Analyses Simon Elhag Kulusika

Opinion: Wars in South Sudan


By Professor Simon Elhag Kulusika,

Associate Professor,

May 26, 2021 — If you are an optimist or supporter of the government of South Sudan (SS), you will scoff at the title of this opinion article. However, someone who has peace in heart and would like people to go about to struggle for survival, would agree that South Sudan is in WAR, and may add that South Sudan is facing major Wars, not just a War. The latter assertions do not and Will not win support within the government in Juba referred to as Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU).  This is because the RTGoNU is safe in Juba and state governments are also safe. So far there is no confirmed major attacks from those armed groups opposed to RTGoNU. Further, even if they attack outposts in some parts of South Sudan, it will take the attackers several months, if not years before they can pose real threats to the Juba government or the governments of states. As such their attempts to wage wars against RTGoNU will not succeed. On the contrary, it is the armed groups who would suffer setbacks as Juba would appear to boast.

South Sudanese soldiers raising their guns in an undisclosed area in Central Equatoria (File/Supplied/Nyamilepedia)

It’s a matter of opinion as to whether South Sudan is in War, Wars or civil wars of little significance, or there is just isolated fighting in some parts of South Sudan that do not warrant to be described as war or wars of any kind, international or merely of domestic nature.

But we believe that there are armed organized groups that have announced their intention to fight the Government in Juba. In the event that intention is carried to execution, there will be fighting in some parts of South Sudan and such fighting may be addressed as amounting to war or wars.

Our understanding of war is that it is an intense armed confrontation involving one state against another state, eg, the wars between Pakistan v India in the 1970s; the wars between Iraq v Iran or the recent Gulf wars in the aftermath of Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Writers refer to fighting between insurgents or armed groups and government forces as civil wars or simply armed conflicts as these fighting are not of international scale.

War, regardless of its scale or intensity, can cause deaths and may result in mass destruction of infrastructures and public and private property. Its cost is high and the scars of bitterness between the parties involved may not heal quickly.

There are about 22 armed groups in South Sudan. Some are called movements, e.g. SPLM, SPLM (-IO), NDM, 7 October Movement, NRM, etc. Some others called their military organizations as Fronts, eg, National Salvation Front, Sudan People’s Defence Forces/Democratic Front, South Sudan United Front, etc. While others are militias under different designations. All these armed groups are opposed to RTGoNU and governments in the 10 States. Their central preoccupation is to get to Juba to assume power. That is to topple the current leadership and establish a new system for South Sudan. A totally new way of thinking. 

There are also reports that more new armed groups may be formed in South Sudan as a result of recent defections and dismissals from a number of these armed groups, including the two SPLM/A. 

In the event that these armed groups coordinate their operations and avoid attacking one another, attacks on government forces will be transformed into full war. There will no longer be isolated attacks on military outposts, but attacks may be directed against government military Garrisons and other military and police installations all over South Sudan, resulting in deaths among combatants and innocent civilians. The costs of such military campaigns will be high and human casualties will be great and the resulting scares will take several years to heal, rendering any attempt at reconciliation and healing extremely difficult.

It is those misgivings that have prompted us to advocate Pacific means in dealing with the grievances of all the parties to the armed conflicts in South Sudan .Because we believe that the costs of peace are lower compared with the high costs of war.

Peace is calmness, restfulness, tranquility and someone may add absence of warfare. If Ojjo retires to bed and puts panga, club and Ak 72 under his bed for self-defence in case of an emergency, such as attacks by robbers or gangsters, it is difficult to say Ojjo is retiring to bed with peace of mind. His actions are expensive and unnecessary. The money he spent on those offensive weapons could have been put to good use. But absence of peace has made it compelling that Ojjo had to acquire the weapons referred to. This is a testimony that insecurity and wars are destructive, while peace is reformative and constructive. All must support peace efforts and strive for it.

Peace enables people to create national values, equity, fraternity, freedom, respect for human dignity, honesty, cooperation, coexistence, tolerance, forgiveness, dialogue, and unity in diversity. All these are the seeds for building a new system and a new Nation – state. Viva South Sudan.

The author, Simon Elhag Kulusika, is an associate professor of law in Lusaka, Zambia. For more information, he can be reached through email at sophie.chibale@zaou.ac.zm

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