South Sudan: A deeply polarized country!

By: Deng Riek Khoryoam, South Sudan

July 27, 2013 (SSNA) — The world youngest country on earth is currently going through a lot of turbulent times that will prove whether or not it’s (the country) going forward or slipping backward. The recent political developments in the country are something to worry about, particularly for the concerned citizens like this little author. If the latest political developments are anything to go by, it’s that they are threatening the very ideals at the centre of our founding: “Justice, Liberty and Prosperity” and the gains made during the last two years of independence. Suffice it to say that they have the potential to tear our country apart and cause us tremendous human suffering if care is taken diligently by the highest echelon of power!

I contend that South Sudan is one of the most polarized countries in African continent. I am being very careful here on the choice of words on this; for to assert that ‘South Sudan’ is the most polarized country in Africa would be overstatement, and to say the opposite would still be considered an understatement. But the truth of the matter is, our country is deeply polarized and divided along ethnic lines. Everybody owes his/her allegiance to his or her tribe and community, not to the country. Anybody who denies this as untrue is either living in Mars or something is absolutely wrong with his/her medulla oblongata!

But I must also confess that this polarization is not only confined to South Sudan alone. Other African countries are not any exception, although a few have grown to maturity past this, and have thus passed the ethnicity-diversity test. In most African countries, the incumbent president, despite being the president of the whole country, is identified with his/her tribe and largely guided by the tribesmen/women in whatever decision he makes or intend to take. He has to give in to the demands of his tribe or else risks rejection and isolation, including working with the opposite side to topple his government, in the extreme case scenario.

In my beloved country South Sudan, it’s ugly and a different thing, partly owing to several factors. We’ve just emerged from more than two decades of civil war, which somewhat destroyed our social and cultural fabric and cost us a tremendous loss of innocent’s lives. As a result, we still harbour a culture of violence and hostility towards one another as South Sudanese. It’s also the main reason why there are still pockets of inter-communal conflicts here and there – which is largely due to these long years of fighting in the bush. The youth who are supposed to be the change agents and tomorrow’s leaders are indulging in activities (violence, stealing, preaching tribalism etc.) which are wanting in nature and which could spell doom on their future, if they didn’t change. The current leaders are going and the younger generation will come in and replace them. But are we going to exemplify their bad deeds and evil actions??

Why should we always see everything through tribal lens instead of national glasses? Where will tribalism take us and this country? Isn’t it better that we become South Sudanese instead of aligning ourselves with tribes? What is wrong with us being South Sudanese as opposed to just a collection of tribes? I think there is a dire need for us to change our mind-sets and embrace one another as South Sudanese. We also need to take off our tribal lenses and put on national ones for us to achieve national reconciliation and unity of purpose. And that brings me to the issue of national reconciliation process currently under way in the country. I think the recent political developments are antithetical to achieving real and authentic national reconciliation dialogue. It goes against the spirit of this important process, which is supposed to reconcile our past misdeeds with the present, with the aim of charting the best way forward as we try to forget and forgive our past with all its mishaps!

The president, by openly violating the constitution, has given rise to suspicions that he is not serious in his promises to follow the constitution to the letter and spirit. The removal of elected public officials is an absolute contempt of the constitution and the rubber stamp, good-for-nothing so called ‘parliament’. It’s also the beginning an era unprecedented in South Sudan’s history.

We are poised to see worse things than what we have already seen. The removal of Chol Tong Mayai, Taban Deng Gai and the suspension of the SPLM SG Pagan Amum are a case in point. Needless to say that this contributes to further polarization in an obscure manner!! You don’t remove someone immediately you hear or suspect that he disagrees with you on national issues – it’s tantamount to dictatorship and totalitarianism – to say the least.

In conclusion, I think there is an urgent need for all South Sudanese people to do some sort of soul-searching and to go back to the drawing board. The drawing board would be where we came from; how far we’d travelled and how far we still need to go in order to realize our life-long aspirations. Otherwise, the gains we’ve made in the last years of our independence will go to the dustbin of history and only God knows our fate as a people. If war is the only thing we resort to when confronted with challenges that could be handled diplomatically and politically, then I don’t really know what future awaits South Sudan as a country.

We have been to war and we know its bitterness and how much suffering it causes to the innocent children and women who have got absolutely nothing to do with it.  After all, empirical study has revealed that “ethnically polarized countries have to endure longer period of civil wars than those ethnically less polarized”.

Have you agreed to be a South Sudanese or tribalist? Have you agreed to owe your allegiance to the republic of South Sudan?

The author is a concerned South Sudanese citizen living in South Sudan. He could be reached for comments at: [email protected]

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