Glimmers of Hope in South Sudan

BY: Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok, SEPT/23/2015, SSN;

The title of this article may seem too optimistic to many people or indeed premature to others given the dire situation in the country at the present time. The burden of a decade of a kleptocratic regime on people’s lives should not be underestimated.

It’s only human that some would fall into despair and look to the future through dark glasses following the ordeal.

10 years of rampant corruption, nepotism and insecurity, culminating into a greed-driven civil war, had left bad memories that would need some time to be forgotten and wounds that would similarly need the same to heal.

But before the long process of healing and rehabilitation could start, people should understand fully why we ended up in this catastrophic situation in the first place. What are the root causes ? Could it have been avoided ? And what is the way forward to prevent repeating the same mistakes in future ?

We are gifted with a country that has a variety of unlimited natural resources waiting to be utilised. Some of the resources do not need much effort to exploit and the costs would be extremely low.

When you look around the world you would realise how fortunate we are in terms of availability of natural resources. Here are some examples; a Palestinian colleague once told me with a look of disbelief on his face ” El Yahood harathu el bahr !” which literally translates in English to ” The Jews ploughed the sea “.

He was referring to the process of reclaiming land for farming which is being practiced in Israel because of lack of land. Israel has got one of the most advanced and prosperous agricultural industries in the world.

Some of you might have come across the boat people in Hong Kong and other Asian cities. They are different from the refugees fleeing conflict areas by sea. These are people who live their entire lives on boats at sea.

Again it is due to lack of land; what I don’t know is where do they get buried when the die. Maybe they live all their lives at sea only to be buried on land when they die.

The third example comes from the Arabian peninsula, where there is no single river in an area more than double the size of South Sudan.

While we have numerous rivers and streams they got nothing. There was a time there when a litre of bottled water was more costly than a litre of petrol. Most parts of the peninsula are desert lands while our land is green and covered with forests and grass lands in most of its parts.

We are already exploiting the oil reserves and most likely there will be more discoveries of new oil reserves all over South Sudan. The gold is already there and being looted by foreigners. Other minerals are in abundance but yet to be tapped.

When you add the huge animal resources to the list then the following question will be in your mind, what else could we ask from God to give us ?!

Even the Jews who were mentioned in the bible as God’s people do not have the kind of resources we have. Our situation is akin to some one living in abject poverty while the wealth is all around him.

With the above resources there should be no poverty in South Sudan. The land simply has plenty to offer to its own people. There is enough for everyone; everywhere in South Sudan. We just need a visionary leadership that understands the country’s potentials.

With the right strategy and sound policies, South Sudan could have by now leaped one or more steps forward rather than going with the reverse gear. We are where we are because of the following reasons :

1. Weak leadership and lack of ideas and plans to lead the country towards prosperity: 10 years in power is quite a long time to bring about some positive changes and achievements. Most of the prosperous countries in the world have a maximum of 8 to 10 years for a presidency or a premiership.

Their people expect achievements during the said periods. We have seen nothing tangible from the current government in terms of projects, schools and hospitals.

From the beginning of its tenure it gave the impression of a government composed of people who are only after enriching themselves rather than caring for their fellow citizens. They built big mansions, acquired fancy cars and sent their children and families abroad for schools and health care.

The irony remains that some houses in Juba are comparable or even better than the majority of houses in the west but located in a shantytown. The whole situation was made worse by people or some members of a tribe believing that “it’s their time to eat”.

What good could come out of people harbouring this sort of notion?! It is no wonder that corruption has become an acceptable exercise in the government of South sudan.

2. Adopting a divisive and non-inclusive policies: It is here where the smaller tribes were completely marginalised and ignored. The government pursued the policy of hegemony by the Jieng tribe with total disregard to the damage it could cause to national unity.

It also fell under the influence of the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE), in fact it became a tool in executing its divisive policies including land grabbing and pastoralists belligerent acts.

The notion that the Jieng are liberators and the rest are collaborators is disseminated among the Jieng population by the JCE. It is a divisive and short-sighted political tactic that would backfire in the long term. It is certainly not helpful in a multiethnic and multicultural society like ours.

The Equatorians for example may say they were the pioneers of the struggle against the Mundukurus (Arabs) and without their contribution the SPLM/SPLA would have perished following the 1991 rift.

The Nuers and the people from the Cholo Kingdom may on the other hand say they were the first to introduce self-determination into the SPLM/SPLA politics and their contribution was pivotal in the path towards independence.

Many of you know that between July and August 1992, many Equatorian officers and intellectuals were executed in Juba by the Bashir’s regime for being the SPLM/SPLA fifth column. Some were thrown off planes en route to Khartoum. I personally know some of the victims who were my colleagues at school.

People from Upper Nile and Bahr El Gazal regions including some Jieng who were not in the bush also faced the same fate. How would their families feel when they are called collaborators?! Will it not call into question our evolution into a nation?!

The independence of South Sudan was accomplished through a collective struggle of all the tribes and communities in South Sudan. The decisive action was their votes at the referendum which brought about our independence.

3. Impunity and absence of rule of law: What defines a government is the upholding of the rule of law. Without this fundamental duty, it descends into a different category, more closer to the rule of warlords.

Indeed when criminals are set free from jail by members of their tribe and killers are left at large then it means our society is divided into two classes, the helpless majority and the mighty untouchables.

It is the reason that some people think they owned the country and are above the law. It is a recipe for chaos and the unravelling of South Sudan as maintaining law and order is paramount to the survival of any country.

4. Greed and selfishness: Civil wars are not uncommon in the history of nations. However, they are usually due to a widespread conflict within a country.

It is often triggered by a showdown between two parties with their supporters on both sides facing each other or a widespread discontent that pits the people against the government.

The case of South Sudan is quite unique as it was due to a power struggle between the president and his deputy. Both happened to be from the same party and carried the positions of chairman and deputy chairman respectively.

It was a division within one party between those who wanted a change in direction with implementation of reforms and the other group led by the president who wanted to maintain the status quo.

We do remember clearly that Dr Riek Machar and his colleagues planned to address a rally in Juba prior to the fighting. It was a peaceful and democratic way of taking the case to the people in order to gain their support in future elections.

That was not the approach a coup plotter would choose. The people were very keen to listen to what Dr Riek Machar and his colleagues were going to say. They were not allowed to proceed with the rally.

The president, who was clearly unpopular, sensing imminent loss of power came up with the ploy of coup d’etat. Whether he was coached by Museveni or not is yet to be unearthed.

The fact that he went ahead and allowed the massacre to happen displayed how greed and selfishness could take control of a weak leader. There was no thought about the people who were tired of half a century of wars in their country.

This war has relegated south Sudan to a low status among the world nations. Even a country like Djibouti would stand as a giant when compared to us. Our friends and backers are quite embarrassed even angry.

Our leadership is being viewed across the world as a bunch of irresponsible, clueless and selfish politicians who have no regard to the welfare of their people.

Those who did oppose our secession now feel vindicated. Some of our supporters are now wondering whether they made a big mistake in advocating our secession.

We are the laughing stock of Africa or indeed the world. The old phrase “The sick man of Africa” may soon be conferred to South Sudan. It has been the property of the Sudan for decades.

Recovery from the devastation caused by war is bound to happen and peace would ultimately prevail. In the lives of nations there are no disasters that would last for ever. People always rise and overcome the difficulties and consequences of wars.

The question is what kind of recovery and peace we should have that would guarantee non-recurrence of the cycle of violence. What we got now could just be a lull before the next cycle of violence if little or none at all is done towards addressing the root causes of the conflict.

The way forward is:
Firstly- To ensure that no single tribe is allowed to dominate the government to the extent that it could run the executive branch on its own. In essence no single tribe should be allowed to set the agenda for the whole country.

Secondly- The army, the police force, wildlife and prisons should not be dominated by one or two tribes. The massacre would not have happened if the SPLA was truly a diverse force. Therefore it is imperative to represent all the ethnicities and states proportionately in the armed forces.

Thirdly- There should be reforms in the judiciary while safeguarding its independence. All citizens should be on equal grounds before the law of the land. We can not outlaw carrying a gun in one community while allowing it in the other. Selective justice should come to an end.

Fourthly- Justice for the victims of the December 2013 massacre either through the proposed hybrid courts or other means should be a priority in the transitional government of national unity (TGoNU). There will be no meaningful peace if this matter is inadequately dealt with.

Fifthly- Government officials who are found to be involved in corruption should be made accountable. It should include all culprits across the board before, during and after the conflict. It is the only way to eradicate the culture of corruption or at least minimise it.

The period from the late 50’s to mid 70’s was the golden era of our national unity. Leaders like Clement Mboro, enjoyed a universal support from all South Sudanese, many of them didn’t know which tribe he hailed from. It didn’t matter then because there were no tribalistic councils of elders to divide the people.

The 1991 SPLM/SPLA split and the recent conflict were serious threats to our existence as one people. The recent war inflicted a significant damage to the social fabric of the country.

Our national unity remains in limbo. We simply can not afford another major conflict in the country. It will certainly lead to total disintegration of South Sudan should it happen again.

Apart from stopping the bloodshed, signing the peace agreement gives everyone a breathing space from 20 months of political and social turmoil.

Perhaps it will be a time for reflection for those politicians who really care about their country. They would have to think about what could have been done differently to avoid the civil war and what should be done to prevent it happening again in future.

George Santayana, the Spanish-American philosopher said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it “.

My optimism stems from the fact that the transitional government of national unity (TGoNU) would be a consensus government. There will be no more dictatorial decrees over the SSTV.

The JCE will have to change its job description as it will have nothing to do with the TGoNU. Even if it tries to influence the state of affairs through the would be Jieng members, it will fail to achieve what it wants unless there is support from members of the other tribes.

With the end of the defunct regime of Salva Kiir, the restrains on civil liberties and freedom of speech would be lifted. People will at last live with dignity in their own country.

The international community is very keen to see positive changes on the ground. It is a naivety to think that engagement and intervention by the international community is only for the purpose of exploiting our natural resources.

While we cannot deny the presence of such motives, they are by no means the only reasons. The current refugee crisis in Europe gives a clear picture of what the international community is trying to prevent happening in South Sudan.

The regional leaders including president Museveni, are all on board the peace agreement. It is in their best interest not to allow the situation getting out of control where thousands of refugees cross the borders to their countries.

The peace agreement is backed by super powers who would not relent seeing it going through to establish peace and stability in South Sudan. Any ill-advised attempts to derail their endeavour would be detrimental to the perpetrators, in other words they would bite the dust.

Dr Lako Jada Kwajok

19 Comments

  1. Joana Adams says:

    Yes,

    This is how true nationalists dissect problems and offer solutions in a true spirit of a medically trained person. Let those who have ears hear and those with eyes, see! With such people from all corners of our blessed land, we should expect glimmers of hope indeed.

  2. Guet Athina Guet says:

    Mr. Kwajok,

    Your article/writing is too long and very confusing, in the first of your writing you seem to make senses. However, the other half of your article you went of the rail. You want justices for 2013, I agreed but how bout justices for 1991 killing of women, children and old, you should address that too. You also lied, that there were no coup d’etat, prove it that there were no coup. FYI, president Kiir was elected by the people of south Sudan. You also, need to present facts that criminals were set free because they were from the Dinka tribe. You also, need prove that independence was accomplished by all tribe in south Sudan. Also, may I remind you out 2 million who die 80 percent of them were from the Dinka tribe. You also forgot that Dr. death Machar was the water boy for Khartoum butcher Bashir, he was in charge of killing many of the Dinka villagers. You also said president Kiir has been in power for 10 years, true. remember we’re at war with Khartoum and with Dr. death Machar, what kind progress do you want in the middle of the war. No country in this world will accomplish success you had mention in 10 years. East Timor became an independence country 20 plus years, and see how much they progressed and have achieved. In humble opinion, you’re not in position to lecture the government or anyone.

    • joe says:

      Guet
      You are one of the many who believe that what happened in 1991 and 2013 is justified as its a pay back phenomenon. Should we continue to encourage impunity in this country while preaching unity in adverse nation? Some wrongs were committed before 1991 and the signing of CPA 1 paved way for a new beginning and new country. The Good, the bad and ugly were bought under one umbrella (SPLA/SPLM) to form the new nation. Ask morhum Garang for details

    • Mr Guet Athina Guet,

      The 1991 massacre was not the only one prior to independence. There were massacres that involved the Gaajak Nuer, the Bul Nuer and to some extent the Cholo people in Upper Nile region. In Equatoria we had the Mundari and the Didinga massacres. Dr John Garang, Salva Kiir and their top generals were responsible for those massacres. We should all agree that all the above were horrific and heinous crimes and not be selective. The difference is that the above massacres were carried out in the absence of a responsible government and the rule of law which is not the case with the December 2013 massacre. It’s not only the victim families demanding justice but the international community as well. The regime failed to prove its case in a court of law hence Pagan Amum and colleagues were set free. General Mac Paul, the head of the military intelligence denied the presence of evidence of a coup attempt. Edward Lino rubbished the claim and president Museveni denied it. What about Arthur Akuen, the former minister of finance who embezzled 40 million US Dollars. Was he not released from jail by force when SPLA officers from his home state stormed the prison ? Your ignorance does not mean people who know the facts are liars. You can inflate your numbers and percentages but people know the truth. What is the purpose of the following sentence ” You also, need prove that independence was accomplished by all tribes in South Sudan “. It is ridiculous and pathetic !

    • Eastern says:

      Gurt,

      I feel like calling you names but that will be doing things your way!

      Dr Kwajok is looking at the current problem and trying to give solutions for the same; what transpired in 1991 has been sung for sometime now. Dr Macher onetime went to Bor and asked for forgiveness which was reportedly accepted. That, it seemed was like dinka kill nuer and nuer kill dinka affair.

      Only fools like you would like to continue dwelling on the already stale coup narrative which Kirr’s highest court failed to prove. What else do you want Dr Kwajok to prove?

      The prove that the independent of South Sudan was accomplished through the participation of all tribes the country lies in the fact that first of all, more than half of the tribes in the country are found in the Greater Equatoria and that was were SPLA had its stronghold where they were able to get supplies through Uganda. Equatorian terrain protected the SPLA and the accompanying IDPs – this is a fact that stands to date!

      True, very many Dinkas died during the war – mostly due to famine, just before Operation Lifeline Sudan came into operation. The dinkas messed with their longtime masters in the north (Missirya, Rezigats, etc) on whom they have depended for food (dura) for ages by confronting them. This resulted in the scorch earth policy by these Arab tribes to the detriment of the malual and other dinka sub tribes bordering the Sudan. Skirmishes between dinka and Nuers also killed many dinka people. Dinka who escaped into EQuatoria as IDPs and some crossed to Kenya and Uganda survived the onslaught back home. Even dinkas who escaped to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya continued misbehaving resulting into skirmishes between them and nuers and Equatorians. Some eventually were relocated to Australia, US, Canada, etc but in their new homes in the developed world they still continue to engage in acts barbarism – Australia onetime rejected refugees from the Sudan!

      If you don’t want to be poked where it pains most, better keep quiet!

      • Bol says:

        Eastern,
        You miserably failed RSS modern History, may be on purpose….or maybe you were in Uganda and don’t have recollections of these difficult times! The famine in Dinka land before Operation Life Line came as a direct result of two well-known factors: A)Babo Nimer and Sadiq el Mhadi heavily arming Missirya and Rezigats tribesmen (allegedly )to protect themselves and to punish the Dinka for support the rebellion. He practically rolled the scale of power towards el Murahleen and B) Dr Garang diversion of military personnel to different frontlines. Northern Bhar el Ghazal, and Warrap were scorched completely. Large numbers of Military personnel disobey orders and move back home. Many were Court Marshal for disobedience and shot, causing the fallout between Garang and K. Bol. By 1991, the tide had turn against Murahleen and it was the SPLA now raiding, destroying their villages and enslaving their girls and women. Missirya and Rezigats never been our masters. Yes they are our neighbours. We have wars, intermarriages and two ways enslavement. There are many prominent Dinak names whose ancestors were Arabs enslaved by Dinka especially in Twic area and you check that since you are a regular traveller in GBG.
        Lastly, Dinka, like any other tribe in RSS, were self-sufficient until 1986 when the Prime Minister of the time Sadiq el Mahdi implemented his Earth Scorched Policy, coupled with recruitment of most able bodies in the rebellion. The combinations of these elements lead to massive migration internally and externally. Nobody was relaying on Dura imports as you falsely asserted because imported Dura was consider to be of less value, even sold at lower price in the early eighties .

        • Eastern says:

          Bol,

          Then where is the hand of Dr Macher or nuer in these loss of life? It was do Kampala killed dinka affairs. Yes murahaleen really wrecked havoc in these areas bordering the Sudan that was because of the cozy relationships you dinkas created with them over time.

          The enslavement in that area was never a two way business as you allege. The northern Sudanese mostly poached on the dinkas to work in their farms up north and in return the female slaves return with bustards – the products of these unholy encounters can be seen in Aweil, Kuacjok, Wau, etc.

          Stop blaming the deaths during the war on nuers!

    • Mr. Guet Athina Guet,
      If you want the truth, tells us the truth. The president terms in office expired and there was no coup on December 2013. Out of the 2 million people who died during the war, 80 percent of them are non-Dinka and they were all killed by Dinka soldiers. Do you want facts go to the streets of Juba and ask anybody, they will tell you how the Dinka butchered other tribes. Instead of healing the wound of the past that your people inflicted on other tribes you keep on beating the drums of hatred and war. Independence was accomplished by all the tribes of south Sudan. Do you need fact about this too, tell us where the war ended? We need development now not those crafty talks from you. There is nothing good that your Dinka achieved so far, except that they created enormous hatred between themselves and the other 63 tribes of south Sudan. As someone said, majority of the Dinka people seriously needs to be encouraged to go to developed countries to acquire some skills, knowledge, behavior, and better culture by living and working among other tribes. So that they can see, learn, compare, contrast how these countries have invested to develop their own countries and lived harmoniously, and not by advocating war, intimidation, and killing of others . It is only then the Dinka will be encouraged to go back home, to their land (not Equatoria), and develop their place politically, humanly, and economically. Since you lived in a mathematical world, these are some facts and prove that you really need.

    • Nuer-Another Israel in East Africa says:

      Guest,

      Dr. Kwajok has proven all the points beyond any doubt. You are just made because he has punched you really bad in your nuts. 1991 song has been sung too many times and it is to incite your tribe against Nuer tribe knowing full well that you can’t handle Nuer. Every time your indulge into these massacres, you ensure that you have backed up. When your tribe massacred Gaajaak Nuer, you had Ethiopian on your back. When you massacred the entire Nuer population in 2013, you have Uganda on your back. Your cowardice acts is now well comprehend. This is not the end of the world to Nuer. Future is there. We don’t harbor any grudges against your tribe, but the best revenge for us is to show you how to lead people properly. We will not revenge our dead people less we will be shallow minded as you.

  3. Deng M. Dhieu says:

    East Timor got her independence from Indonesia in 2002, but not 20 years ago as you mentioned. I do not see any reasons for reacting negatively to Dr. Lako’s article. He stated facts! What is the reason of forming tribal and regional associations in the country? Is it not political bankruptcy from the SPLM leadership? Both Kiir and Riek have no national agenda whatever the case!

  4. Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok,

    You are truly a visionary doctor and a man with full thoughts of wisdom. The way you described what is going on in our country today is how the history of South Sudan should look like some days in the future. Addressing the root cause of current conflict is difficult. As you know Salva Kiir is supported by IGAD, IGAD plus, and Obama’s administration and some other international communities that is why peace mediators are reluctant to address the root cause.

    Basically, the mediators do not want to hear the root cause and they do not what to know the root of cause of conflict either. The mediators keep on dodging to address the root cause of conflict because they believe that the root cause of the conflict will charge Kiir with guilty of murdering innocent civilians and war crimes. As you see the Obama administration is not event fair in sanctioning military commanders who obstruct peace in South Sudan.

  5. Guet Athina Guet says:

    To all respondents, your criticism is well taken, and I can’t respond to each individual comments, however, you are not addressing the route course of the problem. Dr. death is the problem to not just to Dinkas, but to the entire tribes in south Sudan. As for 1991 murdering of women, children and the old, Machar was never punished for that crime.Thanks god for Dinkas for stopping their savageries. You people need to drop the the so call “Equatoria” there no such thing, either you people are south Sudanese or not. You have too many little tribes in “Eqautoria” there who have no voice and they are protected by Dinkas you can agree or disagree. If you people want unity of a country that’s not the way to go. So far I don’t see anyone of you calling out the butcher of south Sudan Machar by name. Mr. Kwajok need to address that in a voice that doesn’t single out the Dinka tribe only, bring all of us together as one people.

  6. Choromke Jas says:

    Doctor,

    This is yet one of your well-thought contribution. By way of emphasis I will say this:

    The single most important existential threat to the nation of South Sudan, is the presence and the divisive policy of the JCE. All non-Jieng communities and their leaders should recognize this threat if we are going to move forward as a united nation. What should we do then? The first thing for the incoming government is to ban and proscribe JCE legally. Secondly, for the long term, all non-Jieng communities should form a permanent coalition for the safeguards of the constitution against subversion and to frustrate the machination of the JCE. One of the aims of such coalition is to stop coming to top leadership of this country of known JCE adherent. This cooperation should start with the next election. The Chollo, Equatorians, Jur, Nuer and other non-Jieng people should vote as ablock to elect the next leaders of government. Lam Akol, are you hearing?

    Thank you Doctor for the piece.

    • Dear Choromke Jas,

      Perhaps the best option is to ban the JCE and the other councils of elders from interfering in national politics. Their activities should be limited to solving problems within their communities that will help the government in maintaining law and order. Also they could play a vital role in bringing our communities together rather than pursuing divisive activities. A coalition of those who support federalism including supporters from the Jieng community is crucial during the transition and afterwards. As you know we don’t have a federal constitution yet and it will need every effort of its supporters to make it a reality.

      • Choromke says:

        Doctor,

        In Kenya, a tribal organization called GEMA nearly obstructed Moi, a non-Kikuyu, from ascending to power when Kenyatta died. There is no half way house for a politicized elders council; they have to be banned for the country to move forward. Indeed Moi banned GEMA, a Kikuyu tribal outfit. That is why Kenya made some progress. But GEMA is not dead yet. I agree with you that all politicized tribal organizations be banned in the medium term. This must include the Nuer’s of similar nomenclature.

        Peace.

  7. False Millionaire says:

    Mr CJ,
    U will still be in the mud for life if u dare to choose leaders without merit!!!

  8. False Millionaire says:

    Bantiu Ramaran,
    That’s your personal hallucination sir.
    But in theory,the compromise peace agreement prescribes power sharing between the SPLM/A factions,the context of which u would loot and go to bed with the same Kiir for at least three years of the transitional period,is that merit?!!!

  9. False Millionaire says:

    Mr CJ,
    I am glad Dr Kwajok got a solution for u with regards to the JCE.
    But you are still deep in the mud with the issue of your extreme tribal hatred of jieng ordinary masses.
    The most urgent question is,what are u going to do about them,take up arms to claense them one by one from RSS or hang yourself if u find the prospects of sharing a prosperous peaceful country with them to be too bitter to bear?!!!

Leave a Reply to Dr Lako Jada Kwajok Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.