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South Sudanese Academics Letter to the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan

January 7, 2014

Lucy Tamlyn
Office of the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan
Washington, D.C.
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Mr. Donald Booth
U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. Booth:

January 8, 2014 (SSNA) -- We, the undersigned South Sudanese academics, wish to acknowledge and commend you for the active role you are playing in finding a resolution to the tragic events currently unfolding in South Sudan.

The long suffering people of South Sudan, like any other people on earth, deserve better from their leaders. We suggest a short term and a long term approach to end the current tragedy.

In the short term, pressure must be brought to bear on the warring leaders of South Sudan to enter into immediate and unconditional ceasefire arrangements.

Once a ceasefire and monitoring mechanisms have been agreed upon, any long term solution, in our view, should include:

1. Restructuring of the Army (SPLA). This is essential to the realisation of long term stability in South Sudan. Currently, the two major communities – the Nuer and the Dinka – constitute more than two-thirds of the army, at all levels. Any of the two can hold the country at ransom, as recent events have demonstrated. In the interest of long-term stability, the three greater regions of Equatoria, Upper Nile and Bahr el Gazhal, should be equally represented in the armed forces.

This is a tried formula that held well in 1972, following the Addis Ababa Accord. At that time, while Equatoria alone could have supplied two-thirds of the absorbed Anyanya forces, for the sake of stability the leadership at that time in its wisdom decided to absorb 2000 soldiers per region.

Restructuring the army in this manner would aid the process of professionalizing and de-politicising the army. At present, the army's loyalty seems to lie mostly with the SPLM party, rather than with the state of South Sudan.

2. National Dialogue. It is important, in our view, that the discussions in Ethiopia be followed by a National Conference where representatives of all stakeholders would be invited. The relevant stakeholders include all the political parties, church leaders, youth and women organisations, veterans groups, and various other civil society groups. The problems facing South Sudan are national and thus require a comprehensive approach.

If need be, a transitional government headed by technocrats should be put in place with the mandate to organise the forthcoming election, reorganise the army, and conduct a national census.

3. South African Type of Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The institution of such a commission would help to heal the deep wounds of hurt following the unspeakable violence and destruction and help to restore a sense of trust between the various nationalities in South Sudan.

The choice of the chair is important. There are few individuals with the moral authority to chair such a body in South Sudan. The natural choice would be Emeritus Bishop Paride Taban, who stands morally head and shoulders above everybody else in South Sudan. In the absence of the Emeritus Bishop, or other South Sudanese religious leader of high moral standing, it may be necessary to recruit someone from outside the country for this purpose.

4. Overhaul of the civil service. There is great need for a professional civil service, where appointments mirror experience and objective qualifications, rather than the current sense of entitlement based upon an individual’s perceived role in the liberation struggle. Unless the civil service is reformed in this manner, the delivery of much needed services to South Sudan’s citizens will remain elusive; in turn, leading to dissatisfaction and possible civil and political unrest.

5. Constitutional Review. The current Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan needs to be thoroughly revised with the aim of reigning in the excess powers given to the President, which includes wide discretion to fire elected governors. A fixed term of office for the President must be enshrined in the constitution. A fixed term may have help to avert the current power struggle between the incumbent and the deputy. The absence of a fixed term means that there is no definite entry point for any aspiring leader and creates undue political uncertainty.

Additional constitutional measures include strengthening individual rights, enacting greater separation of powers than now exists among the branches of government in South Sudan, and empowering the judicial and legislative branches.

6. Investigation into the Killings. We call upon the international community to ensure that a thorough investigation is undertaken into the reports of ethnically motivated killings of people of any national origin in all the theatres of war: Juba, Jonglei, Unity State, Upper Nile and any other areas. Anyone found guilty should be made to feel the full wrath of the rule of law, even if this means being referred to the Hague.

Thank you very much for your time and effort.

Yours Sincerely,

Dr. Mairi Blackings
University of Strathclyde, Glasgow UK.
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Professor Laura Nyantung Beny
University of Michigan
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Policy-Making, Governance and Fanatical Tribonationalism

By Kuir ë Garang

January 6, 2014 (SSNA) -- There are two things that should make us gravely concerned. When this crisis is all over, we’ll still be governed (ruled actually) by the same leaders, who brought us into the heat of this crisis. And the gravest of all worries for South Sudan is that the young generation has taken after the old tribal dirt. (Watch my Video message to young people in Diaspora)

If young and educated people, 15 – 40, rally around their tribal, conceptual supremacy and only talk about atrocities committed against their kinsfolks, then you know South Sudan present state has been destroyed and its future is a destruction waiting to happen.

Something has to seriously change!

Sadly, at the end of this crisis, South Sudan will remain the way it was before the war started. Some optimistic South Sudanese would say that this crisis will change South Sudan forever, for better.

We have to remember that South Sudanese only got what I can call a conceptual independence. The substance of independence and liberation fruits were only restricted to politicians, their relatives, friends and foreigners. Average South Sudanese were left in the cold and even treated like dirt (second class citizens) in their own country. There were reports of Ethiopian, Kenyan, Somali and Indian businesses employing their fellow nationals as South Sudanese youth remained unemployed.

So how can we get out of this crisis? Not an easy question to answer and not an easy process when the crisis is all over.

Ministry of Tribal Affairs or Directorate of Tribal affairs

South Sudan is a country of tribal nationalities. This is a basic and bitter reality we have to deal with. For centuries, this has been the case and will continue to be so. We can’t change tribal realities but we can change tribal mindsets. No South Sudanese leader has ever tried to make sure involuntary inter and intra-tribal exchange of ideas, traditional politics, norms and traditions are given greater emphasis and resources allocation.

Chiefs should be given structured, funded Tribal accountability Models (TAM) within that ministry (see South Sudan Ideologically). The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports has a superficial role that only helps to foster individual tribal traditions and cultures, however, it doesn’t actually make prominent, the interaction between and among tribes.

This calls for a Ministry of Tribal Affairs to play a greater role in making sure South Sudan understands itself, tribally. The pros and cons of tribal practices could be discussed openly.

TAM should be strengthened and clear modalities put in place to make sure different tribes learn from each other on regular basis. Tribes in South Sudan don’t know that some of them have similar norms, traditions and ethnographic origins.

This would give tribes power over leaders; making it hard for power-hungry leaders to take advantage of tribal differences.

Proper Education and Investment in Nationalistic Attitude of Young People

Properly educating and sensitizing young South Sudanese is the only way of reducing fanatical tribonationalism. Young people who are not well educated about the affairs of the country are easy to mislead. We’ve seen that feeding young ones with tribal nonsense that they’ve been marginalized fuels the growth of hatred. These young people grow up with the general feeling that their education and ideas will be geared towards freeing their tribes from external, dominant, tribonationalists: both conceptual and real!

Many young South Sudan are getting educated, however, fanatical tribonationalism will destroy the future of South Sudan. The current crisis has exposed the danger been nurtured both at home and abroad.

If highly educated young people come out only to be fanatical tribonationalists then something needs to change if a prosperous and peaceful South Sudan is to be realized.

If South Sudan invests in proper education of the youth, it’d be easy to shape young South Sudanese into helpful nationalists rather than fanatical tribonationalists.

A few western educated young people who’d want to maintain seeds of tribal fanaticism will be told off by educated South Sudanese with credible inter and inter-cultural knowledge base.

Institutions, Governance and Policy Making

Dr. Marial Benjamin, South Sudan current minister of Foreign Affairs, is fond of saying that South Sudan has functional institutions. We can understand Marial’s position as he’s ready to protect the president and government at all cost; even at the expense of South Sudan's future.

We all know that South Sudan has organizations and department, but to call them functional institutions is a disservice to South Sudan; a path to its destruction.

The police, the army, the security services are all a mess. They are undisciplined and tend to see their role as the protection of individual bosses rather than allegiance to the nation.

Financial institutions, the National Parliament and Judicial Services have no sense of independence as they feel they owe their existence to the president.

The security services, financial institutions like Central Bank of South Sudan, Judiciary and the national parliament need to be set to be independent and free from executive manipulation.

These institutions need to be professionalized and set in a manner that makes them free from executive influence and manipulation; and be free to give checks and balances to the executive.

As things stand now in South Sudan, all these ‘institutions’ (if you could call them so) are conceptual rather than functional. They do what the president says and this is a marked failure of institutional function in South Sudan.

This fact in tend affects policy making as these ‘institutional’ leaders tend to work to appease the president, his close allies and the executive. Governance therefore revolves around the president, frustrating decision making and producing mediocre governance and policy.

National Constitution and Declarative Clarity

Breaking the national constitution is one of those unforgivable things in a country. However, when the person who’s supposed to protect it breaks it and warns people who remind him of that gross danger, then you know that the government is a situation run amok.

Decisions have to be made in South Sudan with clarity of purpose. In South Sudan, the president makes his decisions in form of ‘decrees’ that are read out on National Television in manner reminiscent of 1984 big brother decisions. The decrees are unquestionable and aren’t passed through parliament as always the case in constitution-respecting, democratic nations.

The parliament is a mere, timid formality of ‘yes sir’ men and women!

The president needs to explain the reasons behind his decisions in order to show that his decisions are for the interest of the nation and that he’s actually accountable to the people. Good leaders know that the people are the boss and if people resent certain decisions then the president has to either rescind his decision or kindly and conscientiously convince the citizens about the value of the decision.

Constitutional provisions need to be followed to the letter so as to set leadership examples. Breaking the constitution and expecting respect from the citizens is wishful thinking. The removal of Lakes State governor, Chol Tong Mayay, and Unity State governor, Taban Deng Gai, were all unconstitutional as the reasons behind the constitutional invocation were neither explained nor met.

National Army Integration and Transition to Non-military rule

South Sudan is a military state. The claim that it’s a democratic, civilian government is illusory. From the president, national ministers to state governors, all still go by their military titles. Remembere, they are not regarded as ‘retired.’ The president is not a ‘retired’ general but an active one. We saw that on December 15, 2013, when the president clearly flaunted his military fatigues.

Admittedly, South Sudan needs to move away from military rule and become a nation run by a civilian government.

Besides, the government has no proper way of integrating rebel forces into the national army. Some of these forces are included in the army conceptually but they remain under the command of their former rebel leaders in exactly the same place they used to fight.

These forces therefore still maintain their allegiance to their former rebel leaders instead of the national army leadership. To make it worse, these forces tend to be overwhelmingly or completely uni-tribal.

Way Out of the Current Crisis

It’s certain that peace will come back to South Sudan. It’s a question of when not if. The warring parties shouldn’t cultivate the thought that they are the ones who only have the interest of the nation in heart or that they are not to blame.

Without question, both sides should accept their mistakes and be practical about what they say. Civilians have to be protected and peace-talks have to be taken seriously.

South Sudanese government under President Kiir should start institutional reforms in readiness for peacetime and the way forward. Both President Kiir and Riek Machar need to draft ways in which path to inter-tribal truth and coexistence will be started and strengthened. South Sudan’s stability rests solely on stability of tribal trust.

We should also know that South Sudan’s stability will also be defined by the rethinking of Riek’s and Kiir’s political lives. Riek’s penchant for fall back to exploitation of sensationalized tribal fanaticism is a dirty mark on Riek capacity as a national leader. Without positioning himself clearly as a national leader and a person who hasn’t or can’t exploit tribal fanaticism, then the Addis Ababa talks will only be a respite in South Sudan stability not a long-terms solution to the crisis.

President Kiir should rethink his policy making, his governance policy, his speeches’ sensationalism and his role as the development leader of the new country. Kiir has failed to show humility and leadership in the last two years and this has brought us to the current crisis.  It’d also be good to rethink presidential powers, the national constitution and the clarity of SPLM rules and regulations. Without any change in President Kiir’s attitude and leadership style, then South Sudan would descend into real tribal anarchy. 

So in simple terms:

  • Formalize cease-fire with international observers to stop the fighting
  • Agree that violent ascendency to power is unacceptable
  • Agree that things shouldn’t be business as usual and that serious concessions will have to be made
  • The two sides have to acknowledge the wrongs done
  • Be serious about holding perpetrators of the crimes to account
  • Draft serious and long-term inter-tribal trust-building
  • Funds for civilians displaced or affected by war
  • Encourage new leaders other than Kiir and Riek as their presence is a psychological reminder of the tragedy

Not only is South Sudan in a crisis as we speak, the future of the country is also a crisis waiting to happen. Tribonationalism is the feel-good sentiment among the youth and this makes a cohesive future South Sudan bleak. A tribally divided youth is a warning of an unthinkable future for South Sudan.

Kuir ë Garang is an author of seven books including “South Sudan Ideologically” and “Is ‘Black’ Really Beautiful?” For contacts see Twitter: @kuirthiy or his blog,

You shall be my witnesses in the world

By Fr. Mark Opere Omol

January 5, 2014 (SSNA) -- The 15th December 2013 will forever bear a memory of a “black day” in our nascent nation. The fighting that erupted in the presidential guards unit in Juba, spread rapidly to other areas and is now plaguing the whole country. The conflict has already claimed numerous human lives, damaged infrastructure, displaced thousands and created humanitarian emergency. The military confrontation between the two forces is still raging and there is a reasonable fear that it may deteriorate, and plunge the nation altogether into a full scale civil war. The cause of all this should be unquestionably imputed to power wrangle that had been blistering for years within the leadership of the ruling party. They failed to address and resolve their internal differences amicably and peacefully, thus resulting into division in the party. This article doesn’t intend to delve into the nitty-gritty of all the factors that contributed to driving the country to where it is now.

An IGAD-led peace initiative, with an international backing, has just started in Addis Ababa. Whether or not this effort will yield fruits is what the days ahead will testify. What is hoped for to happen quickly is that the rivaling parties agree to cease hostilities to prevent more bloodshed and restore security in the country. Having come out of decades of bloody war, with millions of lives lost, South Sudanese want to live in peace and harmony. Unfortunately, this is what the current conflict seems to want to jeopardize and erase. Regional and international bodies must step up efforts to ensure that the talks in Addis Ababa achieve positive outcome.

Since the conflict erupted, concerns have been mounting that killings were being effected on basis of ethnic affiliation. This has brought into being the thesis of a planned “ethnic cleansing” that is being echoed by several media outlets regionally and internationally. This feeling of being targeted on ethnic affiliation has contributed robustly to the rapid expansion as well as the exacerbation of the conflict. It is difficult, presently, to establish the quantity of human lives lost since the conflict is still ongoing. This will and must be done afterward through investigation by independent bodies and systematic collection and filing of testimonies from survivors and relatives of victims. The outcome of all this will serve as cogent basis for confirming or refuting the thesis of ethnic cleansing; and identifying the elements to hold responsible for the whole happenings.

Thousands of people have deserted their houses and sought safety within premises of UN in different areas in the country. The UN’s humanitarian coordinator, Toby Lanzer, has repeatedly expressed concern over looming humanitarian calamity if hostilities don’t cease very soon.  Amid horrifying stories lived by survivors from Nuer and Dinka, there are cases of outstanding and touching testimonies of patriotism and nationalism by some religious men during this time of conflict. They have stood up with courage and determination to protect and save lives of innocent civilians. Their testimonies worth being recounted to the public in order to strongly underline the important role faith-based institutions can play in shaping the future of our society. This is the type of the patriotic and nationalistic spirit we all need to bear witness to in order to build a truly united, reconciled and fraternized society:

Abraham Makuac, an Evangelical Pastor from Dinka saved lives of several Nuer in the aftermath of the fighting in Juba. Despite having lost a brother in the fighting (brutally killed), he opened his house and Church to protect and save innocent civilians. This man of God admirably transcended tribal spirit and acted spurred by love and faith.

Micheal Abang, a Presbyterian pastor from Shilluk, also worked strenuously to save human lives during the fighting in Malakal. He generously offered shelter and safety in his house and Church to displaced families from Dinka and Nuer. In the aftermath of the fighting, he was seen participating in the collection of dead bodies and arrangement for their burials. This is such an extraordinary gesture of “charity” that can only stem from strong faith and love.

Paulino Lual, a Catholic priest of Franciscan Order, hailing from Dinka, created a network of volunteers from Dinka to protect the Nuer population in Aweil. This priest is known for his courage and firmness in condemning tribalism, corruption and all sort of social ills in the country. He missed narrowly being murdered by soldiers from his own ethnic group, who were angered by the protection he was according to Nuer civilians.   

Joseph Makuei, a Catholic priest from Nuer, also organized volunteers from his ethnic group to protect and save human lives in Bentiu. He personally, together with the volunteers, participated in accompanying members of Dinka community to the UN premises for safety. He did all this because of his love for the country and respect for human dignity.

The examples set out by these servants of God deserve admiration and must go down in the records for history. They have acted like “heaven-sent angels” to protect and save lives of fellow human beings, amid deadly conflict and fighting ravaging the country. Their gestures originate from patriotic and nationalistic spirit, belief in the sacredness of human life and dignity; and profound love for God and mankind. These are the type of testimonies the country demands of its sons and daughters in the face of a crisis like this.  

The incident of December 15th 2014 has put to a tough trial our leaders’ prowess to manage and resolve crisis through dialogue and political settlement. What is happening now could have been avoided if the wise advice of the religious leaders was heeded to. This conflict, considering its consequences, is destined to produce very negative repercussions on the social and political dynamics. The country will never be the same. The talks between the rivaling parties in Addis Abba are one positive step towards restoring security, tranquility and normalcy. However, there is an urgent necessity of carrying out a nationwide process of peace and reconciliation if our young nation is to lay a strong foundation for peaceful co-existence, social cohesion and national fraternity. The Churches and all faith-based institutions can play an important role in this process. For they still represent a credible “voice” that can reach out to the heart and conscience, instill spirit of love, peace and forgiveness, and educate to rebuild trust and sense of belonging in the citizens. The testimonies of the four religious men recounted above are a good example of how Churches should live to bear witness to Christ’s message and become source of light and hope among people.

The author is a Catholic priest from South Sudan, currently residing in Italy and can be reached at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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