The Tragic Story of South Sudan’s Security Dilemma

Posted: September 29, 2016 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Columnists, Featured Articles, Mayen Ayarbior, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By David Mayen Ayarbior, Juba, South Sudan

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September 29, 2016 (SSB) —- The Chinese proverb which states that a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step is found, translated and paraphrased in almost all other human societies. James Baldwin, a prominent African American civil rights writer once wrote that we must know where we are coming from in order to know where we are going. John Garang used that wisdom in his diagnoses of “the problem of Sudan.” The same idiom also featured in an ever present confession that “we lost track” whenever mountaineers try to get their way either up to the top or back to base.

Physicians (medical doctors) examine the physical state of patients before prescribing medication. Social scientists (historians, lawyers, sociologists, anthropologists, philosophers, psychologists, etc.) examine dynamics and trends in social phenomena prior to proposing positive paths forward. Thus, recent medical and social histories of patients and beleaguered societies (countries) are vital in both fields.

The general idea here is that conflicts are linked to their roots from which they ought not to be detached, lest we lose track of the way forward. Some societies make the mistake of assigning improper roots to their conflicts thereby fail to find sustainable solutions to their persistence. For example, a few of learned colleagues would want to attribute the current selfish  nonsensical deadly political bickering back to historical clan-centered wars between the Jieng (Dinka) and Naath (Nuer), rather than pinpointing the real issues related to personal ambition and political contestation in the country. It is not the tribes, which are God’s creation, it is individual political leaders who use tribes as their political firewood.

Even though some people might rightly want to go further back in history (to 2005 or even 1983) to diagnose the root cause of the current (particular) civil war, the country’s specific ailment quickly started in 2013 as a mixture of genuine soul searching and brinkmanship (dangerous politicking) within a glorious political party. It started as a schism among SPLM leaders who without any shred of a doubt had all consistently been patriotic and honorable as they competently stood with DR. John to steer OUR historic revolution forward. A revolution that started against Roman invasions many centuries ago (or so should we say in 1983!?).

The soul searching part related to a confession that SPLM should have economically performed far much better than it had done from 2005 to 2013, given the windfalls from national petroleum and other international sources. The myopic brinkmanship part, which is mainly responsible for all evils that followed, was mixing that confession with mutual finger pointing, acrimony, and oblivion over consequences. Overnight, yesterday’s comrades became bitter enemies who fiercely stared in their own eyes and into the abyss. The adage that “a revolution eats its own children” started showing its ugly head in a post-conflict setting in a tribally diverse and extremely militarized newly independent country.

The streets became tense. Warning trumpets could be heard all over the country as citizens, analysts, prominent church leaders, and foreign friends tried in vain to put breaks and reverse gears on SPLM’s runaway train.  Threats and counter threats controlled political discourse between the three distinct SPLM factions. A joint press conference by IOs and FDs was followed by a counter press conference by the government (IGs). The stage was set, the abyss clearly dug, and roles distributed before the second day of a NLC (National Liberation Council) meeting was concluded with gunshots marking a start of one of the most destructive civil wars in Africa.

Afterwards, wanton destruction and disparaging fighting was halted by a peace agreement and a ‘national unity’ government. But the Pandora’s Box of small arms proliferation and banditry was crushed open, creating a bigger security dilemma for the country. A dilemma which has puzzled not only fleeing citizens, but also neighbors who had hoped to trade with the country and benefit from its multiple sources of wealth creation, but instead have had to only grapple with managing more refugees.

Even though there are now three SPLM factions in TGoNU, two politico-militaristic and another purely political, the most political savvy of citizens cannot give an accurate figure of how many other smaller associates but largely ‘independent’ rebel groupings exist today, let alone those that are more than likely to form , especially in Equatoria, if this chaos continues.

People only add to their list of quickly decorated bandits whenever another desperate 32 year old semi-literate self-ranked “Brigadier General” emerges from a certain mountain somewhere in Equatoria or a lagoon in Bahar Al-Gazal or Upper Nile. He (bandit) quickly asks for a senior political position as a reward for his purported show of leadership, wisdom and patriotism. Granted! A new list of five hundred senior officers commanding one hundred privates is added to the unknown SPLA parade, and the count goes on. This has become an economically lucrative short cut for getting high ranks around the international standard of rigorous military science in the colleague where officers get ‘educated’ before being commissioned.

There are genuine fears that in absence of a clear parade, a planned cantonment zones for rebel forces may turn into magnetic fields for disgruntled youth from almost all tribes in South Sudan who are looking for gainful employment in addition to standing for some great ideals that would give meaning to their lives – such as revolutionary change. Economic collapse, genuine anti-Juba (misnamed as anti-Jieng, who are also victims of gross underdevelopment) sentiments may combine to make IO’s cantonments into training camps for new recruits, especially in Greater Equatoria, Upper Nile, and Western Bahr Al-Ghazal, leading to further militarization of the country.

On the humanitarian side, the current defections and counter defections have resulted into hundreds of thousands of innocent lives being on a constant run for their lives or ‘caught in crossfire’. Refugee, IDP, and PoC camps continue to swell as numbers of desperate women, children and elderly persons are seeking hideouts and safety from indiscriminate violence by rogue elements in both camps and criminals who have used the chaos to their advantage.

Call for Military Intervention:

As the last serious battles in Juba looked like ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ in the sense that it has exacerbated an already existing humanitarian disaster, it prompted a call for foreign military intervention from IGA, AU, UNSC, and individual countries. They were informed by the undeniable reality that since ‘hell broke loose’ in 2013, South Sudan continued to bleed and will surely collapse if not rescued through injecting an international and regional capacity into the search for stability. It has become an international humanitarian disaster in a very short time, with which the country and its leaders of all factions can no longer cope.

To that effect, a U.S. draft proposal of 4,000 soldiers from East Africa was unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council, together with warning of arms embargo if the country failed to implement the new deal. Juba promptly rejected it as a regime change scheme as it prefers and ‘African solution,’ then dramatically changed its mind to accept it “in principle.”

Between the government’s endeavor to govern, IO’s/FD’s loss of confidence in Juba, and new rebellions in Equatoria lie the vastest majority of the people. They (people) are losing hope over the future of their children in South Sudan as they just wish for a better tomorrow when guns are silenced. They wish to see roads, railways, hydropower dams, and hospitals.  The people just want a safe country, which is increasingly becoming a synonym to asking for too much and hoping for the impossible.

The writer is a Lawyer, Political Economist, and International Security specialist. He is the author of: House of War (Civil War and State Failure in Africa). He can be reached at

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made are the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing.

  1. Gatwich S. says:

    You hit the nail on the head brother Mayen. This is indeed what has become of our beloved country south sudan. we have lost it to incompetence and appeasement. Let us just pray God will intervene. Amen


  2. Deng Ajak says:

    Very creditable and emotional article indeed Mayen, I hope all ears can hear and listen to it, leaders have already been born. But Hippo scenario is in play. We the citizens are really to be ashamed for we wear born, grow and died as refugee. Sad fact indeed. Militarisation is the point you hit it @ rate of 1000%, democracy call always fall to the deaf ear. Thanks, thank you, I can’t wait to read your next article again.


  3. dengdit1 says:

    Indeed, you have said it all, Good analysis, I truly emphasized. thanks


  4. dengdit1 says:

    Indeed, you have said it all, I truly emphasized. thanks


  5. kurwelkur says:

    A well-written, well-balanced and thoughtful article; thanks, brother for your time you took to write this article.


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