Synthesis and analysis of the current crisis in South Sudan


JF-Expert Member
Jul 16, 2009
By Athiaan Majak Malou, December 24, 2013

The current political crisis which has also taken ethnic dimension has its roots in 1991 split within the then Rebel Organisation called Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM) now turned the ruling party.

Since its inception in 1983, Dr John Garang, the founder of SPLM/A had been running the movement or liberation struggle affairs in an autocratic manner which invited criticisms from his colleagues in the then SPLM’s Politico- Military High Command. A group led by Dr Riek Machar, Dr Lam Akol and Gordon Kong staged a coup d’état against the leadership of Dr Garang. However, the other 8 members of High Command (including Salva Kiir) stood with Dr Garang. So it was 9 against 3 and as a result the coup failed and the Nasir faction of Dr Machar allied itself to Khartoum to fight against Torit faction of Dr Garang.

It was during this period the government in Khartoum was able to successfully drilled oil in Unity and Upper Nile states under protection of local militias. The proceeds from the sale of oil were used by Khartoum to acquire sophisticated military weapons including Russian made high altitude Antonov plane that became notorious in aerial bombardment of towns and villages in the rebels controlled areas of Sudan including Darfur; killing, maiming and displacing scores of civil population.

The two rival factions were able to join ranks again 8 years later. In this respect, a conflict may drag on for years unless serious efforts are immediately exerted to contain it at the early stage.

Political Superstition
A Nuer prophet by name Ngundeng who lived in the turn of the last century is believed by many Nuer people to have prophesied about the future of South Sudan. One of these prophesies was that Ngudeng mentioned that a left-handed person with gap in his upper teeth will lead south Sudan to independence. The two features: left-handedness and the gap in the middle of upper teeth are observable in Dr Riek Machar. In fact, it is widely believed that it was this superstitious prophesy that motivated Dr Riek Machar to claim the leadership of SPLM/A from Dr John Garang in 1991.

Up to now, in an apparent attempt to bolster his stature as a leader of Nuer or South Sudan for that matter, Riek Machar is keeping in his possession a ceremonial stick once carried by Ngundeng.

The famous stick is made from the root of tamarind tree and decorated with copper wires. It was looted by the British colonial troops early in the last century before being returned to South Sudan in 2009 by British academic Douglas Johnson. Somehow, Dr Machar managed to hold onto it though many suggest the right place for the stick should be national museum or the shrine of Ngundeng, if any.

Read more at Synthesis and analysis of the current crisis in South Sudan - Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan

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