The SPLM leadership is paralysed by internal schisms that compound the absence of a shared vision. The leaders operate individually and without coordination, leading to contradictory public stances. 
Reading Dr Nyaba’s latest work – after his The Poltiics of Liberation in South Sudan: An Insider’s View (1997) – is like being slapped quite softly with a long, angry editorial from a man who (as per his reputation) has always been an internal critic. It is refreshing, surprising – even the Sudd Institute’s briefing papers don’t have this element of anger and disappointment – and timely, despite Dr Nyaba pointing out at the book launch that the text has dated – it was supposed to be released in 2011, but the print run was accidentally sent to Khartoum and impounded.
I am going to do a quick sketch of Dr Nyaba’s main points regarding the SPLM/A in the interim CPA period, which is the meat of the short book, and his criticisms of the future of Southern government and leadership.
At the launch of Dr Nyaba’s new book, ‘South Sudan: the state we aspire to’, today at the New Sudan Palace hotel in Juba, the panel quite strangely didn’t opt to take questions from the relatively large audience. Instead, we were presented with three speakers: Dr Cirino Ofufo Hiteng, the previous Minister for Culture, Youth and Sports; Professor George Bureng Nyombe, eminent scholar of Bari history; and the Hon. Canon Clement Janda, SPLM member, ECS priest and previous SPLM Envoy for Darfur.
I’ll admit that panels speaking about a book that the audience hasn’t read, in Juba, tend to be paeans rather than solid recommendations, notes or criticisms on the author’s arguments, and I wasn’t expecting to be overawed – although I was keen to get my hands on a copy. I was enjoyably wrong.
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.
Peace, national healing and reconciliation have been discussed as fundamentally necessary agenda items for South Sudan since independence nearly two years ago. These ideas are steeped in South African post-apartheid and Rwanda post-genocide legacies, and there is no shortage of people and organisations wanting a piece of this psychological restitution game – or proposing ways (or more often, the problems) of doing it.
The key issue for a while has seemed to be a lack of political will for such a huge and complex project. If anything, government understandings of the war have been going the other way: there is a well established, government propagated single historical narrative. ‘We’ fought together, died together, bound by the same united ideological desire for an independent ‘South’; internal divisions were the product of machinations from the evil North; the war, peace and finally independence were all won by ‘bullet and ballot,’ and nobody voted against independence in 2011.
Garang's statue - ready to be unveiled
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.
SPLA soldiers waiting for independence, 8 July 2011, Juba
I’m in Juba, and busy being sweaty, sunburnt, excited and organising work. So many references to history here, I feel right introducing myself as a history student.
the Gazette's front page story focuses on the "historiography" of independence
The racial historical language of independence according to GoSS Ministry of Energy and Mining