By Kachuol Mabil Piok, Juba, South Sudan
March 23, 2017 (SSB) —- History is awash with occasions where South Sudanese have been able to forge unity amidst existential threats to their survival. Such occasions date back to the periods of slave trade, predatory Turco-Egyptian and Anglo-Egytian rules, and until the times of successive oppressive Khartoum based regimes.
Despite their primordial differences in forms of inter-communal raiding and expansionist wars, the black African tribes in South Sudan had collectively confronted and resisted external invasions carried out by Arab slave merchants and colonial regimes. That form of unity was remarkably demonstrated umpteen times in 1947 against the unilateral abolition of Southern Policy and subsequent unsolicited unification of the North and the South by the British colonial regime. Since then, the quest for an independent South Sudan and preservation of the dignity of its people had been the most inspiring and unifying narrative.
Despite the attainment of independence, South Sudan again relapsed into primordial micro internal differences in the absence of an external enemy. The damage done to social fabrics by the current internal violent conflicts could probably be at par or possibly far much greater to that of the erstwhile external enemies.
This could be attributed to the fact that the micro feuds are largely imbued with strong ethno-territorial politics. Thus, this piece tries to solicit some reflections on how South Sudanese would rise to the occasion of detrimental territorial politics and reinvent new narratives which would embed tolerance in their social fabrics.
The extent of polarization in contemporary South Sudan is debilitating and irresistibly invokes sense of resentment and hopelessness among South Sudanese. Its invokes resentment and hopelessness because there are no reinvigorating narratives coming from the opposing political players like witnessed the previous periods in form of resistance to external exploitative rules, quest for independent South Sudan, and transforming Sudan in to an inclusive democratic society through Garang’s Vision of New Sudan.
All we hear on daily basis are the parochial pronouncements which only stir and stoke up fissures between ethnic groups. This practice of dwelling on unceasing or unwinnable zero-sum politics is like a glowing ember, subtly eroding social capitals and entrenching unreasonable hatreds which, if not addressed upfront, will be a mutating perennial blight on our socio-cultural, economic and political relations.
So which narratives can again inspire optimism and unity amongst the people in an overly fractured South Sudan in totality of their religious, political and ethnic diversities? How can such narratives be rolled out to quickly attain the most elusive and desired unity?
Answers to the above questions apparently are at our finger tips, but fear, parochialism, fatalism, pursuit of self-interests, and lack of visionary leadership invariably offset our resolves to collectively rise to challenges facing our country. Although these are not insurmountable challenges, addressing them require men and women with clear consciences to create the paths-free of obstacles- to nationhood.
Narratives which may resonate with the aspirations of South Sudanese could possibly include the following (however, not limited to these factors only);
Firstly, a promise of security-this has been missed in South Sudan since creation. And its perpetual absence has resulted to profound resentment and hopelessness as mentioned earlier. This can’t be attained without proper investment in our forces, creating resilient institutions in our societies, and an omnipresent and rational leviathan that penetrates peripheral units in our society.
Secondly, participatory democracy-the people of South Sudan have never ever been given a chance by previous and present regimes to determine how they should be governed. Any regime that had attempted to assert its authority had always treated the people of South Sudan as subjects, not as citizens in any decision-making processes.
This resulted to establishment of an endemic syndrome of hierarchical society in South Sudan, where individuals, ethnic groups or political movements which had subscribed to the doctrines of the incumbent regimes have been favoured more at the expense of those that had resisted. This is basically a perpetuation of an archaic divide- and-rule politics. It is high time, these archaic policies are brought to a complete halt and an inclusive mode of administration is allowed to flourish.
Thirdly, a complete re-organisation and re-orientation of the political system in South Sudan. South Sudan has for far too long been governed by a bunch of ideologically bankrupt regimes or political forces to date. Other than creating and exacerbating inter-communal feuds, which had always put them in a vantage positions to exploit the peasantry, there has never been a modicum of meaningful moral authority ever embedded hitherto in this geographical political space called South Sudan.
Most importantly, all these narratives can only be agreed upon and nourished through a genuine ”National Dialogue,” not through the current reincarnation of kind of a ” Melian Dialogue,” where a party that possesses massive arms and resources flex muscles to cow the inferior parties to submission. Resistance is in the minds, no weapon whatsoever can totally uproot it in the fortress of resisting minds.
Kachuol Mabil Piok is a political commentator on South Sudan political issues. He lectures at the University of Juba and blogs at #KachuolThought. He can be reached via email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also follow me on twitter@kachuol1 and facebook@UstazKachuol Mabil piok.
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