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DR. RIANG ZUOR: What are the Ordinary South Sudanese Fighting for?

A man sits on August 1, 2014 at the UN Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Upper Nile State capital Malakal, South Sudan. Some 11,600 internally displaced persons (IDP) have been relocated from the areas the worst affected by the heavy rains to a new UN PoC site, according to the camp management team. South Sudan's warring leaders will resume peace talks next week, mediators said on August 1, amid warnings of famine within weeks if fighting continues. AFP PHOTO / CHARLES LOMODONG (Photo credit should read CHARLES LOMODONG/AFP/Getty Images)

KAMPALA – A few days ago, I saw a post on Facebook in which a Kenyan disrespectfully referred to the people of South Sudan as “…the silliest…” for fighting among themselves. He did this without making any analysis to show his understanding of the reasons for the war before reaching that conclusion. That makes it difficult to respond to his ranting. It is only assumed that something is amiss in terms of his understanding of what is going on in the country. The tone of his message suggested that he blamed the war on the opposition. His description of the South Sudanese as the silliest people for fighting among themselves, and blaming the opposition, strongly suggest that he does not know why the war is being fought between the government of Salva Kiir and the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) on one side and the people led by the SPLM/A—IO on the other. As such, he and others who might be in the same situation of not knowing the reasons for the war must be brought out in the light so that they can see exactly what the people of South Sudan have been seeing.

It was not very long ago when the South Sudanese state was born on the 9the of July 2011. The Independence was a culmination of a very long struggle of a people who had been enslaved, colonized, marginalized, discriminated against on the basis of geography, ethnicity, religion, social, economy, politics, and so on and so forth. They were a people without political liberty in a country that was supposed to be their own as the governments were never truly elective. As such, their human rights were constantly abused by the authorities. South Sudan, as part of the united Sudan, was turned into a land of war in which security of both person and property was compromised. Eventually, South Sudanese were divided into unionists and separatists. They were also divided on the basis of regions and tribes. These were intentionally designed so as to keep them in their own perpetual conflicts in addition to the one that they had with the successive discriminatory governments in Khartoum.

At Independence in 2011, the expectation of the people was that a South Sudanese state would now reverse all these negative practices to which her people had been historically subjected prior to her statehood. Unfortunately the political and military elites led by Salva who inherited power from Khartoum came in with an anti-people attitude—one that did not and still does not value human life. They started killing people here and there even before Independence when they took charge of the autonomous regional government that had come into existence from 2005. Their extrajudicial killings, more or less, targeted certain communities (e.g., the Yambio massacres of 2006, the Nuer massacres in greater Akobo in 2006 disguised as a disarmament exercise, the Chollo massacres in 2010, the Nuer massacre at Kaldak in 2011, the Feratit and Jur massacre in Wau in 2012, and the Murle massacres of 2010 and 2013). Eventually, they launched the mother of all attacks on the unarmed innocent people beginning from December 15, 2013 and continue to this day. These relentless and unprovoked attacks on a defenseless people should be expected to force the people to take up arms to resist a genocidal government such as that in Juba led by Salva. For this reason, the people of South Sudan ought to be understood as fighting in self-defense.

Democracy and unity of the people of South Sudan has been badly undermined by the regime. The elites have established a brutal dictatorship that has encouraged divisions of the people based on tribes and regions.  These (dictatorship and divisions) have come against the wishes of the people. Their hope was to fight this anti-people attitude in elections using ballots—not guns.

In 2010, elections came, but they were badly rigged in favor of the candidates whom Salva had endorsed. These Salva’s candidates were the good stars as opposed to the bad stars (those SPLM members that Salva did not like). As for candidates from other parties and independents, they were branded as spoilers of progress, or non-liberators. Therefore, riggings against them were erroneously justified. Again, the citizens endured the pain fearing that a conflict among South Sudanese would jeopardize the expected 2011 referendum on Independence. They were hoping for free and fair elections after Independence. Unfortunately, instead of preparing the country for elections slated for 2015, Salva prepared the country for war to destroy his strong political rivals and their perceived supporters before the elections could take place. His plan was to get to the elections unopposed, or with an insignificant opposition. He has carried his plan through, and he has been killing people since 2013. It would be very unreasonable to expect the people to be sitting in front of their killers with their hands folded, claiming to be anti-war. They have to resist the killings. Therefore, an ordinary South Sudanese is currently fighting in resistance against dictatorship and sectarianism in favor of democracy as a political system, unity of the divided people and peace.

Violations of human rights, ethnic cleansing, genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, marginalization of groups, discrimination against people on the basis of tribes and regions and so on and so forth have been going on as a matter of state policy. South Sudanese know that these issues will stay with them for a long time if Salva and his regime remain in power. Therefore, ordinary South Sudanese are fighting for respect of human rights, equality and a dignified life for all the citizens, and—therefore—against genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, crimes against humanity and marginalization of communities by the state.

Recently, the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations have declared that South Sudan is facing famine. This famine is a direct result of the war that is going on in the country. However, what makes it worse is that the government, the creator of this famine, is restricting humanitarian aid from reaching the needy, hoping to starve them all to death or into submission. The starving people know that if the regime in Juba continues in power, famine and poverty will always be around. They are, therefore, fighting to eliminate famine and poverty in the country.

In the area of socio-economic development, South Sudan is behind many, if not all, countries in Africa. Health care is in a poor state as hospitals are not built and the few that are built, mostly by non-governmental organizations, have no adequately trained health professionals running them. Medicines and medical supplies procured by the government in the name of the South Sudanese public end up in private pharmacies and clinics run by the relatives of the Excellencies, Honorables and Generals.

As in the case of hospitals, schools are not built. Where some schools are built, again mostly by non-governmental organizations, well trained teachers are not provided as provision of well trained teachers and medical professionals means paying good salary, which the state does not want to do. All the children of the elites go to schools in foreign countries because their parents afford to send them to those foreign countries. It is the children of the ordinary citizens that are forced to learn in these kinds of schools. As recently as last month, more than 9,000 children were denied their right to sit for the national school leaving certificate examinations on the account that they were children of people opposing the regime. These are some of the challenges that the people are fighting against. They are, therefore, fighting for a state that equally provides health care and education to the citizens—a state that will not categorize South Sudanese children into children of the regime and those of the opposition. Both the regime and the opposition have not parented any of the South Sudanese children.

In the area of economy, South Sudan is still using traditional subsistence means of production. For the goods that she cannot produce using these traditional means, she has to import from foreign countries. The people are fighting for the commercialization of agriculture and the modernization of the whole economy; they are fighting for employment for the employable vast majority of the citizens who are unemployed; they are fighting to arrest inflation; they are fighting for the integration of the rural and urban economies in the country; they are fighting for roads, bridges and rails so as to facilitate interstate commerce; they are fighting for electrification of the country so that industrialization of the economy can become a reality; they are fighting for creation of an environment where those hardworking women who support their families by selling small things on the streets can be empowered so as to be able to put food on the table for their children; they are fighting for creation of an environment where those strong women in the rural areas who survive by tilling the land with hand hoes while bearing their children on their backs can be empowered to produce more with less physical effort; they are fighting for laws that can protect the working people; they are fighting for laws that can protect the powerless from land grabbing by the powerful; they are fighting to stop the unknown gunmen from killing the citizens; and they are fighting for the elimination of elitism and corruption.

The people of South Sudan are fighting for the elimination of Presidential tribal militia—the Mathiang Anyor, the Dot ku Beny, the Gel Weng and so on—those who are committing genocide alongside the regular army. These are the ones who gang-rape the women and girls; they are those who gang-rape the women and girls and burn them alive after raping them; they are those who gang-rape the girls and women and cut their breasts off after raping them; they are those who castrate young boys to make sure that they do not later produce children who would grow up to be members of certain condemned tribes; they are those who kill infants to make sure that the infants do not get a chance to grow up one day as members of those condemned tribes. These militias are the ones who burn down villages and destroy water wells to make sure that the survivors of their attacks do not have any village and water wells to later return to; they are the ones killing people by stuffing and suffocating them in shipping containers; and they are the ones who, after attacking a village, destroy crops and drive livestock away so as to make sure that people’s livelihood is completely destroyed, and the result is famine.

These are some of the things that the people of South Sudan are fighting against, and some of the ones that they are fighting for. It is actually a war between destruction and protection; it is a war between anti-peoplism and pro-peoplism; it is a war between right and wrong. In short, it is a war between good and evil. Any South Sudanese who says that there should not be any resistance to these evil actions of the regime of Salva and the JCE is either in agreement with the tyrant and his regime, or is exercising some unrealistic illusionary thoughts. Those non-South Sudanese who say the same thing, those who say that evil should not be resisted, and who have actually taken steps in supporting such a tyranny for one reason or another are simply submerged deep in a very bad case of moral bankruptcy.

As can be seen from the preceding statements, the problem in the country starts with leadership failure on the part of Salva. It is this failure of leadership that is solely responsible for incubating and hatching dictatorship, which is now being guarded using sectarian politics. This deadly combination led to the current war. The cure for this problem is to remove the visionless elites from power and introduce democracy and unity of the people. Once dictatorship and sectarianism are removed and the people are united in a democratic South Sudan, it will not be possible—in the future—for any person to take them back to war against each others. The war that is now going on in the country is, therefore, for the elimination of future civil wars.

With these few remarks made, it is hoped that one can clearly see the silliness in describing South Sudanese as “…the silliest…” people for fighting tyranny under Salva. Their cause is a just one. The fact that they are resisting dictatorship and state-inspired divisions and brutalities represents their love for the country, democracy, unity, freedom, happiness, respect for human rights and peace. It should not be, unjustifiably, made to look as if they have chosen to act in an uncivilized manner for the sake of being uncivilized. That would be a wrong thing for anyone to do.

It must be remembered that the American revolutionaries fought colonial Britain for life, liberty and happiness; the French revolutionaries fought for freedom; the Chinese revolutionaries fought against Japanese imperialism and feudalism to gain their national freedom; the African revolutionaries fought colonial powers to gain their national independences and freedoms for the various African peoples. In history books, these revolutionaries—whether in Africa, America, Asia or Europe—are praised for their courage to rid themselves of cruelty. They are not being accused of having been silly or uncivilized for waging wars against tyrants. Instead, they were freedom fighters. This particular standard should and must be applied when it comes to the ordinary South Sudanese currently fighting tyranny to gain their freedom.

 

The author is a South Sudanese. He can be reached at riangzuor@gmail.com

 

NOTE: the opinions expressed herein are entirely for the Author of this article. The Upper Nile Times have no responsibility on the contents published here.
 

THE UPPER NILE TIMES

 

Dr. Riang Yer Zuor
Is a contributor for The Upper Nile Times. He can be reached at riangzuor@yahoo.com
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