Who Are the Ultimate Losers in South Sudan’s Conflict?

By Juma Mabor Marial

May 15, 2014 (SSNA) — Since south Sudan gained self-ruled from the successive regimes in Khartoum, the ordinary citizens of south Sudan never enjoyed the dividends of peace for having their own government. From the interim period to the elected government in 2010, the expectations of south Sudanese of having an independent country have been mismanaged.crisis after crisis have characterized the living standard of the people of south Sudan.

From George Athor defection in Jonglei state to Olieny rebellion in upper Nile state, Yau Yau slaughtering of innocent civilians in Pibor to corruption scandals and endless rebellion in unity state. The people of south Sudan have no doubt been subjected to enormous hardships and challenges since the CPA was signed in Nairobi in 2005.

In 2013 leading toward 2014, hopes were beginning to show as amnesties given by the president to several rebel groups somehow bore fruits. Economic dreams were in the pipeline of realization with the investment conference having just ended and several international investors pledged to invest their money in south Sudan. It was indeed a promising future for the people of south Sudan but even as these goodies were apparent, people of south Sudan were also oblivious of the fact that, there was a dangerous fight in the SPLM party over the control of the party leadership, the only convincing reason why many people took this lightly was because they had thought, whatever was happening in SPLM was a party politics and therefore, didn’t call for everyone’s attention especially when one is not a member of the SPLM party. However,even with this believe, it was also imperative that, SPLM was not just any political party but a ruling party that is in charge of the larger affairs of the country and this means, its successes and failures have equal impacts on the country’s future.

It is this wrangle within the party that exploded into political crisis and culminates in armed struggle in December 2013, a conflict that has killed over ten thousand people and displaced a million and more civilians. The war has also led to destruction of properties and razed to ashes the little infrastructure that the nascent country had put in place in the last eight years. Three states in south Sudan out of ten have been completely destroyed as they changed hands several times between the rebels and government forces.

Out of these skirmishes, the tribes of south Sudan have been used against each other in pursuit of personal ambitions, although not all the 64 tribes fall into the trap laid by politicians, the Dinka and Nuers who considered themselves as customary enemies got the opportunity to expand their hatred of one another. A lot of women, children, elderly and the youth have been massacred on both sides and the two tribes are caught in unending tribal feuds.

Before the political crisis widen, the country was already undergoing economic crisis where the government employees go for three or four months without their wages. The delays in payment do not have a suitable explanation from either ministry of finance, public service or the central bank. All other public institutions have been starving financially and because there is no tear gas or water canon in south Sudan to break the demonstration once attempted, the government employees and civil servants have become so frighten to stage any protest and demand for their salaries or risk being shot at with life bullets.

It is because of these circumstances that the citizens of south Sudan and particularly the civil servants in the government of south Sudan could go for several months and remain patient because even if they make noise, no one would listen to them and it may even be dangerous for them to engage in such unwanted and most probably unlawful endeavors as per my country’s model. My brother who works in the United States of America once told me that, in the US, some employees earn their salaries in two weeks and some after a month and he says, “when one fails to get their dues in their accounts at the mid-night of the fourteenth day”, they will sue their employer and such employers are ordered to pay the employee plus the cost. I am not saying south Sudan should be like US but I want to say, if one can sue because of delay in some hours after their salaries fall due, why can’t our government sympathized with the citizens who persevered for three to four months without their wages.

I am not bringing this point out of conflict of interest but I am trying to drive home a point on what caused the economic crisis and why the citizens of south Sudan have not been getting the services. The reason why the country finds itself in the economic crisis before the real conflict and armed conflict broke out is attributed to several factors but for meticulousness, the economic crisis in south Sudan were caused first by drastic shut down of oil in 2012, by the widespread corruption in the government and chief among all, the ineptitude by those in charge of the economy of the country like the Ministry of Finance, Central Bank, Public service and labour.

It is because of corruption that, the much expected services by the people of south Sudan after independence didn’t come until the war broke out. Throughout the eight years since the peace came to the country, the leaders tend to be too busy enriching themselves while the need to construct roads infrastructure, provide healthcare facilities, build schools among other things became a secondary agenda that they thought would be implemented after they have established themselves. The country became engulfed with a lot of corruption scandals, including the infamous ones like the Dura scandal, fire safe saga, the looming crisis management committee saga among others all  masterminded by senior government ministers and their accomplishes.

Universal reports on corruption have always put south Sudan on top of the list as one of the countries that is experiencing the worse forms of corruption and comprises very corrupt government officials in the world. Attempts by the government to form an anti-corruption watchdog with the intention to curtail this vice remained just in paper as the commission became toothless with no prosecution powers as well as failing to register cases against senior government officials who are hard to be executed. It then turned out that, the senior government officials are the judges and juries in their own cases and this is the reason why all the necessary attempts to fight corruption in south Sudan have not gotten anywhere far.

South Sudanese and several other analysts in the world have tried to write, talk and condemn the corruption in south Sudan but quiet easily, all these people have been branded as anti-government faultfinders and the concerns they raised are translated to criticisms. From here until the crisis broke out in December, south Sudanese had accepted the destiny of living without good roads, having no healthcare facilities, no good school among other social amenities. The southerners had accepted too to accommodate corruption as part of their life and one of the strong schemes that the government was determined to strengthen.

South Sudanese did all this not because they were not missing something but it is because they still had one last precious thing that protected their identity and this thing was “PEACE”. It is because of peace that south Sudanese had forgotten about what the government is supposed to do for them and sacrificed through their hard work to establish their own families, feed them, take them to private schools and treat them when they gets sick. South Sudanese were until December 2013; very comfortable following up their own lives without being too concern about what the government does or does not do for them.

When on December 15, 2013 the shooting took place in the military barracks in juba, all the south Sudanese thoughts were that, it was a situation that was going to be controlled by the government and the misunderstanding could be brought to normal when and if the people involved were peace lovers. This didn’t happen and what remained was widespread of violence and mass killing of innocent civilians from Juba to Jonglei and Bentiu. Innocent civilians died and those who survived ran to the UN camps where they are living under very disturbing and inhumane conditions. The genesis and cost of this conflict is so stigmatizing and one cannot afford to tell it in long and traumatizing phrases.

I am not interested to talk about what has happened and what is still happening because, I, the citizens of south Sudan and the world has seen enough for anyone to even continue to repeat informing people on the price that has been paid by the innocent people of south Sudan. Thousands of Lives have been lost, an uncounted number of properties have been destroyed, a lot of people have been left homeless, millions have fled and worse of all, the seeds of unity that were beginning to germinate among the south Sudanese have been uprooted and completely scattered. These signs of progress and prosperity have been replaced with tears in the eyes of a woman who have lost her husband and children in Bentiu massacred, a homeless Nuer who has been chased away from his home in Miaya Saba in Juba, an anguish old woman who has been raped in Bor teaching hospital, hungry children who are camping in UN compounds across the country unknowing where their parents are and most of all, compensated with the amount of hatred and mistrust between Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups that no person, government or even miracles will manage to fence.

But what happened at the end of all this, our politicians fly to Ethiopia, talk on televisions and radios and thumb their chests “ our people, our people”, our people that they are all doing nothing to save from further destruction, our people that they don’t know where they sleep in the rainy UN Camps, our people that they don’t know what they feed on, our people that they tend to reaffirm their positions on leadership than looking first at what should end their suffering, our people that they divided into tribes first before they consider them south Sudanese, our people our people. What our people do our leaders and politicians talk about here?

It brings tears to someone eyes as some falls in mine to hear our president confidently and humorously saying that he has been forced to sign peace.  “peace” of all the things, how can he be forced to sign peace, something that comes with a lot of things including the lives of our people, including the return of our people to their homes away from the dehumanizing life at the UN camps, peace is something that can give birth to love and unity, how can someone be forced to sign peace. Peace is something that should come from your heart, peace is more than power, materials and even more expensive than animosity. Why should the president sign peace under duress instead of willingly and voluntarily signing it to save the plight of the suffering citizens of south Sudan?

How about Dr- Riek, and his interview on BBC Hard- talk program, was he a leader, did he give answers as to why he took up arms and killed innocent civilians including the untrained white army, did he give reasons why his forces captured Bentiu and massacred over three hundred innocent civilians from other ethnicities or is it justifiable as he said that, because, some innocent citizens were massacred in Juba and Jonglei, so the innocent ones in Bentiu had to pay the price too, does this mean two wrongs can now make right, did he represent a national leader who took up arms to correct injustices committed against the citizens of south Sudan or was he a bitter man who speaks on behalf of a tribe and would revenge at the slightest given opportunity, was he like Kiir,  forced to sign the peace or he did it because of the suffering that the people of south Sudan are going through. Which was it, how did he answer those questions, how would you answer those questions if you had listened to him, how would you rate them (Kiir and Riek) and their intentions with regard to peace and suffering of the people of South Sudan?

I don’t have straight forward answers to all the above questions but what I certainly do have and in fact in abundant is disappointment on these two leaders, they do not in my opinion care about the suffering that we are going through today as citizens of south Sudan. They are both very comfortable in their respective hideouts, places that are out of reach of danger and threat of death, places that are heavily guarded, places that they don’t hear, smell or touch rain water, places that they are eating their best dishes, places that they get reports about which town has been captured and what happened and how many people have been killed after being successfully adored by their loyalists.

It is palpable that, from their negotiators to themselves, Kiir and Riek have never felt any pinch of what has been happening in south Sudan for the last five months, their relatives are far away in foreign and safest countries in the world, none of their relatives has paid a price for the political instability that is on-going in the country. The two men and their negotiators although in charge of their forces have never gone to the fields and see for themselves the atrocities these unprofessional armies of theirs are committing. It is so painful that the leaders who are entrusted with keeping peace and order think that they can solve things through a barrel of a gun. Each one of them thinks that they can’t be defeated by the other as if they were wrestling which if this was the case, the citizens of south Sudan including myself would have been the happiest spectators to see who would be grappled down first.

As they say, peace comes with a price, I will subscribe to the theory and I will ask all the citizens of south Sudan to do so because it is my conviction that the people who will pay this price are the citizens of south Sudan why, because, the war started as some politicians including Riek Machar were removed from the government because the public was complaining about a bloated cabinet and a large government. In no time, the sacked cabinet members generated and established some sugar coated democratic principles which let to rebellion. Now, the signed framework and road-map for peace negotiation that the two men claimed they were forced to sign include a provision on formation of a transitional government which will include the rebel and government, former political detainees which are all former ministers and governors among others.

It is here that you would find that, since the transitional government will be shared, Riek, Kiir, former detainees will all be back in the government and it will be the same as the government from 2005 up to 2012. So, the citizens who had thought their concerns were heeded to in reducing the size of the government are now back to square one, instead, the citizens have paid by losing their lives, properties, peace and other things just because they had advocated for the trimming of the government in 2012. Yes, we have accepted to pay this price and the thousands who died and the million displaced have already paid for this peace and this is the reason why we plead with our leaders to come to their senses and move the country forward after they share their transitional government.

The citizen of south Sudan may not afford to go through another painful eight or so years with you but for the sake of peace, we will persevere, we will not of course stage a revolution to get rid of all of you because, you have all the government apparatus in your disposal and we know too well that you will not hesitate to use life bullets on us when we try to protest if things are not going well, so, we beg that, let the peace returns to south Sudan whether you are forced to sign it or not. It is here that I feel the people who have paid the ultimate price in the on-going conflict are the ordinary citizens of South Sudan.

Finally, I just want to plead with the commentators on the internet and other social networks to slow down on their hate speeches and ethnically oriented ideologies, some of these people thinks they are doing enough in supporting their respective tribes but instead they are heightening ethnic hatred and creating more damage. There can be no south Sudan without Nuer or a south Sudan without Dinka, the same goes for all the other 62 tribes. We must accept that, a lot of mistrust has been created but the fact that we are all south Sudanese must continue to bind us together no matter what. I don’t care what others may read into this advice but Dinka or Nuer, my first identity is             south Sudanese. I am not happy at all with the way people are trying to inflame the already fragile relationship between the two tribes.

The politicians can go ahead and share their political positions for all I care.

Juma Mabor Marial is a disappointed citizen of South Sudan Reachable at: [email protected].

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