BY: Dr. Lako JADA KWAJOK, UK, JUL/16/2016, SSN;
To many South Sudanese, the 9th of July each year is a day for joy and magnificent celebrations all over the country. There is nothing unusual about such expectations in a day that marks our independence following a protracted war that resulted in massive losses of human lives, material, and a consequent underdevelopment of the country.
People were filled with dismay following the cancellation of the 2016 anniversary because of lack of funds. But never in a million years did anyone envisage that the gates of hell would open in South Sudan on the very day it gained its independence.
The deadly clash outside the Presidential Palace (J1) in Juba on Friday 08/07/2016 was the final nail in the coffin of trust between the two parties; SPLM/A-IO and SPLM/A-IG. The triggering event was the killing of Lt. Colonel George Gismala and Sgt. Domach Koat Pinyien on 02/07/2016 by elements of the National Security Service (NSS) and Military Intelligence (MI).
From there, the tension between the two sides escalated significantly and culminated in a further shooting incident on 07/07/2016. It was obvious to sharp observers that SPLM/A-IG has opted for war and the shooting of the two SPLM/A-IO military men were the first shots in it.
In the aftermath of the carnage at J1, President Kiir stated that he does not know who was behind it. Reports indicate that a large force came from nowhere and attacked the SPLM/A-IO guards deployed outside the presidential palace.
It appeared to be a coordinated attack with the presidential guards already positioned outside J1 joining the “unknown force” in the fight against SPLM/A-IO guards. Only a person with remarkable naivety would believe that President Kiir has nothing to do with what happened.
Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt, how could the attack on SPLM/A-IO headquarters and Machar’s residence the next day, be explained? Is there anyone on planet Earth who believes that thousands of army troops supported by artillery units, tanks, and helicopter gunships could launch such a major offensive without the blessing and knowledge of the Commander in Chief?
The regime, in its moment of madness never spared a thought for the consequences of its actions. Suppose Kiir and his supporters succeeded in wiping out the entire SPLM/A-IO leadership – what then? Would South Sudan attain a lasting peace?
The regime seems to hold the erroneous belief that its problems are caused by certain personalities, therefore, neutralising or liquidating these individuals would pave the way for the consolidation of its rule over South Sudan.
But it’s up against the reality that the overwhelming majority of the people are behind the opposition, hence, there will never be any shortage in filling up any vacant leadership position.
The fact that these ugly events took place around independence day, sent a message to the whole world that South Sudan lacks responsible leadership. Those who have been sceptical regarding South Sudan becoming an independent state now feel vindicated.
However, the fact of the matter isn’t that the South Sudanese communities are incompatible with each other or unable to coexist peacefully. They have been living together as tribal communities neighbouring each other for centuries.
There hadn’t been any hostilities in our ancient past on the scale we are witnessing now. The majority of the populace are law-abiding and peace-loving people.
The unfortunate reality is that the country is being misruled by a bunch of sadistic leaders who do not give a damn about the future of the country.
Self-enrichment through rampant corruption, targeting of political rivals and adherence to a divisive policy on ethnic lines are the reasons that landed the country in the current predicament. The regime has utterly failed in all aspects of good governance.
Calling it a government is a sort of a misnomer as there is no government in the world where civil servants, teachers, university lecturers and soldiers do not receive salaries for 3 to 4 months. It even resorted to the medieval practice whereby soldiers are allowed to rape and loot as part of dividing the spoils or payment for their services.
There is a difference though as the victims in the medieval era were subjects of conquered countries and not citizens of the same country.
Not long ago, India today TV station and several news outlets reported that the government of South Sudan sanctioned its soldiers to rape and loot as payment for their salaries. These abominable acts were confirmed by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and several relief organisations – what a disgrace!
The second misnomer is the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) which is said to be the national army of South Sudan. The name itself creates a paradox as on one hand South Sudan chose secession from Sudan and on the other it continues to use the name that relates to Sudan.
The SPLA is anything but a national army. It’s composed overwhelmingly of one ethnicity, the Jieng, making it a tribal army. It lacks discipline, training, structured chain of command and standard rules of engagement. It often resorts to looting, destruction of properties and extrajudicial killings.
Following the recent ceasefire in Juba, the whole world witnessed how the SPLA ransacked Juba markets, private homes and properties belonging to citizens. Even the UN World Food Programme (WFP) central warehouse in Juba was not spared by the unruly SPLA soldiers.
The WFP has been delivering vital services to the needy population of South Sudan and presumably saved many lives.
What took place is not the behaviour people would expect from a national army. Those soldiers brought nothing but shame and disdain on South Sudan.
We must remember that President Kiir and the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) lost legitimacy on 09/07/2014. Signing the Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS) restored their legitimacy for the purpose of implementing the peace accord.
Apparently, the recent hostilities have dealt ARCISS a fatal blow. Anyone who thinks that there is hope in enacting ARCISS is only burying his or her head in the sand. It’s time to consider other avenues that could rescue the South Sudanese people from an imminent catastrophe.
There is a growing consensus among a significant number of South Sudanese that supports UN takeover of the country until it’s able to function as a viable state. A 5-year period under UN Trusteeship would give the country the chance to start afresh on sound foundations.
During the said period it would be possible to establish an inclusive system of governance and develop equitable government policies. The international community should avoid being complacent as it’s not in anyone’s best interest to allow the replication of the Rwanda’s horrors.
Those who are concerned about the breach of the sovereignty of an independent state must understand that a failed state has no sovereignty. Even from the citizens’ perspective, it has no value when the state fails to deliver essential services, uphold the rule of law and promote peace and harmony between its communities.
Moreover, with the growing influx of refugees across the borders to the neighbouring countries, South Sudan has become a destabilising entity in the area and a real threat to regional security.
There is an urgent need for a pre-emptive intervention by the UN to save lives, prevent massive population displacement and avert widespread famine.
Dr. Lako Jada Kwajok