Analysis: Awel Deng’s appointment, another no-peace no-war pro bono!
BY Deng Elijah,
March 29, 2022 — The latest appointment of Hon. Yolanda Awel Deng as South Sudan Minister of Health is a continuation of what I would call a “no-peace no-war pro bono” from the SPLM/A-IO leadership for lack of better terminologies. In a few words, it’s gratuitous and a grave mistake. Yolanda does not deserve this appointment, not at least in contemporary South Sudan; however, before we dive into what might be a dubious mistake in her appointment, I would first justify how competent Yolanda is and why she may deserve what she deserves but this appointment!Though I ever met Yolanda in person, I would testify that she is a role model and at the same time a colleague. Yolanda and I landed prestigious scholarships to Canada through the same scholarship program, the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) a few years ago to University of Saskatchewan and University of British Columbia, respectively. Knowing how rigorous WUSC selection criteria were and are, and what it takes to graduate from universities like USask and UBC, I have no doubt that Yolanda has learned to excel, not just in politics but in whatever life throws at her.
In addition, having graduated with a degree in psychology, a field I also had a benefit of, Yolanda is well equipped with social and natural science tools not only to read minds and behaviors but also to peek through and unconscious phenomena, which is what we call politics in South Sudan today.
While in Canada, Yolanda worked as a Settlement Case Management Support Worker in Saskatoon supporting vulnerable peoples and advocating for mental health and wellbeing for underprivileged minorities, among others.
The intent here is to shed a glimpse of light into her competency, her passion and dedication to serve the people of South Sudan, and she will definitely make a great politician. Compared to her predecessor, Elizabeth Acuei, who was a wrong candidate at a wrong place at a wrong time, Yolanda would do a relatively better job; however, her latest appointment as the minister of health remains a blatant mistake to the SPLM/A-IO fraternity that will have serial political repercussions!
South Sudan is a country at a crossroad and the people of South Sudan, and more specifically the SPLM/A-IO, are in a prisoner’s dilemma. To salvage the rubble of decade-long destruction, destitution, corruption and poor leadership, the main armed opposition, which assumes the role of people’s watchdog, ought to perform at the highest effective strategic leadership level possible to challenge the status quo while rallying popular support to dismantle the senseless autocratic regime that is entrenching this suffering on the people at an iron fist.
Surprisingly, it’s the regime that has proven to be utilizing strategic leadership to continue entrenching itself on the people as opposed to the opposition that should be trying to rescue the suffering millions. To understand what the SPLM/A-IO is doing wrong, let’s first review what SPLM-IG is doing right!
South Sudan has been in a civil war for eight out of ten (8/10) years of her independence. That alone puts the chances of war to peace at a ratio of 8:2 or 4:1.
Statistically speaking, the chances of war under the leadership of president Salva Kiir sit at eighty percent (80%) but if we consider the fact that there were COBRA rebellion of David YauYau, SSLA rebellion of late General Peter Gatdet Yaka, Agwelek rebellion of Johnson Olony and all inter-communal conflicts that ensured between 2011 and 2013, it would be justified to believe that South Sudan has never had peace and will never have peace under president Salva Kiir.
To justify that Salva Kiir is a war enthusiast, and he does so very seamlessly, his political appointment lists have been predominantly dominated by notorious military generals; men who have amassed war accolades from their communities for decades. It was never a mistake for Salva Kiir to recycle leaders like General Kuol Manyang Juuk, Paul Malong, Aleu Ayieny Aleu, Riny Tueny Mabor , Michael Makuei Lueth, Louise Lobong, Martin Elias and a bunch of bull-nuer generals and politicians. From their intimidating physique to their authoritative styles of leadership, Kiir knows that such leaders will win support of their people comes war or elections. By so doing, Kiir has been building undefeatable squads and that is all he needs to continue imposing himself on the people against the will of the majority. That’s what happens when you know what you want!
In addition, Kiir does not only know who to recycle but also knows when and where not to bother to appoint a strong candidate. For example, Kiir has never bothered to find or build a strong candidate from Leer county because he knows that no candidate from Leer county will ever be popular to gain him more support in Leer or Unity State more than Riek Machar. Instead he opted to build strong candidates from Bul-Nuer, and recently from Jikany-Gatkek (Guit county) communities, to achieve his goals in Unity State.
To build enough confidence and popular support, Kiir has recycled and furnished Ngueng Manytuel and Tutkew for the last eight years, and that seems to be paying off. This is what you called strategic leadership!
What is SPLM/A-IO Doing wrong?
The team of politicians and military generals that Salva Kiir is appointing the team that Dr. Riek Machar is working with(Photo credit: designed from supplied images)
Compared to Salva Kiir’s strategic selection of leaders, the SPLM/A-IO leadership has been bankrupt, collecting all the soft, inexperienced and unskilled leaders who have zero popularity in their constituencies, no objectives, no political philosophies and no ideologies at the expense of well trained military generals, academicians, politicians and elders whom most of them have now defected or died.
None of the ten current ministers and their deputies except Gen. Peter Puok Koang, who was installed two weeks ago, has the capacity to deliver victories whether the country heads to elections or heads to war after the current transitional period.
Having known Salva Kiir as a war enthusiast, who will always choose war over peace, the SPLM/A-IO leadership or any leader who wishes to defeat Salva Kiir through bullets or ballots must strategize how to surround himself or herself with double-edged sword kind of leaders; men and women, who have fought wars and can fight again should Salva Kiir resorts to war but also have potentials to win elections should Salva Kiir choose peace!
To briefly dive into Yolanda’s appointment, having been in Diaspora for decades, young and inexperienced, Yolanda has zero attachment to the grassroots in Twic Mayardit. In addition, not only has she never held a gun to fight, she needs many years to build up her popularity to win elections in Twic Mayardit county or in Warrap state; however, being an opposition candidate in president’s own constituency may only amounts to being an outcast, if not a suicide mission!
Furthermore, as a female politician, Yolanda’s constitutional support base is inherently that of her husband, Angel Machar, who is not even a member of the SPLM/A-IO and therefore, even if she was popular enough to defeat SPLM-IG candidate in the event of elections, which is totally impossible, she would still split the remaining votes with her husband. In short, she has no chance of winning anything in her constituency, war or election, and therefore, she deserves very much less than a ministerial position from the SPLM/A-IO. Politically speaking, she is the worst investment and not worth it!
To emphasize, the limited power-sharing ratio that the R-ARCISS warrants to the SPLM/A-IO is ALL the resources the SPLM/A-IO has to sustain its lifespan and to do so it must aim to win the next elections or aim to resist another military campaign should Salva Kiir resorts to war. Again, for the SPLM/A-IO to resuscitate itself and to conquer political space in South Sudan, the party should have invested these limited opportunities strategically to build its political and military powerhouse to encounter that of SPLM/A-IG in 2023.
Thinking like Salva Kiir, Machar should have appointed battle-hardened generals and seasoned politicians e.g. the calibers of Lt. Gen. Johnson Olony, Lt. Gen. James Koang Chuol Ranleey, Gen. Gatwech Dual, Gen. Gawaar Manyoak, Gen. Sunday Martin, Gen. Duer Tut Duer, Gen. Nathaniel Oyet Perieno, Gen. Peter Puok Kong, Hon. Dak Duop Bichok, Professor Elias Nyamlel, Hon. Tingo Peter and many other current and former politicians and generals into ministerial and gubernatorial positions instead of all these soft, unskilled and unpopular politicians that are occupying these empty seats.
On top of this list, the Ministry of Petroleum and Ministry of Defense are the most strategic and most resourceful ministries that should have been given to strong military leaders, who could have optimized the resources not only to support their families, whom they sacrificed during the war, but also to reward their bodyguards and communities whom they sacrificed their children. For example, if these two ministries were given to General Johnson Olony and CDR James Koang Chuol Ranleey, any benefit driven from these ministries could have touched lives of many Chollos and many eastern Jikany Nuer because these two leaders are not only mature and popular enough to distribute resources widely, they are experienced and have desperately sacrificed for the SPLM/A-IO. Better yet the two leaders in this example, Olony and CDR, could still be loyal to SPLM/A-IO today and could have delivered more political and military victories should SPLM-IG choose peace or war at the end of this transitional period which could happen anytime from now.
But in any event if the future does not matter anymore, i.e. if the SPLM/A-IO intends to exit political space henceforth, then the SPLM/A-IO leadership should have looked closely into the past and used the R-ARCISS resources to award those who desperately deserve them including the martyrs of past liberation struggles. Many have sacrificed but some men and women squandered the future of their children and sacrificed everything for the sake of SPLM/A-IO vision or for Dr. Riek Machar leadership.
Lastly, if the logical reasoning was to mitigate chances of sliding into another conflict, which the SPLM/A-IO is now struggling to uphold, then the SPLM/A should still have appointed elderly, popular, experienced and smart politicians to continue pumping ideological guidance into the party!
That being said, this article holds nothing but utilitarianism which is the principle we thought the SPLM/A and SPLM/A-IO were established on to maximize happiness for the majority; unfortunately, they have all diverted and none seems to fight for the greater good for all!
The author, Deng Elijah, serves at BC Prosecution Service, he is the Executive Director of Nyamilepedia, President of the Gawaar Global Community and Policy Director at the Liech Oil Victims’ Voice. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent any of these organizations or any other body that Deng works for. For more information, you can reach the author, Deng Elijah, through email at dengsimon2000 at yahoo dot com.