Opinion Politics

Salvaging the wreckage, South Sudan

By Koang Tut Jing

July 9, 2021Despite the 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement signed between the fractures of opposition forces and the government of President Salva Kiir, there is no change. The no-peace-no-war situation has become a lethal weapon the political leaders in Juba have employed against the South Sudanese masses. 

Thousands of Southern Sudanese wave the flag of their new country during a ceremony in the capital Juba on July 09, 2011 to celebrate South Sudan's independence from Sudan. South Sudan separated from Sudan to become the world's newest nation.(Photo credit: ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands of Southern Sudanese wave the flag of their new country during a ceremony in the capital Juba on July 09, 2011 to celebrate South Sudan’s independence from Sudan. South Sudan separated from Sudan to become the world’s newest nation.(Photo credit: ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

In 1955, 1975 and 1983 few men and women took it upon themselves in which President Kiir and his colleagues in the SPLM/A were part of. However, it was through the support of the masses that voluntarily supplied information, food and many shed-bloods for the cause spearheaded by the SPLM/A led by late Dr. Garang Mabior in which Kiir and other senior members were partakers. After the independence, many South Sudanese people are asking themselves a lot of questions including, why did we fight successive regimes in Khartoum? The hope to free ourselves from tyranny and improve our standard of living has been dashed. 

Despite attaining independence in 2011, we are still bogged down by the legacy of wars that our nation inherited from Sudan resulting in desperation for ordinary citizens. The freedom we have voted for in 2011 and the blood of our martyrs have changed nothing. Few individuals who have hijacked the SPLM are holding all of us hostage. It is unfortunate that the guiding star we have been using for navigating our ways during the struggle across the South Sudan land is no more. Our problem is a leadership deficiency left by Dr. Garang when he departed prematurely. I have no doubt that President Kiir would always remain a symbol of darkness for all of us given his legacy of failure during the liberation war. When Kiir ascended into SPLM leadership, I knew he was going to fail us and I said this in most of my previous writings. Anyhow this article is about salvaging the wreckage (South Sudan) after years of conflict that decimated the country. In a 21st year long struggle against the North Sudanese successive regimes, South Sudanese communities have hurt each other in one way or another. However, South Sudanese political leaders have failed to implement a true reconciliation and healing program that would heal and possibly reduce friction between the communities.

The reconciliation and healing program if implemented would have provided an opportunity for the leaders to discuss how the country would be governed. Although, it was certain that a reconciliation and healing program was to be conducted, there was nothing as such that was held. It was later revealed that it was a lack of will from President Kiir which had watered down the program. But if we are to rescue this country, there has to be national reconciliation and healing and a political will to pursue such a cause. Nevertheless, President Kiir has nothing left he can offer to this nation. Kiir has finished and he ran out of ideas and energy to save this country from self-destruction. South Sudanese people across the globe (in abroad and at home) must now accept the challenges and confront the current government in South Sudan as the men of 104 & 105 battalions did in Bor, Pochala, Pibor, and Ayod in May and June of 1983.

Since the birth of this country in 2011, South Sudanese masses have continued to suffer the consequences of tribalized politics which was a result of grudges accumulated from long years of Sudanese Civil War. Tribalized politics in South Sudan and failure to reconcile South Sudanese communities have led to this despicable situation, in which only innocent South Sudanese are paying heavily. Our political leaders did not utilize the unity of purpose demonstrated by South Sudanese people when they overwhelmingly voted for a nation of their own in 2011 and the united front they showed when they stood shoulder to shoulder in celebrating the birth of the country in July of that year.  However, South Sudanese leaders still have the opportunity to demonstrate leadership and change the course of their actions to salvage what was left in the nation they decimated. 

Since 2005, the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) under President Salva Kiir Mayardit had lost its vision. And as a government, there is nothing that guides them. This lack of guidance has resulted in pursuit for personal interests and hence resulting to struggle for control of resources. The wrangling between the SPLM members that was the cause of war in December 2013 was actually a fight over the control of resources. However, President Kiir tribalized it and used it as an issue between Nuer and Dinka to cling on power. The execution of the operation that uprooted the Nuer tribe members into UN Protection Sites across Juba was tribally implemented just to make the national issue as Nuer versus Dinka. President Kiir toured regional Barh el Ghazal in September 2013 was the beginning of tribal war he orchestrated and his visitation to Kuacjok, Rumbek, Wau and Aweil was to shore up support from Dinka of that region for the upcoming conflict against Nuer tribe. And despite his full knowledge of what he was doing, the President shamelessly claimed it was a coup attempt which was not. Given his brutal legacy dated back since the time of liberation war, President Kiir shall always remain a symbol of national calamity as long he stays in power. Kiir is responsible for all our agony and if we do not take collective action against him along with his entire NCP leaders in SPLM cloth, the suffering of South Sudanese people shall continue. 

As of now, President Kiir’s office has the lion share of the national revenues that comes from oil and other sources. The Office of the President and others that associate with it are using our dollars against us. The President and his circle have been busy buying loyalty and paying mercenaries to aid him in fighting his internal enemies. As a result, our own civil population is starving and many of which are depending on hand out food from the UN agencies. As a nation we must be able to feed ourselves, but we aren’t and this intensifies food insecurity, cattle rustling and robbery in broad daylight. Intercommunal and tribal fighting among the civil population has intensified. Murle versus Nuer, Dinka and Anuak in Jonglei, Nuer versus Nuer, Dinka versus Dinka in Barh el Ghazal, Nuer versus Dinka in Unity, Warap and Lakes states, Buoya versus Toposa, Didinga, Lotuha versus Lotuha in Eastern Equatoria and Azande versus Valanda in Western Equatoria. In this anarchy, our roads become death traps for innocent travelers. This mess can only be stopped by creating a genuine unified force (police, prison officers and strong national army) that draws its membership from all walks of South Sudanese people to bring an end to this national crisis. However, the President and his associates are not ready to create a true national armed force, which would response to any challenge including his incompetent leadership that South Sudanese people have been putting up with since 2005.

It is a responsibility of the sitting government to provide a conducive atmosphere for the civil population to produce food and cash crops to help uplift national economy standards. Salva Kiir knows very well that it was through subsistence farming of our people that facilitated the SPLA during the long liberation war. Without food supply and information from our civil population SPLA could have not made it. Likewise, the South Sudanese Government cannot do well in terms of economics if the population is not productive. It is a responsibility of the government to provide security for citizens so that they go about their business without fear of being killed by unknown gunmen. People cannot cultivate their farms to grow food to feed their families in the presence of widespread insecurity across the country. Unfortunately, the President has been blaming the economic crisis on others such as targeted individual sanctions that the UN, EU and USA imposed on some South Sudanese politicians. In my opinion, this is not a relevant argument unless the President has not connected his dots well. Our oil sale has not been sanctioned. The President needs to accept the responsibility and exit the leadership honourably so that others clean the messes he has created.

Our neighbours are stealing parts of our country while the sitting government is busy stirring up internal wars. Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Kenya all have chopped off some lands belonging to South Sudan. For example, Uganda is encroaching into Kajokeji area, they are just across the River from Nimule, almost to Parajwok, Owinykibul, Lobone, and are approaching Lotuke. Meanwhile Kenya has taken over Kiasa and is close to Marengagopi (Spelling check). All the northern frontier of the country has been taken over by Sudan and to the east, it is not clear how far are Ethiopians from Pochala and Rad. Shamelessly, the President prefers to stay in power without exercising his role as the person in charge of defending the integrity of this country. Instead of strengthening our national army to respond to those challenges, the President is busy creating loyalist militia and a small unit of Presidential Guards for his own protection. 

Such a move is intended for the pulverization of the national army as was the policy in Sudan during Omar El-Bashir rule. This tactic has left the SSPDF disorganized and useless. I can argue that the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA of 1983 to 2005) which I knew was far better organized and useful than the so-called national army (SSPDF). President Salva Kiir has opted for policies similar to those of the National Congress Party of Sudan that kept them in power for 30 years. The creation of personal militia and empowerment of the National Security Service by President Kiir was done intentionally to keep him and his circle in power even though President Kiir does nothing that salvages the remnants of his unnecessary conflict.

It is only through national view which will arrest the tribalized politics in our country; heals our communities through leadership, justice & fairness by providing good management of resources. For many of us who missed our childhood life because of national causes, it is personal. Torch will not be passed to us nor shall we implement the reconstruction of the nation as promised to us by late Dr. Garang and his colleagues during the war of liberation. Patriotic intervention is urgently required and we must mobilize to rectify the situation and salvage what is left in our country. And if South Sudan is to stand tall as the rest of nations, we must accept the challenge.

Koang is a former Gurtong reporter and concerned South Sudanese living in the South Pacific and can be reached at barchoch91@gmail.com.

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