The recent breakdown of law and orders in South Sudan’s warring zones is a source of concern and the inability of the leaders to put the people first in their decision-making process further weakens the ill-funded institutions in South Sudan. As we celebrate this year’s father’s day, can we actually refer to South Sudan leaders as “Our Father”?
Ending a civil war is never easy. But a fragile rapprochement between South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar – the two elderly “big men” of the country or better put “Our fathers” – does not impress a younger generation of would-be political leaders who believe their country’s future can be brighter. The decision just a few months ago, by President Kiir, to reappoint the exiled Mr. Machar to the role of vice-president, raised hopes that brutal two-year conflict in the world’s youngest nation might now come to an end after Mr. Machar accepted the offer.
The decree by President Kiir was made in Juba, the capital city. That was where an alleged coup attempt in December 2013 by forces loyal to Mr Machar – two years after the country’s declaration of independence from Sudan – sparked an ethnic war that has driven two million people from their homes, left 2.8 million facing acute food insecurity and tens of thousands on the brink of famine. Since the conflict began, more than 17,000 children were used in the conflict, with 1,300 recruited in 2016
Reported incidents of sexual violence rose 60% in 2016,. A UN survey found that 70% of women who were sheltering in camps had been raped since the beginning of the conflict, with the vast majority of rapists being police and soldiers, and that 80% had witnessed someone else getting sexually assaulted. The SPLA were reported to have recruited militias and young men in Unity state to take back rebel-held areas. They were given guns and their pay was what they could loot and women they could capture, who were raped.
In an opinion, President Kiir – a former senior soldier who took over after South Sudan’s leader, Dr. John Garang, died in a helicopter crash in 2005 – is disparaging.
Using the unflattering vocabulary of the American military, Mr. Kiir can be described as an uneducated “jarhead” (a nickname usually reserved for the US Marine Corps). While the President is an able and respected frontline soldier, he is “not a presidential politician”.
The blame for this rising tide of violence can largely be placed at the feet of the ruling transitional coalition government. For one, they have largely neglected the already fragile local economies in South Sudan’s rural areas. According to the World Bank, rural poverty in South Sudan tends to be characterized by a lack of access to services, infrastructure, and economic opportunity.
As resources become increasingly scarce, competition for what is available becomes inflamed, and at times, violent.
Levels of poverty and suffering in areas such as Lou Nuer, Bor, Twic East and also Duk counties were also vastly accentuated by the catastrophic floods that swept through South Sudan. Authorities in Jonglei State say nearly 20,000 people have been displaced by flash floods in Bor, Twic East, and Duk Counties. Homes were swept away.
According to the Secretary-General of Jonglei state, the estimated 20,000 people were displaced when heavy downpours submerged their houses, leaving them in dire need of humanitarian assistance. More floods are also anticipated following heavy rains and the rising water levels of the Nile River.
Thousands of cattle, the lifeline for many families, disappeared. However, the recovery process from this devastation has been largely aided by NGOs and other non-state actors as the government continually fails to redistribute wealth far beyond Juba.
Observing this “economic deprivation” is a significant contributor to the rising levels of violence.
Looking closely at the new government has been formed with the opposition coming together with the government in Juba. There is limited optimism on what follows, and even Kiir’s ability to deliver further success is questioned. Kiir has served his time. And it is obvious that he has caused the country more harm than good. It is basically time for him to move on.
Recently the US ambassador to South Sudan has called on parties to the revitalized peace agreement to speed up the reconstitution of the national parliament. According to the 2018 peace deal, the National Legislature shall consist of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and the Council of States. It stipulates that the parliament shall be expanded from 400 to 550 members. The incumbent government shall have 332 members, SPLM-IO, 128 members, South Sudan Opposition Alliance, or SSOA with 50, Other Political Parties or OPP with 30, and the Former Detainees or FDs shall have 10 representatives.
Looking at the President’s steps, redraw South Sudan’s internal state boundaries, creating 10 states, agreed on how states will be shared among the parties, and no governors have been appointed. Everything that supposed to have happened immediately the government has been formed, all is still pending.
There is no peace, and the Kiir lead government are not willing to implement peace. The formation of the government itself is also questionable and considering the legal framework which quite weak, it can be termed “illegal”. There is not a single provision of the Agreement which has been implemented. The very Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGONU) was formed circumventing these provisions. The formation of government is not complete to this day, with neither state nor local governments in place.
The Revitalized Assembly has not been reconstituted, so the constitution was amended illegally. All this was done in the name of “giving peace a chance”. Well, unfortunately, it has been over months since the formation of the Presidency and the Cabinet and there is still no progress. Rather, the security situation has deteriorated.
Furthermore, the South Sudanese government must fundamentally reform the practices of its military institutions. Violence in South Sudan extends beyond just intercommunal conflict. In the south of the country, government forces continue to clash with the rebel forces that opted out of signing the transitional unity deal. The recent killing of the 7th October movement leader is a notable example. Most worryingly, though, is the fact that the government appears to be driving this conflict. “The main aggressor seems to be the government. It’s full-on fighting, and the risk is that it will pull more fighters out of the current peace deal,” argued Alan Boswell of the International Crisis Group.
Due to the absence of the competent government, the community resorts to defending itself from neighboring community aggression through the formation of voluntarily community protection forces (CPF); such as the white army, Murle youth, Bor Youth, GealWeng, Doutco Bai, and ArwoBoys to filled the security gap created by the absence of competent government.
When you are winning a war, you wouldn’t want peace, and that is the case of President Kiir. And this actually accounted for most of his actions in the past few months.
This country will get the fathers it deserves. It will take time, but we will be stable. South Sudanese will find someone who works for their interests, not his own interests. Someone they can truly refer to as a father.