By Junior William Deng
The old wars are very minimal these days. I want to say that interstate wars have significantly decreased though few are fought on the basis of ideology particularly by the United States and its cohorts of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Even this organization has recently been outsourcing its wars by inciting locals to overthrow governments for examples in Eastern Europe and in Africa – the Arab spring.
This shows that conventional war fare is no longer the business, it’s largely bygone and it doesn’t generate high propensity for commitment maybe because the world has become globalized hence states share common aspirations for free trade, commerce and peace, and/or states are rational and do cost-effective or cost-benefits analyses and calculate their relative power in comparison to perceive enemies or friends before committing to war.
It could also be the fact that states don’t know individual military and economics strengths and opportunities. This doesn’t allow leaders to go to war because what they could assume to be strength or opportunity might be their weaknesses or vice versa. The fact that international system is unipolar has minimised power skirmishes globally because there’s one super power to whom many states seek aid and protection hence limiting the space for war and conflict.
As interstate war diminishes, ‘New War’ is born. This type of war is characterised by intrastate nature; irregular forces, ethnic war and mobilization, irregular sources of finance (through looting, racketeering and pillaging), run away corruption and lack of power control. It is true that the states who fight this war first suffer leadership failure and loss of legitimacy and monopoly over means of coercion, and with which politics is about negotiations not on the basis of electoral democracy.
The African continent has suffered this kind of new wars succeeding Yugoslavia and Cambodia. Since 1994, many intrastate wars have cleansed villages of people and destroyed property. The wars take ethnic dimensions particularly the large ethnic communities against themselves or against the smaller ones. This is because power is highly contested by leaders and by rallying their ethnicities for political support and by so doing, the leaders would be sure of gaining power and would be able to provide benefits for those who supported them.
In South Sudan today, the war between President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar is basically an epitome of the New War. It neither has ideology nor organizational structure befitting of national demand and character. It is fought largely by individual ethnicities of President Kiir and Dr. Riek. The aim is to keep power or to gain power. President Kiir maintains power through patronages. He allows his close allies to loot financial resources, intimidates and represses his critics, either by death or by economic purging. He frames the war as Nuer against the Dinka and by losing power, the Dinka would be alienated from power.
Dr. Riek Machar frames himself as god-chosen and his people believe that he would liberate ‘Nuer Nation’. He uses war frames like Salva Kiir Must Go, The Dinka Genocidal Regime, Nuer 2013 Genocide and other frames which have infuriated the Nuer to fight the war not necessarily for Riek to become the president but to show ethnic might and ruthlessness. The fact that SPLM -IO under Riek is minimal in the battle field doesn’t make him weak, he surely control Nuer local population. Dr. Riek doesn’t control his forces or he doesn’t have central command, he is casual, he directs randomly. This lack of central command, ideology for the war and corruption and nepotism within the leadership of the IO has provoked many of his supporters to switch sides and join President Kiir in Juba. His frames of war as Dinka against Nuer or The Dinka Genocidal Régime is no longer taking shape and a lot of intrigues have rocked his boat. Defections within his camp will be common tragedy.
In furtherance to the above framing game, defections and economic armaments have hit Kiir side. And because of lack of control and failing patronage system, the earlier framing of war as Nuer against Dinka is fading very fast and new twist is that the Dinka hegemony is withering and human debris are consequently falling on those who are trying to protect the hegemony. One of the regime’ s favorite Gen. Paul Making is fugitively being framed but it’s likely to be Aweil against the Warrap unless otherwise. Already a small group of dissatisfied loyalists of Gen. Malong have denounced the Juba régime making it more itching and complicated situation for Juba.
Lastly, this new war is going to be around for a while because Kiir might capture towns and garrisons but nationalities have made up their minds and feelings about those leaders they support. And as long as negotiations remain intense, ethnicities are going to divide themselves up along patronage power and our sons mindset and war will rag more. The war is likely to be first fought by everybody and the solution will henceforth come and live in South Sudan.