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South Sudan’s Third Independence Anniversary: Re-imagining Peace?

By Tongun Lo Loyuong

July 9, 2014 (SSNA) -- After three years of independence, South Sudan has drastically dashed the widespread hope, expectations and optimism not only of the people of South Sudan but also the well-wishers and contributors amongst the members of the international community to its independence, which was first celebrated on July 9th, 2011. No sooner did our dream of freedom and independence came true than these same global actors who assisted in the birth of South Sudan watched as South Sudan turned into a nightmare. With the country now wallowing in blood, rampant death and abject suffering of the masses, South Sudan has exceeded even negative expectations and predictions, thanks to sorry political leadership.

We are ranked number one failed state in the world. Tens of thousands have died and sanctity of human life has been rendered meaningless in a senseless and brutal civil war that has left more than a million and a half displaced. Famine looms within weeks as political and humanitarian crisis reaches a nadir, subjecting a third of South Sudan’s population to the risk of dying from hunger while yet again reducing our people to the undignified, shameful and dishonorable state of having to beg for humanitarian assistance that remains elusive to prevent further loss of life.

Water borne diseases and malnutrition are acute and in the past couple of months have claimed more than two hundred lives of mostly children in Unity State alone. Our daughters have been reduced to harlotry and prostitution as an alternative means to secure livelihood and survive. Wanton human rights violations, rape of women, war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed and are well documented. Requiems have been written about us and South Sudan has already been dismissed as the death of a dream to create a viable state. The list of failures is endless and arguably justifies the prevailing skepticism and awe.

Indeed, the current poor political leadership has ill-advisedly demonstrated as predicted that South Sudanese cannot govern themselves. They have fulfilled the predictions that we cannot create a viable state or forge a cohesive nation in the new country. It can now be confirmed that the country’s independence has caused more evil than good, is more of a curse than a blessing and has contributed to more suffering of our people like never before. As such our future looks bleak, we remain hapless and only God can have mercy.

In this regard and as I wrote during the second independence anniversary and the one before it, there is nothing worth celebrating in the first three years of South Sudan’s independence. This remains true today as several analysts have already poignantly opined, and will remain true as long as the status quo continue to prevail or the one before the July government reshuffle is reinstated. Question then is: can we re-imagine peace in South Sudan under the current grim state of affairs? Or is this the death of a dream and of South Sudan?

The pessimist in me has resigned to South Sudan being the death of a dream to live as a united, viable state and a cohesive nation. It is only a matter of time before South Sudan disintegrates into independent tribal enclaves forever locked up in the logic of war, animosity and cross-border inter-communal violent carnage.

But the optimist in me believes against all the prevailing odds, dismissals and resignations that a viable and prosperous state will emerge from the present wreckage of violent mayhem and a cohesive, peaceful and just nation that will become the envy of many can still be forged in South Sudan once the present generation of leadership has passed on.

Nonetheless, in the meantime in order for current pessimism and despair to be overcome by renewed hope and optimism, we will have to re-imagine peace in South Sudan and collectively work to set its foundation, along with the foundation of justice, national reconciliation, healing and forgiveness. Re-imagining peace in South Sudan as such pertains to soberly raising and addressing new set of questions at the center of which is the question of how exactly did we get it wrong in the first place?

There are several angles to examine South Sudan’s failure, which I have articulated on many previous occasions, most notably in “Why South Sudan Liberation is Gone Awry,” and “Reloaded.” I have also extensively discussed numerous causes that brewed the current civil war in “Cry the Beloved South Sudan in its Second Independence Anniversary,” “What are they Waiting for in South Sudan?,”the Dinka Problem in South Sudan: I & II” and in the “Absurdity of Peacebuilding in South Sudan: I, II & III,” among others.

While it is true that it takes approximately the same amount of time it took for a violent conflict to fester to redress the underlying causes of the conflict and effect lasting peace after the signing of a peace agreement, the main problem in South Sudan’s current crisis is leadership deficiency exacerbated by misguided foreign and humanitarian policies of our regional and international stakeholders and the humanitarian community.

On more than one occasion leadership as a catalyst for South Sudan’s problems have been identified and acknowledged by the same international actors who have partnered or as some prefer to describe them were bedfellows of the myopic and draconian Juba regime. Most recently the departing Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) in South Sudan, Madam Hilde F. Johnson has acknowledged this fact.

In a strongly worded farewell message before boarding her plane to her safe haven, Madam Johnson is cited as squarely holding South Sudan’s political leadership responsible for the current abysmal plight of the South Sudanese. “The leadership, across all factions of the SPLM, whether they are inside or out of government, released from detention or in the bush, are responsible for this,” reiterated Madam Johnson emotionally. Our leaders are “self-serving elite,” on whose behave development in South Sudan has been “set back [by] decades.” They are single-handedly accountable for causing the impending “man-made famine,” and are sick with the “cancer of corruption,” Madam Johnson is further reported as venting her frustration.

Madam Johnson’s remarks are spot on. But the bitter irony is that the political leadership under president Kiir would not have thrived in their policies of South Sudan destruction without feeding off the poor policies of Madam Johnson’s United Nation Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), together with the humanitarian policies of other organizations and the foreign policies of South Sudan’s regional and international stakeholders.

As Alex De Waal has recently rightly observed, South Sudan’s “[mal]functioning cannot be separated from those global forces and how they incentivize and facilitate certain kinds of elite behavior.” In effect De Waal is stating that our crisis has been nurtured perhaps deliberately so in a globally self-serving elitist, naïve or perhaps even ignorant and apathetic environment to the real plight of our people.

If this true, the involvement and intervention (or the lack thereof) of these actors in South Sudan has equally contributed to our downfall. This is amply evident in their foreign policies in South Sudan as elsewhere which continue to be shaped by the exigencies of realpolitik or “interest but friendship,” and which have sadly also influenced the humanitarian policies of international “non-governmental” organizations (INGOs). In lieu of these national interest driven considerations a more pro-active preventive policies and approach would have been pursued to pre-empt the conflict and prevent the needless loss of lives when all indications suggested all was not well in South Sudan. Instead business as usual and politics continued to dominate policymaking pertaining to South Sudan globally, regionally and locally.

Within South Sudan, the government benefited from this global political trend of promoting self-interest by scaling up patronage politics for instance, to determine the reshuffling of the government in July, 2013 and to decide the firing and hiring of civil servants, including the assigning of religious and spiritual related state and national functions to the clergy. Even the much needed national healing, peace and reconciliation came to be politicized. Obstructionist and derailing tactics were used to stall the smooth functioning and democratization of the ruling party leading to frustrations within its leadership that ultimately triggered the violent outbreak.

Of course, while all this is unraveling the international actors turned the other way or tried to explain things away as normal part and parcel of challenges associated with building a new nation and state, keeping with the government corruption and nepotism cover up tune of “starting from scratch.” As an example, when South Sudan was ranked fourth failed state last year, a number of these global actors, including the American Ambassador to South Sudan, refuted this ranking and asserted that South Sudan was not a failed but a “fragile state.” Sure enough when South Sudan finally assumed the number one status of a failed state in this year’s index the name has been altered to “fragile states” as opposed to the long standing “failed states” description when Somalia was scooping the prize. How convenient?! Simply no one wants to be associated with failure!

The apologetic international politicking related to South Sudan is equally expressed by other international actors in South Sudan. For instance, on numerous South Sudan Security Council briefings, instead of stating the facts as they are, Madam Johnson regularly expressed what she called “cautious optimism,” despite a visibly alarming evolution and deterioration of the political, economic, social and even humanitarian terrain in South Sudan.

At time “cautious optimism” was expressed while the government in Juba was increasingly iron-fisting and strongly licking its lips to create a police state in South Sudan, through widespread human rights abuses, including of international humanitarian workers who were often manhandled by security agents and arbitrarily detained or even expelled from South Sudan.

In fact Madam Johnson continued to hold on to her imagined “cautious optimism.” This is until the civil war broke out and the government began to embark on what New York previously described as negative campaign against UNMISS for allegedly supporting the opposition forces. Ultimately she threw her hands up and declared that she did not see the violent eruption coming, just days after the investment conference was held in Juba last December, a view she held well into her last Security Council briefing while speaking to the media. What a shame.

Up until the civil war erupted the role of regional countries in South Sudan’s brewing conflict largely went unnoticed but was thrust into the limelight with Ugandan military involvement in the civil war to protect its interests, and the mediating efforts of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in the peace process aimed at ending the violent conflict. Despite IGAD’s tireless and constructive efforts to bring the conflict to a swift end, the peace process continue to derail in part due what has been described as the “stupidity” of the warring parties, but more significantly because of the self-serving politics of “national interests” of all the conflict stakeholders, including of the IGAD member states. But we will examine the various “national interests” calculations of the IGAD member states in the South Sudan’s civil war on another occasion.

However, clearly what is needed from all conflict stakeholders in South Sudan moving forward, particularly from our regional and international actors is their robust collective stance to purely geared toward ending the civil war in South Sudan. Surely this can be aided by re-orienting the demands of dictated by their political realism considerations or their politics of national interests. Essentially our interlocutors need to grasp that in fact their long term genuine national interests in South Sudan are better served by bringing the civil war to a swift conclusion.

All South Sudan’s stakeholders must therefore, collectively re-imagine peace in South Sudan anew and work to realize it through robust punitive measures and holding accountable the parties who have instigated the conflict and are derailing and spoiling the peace process to end it. It is as simple as that come the warring partied to the negotiation table or not. They will still need to be held accountable and the longer they continue political bickering and exhibit lack of political will to end the war, the lesser leverage they will have to negotiate their way out.

The current peace process must be re-convened to end the crisis immediately. And it must be held on IGAD’s terms not the terms of those who have massacred civilians and compromised regional and international peace and security. Else a peace process dictated by the terms and conditions set by the belligerents to the conflict is not a genuine peace. It will wound up incentivizing violence by leaving the impression that picking up arms and meddling with national, regional and international peace and security can be rewarded with a place in a peace negotiation table rather than be punished in a place behind bars in The Hague.

There are several punitive measures that can be used to induce a swift signing of a peace agreement to end the conflict in South Sudan and restore normalcy in the event that political intransigence of the warring parties persists. These include regionally and internationally enforced targeted sanctions, asset freezes and traveling ban of the lead conflict belligerents and their associates. Regional and international institutional actors will equally do well to expedite Security Council referrals of potential perpetrators of the well-documented human rights abuses and the mass atrocities to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for further investigation and prosecution.

Threat of punitive measures is the only way to expedite a peace agreement in South Sudan but has for far too long been discussed and by now ring hollow. This goes to show that there is little political will overall and regional and global politics of interest continue to dictate the fate of our people despite their unspeakable suffering, thereby entrenching the culture of global impunity. This must stop.

Lastly, as South Sudan commemorates its third independence anniversary, perhaps we should all take this opportunity to mourn our dead rather than celebrate our independence. We should take this opportunity to soul-search and contemplate on how it all went wrong for us in South Sudan in order to make it right. When we collectively reflect and acknowledge our different roles and responsibilities in contributing to where we are three years on after South Sudan’s independence, we may begin to grasp the scope of the tragedy and the suffering of the people of South Sudan as it is. This way we may begin to make real progress to ending the violence, re-imagining peace and working to realize it in earnest in spite of self-serving politics of national interest or what not.

May the souls of all fellow South Sudanese, who have lost their lives in this civil war and the souls of those who died since South Sudan’s independence was achieved and first celebrated on July, 9th 2011 as well as those who departed after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 9th, 2005, rest in peace.

Tongun Lo Loyuong is a PhD student in the U.K. beginning from September, 2014. His research interest is on the role of civil society in transitional justice and reconciliation in South Sudan. He holds two Master’s Degrees with honors and academic excellence from the United States. The last of his MAs is in International Peace Studies and Policy Analysis for Political Change, from the University of Notre Dame – Indiana. He is reachable at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

IGAD and International Community (TRIOKA) are not doing enough to end Conflict in South Sudan

By Juma Mabor Marial

July 8, 2014 (SSNA) -- From the very outset, I want to lay a renunciation that the above title shouldn’t be construed to mean I am against the international community or the IGAD mediators in particular. As we recite along, you would realize that, my objective is to address the loopholes and incongruities that both the IGAD and the international community have committed since the crisis in south Sudan began.

IGAD and TRIOKA Countries (i.e. Norway, United Kingdom and the United States of America) are some of the important and long-time allies that have been with South Sudan since the years of freedom struggle and their pivotal role in the CPA was outstanding and that is why, up until today, south Sudanese appreciates them for the incredible contribution towards freedom and eventual independence that they have helped them gained. It is also on this basis that many south Sudanese sees the two organizations as their alternative avenues for resolving any socio-economic and political challenges that befallen their nascent state.

This is why, soon after the crisis broke out in south Sudan, subsequent attempts to arrest the situation and return the country to normalcy were suggested by the IGAD Head of states supported by the international community and especially the TRIOKA countries. The warring parties were too enthusiastic about the determination of these parties to bring an end to the crisis although there were reservations from SPLM/A in Opposition over the participation of Uganda in the mediations as the latter was being accused of supporting the government and therefore impartial.

Soon after the endorsement that the peace process is imminent, it was resolved that the regional body-IGAD would now lead the process with donor support from the international community and TRIOKA countries. It was almost unanimous that IGAD would do it best to bring peace and stability to south Sudan in the spirit of “African problems need African solutions”. Museveni factor was still contentious but at least, IGAD managed to persuade the parties to sign the cessation of hostilities agreement and allow humanitarian access to the affected areas. This was a positive phase although it was characterized by accusation of violations by both belligerents. In fact there wasn’t any implementation of the agreement as the incident of Bentiu and other occurrences across greater Upper Nile would confirm.

A month later, Kiir and Machar met in Addis and as they claim signed “under duress” another cessation of hostilities agreement but this time reiterating the need to absolutely cease hostilities, allow humanitarian access and most importantly signed a roadmap and framework for the next round of talks which would discuss among other reforms agenda, formation of transitional government of national unity. It is also here that the involvement of other stakeholders and across- section of the south Sudanese society would be required and the two leaders appended their signatures to it.

Whereas the government had continued to oppose any involvement of other stakeholders including the group of the SPLM former detainees. The opposition was of the contrary view and this fact persuaded the IGAD to convince the government to allow for the involvement of the stakeholders on consultative basis. The altercation that follows the nomination of delegates among the stakeholders apart from the group of the SPLM former detainees became too chaotic but I felt it is insignificant to discuss it in details here.

Despite the battle over the selection of the stakeholders from political parties to faith based groups, academia to civil society organizations, youth to women representatives, disables and other interested groups, a symposium that was scheduled to take place three days prior to the next round of talks failed for two days because of failure by the main warring factions to attend over one reason or another. The symposium eventually kicked-off and another arrangement was made by selecting representatives from these groups to participate in the negotiation. This procedure despite the hitches was a step towards peace. However, as the main discussions on the substantive aspects of the peace were expected to resume, the real troubles began and here comes the mistake and this gaffe is what I blame the IGAD and of course the international community of.

First, during the initial stages of the crisis, the government was at loggerhead with the UNMISS, an international body that is known for its impartiality with regard to the internal affairs of any country that it’s operates at. The grievances presented by the government were that the UNMISS is pro-rebels and their evidences ranges from the arguments with government minister in Bor to the pounding of arms caches in Lakes state. The explanation given by the UNMISS officials didn’t help the situation and this consequently resulted in the country-wide demonstrations undertaken by the pro-government supporters against Hilde F. Johnson, the head of UNMISS in South Sudan. The fact that Hilde is a citizen of Norway, one of the TRIOKA member states was also inseparable from her position and so was the locus of the international community.

Apart from UNMISS misgivings, the United States, United Kingdom, China have not said much to pressure the parties to reach at the convenient time, a solution to return peace to south Sudan. The best these countries did was advocated for the release of arrested politicians and call for speedy formation of transitional government of national unity. The circadian sufferings that the people of south Sudan goes through is not a priority for them talking about it being another thing perhaps because they have not been to the grassroots and experience the plight of the helpless women and children in the camps. This is not to say that international community has not done it best in supporting peace but there is still impartiality question that hangs in the balance about America in particular and its opinion with regard to the conflict as its and most of her allies cogitates that, the conflict in south Sudan is more about political reforms and democracy but less of any other issues.

Secondly, IGAD as a regional body that has positioned itself in epicenter of the problem with the intention of resolving the conflict is now getting confused with the many advisers that are behind the scene trying to advance private interests through it mediation position. These interest groups have instilled doubts and challenged the neutrality of IGAD and as such, the parties to the negotiation are gradually withdrawing their confidence over this body. A scenario that is not good for the ordinary citizens of south Sudan who are eagerly waiting for peace. The reasons behind this mistrust are, one, on the government side, the IGAD Executive Secretary called their President “STUPID” while to the rebels, the question of stupidity is taken lightly but complains about the selection of stakeholders become their priority. So, looking at these two sides of the same coin, it is apparent that, the credibility of the mediator (IGAD) is already in question and the parties’ maybe reluctance to listen to its proclaimed neutrality. The rebels leadership has already complained about IGAD trying to impose on the parties and trying to take decisions on their behalf which in other words, means, IGAD seemed to have the outcome of the problem that is going on in south Sudan but only disguised to negotiate in an attempt to portrays to the south Sudanese and the parties that, it has indeed done something. This preferred outcome is most likely suspected to have been cooked by the western or for that matter, TRIOKA countries. It also means that, IGAD has just been informed of the ingredients of the food that the TRIOKA has already cooked perhaps to help the former knows how to prepare it meal next time there is similar crisis in the Dark Continent, Africa.

I wouldn’t want to captivate so much into that imagination but look at it critically, the basic techniques of mediation as one of the main types of disputes resolution mechanisms that I was taught in school are that, the mediator should be a facilitator, a moderator, a peace-maker, a tempers calmer, a neutral person and all that translates to impartiality and honesty. IGAD as the parties tells us does not fit these features and therefore, its ability to bring peace to south Sudan is now showing signs of shrinking as recently observed when its indefinitely adjourned the talks without consulting the concerned parties. It has also emerged, through the reaction of the warring factions after the adjournment of talks that, the question of stakeholders inclusion was not a fundamental wish of the parties but a project that IGAD had conscripted to widen its activities in as far as the south Sudan conflict offered that opportunity.

Why do I certify these verdicts, simple, at the beginning of the negotiations, the government had made it abundantly clear that, there shall be a national dialogue conference that would bring on board all the stakeholders and here, the issues on state cum nation-building would be exhaustively discussed. This I hope was made on the vantage point that, the negotiations in Addis were to be restricted to the warring parties with specific issues to be discussed after which a roadmap would be put in place for the national dialogue which could be hold in the country. This was a great idea that the government failed to defend but it was worth fighting for.

Furthermore, the SPLM/A in Opposition that advocated for the inclusion of civil society now turned around and says that all the selection was one –sided and therefore wanted the civil society from outside to be involved in the talks thus complicating the resumption of the next round of talks and eventually led to the boycott and ultimate adjournment of the talks. This scenario shows too the nature of our civil society and other stakeholders. The concerns raised by the opposition tells us that, the civil society that we have in south Sudan together with their political parties colleagues are either pro-governments or pro-opposition leaving the page for neutrality completely blank. This means and as most citizens believes that these so-called civil society organizations and political parties are a group of self-proclaimed network of individuals who seek self-fulfillment instead of advocating for the general rights of the voiceless public and act as an oversight to both the government and the opposition. It is known that, some of the stakeholders that went to Addis had one or another MOU with either the government or the opposition for rewards with positions in the upcoming transitional government of National Unity. This guess is too fascinating to be rubbish aside as history has shown that those who disguised as civil society activists shut up as soon as they are appointed to either side of the divide.

It is because of this peculiarity of having your own political parties and civil society organizations to support your stand in the issues being discussed that has subjugated the oppositions as they thought the government has pocketed the support of the political parties and civil society that it had left in juba and therefore, it felt that, it would only rely on the civil society organizations and political parties that it has planted in the diaspora. Quite unfortunate endeavor to ponder about but my analysis of the war over the selection of stakeholders to join the peace talks in Addis begins and ends at this point but it’s still all goes down to IGAD idea of supporting the impression of including the stakeholders in the negotiation as some of these stakeholders were just fighting over nominations because one want to fly and see Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, allies itself to either party and at the end of the day, derives political benefits through appointments into political positions or other accommodative opportunities.

Ways Forwards:

After it has been proven that, the whole idea of involving stakeholders was an exercise in futility; I now advise IGAD to:

1. Confine the talks to the conflicting parties i.e. the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and SPLM/A in Opposition.

2. Sticks to its 60 days ultimatum, recent adjournment notwithstanding.

3. Reclaim and reaffirm its neutrality and allows the parties to take charge of the negotiations while its role should be to act as a moderator/facilitator until the much needed peace is achieved in south Sudan.

4. Stop wasting time in the procedural aspects of the negotiations but should instead, go straight to the substantive aspects to bring peace to the people of south Sudan because more delays means more suffering for the citizens of south Sudan.

5. Make it clear that the involvement of stakeholders would be needed at the national dialogue conference and this should take place in Juba, South Sudan after the peace is signed. It should be one of the term of references for the transitional government of national unity and this is where a wide range of issues can be discussed.

6. Advice the opposition to drop their demands for the inclusion of stakeholders because as the experiences in the symposium have shown, these stakeholders are more confusion than being part of the solution.

7. Advice it officials particularly the Executive Secretary to mind their language and at least research on diplomatic issues before they release any words that would chase these parties away from the negotiations. As a mediator, you must know how to handle the parties because controlling the warring parties is as fragile as carrying an egg.

Conclusion

As I had earlier mentioned in my opening remarks, I am neither against IGAD nor the International community but I just felt that, it would be helpful to fix the gaps that the mediators might have knowingly or otherwise missed to incorporate in their pursuit to bring peace to the people of south Sudan. It is equally crucial for our leaders from both sides of the divide to let go of their pride and reach a compromise by owning the peace process and heed to the calls of bringing back peace to their country and their people. IGAD and TRIOKA cannot and shall never bring us peace if our leaders are unwilling to bring it themselves.

With this, allow me to say, do all have a happy 3rd independence anniversary by embracing the Theme: South Sudan, One Nation, One People!

Juma Mabor Marial is a Trainee Advocate based in Juba, South Sudan.

Wake Up Equatorian Man

By Emmanuel K. Emmanuel

July 6, 2014 (SSNA) -- It is absolutely inexcusable that Equatoria did not take a harder political and military stance against the central government right from the start of the events that are currently transpiring in South Sudan. They said they were going to finish with the Nuer and we were next. We heard it loud and clear. We did nothing. Our procrastination is proving a fatal mistake judging by the moves the central government is making against Equatoria at the moment. We are at a complete disadvantage to the government.

Troops are taking positions right now in Terekeka. And apparently the leaders there are saying, “That is the government army, and we have no problem with the government”. Our Equatorian brothers got killed in cold blood in Maridi for speaking openly about their political wishes. And what do our leaders do? That’s right, our governor shows up to calm things down instead of being furious about what happened. And they are forming “a task force” to investigate. Look around you Equatoria. Does it look like the time for calming down and creating investigative committees? Our officers, soldiers, and populations are getting disarmed. And who is getting armed and gets to keep their weapons? Look around you Equatoria. Does it look like the time to not have a problem with the government? Really look around you. This has happened before. Do we still think we have or ever really had a central government that is working for us or a country that catered to us? Are we free or safe in South Sudan? These are dire times for us and for Equatoria. If we are to get caught sleeping it is only us to blame.

Equatoria is still not taking these harder positions even up to now nor are its people acting as a cohesive and coordinated unit in the interest of Equatoria. There is no mobilization or a spirit of action by the youth. At the same time, most of the elders who should be leading us in these ominous times are still inexplicably standing by the central government when it is clear that this central government has declared war on Equatoria. As for the youth, I don’t know if it has to do with the distraction of the World Cup or any of the other distracting consumerist spectacles, trappings, and gadgets that have taken over the life of man twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and fifty-two weeks a year in the modern age. I don’t know if it has to do with the good living, the flow of beer and liquor in South Sudan. For the elders, it could be the flow of easy money in South Sudan and the “every man for himself” attitude it has engendered.

Maybe it has to do with responsibilities. Putting the next meal on the table. Looking for school fees for the next term. Finding the budget for that family house under construction. Scrambling for that dowry the in-laws are reminding you of all the time. Perhaps there are more pressing issues at hand. It could also be our now legendary reputation for “peacefulness and reasonableness”. An attitude and a reputation that continue to lull us into deep sleep and get us closer and closer to slaughter by this regime.

Or it has to do with this idea of a global community that is presently being fed to the youth throughout the world, an idea that is as far removed from the true nature of man as there ever was, an idea that has made young men find fluffy comfort and identity in a global citizenry at the expense of their concrete local realities. It has made man lose his strong nationalistic sentiments. It has become a copout for inaction and daring. It is an idea that has turned young men into evangelists of such lofty ideals such as peace, liberty, harmony, freedom, justice, and tolerance while at the same time stripping them of the fortitude and stomach for the difficult course of action that has to be undertaken to achieve those ideals. Instead they have morphed into creatures of passive-aggression, hash-tags, NGO and NPO engineered slogans, and faux outrage. It is an idea that has turned young men into proponents of “a global village”, while making them lose context and affinity for their local own. They have defaulted to the “big picture”, while becoming apathetic to the small one. They are the practitioners of political correctness, at the expense of being honest and pragmatic in their immediate vicinity and making the hard choices needed to achieve a more meaningful and fulfilling life locally.

It could be that the Equatorian identity that is the bedrock of my argument on here is as mythical and nonexistent as the purported South Sudanese identity and nationalism. The lack of serious collaboration and collusion in the Equatorias right now could be a sign that Equatoria as an identity is a figment of my imagination. This lack of collective intent, of acting as a unit could be the reason Equatoria has always been exploited politically and economically, treated as makeweight, easily played and nullified because it already exists in pieces. It could be that this lack of a united and fighting front this very hour, this delaying to act or react as signs of horrible things are showing up all around us is what has, to its detriment, rendered the region toothless.

But the lack of an existing Equatorian identity and solidarity does not add up to the storied history of coordinated Equatorian action in the past of both Sudans, a record of exploits and audacious leadership that existed in Equatoria before this lethargic and fragmented phase defined by political opportunism and individualism befell the region. It does not add up to the strong brotherly and sisterly love that exists amongst Equatorians. Why this very real and strong Equatorian identity has not translated into a unified leadership in present times defeats me. It could be all the reasons I listed. I don’t know for sure.

But something is definitely amiss in the Equatorian man of today. Something has made him indifferent. He is indecisive. He lacks the instinct of a man who is in possession of his wits. The Equatorian man, like the global man of today, seems to be divorced from himself. Slights against his dignity do not seem to affect him anymore. Invasions on his persons do not seem to rile him up. He is more interested in the injury report of his favorite professional team than he is of the butchering and circumventions being done to his constitution. He has more passion invested in the fortunes and misfortunes of teams in the World Cup than he does in the fact that his media houses have just been told to not publish anything about federalism, the hottest issue in his country right now, an issue that should be consuming every fiber of his being and any maneuvers by the government to stifle it should be a declaration of war. He is not worked up by the fact that his central government has denied this allegation of press intimidation but then the very next day this same government showed up at one of his daily newspapers and confiscated the paper in whose pages federalism was discussed. . Instead, he posts about it on the internet and feigns outrage and then follows that post with a funny meme and then it is all forgotten.

The man of the today hears that hundreds of his girls have been abducted by some lunatics. Instead of showing up in the thousands to sign up and go fight them and bring back his girls, he instead retweets a hashtag. An exercise that peaks on that same day and flattens off right after. The man of today seems unable to really get mad anymore. Instead he watches a movie clip on YouTube about a scene where a man is really really mad and is rallying up a whole nation. Then he tweets it. The man of the moment gashes at Charlie Chaplin railing against the evils of the world in “The Great Dictator” but he himself can’t seem to rise to such heights of emotions and sentiment. The man of today seems all intellectualism and nothing more. He is all consumption. He is not a man of action.

You would not be mistaken to think that the enslavement of the future, which in fact is already the enslavement of the present by the look of things, will not be man in chains. Rather, it will be a man so thoroughly programmed into consumption and compliance that he has no interest anymore in the great matters of the heart that have always stirred men. He becomes tolerant of tyranny and oppression because he has lost the ability to actually recognize them and lash against them. He will not care. Instead, these grave things become even more fodder for polite chatter and intellectual posturing. The man of today does not seem to feel things deeply anymore. And I wonder if the Equatorian man is also suffering from this disease that is affecting the man of today.

The Equatorian man seems more interested in the fact that team so and so in Latin America or in Europe has black players so and so instead of the fact that four South Sudanese where just stopped from boarding a plane for a UNMISS training abroad because of being from tribe so and so. He is more interested in the exploits of the “black” president of the United States than of the fact that his own Equatorian leaders are being intimidated and harassed with impunity right under his nose. Things are not about life and death anymore to the man of today. I wonder if it is the same case for the Equatorian man.

I wonder because life-threatening things are happening all around the Equatorian man but there is no reaction. Egregious things that should have made him fight back by now. Things that tell him that his government is working against him. He does not seem to have his pulse on what is happening. He lacks the awareness of all the pieces moving around him. At the center of this absentmindedness are our so-called Equatorian leaders. I frankly do not know if there is any strategy to what our Equatorian leaders are doing at the moment. I do not know if they have options for Equatoria and whether they are preparing Equatoria for these options. I do not know if they have contingency plans for our region, whether they have different ways to maneuver Equatoria in and out of what is going on in South Sudan and even the world right now. I wonder if they have the acumen to capitalize on the present climate in South Sudan and do so for the interests of Equatoria.

Take Iraq for example. Watch how the numerous pieces are acting in the recent developments in that country. More specifically, focus on the Kurds. The Kurdish region is not just sitting around being the “peaceful ones” and not reacting to the moving pieces. They are working on declaring their independence. They are selling their oil on their own. They are taking advantage of the new realities in their environment. Are our leaders in possession of such situational political thinking? Are they in complete grasp of what is happening to our beloved Equatoria? Talking and talking and talking some more does not deliver results in times of tyranny. You cannot reason with tyranny. You end up only giving it more time to consolidate its grip and to annihilate you.

The more I survey the landscape of Equatorian leadership, the more I cry for our region. What we seem to have for leaders are good people. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as they were in the clergy or something. They are good in the sense that they always default to peace, non-violence, unity, not pushing the issue, and definitely not shaking things up. Having these as the only weapons in one’s political arsenal is signing one’s death certificate and that of his people. Being completely good in politics is a death sentence. Our Equatorian leaders are not political animals. You do not see calculations in their eyes. You do not see instinct. You do not see political animals acting in the interest of Equatoria. But turn around and look in the eyes of the leaders from the other regions of South Sudan. You see people who are acting firmly in the interest of their people and of their regions. Our Equatorian leaders on the other hand can always be counted on to be the peaceful ones. They can always be counted on to not be a threat. They can always be counted on to be for South Sudan first and Equatoria last. They are a liability to Equatoria. They are sacrificing us in broad daylight for the sake of South Sudan. 

Our leaders are slowly but surely leading us to the slaughter house. The desperate tones they have been striking in the past few days betray a group of men caught between two minds. I wish I could make them realize that they are up against something completely evil and capable of anything. I wish I could tell them we are hosting a murderous and dangerous central government in Equatoria. Yes, it is us keeping the government of South Sudan alive. Yes, it is us giving them sanctuary, not even their own people. But why exactly are we doing that? Why are we propping up a country and a regime that is completely against us? Why are we hosting a country and a regime on our land that is completely working to destroy us?

There is one idea that is the cause of all Equatorian social politeness, political anonymity, military inaction, economic inactivity, tyrannical tolerance, and cultural insignificance in the world. It is an idea that I wish I could go into the minds of every single Equatorian and cut out. This is the idea of South Sudan. It is this idea of South Sudan unity at any cost, even to the disadvantage of Equatoria, which is the root of all our problems. Out of all the people in South Sudan, we the Equatorians seem to be the ones who have wholeheartedly bought into this idea of South Sudan. And it is absolutely destroying us. It is killing us. It is burying us. It is taking us for a ride. It is abusing us. It is mixing us in situations we should not even be involved in. It is an idea that we have given our region to as the sacrificial lamb. Yes, the other regions also profess their love for this idea of a united South Sudan. But they do it in words only but act in their tribal and regional interests and use South Sudan to the advantage of their people. Only we Equatorians seem to express it both in words and deeds. It is an idea that as long as we still carry and nurture in us, as long as we still adhere to and tolerate, it will continue enslaving and subjugating us. We will be worse off for continuing to hold onto to South Sudan.

Our leaders believe in South Sudan too much, at the expense of Equatoria. And for some odd reason they still believe in this central government. I wonder if it is due to fear at this point because their steadfast and fanatical declarations of allegiance to this government, this country, and its despotic leaders are worrying. It betrays anxiety. The fact that they feel the need to come clean about everything to this government and the fact that they feel the need to qualify themselves all the time does not bode well. The government is not doing the same for Equatoria. It is not giving us signs that its allegiance is with Equatoria. This is a government that has shown that it is willing to contain Equatoria by any means necessary. It is not showing that it wants to work with Equatoria. This is a government that says we should not talk about federalism. Why our Equatorian leadership still thinks it can articulate things with this government or work with it towards something beneficial to Equatoria is baffling. This is a government that has blatantly resorted to using any trick in the tyrannical toolbox to repress this debate on federalism.

The level of doublespeak, glaring lies, and moves against Equatoria by this government should tell us that we are in the middle of a deadly dance with this central government. It might be getting to the time that Equatoria cannot play it both ways. It will risk getting caught unawares. Either Equatoria makes a decisive move and creates a third block in this conflict and goes for what it wants or it resigns to colonialism and continue being an accessory to this tyrannical regime.

If you study closely the identity and region of the people who are opposed to federalism, you will find that they are also the ones who constitute the elitist class in South Sudan at the moment. They are the ones writing and retweeting articles such as “South Sudan is not ready for federalism” and “Federalism will bring disunity”. As if there is already an existing unity in South Sudan. And there counter argument to that is that we should build a national unity first before we embark on federalism. The point they always purposely avoid to make when they make these circular arguments in the federalism debate is that the very obstacle to a South Sudan unity is them. Their policies, behavior, and handling of South Sudan made it impossible for a strong and united country to be built. Hence the call for federalism by the people they have marginalized. They demonize and ridicule the opposition or anyone that challenges the government while ignoring or explaining away the deeds of the government. They preach for peace and South Sudan unity while their people in the government commit atrocities against the other people of South Sudan. They are the disciples of the lies, doublespeak and containment strategies of the central government. They want the status quo and present set up of South Sudan to continue because it benefits them. They are not preaching a South Sudan brotherhood and unity because they actually believe in it as a tool for equality of all peoples. It is because they are the ones running the show.

I am proposing we get out of the South Sudan arrangement. Forget federalism. Things have deteriorated so much that any clear thinking Equatorian knows even federalism will do nothing for Equatoria. As long as we are still entangled in South Sudan, in any shape or form, we will continue being the battleground for the other two regions. It is time to get out of South Sudan. We got out of Sudan for much less. What is happening to us in South Sudan is stuff Bashir could only dream of. It is time for a daring philosophy in Equatoria. We have become so caught up in this business of being “the peaceful ones” that we seem to have forgotten the ability to think for ourselves. It is as if the motto of the Equatorian in South Sudan is “Keep Calm and Love South Sudan”. Even though he is at the bottom of that South Sudan, it does not matter, as long as he does not get to lose his “peacefulness” tag. It is as if that is the only thing the Equatorian can draw pride from in South Sudan because he has been stripped of everything else. He has nothing in South Sudan but at least he is the peaceful one. It is utterly mindboggling. The Equatorian does not know that his continued peacefulness keeps him from fighting for and getting all the other things he has been stripped of.

It is time for a daring philosophy in Equatoria like I said. It is time for the Equatorian man to wake up. Pieces are moving all around you young man. When will you move? Or are you waiting to get caught asleep and defenseless? It is time we got out of South Sudan. The current actions and threats by the government over our call for federalism should be enough to show us that as long as Equatoria is still a part of South Sudan this is how we will be treated. We will always be delayed, intimidated, postponed, and thrown the scraps. We will always be the region to be contained, not the region to play a big role. We will be the region to be played with. We really need to get out. I cannot stress this enough. These are the kinds of political options that our leaders need to have. These are the contingency plans that I am talking about. But everywhere you look in Equatorian leadership, there is nothing. Only talk talk talk. I don’t know if they are aware that they are talking to a tyrannical government that does not think much of Equatoria or its people.

Our Equatorian leaders should not even be talking too much at this point. These are treacherous times. The government is working in overdrive as it tries to keep its tyrannical grip. It is working in overdrive to repress Equatoria. Our leaders also need to be working in overdrive in the interest of Equatoria. Equatorians need to be on the battlefield fighting for Equatoria and not for the opposition, the government or for South Sudan. Instead of rushing to join the opposition we should be creating a third block that is entirely in the interest of Equatoria. We need to create an Equatoria which is detached from everyone and acts only for Equatoria. Pieces are moving around in South Sudan like I said. We need to be reacting to them and doing so decisively. We should not be members of anyone’s camp but our own. We should only be acting for ourselves. But alas, our leaders seem completely clueless to such things. “We are the peaceful ones we are the peaceful ones blah blah we are for unity we will continue talking we don’t like fighting blah blah”. Sure, continue talking and see if it will produce anything substantial for Equatoria.

There has never been a more tyrannical gesture in the annals of history than the disarmament of a particular group of people in the security and defensive organs of the state. It is the clearest sign that the state is in the process of rendering that particular group completely defenseless and put it entirely at its mercy. It has always spelled a declaration of war on the people being disarmed and has always resulted in an immediate rebellion and a fight for independence by the disarmed people. But again, Equatoria is not reacting. The next stage will be the targeted killing of our people that the central government deems a threat. Then, if we let them get away with that, indiscriminate mass killings will follow. These are things that have happened before. And it is happening in slow motion right before our eyes but for some reason we seem to be oblivious to it all. We are not reacting to all that has happened nor are we anticipating what will happen. We keep continuing to profess our allegiance to South Sudan as it quietly goes about the business of eliminating us. 

Rumors or no rumors, it does not need to take the internet for us to start thinking seriously for ourselves. It does not need to take the internet for us to start defending ourselves. It does not need to take the internet for us to pick up arms. We should have already been working on all those options. Why we are still the ones completely for South Sudanese unity and neutrality is ridiculous. South Sudan does not care about us. South Sudan exists to make Equatoria irrelevant. People are spending all their energies trying to distance themselves from internet rumors that say that this government is plotting against Equatoria. Well, isn’t the government doing exactly that? Forget what seems to be over the top rumors on the internet. Isn’t what you are able to see for yourself and what has been confirmed as fact enough to raise the alarm and make you realize Equatoria is a target of this government? Are confiscated newspapers internet rumors? Are repressions of the federal debate internet rumors? Are disarmaments of your people in the army internet rumors? Are the killings of your people for exercising their constitutional right to political opinion internet rumors? Are conspicuous government deployments in your communities also internet rumors?

In fact, Equatoria should be preparing for an armed defense before it gets put in a position where it cannot fight anymore because it has been disarmed and surrounded. It is now becoming clear to everyone that this “peacefulness” and neutrality was a mistake. The actions of the central government against Equatoria are getting more blatant and more daring by the day. I think all Equatorians are now realizing that they are fools for thinking peacefulness and the toleration of mistreatment by others are great strategies for survival.

At this point, a military confrontation between Equatoria and this central government is inevitable. The soonest we start planning for it the better. This is a government that is capable of anything. I know December 15th seems like centuries ago in our twenty four hour news cycle and refreshing timelines but this is a bloodthirsty regime and we should not kid ourselves thinking we are exempt from its savagery. Whenever this confrontation happens, of which I am confident we will make quick work of this government because all that is sustaining it is really just fear and intimidation and not military might, we should come out of it as the independent Republic of Equatoria. At the end of this military confrontation we should quit South Sudan and get on with creating a meaningful life for ourselves in Equatoria. There is absolutely no reason to sacrifice Equatoria for the sake of a united South Sudan. What good is unity if it means you a slave in it? What is the benefit of being bigger as a country if it means Equatoria is lost in it? Any continued arrangement with the other two regions will always keep us marginalized and get us mixed up in other people’s instabilities.

But we cannot keep waiting for our political leaders to bring Equatoria to fruition. They are taking too long to come around to us. This is the time for the youth of Equatoria to take on the responsibility of Equatoria. We cannot let Equatoria be destroyed for the sake of South Sudan. The central government and South Sudan has declared war on you Equatoria. You are at war. Start acting like it. Start defending and liberating yourself. Distractions have always existed throughout history. More pressing issues have always occupied man. But when it comes to his liberties and the protection of his people from tyranny and oppression, man has always put everything aside and risen to the call of action.

All the signs are showing us that our liberties and our people in Equatoria are in danger. All the signs are showing us that our very livelihood and that of Equatoria are in danger.

Ignore them at your own peril.

The author lives in Juba, South Sudan.

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