BY: Tongun Lo Loyuong, SOUTH SUDAN, JUL/14/2013, SSN;
‘Only when this country is liberated from the “liberators” will we celebrate our true independence.’ This time last year I refused to celebrate the first independence anniversary of South Sudan and I remain adamant not to celebrate the second anniversary either. You see, when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed between the selected dyadic parties to the conflict, the ruling Sudan National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) in January 2005, there was profound disappointment among those who were excluded from the round table, including our brothers in Darfur and other key stakeholders in both the North and the South. But there was also joyful ululation and elation amongst most South Sudanese both at home and away.
Many South Sudanese commons, including myself came to be optimistic that the much sought after peace in a country that for decades has been riddled by devastating protracted civil wars in its South and elsewhere, is finally here.
The political, economic, and geographic power-sharing protocol of the CPA raised people’s expectations about the beginning of a new era, where at long last a genuine political representation in the country’s governance and political decision-making, has dawned.
There was soaring optimism in finally enjoying the fruits of peace through the recognition and appreciation of Sudanese multi-ethnicity and cultural diversity, provision of equitable access to social and economic services, and protection of freedom of movement, including safe passage to cattle grazing areas and water points across different regional boundaries within the country.
It was thought that our chronic subjugation, domination and marginalization by the Jallaba northerners was finally over, and Sudan will no longer be the same. In universal terms, many believed security was here, and basic civil and political rights, and social and economic rights, are sure to be guaranteed in this new era of peace.
After all the essence of all the liberation struggles in the Sudan throughout its history, has always been for the political establishment at the center to meet the legitimate aspirations and protect the universal rights of its people on the peripheries. And with the signing of the CPA the moment seemed ripe for these grievances to finally be addressed.
The central provision on Southern self-determination plebiscite exercise, including the Abyei protocol was the cherry on the cake of the CPA. Self-determination in the South was welcomed with a sigh of relief as “our Kairos moment,” as the Church declared. It was an opportune moment because should Khartoum fail to make unity attractive by meeting the popular demands of South Sudanese, South Sudan was on course to secession.
For most South Sudanese, however, and particularly the youth, life with Khartoum was not feasible, regardless of whether unity was to be made attractive or not. “We, the southern Sudanese have already decided to vote for an independent Southern Sudan where we will live as first class citizens,” stated the Southern Sudanese Youth Forum in the build-up to the referendum exercise, and so it proved to be the case with the resulting landslide vote for South Sudan’s secession in the referendum.
However, little did we know there were hidden agendas of restituting in Juba the very unjust power structures that we sought to overcome in Khartoum. How could we have known that there will be another northern South Sudanese subjugation, domination, and marginalization deep inside Juba when we are a sovereign and independent country?
Common sense had its say, but what is common sense in the face of greed and power hunger? Reason has been defied, and the big question is: how did this happen?
As we all know too well, the precarious nature of the negative peace that prevailed after the signing of the CPA in 2005 left many Sudanese stakeholders unprepared for peace, and the ruling clique in Juba put this to “good” effect.
It was thought given Khartoum’s abysmal track record of dishonouring agreements that the peace will not last the whole six interim period years leading to the Southern self-determination referenda.
This being the case, most of the actors involved in Sudanese conflict resolution, management and mitigation, but not necessarily conflict prevention and transformation were preoccupied with precisely that, namely channelling their efforts to keep the peace.
Thus the rudimentary local civil society actors spearheaded by the church in partnership with people of good will across the world embark on robust policy advocacy with powerful world leaders to ensure all the provisions of the CPA, and particularly the key provisions of the self-determination referenda in the South, were implemented by Khartoum in a timely, transparent, and credible manner.
However, while all focus and international pressure was on Khartoum to implement the agreement, Juba was busy consolidating power across ethnic lines under the guise of maintaining the command structure of the rebel movement in readiness for any unexpected relapse to war.
Our international interlocutors were misled to believe that this was just a mandatory precautionary measure, considering the history of bad faith within the rebel movement, and so tribal domination of the government by one or two tribes came to pass.
Locally, South Sudanese who questioned the logic behind such excesses of concentration of power in the hands of individuals and domination of the political space in the country by few ethnic groups were dismissed as cowards and traitors, and some are even still unjustly languishing in arbitrary detention without due process.
It was during this period that rampant looting spree of the public purse was ushered in as billions of dollars began to magically disappear into private bank accounts, and endemic corruption and systemic nepotism began to dominate the country to the detriment of social and economic service provision.
Then came the formation of what from the outside seemed like a representative government in the South after the independence. But in effect it was a government of renowned scavengers and political opportunists from Khartoum days, mostly elections drop-outs and rejects in their own bases.
Again, when questions were asked about the logic, the answer quickly came that the government was formed in a “spirit of reconciliation” with our brothers who were serving Khartoum during the war years. In simple terms, we were all taken for a ride.
But while “you can fool some people sometime, you can’t fool all the people all the time.” Thus what has increasingly become evident in South Sudan since the signing of the CPA is that South Sudanese have been betrayed and exploited by our “liberators.” Numerous studies support this view.
The former world banker and the renowned Africa economist, Paul Collier, for example has compellingly argued in his writings that although they may present popular grievance as the underlying cause for picking up arms, it is greed rather than grievance that drives rebel groups in the African continent.
In his “Doing Well Out of War: An Economic Perspective,” Collier writes: “Economic agendas appear to be central to understanding why civil war starts. Conflicts are far more likely to be caused by economic opportunities than by grievance.”
But organized and successful rebel groups like the SPLA tend to be clever at concealing the greed factor, and instead ride on the back of popular grievance to generate sympathy and establish good external relations with the international community, which the SPLM satisfactorily did.
As Collier rightly observed, “even where the rationale at the top of the organization is essentially greed, the actual discourse may be entirely dominated by grievance.”
Our ruling SPLM brothers seem to have perfected this trade. If this is the case then those of us who choose to cry the beloved South Sudan in its second independence anniversary, must be excused.
Only when this country is liberated from the “liberators” will we celebrate our true independence.