By Dak Buoth
8th August, 2023. On 31st July 2023, Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin, one of the three leaders of the Nasir Declaration, and the chairman of the National Democratic Movement (NDM), made a hasty return to the capital Juba, after three years of self-imposed exile.
The speedy come back of Dr. Lam has left a lot to be inquired. Moreover, the timing of his return, and the reception accorded to him by Government’s mouthpieces raises more questions than answers.
Dr. Lam was received at Juba International Airport like foreign guest of the state. From afar, I could see a sign of guilt on the facial expression of Cabinet Affairs minister Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, who welcomed him. The minister was a bit apologetic and sympathetic to Dr. Lam for obvious reasons explained hereunder.
Those who have likened the return of Dr. Lam Akol to an usual return of an ordinary South Sudanese politician will be sadly mistaken.
Over the years, the pro-establishments have always been wary of Dr. Lam. This is after they studied that he was the brainchild of the infamous Nasir declaration. In August 1991, Dr. Riek Machar now the first vice president was brought to lead the Nasir declaration simply because he was the senior-most in the SPLM/SPLA hierarchy.
Those who perused the book entitled ‘‘the politics of liberation in South Sudan, an insider’s view’’ by Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba will concur that Dr. Lam had wanted to lead the Nasir Declaration.
However, in one of their retail conversations, Dr. Nyaba warned Dr. Lam to stop harboring an ambition to lead the Nasir Declaration, fearing that he will be in for a rude shock like other renege SPLM leaders, who were jailed at the time.
In 2020, during the formation of the government of national unity, in line with the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), President Kiir and company made sure that Dr. Lam is not appointed as minister or vice president on the ticket of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA).
The cardinal reasons were that Dr. Lam Akol, being critical thinker and rabble-rouser, will sell ideas to Dr. Riek Machar in order to scuttle the government. By doing that, the government knew that without Dr. Lam in the system, Dr. Riek will be starving of ideas to rock the government from within.
Dr. Lam has seen his woes coming. You would recalled before the signing and implementation of the R-ARCSS, he had pushed for SSOA elections won by late General Peter Gatdet. Dr. Lam’s push for SSOA elections and subsequent support for Peter Gatdet’s candidacy was aimed at countering the like of Husein Abdelbaggi and Changson Chang. But unfortunately death robbed Gatdet too soon.
General Peter Gatdet Yaka passed away as a de jure and de facto chairman of SSOA. If Peter Gatdet was still alive and was still the chairperson of SSOA, Dr. Lam could not have his appointment and or candidacy vice president post sabotaged very easily.
Prior to his going-out of juba years ago, Dr. Lam has had a bitter exchange with Madam Josephine joseph Lagu of SSOA. By then Dr. Lam alleged that SSOA was compromised and controlled by President kiir’ camp. In her rebuttal, Josephine Joseph vehemently denied in the press statement entitled ‘‘SSOA rejects accusations of being controlled by South Sudan’s kiir.’’
In 2016, Dr. Lam rebelled and abandoned his ministerial post after Dr. Riek was brutally deposed and chased to Dr. Congo. When he publicly announced his rebellion, it was rumored that he wanted to inherit the SPLM-IO in the event that President Kiir succeeded in eliminating Dr. Riek Machar at the Equatoria forest.
There were three facts points to this assertion or conclusion. One, Dr. Lam went to Addis Ababa and issued press statement in the residence of Dr. Riek. Second, Dr. Lam stated that, he was going to team up with SPLM-IO to dethrone President kiir’s regime by military means. Third, Dr. Lam used strong words in his statement against Taban Deng Gai who succeeded Dr. Riek as first vice president describing him as ‘poodle.’
General Taban in his capacity as de facto first vice president replaced Dr. Riek’s appointees with people majority of who were from the Nuer nationality. Intentionally, General Taban wanted to earned Nuer support in order for them abandoned the war even if his predecessor was no more.
On the other hand, Dr. Lam with his vast experience on bush politics knew that Nuer as a community would not be enticed with positions to abandon the war if Dr. Riek is gone. Instead they would proceeds with the protracted armed struggle that needed a doyen and public intellectual like him.
The coming back of Dr. Lam has elicited a hard talk that revolves on two critical questions. First, whether Dr. Lam was compromised to come back in order to participate in the sham elections that would be a walk-over for president Kiir. Second, whether president kiir planned to make Dr. Lam his running-made in the general elections slated for December 2024.
First, on whether Dr. Lam came back to participate in sham election; perhaps President Kiir want to go the Kenyan way. In 2017, after the Supreme Court nullified the Presidential results, former President Uhuru Kenyatta rushed for a rerun with the Kenyan brief case parties without implementing the requisite conditions made by the apex court in its verdict. Eventually, the rerun became a walk in the park or a work-over for president Uhuru, because his arch rival Raila Amolo Odinga boycotted the poll on ground of non-compliance with court’s directives.
In this case, should Dr. Lam buy this treacherous political deal then it will amount to an offence of selling his soul. I know NDM is not a brief case party for sell. But if president Kiir managed to prevail over Dr. Lam to allow him go into elections before the implementation of the conditions provided by the R-ARCISS then we are not yet off the hook.
Second, on whether President Kiir is planning to make Dr. Lam his running-made; this is possible if President Kiir wanted to rebrand his tainted political image using Dr. Lam’s reform credentials.
However, the danger of Dr. Lam becoming a Running-mate to President Kiir is that the duo is not the proverbial birds of the same features. Of course they can win the elections perhaps with the power and advantage of incumbency, but I doubt if their presidency will last. I am afriad, Dr. Lam will soon be accused of plotting to ouster the government in the event that he want to initiate some reforms in the next government.
Whatever the case, I think time will tell. Other than the time, Dr. Lam will tell the country later. Lucky enough Dr. Lam has always wanted to share the rationale of his decisions and political steps that he has taken in his political career.
In conclusion, Dr. Lam Akol is the true epitome of South Sudan opposition leader whether in or outside the government. He is a public intellectual that our nation relies on for crucial information, and thus any win by the government over Dr. Lam will left South Sudanese intellectually malnourished.
The Writer is the Chairman of South Sudan Liech community Association in Kenya; the views expressed here are his own, and he can be reached for comments via email@example.com