April 7, 2014 (SSNA) — With no question, United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), like South Sudanese civilians, has had it rough for the last few months. And this can be blamed on a number of factors. Regrettably, some of these factors include the following: UNMISS officials’ negligence, naivety; South Sudanese officials’ incompetence and vain arrogance; ignorance and blind support among South Sudanese populace. All these have the effect of embarrassing South Sudan.
When operating in a post-conflict environment, it’s imperative that one takes into consideration the ease with which politics can smell of militancy. Political rhetorics can easily turn into bullets with Jesuit fervor. It’s therefore crucial that UN agencies take absolute care when it comes to their operations in countries that are prone to what economist Collier calls ‘traps.’
With that in mind, it’s very dangerous for UNMISS to allow room for recklessness; such as wrong labelling of military hardware. While mistakes are human, it’s very important that UNMISS does everything with surgical precision.
UNMISS has of course expressed regret regarding the wrong labelling, however, no one is going to rebuke it for carelessness and negligence. While South Sudanese government and uninformed South Sudanese citizens took the matter to uncritical and naïve proportions, it’s crucial to remember that UNMISS did a terrible mistake they should be castigated for.
Hervé Ladsous, UN Under-Secretary for Peace Keeping Operations, harshly criticized South Sudan government at the UN Security Council for its treatment of UNMISS staff and its head, Hilde F. Johnson. While South Sudanese government acted with devilish immaturity, it’s important to note that UNMISS needs to account for its own mistakes as it’s headed by human beings, not some flawless robots.
Besides, Ladsous, Johnson and UN should note that South Sudan is not a country with 500 years of democratic tradition and liberal principles under its belt. Lack of experience and trauma of war let these officials down. While there’s no excuse for the harsh treatment of UNMISS staff, UN officials should remember that South Sudanese officials need help rather than being criticized like officials of countries in the caliber of United Kingdom, United States or France.
UN officials should put into consideration the existing realities because we live in a real world. Embarrassing South Sudan in the manner Ladsous did is not only irresponsible; it also fails to put into consideration the recent past of the country. I’m not excusing them here but, believe me, these blokes, as Australians would say, need help! All the folks, the ‘leaders’ in Juba, need help! They don’t understand the value of criticism! It beats me why but they just don’t!
Government of South Sudan
No one will ever question the fact that South Sudanese officials speak first then think later. The leaders are so fixed on the idea that what happened on December 15, 2013 was a coup attempt and anyone who says otherwise is either a rebel or an enemy of South Sudan. This is the twisted mentality that’s ruling South Sudan. And it’s the same twisted mentality young South Sudanese have assumed. Oh Deng Pakeny (my clan’s, Adhiok rain-god) help South Sudan!
While the officials have every right to be upset regarding the wrong labeling given the fact that the country is at war, the way the officials handled the issue of UNMISS trucks in Rumbek, Lakes State, is embarrassing.
Given the way the president and some of his officials publicly lashed out at the UNMISS and its head, it’s no brainer the government was going to do all it can to prove its hypothesis about UNMISS. When the trucks that were wrongly labelled were seized, the government didn’t wait for an investigation to find out what exactly happened and who did it. It’s conceivable that GOSS can do that to embarrass UNMISS.
With great fanfare, the determined officials took their cameras with their propaganda South Sudan Television to show the world the supposed proofs that UNMISS was supporting Dr. Riek Machar and his forces. These officials jumped to conclusion without investigating first.
The action has cost South Sudan enormously. We’ve lost the confidence of our most important allies; especially those who helped us realize South Sudan independence. South Sudan is now desperate; signing agreements with ‘devils’ as Ethiopian foreign minister said. The officials and the government have embarrassed us enough.
South Sudanese are intelligent people. That’s unquestionable. However, when it comes to tribal and political allegiance, their intelligence is sacrificed or shelved. While some of the South Sudanese who demonstrated against UNMISS and Ms. Hilde Johnson really believe in the truth professed by the government of South Sudan, some picketers were demonstrating out of tribal allegiance. The former picketers are a mere herd who go where leaders tell them to go. They have no sense of mental independence and critical thinking. Truth, to them, is what the government says. The latter group knows the government’s nonsense; however, they are imprisoned by their tribal allegiance to a point of stupid belligerence.
While the former group has no idea what it was saying, because some of them called for the exit of UNMISS from South Sudan, the latter group only wanted the exit of Ms. Johnson. I can even agree with those calling for Johnson to call it quit because her working relationship with the GOSS is completely destroyed. Restoring it will be next to impossible. However, those calling for UNMISS to leave South Sudan are just clueless Martians.
Before calling for UNMISS to leave South Sudan, these poor souls should have considered a number of things:
- During this tragedy, a number of our innocent civilians took (and some are still taking) shelter at various UNMISS compounds.
- Do these picketers still believe we can dismiss UNMISS from South Sudan and still be members of United Nations?
- Do these picketers know that it’s the same UN that is and will feed our brothers, sisters, mothers, uncles, aunts… in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan?
- Do these picketers know that being an independent country comes with responsibility in order to fit in with sovereign nations…to be assisted through development?
It’s sad to remember that these picketers take South Sudan to be the sayer of the truth they hold dear. However, I don’t blame these people much because they don’t know any better. Those I blame is the government that mislead them and the educated tribalists who misplace the contents of their minds.
Those who only called for the exit of Johnson without calling for the exit of UNMISS are right in some ways because they see the importance of UNMISS; and the difference between individuals and organizations. However, there’s one embarrassing fact they overlook. And this comes with the fact that tribal allegiance and support for the GOSS is more important than the lives of South Sudanese.
None of these people demonstrated when civilians were massacred in Juba, Bor, Akobo, Malakal, Bentiu and all the areas affected by the current crisis. None of these people demonstrated when Murle raiders butcher innocent civilians in Twi Country, Bor County and Duk County in Jonglei state. None of these people demonstrate when civilians butcher themselves in Northern Bhar El Ghazal, Lakes State and Warap State. None of these people demonstrated when government opened fire on civilians like what happened in Wau in 2012. None of them dare to demonstrate to show the government that displaced civilians are eating wild roots and leaves.
It’s embarrassing for South Sudanese to demonstrate against UNMISS (which has done a lot of good for us) in support of a government that’s destroyed our country, and don’t demonstrate against the massacres of innocent South Sudanese all over South Sudan and the utter destruction the rebels have caused in the three eastern states of South Sudan.
Is the support of the government more important than thousands of innocent lives? One demonstration in support of the displaced souls and for the lost lives would be honorable.
Kuir ë Garang is a South Sudanese author living in Canada. He’s the author of ‘South Sudan Ideologically. For contact, visitwww.kuirthiy.info.