After several cautious reports the press has decided to christen the military developments in Southern Sudan ‘rebellion’. The first instance in the series post-election was the attack, Friday 30th April, on the SPLA station in Doleib in the proximity of Malakal, Upper Nile led by forces loyal to General George Athor. The general lost the bid for the post of governor of the lucrative oil-rich Jonglei State to the incumbent Kuol Manyang Juuk, however refuses to acknowledge the result.
Then it was reported that a veteran senior SPLA officer, Brigadier General John Jok, has joined forces with General Athor. Still counting, General Dau Aturjong in Northern Bahr el Ghazal is reported to have moved location in the company of around one thousand soldiers. He is also suspected of supporting General Athor’s undertaking. Till the moment of writing the Government of Southern Sudan has issued no formal response to the developments on the ground, nor has the SPLA. It remains to be seen how the GoSS will handle the unfolding situation.
In the run up to the elections around 340 candidates who initially competed for official SPLM nomination but failed to secure SPLM support decided to enter the poll as independents. In an initial angry response the SPLM stripped them of party membership and prevented them from using party logos and symbol. Among these 340 were General George Athor and General Dau Aturjong, gubernatorial aspirants in Jonglei and Northern Bahr el Ghazal respectively. Following the elections the SPLM relaxed its stance and appeared more conciliatory offering consideration of their return to party ranks provided that appropriate procedures are followed. Well, it turns out the issue is much more thorny than mere party membership.
The dilemma facing the SPLM is that political factions amongst its ranks translate immediately into SPLA blocs and potential mutinies; a concern that raises the old question regarding the capacity of SPLA/M to transform into a political movement commanding an army instead of an amalgam of armed groups with a political wing.
The rebellions facing GoSS seem limited and amenable to resolution if appropriate measures are met to satisfy an angry clientele. However GoSS, possibly governing an independent Southern Sudan in the near future, will have to face the challenge of separating the ballot from the bullet, implying even revisiting the role of SPLA in the dynamics of rule. Otherwise SPLM may well be heading down the path of the Eritrean comrades, purges included.