News / Africa

    South Sudan's Former Rebels Use Polls to Rally Support

    Salva Kiir (L) VP and President of South-Sudan in Nairobi (File)
    Salva Kiir (L) VP and President of South-Sudan in Nairobi (File)

    Sudan is to hold elections next month, and the ruling party of South Sudan is crisscrossing the region asking for votes.  The former rebels' case to stay in power rests on a peace deal signed five years ago, and a promised secession vote now 10 months away.

    South Sudanese President Salva Kiir steps out of his plane and into the sun of Sudan's Eastern Equatoria state, where he is instantly greeted by the swarming crowd of Toposa villagers.

    Men drum and women dance. Cheers, chants, and whistles drown out the stern orders flowing from the president's security men.

    Mr. Kiir and his running mate, the semi-autonomous region's vice president, Riek Machar, jump into the back of a waiting pickup truck, waving as they push through the swaying sea of people towards the dusty sun-baked Kapoeta town square.

    The townspeople coalesce into a wide semicircle around the makeshift platform, raising campaign banners as designated youth from the village lead the crowd in party chants.

    For the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement Party, and for Mr. Kiir, these elections mark less a serious challenge at the polls than an opportunity to re-mobilize southerners around their rule.

    The party lacks a strong unified opposition in the South.  The sole presidential candidate running against Mr. Kiir has based himself in Khartoum, the seat of the South's long-time Arab foes and now shaky peace partners, and is not likely to approach Mr. Kiir's numbers for the region's top seat.

    SPLM's main threat in the polls comes not from without, but within.  A heavily-criticized behind-closed-doors party nomination process has pushed disgruntled party politicians into declaring themselves independent candidates for the region's governorships.  Some, local analysts say, could win.

    But internal squabbles aside, the former rebels have mostly managed to retain general popular support during its five years of peacetime rule.

    When asked to point out the achievements of his party, Eastern Equatoria state legislator Angelo Lomoi says the former rebel group's primary credential remains the negotiated end to the two-decade civil war.

    "The first thing they did is that they brought the peace, the CPA, and they have maintained that peace," he said.

    On the campaign trail, references to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement are quick off the tongue of every speaker.  Synonymous with the CPA for most southerners is the much-anticipated independence referendum included in the pact, now scheduled for January 2011.

    South Sudan's Former Rebels Use Polls to Rally Support
    South Sudan's Former Rebels Use Polls to Rally Support

    At a campaign stop in Eastern Equatoria's town of Nimule later the same day, the local county commissioner Emilio Iggo gives little doubt as to what outcome he thinks his people expect from the secession vote.

    "We know this is not the end of the journey.  We have still the referendum to come that will give the last destination where we get our freedom. Everybody in this county is behind you.  SPLM oye! Salva Kiir oye!" he said.

    Analysts say the glue holding the party together remains the region's quest for self-determination, fueled by deep resentment against the country's northern rulers.  Many think the real test for southerners will arise in the possible event the region achieves political separation, when many fear the region could begin fragmenting into competing interests.

    The former rebels are vulnerable to inner strife, as indicated by the splinter independent candidates.  Deep tribal tensions simmer under the region's political surface, and the region carries a long history of bloody ethnic-based divisions.

    Mr. Kiir's running mate, Mr. Machar, led a 1991 split in rebel ranks that proved a serious setback for the movement and caused the deaths of thousands in the subsequent infighting. It took the rebels the rest of the decade to slowly re-unify, and root grievances remain.  Last year, over 2500 were killed in the South and over 350,000 displaced during internal clashes.

    Even the party's critics admit the southern rebels were handed a tall task in the peace deal, granted reign over one of the world's most undeveloped stretches, while possessing little institutional capacity to carry out much immediate change.

    One unexpected turn of events struck SPLM especially hard.  Just months after the peace deal was signed, the party lost its charismatic leader, John Garang, who is revered postmortem as a near-god across much of South Sudan. While SPLM immediately rallied behind Mr. Kiir, the last remaining member of the rebellion's founding inner circle, detractors say he lacks his predecessor's political vision and tenacity.

    If the region gets its independence, Mr. Kiir and SPLM will be given the chance to prove critics wrong.

    But for now, the former rebels are urging the Southern Sudanese to remember the peace deal signed five years back and focus on another vote less than one year ahead.  At that time, they say, the people can claim their long-sought prize.

    You May Like

    Ethiopia's Anti-terrorism Law: Security or Silencing Dissent?

    Yonatan Tesfaye was detained in December 2015 on charges under Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism Proclamation; eleven statements from his Facebook page were used as evidence

    Egypt Orders Trial for Journalists Charged With Harboring Reporters

    Order targets journalists' union chief Yehia Qalash, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim for allegedly spreading false news, harboring fugitive colleagues

    Nigerian Oil Production Falls as Militant Attacks Take Toll

    Country no longer Africa's petroleum king due to renewed militancy in its oil-producing region

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahdai
    X
    Lisa Schlein
    May 31, 2016 1:56 PM
    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahda

    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Mobile App Allows Dutch Muslims to Rate their Imams

    If a young Dutch-Moroccan app developer has his way, Muslims in the Netherlands will soon be able to rate their imams online. Mohamed Mouman says imams rarely get feedback from their followers. He believes his app can give prayer leaders a better picture of what's happening in their communities — and can also keep young people from being radicalized. Serginho Roosblad reports from Amsterdam.
    Video

    Video Moscow Condemns NATO Plans to Beef Up Defense in Eastern Europe, Baltics

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday an upcoming "landmark summit" will enhance the alliance's defensive and deterrent presence in eastern Europe and the Baltics. He is visiting Poland ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Zlatica Hoke reports
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video F-35 Fighter Jet Draws Criticisms as Costs Mount

    America’s latest fighter plane, the F-35, has been mired in controversy. Critics cite cost, faulty design, and the attempt to use it to fill multiple roles. Even the pilot’s helmet is controversial. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Concerns Over Civilian Suffering as Iraqi Forces Surround Fallujah

    Thousands of residents are trapped inside the IS-held city ahead of a full scale Iraqi offensive aimed at retaking it.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora