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Political conflict turns into open ethnic war

The Communist Party of South Sudan offers a comprehensive political analysis of the background to the present confrontation

In July last year when South Sudanese President Salva Kiir dissolved his entire cabinet and removed his vice-president, the Communist Party of South Sudan described this as a further step in a series of power struggles within the ruling party.

We pointed out that these struggles had nothing to do with solving post-independence problems such as poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, disease and declining living standards.

They are all about who rules the country and for how long.

Appointments to positions of authority have become the main means of rapidly accumulating wealth through high salaries and unlimited privileges and services.

The interests of parasitic capitalism and the government bureaucracy have joined hands to rob the state.

We pointed out back then that the power struggle opened the way to both sides resorting to violence and argued that the solution was the formation of a national government with all political parties agreeing a minimum plan of action.

Political differences could be left to the public to settle in forthcoming elections.

Last month's developments - with the attempted coup by the vice-president and the government backlash - are a further escalation of the power struggle, essentially a mutiny of soldiers who seek to gain power through force.

The struggle takes place against the background of a ruling party - the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) - that has failed to run the affairs of the country.

To depict these events as reform-driven or aimed at improving the situation in South Sudan is false.

Both wings of the SPLM have failed and its warring factions bear the responsibility for this crisis. And the deteriorating situation means suffering for the people of South Sudan.

The ethnic background of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) formation from the country's two major ethnicities, Dinka and Nuer, and not on a national basis, is one of the reasons for the current crisis.

In spite of most of the militias which fought for independence from Sudan being absorbed into the ranks of the SPLA each maintained its former structure and leadership within the army.

Every side in the conflict has resorted first and foremost to "its" militias and the sons of "its" ethnicities.

Despite ongoing attempts to distort the facts it cannot be denied that the conflict has descended into an ethnic war.

The damage is exorbitant and the military machinery is now destroying thousands of lives mercilessly and without remorse. When the elephants fight it is the grass which suffers.

Mass graves are spreading in many parts of the country. The common people have lost their security and stability and become refugees in their own country, exposed to death, disease and hunger.

The repercussions of the current war threaten the social fabric and create a spirit of enmity among the main ethnic groups in the country.

Its continuation could also lead to the cessation of petroleum production, which would prolong austerity measures which are damaging living standards.

The Communist Party has unwaveringly called for non-violence in the resolution of political differences.

We condemn in the sharpest tone the current bloody events and condemn all who directly or indirectly planned the turmoil. We call for all who have committed crimes against humanity to appear before international justice.

We welcome the UN security council's decision to reinforce its military forces in the country to cement security and stability so as not to allow the situation to deteriorate into a full-blown civil war which could transform South Sudan into another Rwanda.

Efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (a regional bloc of states comprising Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and Uganda) to bring the conflicting parties to the negotiating table are welcome too.

The South Sudanese government must now take the initiative from its position of strength to produce an environment conducive to talks. That means releasing detainees and announcing an immediate ceasefire without preconditions.

A final agreement should then be presented to all parties for them to give their opinion, in the same way it has to be presented to the National Legislative Assembly for approval.

The issue is no longer a conflict within the SPLM but a national issue.

Any restoration of the SPLM pre-war hegemony over national issues is unacceptable. It is true that the SPLM achieved peace and independence.

But it has since pulled the country into crisis through its internal differences and its inability to face the most pressing problems facing the people.

The SPLM needs to admit to its grievous mistakes and apologise.

The form of the next government should be different and should represent all political forces. All parties should deepen the spirit of peaceful resolution of conflict within all parts of society and all communities and submit democratically to the will of the citizens.

And we call for a national framework to be adopted for the reorganisation of the South Sudanese army.

 

This article is from the central secretariat of the Communist Party of South Sudan

 

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