The Equatoria Declaration: A Call to Action
By Emmanuel K. Emmanuel,
An Equatorian Nationalist.
June 25, 2014(Nyamilepedia) — There comes a time in the history of a people, a time when their very existence is in danger, on the verge of extinction, a threshold, a critical juncture in which they have to assert themselves, a moment when they are left with no other choice but to act, to wake up and organize, to be aggressive and impose themselves or be condemned to a life of low class status and servitude, cast into the depths of chronic marginalization, into humiliation, neutralized and silenced, damned into oblivion and declared surplus to requirements, a nonentity and nonfactor, a harmless play-thing to be ridiculed and dictated to. We Equatorians are facing such a grave time in our history.
We Equatorians are currently in a space where we cannot exercise our rights fully. Where we cannot demand our basic human dignities. We are in a space in which we are denied participation. Where we are denied access. You could say we are well on our way to enslavement. We Equatorians are in a space where slowly but surely we do not own ourselves. Where we do not own our land, institutions, or enterprise. We are devoid of economic, political, social, intellectual, cultural, and military power. We are in a space in which we are blatantly denied a chance to indulge in our commercial, civilian, communal, cerebral, indigenous, and expressive capacities. We are in a space in which we have dropped our shoulders, where our heads are hanging low, where we are scared to walk tall, to assert ourselves and be forceful. We have become passive. We have become benign. You could say we have resigned. You could say we have relinquished our fate. And the most unforgivable part of all these detrimental transformations taking place in us is that they are taking place in our God-given space, a space where we should be behaving in the complete opposite. A space where we should be behaving with great pride and ownership, with our heads held up high and chests pushed out, a space where we should be the ones dictating and enforcing things.
We Equatorians must act. We must act quickly. Our soul and survival depend on it. We need to grasp the magnitude of the moment and the size of what is at stake, of the importance of this particular time in our history, of the repercussions and ghosts of future generations that will haunt us if we continue to slumber as the clamps of oppression tighten around us. We need to feel our current predicament fully. We need to meditate on it. We need to look at ourselves in the past, in the present, and project ourselves into the future. What do we see of ourselves in the future? What do we see of ourselves in the past? What do we see of ourselves in the present? Do we approve? We need to realize that this is not the time to be in the sidelines. This is not the time to be mistresses and sidekicks in the plans of others. This is not the time to be a decorative ornament on the designs of others. It is not the time to just go along for the greater good. It is not the time to be the buffer, the go between, the balancer or safety zone. It is not the time to be the peaceful one. This is the time to take our destiny into our own hands. It is the time to realize that if we do not look out for ourselves, if we do not take the initiative, if we do not put Equatoria first, we are doomed forever.
We Equatorians are teetering precariously in that zone of action and inaction, in that zone of liberation and subjugation, of freedom and submission. You can hear it in our objections and lamentations. You can hear it in how unsure we are of how to feel about our current situation. We are not quite sure how to go about rectifying it or even where to start. We are teetering in that critical zone that ends up determining oppressive power structures and social stratifications that could harden and last for decades and even centuries if not corrected right away. We are like a tree in a stage of its growth where it can still be bent to grow in a desired direction; a small window for change that can have irreversible consequences in the future if missed. What will we do? Are we going to act decisively and stake our claim? Are we going to change the direction of how we are currently growing as a people before it is too late? Or will we give into our enslavement? We could tip either way. It is up to us. We could do nothing and end up colonized and wallow for years in misery and oppression or we will take matters into our own hands right now and start taking steps to enforce the life we want and envision for ourselves and for Equatoria. The magnificence and exaltation of Equatoria is in jeopardy. If we do not answer her call and come to her aid we will be responsible for her tears and sorrows for generations.
We Equatorians need a paradigm shift. We need a complete realization and reorganization of what we are about, a radical rethinking of our present dilemma and of what is happening to us. Somehow, we have come to accept that we have to be invited to the party, and not the ones throwing the party. That we have to be called upon, and not the ones doing the calling. That we have to run where the action is, instead of creating our own. We are always in the background. The subordinate. The second or third or fourth star in the film of South Sudan. Never the top one. Never the top leader, the top culture, the top business, the top general, the top personality. Never the top anything. And we have come to accept this position. We have come to accept the position of houseboys and housegirls and not that of housemaster. We have come to accept that we are not fit enough to be the ones calling the shots. That we should not be the ones setting the agenda and partaking in the halls and arenas where the fates of our people are decided. We Equatorians have come to accept that we should not be the ones in charge of our commerce and our culture. Of our military and police. Of our local, regional, and global face. Of our art, media, science, government, history, and destiny. It is so subtle how this has materialized, this current defeatist psychology we have adopted. We were never like this. But such is the case with how power and manipulative social devices can alter the human condition, at times with irrevocable results. But I believe we have not reached a point of no return yet. I believe we Equatorians can still be rehabilitated. I believe we can still be woken up and called into action, into a fight for our lives.
The first thing that we Equatorians need to realize, and we need to realize this with immediate effect, is that South Sudan is our death sentence. South Sudan is not our friend. South Sudan is the pretense under which we are being enslaved. South Sudan is the cover story, the misdirection under which Equatoria is being subjugated and exploited. South Sudan is a distraction to keep Equatorians busy and to keep them from thinking clearly in their self-interest. While we are busy caught up in being “South Sudanese”, we are quietly being taken advantage of. We need to realize that South Sudan is the casket in which we will be buried in. This will certainly happen and is already happening unless we wake up and figure out a way to have leverage over South Sudan, unless we come to our senses and realize that everything is about who has the dominant position. Power is about who is on top. Power is about who gets to dictate and enforce their will. Unless we wise up and figure out how to play the game, figure out how to be in the position to dictate what is next, it is over for us as a people.
We Equatorians need to realize that South Sudan is a lie. It is a fantasy that we should not buy into because for us it is not a reality. South Sudan is a reality for a select few. It is a luxury that we cannot afford. South Sudan is a romanticism that we cannot and should not indulge in. South Sudan is VIP only and we are not on the list. Anyone who tells you otherwise is conning you. The people who advocate for South Sudan are the people who are benefitting from South Sudan. The people who cry for South Sudan are the people who are in the driving seat of South Sudan. They are the ones with access and they need the continued existence of South Sudan so they can have continued access. Anyone who tells you as an Equatorian that we all need to work together for a South Sudan knows exactly where they stand in that South Sudan: on top of your Equatorian head. They need you in South Sudan because your position under their feet is very important. Without you and Equatoria below them, without you and Equatoria there to be stepped on, without you and Equatoria there to be taken advantage of, without you and Equatoria there to carry their weight, to be benefitted from, to be used and abused, to have their culture and language forced onto, without you and Equatoria in that subordinate position, without you and the land and resources of Equatoria to be exploited, South Sudan ceases to exist for them. So with this kind of understanding, we Equatorians will begin to see that South Sudan is nothing but an insidious, diabolical, and exploitive project that is currently going on at our expense, all under the cover of nationhood. It is becoming clear that South Sudan was just the first layer to be peeled off in our Equatorian liberation. The separation from Sudan was never the final step in the path to our Equatorian freedom. It was only the start. It was only the first domino to fall.
We Equatorians need to understand that South Sudan was never something set in stone. It was never handed down by God. We need to understand that we are not beholden to South Sudan. We need to start thinking from our perspective, from the perspective of Equatoria. We need to start thinking about imposing ourselves on South Sudan politically, socially, culturally, intellectually, economically, and militarily. We need to do this openly, aggressively, and forcefully. We need to understand that South Sudan cannot hold a gun to our head. It is we who should hold a gun to South Sudan’s head. It is we who South Sudan should bow down to. We should understand that South Sudan was an idea based on a covenant, an idea based on a mutual agreement. It was a two way street. The agreement was that South Sudan would deliver for us, that South Sudan would make itself attractive to us, that South Sudan would work with us, and not against us. The agreement was that it would cater to us and that we would mutually participate in it based on a give and take relationship. But who is giving and who is taking right now? What is the balance of the relationship between Equatoria and South Sudan? Who is gaining and who is losing?
The myth of South Sudan, this myth that we have all bought into, is unraveling right before our eyes. It was a beautiful myth. And we all hoped that we could materialize it into being. We all hoped that we could will it into existence. But the barbarism in Juba and the subsequent back and forth barbarisms in Bor and Bentiu show us that there is no coming back from South Sudan. I believe it is only a matter of time before the country breaks up. The breakup of South Sudan from Sudan was just the beginning of the balkanization of this region. Unless an honest dialogue of the many differences and volatile forces that exist between the peoples and dynamics of this region is opened, a genuine and inclusive effort embarked upon to make a nation out of them, a forum to find out what are the wishes of each region, up to the option of an organized and deliberate repatriations of peoples to their ancestral lands complete with compensations for properties and investments that they cannot repatriate with and have to leave behind, an organized and peaceful breaking up of the country into smaller ones if in fact that is the wish of the people, unless we tackle South Sudan with this kind of honesty and options, there might never be a solution to the antagonisms that will always explode to the surface even after being suppressed and controlled for a long time by one group or another. We cannot just force South Sudan into existence. We would be setting ourselves for a new Yugoslavia to play out. We could preempt the inevitable by having this honest dialogue and a separation and repatriation of the groups in South Sudan back to their lands of birth where they can indulge in themselves and build organic societies and nations that are in line with their nature and environment. With this ownership and pride of being in one’s ancestral lands, people would be hesitant to destroy it with impunity. Besides, the levels of wealth amassed by those who have had access in the first decade of South Sudan’s existence might even be enough for them to jumpstart the economies of their ancestral lands. With the emotional attachment of being on their own land I’m sure they would be more inspired to invest that money in it instead of wiring it all out into foreign accounts or hoarding it under mattresses and vaults, as is the case in Equatoria. What is going on in Equatoria right now is the equivalence of what goes on in a mineral boomtown. People are showing up from all corners of the world to the boom of this new country based in Equatoria but with one eye and a foot always on the way out. There is no permanence. It is a hit and run operation on all levels. That is why you see everyone siphoning all the money out. Everyone is living in Equatoria temporarily. They do not identify with the land. They only identify with it in so far as it is an opportunity for plunder. They cannot invest in it and take care of Equatoria because they do not have a genuine connection and love for the land. And if they do invest, it is informed purely by an exploitive impulse. There is no sentiment tied to the land. It is to be abused and exploited for a quick gain. And just like a boomtown, when the wells start drying up or disorder breaks out, everyone scatters and it is the natives who are left, often with traumatic aftereffects both on them and their land. And it is at this juncture that we Equatorians need to start thinking for Equatoria because it is only us who can give it permanence. It is only us who can nurture it for the long term. Only when we start thinking like that, in terms of our Equatoria, of ourselves and our land as a distinct and unique part of the world, of our responsibility to it, and do so explicitly, openly, proudly, and with force, only then will we start to think clearly and start making strategic judgments on how to proceed and act in our best self-interest. We are the ones who are in Equatoria permanently and stand to lose the most in its mismanagement.
The amount of filth being spewed on the internet and in private gatherings, the divisions one sees in the groups sitting in the cafes, the bias in the interactions of the different groups in South Sudan, the explosive atmosphere created by this concoction of different groups and the inevitable insecurities and anxieties it fosters, insecurities and anxieties that inevitably rouse the human impulse to dominate and subdue, these are the hindrances to South Sudan. The selective outrages that we have witnessed after what happened in Juba, Bor and beyond. These are the hindrances to South Sudan. How people who present themselves as peace-loving choose to condemn only Juba and go silent about what happened in Bentiu or choose to condemn Bentiu in the strongest terms and stay lukewarm and defensive about what happened in Juba. How the same people talking up accountability and fair distribution of the national cake in South Sudan are betraying themselves by exposing their thinly veiled reservations and bias against federalism. These are the hindrances to South Sudan. People’s marked regionalism and particular biases that we cannot just ignore and pretend do not exist. The blatant prejudicial policies and attitudes of those who have had the reigns to the institutions of the nation. The lack of a genuine and robust national sentiment. These are the hindrances to a South Sudan.
The “Southern Sudan” front put up against Khartoum for all those decades should not give people rose tinted glasses and make them glaze over the complexities of the South itself. In fact, if one digs a little deeper into the history of the conflict, one will find that there was probably more intra South-South action than there was inter North-South. That is why I said that a realistic look into the South, the possible separation and relocation of populations and realignments of similar groups resulting in a further breakup of the country should be an option that needs to be discussed openly. Such honesty might even humble all the groups involved after they hear each other out and it might have the opposite effect and lead to more cooperation and integration instead of the suspicious and arrogant attitudes that are prevailing at the moment. The problem is that people do not want to get to such root matters, only to be shocked when the antagonisms that these biases elicit end up resulting in unspeakable horrors. It is naïve to think that there is a nation called South Sudan at the moment. That nation exists only on paper. It exists only in the pockets of those who have access to its coffers. The fundamental hindrances to South Sudan that I alluded to need to be addressed honestly and efforts taken to work on them. Otherwise we are just going to experience costly start-stop start-stop hiccups in the South Sudan project until further breakups happen, maybe at an even greater cost than what has already been paid. For South Sudan to materialize into being requires a Herculean effort on all parties involved. Frankly, I do not think all the parties involved in South Sudan are up to the task or are in fact willing to start work on these hard steps. Everyone is doing the complete opposite. That is why I think it is only fair for us Equatorians to start retreating into our identity and to start thinking for ourselves because South Sudan is proving toxic and marginalizing.
Under the guise of South Sudan, everyone is feverishly pursuing their personal and regional self-interests while we Equatorians are told to sacrifice ours, to keep our regional and personal aspirations under wraps, to keep quiet, for the “unity” of the country we are told. Under the guise of South Sudan, we are being blackmailed and curtailed. Our resources are up for grabs. Our lands are being occupied and even given new names. This is all being done under the banner of “South Sudan”. The line being used is “…since we are all South Sudanese, we are entitled to move and settle anywhere”. With force and insensitivity? Without respect for natives or legal procedures? If we speak up we are told we are trying to bring disunity. We are like the woman in an abusive relationship who is told to just endure. “For the children”, she is told. To keep taking the beatings. To not fight back. “For the children”. Under the guise of South Sudan, we Equatorians are commended for our humbleness, peacefulness, sophistication, intellect, and hospitality. Little do we know that we are being commended for our foolishness. Most of the time when people elevate the humbleness of others it is because the humble person is not a threat and therefore can be intimidated and exploited. It is a backhanded compliment. No one elevates the virtues of the person they deem a threat. We are being celebrated while in the meantime people are getting ahead with precisely the opposite attitudes.
People are getting ahead with arrogance, aggressiveness, rowdiness, loudness, crudeness, forcefulness, bias, opportunism, and unsophistication. Instead of learning from them, we laugh and say these are ahaleen. We snicker and think of ourselves as culturally and intellectually superior. But ahaleen masheen. Umon masheen mondun fadia wele kuwaf. Umon masheen be bunia o solut. And with this attitude people are gaining wealth and power. The skills they do not have, they learn from you. As soon as they learn them, you won’t be needed anymore. Soon their power and wealth will buy them prestige, it will buy them sophistication, and it will buy them culture. How about you Equatoria? What do you have? Whoever has wealth and power gets to dictate and to control. This is already manifesting itself as people have even acquired the audacity to tell you that they were born to rule over you. Imagine that. You and your sophistication and your cultivated nature will mean nothing when you are under colonization. It is time for a new Equatoria. It is time for an Equatoria that wants to get ahead and will get ahead. It is time for a proud, arrogant, imposing, demanding, aggressive, threatening, loud, confrontational, unhospitable, rowdy, biased, unsophisticated, and no nonsense Equatoria. A people you do not mess with. It is time for us Equatorians to unleash the hostile attitude that made us take the initiative to fight for our freedom in 1955.
Whenever South Sudan manifests itself, whenever it shows its face, both in South Sudan and the outside world, you will not see us Equatorians. Our names do not appear anywhere. Our voices are nowhere to be heard. You would not be mistaken to think that we do not exist. We are not the face of South Sudan. We have no chance to be representative of South Sudan. We are blocked. And this has serious consequences. Images are important. Examples are important. Seeing a reflection of one’s self in prominent spaces both locally and globally are of critical importance to the psychology of a people. With us Equatorians practically absent in the representations of South Sudan, we start to forget that we belong in those representations and in those spaces. We start to not aspire to such representations. And with such resignation and lack of initiative, we unconsciously help South Sudan wipe us out and nudge us into obscurity.
There is nothing permanent or certain about South Sudan right now, except the continued oppression, ridicule, intimidation, and silencing of Equatoria. All the pieces in South Sudan are moving. There is a question mark over everything. The fate of the country is still very much up in the air. Anything and everything is still possible. Everyone is taking action and looking out for themselves. Everyone is busy. Everyone is active. EVERYONE IS PLAYING DIRTY. EVERYONE MEANS BUSINESS. Except Equatoria. Equatoria is just sitting there. Inactive. Without initiative. Obeying. Accepting the intimidations and silencing. You can always count on the Equatorians to not do anything right? You can always expect them to let you get away with anything right? They love that good life too much to do anything uncomfortable or daring right? Scare them just a little and they will get on their knees right? Well, these are the impressions we are giving people. And they are taking advantage of them to the fullest. It absolutely baffles me how passive we are. Our continued enabling and acceptance of our oppression is unforgivable. We are the ones giving the space and safety in which we are being oppressed. We are literally responsible for our suffering. Imagine someone coming to your house, sitting on your favorite chair and stretching their legs out, claiming ownership of your house, and then bossing you and your family and everything in your home. Just take a second and imagine that and think if it makes any sense. This is exactly what is happening to us. How in the world can we allow it?
We Equatorians need to watch South Sudan carefully. We need to be skeptical of South Sudan and start planning. We need to start making contingency plans, to start planning our exit from South Sudan. It is time for an Equatorian nationalism. It is time for an Equatorian country. And this needs to be expressed and fought for openly. It is time for Equatorians to develop a distinct identity. A proud Equatoria. An Equatoria that will not be silenced or intimidated into submission. An Equatoria that will fight itself into existence if South Sudan does not make room for it. And South Sudan is not making room for us right now. In fact, it never has. South Sudan has existed for the sole purpose of squeezing us out.
Up until a few days ago, just like you, I was still a South Sudanese. I was still under the spell that there was something called South Sudan. Then something happened. It was an epiphany. A moment of clarity that I will forever be grateful for. It was a moment in which I realized that we Equatorians have to put South Sudan on hold and urgently start thinking of Equatoria. I realized that we are in a momentous time in our Equatorian history. I realized that it is going to take a fight for us to get our way.
The epiphany, the moment of clarity that I reached was after the recent declaration by the governors of Equatoria for the implementation of a federal system of governance in South Sudan. It seemed like a no brainer, like an idea that everyone needs to start working on right away and not even put up for debate. But it was after going through the reactions and the rejections of the idea proposed by our Equatorian governors, after reading between the lines of what is being said and what is not being said, after studying the suspicion, derision, and outright dismissal of the idea of federalism that I realized that we are in a perilous position.
I realized that no one out there means well for Equatoria. I realized that for us to think we are part of an identity of South Sudan with others is foolish. No one out there in the South Sudan space means us well. Why are people so opposed to the idea of federalism? Why is it eliciting such suspicions? Why is the call for federalism not rightly acknowledged as an important demand by us Equatorians and a demand that needs to be taken seriously? Why all of a sudden is it attributed to the rebels and dismissed as a rebel ploy to destabilize the country? Last time I checked, the country is already destabilized.
The country has been destabilized since its inception. It is only the Equatorians, the very Equatorians whose demands for federalism and fairness all of you are dismissing, it is them with their “humbleness” and their “common sense” who are still keeping the peace, it is them still providing everyone space, and it is still them who are hosting a South Sudan hanging by a thread. It is these Equatorians whose bushes and towns are still safe. It is these Equatorians giving you refuge on their soil whose demands you are dismissing and brushing off. It is these Equatorians who can all of a sudden decide to sneeze just a little and that would spell the end of South Sudan as we know it and the suspension of all your privileges and the access you have had all this time and the emergence of a completely new paradigm in the South Sudan space. It is these Equatorians. It is these Equatorians you are dismissing and not taking seriously when they demand something as straightforward as federalism, which is in fact nothing more than a demand for accountability. And you are doing all that dismissal and not taking them seriously while being a guest in their house, while being hosted by them. Kind of foolish of you don’t you think? Kind of pushing your luck don’t you think? These are the questions and feelings that rose in me and I realized that we Equatorians need get moving, we need to get our blood boiling, our heart rates beating faster, our brain cells firing, we need to get moving an achieved a position in which we cannot just be ignored, dismissed, or intimidated, especially in our Equatoria. We need to achieve a position in which we are a threat and a formidable force to be reckoned with.
We cannot keep letting people get away with arrogantly stepping on us, with dictating and dominating us. Otherwise, like the growing tree I mentioned earlier, we might not be able to do anything in the future. It will be a hundred years and we will still be waiting for this federalism and accountability to arrive. We need to act, to organize and gain a dominant position, to start making moves so that we become a big player and a mover and shaker in the affairs of this territory called South Sudan and the wider region as well. Doing nothing because we want to keep the “unity” and the “peace” of the country will be fatal. We are providing sanctuary right now for our economic, cultural, and political subjugation. And we will be repaid handsomely with more oppression when things resettled and our oppressors resume business as usual. The biggest mistake that all the marginalized regions in South Sudan right now will ever make will be to let the present political regime and oppressive social and economic structures that have taken root in South Sudan nurse themselves back to health, to give them time to recuperate. We will regret it. This is a chance to put the present monstrosities out of order. To eradicate them completely and reset things to zero. It would be a mistake for those with the opportunity and the momentum at the moment to hold back. It would be giving them much needed time to regroup. These structures and nasty establishments are going to come back stronger, filthier, greedier, and deadlier.
The SPLM is a looting operation, nothing more nothing less. And its private military wing of the SPLA and its cold-blooded security organs are the strong arms keeping watch to make sure the looting runs smoothly. To think of the SPLM as something more is naïve, generous, or downright delusional. This is not the SPLM/A of the movement. That SPLM/A is dead. More and more each day, the SPLM is losing the poetry and romanticism South Sudanese associate it with as being the final reincarnation of their rebellion and the one to finally deliver them freedom. Today, it is more emblematic of the barbaric and the unimaginable, the main culprit in the historic levels of corruption and despotism of the post liberated South. I do not know if the SPLM can be redeemed. A complete dismantling and send off into the history books would probably be the only way to salvage any dignity it still has left. The continued existence of the SPLM will be the cause of unceasing political and ethnic conflicts in the region for years to come. There is no way to reform the present levels of stale structural entrenchment it has attained. Only a complete tear down would suffice. And that is impossible because, well, that would mean letting go of power. Power is intoxicating as we all know and no one wants to let go of it when they get their chance at it. And right now the SPLM is where power resides. Its continued existence means more wrangling and maneuvers as everyone still view it as the only channel through which they can realize their dreams and ambitions of ascension to power in South Sudan. This just means more of the old ways and no room for fresh thinking and out of the box solutions. The SPLM is an old relic that has outlived its mandate. But go and tell that to the people who still cling to it. You can observe this adherence people hold for the SPLM in the somewhat comical way parties in the opposition and even rebels in South Sudan all the way to Sudan still call themselves the SPLM, with slight additions or rebranding.
The lack of originality in the names of those offering alternatives to the SPLM is quite telling too. What all these manifestations of the SPLM do not understand is that the climate has changed. The priorities have changed. The problems are different. And the solutions need to be different too. We are trying to make a nation work. The boys and girls of the SPLM are still abiding by chains of command and succession scenarios drawn out in the bush. What is missed is that the way of dealing with the problems and objectives of a movement might not necessarily translate to those of governing a nation. The SPLM has graduated into that notorious club of liberation movements that have made the transition to political governance. Their track records leave a lot to be desired. And so does that of the SPLM. But the SPLM still wants to be viewed with affection for being the movement that ultimately delivered South Sudan. That is why we Equatorians need to make the distinction between the SPLM that won South Sudan and the current 21st century burning and looting robber barons version. This is something we Equatorians need to grasp so that the sentimental value of the movement and by extension that of South Sudan cannot be exploited and used against us.
This is an emotional capital that liberation movements turn political parties use to their advantage while in power. It blinds people and people do not analyze their governance critically and pragmatically because of this intense emotional investment they have accrued for bringing liberation. We Equatorians should not fall for that. For any Equatorian to scream “SPLA OYEE!” or “SOUTH SUDAN OYEE!” is to scream for the tools of our oppression. The SPLM is morphing more and more into the NCP: South Sudan Chapter. I am starting to think that the decision to send the post liberated South Sudan SPLM government to Khartoum during the interim period to co-govern the nation with the NCP before the referendum was probably the one big error in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. And bringing them back to Juba wholesale was an even bigger blunder. Khartoum is not exactly the place you send people to learn governance. These guys have come back with the playbook of the NCP. They became so entrenched in Khartoum that the majority of them still refer to South Sudan as “Southern Sudan”. And the same ills of the NCP in the old Sudan, the same mechanisms of the NCP that made Sudan impossible, have been transplanted by the SPLM to Juba. And the SPLM has also learnt wholeheartedly the many tricks of the trade that the NCP has employed over the years for its survival. The main goal of the NCP is survival. And so too is the SPLM’s. There will be maneuvers for years and years to come by the SPLM. Whatever it will take to stay in power. There will be flirtations with reform when things get tight. There will be talks of “national dialogue”. Talks of “national reconciliation”.
There will be times when the SPLM will be arrogant and confident enough to employ heavy-handedness and brutality. Whatever it will take to stay in power. There will be more postponements of this and that. More transitional this and that. More reshuffles of this and that. More arrests and detentions. More murders. All the same. Whatever it will take to stay in power. There will be continued co-option of rebels and opposing parties when ruthless means fail. Whatever it will take to stay in power. And because of this, of the inevitability of what will play out, I believe we the Equatorian people cannot afford to be waiting around for the SPLM or South Sudan. We cannot wait for the SPLM to have vision. We cannot wait for the SPLM to humble itself. We cannot wait for the SPLM to let everyone participate in the nation. We Equatorians cannot be sitting around waiting for South Sudan. We cannot wait for South Sudan to eventually include us. We need to wake up to the reality of our continued oppression in the immediate and long term future of South Sudan if we still continue to tie our fate to it.
We need to reach the conclusion that Equatoria is not South Sudan. Equatoria is Equatoria. Like I said, there is nothing permanent about South Sudan right now, except those who are gaining and those who are losing. We are on the losing end and will continue to be unless we move. We need to start thinking of ourselves consciously as Equatorians first and bring our Equatorian identity to the front and have it dominate everything in our psyche. Everyone screams out their love for and identification with South Sudan but their actions betray something else. The marginalization of Equatoria is clear. South Sudan is just a vehicle for stepping on and for dominating Equatoria. This is something we Equatorians have to understand deeply. SOUTH SUDAN IS NOTHING BUT A VEHICLE FOR STEPPING ON AND FOR DOMINATING EQUATORIA. Reread that again and again and ingrain it in your brain. Only then, only after understanding this deeply, only after divorcing ourselves from South Sudan can we start to rethink our position. It is time we start to wean ourselves from the romanticism of the struggle and how we fought together and how we are one people as South Sudanese.
It would be foolish for us Equatorians to buy into that. How can there be a South Sudan for us Equatorians when we are not on South Sudan’s scholarship lists? How can there be a South Sudan for us when we are not in the decision making lists? How can there be a South Sudan for us Equatorians when we are missing from the leadership lists, the opportunity lists, the business tycoon lists, payroll lists, and the employment lists? How can there be a South Sudan for us when we are on the outside looking in? No, there is no South Sudan for us. There is only Equatoria for us. And we are losing it as it gets swallowed and devoured under this idea of South Sudan, under the pretense that we are one people and should accommodate each other. We need to divorce ourselves from South Sudan.
What should we Equatorians do then to gain leverage and the dominant position I am talking about? What should we do to start creating an autonomous region with its distinct cultural, social, constitutional, commercial, political, and military landscape? What should we do to reclaim ownership of our land, our space, and of our place where we can exercise our rights and representations of ourselves fully? First, we need to start identifying with Equatoria in everything. Everything about us needs to become Equatoria. The sooner we get away from South Sudan psychologically, the sooner we will be on our way to liberation. Our identity needs to change from “South Sudanese” to “Equatorian”. This is a deliberate and conscious change that we need to make in our minds. Our location of identification needs to change from South Sudan to Equatoria. If someone asks you “Where are you from?” You tell them, “Equatoria”.
Equatoria needs to be the singular idea and philosophy that informs everything about us. Equatoria Equatoria Equatoria. Our talks, dreams, spirituality, intellectuality, politics, business, expression, and all others need to become Equatoria. Our affection, longing, romanticism, soul, hopes, and thoughts need to change from South Sudan to Equatoria Equatoria Equatoria. We need to eat, drink, sleep, think, write, sing, and express Equatoria. Our whole mental landscape needs to change from South Sudan to Equatoria. This is the paradigm shift and reorganization I am talking about. Only then will we overcome the smoke and mirrors called South Sudan that is currently covering our eyes and hearts and suppressing the Equatoria that exists in us. Only then will we start being proactive and aggressive in taking our rightful place in the world. After that mental realignment, we need to mobilize. At all levels. Starting with our influential Equatorian leaders who need to make an immediate and complete withdrawal from all political, military, and security organs of the state and form a formidable, forceful, and unified Equatorian bloc, political party, front, movement, call it what you will. They need to be united and singular in their objectives, which should all be geared towards the realization of an Equatorian nation. The youth also need to break away from identifying with South Sudan and develop an active and loud Equatorian consciousness. Also, the formation of Equatorian civil societies and vibrant media and press with Equatorian self-interests at heart. These and others will be our vehicles, the platforms through which we will achieve our aims. And finally, the formation of a military capacity in Equatoria that is exclusively Equatorian and should be well equipped and capable of enforcing the interests of Equatoria if all other means are exhausted.
Everyone in South Sudan has their generals and their private armies to do their bidding. Why not us? It is our survival and soul at stake as I said earlier. To think that this federalism or autonomy we are asking for will just be granted to us is silly. Nothing comes easy or gets handed out in the Sudan. That should be clear to everyone in this region. Only when we position ourselves in strength and in numbers will we have the political, cultural, and military clout to pursue our interests. You are only taken seriously when you are a threat. Again, as I said earlier, there are no certainties in South Sudan right now, except the oppression of those who are slumbering and not thinking for their interests. With such a radical realignment of the landscape of South Sudan by the creation of a unified and influential political, military, and civilian structures of Equatorians by Equatorians and for Equatorians, coupled with the existence of a distinct, proud, visible, and brash Equatorian identity not associated with South Sudan, we will be in a position of advantage. We will be a threat. We will be feared and respected and so will be able to extract political, economic, and cultural concessions that are in line with our aspirations, including the aforementioned federalism up to complete autonomous status and nationhood. We will be able to pursue our interests. We will be able to strike strategic alliances that are beneficial to us. We will be able to pull Equatoria out of obscurity and into existence. Everything we do from now on should be geared towards Equatorian independence.
These are the things we need to be thinking about right now but I am completely lost for words by what our supposed leaders are doing. Our leaders are fragmented and all over the place. There is no unified and tough front for Equatoria. They are letting themselves be played at the expense of Equatoria. They are being bought like the old chiefs who betrayed their people. “Divide and rule”. Still behaving like sharamit al gi fowuru fowuru sambala sambala bes. Used, abused, and discarded. We know them. And when it comes the time for us to write the history of Equatoria, we will condemn them to the appendix of traitors in the back pages. Their names will be tainted forever as having colluded in our oppression and their children and descendants will walk in shame in Equatoria forever. Even our military minds have gone soft. Like our political leaders, they’ve been turned into houseboys. Always ready to be called upon to do some menial task. Always present to be harassed and intimidated at will.
Yes, there are a few leaders who are worthy of our respect. But even those are underperforming for Equatoria. Most of the time, I feel like they are hesitant in enforcing themselves. At the root of this, at the root of this cautious attitude I believe is the fact that they still buy into the idea of South Sudan. They still buy into the idea of the SPLM. If our leaders start thinking from the perspective of the long-term survival of Equatoria, if they start thinking from the perspective of an Equatorian nation as an option if South Sudan keeps marginalizing us, they will be freed from the idealization of South Sudan and the SPLM. They will start thinking and start acting proactively and audaciously in the interest of Equatoria. We must create a unified Equatorian bloc that is not allied to any region or the country of South Sudan but only to Equatoria. Other fronts in the region will have to come and approach us and we will be in a position to negotiate and get what we want in such tradeoffs. If there is to be a South Sudan it has to be on our terms. Otherwise we need to start fighting our way out of South Sudan. We need to mobilize for Equatoria and we need to do it quick. If not so, we are doomed and will live to regret it forever.
The time to act is now.
The time to rise up and fight for ourselves is now.
The time to rise up and fight for Equatoria is now.
The author, Emmanuel K. Emmanuel, a concern South Sudanese living in Juba, can be reached at email@example.com.