South Sudan needs to step back from the brink

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South Sudan needs to step back from the brink 

Paul Joseph Nzeribe and Helmet Joachim Schmidt

Modern Tokyo Times


South Sudan is currently witnessing a very turbulent period whereby the seeds of distrust and ethnic enmity could enter the vacuum on a major scale if things spiral out of control. This reality means it is essential that political elites in Juba don’t fall into the trap of making things even worse. In other words, the unity that enabled South Sudan to breakaway from Sudan after great sacrifice mustn’t be jeopardized because elites in Khartoum can’t be trusted.

In the middle of 2013 it was clear that something was amiss in South Sudan because President Salva Kiir dismissed Vice-President Riek Machar and other important political leaders in the cabinet after issuing a political decree. Immediately after this action was taken it became imperative for Kiir to choose a new cabinet based on the ethnic diversity of South Sudan. After all, the ethnic dimensions of Sudan and South Sudan is a major weakness for both nations. Similarly, the same also applies to political factions who feel marginalized in Juba and Khartoum respectively. Therefore, the gamble taken by Kiir had to be backed up by shoring up the new nation state of South Sudan.

Political convulsions were feared immediately after Machar and other political leaders were sidelined but this didn’t materialize at first. However, the gamble taken by Kiir now appears to be being challenged therefore the new nation state of South Sudan faces a very difficult period. Alas, for individuals who supported the various black African ethnic groups during the brutal civil war with Arab elites in Khartoum then the worse nightmare could engulf this nation state. This would be a tragedy of enormous magnitude because Arabization and Islamization policies by Khartoum were brutal in the past because millions perished.

African nations throughout the region are extremely concerned and this includes Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya. Therefore, once bloodshed broke out powerful states in the region were quick to respond. The Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, Tedros Adhanom, reported that “We had a very productive meeting with his Excellency President Salva Kiir and we will continue consultations.” 

Reuters reports The U.N. said on Friday at least 11 people from the ethnic Dinka group had been killed during an attack by thousands of armed youths from another ethnic group on a U.N. peacekeeping base in Jonglei state. Two Indian peacekeepers died.”

“The United Nations had earlier said at least 20 people were killed, and South Sudan’s government said earlier 54 Dinka had been killed in the incident. The United Nations mission in South Sudan is still trying to verify the exact number of dead.” 

Kiir insists that the recent convulsions are based on a power grab and intrigues involving powerful individuals who have been sidelined. The fear however is that if stability isn’t returned quickly then the ethnic dimension will further develop. Of course, tensions have erupted since South Sudan became independent but the level was much lower when applied to the overall seriousness of the situation. Therefore, Kiir and opposing forces need to reconcile and listen to genuine international and regional concerns. After all, state institutions are still weak and issues related to poverty and developing the infrastructure should take precedent alongside safeguarding against any intrigues emanating from Khartoum. Similarly, ethnic tensions within South Sudan need to be addressed and the same applies to developing a political system based on transparency.

The New York Times says about the latest tensions that Hundreds of people have been killed in South Sudan over the past week, mostly in areas around Juba and in Jonglei State to the north, in an escalation of the crisis precipitated by President Salva Kiir’s claim on Monday of an attempted coup by soldiers loyal to his former vice president, Riek Machar, who was dismissed months ago. President Kiir is a Dinka and Mr. Machar a Nuer, and the killings appear to be increasingly divided along those ethnic lines.” 

Lee Jay Walker at Modern Tokyo Times points out that “All major players in the current crisis in South Sudan must try to dampen militant forces, political intrigues and reduce ethnic tensions. At the end of the day, only enemies in Khartoum will gain from the chaos because since independence several war-mongering statements have been issued by Sudan towards South Sudan. Therefore, elites in Juba and opposition forces towards Kiir should seek a solution because millions of Southern Sudanese were killed in the past because of the brutal polices of several Khartoum governments. This reality and the sacrifice of so many must not be squandered by individuals who seek to be above the national interest of South Sudan.”

Lee Jay Walker gave guidance to both main writers

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