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

Hostage Crisis Could Divide Japan Over Plans to Boost Military

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday the government is working closely with the Jordanian government to secure the release of remaining Japanese hostage Kenji Goto More

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Country's youngest ever PM Alexis Tsipras, 40, sworn in Monday and says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts More

Multimedia National Geographic Photo Camps Empower Youth

Annual mentoring program's mission is to give young people a voice to tell their own stories through photography More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid