BY: Tongun Lo Loyuong, RSS, MAR/13/2013, SSN;
The renowned and influential non-violent philosopher and activist and the founding father of India, Mahatma Gandhi, is widely cited to have admonished that, “your task is to bring your adversary to his senses and not to his knees.” In this spirit I examine the reasons why South Sudan’s Liberation is gone awry.
But first and foremost, it is worth observing that in our time it has become a common knee jerk reaction by our “liberators” to strongly dismiss all constructive critiques, which are aimed at challenging their government to improve its policies and performance by mitigating corruption and nepotism, and increasing social service output in order to forge a prosperous and peaceful united South Sudan.
In response to all voices of change, the hawks of the failed SPLM establishment are quick to remind us that ‘Rome was not built over night’ which is true, but Rome was also plundered over night. What is more, the SPLM apologists have also been quick to tell us that South Sudan is still a baby nation that is learning to take its first baby steps to walk.
As I previously noted elsewhere, one official once put it this way: “the country is young and… if we [GoSS] were children, we will be breaking glasses all the time. Please be patient with us when we break few glasses!” Unfortunately as has become conventional wisdom, views such as this have profoundly contributed to the regression of our country since the signing of the CPA in 2005.
It seems our baby state is being made to learn how to walk backwards, and the tragedy is that the international community subscribes to the lies that are being peddled by the rogue SPLM organization.
In recent months, the guardians of the SPLM movement and government in Juba have started peddling another foolery — that of the patriotic argument. Voices of change that question the integrity of South Sudan’s liberation in view of the rotten policies pursued by the inept and rouge regime are increasingly accused of being unpatriotic and of disrespecting the fallen heroes without whose blood and selfless sacrifices, we are told, South Sudan as an independent state would not have come into being.
It is agreeable that there is moral and political value in promoting patriotism, and forging a cohesive South Sudanese unity and national identity, as well as fostering respect and appreciation of the mammoth contribution of the selfless sacrifices of fallen heroes and heroines to the independence of South Sudan.
However, the distortion by our “liberators” arises when the accusation of lack of patriotism and disrespect of the blood and sacrifice of the martyrs becomes a pretext to silence well-wishers of the Republic and to conceal institutionalized corrupt and nepotistic policies and the Arab-like marginalization and hegemonic and expansionist agenda.
Consider for instance the question: which is more unpatriotic, to loot your country, condone land grabbing and remain apathetic to current ills driving our nation on the cliff of violent inter-communal anarchy, or to speak out against these vices in order to proactively arrest the steady decent of the country to the carnage of another impending full-scale war?
Another diversion trick our “liberators” skillfully employ is to question the contribution of the voices of change to the independence of South Sudan. We are asked where were you when we [the liberators] were in the bush, cowards? We “liberated” you. What a joke?!
And, of course, there is no need to mention the constant threat of being detained, tortured, or lynched that the constructive voices of change face for free expression. Examples abound.
In response to these arrogance and ignorance — a combination that can send a rational human being to the stone-age, allow me to share the following disclaimer with my “liberators.” I am not a liberator and I was not in the bush, but I refuse to be complicit in dragging South Sudan into the unknown because of the overwhelmingly ill-conceived political decisions that are being pursued in the country.
Not speaking out against innocent suffering in South Sudan is tantamount to being complicit with the perpetrators who are inflicting this suffering. I see it as my moral duty to speak for the voiceless and suffering South Sudanese due to political malpractices, regardless of their socio-ethnic particularity and belonging.
In response to the bush question, not all South Sudanese should have been in the bush in order to have a voice. But if I must descend to that level then here is why I was not in the bush: I was not in the bush because I was unfortunate enough to be a young boy living in Juba in the early years of the struggle.
I was not in the bush because I was displaced to Khartoum with my family when both our “liberators” and the regime in Khartoum conspired to make life unlivable in Juba in the late 80s. Our “liberators” rained bombs in the town indiscriminately killing many innocent civilians, while Khartoum cut off food supply by imposing an air embargo. This in turn led to famine which was exacerbated by drought that further claimed many more innocent lives.
I was not in the bush because as a teenager living in Khartoum, the opportunity arose to join the front-line in mid-90s, but I was a coward and disobeyed direct order from Khartoum to go and fight my own brothers and sisters in the South. I was faced with two options to be forced into going to the South to kill my own brothers or be killed, or to go into exile.
I was not in the bush because I chose the second option and went into exile in Syria and Lebanon, where I lived a humiliated life as a refugee without status or rights, two years of which I spent in prison for being an illegal alien in Lebanon.
Yes, I was not in the bush because I was a coward and not a “liberator,” a coward for refusing to pick up arms against my brothers and sisters in the Southern bushes. When the opportunity arose to join the struggle during my time in Diaspora at that point the struggle was suffering from confusion and deadly schism that inflicted atrocious loss in innocent lives in support bases of the two factions.
I was not in the bush because I refused to have innocent blood on my hands, I was a coward. And in any event, I was not in the bush because the group that was explicitly fighting for South Sudan’s liberation and that I was sympathetic with had rejoined Khartoum, and likewise I refused to align myself with the criminal Islamist regime in Khartoum.
There is no need to descend to the level of pointing out the role of policy advocacy and its contribution to the independence of South Sudan, and what role many South Sudanese who were not in the bush could have played. We will maintain the moral high ground.
Now let the “liberator” tell me, how much of a coward was I?
As a starter, the Southern liberation went wrong precisely because of the arrogance and ignorance of our “liberators.” But the Southern liberation has also gone bad primarily because current policies in Juba are reminiscent of those historically pursued by successive Khartoum regimes, and for which the South chose a divorce to begin with.
Hence a liberation from what and to what end? The similarities with Khartoum are so striking that they even impose alcohol ban in certain states of South Sudan, not knowing that generations of South Sudanese were brought up with the help of income generated from alcohol production and sale.
But there is more to why the liberation of South Sudan is liberation for the benefit of the elite few. Many of the grievances that constituted the “Southern problem” and that led to the liberation struggle in its two intermittent stints remain either un-addressed or are being aggressively pursued as Khartoum did.
Let us briefly unpack these public grievances as they have been well-documented in scholarly research, and examine how Juba has handled them since the formation of an autonomous government in 2005.
The first grievance that sent South Sudanese (without me) to the bush was Khartoum’s aggressive pursuits of Arabization and Islamistization expansionist and domination policies and agenda in Sudan, the so-called national identity contestation debate.
According to these contested claims to Sudanese national identity explanation best described here as identity of domination versus identity of resistance, violent conflicts in Sudan, including the North-South civil wars, were in response to Islamic and Islamist central regimes denying the overwhelming majority of Sudanese the right to equal citizenship status, and appreciation of cultural diversity in Sudan.
In the case of South Sudan, the southern identities are not recognized and respected by Khartoum. In response, South Sudanese developed an identity of resistance that transpired in the liberation struggles that ultimately culminated in the liberation of South Sudan, which is now being hijacked by some.
A great segment of the South Sudanese society continue to suffer from the grievance of expansionism and domination as being aggressively pursued through organized settlements and land grabbing of ancestral lands by some powerful groups with guns.
Where is liberation for these communities who are expressing these legitimate grievances?
The second equally prevalent grievance being expressed by South Sudanese more than 8 years down the road of the so-called “liberation,” and which was one of the triggering factors to the liberation struggle is the economic factor. The explanation then that still applies now was that Sudanese conflicts are a result of some center-periphery dynamic, where inequitable allotment of wealth, resources, and political representation between the center and the periphery fuel conflicts in Sudan.
As Alex de Waal has argued, “the country’s wars are logical continuation of historic processes of asset stripping and proletarianisation of the rural populace which began in the nineteenth century and which has continued during war and peace alike.”
Marginalization remains alive and well in South Sudan, and is probably practiced even more openly and aggressively today than it was then. Consider for instance, the recent 2013 Equatoria conference, which has raffled many feathers of our patriots and liberators. Marginalization was one of the key grievances raised in this conference.
How can you tell me I am liberated when I remain marginalized to the core? As an example, I applied for a professional job with the government of South Sudan, and submitted a long resume with unrivaled academic credentials and experience by many. I even offered to serve under a non-paid internship capacity until the economic lot of the country improves, but I was dragged around for one month and my application was ultimately swept under the carpet.
A Kenyan secretary woman was the one who was made to break the news to me that there is no job for me, and even expelled me from the office of one my “liberators,” imagine how humiliating. Is it not telling that I can get a decent professional job with a descent salary in the West, but not in my own country? So I decided to go back to my West.
In a recent study conducted by Adam Branch and Zachariah Cherian Mampilly and entitled “Winning the War but Losing the Peace,” here is how they summed some of the grievances currently being expressed in South Sudan. They write: “many of those who belong to the smaller Equatorian ethnic groups — the Bari, Zande, Acholi, Madi, Moru, Kuku, and others — view the SPLA as a vehicle of Dinka domination and complain bitterly about their treatment at the hands of the SPLA.”
They further continued: “A Madi man returning from Uganda goes to the land he farmed before being displaced, and finds a Dinka living in his house. He demands that the Dinka return his house and land. In response, the Dinka points to a date inscribed above the doorway. ‘On this date, I liberated this house from the Arabs,’ he says. ‘Where were you?’”
Be that as it may, marginalization or nepotism is not just a phenomenon directed against the Equatorians; the whole periphery of the country is suffering from and bewailing this vice. People are still dying in multitudes of famine and curable diseases even in the areas where our “liberators” come from, while some of our “liberators” are becoming stout and wealthy overnight. Many examples of grievances could be cited in the “liberated” South Sudan, but the ones noted above should do the trick.
In short how can you tell me I am liberated when my grievance remains even after I am supposedly liberated? How did we lose our grievance that we struggled for so long and sacrificed millions of precious lives and martyrs to greed? It is time our ruling clique come to its senses before it is too little too late.
I leave you with these words from a conflict expert, Immanuel William Zartman. He notes: “Conflicts begin with grievances, in which the parties feel deprived of some good to which they feel they have a right…. It may be material access, prevented by poverty, or social access, prevented by status, or political access, prevented by restrictive rules of governance… when those who are deprived begin to feel that they are deprived because of who they are,” and when the state does not address these grievances by “normal politics,” ethnic leaders are highly likely to mobilize their communal groups to express these grievances through several transformational phases before they escalate into full-fledged organized violence, where the aim is not to win anymore, but to obliterate the enemy.”
Are we in South Sudan experiencing a phase of a full-fledged war in the making? The naïve proponent of the SPLM establishment will be quick to say that let them go to the bush, not knowing that when this country catches fire, nobody will be spared. It will be a replication of Rwanda and Somalia combined, and we do not want that to happen do we?
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