by Steve Paterno and Scott Morgan
When a Country celebrates their Independence Day it’s generally considered to be a festive occasion. For the United States, John Adams envisioned a day with parades and fireworks. Recently South Sudanese celebrated their 5th Anniversary of Independence not with festivity, but with bloodshed, after gun fire rocked the city of Juba. A coup was in a making.
The power struggle was between Riek Machar against Salva Kiir. Mr. Kiir a Dinka is currently President of South Sudan. Mr. Machar is a Nuer who was forced to flee after the 2013 fighting. He has now been restored to his position as First Vice President by a Peace Accord imposed by the UN and backed up by Peacekeepers. And then, he broke again through fighting. The conflict puts an ethnicity face into it. It is tribal. A tribe against another.
So when the situation within the country imploded and the US beefed up the security at its embassy in Juba with 47 strong marine forces, a sense of paranoia set upon the country. It appears that the South Sudanese have had such a horrible relationship when it was united with Sudan and felt they were being invaded by foreign forces. That fact was actually promoted within the country with reports that the US was invading the Country and taking over. It was a miscommunication or both. US has poor communication with South Sudan government and so are South Sudanese people with the American administration.
A Press Release issued by the US Embassy sought to allay such fears of a US Occupation. Now the rhetoric has returned to a feared takeover by IGAD and the UN. Is there a remedy that could restore confidence by the people toward the GOSS? It is clear that for the sake of National Sanity that tribalism is not a prescription for South Sudan. Whomever becomes the leader should not have their power undermined by Sudan or the Troika Powers ( USA, Great Britain and Norway) either. Nor should it be the location of a potential proxy war between Khartoum, Kampala, Niorobi, Addis or any one.
The thing that South Sudan needs almost as badly as new leadership is a Marshall Plan of its own. The Country has very poor infrastructure to put it mildly. Developing a road network could actually benefit the Agriculture Sector and reduce some of the hunger Issues affecting the Country.
Another Area that needs to be addressed in order for the Country to move forward is to move away from Tribalism. Most of the fighting which is politically motivated has been conducted on this level. So this makes having a standing National Army very difficult. This leads to regional actors backing certain Political Movements and Tribes and making the situation more chaotic. So these actors such as Sudan, Uganda and Kenya could actually find themselves at war in the future over South Sudan if they are not careful.
When the word chaos is written out in Mandarin the characters for both danger and opportunity are used. That is a very apt metaphor for the current situation within South Sudan at this time. We see the danger but the opportunities for stability are well hidden.
Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org