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South Sudan needs a new rebel strategy!

South Sudan needs a new rebel strategy!

By Dak Buoth Riek-Gaak,

January 16, 2022 — The frail and fragile country of South Sudan was gained through a protracted armed rebellion that first broke out in 1955, one year prior to Sudan’s independence in 1956. When the colonial government was packing and about to leave to pave way for Sudan’s independence in the aforementioned year, the South(ern) Sudanese leaders had wanted their own country. But when colonialists did not heed to their legitimate demand, for reasons best known to them, the south(ern) Sudanese leaders rebelled and left for the bush, to fight for their right to seek self-determination which we obtained a decade ago.

If you remember, it was this reason that in 2005 at Nyayo Stadium, during the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), late Dr. John Garang in his speech said that, South Sudanese were not part of 1956 independence, and that with CPA, we would begin achieving real independence. Despite the independence of South Sudan, armed insurgencies and rebellions in South Sudan did not die a natural death.

Many armed groups that were not part and parcel of the SPLM/SPLA before independence opted to remain in the bush, for they believed the independence struggle was hijacked, and that it was in the wrong hands. Thus, they insisted on fighting the regime of SPLM/SPLA, believing that real independence would be ushered in when the present regime is replaced.

Late Lieutenant General, Gordon Koang Chuol Kulang, one of the three leaders of 1991 Nasir Declaration and former leader of Anyanya 1 and 2, who died on 6th January 2022, was a typical example of those who did not believe that South Sudan was independence, because from 2011, the latter never step foot in South Sudan.

I think it was due to his vendetta and enmity for the present regime that President Kiir or government did not write and send condolence except his erstwhile comrades, Dr. Riek Machar and Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin who eulogized General Gordon as a patriot who contributed immensely for South Sudan. At the moment, the present South Sudan has more armed groups than political parties.

In fact, I am unaware of any known and effective political party which did not come through the bush. In other words, all political entities in the country were one time guerilla movements. As of now, you will find that every political party in the country, including the ruling party, SPLM has an army wing. The current national army, SSPDF was initially called Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) which was a former army wing of the ruling SPLM. It was around 2016 that it was renamed as South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF). Most government officials are still active military officers!

Before and after the salient rebellion of December 2013 led by Dr. Riek Machar, there were many rebel groups which were in existence fighting against the government of South Sudan. My region of Liech or Unity State alone has about six existing rebel groups namely SPLM-IO of Dr. Riek Machar, defunct SPLM-IO splinter group of General Taban Deng, SSPM of General Stephen Buay Rolnyang, NPAM by General Robert Ruai Kuol, SSUM by late General Peter Gatdet Yakah plus the rebel movement of General Bapiny Manytuil. These are conventional armed rebels, and we cannot talk about rebellion without naming them.

In response, the government has been trying to convince and contain these armed groups by offering general amnesty and key government positions but in vain. On this very evening of January 16th, the government delegations are heard and seen in Khartoum signing peace with the SPLM-IO Kitgwang faction led by General Simon Gatwech Dual, General Olony Thabo Dak and General Thomas Mabor Dhoal. This rebel faction broke away from Dr. Riek Machar’s mainstream SPLM-IO in August last year.

Although the content of their agreement is not yet out for wider perusal, chances are that these rebel leaders will be awarded and offered senior lucrative positions both in the executive arm of government and military. The question is, are these appeasing rebel strategies working? The answer is no. The South Sudan government had been applying these rebel strategies prior to independence, but it has only done the country bad rather than good, because the number of rebel groups are only increasing yearly.

There is a common narrative that when one rebels or commits an offense like corruption, he will be exalted to higher position in government due to such poor strategies. The government cannot continue applying the same tactics and styles consistently and expect different results. Unless the government is out to encourage more rebellions, it can continue with these rebel strategies. These two strategies are outdated and they need to be changed sooner or later.

At times, we ask whether these rebellions are the projects of the government in South Sudan? And if not then they require a new strategy to curb rebellion in the country.

One of the things I have in mind, which is worth testing and trying by the government if it’s acting in good faith, is to establish a quasi-judicial institution called rebel court which will exclusively deal with matters of rebellion.

I think we need to constitute this rebel tribunal to be approved by parliament. This body can be obligated to receive and hear all the concerns and complaints raised by rebel groups that entered into agreement with the government then later write a report to be acted upon promptly.

The government would have done this via an appropriate channel provided for in the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCISS), but it often appears afraid or apprehensive when dealing with R-ARCISS. Therefore, it needs to initiate its own institution to quickly handle these recurrent challenges bedeviling the country.

I fondly recall some of the key demands echoed and decried by most rebel factions are Rule of law and democracy. Unfortunately, the government is doing little to achieve these fundamental ideals in the country. And so, we are yet off the hook as a country.

The Writer is the Chairman of Liech Community Association in Kenya, the views expressed here are his own, and he can be reached for comments via


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