Is South Sudan An Eyesore To The World?
By John Oryem, Ph.D. (South Sudan)
Is South Sudan An Eyesore To The World?
11 September 2014
South Sudanese unfortunately did not learn much from tragedies of conflicts from other countries, if they forgot their sufferings and where they came from too soon. From now on, if South Sudanese are not accorded any princely welcome around the globe, they should know, they have become an eyesore among other nationalities.
Political leadership, overwhelmed by spiraling demands of statehood, coupled with presence of excessive wealth, blindfolded those who triggered the current strife after sealing their poverty-ridden past with lust for new life’s style of oligarchs. At the end of it all, every South Sudanese, including initiators of the conflict, became victims with biting economic stagnation hitting hard their hidden treasures. But this was (is) a country seeking its soul after nativity.
War is humiliating, upsetting and obliterating. The situation caused by South Sudanese is that of self-destruction and defiance to change often laced with impatience at doing things be it private or public. The persistent association of South Sudanese with love of war and destruction is ill-fated and heart wrenching! Independence could have sterilized the country’s historical wounds and gently put it at world’s stage as unblemished nation that gained independence through legitimate referendum. Stubbornness and lack of taking up offered opportunities for sustainable peace and focusing on nation building by South Sudanese is just gambling with the future of the country by current politico-military leaders.
The ongoing conflict messed up social fabric and created grave injuries by restraining social cohesion and mutual integration. Returnees from neighbouring countries and diaspora were beginning to concentrate on their new realities, till hell broke loose on the evening of Sunday 15th December, 2013.
The carnage that began with few isolated gunshots in Juba hurriedly engulfed the whole country without reverse. South Sudanese retreated back to their tribal-communal cocoons, graced with hatred, bigotry and thirst for revenge. Scenes of vultures, hyenas, crows, dogs and even chickens pulling at carcasses were transmitted across the world. This was a shame that fascinated media houses to scramble with their amateurs’ photojournalists to report all worse things South Sudanese were doing do to each other.
Not long ago, these same people were beginning to disassociate from their bitter past including liberation’s nightmares. They were made up of survivors and perpetrators of liberation struggle that their forefathers began long ago. Suffering and pain have reached every household in the country due to the ongoing conflict.
The country has gained notoriety and caused bad name with repercussions on international stage becoming awful. The noble citizens of South Sudan were known to be warriors and liberators who exhibited nothing more than defense of their dignity and humanity that many colonizers trampled upon since the arrival of Mohamed Ali Pasha in Sudan in 1921. Independence in 2011 was stamping the last blow on oppression and humiliation.
War is impeding development (human and natural) when much could have been achieved and progress made at all fronts. South Sudan could have joined regional and international bodies to gain economic, cultural, political and academic recognitions. The long journey of burying their past with courage had begun since 2005, only to be disrupted in 2013.
Renewed killings and destructions are hangovers of near past, which still lingers in their midst delicately. With defying glare from world’s leaders, South Sudanese have exposed themselves to scrutiny and evaluation by others as killings without mercy continue. South Sudanese are renowned for recalling their past with passion. A contagious vice that travels faster along ethnic veins. Injuries committed by fellow South Sudanese and colonizers are categorized at equal length. In doing so, South Sudanese ignored to take responsibility by cleansing up their injured past. The very act of killing each other, including people with blood relation, left opened room for pre-independence South Sudan’s pessimists to utter their wildest predictions that goes as far questioning legitimacy of the country to statehood.
Their predictions of prevalent lawlessness and splits with possible disintegration after independence were based on ethnic composition of the country. Once again South Sudanese must fight with vigor to say they are one people! They must therefore pull off ills of ethnicity which is a landing pad for pessimists who continue to doubt legitimacy of their country. The country belongs to all ethnic groups in the country as stipulated at independence’s proclamation!
Diplomatically, the war-weary citizens of South Sudan are urged collectively to move from coast to coast to reclaim their country’s image. This self-destruction to the country’s image by handful privileged along echelon of power must be corrected communally. The country belongs to all, by birth or affinity. The process of healing takes up a journey of justice, peace and total reconciliation through agreed mechanism. Liberation’s path for South Sudanese wasn’t easy one in deed.
Who can dispute that South Sudan, a country whose citizens always fondly refer to it as “the youngest country in world” has become an eyesore among the community of the nations? If war is not stopped soon, present and unborn South Sudanese will continue to be haunted by the mischiefs of their political founding fathers who failed to bury their differences and rivalries accumulated during painful liberation struggle.
The feuding political leaders should know, the country belongs to all as witnessed by those who poured out their tears of joy on 9th July 2011, seeing their emblem rising in the blue skies that afternoon while they cursed the old Sudanese flag that symbolized oppression and human hatred perpetrated against their grandparents. All South Sudanese including foreigners saluted and stood in awe, honouring and singing national anthem with final hope of being first beneficiaries of all good things that was to follow in the new nation.
Eritrea and Namibia which gained their sovereignties recently in the continent no longer say “we are a young nation” when modernity and civility are expected as norm of affiliation to universality. Many holders of South Sudan’s legal documents are being questioned by immigrations officials at crossing points outside the country.
This war is becoming hard to explain to non-citizens of South Sudan. Days after the start of the conflict, we have seen how hundreds of our own brothers and sisters with dual citizenship jam-packed airports, airstrips and embassies, hiding their South Sudanese legal documents in favour of other countries’ passports. With dwindling nationalism in their hearts, some South Sudanese are becoming shameful to hold the country’s passports today. Others go to the extreme by paying for their residency visas, living as citizens of other countries in their own motherland!
War made them to doubt stability of the country with relentless deaths. South Sudanese with dual citizenships are duty-bound to uplift the fallen image of their country by volunteering as unofficial emissaries of the Republic of South Sudan. Now that the country has been brought into disrepute, aggressive efforts must be exerted to clear the negative image being associated with the country.
To remedy this tarnished image of South Sudan among community of nations, tireless effort is required from all walks of life and interest groups to unify under one and only name, Republic of South Sudan. Government officials, opposition forces and common citizens, all carry passports of the “Republic of South Sudan”. The sovereignty of South Sudan is in each heart. The country is a constituency for every able political force to operate in appropriately. Guarding its territories and citizens should be taken jealously by its political leaders to guarantee continuity of statehood.
There should be change of attitude to love the country that took away the lives of 2.5 million of its citizens not so long ago in the war of liberation. Today over 1.5 million displaced or exiled with others still unaccounted for since the war broke out on 15th December, 2013. Those imbued with life want peace and urgent restoration of glorious name of their country, South Sudan! Their liberation resilience, steadfastness and God-fearing value should not die in vain.
While physically witnesses of current war are trounced in predicament and untold suffering, the unborn South Sudanese will be lucky to read in books and see images of destructions caused by their forebears. Future citizens of South Sudan shall listen to irrelevant dirges, shameful praise-songs composed during this brotherly war that has since claimed thousands of lives across the country. It is high time South Sudanese, especially people with political influences, cleaned up the negative image created in the country. South Sudanese from all walks of life will be restless till sustainable peace is achieved. Peace that will return their injured image to shine again. They want other citizens of the world to stop considering them as warmongers. It is only through peace that South Sudanese will reclaim their image of courage and determination as expounded by their forefathers, solidified by their contemporary politicians who fostered their dignified sovereignty.
Now that there is light at the end of the tunnel, with both parties to the conflict beginning to agree on some peaceful settlement to the conflict, the suffering citizens are more than expectant to good news of final peace in the land. And thereafter, sisters and brothers to the conflict will gather courage to say “sorry” to each other.
Dr. John Oryem is an advocate of peace and development and a cultural anthropologist. He is the author of several books on poetry and short stories, a frequent commentator on socio-political issues. Accessible at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted in: Opinions
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