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Riek Machar caught between a rock and a hard place

Despite a stern warning against continued violations of the ceasefire agreement, rebels have continued attacking government positions at various fronts in the country. A strongly worded condemnation by world leaders, especially the US Secretary of States, John Kerry, it was thought would cow the rebels’ leadership to honor the agreements signed. On the contrary, the rebels seem to have been emboldened and subsequently increased number of attacks against the government positions in Unity State, and Jonglei state and now in preparation to attack Malakal or have already attacked it. In addition, the rebels of Riek Machar released their plan to attack Juba by 28th August 2014. One would wonder if the rebels know an inside story behind the threats of sanction the government knows nothing about? One would still wonder if the rebels are on the suicide mission or have secret information. Could Riek be acting out of ignorance or suicidal behavior? Or did he have one of the international giants behind his rebellion like what we have seen in the Ukraine crisis? I can’t answer the above questions; however, I wish to venture into what may be driving Riek to brave possible sanctions and join military operation against him by the parties concerned about the stability of South Sudan.

I wish to highlight the recent audiotapes released to the website by Gordon Buay. In these tapes Riek and Taban talked of military equipment and reinforcement coming from the Khartoum to aide the coup fighters. The government’s claim of coup was rejected in the international arena turning Kiir’s administration into a laughing stock. The same seems to be taking the stage that whenever there is a violation of ceasefire agreement by one party both parties get the blame. It is true that this world is an unjust entity. There are a number of challenges at play, which are exerting pressure on the rebels of Riek Machar in the bush. Riek is finding it difficult to unite the differing opinions in his camp. At the early stage of his rebellion Riek had some of his commander at the fire squad for calling or suggesting making peace with government or hinting at a possible failure of the rebellion – call it revolution. Going back to the very people who witnessed events of officers lined up at the firing squad to tell them ceasefire leading to peace with the same government is a bitter pill to swallow for Riek.

Secondly when he realized that the coup failed Riek switched to impromptu plans of calling for the toppling of Salva Kiir. This was an uphill task to achieve without resorting to Nuer community. Previous rebellion and his unique sense of segregating among the Nuers have given some of his previous followers a second thought about following him. The people he wanted to use were in the countryside. Of course Riek knew Nuer community was giving up on him so he had to concoct stories to convince them to follow him. One of the stories he used was that ‘Salva wants all Nuers to change to be Dinka… if a Nuer refused he gets killed’ and that he was the only one who escaped of all Nuer in Juba to tell the story’. It is, however, sad that we lost some innocent souls of Nuer origin among others in Juba.Those who participated in defense of Bor tell us that the white army was saying as they advanced ‘We fight as Nuer and die as Nuer’. To the poor white army the war was a defense of identity, but to the outsiders it was a war against dictatorship, corruption, extra judicial killing in Juba, etc. driving the war.
Riek is finding it very difficult to convene those he recruited to abandon rebellion and make peace with Kiir. It is hard for him to face the white army with message for ceasefire; that Kiir is still the President. To white army peace with Salva Kiir is an admission of change of identity as they were made to believe. This probably may put his life in line. The only option he has is to buy time as anger in White Army fadesout with time. With him nodding white army to continue with attacking the government while telling international community he is for peace forces Riek to chew with both molars of his teeth. War is not the best option for Riek either. He is more likely to hang in between peace and war.
Thirdly Riek feels it would be a great loss of face to negotiate a peaceful settlement when he lost majors garrisons, which were under his command. The fall of Nasir was a big blow to him because Nasir is the only place he could have consolidated his power. Nasir provided rebel forces a better springboard to reach Malakal, oil fields, etc. It will not be a surprise to hear the rebel make another attempt to take Nasir or Malakal.

Riek will continue to tell to persuade the White Army to remove Kiir from office as the only way to buy time to recapture the places he lost to government forces.
Riek is aware of how the international community operates and the sanction will not come as soon as wording sounds. He knows that by the time they are done with all his pawns among his rank he will have accomplished what he wanted to achieve. Mr. Riek Machar is aware that his violation will be blamed on both parties anyway. If at all there is going to be sanction it will be both parties it has been the case recently.

Riek knows very well International community takes time to act in most cases. By the time all his pawns are sanctioned he shall have bought enough time to rewind his slowly dwindling support among the Nuers. Last week you might have heard of rebels clashing in what appear to be split as Chiewang subsection, at Torpuot Boma fought with the rebels and reportedly joined governement. The old South Sudanese song of being “bought by enemy” would take the center stage in the bush till miracles happen to achieve peace.

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