Preparing South Sudan for Statehood

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Despite its many shortcomings, the CPA has basically managed to prevent a

SPLM supporters during elections campaigns

relapse of full scale North-South war. Key milestones in its implementation have been delayed or haphazardly carried out after much external pressure; but this does not eliminate the fact that South Sudan has enjoyed relative peace and the guns have largely remained silent since 2005. Southern refugees have been trooping back to their country from neighboring countries in their thousands.

A messy election has just been completed and although most incumbents retained their positions, some very controversially, a new and more legitimate political formation is taking shape in South Sudan. The people now know they can have a say in the type of polity their new nation gets.

GOSS Pres Kiir

Gargantuan challenges abound for the soon-to-be-born nation.

Of these challenges, two stand out as the priority areas for any intervention initiatives. These are fast tracking economic recovery and reducing the risk of conflict. There seems to be a problem in addressing the first one since 2005 when a large pool of donors pledged funds for reconstruction. Most of these funds have been returned unused, for what analysts call ‘lack of capacity’ to utilize the funds. Of course there is a lack of capacity to use the funds; that’s the mark of post-conflict societies! Withholding and delaying funds just exacerbates the problem since the fledgling GOSS is now seen by many southerners as unable to secure the peace and provide much needed services. Some money will no doubt be lost through sheer incompetence and corruption. The donor community needs realize that it is more costly in the short and long term to have a weak and apparently incompetent GOSS perceived by its citizens as unable to properly govern. This gives many spoilers within and without a good opportunity to rebel.

No matter what goes on politically, aid for development must not be withheld, delayed or reduced. Priority projects like roads, hospitals, schools and government offices must be adequately funded in all the ten states. It is appalling that up to now, there is not a decent inter-state roads network. Economic development, like Paul Collier observes, substantially reduces risk.

The second challenge is reducing the risk of dysfunctional conflict. Currently, a disastrous disarmament project has all but aborted. We still have over two million arms in the hands of civilians. People will not give back their guns because they believe the government has no capacity to provide security. The smaller ethnic groups like Murle in Jonglei State also see the disarmament as unfairly targeting them, leaving them vulnerable to their bigger foes. I believe substantial amounts of reconstruction funds need to be channeled towards disarmament; buying weapons from civilians and carrying out security sector reforms like formation of a functional police service. As it is now, small security issues are normally handled by the army, giving the impression that we are still in the war time. People are highly desensitized to violence.

An effective conflict resolution and prevention initiative must take into account local conflict patterns between groups. The reason the Jikany Nuer fight the Lou Nuer is different from the reason why the Lou Nuer fights the Dinka or why Mundari and Murle fight the Dinka. Unbelievable as it may sound, there are many areas where these groups can cooperate and thus avoid further conflicts. It is these areas that conflict managers must help the communities themselves identify and build on for a sustainable peace.

Post-election South Sudan: Fall-out or Fall-in?

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The dust has finally settled, well, somehow. Winners, whether fairly or unfairly, are now getting ready to take on the arduous task of preparing the South for a not-so-clean divorce from the North.

There have been a few upsets like the ousting of Justice Minister Michael Makuei Lueth by an independent in Makuach, Jonglei state. Central Equitoria’s Gen Kogga really struggled against his independent challengers. Actually, the independents did remarkably well and this should send a message to SPLM big wigs that if they do not carry out a radical internal surgery, this political hemorrhage will slowly kill SPLM and give birth to a formidable opposition in the South. Of course in itself this isn’t bad for democracy, but we are talking about a very fragile post-conflict state grappling with insecurity, nation- and state-building with a constant fear of the Khartoum-based regime, not to mention a complex history of inter-ethnic clashes.

I hold the view that unchecked political competition at this early stage of reconstruction and fragility is a recipe for cycles of ethno-political clashes. It is dangerous because Southern Sudanese are currently held together by only two things: the idea of a common enemy in the North and the common desire to separate from the latter. Remove these two and South Sudan would implode. The GOSS administration is replete with former generals, some of them are even allowed to maintain private armies. Think of Gen George Athor, Luk Jok, Paulino Matip and other former (sic) members of the SSDF. Compounding this further is the fact that the SPLA is not known to act as one unitary force.

But this election does provide a good opportunity to create a polity that has some kind of legitimacy in the eyes of the Southerners. This is particularly important in leading a post-secession South Sudan.

Finally, the international community MUST not be too enthusiastic to speed up the democratization process. Instead, their intervention should only be to supplement local efforts. We saw a good number of local civil society groups during the electioneering period. It is these that the international community, especially the INGOs should target for capacity building.

Because Southern Sudanese will drive change in South Sudan!