South Sudan: Forgetting the Peace Dividend, but where is Peace?
"The colonized man will first manifest this aggressiveness which has been deposited in his bones against his own people. This is the period when the niger beats up the niger and police and the magistrates do not know where to turn when faced by a wave of crime…." – Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth.
South Sudanese have been concerned with the dreadfully slow pace of development and acute lack of basic services in their semi autonomous region for sometimes. This is what the analysts have been referring to as "absence of peace dividend, three years after launching of government of South Sudan." Now with rampant criminal and tribal violence, as well as the death from preventable causes across the South on the rise, South Sudanese and their sympathisers everywhere are now downgrading their initially high expectations down to the base of Maslow’s pyramid (that is, they are now searching for bare-bone security), while wondering whether peace has really come at the tail of the signing of comprehensive peace (CPA) in 2005. Thus, looking for "peace dividend" in this sort of environment of extreme low-life expectancy is beginning to resemble searching for carcases of a dead animal in the midst of a field roamed by wolves.
Most recently we have seen how tearful president Salva Kiir Mayardit was while delivering a televised speech to Southern Parliament, hardly three years after tearfully mourning the loss of Dr. John Garang in a plane crash that sparked violent demonstrations on the street of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum; and led to massive loss in lives and property.
This time around, however, the GOSS president was mourning 23 passengers who perished on board South Sudan Air Connection’s Beech 1900 plane that crashed 15 km east of Rumbek on Friday 2 May 2008. The dead included South Sudan defence minister Dominic Dim Deng, and Dr Justin Yach Arop, the presidential adviser for decentralisation. Millions South Sudanese must have felt the same way as their president, and must have been asking themselves again: if they are living in peace-time, why are they and their president still weeping three years after the signing of CPA?
It has been said that bad peace is better than just war. That peace is more than the absence of war. For me, peace is the existence of an environment that allows all the citizens of a country to engage in meaningful, productive, and creative endeavours, without fear of persecution, loss life, or loss of property. The overarching peacetime motto should be one like: "cause no harm, sustain peaceful coexistence." But as this article will try to show, South Sudan today is far removed from the peaceful place everyone thinks it should be, and falls short of what could qualify as "bad peace."
Rampant in Insecurity
Armed attacks on aid convoys and civilians vehicles (whether cars, trucks, or buses) are a common occurrence in South Sudan, and in Equatoria in particular. Khartoum Monitor quoted UN officials saying that at least 25 attacks on Sudanese, International Aid Agencies, and foreigners have been reported in the last two months (Khartoum Monitor, Saturday 10 May 2008).
Some of these attacks have been blamed on Lord Resistance Army. However, it has also been reported that elements of SPLA (being named as No-Unit) has been responsible for some of these attacks as enumerated by Khartoum Monitor (10 May 2008):
"With a myriad of armed men running around the South- militia, unpaid Southern army soldiers, disgruntled armed civilians, the foreign workers in tiny town of Juba have become targets for armed robbery."
So far, the government of South Sudan has been unable to contain the situation or bring those responsible for the criminal acts to books.
South Sudan - Where Corruption Kills
A few bucks here and there in order to line up the pockets of government officials may not do great harm to Southern Sudan, or so we may think. But one John Ochang wrote last week in South Sudanese blogsphere:
"If corruption was not there, those people would have not used an old plane like this one which has caused us the loss of many important lives such as president’s advisor, and the minister of defence…"
Dr. Alfred Lokuji agreed:
"People who should be fighting corruption are not so clean themselves. We have a very-corruption- promoting law that requires that anyone intending to establish a formal business in Sudan must have a Sudanese partner. So, even those with no background of any kind in the aviation industry are now the masters of our skies"
And author Steve Paterno wondered in an article:
"To lose an average of one leader a year in a three years span in a plane crash, it begs more questions. Then, with such trend, what is next?"
Similar sentiments were also expressed outside the blogsphere. In a funeral service conducted at St. Michael Catholic Church in Khartoum attended recently by this author for Beech 1900 crash victims, the preacher told the congregation that: "some of these planes are not fit for transporting animals."
And even president Salva Kiir himself admitted the prevalence of poor aviation safety in South Sudan when he told the mourners in Juba: "Southern Sudan has become a damping ground of all forms."
However, the GOSS president could not disclose to his listeners why it had taken lives to admit the existence of a problem and why nothing was done to remedy the situation. But corruption is assumed to underpin it.
While we all acknowledged that corruption exists in South Sudan as it does in other countries of the world, there is no excuse for us to sit back and do nothing when corruption has cut so deep into the body of government machinery to the extent of undermining one of the most critical transport infrastructures of any country, the aviation services. This is no longer a talk about "casual corruption" but of a national crisis.
The Militarisation of Intra and Inter-tribal Conflicts
Since signing of the CPA in 2005, a wave of intra and inter-tribal conflicts broke out across Southern Sudan in a way not witnessed for decades, a least not in my generation. The conflict pitched Dinka against non-Dinka in Equatoria over grazing and farm lands, Zande against Belenda in Tumbra in Western Equatoria, Jur Bel against Dinka in Lakes State, Dinka Agar against Dinka Gok in Rumbek, Dinka against Murle in Jongelie State, Dinka Pakam against Dinka Luach in Lakes and Warap States, Aguok against Apuk in Warap State, Othuon against other sections in Eastern Equatoria State. This is by no means an exhaustive list of tribal conflicts.
In large number of these conflicts, powerful firearms have been used with attendant high casualty rate. Victim’s bodies have been mutilated and heads cut off. The elderly killed or burnt alive. Property has been looted. Villages torched. Women and children killed, or have been taken captives. Patients dragged out of hospitals and killed in tribal revenges. SPLA weapons and ammunition stores broken into by tribal people and used to invade their neighbours. Local officials have been accused of complicity and sleaziness.
The reasons for such destructive and fruitless conflicts have been vague at best and non-existent at worst. In majority of these conflicts rarely had any one been successfully persecuted in the court of law. What we have seen has been baseless finger-pointing from the top of the government to the bottom, from the bottom to the top, and horizontally across the board between peers at various levels of government. And nothing substantial came out of it. And so South Sudan is becoming abit like a house of lunatics.
And in a recent twist in Aguok-Apuk conflict in Warap State, a number of military transport trucks were driven into Alek, a village town some 12 miles North of Gogrial. The trucks carried armed men in SPLA uniform. Many local SPLA soldiers in Alek had no clue as to where the trucks were coming from or where they were heading. The trucks disappeared. And a day later from the date of the sighting, an army in civilian uniform masquerading as "Aguok raiders" destroyed and burned down Lietnhom, the capital of Gogrial East County that is inhabited by Apuk Dinka subsection. They also burned down a long stretch of villages in Apuk-Aguok border. Nothing was spared in Lietnhom including government buildings and vehicle used by the commissioner were detonated using explosives. The frail elderly were burnt inside their homes. Women and children were killed or taken captive.
In Panachier, just a few miles from the scene of carnage, SPLA army did not move a finger, nor fired a single bullet to stop the armed raiders. Such is how Aguok-Apuk conflict has come down to. It has slowly evolved into extremely complex conflict in which the other neighbourly Dinka sections have been implicated as far as Northern Bhar El Ghazal State (Awiel).
Hence most of us are embarrassed by it and are asking many unanswered questions: who is behind this vicious conflict? What will they gain from it? Is this is what Southern self-rule has boiled down to? Is that the best way to make unity attractive? Who are these men in SPLA uniform? From where did they come? Where do they get their arms and explosives from? Why is SPLA army in Panachier near Lietnhom not intervening to stop the carnage? Have we failed finally to maintained law and order in our autonomous region?
The Inability of GOSS to Mobilise Human Capital
While it is recognised that SPLM was successful in mobilising the South at all levels to fight the liberation war, it has been unable to mobilise its human capital both inside Sudan and in the Diaspora since the launch of government of South Sudan (GOSS) in July 2005. In contrast, the central government has exploited this 3-year truce to speed away in order to widen the developmental gap with the traditionally backward South, by utilising its human resources more effectively and investing in vital infrastructure projects that are transforming Northern Sudan into one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. The central government is achieving this by building institutions that maximise the utilisation of the available skilled workforce, large pool of professionals and university graduates, as well as soliciting input of its numerous academic and research establishments. And for first time since Sudan’s independence, there has been a boom in consultancy services provided by university professors in all fields.
In South Sudan, its relatively meagre intellectual capital has remained untapped and under utilised at best, or shunned at worst. The SPLM has been too low or reluctant to devise successful strategies to engage the now dormant South Sudanese intellectual capital. And in the meantime GOSS is being slowly but surely strangled by corruption, nepotism, an institutional incompetence.
And as long as the patient is refusing to take the appropriate medication, the cure will remain out of sight. The result? We will needlessly continue to mourn our loved ones taken from us by curable diseases or preventable catastrophes, to name but a few.
The Way Forward: Let Our Leaders Weep in the Future the Japanese Way!
By weeping on TV every time a calamity strikes us, our elder brother and president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, has shown himself to us to be a very sensitive man who deeply cares for the welfare of his people (the orphans of John Garang whom most of us regard as the undisputable father of our nation, who also taught us how to fight for our freedom).
The sight of a tearful national leader is not just a Kiir’s idiosyncrasy, far from it. The Japanese fought bravely in WWII to the extent of provoking the wrath of mighty America that unleashed its anger by bombing them with the most destructive weapon that human ingenuity has ever invented, the atom bomb. Japanese surrendered in millions in the wake of nuclear destruction in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Ever since, the Japanese have vented their anger on the US by quitting the arm race and turning their energies into creative endeavours that resulted in technological excellence that earned their country great prosperity and unmatchable global reverence. Their success is self-evident and is there for all to see as they sit side by side with their formal adversary, the US, at the apex of economic and technological supremacy.
Together with the leaders of South Korea, the Japanese political and corporate leaders are often seen weeping in public and on TV screens in the aftermath of political scandals, preventable disasters, or corporate collapse. However, the Japanese and Korean leaders frequently go one extra mile by taking one more honourable step. They publicly admit that they take full responsibility for failing to see the calamity coming, and for not taking preventable action before they strike and resign their positions publicly.
By citing the Japanese model of leadership in response to preventable disasters, this author is not necessarily suggesting that president Salva Kiir quit his post. What the Japanese model teaches us is that recognising the existence of a problems that might pose risk to life and property is an important first step in the right direction, but it is not sufficient nor good enough just stopping here. The next step is for a leader/government to come up solutions that will mitigate the risks posed by such a problems so as to prevent its occurrence or minimise its negative impacts. That being aware of a risk and doing nothing about it does amount to gross negligence and could cost the leader its position where the citizens are empowered sufficiently enough to assert their rights in places such as Japan or Korea and any where democratic values have taken roots.
In contrast, a great majority of leaders in the so-called underdeveloped nations are primarily obsessed with doing everything that will ensure their grip on power. Anything else is secondary. Hence, all policies are mostly driven by this goal. One such "survival strategy" is being unwilling or fearful to engage intellectuals and people of integrity in shaping government policies and resistance to ask for advice when making decisions of strategic importance. This is to keep them away from lime-lights, lest they get credit.
While the above phenomenon is not necessarily the diagnosis for the malaise undermining Kiir’s leadership, it is noted that the president is aware of many issues that needs to be dealt with through appropriate policies. For example president Kiir is on record saying that corruption is rampant in his government and is undermining its effectiveness in delivering on pledges to the people. And in his funeral speech following the death of minister for SPLA affairs and other high-ranking officials in recent plane crash, president Salva Kiir addressed the nation saying:
"As you all know, Southern Sudan has become a damping ground of all forms. Very old cars are always being brought to Southern Sudan painted in very good colours…."
"In a similar way, you have seen how many motor bikes are present in South Sudan which have become the cause of death to our young people" - The Citizen May 7, 2008.
The question that impresses itself quite naturally is that since the government has been aware of these burning issues why it has done nothing about the risks they pose?
Such a question has no quick fix although it will continue to haunt the government of South Sudan until it starts to address such issues more effectively.
One route to more effective governance is abandoning the approach that views the selection of people to ministerial posts using "food rationing" model without considering suitability.
To conclude, a number of intertwining factors are responsible for the lack of peace and security in South Sudan. These have been outlined. At the heart of it is the inability of GOSS to successfully mobilise our human resources at home and in Diaspora. In order to mobilise our human and intellectual capital for development, GOSS would needs institutional restructuring on new bases.