Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Fallacy of the SPLM Re-unification
By Amir Idris

South Sudan, the newest African country, is dangerously digging itself into a deeper hole. A deeper hole offers people of South Sudan neither peace in the short term nor a bright future in the long run. Instead, the cycles of death, pain, and misery will continue to terrorize its innocent children. Ironically, its political leaders who are shepherding them to death and darkness seem to believe that they can rescue them from their unspeakable ordeal. The cries of innocent children who have been praising the elements for eighteen months at the United Nations Displaced camps in Juba, Bor, Malakal and Bentiu do not seem to awaken their conscience either. They have naively convinced themselves that the political crisis that they created in the first place can be resolved by reunifying their fractured political party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). The hurried return of the self-named Former Political Detainees (FPDs) to Juba and rejoining the ‘rotten’ political regime after securing their financial and political interests, while hundreds of thousands of victims remain in IDPs camps, highlights the fallacy of reunification and the absence of quality statesman in South Sudan. Recent and ancient political history teaches us that political choices driven by sheer greed, narrow self-interest, and shortsighted vision are doom to fail. In many incidents, the rise and the collapse of nations and states were determined by the actions and behaviors of their political leaders.

No doubt, South Sudan from its inception in July 9, 2011 has been facing enormous challenges of constructing a new state and a nation. These challenges could have been addressed had its political leaders understood what it takes to build a new state. Paralyzed by a lack of vision and character, its political leaders were neither able to realize the great expectations of their own people nor to foresee the gradual demise of the new state. Instead of good governance, economic development, and the rule of law, dictatorship, corruption, and injustice became the main characteristics of the political regime. The records of government of South Sudan in terms of providing basic services to its citizens are dismaying to say the least. Hence, the people of South Sudan have found themselves in less than three years after independence at the mercy of political leaders who constantly throw them into a pool of desperation, anger, regret, and pain, and a series of unfortunate events.

The deadly events of December 2013 in Juba, the capital city, and the subsequent violence and atrocities against civilians, have also raised questions about the legitimacy of the government and the sovereignty of the state. Although South Sudan is considered legally a sovereign state, its government has failed to earn it. In the language of political science, South Sudan can hardly be described as a functioning state. It seems the only source of its legitimacy comes from its membership in the United Nations. But even this shaky source of legitimacy is beginning to wither away as its government continues to defy the rules and norms of the United Nations.

Indeed great nations and states were not built by politicians, but by statesmen. South Sudan seems to have no shortage of professional politicians who are unashamed in putting their interests before the interests of their people. South Sudan is desperately in need of a new leadership led by statesmen, not politicians, who can stir the struggling ship to safety. What South Sudan urgently needs is a leadership with a strong principle, a moral compass, a clear vision, and a capacity to build a consensus among the multiethnic societies of South Sudan.

South Sudan can’t be saved by professional politicians who lack the needed virtues of statesmanship. The gateway to sustainable peace and prosperity can only pass through a comprehensive peace agreement brokered by the IGAD-Plus in Addis Ababa that addresses the underlying causes of the tragedy which in turn will pave the way for effective economic and political reforms. A peace agreement that speaks the language of those who were victimized by the utterly unspeakable actions of their professional politicians. The world might have forgotten about the ongoing tragedy of South Sudan, but the resilience of its people in particular its children who remain in IDPs camps, makes me hopeful about South Sudan’s future.

Amir Idris is Professor and Chair of Department of African and African American Studies at Fordham University, New York City, USA. He can be reached at

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