Articles (Opinion/Analysis)

SPLM among Root Causes of South Sudan’s Conflict, what happened to Arusha Agreement?

By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, 26th August 2021

In the January 2015 Agreement on the Re-unification of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement SPLM, the three SPLM Groups: SPLM-IG, SPLM-IO and SPLM-FDs acknowledged that the failure to institutionalize and democratize the exercise of power in the SPLM is among the root causes of the crisis in South Sudan, and further, they recognized that the loss of ideological direction and lack of clarity of vision by the SPLM Leaders have contributed to the emergence of the crises, adding that it is their collective responsibility for the same.

The Re-unification Agreement signed under the auspices of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and in the presence of Presidents Jakaya Kikwete, Yoweri Museveni, Uhuru Kenyatta and then Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa made several provisions on Political, Organizational and Leadership issues to be carried out in the SPLM including on revocation of decisions for dismissal of party cadres from party membership and leadership positions resulting from the internal conflict within the party and ensuring that the SPLM redefines its ideological direction, developmental path, the nature of its democracy, system of governance and the nature of society and state it aspires to build.

The pact states that SPLM Leadership shall make a public apology to the people of South Sudan for what has happened since December 15th 2013.

Recalling that the three groups agreed that they are convinced the reunification and reconciliation of the SPLM is “the key” to the resolution of the crisis by then, now, seven years after, what has happened? What is happening? Clearly, the SPLM is still very far from reunification, reconciliation and having structures and systems that can allow internal democracy within the Party. The country is also still in conflict.

So, are the three SPLM groups still committed to the Arusha Re-Unification Agreement?

Some say the continued appointments of  Secretary Generals in acting capacities by the SPLM-G is a show of their commitment to the implementation of the re-unification agreement. That may be true.

While others have additional views on what constitute the root causes of the conflict in South Sudan, here are important questions for the leaders and members of the three SPLM groups:

1- Are you, individually and or as groups, still committed to the Arusha Re-Unification Agreement?

The SPLM Constitution, 2008 says SPLM is a democratic, mass political movement and Party; it is non-racial, non-sexist and its membership is open to all the Sudanese people without discrimination and that the SPLM shall be guided by the principles of Democracy and political pluralism, prosperity, harmony and social cohesion, among others. The Arusha Re-Unification Agreement says the three SPLM groups while reaching the Agreement, did so while guided by democratic principles and values enshrined in Article 5 of the SPLM Constitution 2008 and its Manifesto, and to give them effect.  

After Taban Deng declared the dissolution of the then SPLM-IO under him and its reunification with the SPLM-IG, in May 2018 the two SPLM Groups held what they called SPLM National Liberation Council and they endorsed “a revised Arusha Reunification implementation matrix.” One of the resolutions of the meeting called on NLC members who were outside the country to attend the next convention, scheduled to take place within 45 days as of May 4th 2018. Details of other resolutions from the meeting were not made public at the time. And the SPLM-IO under Machar by then said they did not recognize the Juba meeting, and called it “a farce” and “a sham.” 

In the  Arusha Re-Unification Agreement, the three SPLM Groups agreed that the draft SPLM Constitution of December 14, 2013 shall be the basis for future discussion of the new SPLM Constitution. But nowadays, SPLM-IG members are quoting a Constitution known as SPLM Constitution, 2016.

The Agreement also says the processes of holding Party Congresses and the National Convention shall be suspended until the reunification and reconciliation of the Party is achieved and the war is ended, so that all members are able to participate effectively and freely.

In light of the above and the Arusha Re-Unification Agreement, what is the validity of any amendment made in 2016 to the SPLM Constitution?

Significance of the Arusha Re-Unification Agreement

The contentious issues within the SPLM in December 2013 that contributed to the tensions and the eruption of the war are well known, and as additionally highlighted here below, those are the issues that the Arusha Re-Unification Agreement sought to resolve.

At the same time, in the Arusha Re-Unification Agreement, the three groups recognized the need for the establishment of a transitional government in which “the SPLM Groups and other political parties shall participate proportionally in order to end the war and establish sustainable peace.”

The three groups agreed that the reunified SPLM shall abide by the terms and spirit of the IGAD Peace Agreement, implement and comply with the provisions of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and use the Intra-SPLM Party Dialogue in Arusha and the IGAD mediation process in Addis Ababa to expedite the conclusion of the Peace Agreement in order to end the war. The Igad process has so far resulted in two Agreements, the R-ARCSS being the latest one.

On the contentious issues within the SPLM, the Reunification Agreement States the following: It is agreed that the National Liberation Council (NLC) shall revisit and review the contentious provisions, in the draft SPLM constitution to ensure internal democracy within the Party structures, before its presentation to the National Convention. These issues include, but not limited to the following: a. Mode of voting: whether by show of hands or secret ballot, it is agreed that the procedure of Voting in SPLM meetings at all levels shall be by secret ballot if no consensus is achieved; and by show of hands on non-controversial issues.

b. The provision allowing the SPLM Chairpersons at all levels to nominate five percent (5%) of the membership of the congresses and the National Convention: The following is agreed:

i. Abolition of the provision on the 5% appointments by chairpersons to the National Convention, congresses and liberation councils at all levels;

ii. Political Bureau to formulate policy and guidelines for the representation of minorities or disadvantaged groups in the Convention, Congresses and Liberation Councils.

c. The size of the National Convention: It is proposed that the total number of delegates to the Convention be reviewed.

d. Nomination of Party leaders by The Chairperson: Regarding the process of election or selection of Party leaders at all levels, it is agreed that:

i. The National Convention shall directly elect the Chairperson of the SPLM and his/her Deputies and members of the National Liberation Council by direct and secret ballot.

ii. The National Liberation Council shall elect the Political Bureau and the Secretary General and his/her Deputies through direct and secret ballot.

iii. The Political Bureau shall formulate regulations governing procedures for the election and selection of candidates for the position of Chairperson of the SPLM and his deputies, members of the NLC, members of the Political Bureau, Secretary General and his/her Deputy(ies), State and County Chairpersons, Payam and Boma Chairpersons.

The Leadership of the party at all levels shall be elected democratically in a transparent and fair manner.

SPLM and the Future

Is the SPLM really committed to democracy, and having a free society as per the promises of the liberation struggles? While majority of South Sudanese embraced the SPLM during the CPA era including in the 2010 elections, 2011 Referendum, many seem to be missing the point that the embrace was due the what the SPLM stood for and not that majority of South Sudanese are formal members of the SPLM as a Party. Now since the conflict started in 2013, many South Sudanese, including then SPLM members, continue to disassociate themselves from the SPLM and expressing sentiments such as they will never cast a vote for SPLM again whenever there is an election. 

So, where is the SPLM (all the three Groups) regarding the promises of the liberation struggle on democracy, freedoms, development and prosperity?

Major reasons behind many SPLM leaders and members with ambitions for political power sticking to the SPLM include the liberation struggle credentials the SPLM have which they see as an easy way for mobilizing South Sudanese to vote for them whenever there is an election.   

In the Arusha Re-Unification Agreement, the three SPLM Groups deplored what they called “the culture of materialism and sectarianism that have stunted the transformation of the SPLM from a Liberation Movement into a vibrant and democratic Party.” 

But is the SPLM really committed to democratizing the party as per its Constitution, the promises made and the Arusha Re-Unification Agreement?

Up-to-date, every time there is a disagreement within the SPLM on issues to do with appointments in leadership positions, majority of the complaints from many SPLM members, even prominent ones, including on social media, are not related to building and adhering to internal democracy within the SPLM but complaints about certain senior members during the liberation struggle are the ones who only deserve certain positions, others who were not in SPLM during the war are hijacking the SPLM and do not deserve promotions, and many sentiments that are undemocratic and also tantamount to the “culture of sectarianism” which is contrary to the SPLM Constitution and which the SPLM themselves deplored in the Arusha Re-Unification Agreement.

If the SPLM leaders and members are committed to protecting values and vision that are important to the Party without having other new members misdirect the party, the best way for them to do that is through struggling to transform the party into a democratic one, where those with different vision can be defeated democratically.

In the Arusha Re-Unification Agreement, there is a commitment to pass the basic documents that will be agreed to by the three SPLM Groups to facilitate its registration in accordance with the provisions of the Political Parties Act, 2012.

The R-ARCSS has also provided for review of the Political Parties Act, 2012, to ensure that the Act complies with international best practices for the free and democratic registration of Political Parties in South Sudan, and permitting open registration of Parties. Those are procedures committed SPLM leaders and members should have been following.

While the transition through the Arusha Re-unification Agreement is important to be followed, it is also time that SPLM leaders and members consider changing the name Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which is really for a party in a different country, Sudan. The SPLA has changed to SSPDF; the SPLM will not be the only Liberation movement to change its name, and there will be no justification to maintain the name Sudan People’s Liberation Movement by a South Sudanese political party. So, members should be thinking about changing the name.

Finally, if the three SPLM Groups that signed the Arusha Re-unification Agreement are not anymore committed to it as one way in helping resolve the crisis in the country, they should come out clear on that.


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