President Salva Kiir was Smart to Avoid Equatoria Regionalism

By Dr. James Okuk

April 21, 2011 (SSNA) — In reaction to my article “Regional Representation Breeds Tribalism in South Sudan” published a week ago, I got flowers from some readers as well as crosses from others. This shows that at least the article was fair and some-how objective in its conclusions.

For example, an Italian who is involved in humanitarian affairs work in the Sudan wrote to me:

“I just read your article on Regional Representations on SSNA website. It is a very well written and full of concrete thoughts.

It is with some sorrow that I look back at my country (Italy) and I see that despite the blessings received in terms of wealth from its unity, people do still try to base their politics on regionalism and disunity as well.

This results in bad relations among brothers and incapacity of successfully cooperate to build a better future for our sons.

Some separations are necessary, but unity should be the supreme value to guide a people to achieve development and prosperity.

Regionalism indeed is a vicious circle that could end up in having each household against each other and make them unable to build anything.

Unity is indeed more difficult, like marriage, but way too fruitful than the easier separation. The only way we can develop ourselves is through dialogue and unity. As the good old greek philosopher Socrates was saying: the dialogue that stem out of a meeting between identities who deeply know themselves is the only way to pursue common good.

I enjoyed reading our article and I do hope that it will have an impact on the few motivated south Sudanese politicians.”

Also a South Sudan Equatorian Intellectual wrote to me this:

“It is the failure of the tribal regime in Juba which, I am afraid, pushed them to take such an awkward position: a position I personally do not agree with. But if you evaluate their position in the context of the current GOSS government, you will understand why they said what they said. I am just glad that they said it in Nyakuron, inside Juba, rather than somewhere in the forests of Equatoria with their AK47 leaning against tamarind trees. These governors understand democracy more than those now playing the dangerous game of hide-and seek in the flatlands of Jongolei and Unity State with sophisticated weapons. Should you need to educate anyone at all in liberal democracy, Jongolei and Unity State would be an ideal place to start from; we will take care of Equatoria.”

In any case, I would like to thank those who took their time to read and digest my article. Some intolerant people may think that it was a wrong debate as it was fested with hot emotions about regional backings in South Sudan, especially the Equatoria.

Of Course the debate did no pop up out of blue but from underlying social stereotypic behaviors in South Sudan, which does not even exempt our PhD holders and other intellectual together with the common people. Revisiting the reaction and overreaction of many Equatorians to article you can by yourself see where South Sudan came from, where it is standing today and where it is heeding in breeding tribalism that emanates from condoning regionalism in the process of governance, security, rule of law and development as they were generally discussed in the Equatoria Conference with scapegoating. Surely, with such stereotypes we still have a long walk with sweat on the path of our dear South Sudan independence and freedom.

It is said in behaviorist social psychology that if you want to unearth cultural stereotypes just provoke the targets to the maximum, and you will get amazed of the wrong informational reactions that will flow to you from them.

However, let’s go back to the scene of the crime of regionalism committed by the Equatorians for trying to exclude themselves from other regions of South Sudan, and with illusion that they are better because they have not run wild with machine guns against the government in the South, and that they are the only strength for the survival of South Sudan as a non-fragile state in future. Wonders never cease in the human world!!!

First of all for some participant Equatorian intellectuals to deny that the vice of regionalism (Kokora if you like) was never re-enforced in that wrong Equatoria Conference shows that might be sleepy for our realities in South Sudan. Unless, they were snoring perfectly during the speeches of the dull Governors of Equatoria during that wrong conference, they better ask for voice record of what was said. If many parts of their speeches have not appeared in the resolutions and final Communiqué of the conference, then they should get it well that the critics of the conference (including some enlightened Equatorians themselves) really might have shaped the final outcome of the show.

But do these Equatoria intellectuals know why H.E. the GoSS President Salva Kiir Mayadit declined to either open or close the proceedings of that wrong Equatoria Conference of Regionalism though he authorized payment of some money for its conduct? And do they really understand why H.E. the GoSS Vice-President Dr. Riek Machar and Hon. GoSS Presidential Advisor Telar Ring were very happy with the outcome of that Conference?

In my analysis, H.E Kiir might have avoided the conference simply because of its enforcement of vice of regionalism in South Sudan. If the conference was about the good of all South Sudan why was it done in the name of Equatoria only? Why was it not done for all regions of South Sudan?

Also it could be that H.E.Dr. Riek and Hon Telar were happy with the conference outcome because its demands did not touch the posts of the President that Mr. Telar advices and also the post of the 1st Vice-President. The Equatorians in the Conference felt coward to aim highest but they were courageous to lie low below the king-makers in South Sudan. This is where I sensed that Equatoria did not liberate itself yet despite the overwhelming vote of its residents in the last conducted referendum for self-determination and independence together with other regions of South Sudan.

The South Sudanese Equatorians may argue and defend themselves that the strategy is "little by little we catch a monkey”, but still I will not get optimistic until they really catch the monkey. Do they mean that they will hold another conference of regionalism to aim highest? Even they were behaving in the conference as if Equatoria should belong to SPLM political party alone, and thus it should respect the SPLM/A bush hierarchy of power distribution. What a lie and illusion!

Dr. James Okuk is a PhD holder from University of Nairobi. He can be reached at [email protected].

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