On April 12th Ms Priti Patel , British International Development Secretary dropped the rhetorical G-Bomb when she characterized the violence in South Sudan as “Genocidal”. It was not technically correct but it was politically and humanly appropriate . Since Rwanda, when you want to catch the world’s attention on matters of violence in Africa , you do have a problem . So hats off to her , she exagerated for a good cause . One sign she was right to say what she said is the fact that the confused and fractitious South Sudan opposition came together and five days later issued a common press release by all seven organizations . So let us have a closer look at the signatories who believed (rightly so) that is was time to close ranks and try to rally to the emergency :
- Big boys first , the SPLM/IO signature came from Peter Regbigo Tingo , the former SPLM/IO Governor of Wau (when SPLM/IO was still a supposed partner in peace instead of being divied by a fake allied membership of the government and a hunted fighting group) . “Tingo” , as everybody calls him , is a Ndogo , i.e. a member of that very small tribe of southern Bahr-el-Ghazal . He is a good and clever man but being a Ndogo he cannot have the ethnic weight to threaten still-detained Chairman Riak Machar Teny Dhurgon . Taban Deng Gai tried (and failed) but once was enough . In any case IO has the biggest fighting force on the opposition side
- Second came SPLM/FD (former detainees) . I can’t read the signature . It might have been Kosti Manibe . But in any case FD probably does not have 20 committed members and I am not sure they have even a single gun . They retain a bit of moral authority , which was seriously dented when Deng Alor broke ranks with them and joined the government.
- Lam Akol signed for the National Democratic Movement (NDM) . NDM is another twenty-something members movement . But Lam is quite clever and he can infiltrate himself into almost any moving thing . He has a limited following of Chollo (Shilluk) people , but not at more than battalion level . The Chollo King does not like him too much which can be understood because , as a King , he has a difficult time projecting his authority and Lam is not exactly the most obedient subject he could imagine .
- Is the signature of the South Sudan National Movement for Change (SSNMC) , led by former Western Equatoria Governor Henry Bakosoro . Apart from SPLM/IO , this is the only movement with a military capacity . Its capacity is limited to Western Equatoria and its fighters are either Zande of Kakwa . Bakosoro has taken refuge in the US and his military clout needs some reinforcement if it is to become significant
- Then there is the National Movement for Salvation (which insists to go by the initials NAS) and is led by General Thomas Cirillo . Cirillo is a Madi Brigadier who defected a few weeks ago and is now staying in Addis Ababa in the so far vain hope that the Ethiopians will provide him with the weapons he needs to equip his forces . Potentially Gen. Cirillo could raise a large fighting force in Central Equatoria but he is short of equipment and his men would also need training , given the fact that the rank-and-file SPLA was a kind of Dinka/Nuer preserve where Equatorians never held much space .
- Last (but not least) there is the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) led by Dr Hakim Dario Moi . Dr Hakim comes from the small Didinga tribe of Eastern Equatoria . His movement is multiethnic and largely diasporic . Dr Hakim is highly educated and seems surrounded by other highly educated people , the very type of people John Garang always tried to keep at arms’ length during his years at the helm of the SPLM . Which is one of the reasons why the high ranks of the SPLA are today still largely populated with poorly-educated cadres , many whom are functional illiterates . Dr Hakim seems to have been the moving force behind this united opposition appeal . And the next day he came out with a remarkable position paper on the idea of national dialogue . By far the best proposal/document published since the beginning of the civil war (get it by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org ) . Will it have the capacity to get things moving forward , at least a little bit ? The last paper provides at least a good starting framework .