Mr President, good statements are not the panacea for a peaceful,
secure South Sudan
Posted: October 14, 2016 by PaanLuel Wël in Columnists, Commentary,
Contributing Writers, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

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By Mading Gum, Nairobi, Kenya
kiir saved riek machar from death, July 8th

kiir saved riek machar from death, July 8th, 2016, during J-1 fighting

October 14, 2016 (SSB) — After the height of July J1 fighting, a
friend invited me to watch a replay of Jeff Koinange exclusive
interview with South Sudan President Salva Kiir. I accepted and we sat
down to listen to the “man” Koinange thinks “holds the future”.  Not
until Mr President predicted doom and disaster if he left power, I
concluded the future lies elsewhere.

South Sudan people struggle for independence was not merely anchored
on the opposition to the Khartoum based oppressive regimes but on what
they aspired. South Sudanese still today aspire for freedom, justice,
and equality. Unfortunately, these aspirations have been flooded by
power struggle, corruption, tribalism and inequality.

Admittedly, Mr President press conference on 12th October 2016 was
encouraging. Although it was primarily aimed at dispelling his death
rumour, he tried to calm the growing ethnic tension in the country.
The atmosphere created is commendable. However, calling for calm and
forgiveness is not enough to root out targeted killings and
decentralized violence.

What people need is confronting and addressing the root causes of the
crisis.  It is what will necessarily lead to truth, justice and
reconciliation which are the hallmarks of national healing. It is not
time for liturgical prayers of promises and good intentions. The
nationalist must take substantive action.

Kiir the Nationalist

Throughout South Sudan liberation war, Kiir stood out among his
comrades. He was honest, precise and patience. In an outburst
reminiscent of a chaotic football team in 2004, Kiir challenged his
boss to state whether they were national leaders or not: “If we are
National Leaders, which I don’t believe we are because we have no
cohesion within our leadership structure, let us be sincere with
ourselves”.  Kiir’s fury was sparked by his weakened position,
nepotism, corruption and mistrust in the movement. The difference
today is that he has no boss to blame.

12 years after the Rumbek Conference, Kiir found himself transformed
from a fiery revolutionary to a conservative opportunist. “We fought
for freedom, justice and equality. Yet, once we got to power, we
forgot what we fought for and began to enrich ourselves at the expense
of our people” Kiir lamented in a letter to his most corrupt officials
in 2012.

At that point Kiir and his Garang orphans encounter in politics became
clear to South Sudanese. The South Sudan “project is dead”! Declared a
former colleague at the University of Juba; liberation movement
“politics is simply based on tribe, impunity and mediocracy”. Gone are
the illusions of just, stable, democratic and prosperous South Sudan
SPLM had been preaching. Power, wealth, and tribalism have eaten the

Advocating Forgiveness

Several analysts regard President Kiir call for calm and forgiveness
timely and well placed. Right! At the wake of recent targeted killing
of Dinka civilians, including children, women and elderly, ethnic
animosity has been heightened. Against this background, the call for
calm was timely but why is forgiveness not the right term?

As things stand, issue-based politics is unsellable currency in the
country. South Sudanese, based on past experiences, are yet to abandon
organizing politics around ethnic communities.  Two weeks ago, I
chatted with a long-time friend from the current Jubek State and he
made two insightful observations: first that many ethnic communities
in Equatoria loathe Kiir government not because their sons and
daughters are not in the system but that they do not articulate issues
they hold dear.

Secondly, the local people unwillingness to cooperate with the
security sector to apprehend the highways attackers is due to
perceived ethnicization of the security sector. Much to ponder!

At that point I knew litany of promises and good statements are not
the solution to heal a divided South Sudan. The violence in the
country is comprised of different forms and motivations. The wave of
violence happening along Equatoria highways are a manifestation of
unresolved issues the nation has failed to resolve. I am  inclined to
ask the same question John Luk Jok asked 12 years ago in Rumbek: “Why
is the leadership avoiding South-South dialogue? “.

Long standing issues, for instance, nature of the institutions of
governance, human rights violations, resource distribution, injustices
and ethnic animosity must be addressed to avoid further violence. As
Prof Dani Abudere stated, “the poor need justice; others need law”.
True, the poor existence can only be guaranteed if there is justice
while the others need law to settle their disputes.

And true, the future lies in comprehensive institutional and policy
reforms not ethnic co-optation. It means implementing the substantive
aspects of the peace agreement. That is the way out of the current
political crisis.  Good statements are past their sell-by date.

You can reach the author via his email:

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The
veracity of any claim made are the responsibility of the author, not
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