March 25th, 2018 (WEARESOUTHSUDAN)—The Government of South Africa claims Machar is its “guest”, and “is free to move around…[and] meet people…’ while this was true in the past when Machar could move relatively free around Gauteng, speak to the media and could meet some friends and officials,
unfortunately, this is no longer true.
Over the past months, the conditions under which Machar is kept in South Africa has changed dramatically. The South African Government seems to have changed its policy of being a hospitable host to that of keeping Machar in a house confinement.
Machar is now kept in maximum-security facility on the outskirt of Pretoria. He or his aides are not allowed to exit that facility, only few senior officials been allowed to meet him – Professor Nicholas Haysom the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy for South Sudan and Sudan, President Festus Mogae, the Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission set up by the Peace Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan and the ICRC head of delegation to South Sudan.
I am aware that Machar’s passport and those of his aides were confiscated in November last year. I also know one of his personal doctor who has not been allowed to see him. In fact, his personal doctor is not even allowed to prescribe his essential medication. Machar in his statement to the UNSC and in his letter to President Yoweri Museveni have said he is under house arrest and asked for his detention to end. His family and the SPLA- IO have all admitted this much. Machar is ‘basically under house arrest’, his communication is jammed.
While it is strange that a country eulogized for its democratic and rule of law credentials can deprive a second citizen of another country of his fundamental liberties without a just cause, it is even more eccentric that a country that have had two of its own citizens as past prisoners who subsequently became presidents would seem to ignore its own revolutionary history and lessons.
Late President Nelson Mandela was written off the political landscape of this country when in 1964 he said, “I do not deny I planned sabotage” and was then subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment. President Zuma was convicted of conspiring to overthrow the Apartheid government. When he was forced into exile, in 1986 due to serious pressure from the South African government on Mozambican authorities to deport senior members of the ANC, the President went into a second exile to Zambia where he could continue to carry out his revolutionary activities.
The mistake, the Apartheid government made then was thinking that the ANC was its leadership and that if they targeted, exiled, arrested and killed ANC leadership, then ANC will be defeated. They forgot that ANC was not a person but an idea, a vision of a society and a commitment to pay the ultimate price for that vision. It is difficult to resist the temptation to draw a parallel with the case of the SPLA-IO and Machar. Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese men and women have paid the ultimate price in support of what Machar and his allies stand for, and millions of others remain loyal to him and his cause. But make no mistake, these people will continue to fight for their cause, their idea and their vision with or without Machar.
Allow me to suggest that it might be more profitable for South Africa not to lend its support to counterrevolutionary views and voices that are designed to entrench an ethnocentric and genocidal dictatorship and to abort a people’s struggle for freedom and dignity in South Sudan, it should rather strategically leverage the presence of Machar here for peace and multiparty democracy in South Sudan.
South Sudan maybe far, physically, from South Africa, but our common humanity and shared desire and dream for dignity and liberty should know no boundary. While South Africa should be concerned that its territory is not used to plan sabotage of and instability in a sisterly nation; it should equally be concerned that its country is not turned into a new Robin Island where despots keep those perceived to put hurdles on their ways to kill their own people and entrench their rule of man.
Nations are altruistically selfish and expected to move into actions by opportunities that preserve and advance their strategic political and economic interests. Thus, I do not expect charity from South Africa.
While I am not able to determine, and decide what is in the best interests of this country, I am convinced that in a fight between two brothers, holding the hands of one of the brothers on his back while the other rains punches on him makes one a party to the fight. South Africa may prefer to see the keeping of Machar in confinement differently, but as South Sudanese, many of us see it as a calculated attempt to weaken the only viable option to the counterrevolutionary regime in Juba.
I disagree with SPLA-IO’s methods of violence, but its message resonates with me. In a war between brothers and sisters, there is no winner- if there is one, then it is the worse in us that wins through the atrocious, terror and tyranny of war.
Unfortunately, the objective facts on the ground in South Sudan indicate that keeping Machar in conferment has only helped brighten the chances of war, darkened the opportunity for peace, galvanized his supporters, exacerbated the ethnic dimension of the conflict and intensified its brutality.
Igad which sent Dr. Machar into confinement cannot expect the parties to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement signed under its auspices to comply by releasing political prisoners, while the broke of the agreement- Igad is not in compliance.