An Open Letter to leaders and Elders of South Sudan

Timothy Tot Chol, Former MP National Legislative Assembly, Juba and former state minister of Industry in the GONU, Khartoum – 2005 to 2007

Let us now accept that an unfortunate conflict has happened in our country in which many of our citizens lost their lives. Let us also accept that we failed to contain this conflict until it divided us and threatened our unity. Our failure to resolve our own conflict invited regional and international bodies which we assumed wanted to help us out of the mess we created.

However, their efforts to resolve the crisis impartially and to the best of our satisfaction failed. Now that the IGAD Compromise Agreement is faltering before our own eyes, I appeal to our leaders and elders to rise up and salvage our young nation from possible abyss by resolving the problems. As leaders and elders, we liberated our people in order to enjoy the fruits of peace and prosperity and not to be the very perpetrators of their suffering. It is we to provide them with the needed peace and harmony to enable them to continue with their normal lives.

It was the hope of everybody that the IGAD mediated peace talks would bring a peaceful end to our conflict. However, this is not now the case as lack of trust and confidence frustrates the start of the launching of the implementation stage. It is regrettable that four months after the signing of peace hostilities continue unabated and more lives are being lost. 

IGAD in its attempt to resolve the problem started on the wrong foot by trying to divide the national cake among the parties to the conflict first before digging into the root causes. It therefore deviated from the normal mediation and dedicated in vain nearly two years of mediation to a division of positions in government. By using the power sharing model as a strategy to end the dispute, IGAD injected more venom into the conflict and complicated matters further. Now when IGAD’s inappropriate model of power sharing is implemented, the three parties to the Compromise Agreement will each have its own ministers, MPs and civil servants.

To complicate things further and in a more dangerous way, the President and his First Vice President will each have his own security personnel including army, police, prisons, national security and wildlife! Can this model of government really work? Can it cooperate, coordinate and deliver? Can there be collective responsibility of the cabinet? This unconventional set up of a government cannot work in the case of South Sudan.

Let’s remember that the parties to the conflict are members of the same ruling party – the SPLM. IGAD’s proposed set up of the transitional government of national unity cannot work. There is nowhere in this contemporary world where ministerial portfolios are chosen by lottery. More ridiculous and strange still is the dictated requirement that leaders of the same party and government choose their own ministers in a lottery!  This is only an insult to our government and a recipe for conflict for members of one government.

If the armed and unarmed groups do not want to join the government of President Salva Kiir then they should wait for elections at the end of the transitional period. We suspect that IGAD wanted just to plant a timed bomb to create disunity and not to unite our country as we hoped for. The government negotiating team should never have allowed IGAD to insert such a mockery practice into the set up of our government.

It is my conviction that the future of our young nation rests on our shoulders. It is only us alone without some foreign magic that will save our country from disintegration. So let us unite all and put our efforts together to solve our problems. We have lived together for centuries and decades, fought devastating wars against one another. But in the end we reconciled and continued to live together until the Arabs, the Turks and the British came and colonized us as one people. Through our determination to be free we fought all our colonizers and on July 9th 2011 we became free.

In our struggle for independence and freedom we lost many heroes, sustained many disabilities, orphaned many children and widowed many housewives. My question is: can we afford to destroy the country we so much cherished and loved? Can we afford to forgo the unity, freedom and love for one another that made us to shed so much blood so that we are free in unity?

We are all descendants of Adam and Eve. God has created us as tribes, races, ethnic groups but we are all human-beings and His children. We were born into communities that had their own cultures and traditions. As we grow up we develop and learn from our parents and elders about our self perception and perception of others e.g. our neighbors. We also learn about “who we are” and “who they are”. In the process of growing up, we develop some false impressions about ourselves and about others. This is the source of conflict in our communities.

Should we venture out of our stereotype enclaves and interact with our fellow country men and women we will discover that we are all the same. As fellow country men and women we should refrain from a prejudiced attitude about group belong and group loyalty. We should commit ourselves to out speaking about discriminatory attitudes in our own cultures. We should always be willing to talk and resolve our own problems. We must commit ourselves to coexist as people of diverse backgrounds but live together as interrelated human beings.   

Conflict is as old as humanity itself. Our ancestors accepted conflict as a normal aspect of life. It is in fact one of the dialectics of life and death. When conflict occurs and disrupts our peaceful co-existence as communities, we resolve them through just and fair judgments.  Through our cultural and traditional ways of conflict resolution, our elders sit down to reconcile the parties to the conflict and restore harmony. Our cultures and traditions have developed through the millennia, ways and means to resolve our conflicts through the most effective and just ways. 

It is regrettable that our modern institutions of conflict resolution have been infiltrated and influenced by Western philosophy that is premised on individualistic orientation. Such borrowed and distorted practices cannot fit into our model of conflict resolution which has a strong social orientation. The strong social ties that exist in our communities make the significance of reconciliation the very role of our traditional institutions indispensible.

Once again I appeal to our political leaders, elders and the Church in South Sudan to rise up to their responsibilities and obligations to save their people and country from disaster and ruin. Let us together take a lead role and begin to reconcile ourselves and our people. Remember the wise words “charity starts at home”, it is us and not IGAD nor the UN that will bring a durable peace to South Sudan.
Thank you and God bless you all.           
  

 

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