Friday August 18, 2017

PROF ANYANG’ NYONG’O – Dialogue and compromise can secure the future of South Sudan

UNMISS provides protection to civilians fleeing recent violence in Wau. Photo: UNMISS

Southern Sudan is in turmoil. The situation is so bad that there is fear of genocide in the country. Political conflicts are no longer being managed peacefully.

In fact, the Southern Sudanese may be compelled to accept chaos as a daily life experience with death as a fate that can befall anybody.

It is obviously a Hobbesian state of nature that was once only expected of the “primitive man”. Yet former Yugoslavia went through such a situation following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the emergence of new nationalisms in Eastern Europe.

But Eastern Europe quickly settled down and a new civilization emerged out of the chaos, heralding the increase of membership of the European Union.

The Horn of Africa in which Southern Sudan falls is emerging as a region more prone to conflict than peace; more reminiscent of the Hobbesian state of nature than of a nation-state founded on democratic governance. This trend must be reversed.

But to reverse it a lot need to be done. First the government of Salva Kirr in Juba needs to realize that a winner take all attitude is never a healthy approach to conflict resolution.

On the contrary, it breeds more resentment from rivals and opponents and hardens negotiating options. Worst of all, is a scorched earth approach to conflict resolution which profiles perceived enemies as creatures who must be eliminated from the earth for the survival of a particular political regime.

The Americans tried it with the Viet Cong in Viet Nam and succumbed to negotiations as the only means of quitting that theater of war honorably.

The apartheid regime had to give up their regime based on racial supremacy after decades of protracted war against the ANC and the Communist Party of South Africa. The South Sudanese situation is bound to be no different. A David and Goliath scenario will persist at the cost of losing millions of lives and setting back the clock of development in this young state for many years.

I say this for my love of South Sudan and its peoples and not for any partisan reason. I know the leadership on the two sides of the political divide. They are both my friends and long time comrades. And I would like to wish both sides well. But to get a solution to the current crisis flattery is the worst policy; truth and wise counsel will help save millions of lives, both innocent and combative.

The President, Salva Kirr Mayadit is a friend and an honorable African. His deputy, Taban Deng, until recently a comrade at arms with Riek Machar, has been known to me for years. I stayed with him for a week while he was governor of Unity State.

I have known Riek Machar for much longer, along with many other comrades in South Sudan like Pagan Amum Akech, John Yeo, Ambasssador Ezekiel Gatkuoth, Paul Cirino and many others. I once flew from Nairobi to New Site in the liberated zone then with Rebecca and her children to discuss issues with the late Dr. John Garang.

These are committed Africans to the African national liberation agenda. We all should remember Chairman Mao’s dictum: countries want independence, nations want liberation and people want revolution.

The independence of South Sudan was achieved in 2005 when the regional autonomy became a fait accompli. Subsequently the people voted overwhelmingly in a referendum for complete separation from North Sudan, accomplishing the late John Garang’s vision of an independent, prosperous and democratic South Sudan.

Independence alone will not put food on the table of the South Sudanese people. National liberation, like the name SPLM/SPLA connotes, requires peace, prosperity and democracy.

Once the nation improves her productive forces adequately to satisfy the needs of the people and not simply the wants of the “fighting elites”, then the coveted revolution in the lives of the people will be possible.

But all this cannot happen unless the SPLM/SPLA current leadership, both in government and the opposition, respect the historic mission that Dr. John Garang left as an inspiration in the hearts of the people.

It looks to me as if this has now been put in the back banner by both sides. But greater responsibility lies in the hands of both the President and his two deputies for not rising above the politics of sectarianism and embracing a more demanding national mission.

Again to quote the Guinean revolutionary, Amilcar Cabral: “for the national liberation movements to achieve much for the African people, it is vital that we die a tribe and be born a nation”.

Julius Nyerere even went further in bringing together the very diverse cultures into a Tanzanian nation, united and indivisible. Nyerere asserted that “Afrika ni Moja na Binadamu wote ni sawa.”

In other words, “Africa is one and all human beings are equal.” How can Africa be one when in South Sudan a Nuer cannot sit in the same parliament with a Dinka to democratically determine the future of that young nation-state through dialogue and persuasion rather through the bayonet and the barrel of the gun?

Secondly, search your souls, comrades. My humble opinion is that it hurts every progressive African to see Riek Machar being tossed from one airport to the other simply because he cannot feel at home in his own motherland.

It hurts the hearts of every African who loves South Sudan like I do to see Madam Rebecca in Nairobi and not playing the role of Mama Watoto and Mama Nchi (the mother of children and of the nation) in a land for which her and her late husband made so much sacrifice to liberate.

Comrades, I want you to read once more George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Remember the two contestants to leadership in the farm: Napoleon and Snowball.

The latter had all the right ideas, all to better the whole farm. Napoleon, on the other hand, had a knack of stealing other animals’ ideas, then telling the rest it was his, and getting credit for it.

His ideas only seemed to benefit the pigs and not the other animals. It was this that led to the crumbling of the farm. The farm crumbled, not out of war and destruction of life, but out of bad undemocratic governance based on the contest of ideas.

Orwell was making an important point here. Capitalism gives room for the bourgeoisies to run the state in their own interest, always hoodwinking the workers and other lower classes.

But sooner rather than later capitalism was bound to crumble. The crumbling may take years, but it is organic and not necessarily violent.

Napoleon, too, ruled Animal Farm through ideological hegemony, not through force and political repression. This also creates room for developing the productive forces which eventually get the grave diggers of capitalism to mature and accomplish the requisite social revolution.

I say all this humbly to plead with my comrades in South Sudan to abandon violence and crass political repression and go along the route of political dialogue and compromise so as to give the Southern Sudanese people an opportunity to build the productive forces in the new nation.

We in Kenya were faced with massive electoral injustice in 2007/08. The ODM felt rightly cheated in the elections with victory snatched from us when presidential votes were completely messed up at the collating process in favor of the incumbent president.

For close to two months there were widespread demonstrations and mass action, in which I played a crucial role, all over Kenya. Unfortunately, this was accompanied by ethnic profiling which led to a loss of life of over 1000 people and the internal displacement of close to half a million people.

We realized that we had to call an end to this by coming together and negotiating a political settlement that both sides of the political divide could live with.

We also initiated long term constitutional reforms to stabilize democracy and give room for social and economic reforms. We are not the best example of democratic governance but we have at least provided Kenyans with a place to feel at home.

This spirit of dialogue and compromise is what I would like to urge my comrades in South Sudan to embrace.
NOTE: The Opinions expressed herein are entirely for the author of the article. The Upper Nile Times has no authority on the contents published here.
The Upper Nile Times

Times Wire Staff
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