FROM A PEACEMAKER PERSPECTIVE
June 09, 2014(Nyamilepedia) — Having lived through the 1983 experience in South Sudan: war, starvation, displacement, diseases and other unnecessary sufferings such as tribal divisions, and living in exile as a refugee, I have words of experience and strong convictions about what South Sudan, our suffering country, needs.
MY VISION OF A DEMOCRATIC SOUTH SUDAN
We need to begin nation-building in which all of the diverse cultures will be embraced. We need to find a way to benefit from diversity and benefit from unity, as opposed to all the negativity of tribal divisions. If we do this, the next generation will have a sense of belonging to a nation, with continuing pride and identity in our tribal roots. All of the diverse tribes can unite in a larger sense of unity and positive citizenship within an over-arching national identity.
Our tribal backgrounds would no longer be excuses for aggression and division, but would be sources of celebration, as differences to share and make unique contributions to the whole.
Truly, we can learn from all those tragedies we went through. Now we can begin to create a truly democratic and free citizenship based on human rights, and a government that builds on the grassroots need and contributions of ordinary people, rather than dividing and destroying civic life and the structures that exist for the protection of ordinary people. We want provision of basic human rights such as shelter, health care, education, safety, housing, food, respect and the protection of human rights.
I want to be part of a country that inherits the kind of culture our fathers died for; it has to be a country that recognizes and identifies the human assets, to provide equal access to economic, political, social and cultural resources.
The government needs to respect and protect the lives of citizens, provide the opportunities of safe neighbourhoods, a voice in development of government and economic policies, and youth employment opportunities. The constitution must reflect the voices and rights of the people: free, fair and properly provided, and the government must practice these policies in a truly democratic new tradition that increases the rights of women, children, youth, elderly, and those with life challenges.
Where are we starting from now? The current situation does not truly respect what we were hoping and dreaming of in the new nation of South Sudan ; our hopes for a new democracy, prosperity, unity, peace and stability have been dashed.
How did this disillusionment come about? It came about because the government allowed genocide within the country’s capital, and the violence escalated to the other cities. It divided our national army and took on a strong ethnic theme. It began, as we all know, with the President’s ethnic-based militias, targeting and killing one ethnic group: namely the Nuer.
This has sent citizens of all ages fleeing for safety, which damages the economic and civil society of our country, and will take immense effort to recover from. This will take cooperation between diverse groups to heal the trauma.
HOW DOES TRUE RECONCILIATION WORK?
Some people believe that reconciliation means an apology, a hand shake and perhaps some financial compensation. This is not a description of true reconciliation! Real reconciliation involves an honest confrontation between people who have been harmed or disadvantaged, , who meet with those who have caused them to be harmed. Both the victim and the perpetrator speak from their own experiences, and if the perpetrator admits his or her regret for the hurt that was done to the victim, a sincere apology can be made. If the person who was victimized accepts the apology, acceptable reparation can be discussed, and healing can be experienced by both individuals: the victim and the perpetrator.
This model of reconciliation is often brushed aside, because it takes time, honesty, an opening of hearts, a chance of healing, and real change for the future. This is more or less the model that was followed by the “Truth and Reconciliation” process in South Africa. It was painful and intense, but it led to many people being freed from the bitterness and hopelessness created by harmful actions that were carried out during the times when aggression was out of control.
Reconciliation is a two-way street in which both sides engage with sincerity and honesty. It is rare, but there are examples in “restorative justice” approaches.
MY MESSAGE TO EXTREMELY CONCERNED SOUTH SUDANESE IN CANADA
I appeal to you to put your voices together to seek support from the Canadian Government and the United Nations to stop the hostilities and preserve the population. We cannot create peace by joining warlike activities such as social media that is aimed at increasing anger and agitation. Communities here and in Africa need workshops and seminars for anti-genocide education and conflict prevention. Wherever we are, we need special programs for emotional and social rehabilitation to make a positive transition from a war orientation to nonviolent peacemaking strategies.
I would be happy to discuss this vision of creating security, peace, positive communities, unity, prosperity and democracy as an alternative to violent actions that further destroy the normal lives of civilians in South Sudan. I include non-African Canadians in my challenge to understand and assist with peacemaking approaches and rebuilding of the war-torn country of South Sudan. These are global issues; we all share responsibility when humans anywhere are suffering.
Simon T. Mach is a concern South Sudanese. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org