By Stephen Par Kuol,
Oct 1st, 2018(Nyamilepedia) — Tick! -Tick! Tick! Tick! Tick!— Ticks the clock to the “D“ Day of the 36 months transitional period without the critically needed confidence for implementation of R-ARCSS in spirit and letter. It is worth remembering that this is not uncharted path. We have been here before. In the name of trust building, we gambled it into Juba barehanded in December 2015 and we know what happened. We failed to build trust simply because there was no truth to build the trust on. It transpired in cold blood lynching and hot pursuit to Garamba Park in July 2016. Since then, we have lived through thick and thin of dishonoured agreements, political violence and mutual mistrust. Some pundits have called it trust deficit. In this article, I call will it truth deficit. In the balance, hangs the humanity of South Sudanese people who have been reduced to displaced and destitute within their own promised land of milk and honey. The rest are languishing in agonising limbo of refuge throughout the region.
Currently, what is buzzing in so many keen minds is this chicken and egg question: is it trust building or truth building? My thesis is that it is truth building first as experiences in many conflict situations around the world have it that the first casualty of war is always the truth. Speaking from 2015 ARCSS and 2018 R-ARCSS experiences, I can argue with authority that what we have called trust deficit is a symptom of the disease called truth deficit. Where there is no truth, you cannot have trust. As we have all known, trust is seriously eroded among the South Sudanese parties by the raging war of words and the lack of truth in the body politics of the war weary nation. That is what my Nuer folks have called in Thok Nath politikac(political lie). With this lethal politikac, thesocial fabric of South Sudan has been severely fractured and the society’s harmony is dangerously compromised making the trust building extremely daunting.
“There is truth only in the wine” say the French people. In South Sudan, the truth is in war, not in words. We truly fight but make false peace under false sense of security. We have become accustomed to the illusion of security that your insecurity is my security and your death is my life. The gestures of our violent culture speak volume more in spontaneous state of mind than in acting. We act at the peace talks but in our best behavior, we do what we know how to do best (war). That is why the on going offensives attacks on the SPLM/A(IO) defensive positions in Central Equatoria sound more real than those cocky hand shakes and crocodile conversations at the Friendship Palace of President Omar El Bashir in Khartoum. This tells my dear conscience that the truth is still in the war, not in words and hugs.
Presently, South Sudan is a nation whose left hand does not trust her right hand. Through their cheeky diplomacy, South Sudanese political elites have lost confidence of the world at the time of this writing. Even the foreign friends who helped them attained the independence have distanced themselves from the on going peace process until they can truly trust themselves. From the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly in New York to Addis-Ababa and Khartoum, South Sudanese leaders are disdained as savage bulls in a ruthless duel without rules. This has diplomatically made representing South Sudan a contemptuous show these days in those foreign capitals. It is undiplomatic to tell your guest he is going half naked but my reading with diplomatic eye is that we are being told but in body language. Various diplomatic cabals describe us as a society of traumatized and paranoid bunch. True, South Sudan is clinically schizophrenic and the best prescription is the truth. Don’t the wise say that the truth is bitter but better? Yes, South Sudan must swallow a bitter pill of truth to cure her from this chronic political schizophrenia. Otherwise, she will continue to roam the streets of the sane world naked for another long time to come.
Trust does not come without labor. It must be built with threads and shreds of veritable and verifiable actions, not Presidential Decrees and Public Pronouncements. You cannot weave threads of lies into attractive truth to build trust. It must be the truth and the whole truth. In His biblical living sermon, the omniscient Lord Jesus Christ said, seek the truth first and the truth shall set you free. In our case, it is the truth that will bring trust and set us free from the chain and shackles of those politikac and gimmicks. In truth, you can not convince my senses that you have never captured even a single SPLA (IO) combatant in the course of five years war to deny existence of SPLA (IO) POWS in your custody. This can only prove one or two things: that you have either violated the Geneva Convention on rule of combat or you are lying to me more at the expense of the trust we strive to build. Denying existence of abductees who have been spotted in one of your ghost houses is another dreadful omen that you are not telling me the truth for me to trust you.
In any case, our people are yeaning for peace and demand that the truth prevails for the trust and peace to reign in their land. This can only come quickly with one truthful action to produce and free those fine citizens of South Sudan like James Gatdet Dak, Dong Samuel Luak, Marko Lokidor, Aggrey Idiri and all the SPLA (IO) combatants (POWS) in your custody. That would be the trut to build the trust and the rest will truthfully fall in place. In sum, the word is that celebrations and cocky hugs will not build trust to deliver peace to our people.
The author, Hon. Stephen Par Kuol, is the SPLM-IO Chairman of National Committee for Foreign Relations, a former deputy ambassador and a former State Minister of Education. He can be reached through his email at firstname.lastname@example.org