This is really worrying – not the division between Kiir and Machar, which is pretty clear, but the language used to talk about legitimate debate. There is, legitimately, an uproar going on over the proposed interim constitution – including the postponement of elections after independence, the changes to presidential terms, the unequivocal declaration of Abyei as southern, and a host of other issues. And it seems that most people think Kiir won’t make any changes, something he confirms in the Tribune piece.
It’s very frightening to see the suppression of debate, particularly within the SPLM. Proposing an alternative draft, or even just amendments to the draft, is apparently to Kiir an act of political tribalism akin to creating a ‘parallel government’; if discussing the proposed amendments would ‘derail the process of people talking about the Constitution’, Kiir and his friends have resurrected a really skewed view of legislative debate. Accusing opposing voices of being ‘tribal’ is a cheap shot, when the dissent is really over the extension of presidential powers and continuation of the SPLM majority government. Although there’s hardly been a let-up in the restrictions and suppression of media and opposition voices, it’s very concerning to see this curtailment of freedom of speech extend to SPLM MPs themselves.
Kiir appears to be saying that unity means agreeing with him, and nationalism is about complete agreement – and the suppression of debate.