Tag Archives: Kiir
I live in a concrete hut in Aweil, much like my one in Juba. It’s rare to find a concrete structure here, particularly in Maper, where I’m moving to in two weeks: Maper is a suburb of Aweil built since 2008, with continuing land demarcation and disputes, and a population getting back on its financial feet following – for most – a huge family relocation.
Juba politics is inscrutable at the best of times; the cabal around Kiir, the definite occasional torture and daily harassment of journalists and nosy people, and the general militarisation of the town over the last two years is notable and really forestalls any real understanding of inner politics when you’re not at the forefront of an embassy – or even then.
That’s not to say it’s impossible or unsafe to live here. I’ve arrived back in Juba after five days in Aweil (more later) and there are no signs of an impending coup as far as I can see, and frankly the airport is a good first place to look for that kind of thing. Everyone is drinking their beers at 4pm like usual.
But the key thing is, my last post is redundant; now that Kiir has stripped Machar’s powers back to the constitutional limits for a vice-president, he has also cancelled the ‘reconciliation’ conference. So that’s one fewer trips to Juba for me, when I leave for Aweil in five weeks.
I’m currently working my way through an essay based on the ‘academic’ publishing of Southern Sudanese ‘intellectuals’ – including, obviously, John Garang.
Reading through his published speeches, pamphlets, letters and essays, I’ve been thinking again about how his political ideas, most specifically his idea of a national, democratic ‘New Sudan’, has been deleted: his quotes edited, speeches deleted, and political aims rewritten.
I’ve no strong feelings about this: Garang was a difficult man and easily criticised, and his political vision(s) contained a good few inconsistencies, were often hazy about their practical application, and were not necessarily reflective of popular opinions.
The one very useful statement Garang made has been quoted everywhere:
No matter that, earlier in this speech, Garang was talking about the primary need for a ‘New Sudan’, and hopes for unity. His statement about ‘second class citizens’ is a widely used phrase, and the more Garang is selectively quoted, the more he’s rehabilitated as the godfather of South Sudan and the leader of the fight for independence.
Although it was Salva Kiir’s face that was everywhere during Independence Day – including on a huge poster that entirely covered the side of the new airport building – Garang’s face is on apparently all the new notes in the first run of South Sudanese currency; probably because he’s a dead martyr rather than a living president.
Elf mabrouk to the newest country in the world!
I’ve been in Juba for the celebrations, coming up from Kampala on a bus packed to the roof with returning Southerners travelling from Nairobi. Passports of all colours – predominantly USA blue – were produced at the border, but everyone was excited about becoming, finally, South Sudanese.
The week has been relatively tense in Juba, as concrete and tarmac sets slowly in the baking heat, huge numbers of police and soldiers set up road blocks and machine-gun posts all over town in four rings of security, and public transport shut down. Several arrests of foreign journalists meant I persuaded the Ministry of Information to give me a press pass to try to avoid problems with photography.
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.
Nobody can give any definite idea of what will happen after the vote. The more I look for commentary from what I think of as solid political or academic sources, the more I wonder how large the difference really is at the moment between considered opinion and speculative rumours.
This sounds obvious, but it’s rare that there’s such a historical turning point that you really feel that there’s no clear idea of what will happen. This is definitely reflected in the rumours that I’ve heard and read in circulation.