The deficit of civility and travesty of Self-determination in South Sudan

By Wani Tombe Lako

May 25, 2013 (SSNA) — The insidiousness of violent civil strife in South Sudan (SS); is undermining all local, national, regional, and international confidence, in the peoples of SS abilities, to look after themselves by themselves; within the remit of the nascent sovereign Republic of South Sudan (RoSS). These communities of interests are justifiably perturbed by the foreseeable unstable futures, which the RoSS appears to be heading towards. At the societal level, we in SS appear to lack common futures, and this persistence of uncommon futures, is the main reason for the perturbation referred to above.

It is mindboggling as to why on earth, do we in SS appear to proudly parade the extravagancies of violence in the RoSS; as the justification, and reaffirmation of the doctrine of self-determination, which gave birth to the RoSS. Why do we want to celebrate the sanctity of the doctrine of self-determination in a fashion which, to objective local, national, regional, and international onlookers, the RoSS is nothing, but a nascent human killing field as it were? It appears that, we in the RoSS are so taken up by the pursuance of violence to the extent that, we ended up treating our situation as being very normal. No. our situation is not normal by all counts. We need to step back and take a stock counting.

The operationlisation of the doctrine of self-determination must not be turned into a kind of ideological warfare in the RoSS. The doctrine of self-determination is all about freedoms, rights, and spaces that we ought to enjoy in the RoSS. The doctrine of self-determination is about the celebration of difference, and the upholding of the right to differ, in an amicable fashion. This is the essence of the letter and spirit of self-determination. The doctrine of self-determination abhor and despise the institutionalization of violence, for any socio-cultural, economic, financial, political, ideological, religious, tribal, ethnic, and moral reasons.

The continuous practice of violence by us in the RoSS, and whereas, we are, at the same time, aspiring to lead a viable nation, is rather incompatible at the least, and dangerous at worse. It is bound to erode all available confidences and trusts in us, as peoples claiming to be champions, and beneficiaries, of the doctrine of self-determination, in this part of Africa. With rampant violence in the RoSS, it becomes increasingly difficult, if not impossible for some of us, in the RoSS, to reify ourselves that, we are a people, purporting to be working for the comprehensive interests of us all in the RoSS, albeit that, we lack common and positively reciprocal confidences as peoples.

I must reiterated here that, violence amounts to the most degrading level of political manipulation, and lowly disregard, for the lives of the peoples who innocently continue to live in political illusion that, out there, in the RoSS, there is a polity, and genuine  political group(s), who sincerely believe in their (the peoples’) welfare and general happiness. Violence in the RoSS is kept alive by political elites, who always anaesthetise the peoples of the RoSS, through cheap political methodologies, including the manipulation of their raw emotions, by means of misleading tribal anecdotal shenanigans, to masquerade as issues of national positive concern. 

We must stop using the doctrine of self-determination as a dividing rod in the RoSS, in order to therefore, benefit from the trite political trick of divide and rule. We in the RoSS ought to know that, all of us are/were victims of our histories, and now, all of us must also share the doctrinal blanket of self-determination as it were. There ought not to be any moral, legal, and political room for entertaining the intention of permanently pushing some of the sons and daughters of SS, out into the cold, and not to benefit from the warmth of this doctrinal blanket of self-determination.  We in the RoSS must know that, our collective security and happiness is a function of our inclusiveness. That is, our security and happiness is only guaranteed in our sharing of whatever good values are there in the RoSS.

We in the RoSS must anxiously guard against instances where unscrupulous political groups, shall forever and maliciously, convert peoples’ rights into their misleading privileges. The right to peace and happiness in the RoSS must not be predicated upon the execution of tribal warfare; however this may be camouflaged in security parlance.  Civil unrest characterised by tribal anger is not the best methodology of interrogating issues of governance in the RoSS. Current rebellions in the RoSS have various symptoms of tribal anger and revenge. The reaction at the level of the State ought to be more mature.

I would like to consider the current rebellions in the RoSS as some kind of political and security national emergencies. In any viable polity and country, there are always arrangements at the national level for the unforeseen emergencies as these which have now befallen us in the RoSS. For God’s sake, let us try to wane ourselves from answering fire with fire. It is extremely politically dangerous and despicable, nationally choking and degrading, socially humiliating and dehumanizing, and individually disorientating.

It is politically dangerous and despicable because, it portrays us as peoples devoid of some aspects of human wisdoms, and peoples who mimic all acts and omissions to their own detriment.   Politics include the managing of conflicting interests in society. When we decide to respond to outbursts of violent rebellions with constant fire, we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to calm down the situation, and find other means of resolving the problem. This is not a naive approach, but rather, it is an approach informed by past experiences in our human society.

There is no need to waste political capital by engaging in a prolonged violence, in which many innocent women, children, and men are killed and wasted, and therefore, depriving many peoples of their right to life, and therefore their comprehensive human rights, in order to secure future human rights of supposed others, for us only to come back to the negotiating table, to resolve the same problem the subject matter of the said violence.

When human beings like us in the RoSS spend most of their time waging mini wars against themselves, then, we must rest assured that, there is a terrible state of uncertainty, and general hopelessness in the RoSS.  There is no reasonable human society that wants to exist in a permanent warlike environment like we seem to like. What seems to be the problem in the RoSS that makes everyone suddenly to want to be someone very important in government? I have said this already, but I am going to say it again, and in fact, I am going to say it every single time I write, till the end of my days, if that is what it takes to educate the peoples of the RoSS.

I am going to tell you that, not all of us can become ministers and presidents in our life time in the RoSS. Therefore, stop killing our people because you want to rule as a governor, president or a minister. You cannot just become ministers, governors, or presidents just because you want to have the salaries and power attached to these positions, whereas, the rest of the peoples of South Sudan are dying of hunger, thirst, diseases and such like, while you shall be flying to Europe for malaria treatment because you are you.

On the other hand, you cannot become a president, governor or minster and remain in the same position forever, and when you fail to become one of the above, you declare a war or a rebellion. We cannot live like this in the RoSS. We as a government must learn to ignore some of these claims for ruling the RoSS, and just consider them as issues of political differences that ought to be resolved through negotiations. We cannot use the military in all big and small political misunderstandings in the RoSS. The peoples of the RoSS must stop treating one another as actual or potential enemies. As a political entity that came into existence due to the rejection of politics of hurt and cruelty, we therefore, ought to be the last peoples on earth, to want to inflict on ourselves, the kinds of agonies that should only be expected from peoples who have not gone through paradigms of politics of hurt and cruelty.

I must reiterate here that, the only peoples who shall restore hope and positive aspirations on the peoples of South Sudan are the peoples of South Sudan themselves. No miracle is going to happen so that peace and tranquility reign supreme in the RoSS. It is the peoples of the RoSS who are the first and the last responsible peoples for their own safety and harmony.

This Political quagmire that we are in is our own making.  For once, let us be brave enough to admit that, most of the problems we are facing now are due to the fact that, we completely misunderstood and misinterpreted the doctrine of self-determination. Some of us in the RoSS have this notion that, the birth of the sovereign RoSS must be guaranteed by a series of recurring mini wars, mostly fought to settle old grudges, and new ones, motivated by personal and group interests, but euphemistically presented to the peoples of the RoSS, to masquerade as a the continuation of wars of liberation. We cannot just treat conflict over constitutional and other governmental posts, as among a few in the RoSS, as liberation wars. We have to be able to draw a clear objective moral and legal boundary, between personal greed, and the defense of popular interests which amount to a war of liberation.

Why do we want the RoSS to become an extremely unstable country along the lines of some of the most unstable African countries, and unfortunately, some of these African countries are our immediate neighbours.  If these mini wars are fought over issues of wealth sharing, it is possible to make every South Sudanese rich if we just stop killing ourselves, and concentrate on how to beneficially exploit the resources we have. The RoSS is a vast country endowed with myriad of rich natural resources, and populated by a few millions of us, which makes these unreasonable wars over wealth and such like just meaningless. We must not become hostages to our own human weakness, and a very bad example of human failure. Let us all in honest and holy unison, forgive one another. Our destiny as peoples of this nascent African State is dependent on our forgiveness of one another, our love of one another, and our genuine quest for constructive reconciliation.

We in the RoSS must learn from human history. Positive socio-economic human development, and other aspects of positive human development, are not truly dependent on frequencies of changing government leadership of a country. Our major problem in the RoSS is not about who is ruling us, but rather, it is intrinsically about how are we being ruled? This matter of how are we being ruled does not include the frequency or change of leadership or overthrowing of governments by military force. However, the methodology of coming to power is essential, but I do not want to dwell on that at this critical moment of our bloody history in the RoSS. Let us formulate the framework of how we want to be ruled, and those who want to rule shall have to follow this framework. Others will call this a constitutional process, but, that is not what I have in mind at the moment.

We need to have the moral framework in place in the RoSS. This moral framework ought to be definitely consistent, with the socio-cultural mores prevailing in the RoSS. We cannot just rush to import some run-of-the-mill constitutional framework, which is available even on the internet, and just slump it on the peoples of the RoSS, without there being the moral, social, cultural, and psychological foundations on which such a constitutional framework shall sit and constructively grow. The peoples of the RoSS must have their own intrinsic imagination as to how they want to be governed. The relativism of the peoples of the RoSS, must be understood, not as being against constitutional universalism, but, as a constructive particularlism, informed by factual human variables  on the ground in the RoSS, and then use this factual human variables as foundations to work towards what ought to be, in a harmonious fashion.

The operationlisation of the doctrine of self-determination in the RoSS shall not become communally satisfactory if we divide ourselves in the RoSS into “we and they” typologies. If we do that in the RoSS, then, we risk rekindling endless series of demands for further self-determinations within the remit of the multicultural and multi-tribal society of the RoSS. This danger can only be avoided by love; forgiveness; and reconciliation as among the various peoples of the RoSS.   

We must understand that, human mismanagement of various opportunities and resources has led to the hitherto unitary Sudan breaking up, giving birth to the RoSS. We in the RoSS know very well that, the chronic historical political misunderstandings between the then northern and southern Sudan contributed negatively in the subsequent civil strife in the hitherto unitary Sudan. We in the RoSS know very well that, we can eloquently interrogate the discourses of human hurt, cruelty, and marginalisation as peoples.

Therefore, if these are all true of us, why are we then not able to chart out the right path for collective human journey, towards the destiny of nation, instead of state building? The RoSS as an abstract political organism, with the geographical characteristics thereof, is not a sufficient condition for the existence of a viable nation of the RoSS. The human element of the abstract State of the RoSS ought to be put in reasonable consideration, and at the moment, it appears as if, we are only concerned with the political State of the RoSS.

At the level of the RoSS, the situation is nationally degrading because, the RoSS as a country is among the richest countries in the world, but for human greed, corruption, selfishness, and associated bad faith, we are not benefiting from this wealth. As mentioned above, the RoSS as a country is very rich, but, it is very poor now due to historical and contemporaneous human mismanagement at certain critical levels of governance, and not because it has not been endowed with commensurate resources that make nations very rich.  

It is therefore degrading as a nation for us to rely very much on our human weaknesses as pillars of formal governance. This situation must change if we want to be respected by others internationally. It is socially humiliating and dehumanising because, the peoples of the RoSS who have been reduced to total dependency on others for survival,   have got human pride and dignity that they would like to uphold as nationals and citizens of the RoSS.

Due to continuous hostilities in the RoSS, we risk making some peoples of the RoSS suffer from diminished self esteem, a prerequisite for personal and group industry. This is equally disastrous for the growing generation to see their parents and such like, begging for food and other life essentials. This can make them forget about their personal self-respect, as well as respect for their elders and parents and at the same time, these young people can also despise anything called society, because to them, it does not make sense, they cannot fit in as societal members.

It is hoped that, those of us entrusted with the responsibility of looking after the peoples of the RoSS, at both federal and state levels, pay heed to my cries for love, forgiveness, and reconciliation as among the peoples of the RoSS. For those of us in charge in federal and state government, we can be likened to human persons, who are unable to see their faces, unless they use looking glasses/mirrors. To those of us in government therefore, the peoples of the RoSS, that is the public at large, are our looking glasses/ mirrors, and we ought to listen to the peoples of the RoSS, whenever these peoples of the RoSS alert us to some dirt defiling our governmental faces.

For those of us in federal and state government respectively, violence is such defiling dirt on our faces, and we ought to wash our political faces of it. The situation is disorientating at the individual level due to the fact that, the individual has been conditioned to feel that, there is a political contract between her/him and the government, albeit an unwritten contract. The binding terms of such a political contract include the fact that, when such an individual is undergoing some trauma due to violence in society,  the government is to come promptly to her/his rescue and render all necessary goods and services to make the lives of such people liveable. There is no term in this political contract that expressly or impliedly means that, the peoples themselves are the providers of essential goods and services in times of violent emergencies, thus replacing federal and state governmental institutions.

Time and again, some of us in both federal and state government fall back on our tribal institutions to confront violent situations in the RoSS. Some of us in federal and state institutions actually initiate such violence and sustain them for political gains. This must end for the better political health of the RoSS. Violence must not become a mode of political conduct in the RoSS, especially during these times of self-determination. Politicians indulging in violence can easily be caught off guard and suffer some irreparable political damage. Political groups should not delude themselves that, the seemingly politically unsophisticated folks are hard of political sight and hearing.

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

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