July 9th this year marked four years since South Sudan became an independent nation following a successful referendum on its secession way back in 2011. The independence was a critical juncture in which many indigenous South Sudanese people and other non-citizens viewed it as a break-through which would initiate a new era of development politically, socially and economically.
After several years of civil war that pitted the northerners against the southerners, a peace agreement famously known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in Naivasha, Kenya. This was a peace concession that involved the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) led by the late Dr. John Garang de Mabior and the Government of Sudan apparently led by Omar Al-Bashir. This was a ceasefire to the civil war that took place from 1983 to 2005.
The high expectations of a newly independent state were imminent and various investments were carried out with the expansion, growth and development of the petroleum sector, financial and banking systems and general infrastructural growth. The oil industry in particular, forms the economic base of the economy of South Sudan compared to the other sectors and/ or industries. After enjoying several years of relative stability, violence broke out in December 2013 that involved rebels led by the former Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar and the government side led by the President, Salva Kiir Mayardit.
A close and cross examination reveals that the fight can be traced to ethnic machinations in running the government between the Nuer and Dinka tribes. The Dinka ethnic community where Salva Kiir hails from, were alleged to be favored as compared to the Nuer community where Dr. Machar comes from. So the boiling ethnic tensions consequently resulted in a strife that has since led to the death of thousands and leaving a hundred of thousands to be homeless.
To be specific, the root cause of this civil war in South Sudan was apparently due to the actions of Riek Machar, Pagan Amum and Rebecca Nyandeng who seemingly voted to boycott the meeting of the National Liberation Council. This irked the president, Salva Kiir and he ordered the head of the Presidential Guard to disarm all the ethnic communities that formed this guard. However, the head of this guard, Major General Marial Ciennoung ordered that the Dinka soldiers should be rearmed but his deputy from the Nuer tribe was not happy with this action and also made sure that the soldiers from the Nuer community were rearmed.
This resulted in a fight in which soldiers from the Nuer community engaged those from the Dinka tribe. The aftermath was the use of extreme force by members of SPLM against civilians who belonged to the Nuer tribe in Juba and this was the ultimate point where violence spread across the country. What flummoxes me is that all the peace conventions that have been held in Ethiopia under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) have not been successful.
Let’s contextualize this South Sudan complexity; the first general election was to be held on 9th July 2015 but was pushed ahead by three years and this means that the elections will take place in 2018. The postponement of the national elections can be alluded to two main factors that are being propagated by the government. Firstly, the government holds that a national census has to be carried out before any election is to be conducted and secondly, the Salva Kiir-led government also maintains that the constitution should be changed so as not to continue using the transitional constitution.
To me, these are delaying tactics and political gimmicks that have been orchestrated by the president so that he can consolidate power in the wake of political threats that are being advanced by Dr. Riek Machar. Dr. Machar had vowed to trounce Mr. Kiir in the event that elections were to be held and methinks that the latter subscribes to the spirit of political camaraderie of clinging on power which is the political gospel of Robert Mugabe, Yoweri Museveni and other African “strong men”. This group believes that a leader is supreme and should use any means and ways to remain in power, whether it is through the orthodox means or the unorthodox means.
The realization of peace and stability is far-fetched and still remains a mirage as the situation is chaotic and diabolic if the recent events are to go by. For instance, the declaration by Riek Machar that they will use force if Salva Kiir doesn’t resign is a clear indication that we are yet to witness more catastrophic happenstances. The sanctions that have been imposed on the two leaders by the international community seems not to have engineered a road-map that will ultimately cease the political stalemate that is on-going.
I clearly understand the effort that IGAD is making to normalize the situation but the African Union must do more to ensure that the political ideals of independence are realized. The AU has recently been embroiled in political rhetoric against the International Criminal Court (ICC) by arguing that the proposed African Court of Justice, supported by the Malabo protocol can be able to execute the same task as the former is mainly targeting African leaders. This is the time that the AU should ensure justice for the South Sudanese nationals by fronting and advocating for the prosecution of these two leaders as they have been circumnavigating the path leading to peace. If the AU fails to take action then the intervention by the ICC will be necessary.
The political imbroglio in South Sudan has with no doubt led to a socio-economic quagmire that definitely jeopardizes the progress of the world’s youngest nation. This is a state whose levels of illiteracy are high and whose infrastructure standards are below par and in a state of want. The South Sudanese civil war has hindered the progress of this country as the gains and aspirations have been dwindled. The nation’s desire to join the East Africa Community is a dream deferred because of this war.
The intervention by the international community needs to be intensified to salvage the people of South Sudan. The low level of development should not mean that this state should be neglected. But again, the nationals should also reason to see the long path that they have travelled in the realization of their independence. Being an oil dependent economy and a landlocked country complicates the situation as war totally disrupts the production activities. I guess what remains for the people of this nation is to be religiously hopeful due to the failure of diplomacy between the two political camps. So, the 4th independence anniversary was to be a period of celebration but it is all sorrow and despair. What follows next may be possible or impossible to tell but definitely we look forward to the restoration of order some time, some day otherwise a pariah state, a banana republic and a stateless nation will be beckoning.