“People’s Peace”, not “Leaders’ Peace” is desperately needed General Salva Kiir Mayardit for the Christmas Season and New Year
By Deng Kur Deng
Dear President General Salva Kiir Mayadit,
I write to you today as both a supporter of your Presidency, but also, as a concerned citizen of South Sudan. You earned the authority to govern South Sudan because of your uninterrupted sacrifices for your people. You fought for us, and we are very grateful for your service. Your involvement in the Anyanya One and in the mighty SPLM/SPLA is the living evidence of why you deserve your post as the President of South Sudan. Many of us know that you have witnessed war after war in response to injustice from the government in the united Sudan. But as we speak, our country has been wrecked by war, and we do not know who it will benefit when in fact it is only killing our people. However, the South Sudanese concerns remain steadily concentrated on war, which is why I must ask you, General Salva Kiir Mayardit, are you not sick of the war? I will leave this question for you to answer, if you have chance to read this letter. Personally, I will not hesitate to express how I feel about war.
First, I have been a member of the SPLM/SPLA since I was a little boy, so I have been devastated by the war like everybody else. In all honesty, I was already sick of war twenty years ago. I am not the only person who is concerned; in fact, I know for sure that our people are indeed sick and tired of war. All I have ever known, like so many other South Sudanese children and adults alike, has been war after war. I am sick of it. As a person who served through it all, you bore the desperation of our people on your shoulders for peace. After our people fought hard for the independence, many of us thought it was the end of struggle. Unfortunately, now, it is very easy to get mobilized by the politicians/generals who fantasize about war, yet in doing so, we forgot to remind ourselves of what we fought for collectively as South Sudanese people.
Many of us know that you, President Salva, care about the welfare of the people of South Sudan, which is why you fought in both brutal civil wars. Those who have indirectly and directly sparked this current crisis are not interested in the welfare of the people but rather in the blood of the people. They rallied our people behind them, but in the end, they butchered these very people, without fear of any repercussions from the legal system. In fact, the system allowed them to do more damage. That is the true tragedy — that this damage was carried out by our very own people.
All of us in South Sudan seemed to have a common wish: to be safe, to protect ourselves, and to prosper. However, these wishes are just fanciful dreams for many South Sudanese people. Most of us are extremely concerned that children are no longer inspired to attend school amidst the violence in the country — a choice that puts our country’s future at risk. So I am compelled to ask you, General Salva Kiir Mayardit, to bring back Dr. Riek Machar in order to allow the country to stabilize. I understand that reinstating many of the generals is equivalent to inviting more killing, but Mr. President, we have no other choice if we want to avoid another civil war and stem the recent resurgence of violence in South Sudan. Machar’s return may also help address dysfunctional structures in our government, and shift our nation’s focus away from ethnic differences and onto economic growth, education, and health care — institutions that are constantly threatened by violence.
At present, our country is handling the current situation by acting as if people have not been hurt by the crisis, which, sadly, has become the norm in South Sudan. Political greed is not problematized by the average citizen, because fear is rooted so deeply in our people by the ill-informed politicians and military leaders. Given that it is still very hard to distinguish between the rebels and the people who support the government, our people are scared for their lives. This fear reflects the faulty logic employed by those who are currently manipulating people for their own interests.
At some point, when Dr. Riek decided to run for office, I became one of his supporters. However, like many others, I thought Dr. Riek would seek a fair election. When he decided, instead, to take a shortcut, he lost the support of many people who he had recently won over, solely because he took us back to war. He has restored domestic turmoil in our nation, and since many of us do not endorse violence whatsoever, we no longer can singularly support him. His actions have taken away any empowerment whatsoever that children may have developed over the last few peaceful years. The loss of hope among the South Sudanese youth is enough of a reason, in and of itself, to take a stand. It is your obligation as President to restore peace in the country.
Mr. President, this may not be the right time to talk about corruption, but many of your constituents are certain that greed had already infiltrated the political system before the war, and now, the results are before our very eyes. There is no trust between the people, the politicians, and the military leadership (namely the generals), so it is time to restore trust by starting to hold greedy politicians and generals responsible for their actions. If a leader breaks the law for selfish reasons and is, whether directly or indirectly, destabilizing the country, that leader must be handed a punishment that is fitting of the crime — be it anything from a formal reprimand to an execution, whatever is appropriate.
During our country’s first days, I dared to complain about these consistent pains that our people continuously endure, but in our less progressive society, I’m not sure anyone was listening. Even today, I feel like whining to a different person almost every day may not solve our problems in South Sudan, but YOU and many South Sudanese can. So many of your people still believe in you. However, we feel that you must be part of sincere change, and soon, in order to have a positive effect on the rising turmoil.
The people’s lack of trust in their leaders is a frightening signal, especially when many of those people are not supporting either side; regardless of who is in power, our people mistrust all authority figures. As the war drags on, this lack of confidence is becoming even more overwhelmingly ridiculous, given the scale of mass murders of innocent lives. You would think that as casualties only increase, more people would try to support the government’s response to violence, and yet that is not happening. I could be the next of many disenchanted South Sudanese to target to those so call politicians and generals who are known criminals and who bring grief and anguish to the people. But when we only talk about these select few criminals, especially those who regularly appear in the public spotlight, it’s as if we are blaming the majority (of those in power) for the criminal actions of a minority. It is just the odd nature of reality, but many leaders on the ground are ill-informed about the corruption of a few South Sudanese politicians and military personnel. We cannot completely understand a lot of what is going on right now, because the country only recently emerged from civil war, before and during which, many innocent people suffered under the Sudanese government. Now we are back at it, only now, even less-informed politicians and generals are trying to make useless bids for power by killing their own people. They believe that they gain power by outdueling their opponents, but the innocent citizens pay the price for this violence. Without adroit action, we cannot do much on the ground to correct many of the problems facing the country. With that in mind, we the people still feel numbed and confused by the strategies these generals and politicians are utilizing.
Those who are preaching peace are often doing the opposite. Many South Sudanese have only just realized these individuals calling for peace are using the same ideals and methods as those who are killing other South Sudanese people. In such a mess, there is no radiant future for the whole country, only for those who subscribe to the same political and culturally ideology. Politicians and other leaders are tearing down their rivals in gatherings that are intended to be platforms for peaceful discussions. Consequently, these private disagreements have provoked a public outcry, because the country has not reached, what many countries would call, “self-sufficiency” due to constant violence. When leaders preach the language of violence, it only does more damage to people. We remain very confused, torn between what we hear and what we see.
For that very reason, peace is absolutely critical for the revitalization of the country. And for that reason, your citizens are asking you to lead us by securing that peace. We are impressed by how you have thus far handled the crisis in the country, but there is more to be done. Security measures have widely changed in Juba since for number of months, as people reflect on the conditions in the streets, markets, and social areas. Citizens can see these improvements to security, and there is an overall good feeling about Juba. I want to personally extend a special thank you and to those in charge of security in the capital for making Juba a safer place.
However, the distribution of power remains a serious concern. The considerable, often unchecked, internal authority given to leaders is often the very reason why many of the generals are carrying out the worst attacks on their own civilians without any restraint. There is no other powerful body to hold them accountable, which makes the public vulnerable. We the people have delegated you to take ownership of the country’s responsibilities, so we must insist that you raise the bar and hold your deputies accountable. In fact, we are quite disturbed when you let people who speaks on behalf of voiceless suffers. For example, Deng Athuai’s voice embodied importance of the democracy in the country, so protect Deng Athuai. Charles Handy had once said, “Few will thank the leader when things go right, but many will blame the leader if things go wrong”, so many of us are blaming you for something you have little control over. We have stumbled, but we have not fall yet as a country. Life still has a meaning.
On our part, we the people of South Sudan knew that supporting the war from any side would be counterproductive and would eventually turn against us one way or another. Yet we are still filled with anguish for the same reason; we could not comfortably support the war even if we wanted to, because of its self-inflicted components. It is degrading that so many citizens are barred from participating in the development of the country, when we were the ones desperately hoping to change things for better. It has been very hard to ingratiate ourselves with people who are not up for change, but we are persistent with our cherished hopes. Even though war has drained much of the hope from abled bodies, our country desperately needs us — and we, in turn, desperately need you.
Our country is still unorganized, as war has scrambled everything that we fought for. War has wholeheartedly overshadowed the efforts made by the leaders we admire. Our doubts are many, especially since the services our country now offers are not well-aligned with the promises made by our leaders — promises introduced over the course of the civil war. In general, Mr. President, most of us are not asking for a highly precise governmental system at this early stage, when the political structure is not yet stable, but securing and maintaining peace is our ultimate desire. You are capable of recognizing what is unsuitable for South Sudanese people, and therefore you have a responsibility to mobilize people to take appropriate action against anything that threatens the well-being of the South Sudanese people. Mobilize us around PEACE. You may have signed a Cessation of Hostilities (CoH), but it has not materialized because people are not taking it seriously, which defeats the purpose entirely. My point is simple, Mr. President: Please sign a real peace — a PEACE for people, not PEACE for the leaders.
This letter was written by Deng Kur Deng , he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.