Does the absence of violent conflict in Northern Bahr el Ghazal signify real peace?

Posted: August 11, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël in Commentary, Contributing Writers, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Kuol Alberto Makuach, Juba, South Sudan

Malong and Dau Aturjong

Peace and reconciliation process between Paul Malong and Dau Aturjong, Aweil, Sept 2016

August 10, 2017 (SSB) — Today, I intend to challenge and oppose the most debatable topic- Peace- insofar as the above state is concerned. I say so because of the people’s understanding of peace and how they have been pointing at Mading Aweil has the role model to be emulated. It must be stated clearly here also that, the question of peace in this article is in relation to the people of Aweil insofar as their peaceful co-existence is concerned and not peace for the whole country.

Peace is a very difficult term to define and I want to state at the outset here that, I am not going to define it satisfactory but rather to give my own understanding which might not be the same as others’ viewpoint.

Peace is generally recognized by its absence. When there is war or civil unrest, people would immediately recognize that something is missing and that which is absent is peace. But to say what it is, is as hard as defining other theoretical terms like justice, freedom, happiness etc.

To aid our argument, allow me to elaborate Peace according to the understanding of Johan Galtung, the father and proponent of Peace Studies and relate this to a current topic in relation to NBeGS. Galtung proposes two distinctions of Peace which are Positive and Negative Peace.

Negative Peace Galtung says, signifies the absence of war and other forms of large-scale human violent conflicts. When the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005 and prior to its signature, there was a declaration of Permanent Ceasefire, all warring factions ceased hostilities and that period could be declared as a negative peace era. Whether parties truly adhered to the provision of the ceasefire from 2005 to 2011 is subject to discussion, but generally, there was a real calm. There were no more bombs from Antonov.

Positive Peace according to Galtung is the presence of many desirable states of mind and society which include harmony, justice and the provision of services. This part must be noted very seriously. This means, apart from the absence of violent conflict, there must be the provision of services. Positive peace can still be achieved as long as these desirable states of mind and society are delivered during the crisis.

These interpretations are echoed in various definitions of peace, for example, New International dictionary defines peace as “freedom from civil clamor and confusion”, and furthermore as “tranquil state of freedom from outside disturbances and harassment” and much more.

That said, let us bring in NBeGS famously known as Mading Aweil. In early 1960th to early 1980th, there were sectional and clans fighting which claimed hundreds of lives and created hostilities among communities. However, through the intervention of Anyanya and SPLA leaders, these communal feuds were brought to an end.

Another major factor which contributed to cohesion among sections and clans in Mading Aweil which had conflict was the ruthlessness of Arabs Militia- Misseriya and Rizeigat famously known as Murhaleen or pastoralists. These militias used to attack Dinka Malual villages without distinction and that pushed people from one section to seek shelter and refuge from another relatively calm section for which they had issues. The internal issues were set aside as the worst is from Murhaleen. That episode ushered in sense of brotherhood and togetherness instead of petty quarrels among themselves.

Therefore, what Mading Aweil people experienced right after the end of their internal violent conflicts could be referred to negative peace. This is in relation to people of Aweil and their neighbouring communities. Though there are few cases of in-fighting here and there, they are not organized and they do not usually stop interactions and engagements in other greater activities among people.

With regard to positive peace, NBeGS has generally been neglected by the leaders of this country and that is why it is lagging behind other states in many aspects. Aweil is the least developed of all the other states. There are no good schools, no good hospitals and worst of all-Hunger.

People in their hundreds of thousands have migrated out of Aweil to South Darfur, Western Kordofan and as far as Northern Sudan hoping that they would get petty jobs to earn them something to eat rather than staying back home and die.

Those suburbs in Aweil which used to be inhabited by many people are now either empty or have few inhabitants left, all this because of hunger which knows nobody. All this is happening simply because of bad leadership.

In education, NBeGS has been tailing other states insofar as the results of secondary schools are concerned. The government does not put much emphasis to improve this sector. Teachers in public schools are least paid as elsewhere in the country leaving those that can’t afford to get other opportunities somewhere to continue teaching. You find a primary three dropped out teaching primary students. No positive results can come out of this scenario.

The few existing health infrastructures were built by International NGOs with no single health facility as an initiative from the government or the people. These facilities too are poorly equipped with no drugs at all and no qualified health personals. This means people resort to few private clinics available or die trying to seek for medical attention. It does not come into the minds of the leaders to improve things.

As often said, a hungry man is an angry man, it goes without saying that Mading Aweil is at the bottom of the states insofar as poverty is concerned. It is one of the worst hit by hunger and the percentage of poor people is alarming. This explains the exodus of her people to the North (Sudan).

Among the many reasons for poverty is partly the failure of the government to devise means to help the communities get out of this abject poverty. Yes, it is true that, there is instability across the country and that by extension affects even those other states which are relatively calm among which Northern Bahr el Ghazal is included. But it is partly the failure of the communities themselves to eradicate or minimize that which adds salt to the injury.

For example, polygamy is wide rampant in Aweil and yet those that engage in this do not have the necessary means to bring up their families or provide all the wants of each family member. This leads to some children becoming street boys/girls and others might leave homes as there is no parental care.

The presence of negative peace in Mading Aweil does not amount to true peace in that area as long as there is no positive peace. And as such, I am not convinced when her people and the rest of the country beat their chest and claim that Aweil is indeed peaceful. We can’t be peaceful as long as social injustices continue in Aweil. We can never be peaceful as long as our people prefer migrating to Sudan because life back home is unbearable and our leaders seem to do nothing.

In short, what Aweilians have is partial peace just like other states in the country and more need to be done to claim legitimate peace which will be exemplary to the other states.

Kuol K. Alberto Makuach, the author, has a Bachelor Degree in Philosophy from Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) in Nairobi- Kenya. Mr. Makuach currently resides in Juba and can be reached at kmakuach@gmail.com.

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is 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 from.

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