What have we learnt from “KOKORA” in South Sudan?

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BY: Yakani Taban, AUG/10/2017, SSN;

At least every informed South Sudanese is aware of the political waves
that wracked the south in the early nineteen eighties when the former
military leader, Field Marshal Jaafar Mohamed Nimeri, issued a
presidential decree dividing the then Southern region into three
sub-regions of Equatoria, Upper Nile and the Bahr El Gazal.

The move was received with mixed reactions by the southern Sudanese
masses; simply because of its implications, which denoted that
Equatoria was for the Equatorians, Upper Nile for the people of the
region and Bahr El Gazal for the Bahr El Gazalians.

While most Equatorians, led by the last president of the higher
executive council, Joseph James Tombura, jumped at the decree, the
people from Upper Nile and Bahr El Gazal regions, ground their teeth
as they swallowed the above fire into their hearts.

No one can tell exactly the reasons behind that, however some just
felt deprived from the symbolic capital of southern Sudan, Juba, while
others had some major items in their heads.

At that very time the Addis Ababa agreement that halted the Seventeen
years old Anyanya 1 guerrilla war was also brought to an end.

Coupled up with the Turabis baked Islamic September laws, Southern
Sudan and other parts of the country were turned into blood fields.

Although not all the Equatorians supported the idea of the Kokora,
they were all seen as the master minds behind the issuance of the
decree. It was a concept that they did not like other people in their
territory just because those people are different.

Indeed some differences existed between the Equatorians and people
from the other regions of the South, but those ethnic difference per
se did not pose any tension. On the contrary all the row that erupted
were judgmental based on practical malpractices between the
predominant pastoralists of the other regions on one hand and the
mainly agriculturist Equatorians on the other.

Furthermore nobody could under estimate the level of political,
social, security and economic crises southern Sudan was facing by
then. Yet there were differences of opinions on the issue of Kokora
which came at a time when people were still ignorant about the
so-called federalism or decentralisation of power.

BUT the very big question that demands a critical answer is, why did
some people opt for that Kokora? One may look into it as synonymous
with asking the question, why did southern Sudanese demand a self
determination from the Arab Islamic northerners?

Well, Sir Isaac Newton said, “to every action there must be an equal
and opposite reaction”. Although Newton’s law is now fully engulfed in
the text books of Physics, the day to day practices have proved that
not all actions receive equal and opposite reactions.

Nevertheless every body reacts to a specific action in order to
acquire a condition that will suit its status at that given time. So
perhaps the demand that resulted to the attainment of the Kokora was
simply a reaction to other events in the then integrated southern
region for which Kokora was seen as a solution.

The single semi-autonomous Southern region under the Addis Ababa
agreement might have fallen into hands that irrigated the germination
of Kokora.

The idea of a “Kokora” [be divided], which emerged spontaneously among
the people when other conditions could no more be tolerated by some in
the then Southern region; did not just erupt because people wanted to
live alone.

The sons and daughters of the greater Equatoria that embraced the
kokora {the jungle federalism}, might have had their voices higher for
some of the faults generated in the region; but the referees turned
deaf ears to them. Whether it was because of ignorance that people did
not know what was happening on the ground, no one could tell.

But the broad daylights revealed clearly the destruction of all those
elements that are needed for human cohesion.

Men from different socio-cultural backgrounds can only be bound
together by universal norms that are governed by basic principles of
“Respect for one another” and abidance by the rule of law. Once the
universal norms are undermined due to ignorance, tribal or selfish
desires, then there is no any excuse for the fragments that follows.

So it should be made clearly that the new South Sudan that has emerged
after the signing of the CPA should have been the direct beneficiary
from the 1983 incident and embarked itself to provide the best for her
people through proper governance.

It is not an easy task to accomplish as people are still recovering
from poverty and post-war situation where the AK-47 rifles are still
the best friends for some individuals. However more and more effort
has to be exerted to allow a reasonable atmosphere for our minds to
operate in so as to change the South for the better.

Good governance among others just entails avoidance of some elements,
and adhesion to the universal norms which include the following:-

1-The rule of law:
Every body is equal before the law and no one is above it. As such the
duty of every citizen is to respect and abide by what is rated as a
law. In this respect a man who understands and respects the law will
not be happy seeing some body stepping his feet on it while forcing
others to be the prey.

It is also of much significance that the barrel of the gun remains as
far away as possible to matters relating to laws to ensure that law
and order are strictly observed. Equally important is the avoidance of
judiciary biasness which is usually influenced by tribalism in areas
where judges happen to be from one particular zone.

2- Avoidance of Nepotism.
A state grows rapidly when the right man automatically fits in to the
right position regardless of where he comes from. And if the right man
operates because of his capabilities, let him work in peace. However
widespread practices of nepotism in both government and
non-governmental organisations is a very serious disease that cripples
every giant society.

No any sound society would tolerate selfish and greedy men rounding
all their state properties for their relatives and friends and letting
the vast majority go hungry; especially if the very relatives
constantly prove to be incompetent.

3- No to Civil unrest.
Any normal person would not tolerate any sort of disturbance to his
tranquility. It is crystal clear that the ultimate goal of every man
on the earth is to have happiness or comfortable life. You can have
all the resources but still will not be happy if you are constantly
afraid of the uncertainty; not about the natural ones but those
created by men’s barbaric behaviors.

Best examples include the use of force in what does not belong to you
to the point of even killing the owner {i.e. banditry]. Let the
fisherman, tailor, farmer, driver, butcher man etc, alone and they
will be your friends. But you will be a worse enemy to a farmer if you
happened to be his LOCUST, worst enemy to the trader if you are his
bandit etc.

A lot of malpractices might have happened in the post-Addis Ababa
agreement era that ultimately nursed the emergence of a group of
people who felt that they would be better off alone than being
constantly subjected to ways of life that do not please them.

“Kokora,” which is still a fresh history in people’s minds, was just
the beginning of what is now being adopted as federalism in the whole
country with the South having ten states instead of the three of 1983
being governed by people from the respective states.

There are those who saw that the division of the south in 1983 was the
application of divide-and-rule principle intended to weaken the
southerners; while others saw it as a decentralisation of power.
Moreover, few enjoyed that status of keeping the fisherman near the
sea, the teacher in a classroom and the pilot at the airport.

All the same, whatever it was, let its negative legacy be a lesion to
every Southern Sudanese citizen. It has created a history that only
the open-minded will benefit from. Wise man learns from his past
mistakes.

As such it is my personal hope that our wise southerners will not let
us down again by creating a vicious cycle. No man would wish to
stumble twice on the same stone without thinking of either to remove
or dodge it.

If Kokora was bad, and also other negative behaviours happened which
resulted to the creation of Kokora; then it is time that people move
with torches to avoid stumbling on the same stone again.

Southern Sudan is now in the era of the CPA where old wounds have
healed and people are strongly working together to build a giant
region.

No one should think it is now time to punish those who called for the
kokora, or feel reserved because of the legacy created by kokora. As
such negative thoughts will take the South to nowhere other than the
journey to Rwanda 94, or to the former Yugoslavia.

So, unless people remove themselves from the African hang-over where
one refuses to learn positively from his past mistakes, then the
desire to create a solid southern region will just remain an illusion
on the minds of the policy makers and our beautiful South will
constantly be a region that will not hold her children.

Two to three generations will pass and the region will still continue
supplying the rest of the world with malnourished deprived children.

No one is condoning the circumstances that produced Kokora or the
existence of that perceived Kokora, as everybody is hoping for a
stable South Sudan. And this stable South demands a stronger unity of
minds that is free of all sorts of tribal, regional or selfish
influences. END
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