September 22, 2014 (SSNA) — Right now South Sudan is going through a situation of uncertainty that many must be wondering what may become of it in the next coming years. Depending on the level of pessimism others may conclude that South Sudan is already a failed state and on its way to the dustbin of history. However, it should be understood that the people of South Sudan are resilient and optimistic, and their optimism had sustained their protracted liberation struggle for fifty years (1955 – 2005) for freedom and independence. There is therefore no room for despair but to explore consistently every avenue in search of a lasting peace in South Sudan.
Without peace there is no way to create cohesion for sustainable national unity. South Sudan may ultimately disintegrate in the absence of an urgent peace. However, this will be unfortunate for the people of South Sudan who had struggled and suffered so much for their call for equality, justice and prosperity in what was then known as Old Sudan.
Basics of liberation struggle
A liberation struggle is not waged for fun simply to lose dear lives and property for nothing. It should instead be waged for a basic and fundamental call for equality, justice and prosperity. A clear example of this was when South Sudan called for equality with North Sudan in the Old Sudan in the arrangement for independence from British colonial rule. As a blatant oppression of South Sudan, North Sudan made it a point to have all the senior positions in the South to be occupied by northerners. When the southern demand for a federal system was rejected by the North there was a bitter disappointment and widespread discontent in the South. This was the genesis of a protracted liberation struggle against inequality and injustice perpetuated by the North. It was obvious for the people of South Sudan that they would have to make expensive sacrifices for ultimate independence.
As people of one destiny South Sudanese fought and died together in trenches for freedom as comrades and people of one diversified and colorful family, South Sudan. This spirit clearly made people of South Sudan what they are today, people of an independent country of their own. Prior to independence this spirit of togetherness was manifested when Dr Lam Akol and Dr Riek Machar rejoined Dr John Garang for that great and historic achievement of the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) of 2005 that restored relative peace to South Sudan and made the Old Sudan never to be the same again. It was not clear whether without the unity among Dr Lam Akol, Dr Riek Machar and Dr John Garang there would have been any CPA that would have brought independence to South Sudan.
Era of relative peace
In the beginning of the CPA the people of South Sudan became euphoric. The CPA was seen as bringing conditions of paradise on earth in South Sudan. The rampant insecurity experienced during the northern colonial rule was to become a thing of the past. Indeed the beginning of the CPA showed signs of relative peace. This, however, was short-lived as conditions began to deteriorate as though the post CPA government was not prepared for governance. Poor governance characterized this era. However, President Salva Kiir Mayardit asserted in no uncertain terms that unity was not made attractive and threatened that crossing the referendum date was a redline. This is a shining legacy of Salva Kiir Mayardit which he should not squander for unwarranted petty leadership quarrels that have unfortunately turned violent.
The sheer determination for independence made people to deliberately turn a blind eye to many shortcomings of the post CPA government. Given the history of long wars of liberation, poor infrastructure, limited capacity for governance and weak state institutions, peace could have been short-lived. Nevertheless, the CPA era was considered as a preparation for independence. Rocking the boat was not an option in the face of mounting insecurity, corruption, nepotism, land grabbing and arrogance.
Also, it was not uncommon to hear some simple-minded claiming they were the only instrumental in liberating the people of South Sudan from the yolk of the North. The so-called loud mouth liberators must have actually liberated themselves from poverty because theft seems to be their trademark. Land grabbing as part of theft was on the rise with the government absolutely doing nothing, a sure license for rampant land grabbing.
Land grabbers who were identified as soldiers used guns to impose their criminal act of land grabbing with the government turning a blind eye, contrary to the government’s claim that no one was above the law. It was very difficult to understand why was there such an outrageous indiscipline among soldiers who illegally occupied people’s plots of land when there was commander-in-chief, minister of defense and general chief-of-staff who were all supposed to be in full control of their soldiers in the effort to promote army-civilian cordial relations for national unity. It should be clear to those concerned that land grabbing won’t sustain national unity.
Independence of South Sudan
If anyone in the world doubts the unity of the people of South Sudan as people of one destiny they should think again and better look at the results of the referendum for independence. The results were 98.43 per cent Yes for independence and 1.57 per cent No for Unity of Old Sudan. This also confirmed that there were no people as instrumental liberators for the 98.43 per cent of people who voted in the referendum liberated the South.
Arguably the people of South Sudan did not vote overwhelmingly for independence as one people but as people of one destiny. Those who think and talk of the people of South Sudan as one people are grossly misleading others. The people of South Sudan fought for freedom as people of one destiny against oppression because this was the common denominator. After the CPA and independence there was little cohesion among the people as cracks began to appear.
The euphoria after the referendum and independence gave way to bitter disappointment as the people wanted their government to deliver security and basic services as the anticipated peace dividends. Despite the initial euphoria claims of corruption, nepotism, exclusion, and domination of government and business by some ethnic groups seemed to have eroded people’s enthusiasm in the government. Above all the security of individual and property was and is of major concern. This has been the most important expected peace dividend. People have been disappointed with poor delivery of security. The government therefore has a lot to improve security.
Incident of 15 December 2013
The incident of 15 December 2013 should not have taken place if people had strictly adhered to the vision and mission of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
According to the SPLM Manifesto 2012, Comrade Salva Kiir Mayardit, the Chairman of SPLM, in his letter addressed to citizens of South Sudan said in part that, “Although South Sudan became a sovereign state on 9 July 2011, we still have much work to do to liberate our citizens from the ravages of poverty, lack of basic services like health care, education systems, and infrastructure and food security. A new nation comes with new challenges. We must face those challenges with innovative solutions and a bold approach. We have no interest in repeating the mistakes of the rest of the world – indeed, we will learn from them”.
The above is an indication of no to war. For the vision of the SPLM it is to build an inclusive secular democratic developmental state, to spearhead rapid human and sustainable economic development and environmental green economy.
The mission of the SPLM is to construct a knowledge economy in South Sudan and to build a nation and a society inspired by peace, freedom, justice, unity, prosperity and progress.
With the vision and mission of the SPLM as shown above, how on earth couldn’t have the incident of 15 December 2013 been avoided. One thing might be certain. It was uncontrolled greed for leadership, power and hegemony, something contrary to the vision and mission of the SPLM. The incident of 15 December 2013 risks tearing up the country with Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazal poles apart, and Equatoria concentrating on peace and development as part of its well known characteristics.
Search for peace in South Sudan
There is no military solution in sight in response to the ongoing senseless war of destruction. People must be wasting their valuable time if they think a military solution is imminent. It is only unfortunate that events have turned ethnic as the vicious struggle for power between the Jieng and the Naagat ethnic groups seems to suggest, with tribal militias being employed with devastating effect. The vision and mission of the SPLM seem to have been thrown out contemptuously through the window.
The search for peace in South Sudan should be a national agenda but not restricted to those in government and opposition or to the Jieng and the Naagat as the only dominant participants. There are people who do not subscribe to such a senseless war of annihilation and destruction simply to maintain the status quo of either the Jieng or the Naagat domination.
Part of the mission of the SPLM says, “The SPLM will ensure democracy under the rule of law and good governance, to safeguard fundamental human, economic, social, cultural and religious rights and freedoms”. The question is how does this senseless war in conformity with this part of the mission of the SPLM?
It is clear that people may need to rise above personal interest for the overall prosperity and unity of the country.
It is not yet too late that South Sudan has reached a point of no return but only to disintegrate into three independent states of Upper Nile, Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria as in the former Soviet Union or in the Balkans. As the people of South Sudan had endured decades of destruction, the 9-month senseless war is nothing but a warning for the people to double their efforts in search of an urgent and lasting peace to save the country from utter destruction. It is possible that the country, led by an Equatorian may save the situation.
President Salva Kiir Mayardit and Dr Riek Machar have a legacy of being freedom fighters for the dignity of the people of South Sudan. Both had put their lives online to bring us to where we are today. It is therefore important that the two should think carefully.
In conclusion, to simply throw away the shining legacy of a freedom fighter that restored the dignity of the marginalized and oppressed poor of South Sudan is something that somebody should really think seriously about it. People are looking at the two leaders for their humanity, irrespective of their individual ambitions, to save the country from complete destruction.
Jacob K. Lupai is the author of a new book, South Sudan, Issues in Perspective, which will shortly be launched in Juba, South Sudan.