Consolidating Unity and Lasting Peace in an Ethnically Divided South Sudan
By Tong Kot Kuocnin, Nairobi, Kenya
January 7, 2017 (SSB) — Faced with the challenges of a nation’s building and preserving and consolidating peace and unity in an ethnically divided south Sudan, it is now high time to initiate an equal quest for a national identity. What has to be promoted is an orientation from the freedom of indifference where almost everybody feels excluded from the stakes of his/her own nation to a freedom of involvement where each and every one of us plays role in reshaping the chattered away and loss of ownership and nationalistic tendency in the hearts and minds of the people from various communities in south Sudan. This demands the harmonization of rights and duties of all.
So far, however, the argument which had vividly overwhelmed and flooded the minds of everybody in south Sudan is the idea that the conflict which has almost engulfs the nation is a conflict between Dinka(s) and Nuer(s) where some other people who are even stakeholders in the governance of the country since day one are reluctant and paid no attention at all. Our responsibility in preserving our unity and peace is a collective issue to be addressed by all and not the only two tribes which are sentimentally at loggerheads on the common property of everybody in south Sudan. South Sudan doesn’t belong to the Dinka and Nuers alone. It’s belongs to all its inhabitants i.e. all the tribes in south Sudan including the aforementioned tribes.
The responsibility to shape the future of this nation lies at the shoulders of all irrespective of which ever tribe one hails or comes from. In the concern to protect, preserve, maintains and keep our unity and peace shinning, and in order to shape our destiny rightly across generations to come, it is incumbent upon us to work collectively and in good faith that south Sudan commonly belongs to us and not ME as an individual or us as Dinka(s) and Nuer(s) or other tribes who feels so distant apart as manifested by the nature of the war currently enraging on in our country. It is in this context that we may succeed in keeping our unity and peace alive.
In order to have a united, peaceful and stable south Sudan, it is however quite necessary and even more crucial to orient our thinking beyond the doctrine of tribal lines and commit ourselves to working together for a brighter south Sudan where each and every one of us lives in peace and in unity with one another. In harmony and love with one another. In reflecting on the consequences of the current conflict, the disunity it has caused, hatred, segregation, nepotism and tribalised mindset and many other ways of doing things in south Sudan have shown to us is quite detrimental and hurtful.
The motto of any good citizen doesn’t only include how to obey punctually, but also to censure their freedom. No unity and peace between the communities without dialogue in a divided society where each one sees another as an enemy instead of brothers and sisters. According to one of the renowned scholars, William Johnson, the real issue in the society is co-existence. How is the planet to be shared by people who take different view of human origins and human destiny; and how those differences can be made fruitful, not destructive?
Therefore, in this context, the confrontations between the communities cannot be shrugged off. It exists. Our main focus must be on how to forge and preserve both unity and peace among our communities in south Sudan in the context of which response to the demands for peace and unity should be thoroughly considered because the persistence of poverty within the opulence of a minority in a country marked by great neglect of humanity is a typical scandal, one of the serious situations that hinder the realization of one’s humanity, hence curtailing the quest for peace and unity of the people. The current conflict reveals more tangibly the grudges that exist so far among the communities in our country.
It is however one thing to understand the problems that motivated self consciousness among certain communities and it is quite another to have the will to merge together those conflicting and diverging views of those communities especially if those demands restraint and hence no commitment to uphold them. This conflict is a litmus test to the capability and competency of the leadership of south Sudan and its people. Our country is now so much divided on ethnic lines. The leadership must rise up and devise mechanisms to salvage the unity of the people and preserve peace, cohesion and love among all south Sudanese.
Our country is slivering at the verge of collapse due to grudges that have filled almost everyone’s heart in south Sudan. This is a challenge to our leadership where there seems to exist a prevalent tendency of using violence in appealing for community consideration in south Sudan which is a cynical pole that needed to be avoided at all costs. Our peaceful co-existence is our common good and our future too because any political difference between Salva Kiir and Riek Machar shouldn’t be misconstrued as the problem between the Dinka(s) and the Nuer(s) meanwhile difference between Igga and Pagan shouldn’t be construed as the problem between the Shilluks and the Bari.
This must be treated as a difference between the two individuals and not the communities where they hails from, because each one of them is not the community. Let’s learn how to know the meanings of the terms and treat issues differently as they are. It is incumbent upon us to accept the realities of the appalling situation and finds durable solutions to evade other conflicts of this sort from occurring in the future.
We all know that nobody wants to live in constant fear and nobody likes to get kill or hurt or let his/her properties destroyed and that’s why it’s very important for all of us to rise and commit ourselves and face this challenge. It is a challenge that’s very much expensive to get and maintain but we must be optimistic that it will be achieved and met in the due course.
Advocating for Justice and the Quest for Lasting Peace: A Critical Discourse on the Status of Human Rights in South Sudan
International human rights declarations have been an instrument of social and political mobilization. These declarations have contributed much as means to facilitating and legitimizing claims by the people struggling for justice and peace against repression and oppression. This dimension has promoted the fighting spirit within the people who feels repressed and oppressed throughout Africa as a whole and in South Sudan in particular resulting to its breaking away. But such spirit and good intentions have been severely abused by those politicians who wanted to cling to power at the expense of the vulnerable people in the make-up of the current communities in south Sudan where there is a pressing need to take into accounts a dichotomy between officials taking law into their own hands and the actual observance of both justice and peace in practice.
Of course the international declarations of human rights are usually lofty documents full of noble sentiments but just because of this elevated tone, they may sometimes carry ambiguities that minimized and undermined their intents to which they are initialed to serve. The discrepancy between the theory and practice calls for an effective and proper tried means of advocating for justice and peace in south Sudan. There is a debatable link between promotion of human rights, justice and peace in the country but here can be no genuine peace in south Sudan if human rights are not respected and persons are shamelessly dehumanized. Peace and law are mutually cause and result; where peace promotes human rights and human rights in turn promote peace in modern societies. Law is just a facilitator for the achievement of peace.
Legal processes are basic, but also the common responsibility of the whole society not just the law enforcement agencies alone. Justice and peace can also be a source of violence if there is no good-will in adhering to the ethics of human rights and the common good of the people. There is always an element of tension between the option to establish justice and peace, and human rights in a society so fragile and war tone like south Sudan. Archbishop Desmond Tutu sometimes argued that “Nothing not even the most sophisticated weapon not even the most brutally efficient police, no, just nothing will stop people once they are determined to achieve their freedom and right to humanness”. Searching for freedom, where human rights have been violated, can lead to protest and a fighting spirit.
It can also lead to a revolution- the overthrow of an established order, which involves the transfer of state power from one leadership to another and may involve a radical restructuring of social and economic relations. This was the case of south Sudanese when they felt that they were not stakeholders in the governance of their own country, oppressed and so much marginalized, they took up arms which resulted to their independence from the yoke of oppression and marginalization of the minority Arabs in the north. In Julius Nyerere’s perspective, thus, “For even if change is secure through the violent overthrow of a feudal or fascist society, the new life has still to be built by or with people who lived in the old society and who were shaped by it even if they reacted against it”.
This is true because when the people of south Sudan took up arms to fight the central government in Khartoum; they succeeded by establishing a government with the faces of the people from the old society. Therefore, whoever proposes the responsible use of violence must be thoroughly aware of the ease with which persons are susceptible to illusions, and that, almost before they themselves know it, responsible intentions can be transformed into aggression, power and violence. Yes it is undeniable true ideal that peace should be based on justice and the struggle for human rights should be harmonized with justice if the society is to be peaceful and stable, but the problem lies with the harshness of those who has the power and who are the decision makers that decides wholly the fade of others in the country.
The assurance of adherence and commitment to observing human rights and justice in this way remains shaky, loose and unattainable. Identifying actions to be taken, the expected impact and final outcome is very important. The chosen action has to be weighed against the negative and positive impact that could result from it. If the action is likely to produce more conflict and exacerbate the situation of injustice, then it would be imperative to consider an alternative course of action. The politics of peace is crucial where people disagree about the distribution of reasons and have at least some procedures for settling such disagreements. In this way rights can be claim in peaceful way and not violently, in the practice of the art of directing and administering states and other political units.
However, in making reference priorities in the politics of peace, Johan Verstraeten argues that because of the nature of a human condition, the building of peace must also take place in the use of political power. The implied radical duty of appealing for rights and building peace requires effective commitment. Legal means are enough to facilitate the commitment to protect human rights but the will of the authorities and the people to live in peace and harmony and have justice accorded to everybody in the society is very much needed. This is to ensure that there are created structures capable of meeting the demands of justice and peace among people, Communities and individuals in south Sudan. In this context, John Paul II eloquently argues that “It is important to reject every attempt to deny these rights a true juridical status, and it should be repeated that to achieve their total and effective implementation, the common responsibility of all the parties – public institutions, businesses, and civil society – must be involved”.
In this respect, it is impertinent that wisdom of our leaders is very much needed to determine the respective responsibilities of each and every one of us. Justice, peace and human rights are triplets that are universal dimension of human nature and should not cause us to forget how these concepts are completely encapsulated in the particularity of a culture. Besides, there is a personal historicity and the idea of a personal historicity has to remain as part of references in searching and advocating for justice and peace and human rights in south Sudan but it shouldn’t be used to subjugate others.
Peace on the Paper or in the Heart: the Cry out for Justice
Peace and Justice are two different disciplines but some people wrongly think that peace may lead to the attainment of justice which has been proved otherwise. However, none proper and strict application of laws as pillar paradigms of justice may, in certain circumstances produce untold suffering, hardships, detriments and even serious miscarriage of justice to those victims whose rights have intrinsically and blatantly infringed. As the application of laws is imperative on judges or courts, the proponents of justice became rude and indignant to see that justice is awarded to those who deserve it and not to those who incurred injustice.
The serious violations of laws and customs applicable in an armed conflict within the established framework of international law tentatively amounts to a serious violations of Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions to which acts committed against persons taking no active part in the hostilities and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds or any other cause are murdered in cold-blood substantially warrants a call for accountability and liability to answer before the courts of law. The extensive destruction and criminal appropriation of properties not justified by any military necessity but carried out unlawfully and wantonly by disgruntled armed groups warrants for the establishment of criminal responsibility to which any party whose its hands are tainted with blood of the innocence must be made seriously accountable before an open and duly constituted court of law.
The intentionally and targeted attacks on civilians and civilians objects which are not and have nothing to do with military objectives also warrants for initiating a criminal charge and responsibility against the rebels leaders and their subordinates who were in command in various fronts. The intentionally targeted attacks directed against buildings dedicated to religious purposes and hospitals and other places where the sick and wounded are collected and which are not of military targets and objectives, as witnessed in Bor Hospital where poor and vulnerable sick people in their hundreds who were bedridden and unable to run for safety were mercilessly murdered by rebels without shame and remorse strongly provides a substantial evidence for bringing to book of justice whoever that was in rebel’s command to answer very clearly as to why those paupers fall victims and mercilessly murdered in cold-blooded.
However, in lights of the foregoing, the concrete question which remained to be answer in this regards is that, “who have the guts to bring justice to all the victims of the conflict and recuperates all the properties so far looted? Who is going to be made accountable for such heinous crimes committed against innocent people? Who is going to be made and held accountable for such untold devastations and destructions and pillaging the rebels carried out in Greater Upper Nile which fall prey under the hands of ruthless rebels who were motivated for nothing but to kill and loots properties?
Now that the parties to conflict have signed peace agreement, are the victims going to be awarded justice or would their cause be betrayed for the sake of the so-called peace which is being preached by everybody including this Author, a conflict which had made our people poor and homeless, left with no schools and health centers? Am so sick of all such fake peace shields in the coat of quest for self-enrichment at the expense of our poor and vulnerable people who borne the burden of injustice numerously inflicted on them in every occasion. However, we must remember here that no peace will ever be realize in south Sudan without awarding justice to anyone who deserve it and no justice will ever prevails without proper and strict adherence to the doctrine of the rule of law and not rule of men when everybody is tied down under the yoke of injustice.
To have lasting peace and stable society, we must sharpen the teeth of the law so that it could bite anyone who is in conflict with the law. Let the law bite one or two or even more this time for hundreds of people murdered mercilessly during this war. Remember justice delayed is justice denied. Many of us are sick to see that our politicians who quarreled for the reasons best known to them shakes hands, hugs, dines, toss and make useless smiles simply because their greedy selfish interests have been fulfilled. We need justice to prevail this time.
We are tied of standing up and observed one minute of silent in remembrance of our dearly brothers and sisters killed ruthlessly and mercilessly by thugs when all doors leading to the gate of justice are obstructed by peace meant to only serve the interest of its instigators leaving out at large the victim’s rights to life and own property un recuperated. Give justice to persons who deserved it this time. We sincerely need peace but justice must be awarded to those who deserve it. Let’s not betray our brothers and sisters because Peace on the paper isn’t what we need for it will aggravates the worsening situation but peace in the hearts of our leaders that will salvage the deteriorating situation and heal all the wounds of injustices incurred by each and every South Sudanese.
Yes it is not either Koran nor Bible but for the sake of those children, women and elderly South Sudanese who have suffered enough and are still suffering as a consequent of the war, peace need a place in our hearts not on the paper, likewise justice must be given to the victims in order to restore them to the same place before the war. It is incumbent upon our leadership and all peace loving South Sudanese people to give peace a chance and to quintessentially give justice to people who deserve it.
The writer is a Master of Laws (LLM) Candidate at the School of Law, University of Nairobi. He can be reached at: Email: email@example.com
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