The rummaging for illusive catharses: Reconciliation in South Sudan

By Wani Tombe Lako

February 19, 2013 (SSNA) — Since the SPLM/SPLA, as the ruling political party in the Republic of South Sudan (RoSS), has elected to conduct a national reconciliation process (NRP), in the RoSS, it must also come with clean hands and heart to this NRP. The SPLM/SPLA must not present itself to the peoples of South Sudan (SS), as an innocent and impartial peace umpire. The SPLM/SPLA cannot masquerade as an objective mediator, as among the various tribes, political groups, former and current armed groups, and such like in SS.

There are many peoples in the above said groups, who want the SPLM/SPLA, and through its various operatives, managers and leaders, to answer questions, and disclose myriad of information and facts, that shall allow them to move on with their shattered lives. Some individuals, in these said groups, have personally suffered, in the hands of the SPLM/SPLA, and through its various agents. Others are struggling with hurts and agonies, connected with painful memories, of their love ones, who suffered, and perished, due to acts and omissions, attributed to the SPLM/SPLA and its agents.

There are many instances of war crimes, crimes against humanity, mass killings, systemic rapes, and heinous tortures, inflicted on the peoples of SS, by the SPLM/SPLA, during, and after the non-international armed conflict (1983-2005), in which, the SPLM/SPLA was an official combatant, and therefore, bound by specific laws of war, within the ambit of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949. In this regard, notice must be taken of the 1977 Geneva Protocol II Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts.

There must not be an argument about, opening a Pandora Box. You either do a proper NRP, or just shut up, and let the peoples of SS suffer in silence. These heinous acts and omissions of the SPLM/SPLA, took place in Eastern Equatoria, Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Western Equatoria respectively. There must be total disclosures of facts, and admissions of responsibilities, for the purported NRP to have its positive and healing effects in SS. If the SPLM/SPLA is not ready to come out clean, and disclose all facts to the peoples of SS, then, this much talk about NRP is nothing but political nonsense on stilt.

On the other hand, the managers of this purported NRP must be clear about what is supposed to be the expected impacts and outcomes of this NRP. Many peoples in SS, including myself, do not honestly know, as to what exactly, is the SPLM/SPLA struggling to deliver to them, through this NRP. Does the SPLM/SPLA want to deliver justice, the rule of law, or just mere politicised reconciliation, or all of these? Some of the discerning peoples of SS want to know, the templates, texts and contexts, of this NRP. The SPLM/SPLA must not always treat the peoples of SS, like political kids, who are just interested in political candies as it were. This NRP must be properly interrogated to yield the beneficent results hoped for.

For example, what shall the government of South Sudan (GoSS), do, during this NRP, in order to reconcile with the peoples of SS? Yes, I mean reconcile with the peoples of SS! The peoples of SS are irreparably hurt, and they are agonising in pain due to the colossal misfeasance of the GoSS. I shall tell the GoSS what it ought to do, in order to reconcile with the peoples of SS.

The GoSS must make full disclosures about the 4 billion dollars stolen from the peoples of SS, by operatives, managers, leaders, and politicians of the SPLM/SPLA. The SPLM/SPLA is an actor, and legal person in SS. The SPLM/SPLA is vicariously liable for the acts and omissions of its agents. These SPLM/SPLA agents, misbehaved, and hurt the interests, of the peoples of SS, during their performances of public duties. There is an implied contract here with the peoples of SS, the employers of the SPLM/SPLA as it were. We need full disclosures and the return of our monies, nothing less and nothing more. The GoSS, or rather, the SPLM/SPLA, must do this, for the peoples of SS, to consider reconciliation on this issue.  

On the other hand, the various international organisations, as well as the representatives of various European and American governments in Juba, all these organisations and individuals, must assist the peoples of SS to reconcile. These individuals and organisations must convince their governments, to repatriate all illegally accumulated monies in banks, in their respective countries.

These European and American governments, and countries, know all about the facts, pertaining to the fat bank accounts, of former guerrilla leaders, within the remit of the SPLM/SPLA, who in a flash of CPA thunderbolt, became millionaires and billionaires. These SPLM/SPLA agents became so rich in a short period of time, due to outright theft of peoples’ money. You Europeans and Americans, cannot treat this as a fair game, in which, these SPLM/SPLA agents, gave themselves plenty of golden parachutes as it were, for exiting SS, when the place becomes unlivable. This is entrenchment of conflict in SS. Please, repatriate this wealth to SS, in order to engender reconciliation herein.

These European and American governments and peoples must understand that, the condoning of this theft of our money, by some in the SPLM/SPLA, is assisting and abetting disharmony in SS. You Europeans and Americans shall not be playing a positive role in this process of NRP in SS. These are issues which are dividing the peoples of SS into antagonistic groups right now.

These European and American governments and peoples, must not become hypocritical, and shield these looters of peoples’ wealth, by not disclosing and repatriating this illegal wealth, stashed away in their countries. Otherwise, the peoples of SS shall not take them serious as leaders and citizens of free world, a world founded on the pedestals of the rule of law, democracy, accountability, transparency, meritocracy, and all the niceties of universality of human rights; and all the liberal paraphernalia of modern governance.

The variables of societal polarisations and socio-cultural disharmonies are very complex in SS. In some places and countries, where various variances of NRP has taken place, such as in Latin America, Greece, Eastern Europe and South Africa, in these places and countries, the temporal versus actors elements, are rather unique. In these countries and places, there was a break with the past. This delinking with the past regimes, gave the successor governments, some advantage of being able to wane the system from the heinous past; albeit in relative terms.

In these examples, the situations involved former governments, and those who suffered under these governments and regimes. In SS, the SPLM/SPLA is in power, and most of its conducts contribute towards the production of various variables which engender disharmonies and polarisations in SS. In fact, it can be argued that, the SPLM/SPLA government in Juba is like a production line of recipes, for societal disharmonies and polarisations. It is like putting out fires with kerosene.

There is complete absent of State responsibility in SS. The SPLM/SPLA government in Juba has failed to control various non-state actors, and some state actors, who contribute to enormous societal disharmonies and polarisations. For example, the issue of ubiquitous land grabbing in Central Equatoria is one mammoth variable of societal disharmonies and polarisations. The SPLM/SPLA government stood by, with folded arms, looking the other way, while state and non-state actors indulge in land grabbing.

The issue of land grabbing is one of the vital issues that must be carefully tackled in this purported NRP. This issue had polarised the peoples of SS to the extent that, it is among leading factors which could cause civil strife in SS, with a possibility of developing into armed conflict. There is systemic and forceful resettlement of Central Equatoria by other South Sudanese, with the encouragement of the SPLM/SPLA government in Juba. Any self-respecting participant in this NRP must honestly address this issue. It does not matter whether you are an American, European, or South Sudanese, to ignore this issue is to miss the whole idea of NRP, within the remit of Central Equatoria peoples and tribes.  

Let us not rummage for universal catharses through Europeans, South Africans, and Americans. Their interests in our reconciliation are refreshing; however, their mere presence in Juba is not the panacea. The SPLM/SPLA government in Juba must be sincere with itself. It must not bury its head in political sand. The SPLM/SPLA must not just wish for peace and tranquility in SS. The SPLM/SPLA is one main factor in terms of instability of SS. Peace, security, and harmony in SS turn on the quality of governance and leadership by the SPLM/SPLA, and not on the peoples of SS. The peoples of SS, are, but, human persons, trapped in SPLM/SPLA comprehensively disharmonious network of variables of instability.

The author is Professor of Social and Rural Development and Lecturer in Laws. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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