BY: Tongun Lo Loyuong, HELSINKI, MAR/31/2013, SSN;
In view of some of the counter-discourses that have surfaced since we last expressed our opinion on why South Sudan’s liberation is gone awry, it seems fitting to reload the debate. It is clear that our freely expressed opinions do not bode well with some of our brothers, old and young alike. In the past when we shared our view on why we will not be celebrating the first anniversary of the independence of South Sudan due to endemic corruption and systemic nepotism driven by ethnic particularism and identity politics that dominates the social, economic and political space in the country, we were labeled unpatriotic, and senseless.
We were also condemned as disrespectful to the blood of the martyrs, even though it was precisely because of our respect to the selfless sacrifices of the martyrs, which we saw as being betrayed by current political malpractices that celebrating the first anniversary of the independence seemed redundant.
This time around when we pointed out the ills with why South Sudan liberation is being blown up in smoke before our very eyes, and why we decline to be passive bystanders, we are called bickerers and whiners. Worse yet, a distorted and reductionist explanation of the ills of land grab in the Republic that was devoid of any substance was publicly circulated as a response to allay the “nonsense” concerns of the overwhelming majority of South Sudanese, and boy what a delusional response indeed.
While engaging these issues through peaceful and civil debate is much welcomed, what will not be appreciated are barbaric attacks on the individual, without any objective well researched response to the substance of the issues raised. Reason with me like an educated man. Or is it the case that we lose our sense of civility when we are confronted with the truth? The view is already made public and substantiated with evidence; counter it in a similar manner.
Our brothers who were apparently irked by the previous usage of the term ignorance to describe the shambolic social and political reality in the country, have gone on not only to mistakenly equate ignorance with illiteracy but also skillfully divert the argument against the innocent masses of our people — the very powerless people we are defending, as the target of the alleged condescension.
They took the strong but unsurprisingly biased jibe in our direction that quote “as members of the elite, we tend to take major decisions without consulting people at the grassroot level, who are often considered illiterate and ignorant. Using education to judge our people underlines not only our level of ignorance but also lack of respect. Our uneducated people in the rural areas have managed to sustain us with a wealth of indigenous knowledge, experiences and wisdom of centuries” Unquote.
It is commendable that at least somebody somewhere is following our concerns, which is a good step in the right direction, as most of our political leadership are busy and can’t be bothered, while the country is falling apart beneath their feet.
Yet, our reply is that in their emotive reaction to our opinion, our point about tribal myopia as consuming South Sudan has now been substantiated beyond any reasonable doubt. What is more, and as we have amply showcased on numerous occasions in the past, our current crop of political leadership continue to leave much to be desired in terms of arresting the moral bankruptcy that is afflicting our society and which is at the center of the crises.
As is well known, the moral bankruptcy is not only contributing to the social decay of our people across ethnicities, but has also sacrificed the cohesive ideals and vision of the liberation struggles, where we now see the greed of our elite undermining the popular grievance of South Sudanese and their resolute will and desire to live a life in dignity and not as second class citizens in their own country anymore. It is these marginalization and domination policies that we are addressing as based on ignorance and arrogance, or rather the attitude and myth of “we liberated you.”
But if this is not clear enough, let me categorically reiterate that I was not in whole or in part referring to our “illiterate” and “uneducated” people as ignorant, nor was I trying to undermine the rich experience and traditions of the fathers and mothers in delivering ideal and healthy human relations between the various peoples of South Sudan.
If anything, I am a stern advocate of the notion that just and sustainable inter-communal peace in South Sudan can only be achieved by reviving the traditions and peace ideals and values of our ancestors and traditional elders, the very ideals that are now being undermined by our elite. I will address this in detail, when I look at the “Dinka Problem in South Sudan” in our next reflections.
For now, however, it really baffles me, when I hear such a strong sympathy expressed towards the plight of “our people” without seeing any concrete steps being taken to ameliorate their plight? Do they only become our people when we want to score some cheap political points?
What about the other people who are continually being called cowards? Where is the sympathy towards them and towards all South Sudanese for that matter? Where is the public condemnation of our ill-mannered brothers who are not ashamed to call their fellow compatriots cowards and slaves? Are these cowards and slaves not our people too?
How credible for some of our countrymen to condemn the usage of the terms arrogance and ignorance directed at their misbehavior, and yet turn the other way when our people are being called cowards and what not? Please don’t get me started.
In any case expressing such emotions of solidarity will remain but empty gestures, so long as South Sudanese remain deeply rooted in abject poverty and endless suffering while the delivery of social and economic services remain unheard of, even as some of us are wallowing in riches and privileges.
On a different note, who said that ignorance is all doom and gloom? We are all ignorant in one way or another. Ignorance only becomes negative when it resists embracing new knowledge, which does not necessarily have to be acquired solely in a classroom setting.
Ignorance is when we fail to revive the paths that our ancestors treaded to maintain social harmony, and that have sustained us for generations. After all, one of the purposes of knowledge generation and acquisition is to unlearn negative traits and perceptions, in order to learn positive ones that promote the betterment of the human condition on the personal level—through attitudinal change, and on the societal level—through the pursuit of mutually enhancing political change.
It is for this reason societies comb the past to find out how their ancestors have dealt with similar issues. It is the same reason why people travel the world for inter-cultural exchange and interaction for mutually enriching experiences in order to enhance their own cultures, by for instance speaking truth to power and unwanted practices upon their return home or remotely through electronic exchange.
In the end, the only reasonable avenue to find amicable and lasting solution to our problems in South Sudan is by peaceful and non-violent means where dialogue is at the center, and where we mobilize our rich experiences to create a nation and forge a peaceful, united, and prosperous society.
But for that to happen, South Sudanese must begin to come to their senses and listen to each other’s grievances, if we are to prevent inter-communal antagonism that may culminate to violent mayhem. Only this way can we steady the baby state to begin to learn to walk toward the front, and not backward.
Don’t’ get me wrong, I am not opposed to backward progress as long as it is backward progress and not backward regress. As the prolific African philosopher, John Mbiti convincingly articulated in his classic “African Traditional Religions and Philosophy,” in Africa our future lies behind us and our past before or in front us.
What this essentially means is that if South Sudan must be made to learn to walk backwards, it must walk backwards towards the front — a backward progress.
Put simply, South Sudan must learn to face and take advantage of its past, including its recent tragic past, which is well documented, and its old, oral and traditional past of our forefathers and mothers.
The implication is that we must turn to our rich traditions of the fathers and mothers, and how despite their differences with each other, they still managed to utilize traditional values and conflict resolution mechanism, which involves vomiting out or speaking about the problematic issue with each other with all transparency and mutual trust, in order to reconcile and peacefully co-exist.
How can I then denounce these people as ignorant? I am here today because of their tireless efforts, wisdom and diligent leadership. Let’s stop diverting the issue, and continue to be zealously clinging to a destructive mindset of entitlement. I was not attacking anybody’s tribe; the only tribe I am opposed to is the current spoiled regime and its spoiled policies.
Nay, with our current rigid mentality neither going to London, nor Cambridge, nor even landing on the moon can positively transform us from our muddled ignorance to informed bemusement, which is a positive form of ignorance.
Of all the views that have been expressed as part of the current debate, I am much more enriched by the objective article written by Suzanne Jumbo and entitled “National Healing and Building of the Nation: we are all equal,” and which appeared on Sudan Tribune, than by all the other void sentimentalities.
Notice after reading that article, I find it hard to slander the SPLM or empty it of its real content and purpose. That is constructive debate.
Christ is Risen, and so will South Sudan. Happy Easter!
For questions and concerns, you know where to find me: firstname.lastname@example.org