Jan 10, 2015(Nyamilepedia) —- We have increasingly observed of late that a wave of change is slowly but inexorably spreading all over Equatoria. A sort of revolt against the current situation or simply what happens when you push people too far. It’s also a change in the way the indigenous population view the government in Juba. It’s not simply that the government has run out of favour but rather a growing awareness that its actions made no distinction between it and an alien or a colonial regime.
There is a lot of anger particularly among the youth of what has become of Equatoria. The main reason is the insecurity that is rampant all over Equatoria. Innocent lives are being wantonly lost on a daily basis; in fact, could be by the hour in the capital Juba. Equatorians have shown unmatched endurance over the past 10 years. They have been very patient believing in light at the end of the tunnel despite being at the receiving end of horrible acts. They have had enough, and all the indicators are pointing towards a consensus that something needs doing.
The change does not seem to be a well coordinated or organised movement under one leadership but rather multiple small uprisings all over Equatoria against the regime. This step is overdue but not a surprise as it’s typical of a nonviolent society. Violence is always the last resort in Equatoria while it’s often the first resort in other parts of South Sudan. This attitude is something to be proud of as it reflects our rich cultural heritage in addition to the influence of religion. The fact that resistance movements are emerging from different corners of Equatoria is a testimony that our folks mean business. The sleeping giant has finally woken up.
It’s good that all the Equatorian movements have declared a ceasefire in respect and recognition of the peace agreement including the movements that did not join SPLM/A-IO. Let us give peace a chance with full implementation of the compromise peace agreement. If done in good faith, it will certainly result in a lasting peace in South Sudan. But regardless of what would unfold following the implementation of the compromise peace agreement, Equatorians have three fundamental issues that need addressing without delay. On the issue of insecurity that is rife all over Equatoria – the time has come to address it head-on. It’s unacceptable to allow others to change the way we live before our own eyes. Following the independence of South Sudan, the people of Equatoria thought the time to enjoy the fruits of freedom and liberty has finally arrived. Little did they know that what they thought has been achieved, and tangible would quickly turn into a mirage.
You are not a free person when your life is constantly under threat and you live in a state of siege. When a villager in Equatoria is unable to live in his village and till the land as his ancestors used to do since time immemorial; you know that the situation has spiralled out of control. The prevailing insecurity has forced him to abandon his village and move to town. He is a farmer and has got no other qualifications. How can he earn an honourable living in such a new environment? This poor villager who was previously self-sufficient has now been condemned to abject poverty. The regime has created a situation contradictory to its cliché ” Bringing towns to villages.” Instead, we have witnessed movement in the opposite direction where Village communities have moved into cities and towns.
The Equatorians are law-abiding and God-fearing citizens. They tend to solve their problems using peaceful means. But it makes no sense at all when you stick to that in the absence of rule of law. It’s even self-defeating and an exercise that works to your detriment. This is happening on the background of armed communities in the rest of South Sudan except perhaps parts of Western Bahr El Ghazal state. I have even lost count of the Jieng militias and armed youth groups. The Nuers have the white army that gained some international publicity by engaging the Ugandan army ( UPDF ) in combat. The Chollo and the Murle are decently armed and capable of defending their territories. It’s only the Equatorians and some western Bahr Ghazalians who are defenceless.
The principal duty of a government is to provide security to all its citizens. I don’t think there is any reasonable person who disputes the fact that the regime has miserably failed to provide security to the people of Equatoria. To make things worse, it’s following a double-standard disarmament policy where the non-Jieng communities are disarmed while the Jieng are left to acquire stockpiles of arms or be armed as well. There can be no real peace if this situation continues. Peace can only prevail in a state of total disarmament or the opposite of it namely mutual deterrence. As the government has clearly failed to deliver what is expected from it, Equatorians are left with no choice but to take care of their own security. All options should be on table including forming vigilante groups or local militias to defend themselves.
Equatorian leadership has been the subject of discussion among Equatorians for a little while. The common theme is that Equatoria lacks effective leadership at the present time. While this may be partly true, It’s by no means the whole truth. I do believe that leadership is not an exhaustible resource. It has never been proven that nature ever left a generational gap where a community was devoid of capable leadership. There are always able leaders in any community; anywhere and anytime. What Equatoria lacks is not effective leadership but leadership backed by military might. We are under the reign of a kleptocratic regime that uses force to intimidate, coerce or liquidate its opponents. There is no room for a democratic debate regarding what is best for the country.
In fact what is best for the tribe has replaced what is best for the country. Equatorian leaders should abide by the rules of the game. Otherwise, they would continue to be irrelevant regarding political power. They should strengthen ties with their communities and do a proper homework. In 1935, the French Foreign Minister Pierre Laval allegedly asked Stalin to improve the situation of the Catholics in the USSR to avoid a quarrel with the Pope. Stalin with his sharp sense of humour asked, ” The Pope? How many divisions does he have? ” It depicts the mentality of a dictator and the man at the helm of our government is no different.
The third issue is where do we go from here? What are the options? Historically, Equatorians are the pioneers in the struggle for independence of South Sudan. All the wars were mostly fought in Equatoria. We have contributed heavily both in terms of lives lost and material destroyed. All this happened by fighting the real enemy and not our brothers. It’s disconcerting to see how Equatoria has been relegated by the regime to the third position despite the fact that it leads South Sudan in many aspects of life. Again this relates to the Stalin’s joke mentioned above – something that we could overcome in near future. It must be clear to everyone that Equatoria is the entity holding South Sudan together. There can be no South Sudan without Equatoria though the reverse is not necessarily true. We have embraced the compromise peace agreement wholeheartedly not because super powers forced us to accept it as some sceptics would like to say.
It’s out of a genuine belief that despite its inadequacies, it remains the best possible option to stop the carnage. Having said that, we should though be wary of what could happen 3 years from now. The creation of the 28 new states is akin to letting the genie out of the bottle. Thus, it would continue to pose a threat to the unity of South Sudan. Our bottom line should be real federalism, and should be regarded as a deal breaker if not adopted and implemented. The national cake would be divided proportionately according to population size in each state. Likewise political representation in the federal government would also be proportionate to population size in each state. In that context the Jieng could have as many states as they want. That would be their prerogative though they would run the risk of spending a large chunk of their revenues on unnecessary and unproductive state government positions.
There are those who throw at us lame arguments and excuses that a federal system of governance would need a lot of money to implement that we do not have. Well, do we have money to run the newly created 28 states?! Again some would say it would lead to secession and disintegration of South Sudan. This notion does not hold water because the leading world powers are federal governments. The truth of the matter is that the sceptics have ulterior motives centred around domination of other communities through a decentralised system of governance that is not federalism. The carving out of chunks of ancestral lands from other communities and awarding them to the Jieng is a recipe for a state of continuous war in South Sudan. Equatorians do not want to be part of it. We have already lost a decade and would not allow more of the same to happen in the next decade. We should not allow ourselves to be held hostage to communities supporting leaders who are borderline lunatics. Equatoria should have a plan B in store where it could take full control of its own destiny or forge unity with others in what I would call ” Unity of the willing.”
The author, Dr Lako Jada Kwajok, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org