SOUTH SUDAN, A DESTROYED STATE by Halle Jorn Hanssen. (Bildet)

The Legacy of Salva Kiir

As the people of South Sudan most likely on Saturday, 22nd February will see the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement from the summer of 2018 begin, it is worthwhile trying to list the developments that under the rule of Kiir and his henchmen, have made South Sudan a failed and destroyed state.

In this context we must always keep in mind the disaster that hit the people of South Sudan on 30th July 2005, the so-called helicopter accident that killed the liberator, then the President of South Sudan and the First Vice-President of Sudan, John Garang. The International Commission that analysed the reasons for the accident, concluded that it was due to human failure and bad weather.

I have spent hours with the commander from SPLA who arrived first at the spot of the wrecked Russian made helicopter. He found the black box, travelled to Moscow with it and was present when it was opened and investigated by Russian experts. He was then a member of the International Commission that investigated the accident and made the report. The story he shared with me, is fundamentally different from the official conclusion in the report from the Commission. He told me that the instruments of the helicopter had been tempered with and wrongly adjusted. Neither the height meter nor the radar was properly working. His conclusion was clear, it was not an accident, but a refined scheme set up to murder John Garang. The mastermind was to be found with the old dictatorial regime of Omar Bashir in Khartoum, and he had his partners outside and inside SPLM/A in South Sudan. Members of the John Garang’s family have shared similar views with me. Now with a new regime in Sudan, hopefully on its way towards the rule of law and democracy, one day soon some documents may be found in secret archives that will cast more light on how John Garang died.

In the course of 2012 and 2013 the discontent with Kiirs rule both as the president and as the chairman of the governing party SPLM was growing, and if a democratic process within SPLM had taken place before the elections that were scheduled for 2015, Kiir would have been running the risk of not being renominated.

Kiir’s answer to that possibility was the military coup d’etat that he and his henchmen carried out on the 15th of December 2013. The war that followed, has caused a lot of suffering and destruction:

  1. In a country with about 11 million inhabitants, approximately 400 000 lives are lost due to the war that lasted until sometime in 2018.
  2. Almost 6 million people have been made homeless, and 2 million of them are refugees in neighbouring countries. In total, more than 6 million inside and outside South Sudan is today dependent on international humanitarian aid for their survival. Neither Salva Kiir nor any of his ministers have ever visited a camp for displaced persons inside South Sudan or a refugee camp in neighbouring countries. The indifference demonstrated, has chocked the international community.
  3. Tens of thousands of women and children have been raped.
  4. Hundreds of thousands of both sexes and all ages are traumatised for life.
  5. Never in the history of the people of South Sudan, not even during the long liberation war, has the educational services been worse than now while the children of the opulent, kleptocratic power elite in Juba attend school in neighbouring countries, paid for with money stolen from the people by the same elite in Juba.
  6. Never in the same period has the health and social services been poorer, in fact, they are non-existent for the ordinary citizen, if not provided for by the churches or international NGOs. Whenever a family member of the kleptocratic elite falls sick and needs hospitalisation, they are sent abroad and paid for with stolen state money.

The misrule of Kiir’s government and administration since 2011 and until today has made South Sudan a failed and destroyed state. I list in the following some of the gravest failures and crimes:

  1. Kiir has systematically like a blind dictator since December 2013 ruled the country by decree while seeking advice for his political actions from a self-composed and self-interest seeking group that has named itself JCE, the Jieng (Dinka) Council of Elders. The Dinka people like other South Sudanese ethnic groups are the victims of their myopic and sectarian policies.
  2. In 2016 in a stark violation of the peace agreement signed a few days before, Salva Kiir changed the administrative infrastructure of South Sudan from 10 states to 28 states and then again to 32 states. Then, he made sure that 12 of 32 states had Dinka governors, and with two other states having deputy-governors and finally, he had his nephew appointed deputy Governor of the Capital, Juba.
  3. His own government of today has an 85 percent dominance of Dinka ministers and deputy ministers although the Dinka ethnic group only makes up only some 25 – 30 percent of the total population.
  4. With the active support of the president and JCE, the Dinka Council of Elders, a group of Dinka ethnic elements closed to Kiir and other influential people have in different ways taken control of most of the natural assets of the nation in order to enrich themselves while most of the Dinka people continue to live poor lives while they are being misled by their rulers.
  5. The power elite in Juba has developed a system of corruption and kleptocracy worse than what one has seen in Zaire during Mobutu and in Zimbabwe or in other failed states in Africa.
  6. The oil industries are not properly maintained, but carelessly overused by Chinese, Malaysian and Indian oil companies without any consideration for the pollution effects and the environment. The result is a major disaster for both human beings and for fauna and flora in the areas affected.
  7. South Sudan is for 98 percent of its state income dependent on oil. The assessed income for the government from oil in the period from 2005 and until 2020, is at least some 25 billion dollars. More than half of that sum has been spent on war and internal security. Most of the rest has either been stolen or squandered. There are many kleptocrats in Juba, and the leading ones are president Salva Kiir and his family members and their children included, and the helpers of the family like Bol Mel who recently without the least of military background was made a general in the National Army. The stolen money which is shared among some few individuals of the present holders of power in Juba, has been transferred out of the country with the assistance of banks in Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, and it has been hidden i tax havens mainly in Indian Ocean countries and some Arab countries.
  8. South Sudan has other rare mineral resources like gold. Concessions to dig for gold have been rendered to international plundering companies from countries like Great Britain, South Africa, China and Israel, and gold mines have been opened mainly in Central and East Equatoria. The work force in the mines are mainly child slaves who are being beaten when they do not work hard enough. Co-owners with the international companies of the mines, are a cluster of leading members of the Kiir Government, the president himself included. The profits from the gold mining go 100 percent to the owners, nothing for the people of the land.
  9. The economy of the country has for all these reasons gradually come to a stand-still and is now collapsing.
  10. Both many leaders in SPLM and the people of South Sudan were after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 and even more after the independence of South Sudan in 2011 eagerly waiting for a political and societal development in which the principles and values of human rights, the rule of law and democracy were to be implemented. But they were betrayed. Salva Kiir appointed people to the government who had the hidden agenda to make sure that these principal values for good societal development were rejected. The leading mastermind in this field Is Michael Makuei Leuth who in present-day Africa must be the principal violator of Human Rights, not least Freedom of Expression.
  11. Oppression, imprisonment and torture. Kiir’s key man is general Akol Koor Kuc. He is in charge of Internal Security, and he is an unscrupulous person with unlimited resources who has ordered the abduction, arrest, torture and murder of countless fellow citizens. Today he is probably a more powerful man in the Power Hierarchy of South Sudan than the President himself.
  12. The awareness of crimes committed by the persons mentioned above has led to UN and US sanctions of a large number of Salva Kiir’s government, including the First Vice-President Taban Deng Gai, the Minister of Cabinet Affairs Martin Elia Lomuro, the Minister of Information, Michael Makuei Leuth, the Minister of defence Kuol Manyang Juuk and other ministers, and the generals Gabriel Jok Riak and Akol Koor Kuc among other military leaders and Mel Bol, Kur Ajiing and the Al Cardinal group in the business sector. They are all high-ranking businesspeople closely connected to Kiir.

The regional body IGAD has been in charge of the peace negotiations for South Sudan since 2014.

But in 2015 for some months, there was a kind of parallel effort, the Arusha Agreement on the reunification of SPLM, and in the summer of 2015 it was to be implemented. According to this agreement, the sacked and banned Secretary general of SPLM, Pagan Amum, was to be reinstated. He, in the company of the Kenyan Minister of Defence, arrived in Juba on 23rd June 2015. The reinstatement ceremony in the presence of President Salva Kiir took place the day after, and I spoke to Pagan Amum the same evening. He was happy to be back on the job and stated that ending the war and starting a process of reconciliation had to be given priority in order to build lasting peace. But when Pagan Amum went back to his office the day after to begin working, he and the other former detainees who before the summer of 2013 were leaders of SPLM and again back in Juba, discovered that there was a plot to detain and assassinate them. President Salva Kiir had sanctioned the plot and Pagan Amum is reported to have confronted the president with the plan. The President was evasive in his answer.

Pagan Amum and his FD colleagues then had to run necks over heads from Juba, and friends and people inside the system but loyal nationalists, succeeded to push them through the airport, and they escaped onboard a flight to Addis Ababa.

The first peace agreement negotiated by IGAD was finalized and to be signed in early 2015. President Kiir objected to it and only signed after heavy international pressure in the early fall of 2015. The implementation started in the spring of 2016. One key point in the agreement was the reinstatement of Riek Machar as first Vice-President. It ended with a shoot out between the security guard of the president and the first vice -president in the summer of 2016 with many killed. It was followed by a rampage of the town of Juba by elements of Kiir’s forces who stormed an international hotel and raped several women from abroad serving the people of South Sudan. In the aftermath, Kiir ordered the hunt for Riek Machar and hired international mercenaries to assist his own forces. But the hunt failed as Machar escaped into the Central African Republic and was taken care of by UN peace keeping forces.

The IGAD efforts to bring peace to Sudan in the aftermath of the events of the summer of 2016 have been many but have failed. However, in the summer of 2018 IGAD handed over the responsibility to lead the negotiations to the then dictator of Sudan, Omar Bashir with the assistance of the president of Uganda, Yoveri Museveni. They succeeded in making both Salva Kiir and Riek Machar and a few other parties sign a renewed version of the agreement from 2015.

While Omar Bashir was pursuing his interest to continue exploit South Sudan’s oil, Salva Kiir had one other important reason to sign this agreement. There was a very important change from the previous ones on one point, the power sharing between the different parties to the agreement. In this agreement, Salva Kiir together with ministers of his own choice maintain the majority power in all decisions of importance for the people and the country. In addition, the contentious issue of how many states 32 or 10 or another number, was not settled.

The Machar faction and party to the agreement as well as other opposition groups like the South Sudan Opposition Alliance that has not signed the agreement, have stood firm in their demand to Kiir to go back to the original number of states which are 10. Kiir and his government has consistently refused to grant any concession on the matter.

But to the big surprise of South Sudanese as well as others, Kiir last Saturday 15th February made a statement to the fact that he and his government would accept to go back to ten states. However, he added that he would assign three special administrative areas that would be under de facto the control of the Presidency. One is Abyei. Another of the areas is named Ruweng and is one in which oil is being produced. A third is Greater Pibor which is another area of South Sudan rich with minerals like gold. The President has granted important mining concessions to foreign companies that together with one of Kiir’s daughters are plundering this area for minerals, The reports from the area leaked to the media recently also say that the mining managements are using local militias to terrorize and force people to leave the mining areas. The suspicion is that the president with his family and his henchmen in this way want to continue to control and have unlimited access to the profits from oil and other minerals.

While the Machar faction has applauded the decision to have only ten states, it immediately refused to accept the establishment of the administrative areas of Ruweng and Greater Pibor.

As the new transitional national government is being formed, one has to take note of what are still critical and unsolved issues in the Peace Agreement.

  1. The demilitarization of Juba and other major towns have not taken place. This fact represents a constant threat to the survival of the Peace Agreement.
  2. The cantonment of forces belonging to the government and Machar faction is far from being fulfilled, and the building of a new integrated National Army is at best in its very beginning.
  3. The cease fire agreement which is an essential part of the Peace Agreement has until recently been frequently violated by the government forces, having tried but failed to eradicate the forces of opposition groups like the National Salvation front.
  4. There is no indication to the fact that Salva Kiir in the transition period until the next elections whose dates have not been agreed, will give up his power to rule by Presidential Decree, meaning to continue his dictatorial practice.
  5. A state of emergency has since December 2013 marked every-day life in South Sudan, and Salva Kiir and his henchmen has not given any indication to the fact that the emergency will be lifted as soon as a new government is in place.
  6. There is no indication whatsoever to the fact the Kiir faction holding the majority in a government vote, has any intention to accept and implement the important parts of the Peace Agreement that deal with justice, special tribunes for war crimes and similar.
  7. There is no indication to the fact that basic human rights like freedom of expression will be respected by a new coalition government.

There is hardly any hope for any real progress on the six issues listed because it might expose the crimes that first and foremost Kiir’s faction, but also Machar’s faction have committed against their own people in the period since the end of 2013.

The best and decent part of the political elite in South Sudan with a strong commitment to human rights and democracy from before the summer of 2013 who then was chased into the cold, are either political refugees somewhere in the world or they have died in the war or have been killed by Kiir’s assassins.

The political leaders of Africa and the world are tired of the South Sudan, Salva Kiir and his henchmen and their continuous obstruction of all efforts to bring peace to the people of South Sudan. They have at the same time not been willing to apply the kind of power, political and economic pressure and through UN, military force that could have ended the destruction of the state and the suffering of the people.

Now the people pin their hopes on a coalition of two factions that consistently have failed for a decade. But there is a big risk that one will see a repetition of what happened in the summer of 2016 when the two factions clashed, and the war continued

I hope that I am wrong, but I fear that the destruction of South Sudan and the sufferings of its people shall continue. We might have a pause for a few months in the continuing process before the hopes of a people desperately wanting peace, is being crushed again.


  1. The Sentry report, an American NOGO in partnership with the Enough Project, Not on our watch and C4ADS in USA with George Cloony and John Prendergast being the co-founders of the Sentry Report. It has since 2014 published many reports on the failing of the state of South Sudan and its kleptocratic networks.
  2. Amnesty International has also published many reports on South Sudan.
  3. The same goes for Global Human Rights Watch.
  4. International Crisis Group, many reports and newsletters.
  5. UN reports, many of human rights violations and sexual violence.
  6. The AU Report from 2015 with Olusegun Obasanjo from Nigeria as the Chair.
  7. September 2018. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine report on lives lost in the civil war in South Sudan.
  8. Wikipedia on the Conflict in South Sudan.
  9. Reports in international media on South Sudan. I have read all reports referred to above from no. 1 – 8 and many news reports from different media sources.
  10. I am an old Africa reporter and had my first mission into South Sudan in 1978 and my last in October 2013. I was the Secretary General of Norwegian Peoples Aid, NPA, between 1992 and 2001. NPA took in 1987 a stand in support of the liberation struggle of SPLM/SPLA and provided humanitarian aid and development in the liberated areas for the same period and further. I in published 2017 published the book; LIVES AT STAKE. South Sudan during the liberation struggle (ISBN 978-82-91385-61-7).