finally, Nigeria has been dealing with the Boko Haram insurgency since 2001; an insurgency that has caused an estimated 10,000 deaths since 2001.
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/congo.htm
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/31/world/africa/quelling-attacks-in-the-capital-congolese-troops-kill-dozens.html?_r=0
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict_in_Mali
http://news.yahoo.com/mass-grave-found-central-african-republic-192648310.html;_ylt=A0SO8oYL0cRSulsAhXBXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTB0aG01cW5wBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2dxMQR2dGlkA1ZJUDMxOV8x
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boko_Haram
On the conflict in South Sudan, Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni has already thrown down the gauntlet warning Mr. Machar that if he did not “report to the negotiating table…’we’ shall have to go for him, all of us.” This indeed is tough talk from someone who has consistently lambasted the west for flexing its muscle in conflicts around the world. I have to say that Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar need to heed the tough talk given the toll their “personal challenges” is taking on the people of South Sudan. The tough talk aside, the African Union’s unity and resoluteness faces an uphill battle given what is usually the main cause of the continent’s conflicts.
http://www.nation.co.ke/news/africa/Machar-sends-peace-envoys-but-still-fighting/-/1066/2130604/-/kl9skl/-/index.html
Mr. Kiir’s decision to fire his vice president Mr. Machar AND imprison some of Machar’s mostly Nuer supporters is one that has been duplicated, in some way, shape or form in country after country in Africa since the 60s. As an example, once in office, Kenya’s first three presidents all consolidated their hold on power by surrounding themselves with Kenyans from their tribe AT the expense of equally-qualified Kenyans from other tribes. According to Charles Hornsby in his book Kenya: A History Since Independence, “(J)ust as Kenyatta had done, Moi…(developed) an inner circle or kitchen cabinet of loyalists….(A)mongst these Kalenjin insiders were Biwott…Stanley Metto…Isaac Salat…” (p373). Kenyatta Pere was thus surrounded by the “Kiambu Mafia” and Arap Moi relied on the “Tugen Mafia” (p582). Regarding Mr. Mwai Kibaki’s presidency, Mr. Hornsby writes that “…as Kalenjin executives and (former president) Moi’s…partners were evicted, a high proportion were replaced with people from the GEMA (Gikuyu Embu Meru Association) communities….described now as the ‘Mount Kenya’ people.” (p711). This same sentiment is expressed by Dr. Francis K. Sang the former Director of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in his book A Noble But Onerous Duty. The former sleuth writes that a complete overhaul of the top hierarchy of the Kenya Police and its military followed Mr. Kibaki’s ascension to power in 2002 as powerbrokers allied to the incoming president worked “tirelessly in search of public positions for their kith and kin.” (p62-63)
Mr. Pete Ondeng, in an article in the January 2, 2014 Daily Nation titled South Sudan bleeds, and the nation’s leaders must now staunch the wound writes that “it was only a matter of time before the war between the largely Islamic and predominantly Arabic north and the south would morph into a post-independence power struggle for the soul of the new nation.” Maybe Mr. Ondeng is using the phrase “soul of the new nation” to mean “matunda ya uhuru” or “fruits of independence” because I believe that given Africa’s post-independence trajectory, most if not all the conflicts have been about control of resources by the ethnic majority and those it can co-opt into their sphere of influence. Some, including Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, have made the argument that the conflict between Kiir and Machar is a “political conflict”. That may be so but Mr. Kiir changed that calculus in mid-2013 when he neutered internal Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) decision-making bodies such as the political bureau after it appeared that Mr. Machar’s predominantly Nuer caucus had the votes to overturn Mr. Kiir’s decision to fire his VP and dismiss the VP’s supporters. It is this abuse of power (by Mr. Kiir), after the people of South Sudan united against Khartoum during the fight for independence in the 2000s, that has opened and deepened the various fissures including ethnic fault lines that were papered over during the lead-up to independence.
http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Opinion/South-Sudan-Conflict-Salva-Kiir-Riek-Machar/-/440808/2132610/-/43i5m7/-/index.html
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/140617/alex-de-waal-and-abdul-mohammed/breakdown-in-south-sudan
Moving forward, I would argue that the challenge for the African Union’s new-found muscles and unity is consistency in confronting civil strife within ALL its member states. Rightfully so, African leaders have already staked the position that the west (and foreigners in general) cannot prescribe solutions for what ails the continent’s fifty-plus nations. At the very basic level of analysis, I do agree with AU’s position: For solutions to some of the continent’s challenges to be effective, not only do they have to be crafted by local key stakeholders; said stakeholders have to be front-and-center in their implementation.
The unfortunate thing though, is that Africa’s history is rife with “homegrown” solutions that barely, if at all, represent the interest of minority groups. The continent is also chockfull of local solutions under the guise of so-called memorandums-of-understanding (MoU) that are not honored or are unilaterally modified by the party or parties involved. Finally, the clamor for “African solutions for Africa’s problems” has oftentimes had foreign components to them. Foreign interference in (indigenous) African conflicts has had so many deleterious effects on the very people the “solutions” were intended to help that it boggles the mind how these very African leaders who preach “national pride” and “pan-Africanism”, knowing the continent’s history with foreign powers could countenance fully embracing or “off-shoring” implementation of the solutions to those very foreigners.

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Kenya looks in the mirror and sees South Sudan

Kenya’s president Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta expressed regret “…that the crisis in Southern Sudan, which started as a party dispute, had been portrayed as ethnic cleansing by the media, NGOs and others.” Mr. Kenyatta’s red herring came even as Mr. Salva Kiir, president of the troubled country “…called for an end to wanton killings and tribal-based atrocities.” Mr. Kiir’s call for an end to “tribal-based atrocities” belied claims by both Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Kiir that the conflict between the latter and Mr. Machar is “political and not tribal.”
http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Leaders-seek-to-end-Juba-war/-/1056/2126162/-/geyuso/-/index.html
http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000100852&story_title=south-sudan-president-kiir-urges-end-to-tribal-atrocities
During the crisis meeting with the council of ministers of South Sudan at State House, Juba, Mr. Kenyatta, in his capacity as chairman of East African Community and ironically, a crimes-against-humanity suspect as well, accused the yet-to-be exposed “media”, “NGOs” and the nebulous “others” of characterizing the conflict between Salva Kiir and his former vice-president Riek Machar as a political stalement even as observers, aid workers and fleeing refugees reported atrocities including the discovery of mass graves, extrajudicial killings and rapes.
http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/24/in-south-sudan-reports-of-massacres-and-mass-graves/?ref=africa
There is little doubt that the conflict in the continent’s newest nation is between two political rivals Mr. Kiir, who is from the Dinka ethnic majority and Mr. Machar, who is from the Nuer ethnic group; a group whose population is less than the Dinka’s. But as Kenya has amply demonstrated since independence, the conflict is primarily about power, of which political power is but one component. The crisis was sparked by fighting between Dinka and Nuer soldiers i.e. fighting between two distinct ethnic groups. The fighting between soldiers allied to the two ethnic groups then morphed into allegations of a coup, allegedly orchestrated by the ousted former vice-president Riek Machar, against the government of Salva Kiir. This allegation seemingly cemented the ethnic dimension of the conflict that many African leaders including Mr. Kenyatta were/are desperately trying to downplay if not deny outright. Lost in the blame-game and recriminations are the earlier actions of Mr. Kiir who, in July 2013, dismissed his vice-president Mr. Machar and the entire cabinet and went on to arrest the latter’s predominantly Nuer allies.
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/27/world/africa/south-sudan-crisis.html?_r=0
The reality is that Mr. Kenyatta, as president of Kenya; a country with a past splattered with ethnic clashes is looking at the conflict in South Sudan and uncomfortably sees the country he presides over. The dynamics of the conflict between Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar might as well be the dynamics of the conflicts between Jomo Kenyatta and his nemesis Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and the many variants of these two venerable figures of Kenya’s socio-political history. As recent as 2012, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta himself had to form the Jubilee Coalition, effectively a “coalition of survival” with fellow crimes-against-humanity suspect and deputy president Mr. William Ruto. The marriage between Mr. Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA) party and Mr. Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP) was a coalition that primarily pitted two ethnic groups – Kikuyu and Kalenjin – against a majority of the other ethnic groups in Kenya. And as is the case in South Sudan, distribution of the many permutations of “power” within members of TNA and URP has come under withering verbal attack from within; courtesy of Nandi Hills MP Mr. William Keter. Now as the father of modern war Mr. Karl von Clausewitz said, make that cautioned, war is the continuation of diplomacy/speechifying/policy by other means!
http://www.military-quotes.com/Clausewitz.htm
Before I am called an agitator or something less savory, let me categorically state that efforts at peace and conflict resolution by the delegation from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the council of ministers of South Sudan should be commended and supported: They are indeed timely. Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar should set aside their “personal challenge”…er..make that “personal ambitions” and differences and put the well-being of the people of South Sudan first. Having said that, let me add that few African leaders – past and present – can deal with situations such as the one in South Sudan with the credibility the situations deserve not to mention looking extremely hypocritical like most of them did when trying to claim Nelson Mandela’s legacy.
The cynic in me sees President Kenyatta preaching peace and reconciliation between South Sudan’s Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar while coalitions in his own backyard are clinging on to tenuous and fragile peace imposed on them by relentless pressure from the International Criminal Court! That Mr. Kenyatta has suggested “power-sharing” between Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar as an option is the height of irony given the blistering attack the president’s own supporters launched against the power-sharing arrangement, derisively referred to as the “nusu mkate” arrangement, between Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga back in 2008; an option that saved Kenya from further ETHNIC blood-letting even as it landed Mr. Kenyatta and his deputy Mr. Ruto at The Hague. The curmudgeon in me further argues that Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar survey the regional landscape and see the evolution of Kenya, Uganda, Mali, CAR and the Democratic Republic of Congo and adduce that power indeed comes through the barrel of a gun or through the “tyranny of numbers”; the latter a coalition that effectively blunts efforts to arrest impunity. The two antagonists from South Sudan finally conclude that acquisition of said power enables them to have their turn at the trough of “uhuru” (pun unintended); a calculus unmistakably demonstrated by the father of the person now preaching peace and reconciliation between the warring parties of Africa and the world’s newest nation!
The mirror certainly does not lie.

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