Several things really jumped out at me at yesterday’s rally.
The first thing was that the county commissioner was being very two-faced before the VP. I’ll highlight his inconsistencies. He said in part,
“This rally today came as a result of the riot or demonstration that came about of the ‘wounded heroes.’ Your Excellency, I tried my best to calm the situation [I was told he was hiding, and Michele found his office abandoned and locked up]… The way they approached the situation was very bad. Even you can go to the house of the commissioner [i.e. “my house“] and you find all the windows and screens are all destroyed… Last night, 3 SPLA soldiers were shot and are in critical condition [Wait, Mr. Commissioner, you told the citizens to take up arms against the soldiers!] . Their attackers were arrested and are in custody in the SPLA garrison… these are people who want to destroy the peace in Sudan… Your Excellency, our soldiers are poorly armed and cannot control those who are possessing illegal firearms [Again, you’re talking out of two sides of your mouth since you told the citizens to arm themselves!]…”
Oh yeah, and near the end of his speech, he compared himself to Jesus as one who “comes and goes again” but desires to help the people. Hmmm… I wasn’t impressed with this fellow.
The second thing was that His Excellency, Salva Kiir Mayardit, the first Vice President of the Republic of Sudan came dressed in military fatigues. Amy and I were guessing how he would come- in a suit or military uniform? He came in his military uniform. Interesting.
Thirdly, when the little men who spoke before the VP tried to work up excitement in the crowd by chanting things like, “SPLM! OUR GOVERNMENT!” and, “SPLM! YEAH!” the crowd would have none of it. The citizens are very angry at their government. They are angry that salaries still aren’t being paid (The soldiers hadn’t been paid in months, and even the teachers haven’t been paid since December!), and they weren’t going to be influenced by even the most charismatic of leaders sitting before them on the platform. I don’t think they will take the excuses of the Vice President either, when he says things like, “We don’t have the money for salaries because the oil prices are falling and we are losing money.” The Sudanese people know there is money somewhere. Look no further than the government offices in Juba (that have satellite television and are air-conditioned to polar extremes) if you want to point out examples of financial irresponsibility.
And, finally, I found it fascinating what Salva Kiir had to say about the peace agreement here (the CPA) and its relation to the ICC indictment and the threats against NGOs by President Omar Al-Bashir. He insisted that he wants to keep the peace. These are his words, roughly translated from Arabic,
“We do not condemn the ICC’s indictment on President Bashir. We do not condemn the international community. Some say that if Bashir is indicted, it will break the CPA, but I ask, ‘What is the connection?’ We have seen so much war here in Sudan – we don’t want to see any more – but if someone has broken the Geneva convention, he should be responsible for his crime… I ask, why was he not indicted for the crimes he committed against the people of Southern Sudan as well?… People in our Parliament have often asked me why I don’t declare war against the north. It is true that the North is not fulfilling their responsibilities in the CPA, but I am not ready to send our people back to war. Those politicians who ask about war are not ready themselves to fight. So, I always say, ‘Let us maintain conditions of the CPA.”… The CPA has 20 months remaining before the referendum [the election mandated by the CPA when Southern Sudanese can vote on becoming an independent nation or remaining united to Northern Sudan]. That is our goal. Let us move forward to the referendum.”
The VP speaks words of peace. He seems to say that even though provoked, the South will not return to war. If war does come, Salva Kiir seems to promise that his government will not be the one to declare it.
20 months remaining before the referendum. May the government of Sudan move forward with pure hearts and cool heads.