By: Justin Ambago Ramba
August 8, 2017, For all practical purposes, the issues of war and Peace in South Sudan only came to take a foreign policy priority position when the USA administration under William F Clinton, found itself face to face with what became known in the West as the new wave of Islamic Terrorism. Coincidently it was the same time when the Sudanese Islamic fundamentalists seized power in the country through a bloodless military coup d’état, against a democratically elected government of Prime Minister Sayed Sadiq Al Mahdi.
Unfortunately, it is this narrow narrative as linked to the USA foreign policy interest in the Sudan and the North-East Africa region that became the official face of an otherwise a wider South Sudanese struggle with how to properly govern itself since the days is existed under an autonomous structure or within a united country within the Sudan, and today as a sovereign state with a full membership in the United Nations and many other regional and worldwide bodies .
To ignore the fact South Sudan had had the opportunity in past to govern itself under a semi-autonomous structure between 1972-1983 but failed the test, is to cut corners in an otherwise a very long story of how this part of the world has chronically struggled with governance issues
The truth be said, the ruling elites who ran the affairs of what was by then the Autonomous region of Southern Sudan, are largely still around to testify to the fact that what is currently breaking this newly independent African country apart, lies in its deeply rooted ethnic bigotry in politics. Even long before the later Dictator, Ga’afar Nimeri could decree the re-division of the then Southern Region into its original components of Equatoria, Bahr Al Ghazal and the Upper Nile, the southern Sudanese were already at each other’s throats as “one Single Tribe” looked at it numerical advantage and chose to refer at itself that only members of their tribe are born to rule in the not yet independent Southern Region of the Old Sudan.
Some of you may wonder as to if that was the case, who then come the South Sudanese all came to embrace the SPLA/M and fought under its insignia to get to where the country is now?
To keep it real, this is what the situation was like. When the SPLM/A rebellion begun in the Town of Bor, of ALL PLACES, the message it sent was of a Dinka frustration with the re-division policy decreed by Dictator Ga’afar Nimeri, obviously in contradiction to the articles of the Addis Ababa !972 Peace Agreement, but with a popular support in all across the Equatoria Region, and some parts of both Upper Nile and Bahr Al Ghazal regions.
But then something very important happened. Ga’afar Nimeri miscalculated the whole lot. When he chose to create a new alliance with the Islamist groups of late Dr. Hassan Abdalla Al Turabi and the Sufi Sunni Al Mahdi dynasty of the UMMA Party as represented by Imam Sadiq Al Mahdi, knowing or not, he had left the true basis of the Anya Nya Movement and the historical mutiny of Torit on 18th August 1955, no choice but to either come up with a rebellion of its own or tactically join hands with the Dinka dominated SPLA/M. The later choice prevailed and the rest is now history.
The brief introduction to the background of South Sudan’s politics is hoped to serve those not well versed with some of the nitty gritty bits of one of Africa’s very dynamic political dispensations. Against this benchmark, the authors hope his readers will be in position to accept that the proliferation of violence, displacement, and food insecurity is not new to South Sudan under dictator Salva Kiir Mayardit.
The 2005, Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which Paved the way for the succession of South Sudan from Sudan. It was essentially an Agreement between the National Islamic front (NIF) of the predominantly northern riverain Arabized Nubian tribesmen and SPLA/M of the predominantly southern Dinka tribes. The CPA for practical reasons exempted the once again Autonomous Southern Sudan from any forced Islamic influences and jurisdictions, an outcome embraced by all south Sudanese of all ethnic denominations.
However, as it became abundantly clear later on, the failure of the guarantor of the agreement to pressure for a democratic transformation in the country, South Sudan went to the referendum boxes still imprisoned in the “Dinka” prescribed “Tribal-Luak (Kraal -style) in both state governance and life-style. This is the same primitive and narrow scoped governance regimen that earlier led to the dismantlement of the Addis Ababa agreement in 1983.
Since 2005, this regime which continuously revitalizes itself in the name of “Bahr Ghazal Jieng Supremacy”, has already had devastating military confrontations with far reaching massacre of civilian populations in the Shillukland, the Murleland, the Equatorias, among the “Fertit” and even among the so-called Bahr Ghazal Dinka” communities from where the rogue and pariah regime draws most of its fighting forces.
As I write this piece, the “Bahr Ghazal” Dinka of Gogrial are busy killing one another under a state sponsored civil unrest, labelled for convenience sake as the “interclan war” between the Apuk and Aguok both of the so-called Gogrial state, dictator Salva Kiir’s own homeland.
Unless of course we want to cover up the burning fire in South Sudan that primarily stem from the poor governance and intentionally created chaos by the ruling elites and their power base in the ‘Jieng (Dinka) Council of Elders’ (JCE).
Throwing dry grass over this fire, and it is exactly what those benefiting from the status quo are doing, in an attempt to cover up, arguably in the name of national sovereignty and the ‘JCE’s version of National Unity, is only as good as following in the footsteps of those tribal zealots who knowingly or otherwise, led to the dismemberment of the Old Sudan.
But let’s keep it real even if only for fairness’s sake. Any talk of national sovereignty or national unity, during the existing government only serves to promote the ‘Jieng’ (Dinka) hegemony, expansionism and their ill-advised ethnic supremacy.
The ongoing proliferation of violence, displacement, and food insecurity the countrywide is there to stay and even get worse as time goes, unless of course a radical settlement to the root causes of the crisis clinical and preferably surgical intervention.
One is made to wonder more and more, as South Sudan finds its fate in the bloodiest hands of the most incapable duo, dictator Salva Kiir Mayardit and opportunist Taban Deng Gai.
Can anyone really trust the so-called unilaterally declared ceasefire by the regime in Juba, when the very regime is simultaneously engaged in a heavy military attacks against the SPLA-IO HQs of Pagak?
Even the dump pro-government “ALL DINKA MILITIA”, Mathiang Anyoor, themselves know well that they are under orders not to spare any villages and their inhabitants in the recent governments scorch earth campaign in rural Equatoria, Western Bahr Ghazal and many parts of Greater Upper Ile regions.
The current situation in the country renders any discussion of elections in the foreseeable future as an unnecessary diversion from the primary goals of achieving peace and reconciliation.
South Sudan’s leaders, neighbors, and regional and international partners must first focus on achieving peace based on the realization of a total new structure of governance in the country – democratic Confederalism.
This and only this extreme form of FEDERALISM as represented by CONFEDERALISM can bring about the end of the bloody struggle over who or which ethnic group (s) rule and monopolize the power in a centralized system governance, and thereafter create the conditions needed to hold credible elections.
These are urgent goals, and to achieve them, there is an equally urgent need to promptly revitalize of an inclusive and credible peace process by African Union and the UN Security Council.
This shallow belief that a peace process for South Sudan must receive financial and other resources from the West as represented by the TROIKA and the European Union or even the USA, are at their best representation of neo-colonialism and Imperialism.
The question that begs for an answer is, “If we the South Sudanese and our neighbors are capable of sponsoring the ongoing dirty War, Mass Killings, Rape, and Lawlessness”, why then it becomes an issue that must necessarily require a EU and TROIKA to Bankroll a Peace Process, if we really want peace and stability to reign in our midst!
BUT, if there is no political will from within our populace and political elites in country and the IGAD countries to the realization OF A PEACEFUL CO-EXISTANCE in South Sudan based on a new political dispensation as clearly proposed above, then there will be very little wonder if the fire were to consume both the green and the dry, in the country and the region at large!
Believe me, the historical inability of South Sudanese to face up to their inborn cultural differences and the political nurturing of hatred can keep South Sudan burning indefinitely.
Nonetheless, lessons learnt from the Old Sudan, clearly shows that any attempt to merely change or replace those in the seats of power in Juba, is not in any way enough to bring about an everlasting Peace and stability in this chronically devastated part of the world, without first having the boldness to reconstruct the governance structures and signing a new social contract between the various nationalities if they would genuinely subscribe to the very idea of staying together as one country and under what arrangements yet to be agreed on and not imposed.
Author: Dr.Justin Ambago Ramba. A concerned South Sudanese and a Voice for the Voiceless and marginalized Millions.