Response To Rita Abrahamsen Letter To Clooney On S. Sudan Corruption Report

"We were particularly troubled by your suggestion that South Sudan’s independence resulted solely, or mainly from the work of international actors; or some kind of ‘dumb stunt’ by a Hollywood celebrity which has gone awry."

By Dr. Majak d’Agoôt  

Dear Dr. Rita Abrahamsen,

We wish to respond to your letter to George Clooney of 15 September 2016, published on the website of the Centre for International Policy Studies. We write not to defend Mr. Clooney but to correct some assumptions used to critique his work on behalf of South Sudan.

We were particularly troubled by your suggestion that South Sudan’s independence resulted solely, or mainly from the work of international actors; or some kind of ‘dumb stunt’ by a Hollywood celebrity which has gone awry.

We don’t deny that countless individuals, institutions and countries supported our tortuous route to liberty. We deeply appreciate the material and moral support we received. Helping a people in need should never be seen as a mistake, cravings for fame, or self-exoneration –and certainly not in the case of South Sudan. As the tragic events in South Sudan have not shot Mr Clooney to stardom in the humanitarian field; it is unlikely that these can take shine off his stardom.

No any other outsider to be blamed for creating the mess we find ourselves in today. As South Sudanese, we take responsibility for our successes and failures. As you must know, given your expertise in the region, millions of our citizens – not just heroes and heroines of our war of liberation; but also our entire civilian population – paid the ultimate price.

It is, in fact, this widespread and wanton devastation characterised by scorched-earth policy and war-induced famine which pricked the conscience of individual activists and governments in the West to come to the aid of the victims. A gruesome view of “Vulture Stalking a Child” captured by South African photographer in Upper Nile in March 1993 is a rare empirical evidence of Khartoum’s acts of brutality.

Such inhumane acts moved individuals like Kevin Carter, a recipient of Pulitzer Prize, to commit suicide at age 33 in 1994, out of empathy for the people of South Sudan.

By every moral standard – even as your abhorrence to this line of thought has featured more abundantly in your letter to Mr. Clooney – enslavement, plunder, and oppressive rule of successive colonial administrations – especially of the Northern Arab mercantilists cannot be justified, whatsoever. Our people suffered for centuries under this duplicity and the very complex geopolitics of contiguous colonialism which South Sudan experienced.

Despite the gaping dichotomies that existed, the territory was viewed as seamless extension of Khedival Egypt and/or independent Sudan. At the forefront of these designs, were – and still are plethora of experts, apologists and cynics whose role is concerning until today. To suggest that South Sudan’s march to statehood was always destined to fail, based on five years of nationhood, contradicts your own argument that nation building isn’t a photo-op or a movie but an endless journey.

Failure is in no way inherent in us, anything more than it was elsewhere in Africa or in the United States, which experienced its own civil war not long after independence.

Suggesting that after 50 years of struggle, South Sudan is worse off today than under the colonialism of the Arabs is disrespectful of our collective sacrifices as a people.

Whilst this argument sounds logical, we are not in any way inclined to justifying the abrasive risk appetite of South Sudan’s power elites who have been responsible for the catastrophic blowouts in 2013 and 2016. But what we can assert is that the current and temporary setbacks have not caused ‘decision regrets’ for the overwhelming vote for South Sudan independence in 2011.

South Sudan is fragile but could have still muddled through without self-destructing, if its current crop of leaders were visionary. Regardless of the blundering of the present South Sudan’s ruling gunclass, South Sudan is independent and will eventually shape up.

We acknowledge that this country was borne with greater promise and huge international goodwill and was likely to be a success story of postcolonial Africa. Unfortunately, we keeled over and squandered that opportunity.

Yet, we are capable of picking the pieces and putting the country back again on the stairway to nirvana. We will prevail over the flaws of our leaders with the same will and resilience with which we fought and defeated colonialism.

In this new struggle, the efforts of individuals like Mr. Clooney, though imperfect and only surface-scratching; are incredibly valuable in our quest for accountable and pro-people leadership in South Sudan.

Kind regards,

Dr. Majak d’Agoôt, Former Deputy Minister of Defence and Member of the SPLM Leaders - Former Detainees Dr. Remember Miamingi International Human Rights Expert

Posted in: Letters, Opinions
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