Editorial: The great assault on the history of South Sudan

Category: Diaspora
Published on Friday, 16 December 2011 21:15
Written by The New Sudan Vision (NSV), www.newsudanvision.com
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THE NEW SUDAN VISION –The independence of South Sudan did not just come to us by chance; it was fought for with a combination of hearts, and minds. But if there is something that a sizeable percentage of South Sudanese have learned or appreciated about the liberation struggle, it is that they have learned and appreciated nothing at all. How do we know? Because a number of writers who remain trapped in the old elusive debate of separation and unity recently labored to revive an assault on the character of the history of our young republic—wondering whether the late John Garang, the man who inspired and led the people of South Sudan throughout many years of the liberation struggle which resulted in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) paving the way for independence in 2011, deserves to be called the Father of the Nation.

SPLAUnless South Sudan is preparing to be a nation of zombies and barbarians, where everyone prefers calling no one the father of the nation, the heartless attempts at denying John Garang his rightful place in our nation’s history must stop. Citizens have the right to criticize their leaders, government or even make clear their political motivations tocampaign for an alternative party. But when the language of criticism is cleverly used or is based on hatred as a mere assault on history, that language will always warrant or be met with such rebuke. For in the words of some of our nation’s most prolific writers, Garang was not simply a separatist or a unionist. He was a liberator who had a grand vision and an appreciation for our diverse heritage. Those S and U labels were far too shallow for the cause he gave his life for and this nation should better represent his aspiration and those of the 2.5 million souls who perished with him.

At a time when many of our citizens thought a debate about whether the whole civil war was fought on separation or unity was a goner, that debate found its way back into our national consciousness last month in a more brazen way.  The conversation was revived by individuals who ended up committing faux pas in their writing by casting the late John Garang as a pro-unionist and therefore not deserving or worthy of place in our nation’s history. The conspiracy theorists went into overdrive, alleging that the late Garang’s family has resorted to portraying him as the Founding Father.

 For all its sacrosanct context and tenacity, South Sudanese liberation history, like many that humanity has witnessed before, has always had its imperfections. Our liberation struggle from the start was a little messy. The men and women of the SPLA/ SPLM, whose collective genius consummated with the declaration of Independence on July 9, 2011, were not without some disagreement. They had some flaws—something which is perfectly human. So the narrative about the war of liberation, although it caught the imagination of all South Sudanese and their counterparts in the marginalized areas, has continued to have that unfortunate characterization to it. At the start of the second war of liberation in 1983, South Sudanese leaders disagreed on the approach and strategy to fight the common enemy. Some separatists thought fighting the war of liberation on a separation platform would do the trick, and as a result caused a disastrous split within the movement. But our exceptionally intelligent civil population did not buy into the words of pseudo-separatists as it became clear those arguments and reasons for splits were for the purposes of assuming leadership. But anchored by a clear vision and a winning strategy, the SPLA/SPLM, under the astute chairmanship of late John Garang, delivered for the people of South Sudan, Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains, although it is still critically incumbent upon President Salva Kiir to see to it that South remains an unshakeable ally of those two marginalized areas.

DEBATE ABOUT SEPARATISTS V. UNIONISTS A SPENT FORCE- Those who are still wasting their time dwelling on facile over-simplification of war of independence as one that involved South Sudanese separatists or unionists do so either because they did not understand the complexity of the problem we had or they are intent on perpetually subscribing to willful ignorance as a virtue—an utterly hollow motivation. By now majority of South Sudanese and the world know how far lethal and entrenched an enemy Khartoum was and that simply uttering the words separatist or unionist was not the only that was going to cut it. It needed more than lecturing people about who was a real separatist. It needed a radical vision or a strategy to fight the entrenched forces in Khartoum. It is why our people did not forsake their Movement even in the midst of rebellious elements seeking to wrest power for power’s sake. Earlier pretexts that were used to rationalize different split as pro-separation did not come to fruition.  God only knows where we would be had that smallness of vision been used against the very enemy of the day.

It also should be pointed out that those who are now causing agitation are people who have allowed the deep seated feelings of guilt, either because they did not participate in the liberation struggle or because they were parts of separation bandwagons which ended in Khartoum, and who were then used against the people of South Sudan. It is just hatred that that they have allowed to cloud their sense of appreciation for what cost us in blood and treasure (over 2.5 million souls lost during the war). Who said that history is monopolized by those who fought alone?   And why would anyone accuse the family of late Garang of trying to campaign to add him to history when every South Sudanese citizen knows calling Garang the Father of our nation is the small appreciation we the living could afford to give him?  Matter of fact, late John Garang does not need campaigners or activists to secure him legacy. His legacy will continue to write itself in the hearts of men and women of South Sudan. The better part was actually written or immortalized in the trenches of war. And there are results to show for it. Those alive in Sudan, Africa and the world will always bear witness to the accuracy of things which made South Sudan a reality.

HONOR THE PAST WITHOUT DISTORTING IT- A great many attempts have been made by those with political motivations to twist the history of South Sudan. And many more will be made. But thankfully there are South Sudanese writers who have refused to let revisionists make away with falsification of people’s revolutionary credentials and history. A great nod goes to them. Their rebuttals have been legendary. As a warning to our future historians, the scholarship regarding the actual writing of the history of South Sudan ought to be clear. History need not be rewritten or twisted. It needs to be written as is—it ought to remain intact. And our fervent plea to the independent free press or the news media is: beware, because our nation’s independence and the writings of many of our citizens have come at a time when the society will be dealing with many sensitive issues all at once.  It would be of great service to our young nation if all the opinions published by the media were based on substantiated stories. Those stories could do a lot to help citizens make well informed decisions. But that is not always the case. There is proliferation of all sorts of opinion and heresy in an age where the internet knows no boundaries. And so it is also the case that many writers nowadays are desperate to find career paths either by causing controversy as a way of making names. It is not how one makes a mark in life.  In a nation still young and lacking in basic codes of journalism as ours, some of what passes for opinion articles is actual heresy and the media need to be extra careful to discern what is divisive and distasteful for our society. Granted, it is hateful or bitter language that sometimes has drawn nations to war. In these times of transition, South Sudan media outlets must be seen as adhering to responsibility, integrity and journalistic fidelity. Those who spew hate speech must not be given platform on national media. Hate speech is an abuse of one’s freedom of speech.

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