Public Service Announcement
Fellow South Sudanese!
The struggle of the SPLM/SPLA (IO) to fundamentally overhaul the status quo in our society is being waged predominantly by the youth of South Sudan. The SPLM/SPLA (IO) is the latest manifestation of struggle in our country after the failure of the nationalist movement which came before us to achieve total liberation. The leadership of the historic SPLM/SPLA lied to the youth. If we can remember, the struggle which came before was led by a Youth Movement whose leadership rose to power through violent revolution. Had these youths conformed to the status quo in 1983, they would have been overshadowed by senior Comrades who had been part of a previous struggle (commonly known as the Anyanya Movement). The rise to power of what emerged to be the Politico Military High Command of the SPLM/SPLA was a process which destroyed many families; alienating them and amplifying already existing animosities from the history of inter-communal violence which stretches so far back that the cause is lost in the realm of mythology.
The tragic events of 1991, which the regime is using to arouse negative tribal sentiments in our naïve civil population, found fertile ground because of the historical events surrounding the founding of the SPLM/SPLA, in particular the history of inter-communal violence in our country. It is not that the regime really cares about the victims of inter-communal violence- otherwise the President would not have cancelled the reconciliation process which was being led by Dr. Riek Machar, which would have been a better mechanism for anyone who feels they are a victim of inter-communal violence to find recourse, instead of condoning the Juba Massacre and the subsequent civil war as revenge in the name of “91”. This is all just a cover up to divert attention from the fact that these old men masquerading as elders lied to the youth during the war of liberation. They have squandered our future and the future of our nascent Republic.
The following is a brief contribution to the national conversation:
1. According to the recent census, young people in South Sudan are the largest segment of our population, constituting a majority. Those who are 30 years or under are 73.7% of the population.
2. Meanwhile, those who are old are a minority in our country; those above the age of 65 years constitute only 2.6% of the population, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF).
3. The system of government we have in South Sudan can be accurately described as a kleptocratic gerontocracy. The older segment of our population, the minority, is ruling the country with an iron fist, to the detriment of women and young people who suffer the brunt of the misrule by old men.
4. It is important to notice how I am being deliberate here. I am saying “old men” and not “elders”. I would not like to give the impression that I am undermining our elders; not at all! In our shared values not only as South Sudanese but as African Peoples, respect for elders is highly valued. Our elders have been a source of great wisdom that has ensured our survival over countless generations. There is a difference between an “elder” and someone who is just old. If you are advanced in age and you use your wisdom to destroy the society, then you don’t deserve the title of elder. If they were true elders, they would have prepared the next generation of youths for a change of guard.
5. The old men in the self-appointed group the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE), by their actions have disqualified themselves as elders. They are a group of old men who don’t have the interest of our country at heart; not even the best interest of the Jieng speaking peoples of South Sudan who they purport to represent. They have spoiled the good name of the Jieng speaking peoples of South Sudan, who share common values with the rest of the South Sudanese family. Our real elders as peoples of South Sudan exist at the grassroots level; those old men who wield power in Juba can hardly be called elders.
6. The gerontocracy established by these old men has created a situation in which the youth are incapable of reaching their full potential. The so-called elders- who are divided along tribal lines- influence the youth negatively to fight wars based on their personal grudges from their days in school and from their days in the war of liberation. They are incapable of putting the national interest above their own petty grudges. Youth who are conscious of their historical role in society would never allow themselves to be used in the destruction of their future.
7. There is no economy in our country and the only industry is government. The system of government being a kleptocratic gerontocracy, is controlled by old men with an iron fist. By monopolizing the means of production, these old men have put young people in a precarious position. Despite knowing the truth about the devastation in the country, the youth are forced to sell out their principles in order to survive. There is a system of patronage at all levels of government administration and only docile young people are rewarded with employment.
8. The regime has succeeded in portraying the struggle being waged by our people for fundamental change as simply a tribal war. This is in part due to the split of the SPLM Leaders at the inception of the struggle. The SPLM Leaders presented a divided leadership to the people and the regime was able to capitalize on this. The system of patronage instituted by these old men further helped to cement the tribal nature of the conflict. The youth know that the situation faced by our people is unbearable; however, if they do the right thing, they face the danger of being isolated socially and denied access to the only means to provide for their families. There are many youths who have expressed interest in joining the people’s struggle, but feel threatened by the kleptocratic gerontocracy. Because of the system of patronage, these old men who control the society have the power to break up the families of young people who are deemed to be “hard headed” and “don’t listen”. There are many young people who are either being discouraged or outright threatened not to join the people’s struggle for fundamental change; however, this is just a smokescreen for tribalism.
9. The narrative of “Dr. Riek” and “91” are not being used because the regime cares about the victims of inter-communal violence in our country; no. These narratives are created with the intention to divide the two largest nationalities in the country and by the ethnic violence caused by this division, the traditional elite are able to cling to power and maintain the status quo.
10. This scenario has resulted in a prolonged war with no end in sight. The revolutionary forces in the country have failed to unite and in the history of people’s struggle against oppression, a divided opposition has never defeated the incumbent. It is unscientific!
11. The regime’s strategy of using peace as an instrument to prolong the conflict, means that they will use the same strategy to intimidate the youth with the intention of undermining the peace process. While the regime has been busy on a public relations campaign to bamboozle the public into believing that “peace has come”, they have barely implemented the provisions of the Agreement. Any youth who points out these and other challenges being faced by the peace process could incur the wrath of the old dons of the society; the peace process is in serious jeopardy.
12. We have seen evidence of this when Hon. Michael Makuei scuttled the joint reconciliation and peace dissemination exercise in Jong’lei State. The SPLM/SPLA (IG) Governor of Jong’lei, Hon. Philip Aguer, invited the SPLM/SPLA (IO) Governor of Jong’lei, Hon. Alier Ateny, for a joint rally in Bor. The purpose of this rally- as it has been done in other states- was to build the confidence of our people in the peace process. Unfortunately, Hon. Michael Makuei went to Bor and made sure it was cancelled and a process controlled by him was put in its place. The two Governors for Jong’lei state have not met to this day- This is the gerontocracy at work. Hon. Michael Makuei does not want to see the rise of Independent free-thinking young leaders in Jong’lei State and he is working with his counterparts in other states to ensure that there is no new blood injected into the body politic.
13. This strategy is also being used by Hon. David Yauyau in Boma and Pibor. He is using political and military means to intimidate SPLM/SPLA (IO) youth who are assembling at the cantonment sites in accordance with the security arrangements of the Revitalized Agreement.
14. The latest manifestation of this conspiracy was the disappointing speech by Uncle David Deng Athorbei during the President’s recent visit to Yirol. While trying to flatter the President he stated (speaking in Dinka): “The people of Yirol don’t want an IO Governor”. In a system of one man/woman one vote and in a system of majority rule, who is Uncle David to determine the choice of our people? When he invokes the memory of the late Dr. John Garang in his speech, is the system they currently preside over what they struggled for during the war of liberation? He went on to warn the people (again in Dinka) that: “we have accepted peace, but you should sleep with one eye open”. This suggests that Uncle David may know something that we don’t know. Is there a plan for another war? Uncle David Deng Athorbei even unwittingly revealed the psychology of the JCE, who have allocated to themselves the power to determine the future of our country. He did this when he issued what sounded like a threat to the President; he suggested that if President Salva Kiir is to be replaced, “they” must be consulted first.
15. This is the status quo fellow countrymen/women! The youth and women of South Sudan have been subjected to untold humiliation. There is such a rampant rate of unemployment that there is no way for young people to make an honest living. The gerontocracy has forced the youth to toe the line set by the old people, which is the path of political tribalism. The youth can see this clearly but they have been forced by circumstances to participate in upholding a status quo which is unfavourable to their future.
16. The youth of South Sudan have been betrayed by these so-called elders. In particular the youth leadership of the historic SPLM/SPLA, who have grown up to be old men through the course of the struggle. During the war of liberation which brought us independence, the SPLM/SPLA had established schools in the refugee camps in Ethiopia in the 1980s. These are the famous Jech Amer (Red Army) schools of Panyidu, Dimma, Tharpam and others, where the most vulnerable children who could not yet participate in war studied before the fall of the Derg. The leadership of the SPLM/SPLA would stop by these schools on their way to missions inside South Sudan and give speeches. The contention of these so-called elders- who were the youth at the time- was that they would destroy the system of the old Sudan, and that the mission of the children would be to study so that they would become the next generation of youth who would build the new Sudan. It is unfortunate that these same leaders have not kept their word. I tell you they lied to us!
17. Instead of making space for the thousands of capable South Sudanese youth who have been trained in various fields all over the world, the regime has instead promoted an “our turn to eat” mentality. Their logic is that they have suffered long enough in the bush and want to now enjoy themselves; ignoring the fact that our hard-won freedom is the collective work of our people and that they stand on the shoulders of previous generations who struggled for us to achieve the national liberation some want to enjoy exclusively. It is not the achievement of an individual or group of individuals.
18. I would like to reiterate that this is not an attack on our elders. Our true elders are very wise, and it is this wisdom that is responsible for our liberation as a people. Our elders are the ones who sacrificed their grain, their chickens, their goats, their cows and above all their children who fought in the war of national liberation. Were it not for our elders, it would have been very difficult for the leadership of the SPLM/SPLA to mobilize our civil population behind the war effort. This is a critique of a handful of old men who are masquerading as elders. They have hijacked positions of responsibility and are jeopardizing our hard-won freedom in the process.
19. The SPLM/SPLA has not implemented a single development program in South Sudan. If it was not for development partners from Germany, Japan, the United States and other countries there would literally be no development program to talk about. The only thing the so-called historical leaders of the SPLM/SPLA have done since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) – 2005, is to conspire against Dr. Riek Machar, whom they have made into the enemy image for the First Republic of South Sudan, which Is a failed state. This is a conspiracy aimed at denying Dr. Riek Machar the Presidency even if he were chosen by our people in a free and fair election. This is not a reflection on Dr. Riek- it is a reflection of the regime’s epic failure to deliver the promises of the liberation struggle.
20. If Dr. Riek Machar was such an unpopular leader and “the prophet of doom”, why would so-called historical leaders fear facing him at the polls? If the SPLM Leaders are “liberators” as they purport, then they should be able to win a landslide victory. The SPLM Leaders fear facing Dr. Riek Machar because they have failed to deliver the promise of the liberation struggle, the vision of new Sudan. They have failed to “take the towns to the people” and Dr. Riek Machar has been leading the campaign to correct this since the December 6 2013 Press Conference.
21. The people of South Sudan have fought successive regimes for the cause of federalism since the days of Hon. Paulo Logali and the Liberal Party in the 1950s. It is unfortunate that after waging a successful struggle- over many generations- that guaranteed the right of self determination for our people, those who led that struggle would betray the cause, becoming the new oppressor. The people of South Sudan continue to struggle as we have been double crossed.
22. The SPLM/SPLA (IO) is the revolutionary leadership at the helm of this People’s War which was imposed on us by the regime. As we all know, a cycle of revenge killing was sparked off by the Juba Massacre (2013), which targeted predominantly Nuer Speaking Peoples. This war as we also know, was introduced in order to divert attention from the epic failure of the historic SPLM/SPLA, by arousing negative tribal sentiments in our people. The issue is not really “Dr. Riek this” or “1991 that”; it is really just a conspiracy to forestall the success of the revolution and maintain the status quo.
23. It is time to wake up! The SPLM/SPLA (IO) is the latest manifestation of struggle in our country representing the aspirations of our people, and we have achieved a settlement through negotiations within which the solutions to fixing our country are found. It is not a mere power struggle. Those who are in it just for positions are easily exposed during the course of the struggle as they end up joining the regime. There are no opportunities anywhere else for youth- who are the majority- to participate in determining the future of our country. It is only through supporting the people’s struggle, currently being led by the SPLM/SPLA (IO) that many young people have become relevant and can contribute their energy to the cause of fulfilling the promises of the liberation struggle and destroy the status quo.
24. The youth of South Sudan should not allow themselves to be used by these old men to fight wars of personal interest. The youth should unite and organize themselves by join the people’s struggle for fundamental change in our country or by joining any civil society organization advocating for change, so that we can put sufficient pressure on the regime to implement the negotiated settlement. The negotiated settlement is the only way forward for our country. Youth and Women are stakeholders in the Revitalized Agreement and they are an integral part of the various committees in the implementation process. If the regime is allowed to get away with using peace as an instrument of war, then the status quo will continue.
25. The negotiated settlement is the least costly way for us to end the civil war and move towards a second Republic of South Sudan, for the welfare and prosperity of our people.
The struggle continues!
Cpt. Mabior Garang de Mabior
18/03/2019 – 18:03 Hrs