Why Civil Society must Act in South Sudan?
“Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society; and any eminent departure from it, under any circumstances, lies under the suspicion of being no policy at all” -Edmund Burke
By Dong Samuel Luak,
August 14th, 2014 (Nyamilepedia) -The history of people of South Sudan is full of rebellions, People of South Sudan rebelled and mutinied in Torit 1955, before the independence of Sudan,Dr. John Garang and his colleagues rebelled against the Sudan government in Bor1983, later on that was followed by the rebellion of Dr. Riek Machar and his colleagues against Dr. John Garang in Nasir 1991, followed by the rebellion of Salva Kiir and his colleagues in Yei 2004. This is not an exhaustive list, but those of George Athor, Peter Gadet, YauYau, Johnson Olony and others. They grand rebellion of President Salva Kiir against the SPLM and all people of South Sudan in Juba December 15, 2013. In all the above-mentioned rebellions the civil society remain the most loyal to the people of South Sudan while paying heavily in terms of human lives and property.
The questions, always comes to mind, when the civil society in South Sudan will rebel and take over power? To put an end to this vicious circle of rebellions by the so-called rebels leaders? Can civil society activists in South Sudan think of contesting the political power? Can the forces of civil society capture the State power during the interim period?To answer this very controversial questions we must first define the word civil society. The World Bank has adopted a definition of civil society developed by a number of leading research centers: “the term civil society to refer to the wide array of non-governmental and not-for-profit organizations that have a presence in public life, expressing the interests and values of their members or others, based on ethical, cultural, political, scientific, religious or philanthropic considerations. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) therefore refer to a wide of array of organizations: community groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), labor unions, indigenous groups, charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, and foundations”.
Looking into the definition and history of conflicts since 1955, our people in South Sudan witnessed and continued to experience Conflicts and wars. But very unfortunately all the processes of their management and resolution are essentially state driven and manipulated exercises. It is,mostly an affair between the state, the rebels and the regional mediators supported by the international diplomats and those of multilateral agencies. Little attention or consideration is given to the civil society participation in terms of conflict resolution the case in point was the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005 between the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) In Nairobi, Kenya;the Intergovernmental Authority on Developmental (IGAD) mediated it.
Now in the ongoing negotiation in Addis Ababa mediated by IGAD more efforts were made to make sure that the resolution of the current conflict more inclusive, with a lot of resistant from the State, Yet the civil society is usually a key actor in the contradictory processes and struggles of conflicts and the dynamics of their resolution. Conflicts do not emerge in a vacuum, if you look at the ongoing conflict in South Sudan the first martyr was Isaiah Abraham from the civil society who was assassinated by the State security simply because of expressing his opinion, now Deng Athuei the Chairperson of Civil Society Alliance who survived an assassinated attempt on his life, and many others who fled the country for their own dear lives, nevertheless we all know that conflicts are products of social structure and character of society of which the civil society is an integral part.The role of civil society in terms of its emergence, management, and resolution.
There is a general believe or assumption that the civil society is only relevant within the context of conflict management. This is how in the process of CPA they were never allowed to participate,this is an uncritical believe or assumption. The civil society can be part of the problem of conflict generation or escalation. Our current conflict is a manifestation of the role of civil society in generating conflict. Since civil societies are established at the grass root, there is likelihood for them to play complicity role for instance the involvement of the White Army in the current conflict. The ideology of hate is not only propagated by the state, but is also actively supported by some civil society groups including some segments of the press in South Sudan.
In other words, it could be part of the problem as well as the solution. Civil society groups can play a big role if allowed to be part of the conflict management process, by organizing emergency relief to the refugees and displaced persons, they can also participate in the peace negotiation to make the deal popular, put pressure on warring parties,mobilize popular support and respect for the peace process.The civil society’s role in the post war situation is extremely relevant in the process of peace building. Through assisting in the process of demilitarization, demobilization and adaptation to civil life for demobilized combatants, also through undertaking post war rehabilitation projects, especially in restoring basic social services like primary health care, education etc.
The creation of a new awareness and consciousness through enlightenment about the consequences of war and the primacy of dialogue in political and social interactions. The target of this campaign should not be left only to the so-called political leaders, but also the people. Without the mobilization of the people, war cannot be fought. The people must be conscientious about the inefficacy of war as instrument of political negotiation that has become the culture in South Sudan. The final dimension is in ensuring the principles of popular participation, rule of law, fairness, justice, and equal citizenship for the people, which are the fundamental issues that usually form the basis of conflicts in South Sudan. The press, human rights’ groups, students’ and labor movements can play key roles in this regard.
In conclusion will civil society leaders allow South Sudan people future to be handed a silver platter by IGAD to perpetrators of Human Rights abuses? Will the civil society allow the impunity to be crown victories in Addis Ababa in their presence? Or will they come home to witness violence and suffering of the people once again in the hands of the tyrannical, oppressive and despotic government of interim peace and national disunity? You must act now and speak out.
Author is an Advocate in the Republic of South Sudan, he can be contact on firstname.lastname@example.org