Opinion South Sudan

South Sudan Conflict Analysis: What are the underlying root cuase of this conflicts and why its important to address them?

By: Walgak Chuol Bel,

Cde. Walgak Chuol Biel
Cde. Walgak Chuol Bel

September 28, 2015 (Nyamilepedia)—-I wrote this article some days back to shed some insight on the underlying root cause of South Sudan but loss interest in middle of nowhere in sending it to media outlet for publications and public consumption.

As the result of recently questions solicits by some social media commentators on  post in regard to underlying root cause of South Sudan’s conflict.

From this point in time I have decided to send this message out to social media for public consumption so that those who are interested on should read from my version and give their reaction accordingly, although the cause my be seem obvious many.

To begin with, the South Sudanese conflict is therefore a intracted conflicts in its form and character that had made it so harder and difficult to be resolved by IGAD mediators,  because its underlying roots causes which are deeply entrenched and closely blend are not addressed during the last 19th months of the mediation cycles.

The traditional method of South Sudanese conflict resolution strategies and management even if employed, the current conflict seem to have gone deeper beyond the South Sudanese traditional conflict healing practice. And therefore any attempt to resolve this conflict that deployed a traditional conflict resolution will never ever serve its purpose.

Although the criminals are always told that they are criminals base on the act committed, according to traditional Conflict management strategies, then telling Salva Kiir that he is a source of this current problem in South Sudan with not stop him from his destructive military campaigns to crash the powerful opposition.

In South Sudanese traditional conflict management practice, your own relatives would tell your mistake. Unless you accept your own mistake and apologize accordingly to the people whom you wrong at them, your wrong did would not be forgiven.

This is a not case here with current conflict at the hands. Unless the responsible persons are told of their wrong actions as per South Sudanese tradition, a tangible peace shall never reign.

The IAGD conflict resolution strategies had failed to account for the complexity of those underlying roots causes of South Sudan conflict, instead they tend to resolve the whole conflict so swiftly with out due consideration to basic and immediate cause. This is flawed methodology.

Their attempt had made their effort non-productive in trying to bring about peaceful end to intractable South Sudanese disputes for last 19th months.

Although the mediators tried a lot to allow and give the warring factions a chance for a direct talk to voices out their difference, grievance and to iron them; a traditional techniques of healing the South Sudanese communal conflict, but their resolution is always differ from what warring factions had talked about, change the text in most cases. This had happened when IGAD changed a text from proposed prime minister to first vice president.

Direct talks would have given a mediators a golden chance to learn the real underlying roots causes of the conflict from this direct dialogues made by the warring factions instead of cover story propagated and told by both sides at corners.

But IGAD has never learn from these number of dialogues held by two warring factions and was not honest enough to tell the truth to world that Salva Kiir was responsible man for the ongoing South Sudan conflict.

The strategy of allowing discussion among the conflicting parties would have enable the IGAD mediators to draw a resilient formula and resolution strategies on how to bring to end the raging South Sudanese conflict, but was the case, Mr. Museveni dictated the whole process by defending his friend Salva Kiir from negations table and the battlefield.

The underlying root causes of any conflict are what make them so difficult to be deal with. Since each conflict is unique in its form and character. However, South Sudan conflicts should not be confused with others example in the continent for instant the Kenya scenarios of creating Prime Minister position for opposition.

Therefore there is no one underlying roots cause of intractability. It is to say that there is no one common denominator to all intractable conflicts because they are all based on long lasting and deep-rooted divisions among the people.


What are the roots causes of South Sudan conflicts?

The South Sudan conflict can be views as conflicts, which had existed mostly between the two largest tribes, the Nuer and Dinka.  The division among these people groups had started as early of pre-imperial era.

But most of South Sudanese conflicts are mainly and seriously fought between these two major tribes, the Nuer and Dinka with others minor tribes oblige to form allies along these lines as early as of 1983, 1991 and 2013.

Although, these two tribes share common way of life and social practice as Nilotic people group, they have their own political interest and ideology difference; nevertheless their minor difference had devastated South Sudan, their communities and people of South Sudan in general. Nevertheless, these differences can be since as politically motivated in nature..

Even though the history of difference between these two tribes are dated back to early time, the most serious record of bittiness and division were made worse and spearhead by the formation SPLM/A in 1983 and the splits in 1991.

Since it’s the formation, SPLM/A introduced the new Sudan vision under secular state which was contradictory to separationist vision of NYA I and II fighters and movement mainly Nuer dominant.

This divergent view and ideology had given rise to a war, which was termed “a Unionist SPLM/A and separatist movement ANYA II & I”. This conflict has pitted the Nuer and Dinka allies against intruders, the Unionist movement SPLM/A comprised of Nuer and Dinka allies.  It was a tough time, which South Sudanese had gone through, and it was a point where the major difference ripens between the Nuer and Dinka.

SPLM/A under the leadership of late John Garang had introduced a new political ideology, the united Sudan under secular state contrary to NYA I and II fighters objectives and ideology, the independent South Sudan as political agenda.

Among theses difference between these two rival ethnic groups, their present in either side were pre-dominantly on favor of their ethnic ties. This is to said that, under dinka lead movement, the followers are dominantly from dinka ethnic group while in other hands under the led of Nuer ethnic group, majority in the movement happened to be Nuer but the present of dinka and Nuer at either side were unavoidable. From this concept, we can see that politic unite Nuer and divide them.

Although attempts were made to unite these factions, it was not a complete and prefect unity because the underlying root cause leading to this conflict were not addressed.

In 1991 the devastated SPLM/A split surfaced which had pitted Dr Riek and Dr Lam Akol against late Dr John Garang, the war against vision of New Sudan and Independent South Sudan.

This splits was most dangerous war which has left the trauma on the thousands minds from the two faction namely, Nasir factions led by Dr Riek and Torit faction led by late Dr John Garang. All parties to this split were affected seriously started from their respective movement as well as their community levels.

After the 8 years of the army conflicts, the two warring factions (Nasir and Torit) decided to be re-emerged in 2002 to pursue a common goals and objectives.

But most of the driving factors which had led to wars or splits were not fully or if any addressed, making both side to look at each others as enemies in addition to the fact, the re-unification was not so complete; leaving those who were not happy to re-unite before addressing underlying difference at war with merged camps.

Even though its was not so complete, the merging of the two warring factions was so important because it had led to CPA deal of 2005 which would not have been realized if the ranks and files of two factions were not merged under SPLM/A.

There were never been a peaceful way in addressing the difference among the two war devastating communities whether at political level or communities level, living a lot of grievance being transformed from to time to time.

The split of 1991 come with its own grievance and difference and most of the time people repeatedly keep citing the event, this was of course because there was no fair settlement of the crisis and factors leading to the split.

When South Sudan become Independent state, South Sudanese leaders suppose to make reconciliation to heal the wounds created by various difference starting from political level up to local lever which was realized lately.

There was the time when the Reconciliation and Healing Conference lead by Dr Riek was dissolves by Salva Kiir over the going difference between him and Dr Riek. Leading to surprise decree of withdrawal of delegated power.

But it was not in the interest of Torit factions who got the upper hands during re-emerging of two faction by transforming their past difference as opportunities instead they use them as ploy to discriminates others factions or communities or tribes, which were not originally on their factions.

It’s to said that they resort to promote the culture of revenges on others, they do things according to their participants lists on their factions, the motive which had widen and deepen the tribalism and promotes a major rifts.

The same Torit faction deploys and promotes hatred against the Nasir factional leaders. When appointing a ministers at national level, all they do is to show the videos recorded during struggles on public TV, showing the contribution of those were on their faction, a move that is to send a divisive signal on those were not part to that factions.

If the appointee happened to be Nuer or others on Torit faction, then they said those appointee had never betrayed their movement, the Torit faction which was led by late Dr John Garang.

When Salva Kiir was appointing John Kong Nyuon as defend minister is videos of struggles and loyalty to Torit factions was displaced on Public TV to rally public support that this a right man in to a right place.

Such a practices were incorporated after 2002 re-merging of the two factions and continues till the present days.

The practice also lacks some consistence. The formers Torit faction who happened to administer South Sudanese affairs use to go beyond their factional limits by appointing those dinka who were serving Arab interest.

These actions lead to the conclusion that the government use tribal politics to appoint people. A notable members of formers National Congress (Party NCP); a ruling party in Sudan were appointed to ministerial portfolio simply because of their tribal affiliation while they are still discriminating the formers Nasir factions veterans on basis of their old difference and tribal tendency.

In fact the Nasir faction under Dr Riek and Torit faction under late Dr John Garang resorted to their old rivalry, seeing themselves, the survived members as real enemies in the military, government, and communities level, leading to mistrust and widening of the old rift and wounds.

The Torit factions which happened to lead the movement by the time of their unification emerged to take revenges paths by resorting in to the victimization of remnants members of Nasir factions in both government, military and part level in term of appointment in government and promotion in the army.

These are the facts, whether you are qualified persons while you had happened to be from Nasir faction, then you are not qualify to get appointment to lead any public institutions. This is to say that those who were closely to Dr Riek and Dr Riek as the target of this plan.

Things were not all rights. You may happen to get hire to work in certain institution but the chance to lead the public institution are made Torit factions; a Dinka mostly dominated camp, giving rise to Dinka hegemony in most government institution, military and foreign missions that now led to promotion of tribalism and corruptions in various institutions.

The government institutions were working to promote tribalism but suppressing others ethnic fearing that others sections will promote the interest of their respective factions or communities.

All they do is to appoint a helpless man who happen to be from their political camps from other sections to claims presentation of certain sections who happened to be with in their ranks and files from other tribes so as to uses them as puppet, by blocking them to do something good in favor of their tribes. This is a tragedy of South Sudan administration under the former Torit led faction.

Other communities, tribes and nationalities were eyeing at these malpractice, nepotism and segregation of the people of South Sudan base on their ideology and social background by former Torit faction veterans.

Most of public institution were dominated by their allies and themselves particularly ministerial post in various ministries, Undersecretary of various ministries, director and Director generals in various, foreign missions and military commands. Unless you said you are from Torit, with recommendation former faction warlord who knew that you were with them in their faction.

The discrimination and victimization other were done even to those tribes who were neutral during the Nasir and Torit factional wars, which were mainly fought between Nuer (Nasir faction) and Dinka (Torit faction), with notation that they did not have contribution during liberation struggle against successive oppressive Khartoum regime.

Even the moderate Dinka or Torit factions are suffering, because they are not needed to promote fairness in some institution once appointed, they want those who promote the culture of tribalism.

Whether in the government or societal level people are seeing themselves as Nasirist and Toritist, a view that had widen a rift between South Sudanese with in the government or military, as well as at the communities level, specially between main rival, the Nuer and Dinka with their allies.

According to Torit doctrine, they favor only those who formerly served in their camp. For them to promote their hegemony, they had created some stereotyping names against the former Nasir factions specially Nuer, as nagat, militias and betrayal etc.

All these names are the conflict transporters parameters. All those names were the promoters of hatred and also had led to the contribution to the division created by former Torits faction.

These practices were mostly happening in South Sudan because societies and politicians were promoting the hatred and stereotypes, that is the very reason I called South Sudan conflict as intractable conflict in its form and character.

Even Salva Kiir had cited that 1991 will not repeated it, a message that had sent a negative signal to those who were expected by the splits.

Addressing the political component of South Sudan conflict would not necessarily stop the continuation of conflict at Societal level, unless both components are targeted and tackled, while the politicians from both section emerge to forge new political agreement on how to tackle most issues which lead to misunderstanding between this community.

The same conflict factors were seen in others countries, for example, during the late spring and early summer of 1994 in Rwanda, almost a million Rwandans were killed by their fellow citizens like what happen in Juba, thousands Nuer were killed by their fellow Dinka.

Almost all the Tutsi and some other moderate Hutu were massacred by Hutus militant, preside over by the government and quasi-official radio stations.

This was the same scenario of South Sudan massacre conducted by Dinka militants against Nuer civilians and others nationalities who were mistake for having the same six Nuer traditional mark on their forth head.

The scale of Juba massacre were made worse when Salva Kiir order all military officers to report themselves to their respective units after the clash of his presidential guards unit at Gaida, leaving the Juba city security under the hands of his loyalist, the dinka militant, locally known as Dut Ku Beny (rescues the president).

The events in South Sudan which lead to Dec 15, 2013 crisis were provoked by the SPLM leaders’ failure to held said convention on time, which was accompanied by political reform strategy championed by SG Pagan Amum, Madam Rebecca and Dr Riek pitting them against Salva Kiir’s group that want to maintain the status quo.

But how did a national agenda turn to be tribal war? It was Salva Kiir political calculation to diverge the trend of the national issues by killing Nuer civilians in Juba order to get the attention of his Dinka supporters and specially to rally Bor behind him.

However, the antagonism between these two ethnic groups, the Nuer and Dinka are much deeper and are striking event throughout the history of South Sudanese struggles, this has contributed to large scale spread of the conflict would have been contained if it were to happen in different social group.

Indeed, the underlying causes of the conflict between the Nuer and Dinka were believed to be so old that even no one could knows exactly for sure where these two ethnic groups started their hatred and why the Dinka have been politically dominant from 1956-to present.

When you want to solve South Sudan conflicts you need to pay much attention to the underlying root cause, especially the event of December 15th 2013 has its basic and immediate cause that need to get addressed.

South Sudanese are still pro democracy since 1956. They wanted to see South Sudan as democratic state that shall be built on equal basis but the surprise were made by SPLM leaders on reform agenda which had left the Salva Kiir with no choice then to resort to military mean, a dictatorial leadership styles he deployed to get rid of his political rival.

We know that the basic cause of the current crisis started over the SPLM leadership reform agenda, from the political groups, which supports democratic reform lead by Dr Riek and Salva Kiir political group that want to maintain the status quo of the party.

The real problem started over the basic documents, code of conduct and manifesto. We SPLM leaders were preparing to hold convention in May 2013, and then the Salva Kiir group wanted the party-governing documents reviewed in way that fit his self-egos.

Salva Kiir political group wanted the voting system to be mean of showing hands that signal intimidation and demand to have 5% appointee that will promotes their interest in any matter at all the three party levels namely, PB, NLC and NC.

While Machar group wanted cancellation of 5% chairperson appointee to make party more democratic and transparency Dr Machar Group wants indirect votes to be adopted as mean to reduce intimidation from direct vote.

But Salva Kiir resort to violent by targeting his political opponents in government and party by dissolving the government and party to get rid of those who do not support his bid for third term in office, landing the country in to event of 15th, Dec, 2013.

Its important for any mediators that want to resolve South Sudan conflict to look in to these compounded issues because failure to address these factors is recipe to unpredictable events. Salva Kiir would have been told to step aside for others to stop committing erroneous mistake.

I believe that South Sudanese politicians will not bring change or peace when they are given a chance to talks directly to fix the crisis and fix what went wrong.

Salva Kiir know well that he had committed crimes and genocide, he is only working to get rid of opposition militarily while opposition have loss trust on Salva Kiir lead regime, that they would not opt to surrender under the same Salva Kiir.

This scenario will not allow South Sudanese leaders to reach the desired compromise in order to achieve peaceful mean to end the conflict.

The dictator Salva Kiir fears accountability and want peace that keep him on power so that no one can hold him accountable from crime he had committed.

Opposition camp wants peace with accountability so that the incident of Dec 15 2013 will not repeat itself when criminal are being punished. It will be new things from the world to allow a war criminal to lead the nations that he hard destroyed.

This situation will not make the civil war last longer but also it will increase the suffering of people across South Sudan and the world beyond. Unless external forces is applied to stop this endless bargaining on who to win who and what.

Salva Kiir should be told that his term is over and he should not be part of interim government. His refusal to this peaceful call would allow and give an opportunity for the world to accompany him up to gate of hell.

Addressing the underlying root cause of the conflict is very important, because it’s what make the conflict intense and keep it so.

The underlying root causes of the conflict are embedded in history; the resentments were dated from events that occurred decades or even centuries ago as in South Sudan, their origins may not even be remembered.

Often, the different historically events become a part of the conflict itself. The generation and people who want to keep the conflict itself alive often keep those historical roots cause alive. What Dinka use to said, “Nuer a ci weng jot “meaning Nuer has taken cattle.

The politicians most noticeably, for example, frequently magnify the importance of these historical animosities for their own gain, this exactly what happen at open Remark NCL on Dec 14 and on Dec 8 when the pro Salva Kiir politicians cited 1991 incident inciting the mass which were affected by 1991 event to prepare for the revenges.

By doing so, they want to generate long standing fears among the people and resentments among their constituents, and that they can increase their own power and legitimacy, the technique which was applied by Salva Kiir to rally supporters which were affected by 1991 incident.

South Sudan genocide is a broad category of conflicts whose underlying root cause needs to get addressed. These conflicts typically pit people with deep emotional attachment to ethnic groups against each other.

It is not just that Dinka are proud of their social background. In addition, their identity usually also involved an equally deep fear, hatred, and distrust of the other, that signal image of the enemy.

Most Dinka people use to name Nuer nyagat, failures, militias, not confirm and so on. Those names are not only an insult to Nuer and others but also discriminatory and as result the Nuer fighters will not easy accept to come to comprise with Dinka who will create others names only for promotion of hatred and conflict.

How we expect someone labeled as failure to come back to some who will call him failure again and create other unnecessary names?

A second set of underlying roots causes of South Sudan conflicts that is often found in intractable conflicts is discrimination. These include security, belonging, participation, and economic which were dominated by Dinka ethnic group.

Nuer and others people believe that their needs have not been met and that they have been discriminated again for an extended period of time from 1956-2013, the resentment that they carry with them had fueled violent conflicts to more intense and widely spread of the conflicts.

Identity and unmet needs came together in South Sudan in the early 1990s and contributed to the spilt which claimed as much as thousands of the country’s total population.

The Dinka, because they did not resist British but the British experience on Nuer had made the world especially British to label Nuer people as powerful, brave and warrior, the very reason why the world is not serious on the Nuer genocide instead allowing the one who committed genocide to form an allies.

South Sudan conflict as an intractable conflicts it cannot be resolved unless the underlying causes are addressed. This can be done in a number of ways, but must occur on two levels.

1- It is important to address the substantive issues that give rise to conflict in the first place, such as genocide, unbalanced distributions of wealth and power. Dinka controls the South Sudan resource; they control most positions in the countries from the president to others key positions in the government institutions.

2- The second task, which is normally harder to tackle, is that of diffusing the fear, hatred, and other negative emotions that make a conflict intractable and all too often deadly. Efforts to forge national reconciliation, such as the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, are therefore extremely important in creating a successful, enduring peace processes that will cure societal difference.

Addressing the underlying roots causes of a conflict takes a lot of time and no single peace agreement, no single commission and no single visionary man can solve the complicated, overlapping, and enduring roots causes of South Sudan conflict overnight. The conflict between Nuer and Dinka started as early as during or before imperialism.

3- On the leadership level, leaders are the only people who can address the underlying root causes of conflict that are part of their personal difference. That might seem odd at first glance because political leaders have others political groups which may blame or not agree with what the ring leaders have agreed up on being economic or political discrimination that are the underlying substantive causes of many intractable conflicts.

The leaders have built their careers by fanning the emotional flames of conflict. Whether it is the call for a separate state, then the political leaders often deepen rather than lessen divisions. The leaders do a lot to set the tone for how their followers will think and act.

Transformative leaders have often led their people into conflict. But the great ones have also helped their people overcome conflict by helping them address root causes and restore peace.

The transformational leaders can get their followers to make the sacrifices and other commitments needed to take on the extended, demanding process of change.

But South Sudan leaders have both social and political dimension. Political leaders must first agreed on resolving the pressing issues and grant a way forward which will pave the way for conflict resolution at communities level.

Unfortunately, there are all too few Dr Riek Machar among the world leaders today or at any time in history.  Machar showed respect for the people he disagreed with and who caused him so much harm.

4—The mediators can address modes of thinking, the values and assumptions people rely on to help them decide how they will behave when confronted on negotiation table.

If IGAD had stopped using wrong confrontational approach then the history might have been much different. Some conflicts that seem as if they will never end in this world of so much violence.  But it is true to recall that some intractable conflicts would have stopped if people were changed the way they think about each other.

Some decades ago, most Americans people have come to believe that the phrase “all men are created equal” applies to people of all races, and women as well as men.

Although it did not disappeared completely but it is diminishing. It takes bold leadership to address the causes of intractable conflicts in a meaningful way, to reduce enmity and pave the way toward more constructive relationships.

What level of confidant and change in mind do IGAD-plus have on Salva Kiir to re-unite South Sudanese under him after killing them in thousand?

Author is South Sudanese citizens and student in India and can be reach at this email: belkwenywhar@hotmail.com.

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gatdarwich September 28, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Walgak, bitterness against our traditional and common enemies is an undeniable fact that all Nuers alive possesses.

Walgak Chuol Bel September 30, 2015 at 8:56 pm

What are those bitterness against South Sudanese that Nuer have in addition to bitterness against South Sudanese’s common enemies? Its seem to me that you are introducing new terms here.

AGUMUT September 28, 2015 at 2:28 pm

Deadly Hacking by Dr.Machar and Mabior’s MAMA. Hacking itself is a part of a COUP.

Walgak Chuol Bel September 30, 2015 at 8:52 pm

If you do not know meaning of the term please do not play with it. hacking has no relation with coup and there was no coup committed in South Sudan……Please stop being brainwashed by the lies propagated by Makuei Lueth and Philip Aguer…Talking lies will take you to even……

AMEN September 29, 2015 at 7:00 am

Walgak wrote very good article, but the fact remain in its position that all the war caused in south sudan is caused by Dr.Riek. he alway defected from his government without genuine reason and later he came back to south sudan with empty hand. Dr.Riek defected 1991 and again in 2013 and fight without aim and objectives. so for the article which was written by WALGAK there is no other we can say is the cause of the conflict in south sudan Dr Riek is REALLY CAUSED of the conflict in south sudan.Now he sign the peace and he want to came back to his former position which is very bad if I were him I would have not accepted that position because he want to be president of south sudan instead of Vice president
Dr Riek will not pass any an election in south sudan if he didnot stop divided south sudanese on trible bases.all south sudanese citizen don,t want him to be leader except some few supporters from his trible for me don,t want him even though he is from my county in unity state.

Walgak Chuol Bel September 30, 2015 at 8:48 pm

There is always a reasons for something to happen. If we are not treating ourselves fairly as the same people, if are not discriminating each others, if we not stereotyping each others, if we are not take advantage of others people, we are not segregating others people and discriminating them in different some of problem which are happening now and then would have not been there.

If Salva Kiir did not block SPLM convention which suppose to take place May 23 and he did not dissolved the cabinet to get of his running Dr Riek Machar and if he did not dissolved SPLM structures then the current war would have not been fought…

Salva Kiir is mistake is not a dinka mistake but dinka diehard supporters of this regime took the case as dinka vs nuer things. Recruiting private army for while there was army was also ill intention from Salva Kiir…..

So please, stop defending Salva Kiir because he is a dinka, this man has failed us already…

AMEN October 1, 2015 at 5:51 am

Walgak, in the world wide there is no a government of which cabinet can not be dissolved and removed some people and put the new faces. still yet you don,t know this, yet it seem you are educated. that is as to why many people say that Educated person from NUER has got no difference with REALLY VILLAGER Dr.Fool Riek his plan was to over threw Salva Kiir but he fail to achieve his goal and it will never happen for him to take power by use of force. even if Salva has failed still yet president whether you want or NOT


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