By Malith Alier, Juba, South Sudan
January 15, 2017 (SSB) — Time flies faster than you might think. The bliss of 2011 independence dissipated faster before us in an incredulous way. Many of us or ninety eight percent were convinced that the suffering was completely behind us on or after the historical referendum of January of the same year prior to declaration of self-rule.
2016 was thought to be the year of another peace and the beginning of perceived development in the country after the signing of the peace agreement. This was not to be, never. Peace, prosperity and justice which were long overdue proved elusive
However, nobody anticipated the two actors will let down the struggle for independence namely; the country from which we seceded and the “Liberators” who had no clue on how to manage state affairs after liberation.
The Sudan odyssey
Sudan has never forgiven the young nation after separation for many reasons. The oil is a major one reason for that. Analysts believed that South Sudan left with 75 per cent of proven reserves located along the border separating the two countries. The presence of oil along the borderline complicated matters greatly because each country believes oil fields on the border are located in their country.
The Heglig/Panthou incident of 2012 is a testimony to that. The two countries fought a deadly war over the ownership of an important oil well in the area. South Sudan closed down oil production in the same year citing oil theft by Sudan and border disputes. The border is not demarcated as stipulated in the CPA of 2005 because Sudan reneged on that part of the agreement for reasons known to it alone.
Further agreement (Cooperation Agreement), in 2012 did not very much ease the situation as expected. Sudan only selectively implements those parts it is in favour of e.g. Transitional Financial Arrangement (TFA). Overall, the South Sudanese were not in favour of the agreement as it was. It was thought to have given away too much to ungrateful Sudanese government.
Sudan from time to time closes the border citing the alleged support to rebel groups by South Sudan. The young country has no productive capacity unlike the Sudan. The closure of the border has a choking effect on the nascent state, something Sudan knows very well and uses it as a weapon to keep the South in check.
The role of the SPLM
The ruling SPLM Party has been accused of leading the country down the path of war. The writing was on the wall after independence that all may not be well as thought. The major reason was that the SPLM would not manage to transform from guerrilla movement to a governing entity as required by the new status. True, everything began to unravel in less than three years. The cracks began to surface among the various wings reunited at various times over the 22 years of struggle. Leading to this was the power struggle on who should own the SPLM and the right to rule the new nation. The 2013 split proved worst than the 1991 bush coup led by a section of the so-called High Command officers of the movement. Tens of thousands died so far.
The talk of peace in 2017
The most important ingredient for the preservation of human life and progress of other human indices is peace. Without peace a state of confusion rules and conflict thrives. South Sudan is not at peace with itself at the moment despite some people believing otherwise. No respite on the battlefields. Towns are under attacks. Road ambushes are a common feature. Roads in various parts of the country are too dangerous to navigate through. River waterways are blocked by numerous militias up north and down south.
Declared amnesties and the just announced national dialogue are unlikely going to settle the dust. Amnesties have been declared more than once. The national dialogue is premature and at least in the absence of accountability for crimes committed before and after 2013 outbreak of the current conflict.
People were and continued to be mass-murdered in worship places, schools and hospitals. Documented crimes are committed everyday in the villages in the country on both sides of the conflict. Many UN reports are available for everyday that passes.
The talk of genocide is in the air. Targeted killings on the roads particularly in Equatoria abounds. The roads to Yei and the surrounding villages are a no go zones. The Nimule road which is the mainstay of Juba witnessed attacks on several occasions after July 2016 fighting in Juba.
An economic prosperity is an integral part of the peace. The country is now under economic distress. The war hits the young economy hardest in the primary area, oil production. This couples with the falling oil prices in the world market. Hyperinflation is another economic sabotage. All of these, have left citizens with no choice but to flee the country to seek refuge in neighbouring countries like Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and the Sudan. Some South Sudanese are now apologetic to the Sudan government for the separation of the two countries in 2011.Sorry Beshir (Malesh) and South Sudan stuck (dages) are some of the places around Khartoum inhabited by fleeing Southerners. Ironically, there are Sudanese fleeing to South Sudan from Sudan because of war in that country.
This sounds pessimistic for the common man and the world bodies like the UN. The UN is trying its best to salvage what remains of South following the war. Regional protection force is proposed to augment the UNMISS efforts that borne and continue to bear no fruits since 2005. Other voices called for UN/AU Trusteeship over the country for five to ten years. They have a reason. It may be a desperate last attempt to save the country. It is something which has not been tried here saved others after independence. Some people feel that there is nothing to fear about UN/AU running the country that way. Other countries tried it before without damage to sovereignty.
South Sudanese are not new to intense suffering such as the one they’re currently going through as a result of war. The current suffering is induced by several factors among is the Sudan which supports all negative forces against the young country. The oil is currently being appropriated by the Sudan more than the country production.
The ruling party in South Sudan, the SPLM has not fared well to avert the current war and the subsequent economic woes. It takes a sophisticated strategy to manage a post conflict country, something the SPLM failed to accomplish. The end result is the suffering in the country.
Talks of total peace in the country are complicated by the July incident in Juba. The country is now backed in the war mode. National dialogue may be premature and so is the UN/AU Trusteeship which finds no audience with the ruling class. The common citizens are left without choice but to flee into neighbouring country until such time when peace is achieved.
You can reach the author via his email: Aljok Deng <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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