Opinion

CPA model best for durable peace 2/3

By Dr. Festo Faustino Kumba

Why South Sudanese public doesn’t denounce grand corruption. The corrupt cliques of Khartoum misused the Islamic religion to keep the northern Sudanese masses quiet.  It is possible that, in South Sudan, corrupt churchmen protect themselves by the threat of the supposedly unforgivable sin, sacrilege, which a Christian commits if, for instance, he/she exposes the wrongs done by a religious person!  However, it is the misuse of ethnicity upon which corrupt cliques in the different levels of South Sudan’s government rely to deceive, intimidate and cheat the masses.

Corrupt officials often propagate within their tribal circles wrong and divisive rhetoric to win ethnic sympathy and ethnic backing, such as: “as long as I am in this position my people must eat; sons of our soil should occupy those important positions; I recommend these people for promotion and for those scholarships because they are our own; that guy was arrested for embezzling public funds but we must free him because he is one of us; we must always avenge the wrong done to any of our tribesmen”. Probably, it is now clearer to the reader why members of certain ethnic communities rejoice and celebrate when one of their kind is appointed to a leadership position in the more “lucrative” government institutions that administer or handle lots of money.  For this, anyone who attempted to raise an alarm against grand corruption in government was almost always vehemently confronted by the kinsmen of the exposed official. This attitude encourages impunity and adulteration of the rule of law.  So, most people are silent about grand corruption because they fear reprisals for talking out.  A young politician from a dominant group recently summed it all when he said “you could never attain a top leadership position if your people (ethnic group) were few”.

Here it can be seen that the role of ethnicity is central in shielding corrupt practices. The wrong use of ethnicity strengthens the perception of impunity, invulnerability and intolerable arrogance in the circles of corrupt officials hence foments and sustains the conflict-cycle among communities.  Once allegiance by sections of the communities is to ethnic leaders rather than to national institutions, citizens get divided along ethnic lines and this impedes the possibility of any mass action that is embraced by the majority of nationals against grand corruption.  It is also why another primary target of those corrupt government officials is often to vilify other communities while portraying their own as the victims.  Crimes committed by their members, no matter how grievous, are down played and often exonerated while those by members of rival communities are propagated and exaggerated out of proportions.

What go on in South Sudan are typical examples of what President Museveni of Uganda terms “misuse of identity”.  By this, President Museveni refers to the misconception that one’s progress and empowerment could only be achieved through solidarity with one’s tribesmen.  On the contrary, says Museveni, one generally stands to gain much more if he/she links up with likeminded persons in communities other than his/her own.  It is useful here to illustrate the immense wisdom in Museveni’s theory by the story of Maandish and Majok who are two hardworking local entrepreneurs in Maridi and Rumbek respectively.

Like all the people of Maridi, Maandish produces and sells grains, beans, fruits, sesames, vegetables and other crop products.  Majok, like his kinsmen in Rumbek, raises cattle and goats that he sells.  Obviously, these two entrepreneurs are potentially more useful to each other’s empowerment than are their respective kinsmen in their localities.  Maandish could sell his agricultural produce to Majok at much higher prices because these products are scarcer in Rumbek market; whereas Majok, on his part, could sell his cattle and goats to Maandish at higher prices since meat is scarce in Maridi.  Maandish’s agricultural produce would fetch him very little in Maridi because everybody there produces crops.  Conversely, if Majok slaughtered his animals in Rumbek, the meat would be bought too cheaply because meat is plentiful in Rumbek.  Therefore if the two businessmen bonded together, both would quickly grow rich and economically powerful.  In fact, on a wider perspective, the two communities of Maridi and Rumbek are, for the reasons given, mutually very useful to each other’s economic advancement. This line of reasoning is the basis of the Bantu philosophical principle, “Ubuntu”, (We are, because you are).  So, in order to succeed, we as communities need each other to supplement our strengths to overcome our deficiencies.

How must the National Dialogue proceed to succeed?  Up till here, this paper has shown that South Sudanese are in conflict because they are angry with those corrupt syndicates in government that misuse ethnicity to deprive citizens of the rights provided in the “social contract”.  It will be the task of the National Dialogue to investigate and identify the correct way to turn things round.  However, in so doing, the delegates to the National Dialogue will inevitably need to draw useful inspirations from the country’s historical experiences in solving national problems.

The first historic milestone attempt to solve South Sudan’s political problems, the Juba conference of 1947, failed because the opinions of South Sudanese delegates were not taken into consideration by the British colonial administrators.  In the second historic milestone occasion, the Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972, South Sudanese intelligentsia made significant contributions that formed the core of the agreement.  But that agreement was to collapse due to certain factors.  Among them was conspiracy in Khartoum circles that capitalized on inter-tribal divisions over power-sharing among South Sudanese political leaders.  But more importantly, Addis Ababa Agreement collapsed because it had not provided for a strong alternative fallback position if, as eventually happened, it was abrogated by Khartoum oppressors.

The CPA of 2005 provided the most solid historic milestone occasion for South Sudanese to solve the contradictions related to being part of a united Sudan.  The strength of the CPA lay in its provision for strong alternative fallback mechanisms if Khartoum attempted to abrogate the agreement.  In the CPA, Khartoum not only accepted to guarantee respect for the sanctity of the “social contract” in a united Sudan, but it also committed to the right to self-determination for South Sudanese at the end of a 6 years interim period.  The interim period was deliberately long enough for the Khartoum regime to demonstrate their full and unwavering commitment to forever respect the rights and interests of all citizens (Southerners included) as demanded by the “social contract”.

It is very possible that, should Southerners have perceived sufficient proof of positive changes in Khartoum’s attitudes in respect of the “social contract”, the result of South Sudan’s referendum would probably have been very different.  However, egregious bigotry and arrogance pushed Khartoum Arabs to remain adamant on the status quo, so much so that they did nothing to make unity attractive to Southerners.  The Arabs deliberately refused to compromise on the critical issues of Islamic law (sharia) and sustenance of Arab cultural superiority.  (Although, it is said in certain quarters that the Arabs had actually got fed up with the intransigence and uncivilized savage behavior of Southerners, hence were happy to see the South go!).  Whatever was their motive, what is important to take note of here is that the government in Khartoum literally pushed Southerners to secession.  They clearly preferred the South to go rather than abandon their traditional disdainful and arrogant attitudes towards the concerns and interests of those they considered inferior black slaves.  Therefore, it is clear that the cause of South Sudan’s secession was not the right to self-determination provided for in the CPA per se.  The cause was Arab arrogance and bigotry that made unity unattractive to Southerners during the referendum.

In its endeavor to find a durable solution to South Sudan’s civil wars, the National Dialogue is expected to propose a new “covenant” that will thereafter guide the way the country is governed in order to avoid conflict.  In that respect, that new “covenant” must, like the CPA, obligatory incorporate measures to guarantee unwavering respect for the “social contract” by all in the government of the new nation.  At the same time, it must, like the CPA, provide for a strong alternative fallback arrangement should anyone in the country’s present or future leadership ever attempt to renege or consistently fail to honor the “social contract” in respect of the rights of citizens.  As a historic milestone opportunity, the National Dialogue’s strength and legacy will derive from such a provision.

It must be re-emphasized here that, as with the CPA, providing space in the constitution for self-determination prepares the ground for democratic consultations that do not necessarily have to lead to secession.  On the contrary, if citizens see fairness, inclusivity and responsible behavior in the manner leaders at all the levels of government are conducting the affairs of the nation; any self-determination exercise undertaken would, like in Quebec and Scotland, only serve to reaffirm commitment by component parts of the nation to stick together.  Therefore, providing for self-determination as a constitutional right to solve fundamental concerns in any component part of the country is a good thing.  This provides a double-edged-sword solution whereby, on one hand, it is most likely to consolidate national unity on a healthy basis as it continuously reminds national leaders and the general public to respect the rights and interests of all, minority groups included; or, on the other hand, it could lead to secession, but only if leaders or the majority refuse to pay any heed to peculiar concerns emanating from the regions of the minorities.  Therefore, the ball really and clearly rests with the national leaders who, by their approach to administration in relationship to the rights of all citizens, determine how aggrieved groups would vote in a referendum called for self-determination.

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