By Arop Madut Arop-Gotnyiel
January 31, 2014 - I have been reading discussions in the social media; in which the discussants are calling for an immediate investigation on the ongoing destructive war that has plagued our young country. In these discussions some panellists are urging for speedy end to the conflict, while others are pushing for investigating the people they believe were responsible for the outbreak of the current fratricidal conflict immediately. Questions are also being asked, in these discussions, as to whether there was a coup or just mere misunderstanding in the presidential guards Headquarters in the night of December 15th, 20013, which brought down our country to the current crisis situation; or whether there was a coup in the making and was thus pre-empted by the army which later spread to engulf three states. In fact I read most of these discussions with interest and sadness.
Interest because the discussions centre on the current sensitive issue of killing one another and which has widely been condemned not only by South Sudanese but by all the peace loving people worldwide and who are calling on the warring factions to stop the conflict that has already destroyed some of our cities and tearing families apart. Sadness, because some panellists appear to have moved away from the immediate issue of condemning the savage killing of innocent citizens and calling for peace. Instead the panellists are pointing at figures they are accusing as being responsible for the ongoing carnage. Most people who read these discussions may have expected that, the discussants should have continued with the condemnation of these unfortunate killings and appeal for the stoppage of the ongoing war which if not stop, is pushing our country every day into abyss. However those who called for immediate investigation could be forgiven because their discussions took place against the background of intense environment and extreme emotions. However, the immediate thing that is needed now, is first to stop the conflict and when all is over and peace has been restored and our people are at peace with one another, it will be the time to call for genuine investigation by international teams of experts. It will be then that each and everyone, who have knowledge about what went wrong and the people who were involved in this madness will come forward and give evidence against the alleged culprits. Equally important to stress here is that, these public discussions should also appreciate, at the same time, the authorities in the eight states of our Republic, who kept peace and made sure that no reciprocal atrocities were committed. Once we succeed to stop all this madness, it will be then that, we shall invite the international human rights experts and the International Criminal Courts judges to come and investigate; first the causes of the fight that led to the carnage and then identify the culprits for prosecution. I am sure each of the people involved in this fratricidal conflict will be thoroughly investigated by those neutral bodies and are either acquitted or punished. Essentially, if we succeed to stop the ongoing fight between the government and those fighting against it, and the country is at peace with itself, lot of home work will be made in effort to correct some of the factors that often make our people; the Nuer and the Dinka in particular; prone to ethnic fighting whereas they have almost been integrated through intermarriages and migrations and immigrations through centuries of mixing freely among themselves. Surely there are a lot of things that must be corrected once peace has been restored. The first important thing that I think, will be corrected once the ongoing madness is over; will be the reorganisation of the SPLA as to make it a professional national army of our young Republic. Looking at the current composition of our army in the post war period, one is truck in the face to notice that most of the officers in the army garrisons are from among those have gone to Khartoum many times and having acquired wealth; responded to the Presidential Amnesty; are forgiven and integrated into the SPLA! This is the crime for which President Kiir Mayardit has, unfortunately, become a victim but of good intentions.
Furthermore, it is very unfortunate that the integration of some of the former streets boys who became responsible soldiers in our army; without first giving them some ideas about the mechanics of modern warfare, are responsible in parts to what happened on December 15 and 16 and is ongoing. Sadly, the once mighty and gallant SPLA in the pre war period, has now become a laughing stock just because, of the presence of large number of former street boys who became officers by default. These facts apparently can explain some of the atrocities committed on the innocent people and property not only in Juba but later in Bor, Bentiu, and Malakal and elsewhere. The destruction and atrocities witnessed in the three states could have not been carried out or committed by professional soldiers under professional commanders. The second thing that must be corrected as soon as we have restored peace in our country, will be to stem out the culture of revolting, amnesty is given in efforts to maintain peace in the young nation, and those returnees; are integrated into the national army which is supposed to be a professional army. Now our army is full of people who have previously committed atrocities or genocide in the past and were forgiven without addressing the causes which made them prone to rebellion; and are easily convinced, are pardoned and are integrated into the national army. It will be necessary for the ministry of defence to redeploy some of these former street soldiers in the SPLA and put them into reserve camps where they can be able to produce their own resources in addition to their salaries as members of Reserve Defence Force. It should also be a practice that former soldiers covered by presidential amnesty should be put in these reserve defence force camps. I am sure many donor countries that have gratefully being helping us in the past will be willing to avail funds for the construction and building of the envisaged Reserve Defence Force Camps in certain productive areas in the South Sudan. Once these non professional personnel are cleaned out of the national army, the immediate thing for the defence ministry will be to recruit younger new recruits; and if practicable; among the primary and secondary schools leavers; into the new national army.
The third thing that I would like to stress here has to do with one vital question; and that is; what will be the role of the South Sudanese intellectuals; and their efforts for the reconciliation and national healing; once the ongoing destructive and fratricidal fight has been halted? As the cream of their society I recommend that, the Naadh and Jaang intellectuals, in particular, must meet, as soon as the war is over, discuss and devise ways and means as to how to make our people abandon their time honoured culture of injury to one is an injury to all, as well as the culture of cattle rustling. Although the former has enabled our people, in the past when they successfully fought wars against their enemies, it is high time to abandon this culture now that we have a country of our own.
One sad example to demonstrate what I am talking about is what happened to my nephew in Kuajok last December, when his close friend of many years, a Dinka whose mother is a Nuer, killed him and five others on hearing that one of his uncles (a Nuer) was killed by Dinkas in Juba. When the news reached me I did not know how to respond because, my daughter is married to a Nuer husband and the couple have been blessed with three nice children and are with me in the house. If my nephew was killed by a half Nuer, would my grandchildren be killed in revenge because they are half Nuer? Thank God the issue has been handled with wisdom. Let us stop this culture of an injury to one is an injury to all and adopt a civilize culture where an injury to one is his own problem.
He can then take the person that injury him to the police and to the national court to answer the charge brought against him. This should be our culture instil to our youth. It should also be included in the civic lessons in our schools. Indeed the South Sudanese intellectuals and on the top the Nuer and the Dinka intellectuals; who claim to be national leaders and who, at the same time, remain primordial and parochial in their thinking and behaviour, must now start without delay to educate themselves of how to be nationalistic; it will be then that they will in turn educate their respective constituents. As educationist, I am aware that education is a slow process but it is worth an attempt and worth undertaking. Unless the urge to loot cattle or take side in any unprovoked fight, by the cattle owning nationalities which was one of causes that led to the death of thousands of innocent people during the Anya Nya/ SPLM war; has also been the cause of instability in the cattle owning states, even long after our country became independent; and which caused the loss of thousands of innocent lives in the last eight years since the descent of peace on our country; unless this damaging culture is stemmed out, any future efforts and attempts to start building a nation called South Sudan, will be like chasing the wind.
This culture, which might have understandably brought glories in the past, should now be the role of the Naadh and Jaang intellectuals to persuade their people to stop these divisive cultures. Because, if these two cultures are not addressed sooner than later, they will continue to be the causes for continuous future disunity and instability in our country; it will also be a future hindrance to the progress of our people. Compatriots, the entire world is laughing at us; just only two years of independence and we are not only brutally killing one another but vandalizing our own cities— destroying all our own resources given to us by people of good will so as to pull our young state out of the age long state of backwardness. Let us all join hands and stop this war of our own making; because the victims of this war; as being reported daily by the world media; are our own relatives on both sides, our poor innocent natives and our own cities we built from scratch. Indeed rebuilding the destroyed cities that were wilfully destroyed; will be likened to a person forced by circumstances to eat his own vomits; very painful indeed!
Finally; needless to remind the readers that; all the most powerful, stable and highly developed countries of the world of today; arguably, went through the same madness or even worse than what is happening now in the South Sudan. When this uncalled for conflict is brought to a halt, there will be a dire need to revisit the Wunlit Experience; the people to people conference in the nineties that brought peace, reconciliation and stability among the then embattled Nuer and Dinka Nationalities; a move which contributed to the unity of purpose between the two nationalities and which effectively contributed to the success in bringing to a halt the twenty one year war to its logical conclusion.
The author is a Member of Parliament at South Sudan National Legislative Assembly representing Abyei. He was formerly a journalist and a writer. He can be reached at email@example.com