Oyet Nathaniel Pierino South Sudan

The political Dilemmas In South Sudan: Between Ethnicity and Legitimacy


By Hon. Oyet Nathaniel Pierino

 Torit, South Sudan,

Maj. Gen. Hon. Oyet Nathaniel Pierino, a founding member of SPLM/A-IO and leading commander of SPLA-IO forces in Imatong State(Photo: supplied)
Maj. Gen. Hon. Oyet Nathaniel Pierino, a founding member of SPLM/A-IO and leading commander of SPLA-IO forces in Imatong State(Photo: supplied)

March 28, 2017(Nyamilepedia) —— All political societies primitive or modern are composed of invariably smaller societies of different types. What matters is where citizens locate their loyalties. By nature, a man places his loyalty and will to himself and his means of existence; family, then to the lineage, clan, tribe, ethnic group in that order.

In a civilised society like state, the most natural privilege of a man is that of associating with his fellow men and acting in common with them in pursuit of public good. In as much as the right of association is inherently inalienable and fundamental, it may also be perverted by others and thus the elements of civil life may be degenerate into conditions of destructions, cruelty and cannibalism. (Tocquville, 1835).

If men were to cope with the pace of civilization (largest human grouping), the arts of going beyond one natural cleavages and associating with humanity on the other side of the horizon must impulsively grow and improve. The rationale of civilisation is first and foremost, terminate inherent anarchy, insecurity, lawlessness by creating a social contract where everyone gives up his private will into that of the general will and he himself becomes a free man. JJ. Reassou, 1755.

In the context of South Sudan, the underlying dilemma facing the regime of the Jieng Council and president Kiir are; (1) how by designed, the regime depending on the political and social resources of dinka ethnic group can retain, and perpetuate power in order to dominate the government and politics of South Sudan. (2) How the regime being dinka dominated can increase its support based to the wider population of South Sudan and the outside world; region and international community.

How and why did president Kiir’s regime become ethnicized? Ethnicity is a situation of competition among communal groups seeking to protect and advance their communal interest in a political system. (Nnoli, 1975). The payoff being; influence over public matters, control of public matters, powers to allocate resources and values, power to accumulate wealth, and prestige. Etc. This is essentially what lies behind every violence and drop of blood in South Sudan.

Since inception of Southern Sudan in 2005, there has been unfounded, sustained and relentless suspicion as well as fear that lost of power was eminent and as such president Kiir was always on the lookout and thus he retreated to his kindred and ethnicity for consolidation of power and support from foreign allies. The phenomena of a community of people (dinka, nuer, shilluk, Baria, Acholi, Azande, Murle, etc) with conviction of common identity and fate based on origin, kinship, cultural ties and tradition, shared history and possibly language unleashing themselves on each other in an aggressive and defensive disposition is an old tradition in the political development and life of south Sudanese society.

At least for the most part of preceding two generations, inter communal violence has been recorded more often than ever with unprecedented surge in such socio economic and political violence and competition from 2005 following. Attempts to gain some sort of control of resources, prestige and expand sphere of influence precipitated a total war of all against all. Yet under such backdrop, a nation-state shall be created. Before 1960s, at least archaic tools or means were employed; at least no ethnic group used state resources as we see today. Without complication the contest was then limited in scope and shorter.

Just like for most ethnic group in South Sudan, traditionally, the life of dinka ethnic group, revolved around the cattle camp, (luak). Trade, diplomacy, prestige, influence, self actualization and power were acquired by virtue of those who had as many cattle as there may be. What distorted this setting was interface with alien civilization. I would call this de-civilization or clash of civilization. Because even today, the dinka ethnicity are never cohesive and harmonious as before though it is tempting to say otherwise.

The clash of civilization of a typical African society and that of the western world or earlier the Islamic civilization, created de-civilization in some south Sudanese societies epitomized by the prevailing tragedy of genocide and ethnic cleansing in the world’s youngest nation. The introductions of modern ideals of civilize society or state was conceived dead in the conscience of greater portion of south Sudanese taken as citizens or greater majority of the 64 nations plus those yet to be discovered. The idea of statehood was poisoned at its conception by the practice of the exploiters of south Sudanese in the last 500 years when slavery and repression changed hands between the Turks, Egyptians, the British and the Khartoum based regimes.

The earlier and medieval leaders of south Sudanese movements and intelligentsia and SPLA/M bear full responsibility for nurturing, planting and growing seeds of self destruction of the future nation-sate of south Sudan. The ingredients of social and political decay in societies of south Sudanese; whether small or large, in towns or country side, social or political, economic or religious were carried in the womb of the numerous movements and minds of the political and military elites who were ill informed about their undertaking. Ascending them to status of public trust namely; presidency, governors, ministers, legislators, military officers and men brought to bare a living scenario of animal farm conceived by George Orwell and it follows, all tribes are equal but some tribes are more equal than others. All we have seen throughout the struggle is a magnum opus of bad leadership and poor politics devoid of revolutionary spirit, statecraft and nationalism. There has been a viciously acute syndrome of absent of unifying political ideology to launch a new socio economic and political condition or era. To put in a lay man language, absent of political ideology is to set a journey without direction.

To an ordinary or an average south Sudanese including the president and the governing elite the Jieng Council of Elders, the concept and practice of government has been alienated from state in its truest sense. This is the gist of the political decadents and turmoil in south Sudan. The semblance of state does exist but the actual state has already failed one is only safe for and by himself; everyone is back to the state of nature. The decay in the state has now spill over into and engulfed the society so that there is a total collapse and disintegration of society into smaller tribal and ethnic enclaves.

The practicality of the situation in Juba under president Kiir is an alienation or takeover of government by tiny segments of the power and wealth wielding members of Jieng elites with their cohorts, leaving behind the bulk of south Sudanese population. What are left in the state are the elements of population, territory, and the private will (everyone or community is a sovereign) since the social contract has faltered and the consent of the people abused. I mean the social contract that created the state of south Sudan by way of 2011 referendum has been ransacked. It has been turned into a criminal enterprise by a clique of violence looters, oppressors and murderers. The population has now the moral rights and authority of terminating firstly, the consent they gave the government and secondly, the social contract in the interest of survival and existence.

Attempt to create an ethnic congress (actual or tacit alliance of ethnic groups that share and benefit from state power and resources) to perpetuate power has failed. President Kiir and the Jieng Council are now stranded in Juba. They cannot win the war for it is a civil war. The original calculation by Taban Deng and Salva Kiir that the opposition united or divided are poorly armed and can be crushed is false. Apparently the only political base the regime enjoys is the exploitation of the dinka ethnicity and is treated as an exclusive political zone. The resultant strategy by every politically conscious south Sudanese rational actor is to declare an exclusive political and military zone to deny the regime every access to political and economic resources. This eventually will politically and economically alienate and starve the regime to its demise.

The responsibilities of the opposition now is to gather the bewildered communities, reorients their aspiration, propel a universal vision for recreating a new south Sudan, in order to usher in a renaissance of a new society and political system alienated from the malady and decadents of the past and present. The defection from opposition to the regime is inconsequential. The only real defection is if a politician or military officer defects with a political or military support base to the regime. 

The Author is Hon. Oyet Nathaniel Pierino;

Senior and Founding Member of SPLM-IO,

He can be reached through:  oyetnathaniel22@gmail.com

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