This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
“There is no victory for either side, even if Mr. Salva Kiir still relishes the illusion that the Jieng are the modern Israelis of South Sudan. On the contrary, I am frightened to think of the horror that would ensue…”
We fought the Arabs, were unable to defeat them, as they were unable to defeat us. Both sides admitted a stalemate – demanding stepping out of the box of a military victory. Had all sides believed that military victory was within reach we would still be fighting without the CPA. We signed, and that allowed us to move on to a phase that allowed the ethnic volcanic simmering in us to erupt, so we could finally move on to nation-building if we wished to.
1991 was about “internal dictatorship” – and we found ways not to listen, instead, the ethnic beast in us was allowed to come out for a deep breath; compelling us to use a lens that only reads “ethnic”. We fell for songs about betrayal and “Jallab” Trojan horsemanship, which our imagination perceived everywhere – only to embrace, dine and dance with the “jallab” when we chose to at our convenient time.
The events of 2013-2016 were really about one bull seeking supremacy over the right to mate with the SPLM herd and produce adorable sycophants. At the core, anti-democracy tendencies had erupted once more and could only be understood by ungifted minds as “tribal” in spite of the dividing line running through the Political Bureau without regard to ethnic origins. The government saw it fit to play the Nuer ethnic card as that was the only one that could sanitize its own grievous sins.
On the one side is the SPLM/Salva, now clearly portrayed by its own admissions and actions as the Jieng side, unjustifiably pitting an entire ethnic group against the rest of the country, in a losing war of attrition – no doubt about it.
The SPLM/IO, brightly painted as Nuer simply due to its leadership, actually neglected the glaring reality that other ethnic groups are in IO (Lado Gore, Mulla, Martin Kenyi, leaving aside those referred to as 10+1). Government and its detractors wanted the colours of the IO to remain as “Nuer” as if that would elevate Kiir to the realm of heroic nationalism.
There is no victory for either side, even if Mr. Salva Kiir still relishes the illusion that the Jieng are the modern Israelis of South Sudan. On the contrary, I am frightened to think of the horror that would ensue if Salva insists on maintaining the current course, forcing everyone to take up arms against his government – plainly read as “against the Jieng.” Sensible South Sudanese could never forgive themselves, nor be forgiven by posterity should this milestone of Total War be arrived at.
This unthinkable final outcome is the corner stone of my heavy leaning towards a trusteeship – which, in turn, can be negotiated so as to ensure a balance between the need for the restoration of order by a neutral body as well as that for preserving the little gains in nationalism and preparing nationals to resume responsibility for managing the country after a sufficient period of preparation.
First and foremost, the present script of war, increasingly becoming an all-out ethnic war fuelled by the government itself is untenable. It is highly doubtful that the belligerent South Sudanese sides can referee themselves. This is a compelling fact to surrender the security of the country and citizens of South Sudan to the United Nations for a period long enough to free and destroy the penchant for killing in war and in peace. That alone would be an achievement.
The second task in a trusteeship would be to ensure the production of a democratic, secular, multi-ethnic constitution centred on a liberal ideology – the sanctity of the individual its heart and soul. Under a professional stewardship, rather than political appointees fuming over un-paid allowances, such a constitution is feasible within five years.
Implicit and concomitant with such a constitution would be the necessary operating laws for political parties, elections, security sector, and over-all governance procedures that would nip the cultivation of an imperial presidency in the bud, and promote the development of robust governance institutions.
Simultaneously, the belligerent political and military individuals and groups would, during the trusteeship, be honing their philosophies, procedures, and campaign skills to claim victory in elections at the end of the trusteeship period. Kiir, Riek, and their entourages can forego the perquisites of power as currently enjoyed, and prepare themselves to persuade South Sudanese citizens of their fitness to rule (as they would still be young after five years)!
The beauty of a trusteeship is its resemblance to many human tactics and strategies for a new beginning. A trusteeship period offers a “retreat” – time to think things over and redraw plans; the “half-time” break in a major league football match in which each team re-assesses its strengths and weaknesses and returns to the match freshened and motivated! A trusteeship takes away nothing from passionate nationalism, it only allows time for it to re-emerge better conceived and pursued.
Either that or a messy disintegration with many movement/armies each seeking its own way, coaxed on by a region or an ethnic group. That would be a replay of the last 25 years, at the least – the perfect script for another nightmare.
(Alfred Sebit Lokuji, firstname.lastname@example.org, All Saints Day, November 1 2016)
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