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FULL INTERVIEW: Suzanne Jambo, Her Political Roadmap to Peace and Democracy in South Sudan

Chairperson of the non-armed opposition STEPS, Suzanne Jambo (File/Supplied/Nyamilepedia)
Chairperson of the non-armed opposition STEPS, Suzanne Jambo (Photo credit: Supplied/Nyamilepedia)

January 28, 2019 (Nyamilepedia) -Suzanne Jambo, leader of South Sudan STEPS Towards Peace and Democracy, a political party founded in November 2017, talked to Nyamilepedia concerning the peace process, her political party and her political future in a male-dominated South Sudan politics.

Suzanne, a long time Human Right Activist and a former inner circle of the SPLM party, broke away from SPLM last year and formed her own political party which she said will bring the change needed by the people of South Sudan. 

Jambo is currently the only female candidate with interest in running for presidency as an independent political party. She is aspired to be the president of South Sudan.

Madam Jambo, one of the few South Sudanese politicians who connect with the youth so well on social media, use popular media to engage with youth and intellectuals. Recently Nyamilepedia reached out to Suzzane Jambo and here is what she had to share with our listeners:

Nyamilepedia: Dear Madam Suzanne Jambo, we are glad having you today on our platform to share your views on South Sudan peace implementation and the future of your political party. Could you please begin by briefly introducing yourself and your party for our listeners and viewers to acquaint themselves with who is Suzanne Jambo?

Suzanne Jambo: Thank you Nyamilepedia editorial team for this interview and your time. Happy New Year to you and to all South Sudanese in displaced and refugee camps and those in hospitals and around the globe yearning to be home. May peace reign upon our people in this year of 2019. My name is Suzanne Jambo, a South Sudanese who has been active in peace-making, human rights, and politics since 1998 to-date. My dream is to see a peaceful prosperous South Sudan where all are equal.

The political party I lead is called South Sudan STEPS Towards Peace and Democracy, shortly known as STEPS. It’s a peaceful movement born in October 2017 and its membership is of all South Sudanese while focusing on issues affecting war victims, the youth, women and all small and large South Sudanese including the professional cadres. I’m a human rights lawyer and I have also been active with civil society and community-based organizations working in different parts of South Sudan since 2000 to-date known as NESI Network which works on peacebuilding, community health care, adult education, etc. As well, in October 2017 I founded Dr. John Garang Peace Institute for Women which works to identify, promote and reward women peace activists in different parts of South Sudan. Women are heavily engaged in community peace efforts, however, given peace is concentrated on political elites, we at John Garang Women Peace Institute do our best to research on women’s peace efforts at grassroots.

STEPS, the political party is rapidly growing in different parts of South Sudanese, among the displaced and refugees as well the Diaspora where many had lost hope in peace. STEPS highlights the voices of the voiceless.
Nyamilepedia: Is your party currently registered in Juba, South Sudan and what are some of the challenges facing your party in a men-dominated political theater, I mean in South Sudan?

Suzanne Jambo: In November 2017 due to the then ongoing war, STEPS was registered abroad. However, currently, STEPS is in the process of being registered in South Sudan. We hope it shall go smoothly. It is anticipated with the current peace atmosphere with the September 2018 peace agreement that there shall be room for multipartyism and freedoms such as freedom of association, expression, and assembly. STEPS remains vigilant on the peace agreement so peace prevails.

Nyamilepedia: We understand that your party is a national party and it will not be biased against any gender but do you have specific plans for South Sudanese women and how do you see their responses to such plans?

Suzanne Jambo: STEPS is a national political party that addresses issues pertaining to peace and democracy in South Sudan. Given STEPS is a just-based political party, given South Sudan’s youth population is 72% and women’s 65%, it is our prime concern to address injustices and empowerment issues regarding the youth and women such as education and economic empowerment. Women, historically and traditionally due to several conflicts, continue to bear the brunt of wars the most and areas such severally affected and marginalized. Hence, it is STEPS concern to ensure women’s holistic empowerment ranging from their inclusion in peace-and decision-making processes, politics and the economy.

Nyamilepedia: Madam, as an inspiring candidate for South Sudan presidency as you once declared, when do you expect the next elections to be held in South Sudan and what are you doing currently to prepare until that time?

Suzanne Jambo: Driven by our people’s suffering, motivated by our people’s yearning for a just dignified life and lasting peace, urged by the gap in the required leadership, I have decided to answer the call. South Sudan must arise peacefully against violence, political exploitation, and manipulation. The time has come for our growth in all spectrums, nationhood building is realized, development and prosperity, Suzanne Jambo, the People’s Servant.

Furthermore, rallying our people to fully embrace the peace agreement is key to moving towards the actualization of peace, living it and protecting it. This shall further help our people prioritize and see clearly the need for an elected responsible, competent government that shall serve and be answerable to them. We shall further advocate for basic freedoms as expression and assembly, multi-partism and the ability to move freely safely in South Sudan. Furthermore, we shall work with like-minded political parties, individuals and civil society to consistently call for free fair elections.  

Nyamilepedia: Do you believe in the ongoing peace implementation and what role are you playing currently to help its implementation to succeed?

Suzanne Jambo: Both STEPS as a matter of vision abhor and shun violence, so do I personally. We are all South Sudanese and once we unite our voices to call for real peace, reforms, and democracy, our united voices are sufficient to make the required change without violence. South Sudan has bled more than enough. It is truly time to heal our traumatized war-burdened souls. Hence, my straight-up answer is we have no choice but to believe in this peace agreement because war is not an option. The September 2018 peace agreement may not be perfect and may have not addressed all root causes of the conflict, however, the security agreement including the comprehensive ceasefire agreement, provide for a better environment to peacefully iron out the remaining issues. Critically important, is the provision of general elections in 2021, as it is imperative on all South Sudanese to call for a conducive environment, for example, the voluntary return of displaced persons and refugees and consequent humanitarian services including food security, re-integration and security provisions.  
Nyamilepedia: Given that some parties and civil society groups have opted out of the recently signed peace agreement or should I say they were left out; do you think they have a genuine or realistic roadmap to refuse to be part of the current peace agreement?

Suzanne Jambo: I encourage all opposition and civil society groups to join hands in ensuring this peace agreement holds—it is key and paramount those outside the peace agreement prioritize peace and prevalence of security to all. In addition to adherence of the ceasefire agreement and security arrangements, our collective call should be to ensure basic freedoms in the Country and for all to have the introduction of the multi-party system, basic freedoms of the association, expression, and assembly. It is worth noting that the longer the war prevails, the farthest away we are all from attaining a real State in South Sudan. It is now truly urgent to stop the gun and begin nationhood building and the right pillars of justice as a sound constitution, separation of powers, responsive government systems and democracy.   

Nyamilepedia: What do you think about the speed of the ongoing peace implementation, is it too slow or too fast and what would you suggest to be done differently to improve its implementation?

Suzanne Jambo: Coincidentally, this peace agreement was signed almost in November 2018—only a month away from the Christmas festive holidays, hence it is expected to have a slow pace in the implementation process. However, we must all remain vigilant in the call for its timely implementation and most critically the security arrangements including the comprehensive ceasefire agreement; peace must be felt by all the people through the total silence of the gun regardless of other arrangements such as power sharing which may take place in April 2019, the people must feel peace has arrived through the stoppage of gunshots and to feel totally secure—this is the real essence of peace.

We strongly suggest that it is imperative that the would-be Transitional Government of National Unity, TGoNU in April 2019 must be composed inclusively of both youth women and youth, professional competent cadres and of We64, meaning representative of the tribes of South Sudan.  

Nyamilepedia: Now that peace has been signed and it is being implemented, what would you recommend to be done to help the IDPs and refugees to return to their homes and how soon?

Suzanne Jambo: It is important that raising awareness must be fully conducted to inform our internally displaced persons and refugees about the peace agreement. The government of TGoNU that shall be formed in April 2019 must win the trust of the regional and international community and rally them to join hands in a huge concerted comprehensive humanitarian assistance programme that should be in place including food security, shelter and primarily personal safety which must be put in place throughout the return home journey of our displaced persons and refugees.

Ideally, this Peace Agreement is unique in the sense that both President Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar, and other signatories to the Agreement have shown cordiality and their willingness to work together—hence, it is key that trust building and the political will to fully commit and implement the peace agreement is at least from the outset and throughout. In the spirit of inclusivity and together

In order to win the world community trust, the TGoNU must fully commit to human rights, fully release all political detainees, accord basic freedoms such as freedom of movement, assembly, and expression and put in place good governance such as transparent, accountable and efficient systems etc.

Nyamilepedia. If this peace agreement holds and South Sudan goes to the election in three years, do you see any possibility of free, fair and transparent elections?

Suzanne Jambo: Ideally, this Peace Agreement is unique in the sense that both President Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar, and other signatories to the Agreement have shown cordiality and their willingness to work together—hence, it is key that trust building and the political will to fully commit and implement the peace agreement is attest from the outset and throughout. In the spirit of inclusivity and togetherness, it is worth noting that both leaders must exert maximum diplomacy and genuine dialogue spirit and efforts to encourage those who have not signed the peace agreement to join on board—this is another test of the political will to work fully committed to this agreement and winning the trust of all.

In addition, and in order to win the political trust of all, it is paramount the TGoNU must fully commit to human rights, release all political detainees, accord basic freedoms such as freedom of movement, assembly, and expression and put in place good governance such as transparent efficient systems etc.

Nyamilepedia: What would you advise the politicians and military leaders to do differently this time to avoid the incident of December 15, 2013?

Suzanne Jambo: It is central that the TGoNU of April 2019 must separate powers; revamp the judiciary, the legislature, and the executive. The army belongs to the barracks—South Sudan has been a republic since 2011, it is time the police and other security organs to be empowered and accorded the right to protect civilians.

Any politician interfering with the army or vice versa must be punished by the law. The army strictly to belong to the barracks and must be fully trained, mentored and coached that way.   The Government must work hard in developing a visionary programme that shall ensure the nationalization and professionalization of the Army which shall, in turn, follow the constitutional definitions of its role. The transformation of the Republic of South Sudan from military rule to civilian must begin to take place and shape in April 2019 onwards.

Nyamilepedia: Is there anything else you would like to share with your supporters, South Sudanese in generals or our listeners and viewers?

Suzanne Jambo: We need to collectively work on restoring hope in ourselves as a people. South Sudanese must begin to take pride in our nation and build her ideas and sow the seeds of patriotism, pride in our collective identity; We64 (in reference to our tribes as one and equal), need to fully embrace the spirit of healing and reconciliation as a way forward—time for justice will come someday, but for now let’s save the souls of those alive, no more bloodshed! Our unity is key in our survival as South Sudanese, it is also key towards our unity as a diverse plural multi-cultural society—we must fully embrace our unique diversity and not subdue or undermine one another!

We must also guard and act as watchdogs on this Agreement remain vigilant to ensure it is both timely and genuinely implemented. Let’s remain ethical and non-bias when watching over the peace agreement. It is our country and our collective effort that save our beloved nation from further destruction.  

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