CASS’s open letter to Jieng Council of Elders: “The Unity of South Sudan is at Stake”

Press release
February 20, 2016
February 21, 2016 (SSNA) — We, the members of the Coalition of Advocates for South Sudan (CASS) in the Diaspora and in South Sudan are hereby writing an open letter to the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) conveying our grave concern regarding the current state of affairs in our beloved country of South Sudan.

According to members of the Jieng community, the JCE is an unelected, self-appointed, self-interest group headed by former politicians of Sudan’s Nimeiry and Bashir regimes who do not represent and/or speak on behalf of the entire Jieng community at large.  Sadly, some prominent members of the group were steadfast opponents of the referendum and independence of South Sudan, while dining with our enemy, President al-Bashir of Sudan, during our struggle. Although this group billed themselves as an independent community based organization, its activities and meddling in the national affairs of the country are detrimental to national unity and nation building.

Our country and its people have endured 24 months of a brutal, gruesome and senseless civil war. Hundreds of thousands of lives are lost and millions are displaced and living as refugees in neighboring countries. After concerted efforts by IGAD and the international community, a Compromise Peace Agreement was signed in August 2015, calling for the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity based on 10 states. The signing of the peace agreement was exuberantly received by the people of South Sudan, providing a sense of hope for stability, and a return to normalcy and peace.  Unfortunately, it was a short-lived celebration because the JCE, with the backing of some military generals, immediately rejected the signed peace agreement as "an imposed peace agreement."  Additionally, to create a stalemate in the implementation of the peace agreement, the JCE hastily advised the President to unilaterally divide the country into an additional 18 states, totaling 28 states.  The newly created states are ethnically based with the potential to ignite a tribal war.  The JCE recklessly continue to give ultimatums, threatening the very peace our people have yearned for.  Because of the JCE’s negative rhetoric and misguided advice to the President, leading to national decisions that threaten the unity of South Sudan, the JCE are perceived as contributors to disunity and disintegration of South Sudan along tribal lines.

Contrary to the division of the country into tribal enclaves disguised as the "popular demand of 28 states" orchestrated by JCE policy, South Sudanese people are known as hospitable, united, and living side-by-side regardless of their tribal and cultural differences.  For example, during our liberation struggle, we fought our common enemy as one people, NOT as separate tribes.  It’s also known in our culture as South Sudanese that elders are accorded leadership roles if they demonstrate a sense of responsibility while advocating, through dialogue, for unity, peace, love and harmony within the community.  Unfortunately, the JCE has demonstrated the opposite character and intentions. 

We, as an umbrella organization of South Sudanese communities and friends of South Sudan at large detest and are appalled by the activities and the entitlement behavior exhibited by the JCE in order to disenfranchise the other tribes and to take the country hostage.  JCE activities and behaviors are putting the entire Jieng community at risk with other tribes in South Sudan.  For example, today in South Sudan many innocent Dinka are living in fear of retribution because of JCE meddling in the national affairs of the country as policy drivers that negatively affect other communities in South Sudan.    

According to news reports:  The JCE has proven itself detractors of peace and unity in South Sudan by issuing threats from its leader that he “will fight to the last Dinka man if Dr. Riek has to return to Juba.” 

Recently, a prominent member stated, “I will leave South Sudan if the 28 states are revoked and I will go back to Khartoum and fight for a united Sudan.”  This quote is from an elder who was dispatched around the world to rally the Dinka against the other tribes of South Sudan, saying  the “Jieng liberated South Sudan, so we deserve to be the rulers.”  These are just a few reportedexamples of what the JCEapparently believes and will try to execute if left unchallenged. 

Given the fragility of the current peace agreement and in the interest of the suffering, ordinary citizens of South Sudan, we strongly urge the JCE to desist from advocating policies that threaten the unity of the people of South Sudan and the spirit of nation building.  Above all, with the current positive trend towards formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity and the anticipated return of Dr. Riek to Juba, we call upon the JCE and their supporters to give peace a chance.

Bill Andress
Corresponding Secretary
IGAD Chairperson
Africa Union Chairman
Sudan Special Envoy
UN Security Africa Affairs; US State Department
South Council Chairperson
The Coalition of Advocates for South Sudan is dedicated to advocacy that is directly informed by the situation on the ground and by South Sudanese people who urgently seek a just and lasting peace.  The organization was founded by and is managed by South Sudanese natives in North America.  At present we represent 35 South Sudanese groups in North America and many individuals.
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