The Absurdity of Peace-building in South Sudan (III)

By Tongun Lo Loyuong

October 7, 2013 (SSNA) — I was going to conclude this debate on the absurdity of peace-building in South Sudan with this section (III). However, due to recent developments, I am compelled to extend the discussion by at least one final section entitled “Towards Overcoming the Absurdity of Peace-building in South Sudan,” after the present section. In it the question about whose peace are we trying to foster in South Sudan promised to be addressed in the last section will be discussed by way of conclusion and as a way forward to overcome the peace-building absurdity in the land.

For our purposes here, however, it is generally accepted that one of the best idioms ever coined and that makes pleasant music for the ears is the phrase “well done.” That when you tell a human being “you have done well” it is spontaneously greeted with a wide smile of satisfaction on the face. This is accompanied by the redoubling of efforts to make more gains in order to elicit more compliments. On this positive note, it is pertinent to first applaud recent positive developments in humanitarian and development (peace-building) efforts in South Sudan.

The attempts made, particularly during the “New Deal Compact” consultations that brought together various key conflict stakeholders in South Sudan, including local civil society actors with a view to seek avenues anew to make a positive impact of peace-building felt, is commendable. This is certainly a good step in the right direction regardless of how slow and daunting the task of effective and quality lasting peace-building often proves. In the long term it is rewarding, nonetheless. Let these renewed efforts be robust and sustained as will be recommended in the last piece on this debate.

That registered, it was, however, shocking to hear some of the statements that came out of the said new deal compact consultations meeting. Some actors representing our international partners were quoted as apologetically reminding us that “development does not happen suddenly or overnight but it takes some time to build which includes peace building efforts with real patience.” For a moment there I thought this was a government spokesperson doing what they do best—which is throw a wet blanket on governance failures, only that it was not! It is truly unfortunate that active international actors in South Sudan have subscribed to the government rhetoric of “starting from scratch,” “baby state” and “Rome was not built over night” bogus.

In case these international actors are oblivious to the fact, this government rhetoric is a misleading pretext to legitimize corruption, nepotism and “wait for your time” deceit at the expense of good governance, transparency and accountability in government transactions, and social and economic service delivery. In consequence anybody seen to be persuaded by the government’s apologetic theatrics is either naïve or ignorant of South Sudan’s identity and interest group’s power politics and socio-cultural dynamics. Our international partners must therefore, be reminded that South Sudanese are very patient rational human beings who must be treated with dignity and not continue to be exploited. As downtrodden and needy as the majority of South Sudanese remain, these international actors and their counterpart in the government of South Sudan will do well in refraining from adding salt to injury by taking South Sudanese intelligence to task.

No one is under the illusion that sustainable peace-building can be fostered overnight, not least in South Sudan. In fact, it is widely acknowledged that rigorous peace-building activities and processes notwithstanding, it takes approximately similar amount of the time it took for a protracted warfare to end, to build any meaningful lasting peace and overcome the legacy of suffering violent indignity. While the struggle for South Sudan’s freedom has intermittently raged for almost four decades (some say for almost a century), almost nine years have elapsed since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed, which is well over an “overnight.” Even Prophet Job’s patience would have been put to test by now, considering that there is yet to be a semblance of progress in South Sudan’s development efforts to suggest that the future of peace-building is bright.

On the contrary the reverse remains true as detailed in the previous articles on the absurdity of peace-building (I & II) (see the blog: Moreover, a recent report by the South Sudan Law Society (SSLS) adds to the prevailing view about the elusive peace in South Sudan held by numerous other human rights, academic think tanks and civil society bodies before it that together concluded that South Sudan is a failed state! What is there to defend in a failed state? Post-CPA mortality rate in South Sudan’s Jonglei State for instance, is as high as during the war years. This is without reminding ourselves about deaths caused by rampant insecurity, and preventable and curable contagious disease outbreaks, as well as valuable human lives lost as a result of famine and food insecurity, and many other causes detrimental to life longevity in the land. “The findings are indicative of the fact that eight years after the end of the civil war, death rates remain at conflict levels in parts of South Sudan,” partly read the SSLS report.

But again we are by now accustomed to the arbitrary dismissal by the custodians of the regime in Juba of such reports and many preceding others as flawed, unsubstantiated and exaggerated. With such unrepentant hearts, the intransigence of peace-building absurdity in South Sudan is bound to persist. This is also already self-revealing from what can be gauged out of the Gurtong new deal compact report. Certainly the intention is to expedite effective peace-building through an elicitive and needs-based approach as determined by the local cultural agents and civil society actors who participated in the consultations, which as noted above is commendable.

Nonetheless, the framework and by implication the peace-building model remains the jinxed—tested and failed approach. The peace-building approach as described in the preceding sections of this debate unfortunately remains the dominant conflict management, track I diplomacy or the technical peace approach that typifies the conflict-exacerbating peace-building efforts in South Sudan. The partnership clearly and undesirably confines the level of engagement between the unredeemable corrupt government of South Sudan, and the international community with the civil society and the rest playing second fiddle.

As Mr. Toby Lanzer, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations is reported as explaining: “in the spirit of the New Deal, the Government of South Sudan should be in the driver’s seat to implement projects and programs aided by development partners.” Unsurprisingly Mr. Lanzer’s view is shared by the government’s representative in the consultations meeting, the Director for Aid Coordination, Mr. Moses Mabior Dau, who is cited as emphasizing that the new deal is, “a joint understanding between the Government of South Sudan and the international Community to enhance Partnership in the next three years.”

It is frustrating and indeed insane to expect to generate different positive results from the same recipe that contributed to the previous negative and failed results in the first place where the government of South Sudan has been identified as part of the problem! As detailed on numerous occasions in the past, new cabinet or not, Salva Kiir and his cronies are part of peace-building absurdity in South Sudan. Kiir and cohort not only lack political will to build a meaningful lasting peace in South Sudan, but has by now even lost popular legitimacy to go with their moral poverty displayed in full public view during their reign.

It is therefore, absurd that the government continues to be entrusted with playing central peace-building role.

Worse yet, it is nonsensical to seek to build a democratic nation (if it is democratic peace that we seek to foster) with a partner that has clearly demonstrated an appeal to creating a draconian police state in South Sudan. The recent confidently uttered statements that the SPLM ruling party will rule South Sudan for one hundred years, when the same rulers have failed to deliver services they previously promised to deliver in one hundred days cannot be interpreted in any other way than a preparation of rigging the upcoming national elections, assuming the elections are held in time come 2015.

Consider for instance, the conflicting statements between the president and his deputy in relation to the upcoming South Sudan’s first national elections. As the vice-president was twisting his tongue before the international community that national elections will be held in time in 2015, his boss was on the record that there are no resources to prepare for the same. “Elections may not be held on time because there are certain issues which must be carried out first. Census needs to be conducted. There is also a need to complete drafting the permanent constitution…. These processes require time and resources,” Kiir is quoted as saying on Sudan Tribune.

Again what time and resources nonsense are required to complete the preparations for building a democratic state in South Sudan, when more than eight years of valuable time have been deliberately wasted in political power struggle and corruption with impunity as billions of US dollars of public resources were being hoarded in individual private bank accounts? These are individuals capable of squandering 600 million US dollars in an eye’s blink in a single scoop, “land purchase” notwithstanding. If a land in Juba costs 600 million Georges, one wonders how much is paradise worth? If this is not money laundering I don’t know what is.

It is particularly absurd and debilitating when numerous studies showed early on that the SPLM party has been dissuading all conflict stakeholders in the old Sudan, and now South Sudan. It is no coincidence therefore that, the government of South Sudan is composed of skillful liars. Time and time again the political leadership has demonstrated that the primary concern is to remain in power and protect the loot—the illicitly accumulated material wealth and assets. In this context, it is absurdity of peace-building through and through to persist on assigning the government a driver’s seat or committing funds and expecting service delivery by this government.

During the last General Assembly of the United Nations, the second highest symbol of political power in the land has acknowledged before the heeding ears of the Community of Nations that our government is error prone and by implication cannot continue to be trusted and entrusted with service delivery. “…we as humans and government recognize that we must have made errors of judgment…,” the newly appointed vice-president is reported as admitting on the UN News Center website. What the vice-president describes as errors of judgment is an under-statement meant to provide false hope to the international community that lessons are learned from previous mistakes. For the SPLM under the current structures to change is like abandoning what is inherently the nature of this party, which as shown previously lacks even a shred of democratic credentials.

Against this backdrop, nation-building or peace-building is naturally in a conflict of interest with this greed and thievery and therefore will continue to be repulsed by the symbols of this unjust and untenable political dispensation in South Sudan. What this bunch say at home and on the world stage must therefore, not be taken at face value. Caution is in order. And in any event, they cannot be expected to accomplish in less than two years what they have not only failed but exacerbated and perfected in the last almost nine years as a government. Alas, Macardith or the evil god is naked. Hubris!

As hinted in the last section on the absurdity of peace-building in South Sudan, in order to make great strides forward in availing sustainable peace with justice in South Sudan, a complete paradigm shift in the current mindset and ineffectual and counterproductive peace-building efforts is needed. This may include re-shuffling the partnership between our international partners and the lead conflict stakeholders and assigning the driver’s seat to genuine South Sudanese cultural agents of peace and those directly affected by the conflict to determine priorities as they see them. Such peacebuilding re-orientation is vital even in a viable state to avail lasting peace, let alone a dysfunctional and conflict-prone establishment as our current South Sudanese state. To this end, an overhaul of peace-building approach, including the renewed attempts as deliberated in the consultations on the new deal compact as reported by Gurtong News Website is mandatory to overcome this peace-building absurdity in South Sudan. More on this will be discussed in the final section of this debate.

Tongun Lo Loyuong is reachable at [email protected]; and can be followed on twitter @TongunLoLoyuong. This and other pieces are also on his blog:

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