(L) VP Wani Igga and Telar Deng
(L) VP Wani Igga and Telar Deng

The infamous and largely unpopular Legal Advisor to the President of South Sudan HE Telar Ring Deng has confided, in a secret confidential letter to the President that Saakam has acquired – his ‘perspective’ on the current situation in South Sudan detailing a strategy to woo and court Equatorians in favour of Kiir’s administration.

The undated letter that referenced the recent framework agreement signed in Addis Ababa is believed to have been written a few days ago. It sheds some light on a disturbing approach and strategy of the Government of President Kiir to ensure it remains in the helm by pitting tribes and regions against each other and without considering any thing that bears a slight resemblance to a comprehensive national solution to a problem that is in essence political.

Courting VP Igga

Telar Deng, the defacto president of South Sudan, suggests that it is time to court Vice-President Wani Igga into a more useful role. To them, the peace negotiations in Addis Ababa with the rebels will all boil down to who will be the next Vice President during the interim period. The Presidency – it appears – is out of the question as President Kiir (and almost everyone from Bahr El Ghazal) believes that will never change.

“We must find a role for the Vice President to participate in the talks. As the negotiations in Addis move to considering substantive issues of power sharing leading to interim period etc, it is essential that the VP takes the lead in the peace talks,” Telar wrote.

“In essence, the political quarrel concerns the position of the VP. The rebels eye this position and the VP must be in the forefront defending it,” the letter continued.

“We do not want to be blamed later that we gave away positions in government”, he said.

VP Igga is a known sworn Kiir-loyalist, and with his bosses planning to give him an assignment and make him feel important, they are setting him up for a task he could never win. And when that happens – when he fails – no one but himself will be around to blame.

Not wanting “to be blamed later that we gave away positions”, Telar positions VP Igga to, first and foremost, defend the legitimacy of Kiir’s Presidency – a stand he has repeated voiced. Being in the negotiating team, he will also have to or try to keep his VP position (or that of Equatoria) and at the same time strike a deal with the rebels for the formation of an interim government.

VP Igga’s task will be close to impossible. If he manages to strike a deal that require he step aside as VP for the sake of South Sudan, his masters will have no one but himself to “blame for giving away positions”.

And that is not all…

“Involving the VP in the talks will demonstrate national unity i.e involving Equatorians and takes it [negotiations] away from the Dinka vs Nuer affair/issue,” argued Telar.

The current leader of the government’s delegation to the peace talks is Nhial Deng Nhial. The fact that he is a Dinka from the same state/clan as the President could have been a coincidence if someone did not know better.

Shopping for (more) Ministers from Equatoria

This conflict appears to have put the spotlight of appeasement on Equatoria as the Government tries to come up with renewed old tricks of offering or trading ministerial positions in exchange for loyalty and security in the helm – or as Telar Deng puts it “our strategy to prevent Riak Machar from building a support base in Equatoria.” and “courting” the Equatorians.

A reshuffle is already been pencilled with names and regions being short-listed against the portfolios of key ministries such as Finance, Interior and Defence.

According to Telar Deng, the Finance portfolio “should remain within Greater Equatoria”, and if need be to replace the incumbent, there is a candidate who just fits Telar’s taste.

Dr. David Nailo Mayo, an MP from the Didinga tribe – Eastern Equatoria – has been proposed. According to Telar, Dr. Mayo not only solves the problem of representation in Eastern Equatoria but he is also “competent and loyal to [Kiir’s] leadership”.

Next in the shopping list is a strong candidate from Western Equatoria. Telar has expressed dissatisfaction in Jemma Nunu saying she has been “a disappointment”. Doubting her usefulness and popularity, Telar further wondered “how much support she can muster” in Western Equatoria for a government keen on clinging to power.

Based on the above, Telar believes the cabinet needs another Western Equatorian preferably in the person of Ex-General Alison Monani Magaya.

Since the objective and strategy is just to court them [Equatorians], the ministry need not be key – the Minister of Labour and Public Service will be good enough, Telar proposed.

“Equatoria has a history of becoming slippery”

However, the strategy to court Equatorians into loyalty and, in the process, deny Riek Machar a support base in the region needs to be tread carefully. That whole region of Greater Equatoria – larger in size than Uganda – “has a history of becoming slippery” and must not be trusted in totality.

Slippery Equatorians, what can we do with or without them?
Slippery Equatorians, what can we do with or without them?

In other words, Equatorians might not be able to avoid this fact, but it appears they will be used yet again. Equatorians are not to be trusted but again, it is a situation that overrides all national interests (whatever that means) and secure Kiir’s reign.

Has the strategy been used before? Did it work?

Surprisingly (or not) the answer is yes.

“In the wake of the 1991 Split, the SPLM/A leadership successfully courted Equatorians (i.e Professor George Bureng, Steven Wondu, Dr. Samson Kwaje etc) to deny the Nasir Faction any tangible support in the region. Under the current political climate, we need to pursue this kind of policy,” Telar reminded the President.

Conclusion

The confidential letter has already appeared in a couple of sites and mailing lists and will be publicly availed very soon. When we first got it, it shocked us how superficial some of these strategies tried to deal with issues that have claimed the lives of thousands who care less for a ministerial position here or there. But that might have been how politics in South Sudan is being carried out by those in power.

As for Equatorians, they seem to get a boost everytime Riek Machar or the Nuer fall out with a Dinka government.

 

NOTE: This is not a satirical piece – I swear!

 

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