The following are basic truths and South Sudanese, government and citizen alike, can heed them or reject them, but will remain truths:
1. No democracy without freedom of expression. The reason our traditional societies are more open is that the chiefs don’t kill people for being criticized. Any ordinary person can walk up to the chief and tell him how bad he has governed. The chief has only one choice, to ask for the critics’ suggestions.
2. Democracy and “human rights” are not western concepts, as African dictators like us to believe. I’ve never heard of a Norwegian or Canadian dying in pursuit of human rights, but I know them by the dozens who’ve perished fighting for their basic rights.
3. Governments come and go, but country and people will always be there. Pledge your allegiance to country and not to individual leaders.
4. Sectionalism, regionalism and tribal affiliation are only good as sources of one’s identity. But use them as the lens through which to view, run and treat governance and you will have killed the country/nation.
5. A good constitution, produced through popular participation, can become the glue that binds us together, a nucleus for the nation, a rallying point for all of us to transcend tribe.
6. No matter how close you think you’re to President Kiir or Riek Machar or Taban Deng Gai, I can assure you, they will sell you to the highest bidder when it suits each of them best. Don’t victimize South Sudanese on account that you’re serving any of these men. Remember Deng Teeng and his poignant adage, “government crowns you with ostrich feathers while you’re valuable, but run out of that value, and government will remove the feathers from your head and stick them into your rear end.”
7. No amount of military might can win a war in South Sudan. You might win a battle here and a battle there. You might crash civilians and make them miserable. You might have the upper hand from time to time. But you will never have a decisive victory. You will never cow people who are aggrieved. Just look at our history with Northern Sudan. 197 years of struggle against the north, despite having the weaker position. Only a fool who doesn’t read history will pledge to win a war against underdogs who are bent to get their sense of justice. Remember “King Paul” and his pledge to crash IO in 90 days was it? Despite the millions he was given, he went first.
8. The only time real and just peace will come to South Sudan is when South Sudanese people in opposing camps call each other brothers and sisters and realize they are sailing in the same punctured boat, destined to capsize, to the detriment of everyone. Short of this, foreigners will come around trying to mediate but will always push for a solution that serves their interests, whatever those interests may be. No foreigner can fix a problem we ourselves manufactured.
9. But be careful, in a world where information can easily become a source of disinformation, keep in mind freedom of expression is not the same thing as incitement. Incite violence in the name of freedom and you will have crossed the line, and if there is law, it’d deal with you appropriately.
10. Journalists are obligated by the ethics of their profession to inform but keep their opinion to a minimum when reporting events. Don’t believe Donald Trump when he says “journalists are the enemy of the people.”