Unity or Disunity: Which Path is South Sudan on?

Photo: AFP

By Riang Y. Z. Nyak

April 9, 2017 (SSNA) — In its Issue of April 1-7, 2017, The East African published an opinion piece penned by Charles Onyango-Obbo. The title of the piece was If Kiir wears dark glasses indoors, the end is nigh. The opinion of the author expressed in this piece was partly informed by a report published two weeks previously by the same newspaper, The East African, under the title: Five-year-old South Sudan coming apart as inter-ethnic divisions worsen. Mr. Onyango-Obbo quoted from that report, and the quote went like this: “’With more than 10 militia groups, observers say that the country—which is only five years old—could be divided into the three regions that formed the South under the larger Sudan: Equatoria, Upper Nile and Bahr-el-Ghazal,”’…

In addition to the report mentioned above, it appeared that the author also relied on his observation of Salva’s physical appearance and body language in a photograph taken at the recent IGAD summit in Nairobi, plus his general knowledge from a variety of other sources. I must admit that Mr. Onyango-Obbo, in his assessment of Salva’s appearance and body language in the photograph, made a number of correct observations. These include that the man was just sitting there without a sense of the occasion (a known fact about Salva who goes to these occasions without the slightest understanding of the issues on the table), that his appearance in his hat with dark glasses on indoor “…speaks to his inability to see the small things that make a big difference”, that his hat “…has become a mask behind which he hides, refusing to submit to transparency”, and that instead of working with Dr. Riek Machar in the government of national unity, “He tried to finish him off…” by trying to assassinate him in July 2016.

However, Onyango-Obbo was wrong on three conclusions that he made. Two of these wrong conclusions demand that a serious correction is provided. It has been the practice of foreign governments and organizations, in the region and beyond, since December 2013 to intentionally misinform the world about what has been happening in South Sudan. The IGAD countries, the TROIKA countries, and the UN have been campaigning very hard to save Salva and his genocidal regime in Juba by covering up his atrocities—including ones that he has committed against American citizens and international humanitarian aid workers. They have refused to see the war as a national revolutionary war of resistance between the masses and a brutal dictatorship. Instead, they want to present it as a war that is basically ethnic. At the same time, the very Salva and his genocidal regime have been embarrassing their saviors by openly committing acts that have shocked the conscience of reasonable men and women. When embarrassed by these acts, the IGAD countries, the TROIKA countries, the UN and some other international NGOs would come out to condemn both parties for the acts obviously committed by one party to the war—the regime of Salva.

Recently, the same countries and organizations have started talking about a possible disintegration of the country into a number of independent states, a looming genocide (still denying that genocide has been, and is still being, committed since December 2013), parties restricting delivery of the needed humanitarian aid to the famine-stricken areas, making these dishonest and outlandish statements that the opposition must renounce violence when it is their very own Salva and his regime that have been militarily on the offensive throughout the country since July 2016, and that they stand with the people of South Sudan when they are clearly standing with the anti-people regime in Juba.

It is these kinds of misinformation that some of the citizens in those IGAD countries, TROIKA countries, and blind believers of the UN and some other NGOs have been comfortable taking from their non-transparent governments without double-checking from other sources (the reports themselves from which their governments read, pick and choose what information to make public) that may provide honest and impartial presentation of the real situation on the ground. It is a sad reality facing the people of South Sudan.

Taking from non-transparent sources such as the above, Mr. Onyango-Obbo had this to say conclusively: “With the continuing mass murder, ethnic cleansing, rape, pillage, and economic destruction, only the most irrationally optimistic, the believers in miracles, and the deluded still think there is a future for a united South Sudan.” Is this really a reasonable and justifiable conclusion? It can never be justified on the account of the evidence that he has presented as shown in his statement quoted above. We all have heard about the Rwanda genocide committed in 1994 by the Hutus against their Tutsi counterparts; that did not lead to the disintegration of that country. We have all heard about LRA’s mass murder, rape, pillage, mass displacement and economic destruction in northern Uganda; this has not led to the disintegration of that country. We all have heard about the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya that was ethnically motivated; but that, too, did not lead to the disintegration of that country. We have all heard about sectarian violence in the Central African Republic; this has not led to the disintegration of that country. We have all heard about the pillage, rape, mass murder, child recruitment into the armies and economic destruction in DRC; but this has not led to the disintegration of that country. We have all heard about ethnically motivated killings, rape, pillage, ethnic cleansing and economic destruction in Darfur; but these have not led to the disintegration of the Sudan. With all of these similar things having taken place in other countries within the same neighborhood as South Sudan is, and no disintegration has resulted in each case, why would the Kenyan conclude that “there is no future for a united South Sudan” for commission of similar acts as were committed in those other united countries in the region? This is simply a defenseless and unjustifiable assertion.

As for the report that Onyango-Obbo seemed to have heavily depended upon, the conclusion for a possible disintegration of the country is similarly unjustified observation. The fact that there are many opposition groups does not justify a conclusion that the country is heading for disintegration. After all, the number of the groups is disputable. Nevertheless, the groups that are known and have come out publicly have made their goals known. Only one group, National Democratic Movement, based outside the country has called for—among other things—confederacy. The rest, whether inside or outside of the country, are for the removal of the regime in Juba so as to be able to establish a pro-people system in a democratic united prosperous and harmonious South Sudan. That there are Bahr al-Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile as regions forming the republic of South Sudan is not a reason for separation. The people of South Sudan know that they are stronger in unity than they would be if divided. They know that their unity is a source of their future economic strength; they know that their unity is a source of their geopolitical strength, and they know that their unity is a source of their security within the region and beyond. Therefore, no one—in the region and beyond—should think that he or she can see the future of South Sudan better than the South Sudanese themselves. Otherwise, the people of South Sudan will see foreigners as trying to justify their interference in the internal affairs of the country in favor of dictatorship as an exercise to save the country from disintegrating.

The second outlandish and erroneous conclusion that Onyango-Obbo made was that “President Salva Kiir and his hardline henchmen, and rival Riek Machar’s camp are both to blame.” What are both “President Salva Kiir and his hardline henchmen, and rival Riek Machar’s camp” to blame for?

The answer to the above question must be “…the continuing mass murder, ethnic cleansing, rape, pillage, and economic destruction…” To this list, Onyango-Obbo should have added the destruction of villages, forced disappearances, kidnapping of refugees from Nairobi to Juba, using food as a weapon of war, commission of genocide, and so on and so on. The question is: what are the various reports saying about each of these acts committed? Clearly, all the various reports since December 2013 point fingers at “President Salva Kiir and his hardline henchmen” as the perpetrators. For reasons only best known to them, the governments in the region, TROIKA countries, and the UN condemn both parties for these unfortunate phenomena. This is where the taxpayers in these countries, especially in the TROIKA countries, should come in. They should read the reports and get the messages themselves as opposed to having to hear what their respective governments say about them. I am singling out the citizens of the TROIKA countries in this case because they have a better chance to influence the decisions of their governments, as opposed to the citizens of the IGAD countries where governments are actions are questioned at one’s own peril. It is after this that the citizens could be able to see that their governments are actually using their tax money in support of a regime that has been committing crimes against humanity, genocide, ethnic cleansing, rape, war crimes, human rights abuses, and so on and so forth.

From the preceding remarks, it can be seen that disintegration cannot be justified by having multiple opposition organizations, nor can it be asserted on the account that atrocities have been committed. It is the attitude of the majority of the people of South Sudan towards their oneness that counts. What a criminal minority does and wishes is inconsequential. Salva and members of his elite class have failed to lead the country and have been trying to cover up their failure using a brutal dictatorship. This dictatorship has been anchored in a sectarian politics in which Salva divides the people based on regions and tribes. The people from his region and the people from his tribe have rejected and joined up with other South Sudanese from other regions and tribes to fight against Salva’s leadership failure, dictatorship, tribalism, and regionalism. They are fighting for democracy in a united prosperous South Sudan.

With the above-stated reality, one does not need to be a “believer in miracles” to think that there is a future for the unity of the people of South Sudan. It is only the most irrationally pessimistic and the deluded that “thinks that there is no future for a united South Sudan.” Therefore, the rationally optimistic South Sudanese know clearly that their country is on the path of unity.

The author is a South Sudanese. He can be reached at [email protected].

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