August 15, 2013 (SSNA) — Apparently the recent articles where I urged South Sudan’s friends and international stakeholders to look their moral consciousness in the mirror and appropriately intervene to rescue South Sudan from the current political, social and economic mess have raffled the feathers of a number of our brothers.
One of the articles entitled “Is Samantha Power’s Appointment as the US Ambassador to the UN a Glimmer of Hope for South Sudan?,” and published on South Sudan Nation and South Sudan News Agency websites on July 20th, 2013, merely stated the obvious. South Sudanese are suffering from egregious human rights abuses to top off the other hallmark forms of suffering indignity, from poverty to infant mortality to widespread of curable diseases, famine and insecurity et al., which have become synonymous with the name of our country, particularly since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005.
The government of South Sudan (GoSS) is widely seen as complicit in the perpetual plight of our people for failing to deliver meaningful basic social and economic services that would have improved the lot of our people, but for wanton corruption and crude embezzlement of public funds in South Sudan by government officials all the way up to the higher echelon of political power in the land. Moreover, government forces are accused for being active actors in heinous human rights abuses of the civilian population, while our government owners cut impotent figures unable or unwilling to reign in on these atrocities.
My several pleas for external help, including in the last article entitled “What are they Waiting for in South Sudan?,” published on August 6th, 2013 on South Sudan Nation and South Sudan News Agency websites, and picked up by other news sites, is a direct result of the government failure to remedy these chronic social and economic problems. The key question then remains: why is calling for help despised in South Sudan?
Though some of our brothers appreciated and applauded the effort of alerting the international community to the fact of worsening political, social and economic condition in our beloved country, others went on to falsely suspect me of being a Western agent. In addition, they argued that it was naïve to think that there is such thing as international intervention based on humanitarianism. The anti-interventionist apologists or the status quo preservationists in South Sudan concluded that the various United Nations peacekeeping operations in the region, have failed to achieve their objectives. If anything, they noted, these operations have cost billions of US dollars for no value in return, but instead have exacerbated the humanitarian crises in places like Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where chaos and lawlessness remain.
While it is true that the situation in DRC, Sudan and elsewhere remain complicated, Sudan and DRC have been in existence much longer than South Sudan. What is festering in these countries in terms of the continued human rights abuses and mass atrocities despite efforts to restore sanity and order is precisely because the efforts not only arrived two little too late, but remain halfhearted. The humanitarian predicament of these countries can be characterized as similar to a fatal disease that was not taken seriously when first diagnosed and got worse with time, which makes last gasp efforts to save the patient costly and complicated. What is needed is redoubling the effort rather than surrendering.
However, this is not the case with South Sudan where the symptoms have already been identified, and there is a golden opportunity to save this baby state from developing what could prove to be a fatal disease as in the other scenarios, if not treated immediately. Ironically our romantic sovereignty brothers would rather see the country go down the drain than acknowledge that we have a problem and accepting that external humanitarian help is urgently needed. They justify their delusional resistance under the pretext that external intervention violates our new found sovereignty status in South Sudan. But it may be asked, what good is sovereignty or independence if it is self-destructive? If one exhibits suicidal signs would it not be better for you to be protected from yourself until such becomes a time when you have overcome this unhealthy tendency?
And in any event, it must be emphasized that the traditional conception of sovereignty that some of these brothers of ours are culturally shocked by and are clinging to as a right that must not be violated is already beginning to be perceived as archaic in international law. There is a growing consensus in global politics and international relations that state sovereignty must begin to be understood not as a right that governments have power monopoly within state boundaries without oversight and accountability, but as a privilege that must be continuously earned. In other words, while in the past states can do with their citizens with their territories as they pleased without external interference, how power is wielded by the state matters nowadays. As a privilege, state sovereignty can therefore, be revoked by the UN Security Council or the General Assembly or the coalition of the willing in the event that the concerned state is unable or unwilling to discharge its core duties to protect its citizens, which few will disagree is not the case in South Sudan. Sovereignty construed this way is sovereignty of the people and not the state as an entity as has been traditionally the case.
The guiding principles of this redefinition of sovereignty outlines three important moral obligations of the state, which are collectively referred to as responsibility to protect (R2P) or responsibility to act (R2A). These moral principles delineate that: a state has a responsibility to protect its citizens from human rights violations and mass atrocities; that the international community has a responsibility to aid the state that is unable or unwilling to protect its citizens to overcome this failure; and finally that in seeking to halt human rights violations and mass atrocities and enforce peace and security, the international community has a responsibility to use force as a last resort when all other avenues have failed. It has been almost a decade since the signing of the CPA and sustainable peace not only remains elusive in South Sudan, but our government has proven unable and unwilling to protect human rights and reign in on mass atrocities.
It is these principles coupled with the reality on the ground that informed the recent articles appealing for the redoubling of international efforts to help South Sudan, in view of what we all agree as the steady deterioration of security and humanitarian condition in this country since the CPA deal was reached. In this vein, and while some of the concerns raised by my critics are legitimate, others are unsubstantiated and baseless. This is true in relation to the expressed reservations with what some of our brothers erroneously saw as my naïveté, and promotion of a form of Western altruism that they assume is the linchpin of my views, which is far from it. As I made clear in those pieces, both moral universalism, national interests and international peace and security are on the line should there be no rigorous measures urgently taken to reign in the current political, security and humanitarian deterioration in South Sudan.
It was precisely because of the knowledge that Western altruism and mere humanitarianism have never guided past interventions that I framed our issues as potentially compromising to our aspiration of wanting to grow up into a healthy and proud nation, but also as undermining to national interests of many regional and international stakeholders and destabilizing to international peace and security, if left to fester unabated. It is therefore, ludicrous to suggest that my “naïveté” will go as far as to assume that the West should they choose to intervene will come to our aid based on some altruistic value devoid of any egotistic national interest, which as noted has never happened before. It was merely a question of weighing which was a greater or a lesser evil, to be apathetic to human rights violations and indiscriminate killing of vulnerable members of our society in South Sudan, or to end this by advocating for positive change at any cost. It seemed a lesser evil to call for external humanitarian intervention, knowing well that such interventions are first and foremost driven by realpolitik, namely interests but humanitarianism.
Seen this way, the allegations about my being enrolled in the payroll of the West as an agent are not only unsubstantiated but must also be strongly condemned as they may amount to one’s freely expressed views being perceived as national treason. In our current Kangaroo justice system in South Sudan, such accusations risk putting one’s life in harm’s way as an enemy of the state, which may encourage the zealot custodians of the current system in Juba to covet one’s head. I do not get paid for writing these articles! I merely refuse to stand idly by watching our hard won freedom being irresponsibly squandered by our “liberators.”
There is no doubt that I am a product of the Western academe, and therefore may wittingly or unwittingly be under the influence of American soft-power and driven by values that are universal but that some may dismiss as relative to the West. They are entitled to their opinion. But by no means should my views aimed at contributing to positive social change in our society to end the endless suffering of our people be regarded as pupating Western interest or embodying Western agency. I have no interest in presenting our yesterday colonizers as our today’s liberators, while being aware of the love and hate dynamics between the liberators and the liberated.
Yet, not all Western principles bear an agenda seeking to revisit the horrors of the past upon us, and must therefore continue to invoke perpetual paranoia and suspicion every time the phrase international intervention is invoked. We must desist dwelling in the past. It was only yesterday that we pleaded for international intervention to aid in rescuing us from Jallaba oppression, to which it was duly responded. Why the double standards now, what changed? Or is it because some of us stand to benefit from the preservation of the present unjust and unsustainable status quo in Juba? If it is any consolation the views that I have been promoting in recent articles are not alien to South Sudanese culture. One of our very own, the international lawyer, Professor Francis Mading Deng, our Ambassador to the UN is one of the key designers of the R2P doctrine and the whole redefinition of sovereignty in terms of human security.
Rather than freaking out from external meddling in our internal affairs, perhaps this can be prevented by getting our house in order by looking ourselves in the mirror and realizing that we must begin to steer our politics toward normal politics in South Sudan. In doing so we might stand assisted in overcoming the corrosive tribal politics that is currently destroying our society and ultimately driving us towards an apocalypse of full-fledge humanitarian carnage that may result from looming violent conflict across political interest groups and identity lines. Though political changes are underway in South Sudan and deserve praises, it remains to be seen whether these are altruistic motivated changes with the nation in heart or mere continuation of the proverbial egotistic politicking with political interest groups and kinship in mind that we have grown accustomed to.
The author is reachable at: [email protected]