By: John Juac, WINDSOR, Canada, DEC/15/2015, SSN;
When the Republic of South Sudan officially came into being in 2011, after seceding from Muslim Arab Sudan, a large crowd waved the new southern flag during euphoric celebrations that swept across the world’s newest state. Then the new state was bursting with pride and great expectations and the founding fathers seemed to hold its future in their hands.
They were seen as the living repositories of the grand potential of a future South Sudan. So hope was overflowing among its diverse population, but the dreadful eruptions of violence which followed independence caused great uncertainty.
South Sudan’s first government was led by the leading liberation movement, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). The SPLM and its national army, the SPLA, however are fragile coalitions of various militias and political entities that fought against each other during a long north-south civil war, and no any authentic national reconciliation process was undertaken after the 2005 peace.
All these factions and militia were brought together in the final run up to independence.
But much of this coalition building was achieved by adding various militias to the national army, but never fully integrating them.
The political alliances were covered over but did not resolve the competing political claims. Both the party and the army were unable to contain the competing ambitions and dissensions.
Despite independence, the country was divided against itself, and after just two years, in December 2013, it descended into a brutal civil war when disagreements between the president and the vice president led to fighting among government soldiers in Juba, the capital of new state.
The violence then spread across the land blinded by irrationality. Today, there are assertions by foreign think tanks that the 21-month-old civil war is about who will rule independent South Sudan, but it is more than just who will rule the country.
It marks the culmination of a year-long silent crisis in the ruling party, a crisis now so deep that the conflict will also determine whether the party of thieves and maniac warriors will survive at all as a viable political organization and ideology.
In other words, the situation in South Sudan is a tragedy in every sense of the word, first of all for the people who are suffering and those who have already lost family members and friends; second because the independence for which South Sudanese fought for many years is being wasted on internal warfare rather devoted to the needs of the people.
Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese have died in senseless war, and many more have fled their homes after experiencing horrible crimes committed not only by government soldiers but numerous militant armed groups as well.
The main warring parties, the rebel SPLM led by Riek Machar and undemocratic SPLM in power under by Salva Kiir, had recently reached a negotiated settlement, but fighting is still ongoing in South Sudan despite a growing humanitarian crisis in the nascent country with fragile political structure.
On the final note, at the core of South Sudanese politics, there is the notion of conflict, but this is not what makes it specific and distinct.
All concepts of politics, whatever the kind, are about conflict and how to contain it. What is specific about Sudanese politics is what it declares the nature of the conflict to be and what it proclaims to be its necessary outcome.
In the liberal view of politics, conflict exists in terms of fundamental problems which need to be solved, and the hidden assumption is that conflict needs not run very deep. It can be managed by the exercise of reason and goodwill and readiness to compromise and agree.
Thus, politics is not internal warfare but a constant process of bargaining and accommodation, on the basis of accepted procedures, and between people who have decided as a preliminary that they can and want to live together more harmoniously.
South Sudan’s approach to conflict, however, is very different. Its approach is not a matter of the problems to be solved but of a state of domination and subjection to be ended by a civil war and by a total transformation of the conditions which gave rise to it in the first place.
This sort of approach has led to a campaign of incitement to ethnic hatred and use of violence for political end. In this situation, ethnic factors have played a role in the present conflict.
But I hope that one day we will manage to transform political despotism into political democracy and ethnic hatred and violence into a South Sudanese great patriotism.
What is meant by a South Sudanese great patriotism is the burning sensation of boundless love, unreserved devotion toward the homeland, deep responsibility for its fate and defense- it bubbles from the depths of people like a mighty spring.
We must be South Sudanese who are first among equals and who must treat each other with a holy feeling of friendship, love and gratitude.
We must actively participate in the building of national consciousness and fight together the underdevelopment, as we did during the great patriotic war against Muslim Arab colonial enemies, who had attempted to convert our African heritage into Arab Islamic culture.
The compulsory national language classes must be introduced in our public schools and must become the medium of teaching to replace English and Arabic scripts.
The great patriotic war must be seen as an even greater emphasis on South Sudanese nationalism and heroes from our past such as Late John Garang and other fallen heroes.
We must also remember that the creation of the nation-state is often the result of a vast effort by politicians, civil servants and civil society through the use of power of the national media, the national flag, and the national anthem, instruction in schools and publicity for sporting success to integrate population into the state.
In these circumstances, it is very easy to place the rights of the state and nation above those of individual.
In last resort, it has been asserted that the state has the right to mobilize its citizens and call on them to die for nation. It is impossible to construct a state that does not meet the ideal of a nation-state.
If the would-be reader is familiar with the literature on the ex-colonial states on African continent, they were artificial creations, many of them stemming from lines drawn on a map somewhere in Europe in the late nineteenth century or at the end of the First World War. They cut across tribal and ethnic boundaries with little regard for the people involved.
However, the new states which emerged in Europe claimed to be not just states but nations. They were seen as the embodiment of a particular people, their history, their language, their religion and their culture, all of which were different from those of any other group.
So having similar history, religion and culture, we must be one people and one nation in order to preserve peace and security in our ancestral home. Although some claim that nationalism is a highly ambiguous concept, it is the process of nation-building.
This aspect is particularly important for a new state like South Sudan which is trying to establish itself as an independent entity against outside pressure and begin the long process of modernization and creation of an industrial economy.
In fact, nationalism is derived from the existence of the people and its function is to mold these people, whom are a disparity tribal groups into a common identity.
A single national language is created from a multitude of local and regional languages, mainly through the power of the national media, leading to an achievement of unity, stability and order in a nation without tribalism and other conflicts.
In South Sudan, nationalism must be seen as a progressive force and not regressive one in the building of the modern state, and therefore we must take up this long process of nation-building to reach its conclusion.
We must be an identifiable national unit, even though we are highly diverse, with separate languages and cultures contained within an overall identity.
I wish you Merry Christmas and happy for 2016.
John Juac Deng