Making Sense of Self-Government: Why the Crusade for Perpetual Security is the Last Best Hope for Stability in Southern Sudan

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Sunday, 08 November 2009 05:01
Written by Joseph Deng Garang, The New Sudan Vision (NSV), www.newsudanvision.com
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(Omaha, Nebraska)--The security traumas caused by Lou Nuer may have been targeted at Wernyol, Baping and Duk Padiet communities of Jonglei, but in a larger context they are a telling indictment of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) and its management of all of its security affairs in the last four years. The confluence of violence, as we have come to learn about it in Lakes and Warrap, Malakal, Akobo, Pibor, Bari and Mandari, Dinka Bor and Mundari, is a detriment to self-government. Although our government doesn’t seem to care about investigating such incidences, I’m compelled to add my voice among many who have given loudest voices to the concern of violence as it tore communities apart.
 
On January 9 2005 Sudan was forever changed with a single stroke of a pen bearing witness to a document that popularly became known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Southern Sudanese and much of the world began celebrating this six-year peace agreement, for it was, and still is, viewed as a beacon of hope and as a sacred down payment to a better Sudan, whether united or separated. It has afforded the people of Southern Sudan a unique opportunity to experiment in self-government. However, over the last four years, this document has remained shrouded in controversy.
 
Ethnic violence in Southern Sudan continues to present the gravest test to the CPA. It is not surprising that much of Southern Sudan is still not weary of the recent acts of terror that have descended on the residents of Jonglei. But to a person who has lost a loved one or to the entire communities of Baping, Wernyol and Duk Padiet, the emotional toll is nothing short of tragic.
 
The Lou Nuer could be having legitimate concerns not addressed by the government or their MPs may not have done a good job to keep them abreast with government programs but even that should not have been used as a license to kill innocent civilians.
 
For Lou Nuer to characterize the senseless onslaught as mere gesture of people ‘taking matters into their own hands’, justifying it, while decrying SPLA as ‘taking side with Dinka Bor’ is worrisome and speaks volume of a society that is becoming unhinged. Imagine a situation in which every angry community in the south takes matters into their own hands. At the end of the day we would have driven into the ground the south Sudan we desperately need and who would have won? If you say it is NCP, as our usual refrain dictates, then you can be forgiven. But in all honesty it is ignorance that would have won the day. The sad commentary expressed by Lou Nuer in their press release (dated Sept. 25…see Sudan Tribune) amounts to improper defense.
 
It is evident there has been too much hostility toward the Greater Bor community these days. That amount of hostility shows through killing of children, women, and elderly or through unfairly making the entire community the scapegoat for every single decision or missteps in government. It has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. There are cabals of conspirators who are bent on finishing their would-be nationals; who are wishing Bor Dinka every conceivable ills, thinking that there is blessing in seeing or in waking up one morning and finding no single person from Bor or anywhere in South Sudan.
 
Whatever the motivation, the Lou Nuer militias are trapped or seem to be taking a page or cues from 1991 massacres in Bor, or from the enabler, Riek Machar—he of the unrepentant type, whose political expediency has contributed to people gunning for the same saviors. The Bor Dinka have remained undeterred and all they have wanted is security and a chance to rebuild shattered communities with the little they have—something that speaks to the common decency of the majority of southern Sudanese as people with a capacity and generosity of spirit to forgive, because where on earth, if not only in southern Sudan, can a leader kill and still be patronized as vice president of the republic?
 
Without a doubt, the quest for human security is inseparable from the emotional investment we have placed in seeing a new nation emerge from the shackles of Sudan’s oppressive history. But it is a concept that is sadly becoming elusive for people of Southern Sudan. President Kiir must declare militia menace and interethnic violence a national emergency to give SPLA and police personnel the needed impetus and preparedness. Following are some of immediate flagship policy steps that can be used as pointers for mitigating the worrying trends of insecurity—the very albatross around our necks:
 
LEVERAGE COMMUNITY POLICING-- In postwar societies, as in life, some things are certain. People expect to live safe and secure lives; they rebuild their societies with little resources they have. But the same societies deal with the nagging question of illegal arms in the hands of people. Availability of millions of illegal arms will remain a monumental challenge to wrestle with if we don’t pay greater attention. It is both a human as well as a socio-economic security challenge and our government had better not drag its feet. Conservative estimates say that every person in Southern Sudan has at least four illegal firearms, and with every round of disbarment, one or two are given up, and the other two are hidden.
 
If words are any guide, then the GoSS plan to undertake another round of disarmament is a welcome news, and I would advise against some pitfalls: approaching it in some shaky, half measured, and piecemeal ways especially one which gives preferential treatments to some tribes, because that would be meaningless . Because if there is one thing that this trend in insecurity teaches us, it is that our communities and the government must address the security conundrum by stepping up community policing.
 
As the United Nations Center for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration explains it: “the philosophy of community policing encourages the development of new ways of dealing with community security concerns, particularly to ensure that the different needs of social actors — women, men, old and young, minorities, disabled people and other vulnerable groups — are systematically dealt with. Community policing forums are the best means to create favorable environments so that ex-combatants and formerly discredited local police are accepted back into the community. Citizens will only hand over their firearms if they can see a visible improvement in public safety and security and if they have a certain degree of trust in the police and the security agencies.”
 
The GoSS, to its credit, started with the goal of a secure and unified south by integrating over 60,000 OAGs into SPLA back in 2006. Although the exercise was for good reasons, it fell short; it was without enough protection of civilian population, otherwise there is no reason we are still talking about militias in 2009 because that is what the integration squarely tried to avoid. The disarmament that followed was not comprehensive. We have heard cases of some undue influence from UNAMIS as they advised against forceful disarmament or the case of Murle. We now are dealing with a society that is fast becoming proliferated with small arms.
 
THE SOCIETAL IMPEREATIVE--My fervent plea to the GOSS, and the state of Jonglei, all communities, large and small, is to reassess and not take a back seat to the disturbing security trends in Jonglei and all over south Sudan, because the brand of insecurity we have got threatens to corrode the very lungs of our society and any plan to save lives must go beyond disarmament—it does not require short-term fixes but permanent ones.
 
A crusade for perpetual security is needed as our only best hope for stability in Southern Sudan. It will be our only anchor in the storm.
 
The crusade must begin as a candid conversation between our leaders and the public, with our leaders looking in the mirror and accepting reality and severity of the insecurity; they must be the first to show sacrifices and communicate government’s appetite that the GoSS can lead through words and deeds. Part of that is by reassuring all communities and tribes that the SPLA, SPLM and GoSS are not instruments of Dinka Bor power; that every tribe is legally recognized as equal under the constitution.
 
And despite having done it several times, the GoSS ought to reactivate its promise to traditional leaders by calling an urgent summit of all Paramount chiefs to press for their cooperation and by extension rein in members of their communities who exhibit impulsive behaviors.
 
GoSS should ask every community to deposit revolutionary greetings at the table of nation building by sacrificing to be a part of a solution and giving due deference to peaceful and forceful disarmament.  If the Lou Nuer instead want to promote militancy by resisting disarmament and justifying their killings as they would want everybody to buy into outdated worldview---killing and then letting the public now about your grievances later, then soon history will consult with them by assigning appropriate bywords. Times for appearing beholden to tribal politics are over and this time southern Sudanese must muster the will and courage to reprimand anybody or any community bent on seeing us go backwards.
 
 SPLM has over the years been a victim of its own success, starting with the splits, and now militias and some party co-opting its name as democratic change. Although they say a year or two is a lifetime in politics, we can agree time is very short for 2010, 2011 and the unfinished business of disarming the south. The leaders of GoSS had better match our security apparatuses with our people’s aspirations to live in peace and dignity.
 
 
FIGHT ORGANIZED CRIMES--Part of the crusade should also involve anticipation of increase in crimes in future Southern Sudan and that demands nothing less than proactive measures. Despite having been in office for few months, Gier Chuang, GoSS minister of internal affairs is keeping security front and center in Juba; he deserves credit for courting cooperation of INTERPOL—the reputable international police organization that helps nations combat all sorts of crimes and insecurities. The crusade to keep our people safe must embrace critical security infrastructure: adequate police training, sharing of crucial intelligence and we encourage Mr. Gier to, all regard, fast track the assistance of UNAMIS even though these peacekeeping mission aren’t doing enough now.
 
CONSULT & COMMUNICATE WITH CONSTITUENCIES--Our government must realize that stability comes when people are assured to self develop; it can marshal resources for youth and the entire southern workforce to rebuild communities. It can do that by building upon SPLM sound vision of peace through development---something that the Southern Sudan interim Constitution called for, which culminated in the Constituency Development Funds of 2007. The government can make it a policy to have members of parliament communicate local and national programs to constituencies on regular basis because that will ease tension on those with no patience—people will have confidence that their plans are being acted upon. MPs hold the key as chief salespersons of government programs to the people. This is one sure way concerns like those of Lou Nuer can be addressed without always resorting to civilian killings as a way of proving a point.
 
Our leaders need to tap into that common liberation wisdom and genius in which our commanders and proud soldiers were conscious of protecting civilians; it served us well in the bush and this is no time to be complacent; it won us victories against our archenemy and there is no reason we shouldn’t apply it. If our leaders are mistaking lukewarm response by our population because they are not used to voting leaders out, then time is fast approaching for that right to be brought to bear by our voters. Any MP or minister with an ear needs to hear!
 
CULTIVATE CIVIC SENSIBILITIES—we stand at the edge of information and historical eras and empowering our citizenry with information and ability to report can help us build bridges to the future. It is sad in our shortest history of liberation struggle we have learned very little about ourselves, which is a bitter pill to swallow. Going forward, and even in the event of successful disarmament and total elimination of illegal arms, communities ought to be always aware there are people within us who are capable of causing greater harm than NCP; the NCP maybe bankrolling militias or arming youth to underwrite the violence but every community must be asked one cardinal question: which family, or community wants their person to be another statistics added to the 2.5 million we have already lost?  If a community disagrees with this rare moment of honesty, then that community is a sworn enemy of the south. Let’s imagine a day when every person or leader from our communities will look in the mirror and says, “my duty to southern Sudan takes precedence over obsessions with tribal disinformation ’.
 
If the communities across Jonglei, southern Sudan and in the Diaspora let that moment count, then we can be sure of making every state in the South a national leader in all spheres of development-- thus using our imagination not to incite and kill but to build lives and protect the war orphans, widows, elderly, women and the vulnerable ones in our communities.

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