The former South Sudan detainees recently announced their decision to join the unity government led by President Salva Kiir.
The move drew anger from the opposition which described the decision as “betrayal” to the cause of overhauling the entire political system in the country.
Mabior Garang, who speaks for SPLM/A (In Opposition), says the recent announcement by the FD’s, is the “latest conspiracy by the group, aimed at undermining our people’s efforts at determining for themselves, their own destiny.”
Several top party leaders who were put under arrest in the wake of the 2013 civil war in South Sudan but freed following the intervention of regional leaders, said they “agreed to reunite the SPLM and come back to SPLM as a family.”
ChimpReports caught up with Mabior Garang on the former detainees’ decision, Uganda’s involvement in the South Sudan conflict; United States Sanctions and his life in Cabinet as Minister of irrigation.
CR: The former detainees appear to be determined to realize peace in South Sudan. Why not embrace government for this cause too?
Peace is a technical undertaking, we must not think about peace in religious terms, it must not be predicated on human feelings, which are fleeting, which change like the wind. The current initiative by the Former Detainees, is a private initiative with President Salva Kiir and it is not legally binding process.
The FD’s are signatories to the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), what happens to their stake in the Agreement when they join the SPLM In Government (IG)?
This presents problems similar to the confusion created when the 2015 Agreement was undermined by the creation of 28 States, when the Agreement was signed based on 10 States, this has created confusion to this day, as the issues of the boundaries threatens to scuttle the current agreement. It is true that we the people of South Sudan need peace and if the initiative of the FD’s is able to bring peace, then it would be a great thing for everyone, however, there is no mechanisms in such a private agreement that addresses the collapsed economy, the refugee crisis, the insecurity in the country and other issues that plague our country. The timing is questionable.
CR: The country has started pumping oil. Does South Sudan have the needed infrastructure and personnel to make good use of this resource?
The people of South Sudan have never benefited from the oil revenues since independence, in fact, it could be argued that our people had better social services under the administration of the old Sudan, than we as leaders have been able to provide for our people. The promise of the liberation struggle has not been fulfilled.
CR: The country is relatively stable but we see fresh disagreements among politicians. Where are you headed?
The country has never been stable since 2005, there has been inter-communal violence in all the three regions of South Sudan before the current civil war broke out in 2013.
The people of South Sudan are currently embroiled in a struggle for a second liberation, to fulfill the promises of the liberation struggle. It is a struggle for a Second Republic.
CR: When you say you will continue the struggle in the wake of the former detainees situation. What do you mean?
There is a difference between “struggle” and “war”.
The objective of our Movement is to end the ability by any segment of our population to kill our people, the struggle to end tribalism, poverty, ignorance and the negative impacts of our history of colonialism and slavery, shall continue long after the war ends.
CR: What do you make of the return of Riek Machar in South Sudan politics?
There is no return of Riek Machar to South Sudanese politics because he never really left South Sudanese politics, this is shown by the fact that South Sudanese politics stalled when the regime tried to isolate him.
This did not have an effect on the resolve of our people to continue to wage the struggle.
CR: What do you consider as the best strategy of realizing inclusive and sustainable peace in South Sudan?
The R-ARCSS is the best opportunity for our people to establish institutions, including the establishment of a constitution for our country for the first time.
CR: What do you make of the U.S. sanctions on South Sudan? Will they make or break South Sudan?
The U.S. sanctions may have little impact on the situation, because the fact that Uganda is an ally of the regime in Juba, makes them undermine any efforts to prevent the regime from purchasing guns and ammunition to kill our civil population.
It is however, a great gesture by the government of the people of the United States, to the suffering masses of South Sudan.
CR: What role can Museveni play in helping South Sudan return to its feet?
What President Museveni can do to help South Sudan get back on its feet, is to make revolutionary corrections.
The way Uganda intervened in the internal affairs of our country, is a major contributing factor to the intransigence of the regime throughout the peace process.
I want to believe that the Ugandan blunder was not deliberate, but was based on a failure of their Intelligence community.
It would be unfortunate if Uganda deliberately entered South Sudan with the intention of causing insecurity.
It would go a long way in creating stability if Uganda reconsiders its current position on South Sudan.
CR: What was life like in tyhe South Sudan cabinet and what’s your current potsition/work today?
My brief stay as a Minister in South Sudan before the peace agreement collapsed, was a great learning experience.
To start, I had a crisis of conscience because the way the Government of National Unity was formed (2015), was contrary to the provisions of the Agreement.
The constitution should have been amended first, to incorporate the Agreement, the Parliament should have been reconstituted and then the Government formed.
The SPLM (IO), was put under immense pressure in order to circumvent the provisions of the Agreement, which ultimately led to its collapse.
This pressure was due to the fact that the regime and her allies are mediators of peace, while at the same time, being party to the conflict. This makes the regime use peace, as an instrument of war.
The SPLM (IO), still went to Juba to implement the Agreement, despite being aware we were walking into a trap.
Being a Minister in the Transitional Government, gave me a glimpse into how our country is being mismanaged. As a Minister, I found that there was no budget, the system was and still is, corrupt, to say the least. I found that Chapter III (Money for Projects in the Ministry), was unaccounted for; I found the same for Chapter II (Money for Services in the Ministry); and, Chapter I (Civil Servant Salaries), never came on time, with government workers missing up to six months pay.
Nobody knows what has happened to the money and nobody questions it. I decided since there was no work, to go out and morally support the work of Development Partners, who have been the only ones pledging funds for any kind of rural development in our country.
This gave me an opportunity to briefly travel in the country, and explain to our people, what is really going on.
I also did a lot of Radio and newspaper interviews, it was the only work I could do, as the government was broke.
I tried to show how there is no money available in the Ministry, yet Ministers who are seen to be disloyal to the corrupt system, are sacked and accused of embezzling the nonexistent finances.
This is why when peace collapsed in 2016, I could not stay as a Minister under such circumstances, so I voluntarily let the position.
The only reason I accepted the position in the first place, was because we thought the Agreement was an opportunity to set the nation on the right path.
It is unfortunate, that the regime and her allies saw it as a way to use peace as an instrument of war.