The day we wake up to the proclamation of a Dr Machar victory in the Dinka heartland of Bahr al Ghazal, then the world should know that the engineer turned guerrilla fighter is going places.
The coup attempt against South Sudan President Salva Kiir did not come as a surprise.Such an eventuality was always on the horizon, with the July sacking of Vice-President Riek Machar and several Cabinet ministers being the real turning point.President Kiir has blamed Dr Machar for the attempt to oust him, but the latter has denied any involvement, while at the same time calling on the military to remove the President. Kiir’s presidency has been dogged by accusations of innumerable ills such high-handedness, tribalism and corruption, that have cost him a great deal of support. His lack of charisma informed by his humble education and many years of bush fighting has not made things any better.
DINKA AND NUER
But whatever President Kiir’s shortcomings, Dr Machar should know better than to attempt to ascend to power through the barrel of the gun.Such a move is certainly not tenable currently, and not in the foreseeable future. It can only beget a long-drawn bloody ethnic conflagration. Like in Kenya where political power is essentially a struggle between the Kikuyu and the Luo, with the other tribes merely allying themselves with either, in South Sudan, it is a game between the Dinka and the Nuer.President Kiir belongs to the majority Dinka group, while Dr Machar is a Nuer, the number two ethnic grouping.South Sudan’s other ethnic groups include the Nilotic Shilluk, Madi, Bari, Lotuko and Toposa. In the mix are also the minority Azande and Balanda, the inhabitants of the Western Equatoria region.The Dinka dominate the military and the government and formed the core of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army that spearheaded the Southerners’ struggle against subjugation and domination by the north.During the struggle that spanned several decades, the Dinka were consistent and paid the heaviest price.
Dr Machar and his Nuer forces played opportunistic games, teaming up with either Khartoum or the SPLA, depending on expediencies of the moment.It will be remembered that in 1997, Dr Machar signed a deal with Sudan President Omar Bashir, and Khartoum was able to construct the 1,500km pipeline from the oil fields in Unity State to Port Sudan in the north.The pipeline was then used exclusively by Khartoum to exploit South Sudan’s oil resources. Dr Machar had way back in 1991 bolted from the SPLM/A together with Dr Lam Akol, a Shilluk, accusing the liberation struggle leader, Dr John Garang, of dictatorship and human rights violations.It is the above reality that makes Dr Machar’s ascendance to power by force a near impossibility. The Dinka can simply not fathom one of their own being overthrown by a Nuer.
DEPENDENT ON ELITES
Furthermore whereas the other communities may have issues with Dinka hegemony, confronted with a Dinka versus Nuer options, they were most likely to cast their lot with the former…the embodiment of the liberation from subjugation by Khartoum.Outside his Nuer community, Dr Machar can only count on the elites; the holders of university degrees, fat foreign bank accounts and maisonettes outside their motherland.The latter, who like their counterparts in other African states jumped onto the gravy train on the attainment of independence, would have no qualms doing business with whoever can facilitate their eating ways, as they wax patriotic.The capture of positions in the Upper Nile region by Dr Machar’s forces should not be taken as a statement of his military might. Those are home victories.