By Gabrial Pager Ajang
Juba wrestles with question of violence. Rebels have not only embraced violence as their norm but have also accepted it as a mean of achieving ends. Before 2013 infamous war, rebels in the Greater Upper Nile confused violence for democracy. Several leaders have used violence as their guiding principle of ascending to power or securing leadership. In the Greater Upper region, violence is rampant. It has been encouraged by the larger population as a platform of getting wealth. Since 2006, it has been documented that the youth in Jonglei state have engaged in vicious cycles of violence. Cattle are rustled for pride and treasures in those several disreputable several cycles of revenge. Rebels confused democracy or freedom for violence. They tragically call themselves “freedom fighters.” This is the tragedy of pseudo understanding of democracy. This episode is detrimental to statehood and disastrous to citizens.
Rebels’ leader, Dr. Riek Machar presented an implausible argument about democracy. Format or a proposal which is inconceivable and a kind of ill inform model of democracy that is not grounded in the principles of western democracy. It is an ideal that suggests that take power at all cost. Riek models of democracy isn’t convincing because it is premised on the confused or misguided bravery of South Sudanese youth and mythical prophecies of Ngundeng. His model butchers the meaning of democracy. Rebels’ deliberate orchestration of violence against the State of South Sudan is criminal. They have reduced Bor Town, Malakal and Bentiu to the demolitions the Stone Age era. And these riveting facts defeat rebels’ arguments of developmental and democratic programs. With current facts and state of affairs rebels are the worst enemies of South Sudan. The current violence continues to destroy South Sudan. Violence is a flaw argument for achieving democracy. It is implausible and irrational argument for development and combating corruption in South Sudan.
Violence has destroyed little development that we have seen in Bor Town, Bentiu, and Malakal and counties surrounding these cities. Violence is not a mean of achieving democracy; it is actually a mean of rejecting democratic platforms. Rebels’ leaders fraudulently understood the actual meaning of democracy. The principles of democracy are grounded in the preservation of individual liberty, preservation of property, freedom and protection of all citizens and political participations. Rebels’ pseudo-democracy has harmed several thousand families of South Sudan. Hence, it is time for rebels to stop confusing bravery with suicidal mission and democracy with prophecies of Ngundeng. It is even questionable whether the prophet’s Ngundeng understood democratic ideals. Therefore rebels must rethink and take new recourse. They must cease relying on Ngundeng prophecies that have made Greater Upper Nile epicenter for unleashing violent against the state.
Juba survived those dark days. The administration narrowly thrives through thick and thin of 2013-2014. South Sudan survived because people of Equatoria and Bhar El Ghazel regions have had engaged in limited form of violent. Citizens in these regions have exercised restrained and citizenship. I gave people of these regions credits for choosing peace over violence. And as New Year begins, let us all seek for peace. Peace comes through constructive dialogues. The problem is our leaders in the SPLM have lost the meaning of democracy and constructive views in translation. People that presented constructive arguments but opposing views of government are branded as rebels.
We have seen in December of 2013, the SPLM leadership (SPLM-Government, and Rebels both) clearly confused democratic ideals with violence and freedoms of expression were seen as threats. The Leaders of the SPLM (rebels included) abandoned meaningful dialogues and opted for libels, uncanny salacious statements an episode which eventually threatens the State. Such statements and confusions muddled state of affairs, and the whole situation got out of hands and spiral into violence. The state of disorder was caused by the absence of trust among leaders and their complete failure to recognize legitimate government. The public disorder ensued as the country plunged into her tragic state of affairs. The inability of the SPLM leaders to follow one leader, the failure of the SPLM leaders to accept Kiir as their president created anarchic situation.
On the other hand, the administration subsequent rejections of honest counsel in areas of reforms and institutions of government led to nihilism or insurrectional disorder surged and the whole condition transpired into turmoil which dangerously ripe on the December 2013.The fact that violence is used as mean of ascending power and to some extent accepted by Juba is itself a threat to our statehood. Nevertheless, the honest, thoughtful and well researched informed proposals that have helped several nascent countries develop in the past are currently seen as threats by Juba. All these make me wonder, what sort of country do we want to leave for next generation? What would the poor citizens whose properties have been destroyed, parents were killed and the livelihood shattered say? Could these people be seen as threats or be branded as rebels if they raise complains to the government?
Nation building is not realized from vacuum, it comes through serous conversations. It is realized through encouraged competitive healthy and well developed ideas. These are then accelerated by constructive and meaningful dialogues among leaders and citizens. For instance, we have existing South Sudanese customary laws, the Arab/Khartoum cultural laws, and the Eastern Africa/Western informed population. In such diverse environment, the government has a responsibility to gradually integrate these diverse views now or these could prove catastrophic in the future. Constructive views and meaningful dialogues are enhanced by freedom of expression. The diversity of the laws and cultural of Arab, Africans and the West can enrich South Sudan society, institutions of government, if feasible political engagement is permitted.
However, just like Juba confuses freedom of expression with threats, rebels confuse democracy with violence. Freedom of speech isn’t a threat to government. It is format of raising concern issues that affect citizens in remote villages to state and central governments. Rebels on one hand have butchered the meaning of democracy. They unilaterally proposed 21 states and change of South Sudan name to Federal Republic of South Sudan. Honestly, a High School student is smarter than Riek Machar. These proposals can never be done by rebels alone. Democratic leader would seek consent from the governed (citizenry). Good leader would propose referendum to be held to find out whether name of the country can be changed. Another referendum can be held for citizens to vote whether states can be splits into 21 or not. Again, only citizens could make these calls, it is neither Juba nor rebels factions. I hope writers continue to dissect all these confusions. It is time we schooled Dr. Riek Machar and Adwok Nyaba on this subject of democracy and their illiterate saga in this conflict.
The previous and current rebellion and accumulative vices besides international and regional interests are the actual threats to South Sudan. These threats can never be confused with freedom of expression. Freedom of expression could perfect union of the diverse tribes, especially if freedoms of expression are fostered to enhance transformational ideas and with clear case of rejecting violence. Juba must understand that any rejection of freedom of expression or seizure of newspapers can be used by the international entities of making their case against the government. Hence, Juba needs to respect citizens’ opinions as along as they are not harmful to citizens and not a threat to statehood. In this New Year, I hope we focus on peace, and reconciliation.
I do acknowledge that the freedoms of expression in the country and pushing for reform have been hijacked by the rebellion. Now, there is a fine line between raising legitimate issues that needs quick resolution and platform of rebels. The more we brand people as rebels or pro government the more we could kill constructive debate, a debate that is desperately needed for development and viability. Our country isn’t black and white. We do not hold monolithic view or one view. Diverse views or constructive dialogues must never be confused with rebellion. Rebels are fighting for democracy and their ideals of democracy are deeply rooted in evil or Jok rach (Ngundeng) mythical superstitions. Ngundeng’s concepts of leadership are alien to democracy. Apparently, all democratic ideals reject usage of violence as a mean of securing power. Times again and again Riek has not only use violence but embraced Ngundeng prophecies to catapult to power. He wants to become president through violent. He wants to kill his ways into leadership. I am sure Ngundeng could accept bloody president but God will not accept such unlawful means of securing power
The SPLM internal divisions and tribal conflicts have brought this nation to its knee. In this year, I would recommend to the SPLM leaders to reconcile their disputes; unite their ranks in order to propose programs that would address regional and international interests and tribal conflicts in South Sudan. Tribal conflicts warrant specific proposal from the SPLM leadership. Our country wants lasting peace if the leaders do not it. However, the international and regional interests could derail South Sudan economy and sovereignty if the people and leaders of South Sudan are not united to preserve their interests and sovereignty.
It is about time they concur that they are destroying very essence of the independence that they fought for more than two decades. As the New Year comes, people of South Sudan must choose peace. This new year, South Sudanese can choose peace over violence.
Country belongs to all of us, and as we begin this New Year, I urged all the leaders, both SPLM leaders in many camps (in Government, Rebels, G11) to welcome diverse perspectives, and more constructive dialogues that reject violence. In the course of the last year and one month, we have engaged in sectarian politics and violent and that did not help us. The surfaced deep seated issues of the liberation struggles and post-independence that are occasionally exacerbated by grudge and unresolved problems of the past. All these need to be resolved. As we begin this year, we must understand that the greatest threats to South Sudan viability are ethnic related conflicts, the SPLM internal disputes and international and regional interests. Therefore, let all reconfigure our behaviors and look for ways in which we can remedy these glitches and find peaceful ways of solving problems. I hope New Year comes with renewal of the hearts and minds of our leaders so that peace is realized in the Republic of South Sudan. I affirm that we will recover, we will over setbacks, we will overcome obstacles, will resolve this conflict and emerge stronger than ever because we are people of South Sudan. We live by common pride in nationalism and patriotism and these ideals have secured our independence and will continue to lead this nation to prosperity and brighter future. May peace be upon the people of South Sudan!
Gabrial Pager Ajang, Political Science and History Instructor at Wright Career College
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org