Demilitarize the Minds, not the Towns

By Amb. Stephen Par Kuol,

150 SPLA-IO forces, who just returned to the capital, board a convoy to their barack in the capital(Photo: file/Nyamilepedia)

150 SPLA-IO forces, who just returned to the capital, board a convoy to their barack in the capital(Photo: file/Nyamilepedia)

July 12, 2016(Nyamilepedia) —– Pursuant to Chapter II Article (1.8,1.8.8,1.5) of the Agreement on the Conflict Resolution in South Sudan (CRISS,) core to the implementation of the Transitional Security Arrangement is the demilitarization of the major towns including Juba, Bor, Bentiu and Malakal. Read together with the Article 5(5.2,5&1.1.3) and the Minutes of Addis Ababa Security Workshop dated September 17- 27, 2015, these key provisions have not only granted management of public security to the Join Integrated Police but also authorized only a total of 3000 police personnel in each of the said towns. This was popularly welcomed by the downtrodden and traumatized people of South Sudan who have been reduced to displaced and destitute within their own country for the last three years. The friends of South Sudan around the world have also applauded the warring parties for reaching the agreement on this outstanding issue of transitional security arrangement. In fact, the SPLM/A IO could not have returned to Juba without signed agreement on this outstanding issue. In another word, the rest of the political agreement could have been rendered useless without these provisions. Psychologically, our traumatized citizens who emotionally associate their own hometowns with death and destruction attach physical return to their own homes to demilitarization of those military garrisons. Unfortunately, the opposite has transpired: militarization of those very towns. Reliable sources close to the diplomatic community in Juba reported that, the national capital is currently hosting over 30,000 government troops excluding the heavily militarized Luri next door.

Why militarizing the towns during what is supposed to be the peacetime? The top office in the land has the best answer, but we the people know the wrong from right. We know that our collective survival as a nation is not found on the hawk of violence but on the dove of peace and full implementation of ACRISS. Ironically, we are failing to define the very wrong we are trying to right.t A wrongly defined wrong cannot be righted. That wrong in my book is the culture of political violence deeply rooted in the SPLA military tradition going back to the decades of our protracted armed liberation struggle. It is this culture that we must combat for us to attain permanent peace in this country .It is not the gun but the violent mind behind the guns. In another word, it is precisely the violence in our political minds, not even the human machine (the gun man) under the mechanical command of the political warlord in question. Blaming the tool of violence (gun) is erroneous and will not help the debate on the violence in the country. Guns don’t kill people. Wrongly militarized, people kill people. This mass violence prevails because our war cultured political elites (war made politicians) in the word of Prof. Peter Adwok Nyaba profitably trade in it.

As our late hero and martyr, Commander William Nyuon Bany said,” it is the gun, not even God to clear the way to the freedom we are fighting for”. This speaks volume of the sad truth that we have known guns even better than the God Almighty. So, the country is politically, culturally and institutionally organized for mass violence over time and space. The historical SPLM/A we all have known is a political military organization that has created South Sudan in its own image. It is engraved in the mind of this political generation that SPLM/A is South Sudan and South Sudan is the SPLM/A. It thus follows that we are SPLM/A and the SPLM/A is us. The movement has twins variants: The military variant and the political variant, which is subordinated to the military variant within the militarized structures of the vanguard movement. The Political and the military leadership we still have at the helm in all our parties come from that bush school that promotes and esteems violence. Otherwise, violence is not predisposed in our DNA as a people. Sociologically, the cultural environment of the protracted armed struggle has immersed generations of our children in deep seas of violence for decades. Subsequently, they are socialized, oriented and politically educated to be more military than civil. Civility is thus not in the vocabulary of our political discourse. Militarism is glorified in every walk of life. Only in South Sudan do civilian politicians accept military ranks and wear military uniform like badges of honor. I could not help giggling to tears watching my Chairman, Dr. Riek Machar decorating my civilian colleagues for the war they have never fought in uniform recently in Pagak . Like in Nazi Germany, the most prestigious title in South Sudan at the moment is “General”. Perhaps, one needs these stars on his shoulder to be politically complete. Call it politicization of the military or militarization of politics but the prevailing norm is that a political leader without armed tribal militia behind him is a laughing stock at the mercy of the political warlords wielding the power of gunpowder.

Our violent and militaristic culture is evident in every public institution including the civil service. In real life, violence is politics and politics is violence in South Sudan. This demonstrates that violence is our best mean to solve problem. Even the law enforcement and criminal justice system ACRISS tasks with managing the public security during the transitional period are traditionally militaristic. From our arming and equipping the force, the police is a paramilitary institution with the same militaristic character of the SPLA. Militarism also fathers a dangerous child called autocracy. Autocracy shapes the popular culture, the media and public opinion. Government media in autocratic state like ours hold up military leaders as heroes, paints dissident intellectuals , rival opposition parties and civil society as traitors and enemies of the nation. In political discourse, dialogue is dreaded more than the fatal language of gun. The military son of the gun behaves like a herd man demanding nothing but obedience from his humans herd. Those who use their pens to criticize this culture of guns know damn well that they are using their blood( not the ink) to write.

Budgeting (allocation) of resources in every country entails nation’s priorities. They put your money where your mouth is. The eleven years budgetary experience has evidenced that the mouth of South Sudan is in its war machinery (army). That is why we have been spending 40 percent of our national budget on the defense and rouge security sector that tends to cause more insecurity instead of provision of social services and infrastructure. One writer and researcher put it correctly that South Sudan is an army with a nation, not a nation with an army. True, we have had over 800 generals in the SPLA before the recent mass promotion by both Pagak and Juba. Another alarming statistic has it that we are a nation of approximately 8 million people with 8 million firearms-a third of which are AK 47. This may not be absolutely accurate but the margin of error could be very close in a nation where the prevalence of firearm resembles that of cars and mobile phones in the United States. Each of those AK 47 rifles is owned for one purpose only and that is to kill as quickly and effectively as possible. Our civil population in the countryside is highly armed and militarized. Gun and violent give young men revered sense of virility in that community of civilian army. That mean you cannot be a total man without possessing a gun. For example, our armed youth in the Nuer White Army contemptuously call any man who accompanies the armed warriors to battle without a gun on his shoulder “Dhourial”. “Dhuorial” does not have a say in how the war is conducted until he obtains his own gun in the battlefield. Our young men compose songs of their rifle as a symbol of wealth and power. This also shows that our civil population is even more guns cultured. In sum, South Sudan is culturally militarized and armed to the teeth against it. We have stopped every thing including food production to finish ourselves in the last three years fighting a war of shame and self destruction without outright victors. Worse, still the three years gore has not yet quenched the thirst of the political vampires and the recent savagery that took some of the best young souls of South Sudan at J1 is a practical testimony of that.

The timely question begging for answer now is: when shall we break the spiral of this opportunistic militarism? The time is now and the answer lies with the youth of South Sudan who are politically patronized and often referred to as called future leaders by these political dinosaurs who loath retirement to death. The time has come for the sunrise generation of this country to organize a united mass political movement willing to challenge and replace this rouge system that gives corrupt and warmongering politicians excessive political and economic power. It is a platitude but I cannot help repeating it here that the nascent nation is on life support. The common challenge now is how to bring it back to life not by reforming this rotten system as prescribed by ACRISS but by replacing it. This is doable with the development of a political dispensation in which the obligation to justice is matched by an endless responsibility to collective struggle for collective survival. This cannot of course happen with those old ugly faces at the helm. These faces must be buried six feet deep with their divisive political culture and the venom of political tribalism that has wreaked havoc of the social fabric of our society. This must be done because we do not have another country but this one and together

It goes without stressing that there is nothing wrong with the military as a profession. We also recognize the heroic armed struggle under the SPLM/A. The abomination is it inherent lack of professionalism, discipline and patriotism. Experiences elsewhere bear out the bitter truth that Political Militarism akin to that of the SPLM/A breeds nothing but perennial political violence. Mwlimu Nyarer, the First President of the United Republic of Tanzania decided to dissolve his army in 1964 to establish a new disciplined national army oriented to fight for the people instead of fighting the people. The newly established National Army of Tanzania shocked the world by defeating the strongest military junta in the region (Idi Amin’s regime). The word has been said that survival and viability of South Sudan as a nation can be assured only by establishing a disciplined professional national army, constitutionally subordinated to the supremacy of civil rule. .The ACRISS provides the mechanism for doing that under the JMCC. Conventionally, the constitutional mandated of the national army is the defense of the state and its citizens, and the prosecution of war against another state. The other critical thing is the culture of talking. We must adopt that and discard the prevailing culture of fighting. We must then engage in dialogue that dissects our habitual preoccupation with violent and barbaric militarism. It is that dialogue and quality civic education that will demilitarize the minds to demilitarize the towns and cure this chronic political schizophrenia.