Open Letter to Dr. Riek Machar to nominate another person better than Johnson Olony
By Dak Buoth
Your Excellency, I have no doubt in my mind that you perused and understood the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS). I presumed you are well versed with this peace accord better than me because you were one of the leaders who negotiated and signed it on 12th September 2018.
In unlikely event that you erred in performing your roles granted by this agreement, it won’t be that you didn’t comprehend this peace accord, but it will be understood that you are simply dishonoring your responsibilities for reasons known to you.
At times an opposition leader is like a visitor whose mistakes are easily seen more than that of the incumbent. For instance when you nominated to cabinet people related to you, it attracted an avalanche of criticisms from all walks of life. Eventually, many of your comrades and supporters dispersed and defected to President Salva kiir.
To begin with, there is nothing like Presidency in the agreement. We only have one President, Salva Kiir Mayardit and one First vice President, Dr. Riek Machar plus other four vice Presidents. This term presidency is political; it has no backing in the agreement. You would find only two people are protected and recognized by name in the agreement. These two people are none other than the President and the First Vice President. The other office holders starting with four vice presidents can be removed and replaced with anyone nominated and subsequently appointed by the president.
The fact that the President and five vice presidents are required to work harmoniously and interdependently does means they are equal and alike. I would reiterate that the word presidency is not recognized by law and the agreement. It is a political term created and peddled by individuals working in the offices of the vice presidents in an attempt to compare their bosses to the president, which is very undermining. I came to realize the word presidency is not even worth mention in writing. In any case it can only be said and heard verbally in an informal social and political discourse.
The other day I was shocked during the opening of the vice president, Hussein Abdel Bagi’s office to read this word ‘‘presidency’’ on top of the banner. I asked: why can’t they just write on top ‘‘Republic of South Sudan ’‘and put vice president below it?
I concluded that the aim of starting with Presidency is to compare vice Hussein’s office to the President’s which is a lie. How can an official be the same to his boss who appointed and swore him into office? I must say even the occupant of the first vice president’s office is not equal to the President, simply because he was the one who appointed and swore him into office on 25th February, 2020. I think the ongoing wrangle and power struggle over the person of Johnson Olony Thabo Dak as Upper Nile governor is based on the notion that the vice Presidents are equal to the president. And it is wrong and illogical.
Expectedly, the People in government can express divergent opinions. But any manifestation of this kind of power struggle will hinder and later hurt or injure this peace agreement badly. It will hurt the agreement in the sense that the objectives of this accord shall be defeated due to unnecessary delay in its implementation.
Chapter 1 subsection 1.6 recognized Salva Kiir as a President with powers to nominate and appoint anyone he wants to serve in the transitional government of national unity. You the First vice President have got one power, which is to nominate only. The agreement requires you to suggest names for appointment by the president; and the president has prerogative to either drop or pick your nominees. What the President cannot do is to reject your nominees and pick for himself. But if the president has reservation on some people you nominated for appointment, he has a right under the agreement to tell you to nominate another person.
I know the reasons for rejecting Johnson Olony are not convincing from day one. But one thing is clear; the president refused and rejected Olony for fear of unknown only.
Former Egyptian President, Anwar El Sadat in his Autobiography titled ‘‘In Search of Identity’’ stated that ‘‘fear is, I believe, a most effective tool in destroying the soul of an individual and the soul of a people’’. I advised you to respect the fears and reservations that the president has on Olony by nominating another person better than him.
I also know your fears that if you nominate another person, Olony might defect as the reason why you are not acting swiftly. But should Olony defect because you nominate another person, many people will understand and sympathize with you because there is nothing you can do. And this brings me to this question: what will you do now that the president has rejected Olony? It’s been many months now since the president declined to appoint Olony as Upper Nile Governor. Your lack of option warranted me to tell you to nominate another person.
There is no shortage of competent persons to serve in that capacity. Now that the president has rejected him, will the people of Upper Nile stay without a governor? Don’t they need service delivery? Keeping quiet will not change anything. Just wake up and nominate another person better than Olony.
CONSEQUENCES OF INACTION
I foresee your silence or inaction will only give an opportunity to the President to appoint someone of his own choice in violation of the peace agreement. I’m equally afraid he can create another Administrative Area for Apadang community like he did in Unity and Jonglei states, which is another violation of the same peace agreement.
The truth of the matter is that, this peace agreement cannot be allowed to collapse or stop because of Olony’s rejection. Now if I were you I would just call General Olony and ask him to suggest or recommend another person from Shilluk that you can nominate and forward his name to the president for appointment. I’m encouraging you to sacrifice and compromise again for the sake of peace. You compromised and went to Juba before the security arrangement is completed, and secondly you formed a government after the president created an Administrative areas like Ruweng that annexed parts of Rubkona and Mayom counties of Unity State.
In conclusion, Johnson Olony cannot be the trigger for abandoning the agreement. This Olony’s case is partly tricky and partly simple. In fact, his rejection by the president gives you an opportunity to nominate another experienced person who had been tried, tested and trusted. The Upper Nile is a vast and deeply divided state inhabited by multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society that needs civilian governor who has knowledge of politics to manage civic administration during this fragile transitional period.
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 email@example.com