Mr President, good statements are not the panacea for a peaceful, secure South Sudan

Posted: October 14, 2016 by PaanLuel Wël in Columnists, Commentary, Contributing Writers, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Mading Gum, Nairobi, Kenya

kiir saved riek machar from death, July 8th

kiir saved riek machar from death, July 8th, 2016, during J-1 fighting

October 14, 2016 (SSB) — After the height of July J1 fighting, a friend invited me to watch a replay of Jeff Koinange exclusive interview with South Sudan President Salva Kiir. I accepted and we sat down to listen to the “man” Koinange thinks “holds the future”.  Not until Mr President predicted doom and disaster if he left power, I concluded the future lies elsewhere.

South Sudan people struggle for independence was not merely anchored on the opposition to the Khartoum based oppressive regimes but on what they aspired. South Sudanese still today aspire for freedom, justice, and equality. Unfortunately, these aspirations have been flooded by power struggle, corruption, tribalism and inequality.

Admittedly, Mr President press conference on 12th October 2016 was encouraging. Although it was primarily aimed at dispelling his death rumour, he tried to calm the growing ethnic tension in the country. The atmosphere created is commendable. However, calling for calm and forgiveness is not enough to root out targeted killings and decentralized violence.

What people need is confronting and addressing the root causes of the crisis.  It is what will necessarily lead to truth, justice and reconciliation which are the hallmarks of national healing. It is not time for liturgical prayers of promises and good intentions. The nationalist must take substantive action.

Kiir the Nationalist

Throughout South Sudan liberation war, Kiir stood out among his comrades. He was honest, precise and patience. In an outburst reminiscent of a chaotic football team in 2004, Kiir challenged his boss to state whether they were national leaders or not: “If we are National Leaders, which I don’t believe we are because we have no cohesion within our leadership structure, let us be sincere with ourselves”.  Kiir’s fury was sparked by his weakened position, nepotism, corruption and mistrust in the movement. The difference today is that he has no boss to blame.

12 years after the Rumbek Conference, Kiir found himself transformed from a fiery revolutionary to a conservative opportunist. “We fought for freedom, justice and equality. Yet, once we got to power, we forgot what we fought for and began to enrich ourselves at the expense of our people” Kiir lamented in a letter to his most corrupt officials in 2012.

At that point Kiir and his Garang orphans encounter in politics became clear to South Sudanese. The South Sudan “project is dead”! Declared a former colleague at the University of Juba; liberation movement “politics is simply based on tribe, impunity and mediocracy”. Gone are the illusions of just, stable, democratic and prosperous South Sudan SPLM had been preaching. Power, wealth, and tribalism have eaten the nation.

Advocating Forgiveness

Several analysts regard President Kiir call for calm and forgiveness timely and well placed. Right! At the wake of recent targeted killing of Dinka civilians, including children, women and elderly, ethnic animosity has been heightened. Against this background, the call for calm was timely but why is forgiveness not the right term?

As things stand, issue-based politics is unsellable currency in the country. South Sudanese, based on past experiences, are yet to abandon organizing politics around ethnic communities.  Two weeks ago, I chatted with a long-time friend from the current Jubek State and he made two insightful observations: first that many ethnic communities in Equatoria loathe Kiir government not because their sons and daughters are not in the system but that they do not articulate issues they hold dear.

Secondly, the local people unwillingness to cooperate with the security sector to apprehend the highways attackers is due to perceived ethnicization of the security sector. Much to ponder!

At that point I knew litany of promises and good statements are not the solution to heal a divided South Sudan. The violence in the country is comprised of different forms and motivations. The wave of violence happening along Equatoria highways are a manifestation of unresolved issues the nation has failed to resolve. I am  inclined to ask the same question John Luk Jok asked 12 years ago in Rumbek: “Why is the leadership avoiding South-South dialogue? “.

Long standing issues, for instance, nature of the institutions of governance, human rights violations, resource distribution, injustices and ethnic animosity must be addressed to avoid further violence. As Prof Dani Abudere stated, “the poor need justice; others need law”. True, the poor existence can only be guaranteed if there is justice while the others need law to settle their disputes.

And true, the future lies in comprehensive institutional and policy reforms not ethnic co-optation. It means implementing the substantive aspects of the peace agreement. That is the way out of the current political crisis.  Good statements are past their sell-by date.

You can reach the author via his email: madinggum@gmail.com

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 paanluel2011@gmail.com. SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing.

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