By Deng Kur Deng
Over the course of the 21 years of Sudanese civil war, many young men left schools to join what would be called one of the longest civil wars in African history. It was a journey that left families shattered, lives lost, and the future in question. For a soldier, the end of the war meant the end of a way of life.
Being in the army is the embodiment of discipline, and the military cannot function without that discipline. The regimen of discipline establishes certain norms, and those norms are the idealized part of the army; no one questions whether they are consistent. Unfortunately, there are those norms that allowed some people to act outside of laws, with wanton disregard for character and liberty, in order to dehumanize others who were less powerful. I am glad that the SPLA is now an organized army following laws and protecting innocence lives. However, when a general defect from the army, he takes laws into his own hands, killing people like animals. Now, those very dangerous generals are returning to the government, is the government in Juba ready? I have seriously accepted peace implementation, but put me down on the list of concerned citizens about the return of those guys. Juba must be on serious alert. More often than not, we knew these people were the dangerously misinformed high ranking officers who held powerful sway in the army.
For these leaders, it is obvious that human dignity lost its value, and so it is very important for these values to be restored through restraint. We must stop these individuals from abusing their powers, especially among rebels. As we all know, generals are carrying out devious and unscrupulous practices in South Sudan, which has sowed seeds of doubt, and in the process, the social environment has reached a heightened state of anxiety. In truth, many people anticipated these consequences of a civil war, especially since the movement was not well organized during its formative stages and onward. Those who were designated as leaders were, in fact, some of them the least informed about the leadership within the capacity of the army.
In a place where dishonesty is practiced on a daily basis—where lying is the mechanism and evasive strategy used to carry out illogical practices—it is difficult to follow rules and regulations. High ranking officers were known for killing people who committed petty crimes, like stealing a goat. If our country is to ever leave the shadow of war behind us, we must rise above such atrocious practices. You don’t kill people to make a point on little issues.
Unfortunately, this new beginning has become the end for some. Liberating South Sudan and the Sudanese in general has had unintended consequences. The leaders who have made it to the top have resorted to strategies that are deemed inappropriate—if not immoral, and as a result, they have seriously hindered the progress of the movement, but right now, atrocities are committed by many generals among the rebels and a few among the government. To be fair, some of these leaders are well-respected and I personally respect many of the generals, but for many, once they climbed their ways up the ladder, they fought hard to remain there, even though they were known for abusing their powers.
This misplaced motivation usually heightened bad blood and led to a deterioration of teamwork among the leaders and their subordinates. Their abuse of powers caught the attention of many South Sudanese during the civil war, and it also captured the attention of our international supporters because of the atrocities committed by those so-called “high ranking” officers.
I don’t know if any of the generals ever thought of the personal legacies they would leave behind, but some certainly will leave behind better legacies than others. Many men and women who have been heavily involved in the war can take pride in knowing that their dedication resulted in the independence of South Sudan; those people have done an incredible job, which is something generation after generation will never forget. Personally, I am piecing this together in part as a way to remind us that all people are people, and that even “subordinates” deserve respect. We naturally respect those people who respect us in return, unlike those leaders who belittle their own people and who use their powers to dismantle our individual human values.
Often, leaders might disregard our own personal core values, or they don’t think about the people they’re leading as they lead them. These very same leaders are the ones who act without thought, and make decisions without thinking through the consequences, which is troubling. These leaders just don’t believe in using a friendly approach to address issues, when a faster solution is within their reach. When addressing concerns, they choose the path they want to choose.
These self-centered leaders typically don’t know how to stimulate or encourage their subordinates, because they don’t know or care about them. They hand out their respect sparingly, and often to people who don’t deserve it. With peace in our reach, these leadership tendencies remain to remind us about power abusers. Painfully enough, some of these leaders are trying to imitate leaders who are not even respected in their societies, while others believe it is normal to abuse power. They believe that the only strategy that works is to intimidate and suppress those who oppose you.
It is a deep-rooted cycle in South Sudan: As peace is interrupted, people are left vulnerable. And for whatever reason—whether it is loyalty or ignorance—many South Sudanese let those leaders keep their grip on our country. It is like the South Sudanese child who is very proud of his father, only because he does not know—or does not want to know—about the crimes his father has committed against the innocent. On the same token, no man would love a woman who had no respect for him, just as subordinates would respect and appreciate those who are not self-indulgent with power and who do not abuse people and the system as a whole. Right now, we are our own worst enemy.
Moving forward, we must look to our generals to set a good example as leaders, and to give us clarity in the midst of the chaos that almost made our country collapse. We need a leader who will fearlessly protect his country and government as fiercely as he protects his people.
This article was written by Deng Kur Deng, AKA, Raanmangar. You can reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org