Dr Lako Jada Kwajok, MAR/20/2016, SSN;
The word “nation” is often used imprecisely to mean different things. It could be made to relate to a body of people or to followers of a particular religion. However, the dictionary definition is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, ethnicity and/or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.
It’s obvious that the area named South Sudan barely fits the above definition or not at all. A nation could exist in the form of multiple and separate entities. Examples are the Germanic ethnicity in Germany and Austria, and the Serbs in Serbia and Montenegro.
The Arabs certainly belonged to one nation but divided over several countries. On the other hand, some nations do not have independent international representation at the United Nations level. The Kurdish people who live across the borders in at least four countries present a good example.
The common type though is a country formed of a group of nations or micro-nations (tribes if you will) living in harmony and voluntarily willing to stay together. It’s a union based on mutual respect of all the stakeholders no matter how small or large are the individual nations or tribes.
Also the group of nations or tribes must have the belief that their interests and future are best served by being united in one country. Nigeria with its large tribes or nations, some numbering tens of millions in population size, and India are among the contemporary examples of such countries.
Calling South Sudan a nation is quite optimistic. It’s what I suppose the majority of people hope and want to achieve but in reality we are in the early stages of evolution as a nation. Like any process of evolution, it’s open to success, failure or ending up producing undesirable results.
Over half a century, Sudan adopted the policies of domination and hegemony in ruling South Sudan. The harvest was a bitter one. Neither did it succeed in assimilating the South Sudanese and achieving its goal of a single identity for the whole country, nor did it maintain its grip on South Sudan.
As the situation played out, both its tactics and strategy collapsed and it ended up with the most dreaded outcome from its viewpoint which is losing South Sudan. Unfortunately, the current regime in Juba learned nothing from what befell the Sudan under the Jallabas’ reign. Even the demise of the Soviet Union decades ago could not open the eyes of the regime’s leaders to the catastrophic fate awaiting South Sudan should they not reverse course.
Nation building cannot happen in an environment plagued by lawlessness, inequality, exclusiveness, rampant corruption and extreme tribalism. Much is dependent on the provision of the necessary means and the favourable environment for transforming the country into a melting pot for all the ethnicities that would eventually produce a unique and unifying national identity.
That process has started long ago in the greater Equatoria states and by and large remains on course. It has already reached fruition by modifying the imposed Arabic language into (Arabi-Juba) as a medium of communication and promoting peaceful coexistence between the different ethnicities of greater Equatoria.
With good governance, that process would not be confined to the greater Equatoria states but would indeed spread to the rest of the country.
We have learned from our elders that a good beginning usually guarantees a successful end whereas a bad one is prone to failure. All indicators show that we are witnessing the consequences of a bad beginning. All are down to lack of able leadership at the top of our government.
Hitherto, the President failed to rise above the tribalistic and petty politics that have engulfed South Sudan. There is little sense in talking about nation building while ignoring its prerequisites or acting in a manner destructive to its very foundation.
The prerequisites are in fact, common sense issues that are fundamental to success and well understood by everyone including the lay people of South Sudan.
Firstly, inclusiveness is an important aspect of building trust and the sense of being one people. A quick look at the list of the occupants of the top government positions and the diplomatic corps, tells us how far we are from that deceptively used word by our government.
Secondly, Equality is paramount in bringing about social cohesion between communities and for the promotion of the spirit of nationalism and patriotism. When citizens are maliciously divided into two categories of liberators and collaborators while the government does nothing to stop that destructive notion, it plants in the minds a sense of superiority of one group of citizens to the other and hence a sense of inequality between communities. With that comes along the notion of second class citizens and a deep rift in the social fabric of the country.
Thirdly, maintenance of law and order is the principal duty of any government and failure in that front equates with a failed state. It goes without saying that the rule of law is severely compromised under the current regime. A police officer was shot dead in Juba few months ago by none other than his colleagues in the police force.
What transpired was that the victim called the police to rescue him from an armed robber. Instead, they shot him dead after finding out that the armed robber was indeed a member of their special police force operating in the area. It’s for the reader to draw his or her conclusion about the prevailing security situation out of this tragic incident.
Fourthly, despite having billions of US Dollars at its disposal over the past decade, the regime failed utterly in effecting meaningful changes towards betterment of the lives of the South Sudanese people. We must remember that among the reasons of secession from Sudan, were the deprivation of South Sudan from its fair share of the national wealth and exclusion from development projects.
At present, the layperson sees nothing new except a relentless decline in all aspects related to economic growth. The communities that have been self-sufficient previously and never faced economic hardships are now on the brink of famine because of insecurity.
Fifthly, Leadership entails treating all the communities equitably and justly. A good President would not hesitate to go against his community should it attempt to take advantage of the presidency at the expense of the other communities.
It’s common knowledge that the President is under the influence of the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE). He has become the executive arm of that infamous group pursuing a purely tribalistic agenda rather than a national one. Out of nowhere they thrust the 28 states upon the South Sudanese people triggering a conflict of land grabbing on a massive scale and widespread dissent from the majority of the people.
We do know that land disputes are the most difficult to settle, and it may take ages before reaching a final solution. It’s bewildering that before South Sudan could come to terms with the December 2013 Juba massacre of the Nuer civilians – the irresponsible regime deliberately plunged the country into a much worse conflict that threatens its very existence.
Almost any part of South Sudan is one way or the other involved in a conflict. Even the parts supportive of the regime’s policies are not an exception but embroiled in an on-going inter-clan deadly clashes.
There is another face of the conflict that’s often downplayed by the government. The evidence is mounting that famine is rapidly spreading all over South Sudan. Of late thousands of our citizens are fleeing Northern Bahr El Ghazal State to neighbouring Sudan due to the un-announced hunger crisis.
As we speak there are over 200,000 South Sudanese sheltering in UN protection sites. An estimated 2.3 million individuals have been displaced from their homes as a consequence of the civil war. You can only come to grips with the magnitude of the problem when you add to those figures the vast majority of the population who still live in their homes but struggling to make ends meet.
At the time when all hopes are on the full implementation of the Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) to bring about a lasting peace in South Sudan – an impediment like the recent ethnic clashes in Malakal town happens. And that’s not the end of the story as there are on-going conflicts in Wau, Yambio, Mundri, Maridi, Wonduruba, Pibor and the Juba area.
A report issued by the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) on 02/01/2016 revealed that on 22/10/2015, the SPLA suffocated 50 civilians or more in a metal container after applying heat to it. The atrocity happened in Leer county in Unity state. Few days ago Amnesty International confirmed the incident and reported a higher number of victims (over 60 civilians).
The significance of these horrific acts is that they happened after the government signed the peace agreement. It’s clear that ARCSS means nothing to the dissenting group within the administration and the SPLA generals.
South Sudan might have already entered a vicious circle of inter-communal violence that would be impossible to stop without addressing the root causes. The problem is that the regime and its supporters have doubled down on keeping the 28 states which apparently made a dire situation much worse than it was.
They declared the presidential order as a red line not to be crossed. It’s a display of arrogance and short-sightedness. There is no such thing as red lines in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society if people have to live together. They never spared a thought to what their declaration would mean for the adversely affected communities.
They should know that enacting the presidential establishment order would also represent a red line that has been crossed from the opposition perspective. With such entrenchment in the government position, there will be no path to solving the problem.
The cantonment process seems to have stalled or moving at the speed of a snail at best. However, the crucial issue is the timing of the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU). Will it happen before or after the National Constitutional Amendment Committee (NCAC) completes its task? Between the two comes in the uncertainty about the way forward and the future of South Sudan.
Dr Lako Jada Kwajok