BY: Juma Mabor Marial (Mr.) LLB, MA (Humanitarian & Conflict Studies), Advocate, DEC/22/2016, SSN;
Just like many other South Sudanese citizens who have been victims of bad governance and greedy politics in this country, I had given up every little hope that I had for this country coming back to stability but when I criticized my decision, I came to realize that hope is the last thing a human being should let go in their life if they aspire to live longer than the present challenges.
Due to this self-criticism, I became optimistic that despite the bad situation our country is in now, things will one day change for the better. This desire seemed to manifest itself in different ways and one of them is the recent speech by the President during the launching of the National Dialogue Initiative.
I have never been a fan of President’s speeches since most of them are cut and paste and are only usually given as occasional gifts without matching them with actions and follow-up.
The case in point is when in several platforms the president talks about “Zero-Tolerance to corruption” yet nothing has changed as corruption remains the top and leading vice across all the government institutions in the country.
This irony only confirms to us the extent of lip servicing in his speeches but as they say, give Caesar what belongs to him and give due respect to he who deserves it, I think I was puzzled and deeply surprised with the change of tune that the president brought out on his recent speech.
Thanks to his recent visit to South Africa where perhaps out of his consultations with President Zuma, he realized that his country is in the Intensive Care Unit and despite the Lab technicians and surgeons that are operating with him to try and save the life of the country, he will ultimately remain the lead surgeon to be blamed and charged with negligence when the patient (South Sudan) unfortunately dies.
When people talk about a National Dialogue, it must be understand that, apart from negotiated peace accords and other forced interventions by regional and international actors in an attempt to bring sustainable peace in many countries in Africa – South Sudan included, there has never been any tangible solution to permanent peace and stability other than a national dialogue where all the stakeholders from varying political affiliations, ethnic diversities, religious denominations and backgrounds comes together and deliberate on issues that affect them and set a proper roadmap on how to move the affairs of their country forward.
Therefore, the importance of a national dialogue is that, the government with all its security apparatuses, oppositions with all their blackmail gadgets and external interest groups and all the stakeholders stand on a level playing field and argue out their concerns without intimidation, threats, fear or favor.
And because of this extent of independence, the think tanks that the president referred to as the Secretariat of the up-coming National Dialogue had in 2014 when the current fragile peace agreement was being negotiated in Addis Ababa, proposed National Dialogue as the best mechanism that could have been used to bring a permanent and long-lasting peace to South Sudan.
However, due to several local, national, regional and international interests then, their suggestion was ignored hence resulting into a half-baked compromised peace agreement that later on led the country into abyss.
Had this advice been considered much earlier, the country could have been saved from more crises but as they say, better late than never, the National Dialogue should now take place since it is the only option on the table for all the stakeholders.
The president has done fairly well in launching the initiative and consolidating it with such soul searching speech which I rated to be the best speech that I have heard from him since he inherited this country from Dr. John Garang De Mabior.
If you need more justifications for my rating, here are a few points that earned his speech my approval:
1. He apologized to the people of South Sudan for bad governance and the unprecedented suffering that they went through as a result of his unpopular government policies;
2. He appealed to the citizens and those who usually manipulate them to go on unnecessary demonstrations to stop antagonizing and demonizing regional and international partners as South Sudan is not an Island;
3. He assured everyone who shall attend the National Dialogue of their security and safety which is very important because it will allow those with opposing view against the government to attend and participate freely;
4. He affirmed that, the government just like any other institution or individual will be equal stakeholder and not a police in the process and this is a significant assurance because people will not be intimidated to abstain from contributing effectively to the deliberations for fear of victimization;
5. He gave think-tank institutions the task and the opportunity to facilitate, design programs and streamline the agenda for the National Dialogue which in this regard is very crucial because academic rather than political lenses need to be strategically worn if the country is to be successfully brought out of the deep crises it is in now;
6. The president also outlined very vital ten specific objectives of the dialogue which, if addressed and exhausted will open up a new path for the rebirth of this country.
Now here, the president has done his best but as usually is the case, there are those of whom we have always suspected to be around him and who, due to selfish political interests would never allow such crucial national projects to see the light of the day, this is the group that we must collectively combine forces with the president and fight so as we are able to have this National Dialogue take place as planned.
There will be enormous challenges along the way leading to the process but since the National Dialogue is the only life-saving machine that we have for South Sudan, we must all put our efforts and surmount the challenges that be.
The dialogue needs adequate time to enable all the stakeholders have the opportunity to exhaust all the problems that are ailing South Sudan and therefore, it will be a process not a one day or one week event and as such, the time no matter long it maybe ought to be properly framed.
The dialogue will also need material, human and financial resources and this is where the regional and international partners that have always presented themselves to help South Sudan come in and avail such resources without any strings attached because National Dialogue means South Sudanese talking to one another and trying to put their house in order without unnecessary interference from outsiders.
Through the Launching of the National Dialogue Initiative followed by the beautiful speech of the President, it seems South Sudan and its leaders have realized that it is about time we talk to each other in order to find a homegrown solution to our problems, the regional and international community should give this process a chance and facilitate rather than interfere with it.
Another big challenge that faces the national dialogue initiative will be lack of Political Will not from the president as he has already made clear his position but from the spoilers within his political camp since not all of them are interested in finding a permanent solution to the crises that are facing South Sudan today, instead, majority of them are beneficiaries of the on-going confusion and for them to maintain this status quo, they will put road block after another to ensure that the process does not kick-off.
Last but not the least, South Sudanese should begin from where the president has stopped by grabbing the opportunity and supporting the president in his possible and apparently final attempt to rescue this country from its total collapse.
It is my belief that God is intervening by granting all of us this final opportunity to rethink and refine the destiny of our country. I hope in the spirit of patriotism and great love for our great country – South Sudan, all of us will try through our own very little ways to ensure that the up-coming National Dialogue succeeds.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Peaceful New Year, 2017
By: Juma Mabor Marial (Mr.)
LLB, MA (Humanitarian & Conflict Studies), Advocate.