BY: Daniel Juol Nhomngek, South Sudan, SEP/16?2014, SSN;
WHY? WHAT IS THE PROBLEM OF LAKES STATE: CAN WE GET A LONG TERM SOLUTION? Lakes State is one of the ten States in South Sudan occupied by over ninety percent of Dinka people of the Republic of South Sudan. Besides, it is one of the historical States in South Sudan believed by all South Sudanese to be the origin, centre and basis of the revolution that gave birth to the SPLM/A that later fought for the right to self-determination of all South Sudanese that led to the independence of South Sudan.
In addition, the people of Lakes State were the first to spearhead revolutionary war against the North and, which made them to be known for their patriotism as black African people.
Nevertheless, after the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement, they turned out to be the worst and trouble makers in the whole of South Sudan and their problems have dominated discussions in every corner of the country, which is unusual of Lakes State.
What has been happening in Lakes State invites a fundamental question and the question is: what is or what went wrong? Why? What is the problem of Lakes State?
It appears that the Biblical saying of “the last will be the first and first will be the last” is finding its fulfillment in Lakes State?
In this Article, I will explain the origin of Lakes State crises, problems of Lakes State and their root causes and after that I will endavour to explain solutions that I see appropriate to end the current security impasse, deadlock and unending conflicts.
To begin with, the problems of Lakes State are not girls, guns, people, politicians nor cows as many view them. However, the problems of Lakes State are deep-rooted problems and Girls, guns, people, politicians and cows are just facilitating factors that fuel and make such problems resurface.
In my understanding and analysis, the root causes of problems and tensions in Lakes State among civilians are economic, social and political and the failure by politicians to address these issues or to agree over comprehensive solutions to the problems caused by these issues or on how to end the conflict in tackling these issues in Lakes State.
As pointed out in the above paragraph, lack of agreement and self-interests by politicians involved in getting solution to Lakes State problems has worsened the situations.
As long as politicians of Lakes State are not ready to come to consensus over what should be formidable solutions to end Lakes State crises the sufferings of the people in Lakes State will never end.
The political indifference caused by self-interests as exhibited by Lakes State politicians is one of the stumbling blocks to finding a comprehensive approach to problems there.
In addition, it has been the source of problems, tensions and eventual conflicts in Lakes State. I came to this conclusion after attending the recent conference held at Nyakuron Cultural Centre over Lakes State crises.
In that Conference organized by Jieng Community Leaders Council, I came to the realization that politicians have contributed to the sufferings of the people of Lakes State.
This is because I attended the conference with the hope that politicians were going to put their differences aside and get a common position on how to end the conflict in Lakes State.
However, instead of sitting down as people who were united by one problem in order to try to find a lasting solution to crises in Lakes State, politicians started arguing over irrelevant things like who should the best to bring the lasting solution to Lakes State.
Self-interests of politicians again overshadowed the conference as they were locked in which approach should be taken to address Lakes State crises.
As one politician proposed beautiful and long solutions to Lakes State problems, which I totally agree with on one hand, another politician terribly opposed such solutions by offering short term solutions like the removable of Matur from Lakes State and disarmament of civilians.
In fact, politicians of Lakes State on that day ended up with endless debates over the approaches without going to the core of the matter; which is the root cause of Lakes State and how best to solve them.
Therefore, in that conference, the first day was wasted on meaningless arguments and counter arguments over the approaches.
In situation that presents people with challenges like the issue of Lakes State, people are prone to not finding a solution when they are trapped in the cocoons of their personal interest.
Beyond such a scenario involving deadlocks and impasses, the ultimate victims are often people trapped in a crisis, which people are attempting to find a solution.
However, where there is no personal interest and the people are only out to find a solution, it is easy to find such a solution sought for and the disagreement is not bound to arise. In fact, there are many approaches that have been put forward to get a solution to any problem.
Some of such approaches as recommended by THE OECD DAC HANDBOOK ON SECURITY SYSTEM REFORM (SSR) SUPPORTING SECURITY AND JUSTICE are:
1- A problem-solving approach. This approach focuses on solving one security or justice problem (such as violent crime, prison overcrowding or court backlogs) as an entry point from which to mobilise system-wide engagement. This sort of approach put forward by some politicians in that conference.
2- An institutional approach. This is where there are existing pro-reform initiatives at an institutional level that can be supported (such as a government-initiated review of the prison or police service). Linkages to other institutions can then develop over time.
3- A phased approach to post-conflict situations focusing on understanding and, where possible, integrating stabilization — “securing the peace” — and development-oriented objectives. This approach is suitable to be adopted after conflict with an attempt to find a lasting peace.
4- Finally, a comprehensive approach. This type of approach is important. It includes reviewing the effectiveness and accountability of the whole security and justice system in order to build linkages across it and although rarely available at the outset, a comprehensive approach would be the eventual goal of either of the approaches outlined above. In fact, Lakes State problems need this type of approach although majority of the politicians in Lakes State favour the first approach.
As I have stated somewhere above, the Conference at Nyakuron Centre has educated me on one fact that unless the politicians of Lakes State are left out in the search for finding lasting solutions to Lakes State crises, Lakes State will be under fire indefinitely.
In that Conference, what was happening was just an argument over approaches not a solution to Lakes State problems as I initially had hoped for.
In other words, they have a blind love for the people of Lakes State to the extent of not knowing what the people of Lakes State wants for the moment.
In reality, the precious commodity that people of Lakes State want at the moment is security, medicines, good roads and schools. These things can only be achieved if comprehensive approach is adopted not only targeted General Matur, which many politicians think to be a solution.
The reason why some of us blame some politicians of Lakes State is not that they are solely the cause of Lakes State problems but they have never been sincere to their people since the signing of the CPA.
They have been deceiving people of Lakes State that they represent them but in fact they represent their own personal interests and ambitions.
This is why they are not ready to save lives of the people in the State by agreeing on approaches to find Lakes State problems.
The politicians of Lakes State like any other person in South Sudan have misunderstood what people of Lakes State want.
There had been fictitious thinking that people of Lakes State need force in order to observe law and order, which proves to be fruitless on the contrary given current political arena.
The current political crises as indicated by unending brutal and merciless killings of innocent civilians and individuals that are caught up in skirmishes has underlined the fact the use of force remained a laughing and not a solution to the problems of Lakes State.
In short, it is superfluous and shallow way of solving human-made phenomenon.
As many proposed who have misunderstood the problems of Lakes State have been proposing, what the people of Lakes State need is not change of the governor only but the rule of law, justice, respect for their human rights, right to property and elimination of culture of impunity.
The culture of impunity embedded in the way of thinking by many in Lakes State needs to be eliminated through force and psychological demoralization.
The way politicians argue when it comes to the issue of Lakes State crisis indicates that they had not understood the problems of Lakes State.
The problems of Lakes State are rooted in history and have nothing to do with any governor.
If the lasting solution were to be found, there is a need for comprehensive approach by finding an entry point and then try to address all underlying tensions that act as a flashing point of conflicts among the people in the State.
The entry point might be to remove the current governor, which should not be a source of disagreement because it is not the final solution to the problems of Lakes State.
This is because the current governor is not the cause of the problems of Lakes State rather he is just a facilitating factor of the problems, which were already there.
Why some of us blame and consider current governor to be a facilitating factor is due to his failure to observe or protect tenets of democracy such as rule of law, justice, respect for human rights and right to property as stated above.
The failure to observe tenets of democracy as pointed out in the foregoing sentence has contributed and fueled tensions as citizens reversed to the primordial law and the principle of jungle law of survival of the fittest.
This is the core and the facilitating of Lakes State problems.
The failure of the current Care-taker governor to observe the rule of law and force people to do the same has opened a Pandora Box of the underlying tensions, which sparks off conflicts among different clans in Lakes State.
As things stand now, there is a need for much work to be done in order to achieve lasting peace in Lakes State.
For instance, in the past things were not worst as witnessed today in Lakes State because authorities did observe some of the above elements of democracy.
Nevertheless, the previous leaders did not also do much to understand the underlying problems that cause tensions among the citizens of Lakes State and this is why the current Care-taker governor should not be solely blamed for the problems facing Lakes State currently.
As stated somewhere in this article that the problems of Lakes State are deep rooted in history, it is now important to trace the root causes of the current conflicts in Lakes State.
One of the major causes of conflicts in Lakes State is the way cows are understood.
Cows are understood to be outside personal property and therefore, they are considered to be more important than human lives, which own them in Lakes State.
Yet in Dinka culture, it is an abominable to kill human beings but the current culture of impunity that has been developed by cattle keepers has changed Dinka Culture of respect for human lives.
Currently among cattle keepers, killing a person to get a cow is not a crime but instead it is encouraged. This kind of understanding comes in the way people have understood and depended on cows.
People who keep cows see them to be everything and the more cows one has the more important one is, hence diminished criminal responsibility attached to cows as property.
Contrarily, cows are worshiped like gods and are at the same level with human beings or even more important than human beings.
Hence, the root of the current conflicts in Lakes State has its origin in the nature and the way cows are kept, understood and viewed by cattle keepers.
The people of Lakes State were allowed in the first place to keep cows without checks and balances from Northern Government.
Lack of accountability in cattle keeping has been the root cause of the conflicts among the people of Lakes State since terrible crimes were committed with impunity.
In fact, the people of Lakes State used to fight among themselves because of cows even before the starting of the SPLM/A in 1983.
Nonetheless despite the fact that conflicts existed in Lakes State Communities, the regimes from the North of Sudan were not interested in bringing lasting peace not only among the people of Lakes State but also throughout Dinka Communities.
The example conflicts fought between Agaar and Gok before the SPLM/A started were clashes in Keerwith and Amook. In those two conflicts many people were killed on both sides but much was not done to bring lasting peace.
In addition, there used to be some conflicts among Agaar and Gok themselves.
In addition, Northern Regimes did not devise a long term planning to bring social transformation through educating them. One of the major reasons was that Arabs were not ready to educate people who would know that they were being oppressed and rose against them.
However, when the SPLM/A started war against the North, the war against the North became a unifying factor and as a result, Dinka people forgot enmity among themselves as they became preoccupied with the civil wars.
Nonetheless, when the CPA was signed, the people of Lakes State for instance remembered their past conflicts and found that injustices were committed against each but not addressed. As a result, they started their old conflicts.
Nevertheless, the failure by the government of Lakes State to address the first conflicts in comprehensive manner became the major cause of the current recurrent conflicts in Lakes State.
Thus, the problems of Lakes State cannot be said to be from any of the governors but their failure to find the root causes of the conflicts in Lakes State and if possible tried to bring reconciliation and lasting peace among the people of Lakes State.
Moreover, Riek Machar became a facilitating factor because his first rebellion trained cattle keepers on how to use guns in killing each other.
Therefore, as explained in the foregoing paragraphs, the problems of Lakes State are not girls, cows, guns or Riek Machar as many have been pointing out but lack of understanding of the root causes of the problems of Lakes State by State Authorities.
In order to bring lasting solution to Lakes State now, there is a need to understand historical root of the problems.
Otherwise, what the people of Lakes State need most at present is security. As it has been clear pointed by some writers, security is fundamental to people’s livelihoods in the following ways:
It helps in reducing poverty, which leads to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. This is because security relates to personal and state safety; it contributes access to social services and political processes.
Security is therefore a core government responsibility, necessary for economic and social development and vital for the protection of human rights.
The reason why security is important in any country is because it matters to the poor and other vulnerable groups, especially women and children, because bad policing, weak justice and penal systems and corrupt militaries mean that they suffer disproportionately from crime, insecurity and fear.
Without security, the poor and other vulnerable groups are consequently less likely to be able to access government services, invest in improving their own futures and escape from poverty.
It thus by implication means that security and development are related. However, the concept of interdependence between the two has been misunderstood in Lakes State. This is because the authorities in Lakes State understand security to mean controlling physical fighting, which is not true.
In reality, security is connected to development, which means that in order to ensure security, roads must be built, professional organized forces must be trained, hospitals and schools must be built and above all accountability must be ensured.
In fact, what’s needed most in Lakes State is Accountability in all sectors. As the accountability has been explained, it derives from the fact that no society can claim to be free or democratic without strict adherence to the rule of law.
In actual sense, in Lakes State there are massive atrocities and crimes that have been so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored and left unaccounted for.
The major root cause of Lakes State is the violation of ordinary citizens’ right to life without accountability.
Many people have been killed in Lakes State but the authorities and judiciary do not do justice to be seen by all people.
Instead, the authorities are accused of being implicit in helping criminals to escape justice or loot other people’s cows without accountability.
Such lack of transparency and accountability from government officials and individuals cause different people in Lakes State to take laws into their own hands. Hence, explains what constitutes the fundamental problems of Lakes State.
However, given the limits to the law and prosecution in Lakes State, and although criminal justice is important, additional activities are needed that focus on documenting the truth about the past, which means that there is a need for comprehensive approach to end the problems of Lakes State once and for all.
It implies that in order to document the truth about the past in Lakes State, there is a need for some correct approach to be adopted in order to achieve reconciliation and lasting peace among the people of Lakes State affected by insecurity and violent crimes.
As explained above in the four approaches, it is important to adopt comprehensive approach in order to bring security and justice reforms, which are important in order to make the system accountable.
In truth, there is a need to carry security and justice system reforms in Lakes State. The security and justice system is defined by the OECD-DAC [OECD stands for Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and DAC stands for Development Assistance Committee of the OECD]as including all those institutions, groups, organisations and individuals — both state and non-state — that have a stake in security and justice provision.
In Lakes State, the security system includes:
• Core security actors: armed forces; police service; gendarmeries; paramilitary forces; governor guards; intelligence and security services (both military and civilian); border guards; customs authorities; and reserve or local security units (civil defence forces, national guards, militias).
• Management and oversight bodies: the executive, national security advisory bodies, legislative and legislative select committees; ministries of defence, internal affairs, foreign affairs; customary and traditional authorities; financial management bodies (finance ministries, budget officers, financial audit and planning units); and civil society organisations (civilian review boards and public complaints commissions).
• Justice and the rule of law: judiciary and justice ministries; prisons; criminal investigation and prosecution services; human rights commissions and ombudsmen; and customary and traditional justice systems.
• Non-statutory security forces: liberation armies, guerrilla armies, private security companies, political party militias.
The security system can further be seen as being made up of smaller sub-systems, such as the following examples:
• Criminal justice system (police services, judiciary, prosecution service, lawyers, probation workers, oversight institutions, community justice providers).
Intelligence system (police, intelligence collection agencies, strategic analysis organisations, military, oversight institutions).
State security system (police services, security and intelligence services, military, border guards, oversight institutions).
As seen in explanation of what constitutes justice and security institutions, the two should play an important role in the management of conflicts within any society.
However as seen in Lakes State, abusive and unaccountable security forces and discriminatory justice institutions contributes to violent conflict.
In order to avoid security forces turning into repressive force, the priority must be given to security and justice reforms as a means for conflict prevention, peace building and development.
However, ‘given the sensitive role of the security system in society, there is a risk that if programs concerning security reforms are not carefully targeted they could inadvertently exacerbate tensions’.
For example, increasing the operational capacity of law enforcement agencies without improving their governance could fuel repression as seen in Lakes State with the governor who uses state apparatus to oppress citizens of Lakes with impunity.
In Lakes State, targeting programs in one part of the state in a divided society could reinforce clan divisions and the marginalization of disadvantaged groups, which highlights the importance of taking a conflict-sensitive approach.
As it has been observed as SSR programmes are often in countries affected by or at risk of violent conflict, it is important to understand the conflict dynamics and root causes as well as the perspectives of relevant stakeholders in order to develop programmes of support effectively.
SSR programmes that integrate a conflict-sensitive approach can help support peace building and mitigate tensions by, for example, increasing the access to justice of marginalized groups or enhancing trust between the police and local communities.
In order to ensure reform needed, a supportive political environment needs to be fostered in Lakes State, and early investments made in appropriate analysis. In the past, programmes were based on ‘inadequate assessment and have often have been too technical in nature’. This is because the system has never been accountable to the people of Lakes State.
As a result, when system messes up and people react negatively against the system as they often do, they are ones being blamed of causing problems in Lakes State because there is no transparency and accountability in the system.
To build the system, which is accountable to the people of Lakes State, ‘a balance must be struck between support to provide quick wins and confidence-building measures on the one hand, and taking time to understand each particular context with appropriate analysis and assessment on the other’.
Central Government in Juba should engage in SSR with three major overarching objectives: “ i) the improvement of basic security and justice service delivery; ii) the establishment of an effective governance, oversight and accountability system; and iii) the development of local leadership and ownership of a reform process to review the capacity and technical needs of the security system”.
In summary, in order to achieve lasting peace in Lakes State, what is needed to be done inter alia include:
Removal of the current governor as an entry point not the solution as many expects and thinks of. Then, after the removal of the Care-taker government, the Interim Government should be set up whose its roles are to write law governing the state, to set up the Truth telling, Reconciliation and Peace Commission to investigate and address the underlying issues that often cause the conflict; to carry out statewide consultation to get the views of the people of Lakes State on what should be done to end conflicts among themselves; to set up Reparation Committee that deals with the compensation of victims of the violent crimes; Disarmament programmes should also be carried out but it must be friendly to the people in order to ensure their safety by government providing protection against external aggression.
Besides, Gelweng should be trained with the objective of turning it into conventional community policing unit. The training will help them to have knowledge on the law of war, and the rule of game, which they lack today.
The prisons reform should be carried out with the aim of training prisoners to become productive individuals and at the same time making them obedient citizens who obey laws of South Sudan.
In addition, system of compulsory primary education should be consolidated so that no child is allowed to remain without schooling, which will help in reforming citizens of Lakes State in future.
In addition, the statewide conference should be held as a means of carrying out reconciliation meeting and then after that they are guarded in writing their own laws governing their relationship among themselves and other states and with the government of Lakes State.
Finally, the law to be written should emphasize the issues of girls and revenge killings. “Apuk” (Apuk means compensation given for a person killed ) should be abolished in order to ensure individual criminal responsibility while maintaining common law principle of negligence to ensure that victims have some compensation from the culprits in case of negligent killings.
The author can be reached through: firstname.lastname@example.org; +211955321044