By: Chap Phan, MICHIGAN, USA, DEC/10/2014, SSN;
The ongoing civil war in South Sudan has killed over 20,000 and displaced many millions since the beginning of the war. Peace talks which were supposed to solve the political crisis have not yielded any result despite the involvement of prominent countries, namely: United States, Norway, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, North Sudan, and other East African Regional bloc (IGAD) member states.
The worse of all begun in December 15th, 2013 when the government of president Salve Kiir conducted mass killing of civilians based on ethnic lines. Thus, effectively Salve Kiir triggered the current civil war when the Nuer population were targeted and killed in their resident areas for three days.
Not only did Kirr government short changed its responsibility to protect all citizens, Kirr sent the wrong signal on impunity from the start when he fabricated the truth about the genesis of crisis which is why many South Sudanese hardly believe anything his government says; the government is effectively not trusted on anything it says.
1.1 The inflection point.
Knowing that they had no choice but to defend for themselves, since the beginning of the war, majority of Nuer population picked up arms and fought back to the government that killed their brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers.
Their primary demand has been for Salve Kiir to step down from the power. So far Kiir has responded by defending his legitimacy and refused to step down. His supporters maintain that Kiir was freely elected and that only democratic means can only unseat him.
They find it as their duty to protect the fragile democratic system that has served the country for the last several years and are willing to oppose any one that would undermine it through armed struggle.
Yet it is not a question that majority of Nuer population have lost faith in the Kiir’s government, they insist that the unnecessary death of Nuer civilians in the capital Juba shows that Kiir government is tribal-based government that planned to kill all Nuer just because they are from Nuer.
Many Nuer people insist that the event that manifested itself into the death of Nuer civilians for three day before the outbreak of the war reflects the long prevailing attitudes and behavior within Kiir’s company.
Many believed that the killing of Nuer would have not stopped had it not been for Gen. Gadet Yaka, who acted with courage and determination. Large population of Nuer find it hard to acknowledge the current status quo; it’s believed that government does not hold same respect when it failed to hold up to it obligation, primarily the need to protect civilians.
1.2 In principle.
The bloody chaos that started in capital Juba has ensured a broader civil war within South Sudan. Salve kirr bears primary political responsibility for the chaos in the country precisely because he is the president and the crisis erupted on his watch.
It is certainly true that Kiir was elected, but an elected leader has responsibility to protect civilians despite their political and tribal affiliations. Election is not a license to kill. When elected leader failed to perform their duty people have the right to ask their leader to step down.
The outburst of the Nuer to wage war on Kiir government is the result of death of Nuer civilians in Juba, causality and sequence of the event matter.
It’s undesirable to unseat a freely elected government because it sets a bad precedence for democratic system and it tends to create incentive for dissatisfied candidates to pursue their agendas through violence.
But it’s equally dreadful to allow government to get away with mass murder, it sets precedence that when a government is in power it can use all means possible to suppress independent voices (citizens) and crash opponents to cement their power without consequences.
Kiir government cracked down on civil societies, arrested opposition leaders, and long manipulation of rule of law are meant to concentrate power and to ultimately undermine democracy, peace, and prosperity.
1.3 On performance
Kiir has ruled South Sudan for several years with little achievement. Over the last several years thousands of South Sudanese were, and are still, dying everyday over land and cattle.
Much of his leadership has proved incapable of dealing with any crisis, and the ongoing crisis is deepening precisely because he lacked character and could not get beyond his own narrow political interests while the whole country he claims to be in charged of slipped ever deeper into crisis.
He cannot take full responsibility for what happened in Juba, yet his response…sending more military weapons with mission of killing civilians is delusional and counterproductive. His long mismanagement of political process produced the ongoing crisis; he is incompetent.
1.4 The trust deficit
Kiir and his henchmen have protected the entitlement state of their contradiction ever since the beginning of this crisis. Kiir and his henchmen have reputational costs to government system.
For instance, neither Kiir nor his henchmen seemed not alarmed when hundreds of Nuer civilians were murdered for three day straight. Those people that died were not bad people; they were regular people that are well respected in their respective community.
Thus, Kiir government cannot and should not be trusted to correct the injustice and corruption it has created. Perhaps Kiir administration is not fighting against the Nuer population, but it is hard to convince the world that the government is respected when majority of Nuer people are locked up in the UN camps fearing for their lives; the continuous hardship toward Nuer population testifies the contradiction on Kiir administration.
It’s a mockery of justice to expect Nuer civilians to accept him as their president, the rights of citizens’ matters, smothering their rights only perpetuates violence.
1.5 Where does South Sudan go from Here?
The last six years has shown that South Sudanese elite and political figures lack confidence to right things, the current crisis accumulated as result of a culture that avoids decision, that involves risk in hope that events would go away.
For instance, the passing of the constitution that gave president Kiir power to remove an elected governor is incompetent and lacks of foresight on the individual(s) that wrote it and individual(s) that passed it.
South Sudanese political figures flaunted their obligation since this crisis begun, unless we demands greater expectation nothing will change. If South Sudan learned anything it is that we should set high expectation for our leaders and hold them to account.
The current crisis goes beyond one tribe; it is about governability and the future of South Sudan, it is about setting up a system that will serve all interests of all people. It is about setting up checks and balances on the central government, state and local governments. It is a search for genuine democracy in a world of unpredictable personality type.
1.6 time is up.
Kiir’s views and basic governing philosophies are not helpful at this time. South Sudan is in desperate need of effective leadership and fresh new thinking to propel South Sudan from current crisis.
South Sudan deserves better a leader than Kiir, and it’s up to the people of South Sudan, yes, including both Nuer and Dinka to hold their leader accountable, this is precisely why Kiir should step down now.
Until we hold our leaders to high standard and question activities and their leadership style, we should not expect change.
We cannot achieve sustained peace unless we set conditions, constraints, pressures and expectations that affect the culture and restore justice. All presidential leadership traits are judged in light of their outcomes, if South Sudan is not divided as it stands now I would view Kiir as a brilliant chap, but the outcome of the last year has destroyed south Sudan as we know it.
South Sudan is looking for a president that thinks few steps ahead and anticipates an evil regime, Kiir needs to go.
Chap Phan lives in Michigan, USA, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org