African Voices on the Fighting in South Sudan

African Voices on the Fighting in South Sudan
Kremena Krumova

Daniel Makoi Majak, 18, Student, South Sudanese; based in Nairobi, Kenya

We, South Sudanese living in Nairobi, have met more than three times to discuss many issues on this unrest and we’ve called on both political sides of the conflict to negotiate through dialogue and put an end to this havoc. We are very positive that our government will find a solution and everything will come to normalcy.

Salva Kiir has always been an honest leader, pro-active, brave and bold. ... But not all leaders are created equal. It’s hard to control people: we have political pigs who don’t understand the concept of “service above self.” We see all of this in Dr. Riek Machar who bluntly wants to plunge the nation into a civil war.

There is a higher chance that our country may go to civil war if the international community doesn’t come to our rescue. Our politicians are very hard nuts to crack and don’t care about people dying and children suffering. They don’t mind what the outcomes of their greedy acts are as long their families are safe and sound with better education and are living a luxurious life abroad. While the average citizen works 24/7 to provide daily bread for his family, the gluttonous politicians are busy using tax money to fund civil wars. We have little manufacturing capabilities; though oil, which saves 93 percent of the nation’s economy, is produced and exported to developed countries brings income. Our leaders are very corrupt. They have everything at their disposal with a large lump sum of money in their foreign bank accounts. It is because they are good grabbers with unlimited self-desires who take advantage of common citizen’s hard-gets. They have this wrong concept; fund war and your dreams will come true. In fact, some even claimed that it was prophesized to them by their ancestors that they would rise to power through deadly violence that would shake the country. I mean Dr. Riek Machar’s religious leader, self proclaimed prophet called Ngundeng. The concept, however, is called Ngundengism. A prophet of doom who was prophesized long ago, that someone from the Nuer tribe would lead but only if they wage war on the majority Dinka who would not recognize or accept to be led by a minor tribe. A civil war would then strike the country of which the Nuer people would claim victory after a terrible bloodshed.

With such beliefs and wrong concepts, one could foresee a very unfavorable and unpredictable future. But we believe God is and will always be with us. For I love my country, I don’t wish for such tragedies to happen. I wish for peace!!! #OneTribe #OneBlood #OneSouthSudan

Abraham Daljang, 26, Freelance Journalist, South Sudanese, based in Kampala, Uganda

No one can be certain about what will happen the next day. I am currently in Kampala Uganda but I am so scared about the horrific stories I hear about the crisis back home. I wanted to travel home to have Christmas with my family but the fighting broke out a day before I could travel. My relative told me not to come home because it can be dangerous for me. I am also concerned about the lives of innocent people killed in that political upheaval, I am afraid it might breed long-term ethnic hatred which would affect people in the long run.

I would say civil war is imminent if the two parties do not agree. There has never been such a big fight especially in the army itself, it used to be a few militias which sometimes got defeated by the government. This time I think it is a different story. The fact that Dr. Riek Machar is spearheading this fighting will make it hard to quell him militarily because he has some support back in his home that can be seen through the quick capture of Bor and oil rich Unity state. Besides, he seems to have massive support from some strong army officers like Perter Gedet and James Koang. When Machar defected in 1991, innocent people in Bor and other parts of South Sudan felt the consequences. Dialog is the best option before it gets worst. However, even if the National army defeats him, he will still be in the country to keep on destabilizing the nation just like David Yau Yau, a rebel leader who has been disturbing the government in Jonglei state for a long time. Another point that makes me fear that this will lead to civil war is the fact that it is taking an ethnic dimension; innocent people are killed. Further still, South Sudan will continue experiencing civil strife unless people realize that they are one people rather than identifying themselves on tribal lines.

Bandak Lam Lul, 22, Activist of Youth Against Violence: South Sudan, South Sudanese; based in Phoenix, Arizona

After recent fight in Juba, speaking as a civilian, we are not in a position to feel safe. The war has spread throughout the country. It is now taking place in five states in South Sudan. Civilians are being targeted based on their tribes. Ethnic cleansing is taking place mostly between the Nuer and Dinka tribes. After such violence erupts, there is no safety for any civilian. There must be a dialog between the two leaders. Or else this violence will continue and the lives of our Sudanese brothers and sisters will continue to suffer all over the world.

Civil war requires war between citizens of the same country. Kiir and Machar had declared this war from the moment the fighting began. It has extended and has destroyed not only the country physically but the lives and the hope of people. As leaders they have failed and have allowed our past struggle become a living reality all over again.

Deng S. Elijah, 27, Blogger, South Sudanese; based in Vancouver, Canada

I’m traumatized hearing that my relatives, friends and fellow South Sudanese are killed, went missing or were subjected to countless human rights abuses. The death toll hit very high in the first two days of the crisis and it has escalated to other parts of the country. This threatens my wellbeing, my family and the wellbeing of my fellow country mates. The long-term consequences of this crisis are inevitable, and if the citizens don’t reconcile, I’m afraid that a similar event may repeat itself, God forbid!

It is hard to predict. I would say, it is not likely in the short run. After the international community and the United Nations intervened, it is likely that our leaders may respond to dialog. However, if they won’t tolerate their greedy motives, then the country may plunge into a civil war. If they reach an agreement, I would be interested in a long-term solution that would not threaten democracy in the country. The international community is currently interested in establishing peace; however, the root cause of the conflict and whether the resolution is sustainable or not should be the key factor. For example, a resolution like this was adopted after the 2007–2008 Kenyan crisis and it worked; however, it is not sustainable in South Sudan. The country might plunge into a civil war in the long run, if no other measures are taken.

Emanuela Bringi, 21, Student, Sudanese; based in Ontario, Canada

The lack of safety of my brothers and sisters back home in South Sudan has caused fear and insecurity within my heart here in the Diaspora. Many of us are mentally and emotionally stressed, as we do not know what the outcome of the violence will mean for our people. But what it has indeed caused is distress, death, displacement and lack of safety for my beloved Sudanese people. What the Southern Sudanese government should understand is that they are not only harming the life and existence of their citizens within the country but also in the Diaspora.

As for my Sudanese siblings back home there is no safety. Though members of certain ethnic groups are being targeted, many others are also being caught in the crossfire. The fact that people of the same nation, who have fought for so long to finally get independence are now being manipulated to fight and kill each other is what aches my spirit. We are all Sudanese; the brother that you have killed bleeds the same blood as you.

My greatest fear is that once this violence is tamed, that we continue to have rising leaders with hidden agendas such as Salva Kiir. When power and greed are the motive, the land ends with destruction, but when the motive is peace and reconstruction then we will surely have development and trust in our country and its leaders.

In terms of this violence becoming a civil war, I make a plea to our leaders to communicate on a human level. I plea that they find a place in their hearts to order their soldiers or rebels to put down their guns, to use dialog rather than violence, to negotiate and come to a mutual agreement before it escalates to a degree that cannot be controlled. South Sudan is independent due to civil war and inhuman treatment to our people from north Sudan; we cannot allow for this to ripple in our own country. This is why I find it very important for Sudanese people all around the world to speak up and advocate for dialog, reconciliation and peace.

Speaking as a youth, we are the future leaders of our country; we cannot allow for this violence to continue ruining our future.

Faisal H. A. Geddu, 34, Physical Teacher, Sudanese; based in Saudi Arabia

I have been an activist in the political sphere about the troubled region of Darfur since 2003. I have friends in South Sudan, and also relatives working there. So this crisis certainly affected their daily lives especially the process of displacement, looting and burning of shops.

This issue is very complicated in light of the multiplicity of ethnicities in this nascent state. The president is from the Dinka tribe, the deputy is from Nuer, descending from the oil-rich Unity State, their minister Pagan Amum is from Shilluk, one of largest ethnic groups in the Upper Nile. This narrative confirms that the problems of South Sudan are complex. The state of South Sudan is a ticking time bomb. Last week’s defection of the commander of the Fourth division of the army joining Riek Machar, is igniting the situation even more.


Wilson Akiiki Kaija, 33, Journalist and Lecturer at Makerere University; based in Kampala, Uganda

The question of individual safety does not arise here. Uganda as a country ought to be worried about South Sudan descending back into crisis. Northern Uganda has just recovered from more than two decades of crisis. For the most part, an insecure South Sudan, then a volatile region of the Sudan, was the hiding place for the Ugandan rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Therefore, peace in Uganda and Peace in South Sudan are intertwined. Uganda cannot be at peace when its neighbor to the north is at war. A volatile South Sudan could prove a good haven for the LRA to reorganize and return to Uganda from their current bases in Central African Republic (another country at war).

Uganda has for many years been home to thousands of South Sudanese who escaped the fighting in their home country that started around 1983. Many of them are still living in Uganda today.

While there is no official figures on the number of Ugandans doing business across the border in South Sudan, they are somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000. Their safety is the concern of every Ugandan. The government has been organizing evacuation missions for these Ugandans. They are in South Sudan as businessmen dealing in agricultural produce, transport etc.

Fears of a return to civil war are real. Already, the fighting that started over a week ago has spread to five other states. Some keen observers on South Sudan affairs are even surprised that this question is being asked at all. When did the civil war end? In all honesty, fighting has never ended. On the surface, the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 ended the war. But the truth is that the peace agreement brought the war closer to home. What it did is that it removed the common enemy—that is Sudan and the Islamist government of President Hassan al Bashir. This left the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) to resurrect the internal wrangles. These wrangles are so deep-rooted that even in the current South Sudan army, the SPLA, there are reports of the existence of two armies, one of the Dinka and another of the Nuer.

Dinka and the Nuer are the two biggest tribes in South Sudan and the pattern of the current conflict is along these two lines. President Salva Kiir is from the Dinka, while Dr. Riek Machar, his former vice president and current leader of the rebelling soldiers, is from the Nuer. The differences between Kiir and Machar are not new, as they date back to the early 1990s when Machar broke ranks with the SPLA rebels to rejoin the Khartoum government.

While the late Dr. John Garang had the charisma to keep South Sudan people and different interests focused during the war and after the signing of the agreement in 2005, President Kiir is not that type of person. He lacks both the unifying charisma, and the knowledge of the state that Garang had.

Van Joel, 24, Student; based in Kampala, Uganda

It is not safe though I am in Kampala City—neither is safe for us, nor for the people at the border with South Sudan—it has never been easy for them. I finished my ordinary level of education in a refugee-based secondary school, Quiver Self Help Secondary, where we could share a lot with the brothers and sisters from Sudan. And within that period, I witnessed some fights between the brother-students from Sudan, and what they told me was, “those fights have their roots in Sudan” and if they told me everything, still I wouldn’t be able to understand. I keep asking myself, why innocent blood has to be shed every time to settle any dispute among communities and societies.

During the ongoing fights in Sudan, Africa and the whole world has just been mourning one powerful man, Nelson Mandela, who fought for his people without causing so many deaths but won. Instead of embracing such a legacy, some people still use massive weapons to kill innocent children who don’t deserve to go through such bloody fights. First of all, our brothers and sisters carry out their businesses there in Juba, and ever since the fights began, they have lost a lot of their merchandise and other property. Many others were also killed like this driver from Koboko district who was shot dead for no reason. Seriously, as we are near Sudan, our hearts are racing and we pray they come to a peaceful understanding to solve their problems.

Absolutely South Sudan can plunge into a civil war if they forget their motto: justice, liberty, prosperity. They’re the worlds’ newest nation. To me the problem in South Sudan is the ethnic difference; some tribes feel superior than others especially the Dinka against Nuer tribe who always have those fights.

Douglas Ondara Orang'i, 30, Lecturer, Kenyan; based in Djibouti City, Djibouti

The crisis in Juba affects my life since it is disheartening to see people lose lives in a country that has enjoyed relative calm for some time now. My relatives work in South Sudan. I am not sure about their safety for they have not been evacuated. This has brought untold panic to my family. On the part of friends, I actually saw a friend of mine post on Facebook that they were going without food and other basics. Whichever way one may look at the crisis in Juba, the effects touch almost everybody particularly in Africa since South Sudan is home to many young and old people who fled their home countries due to joblessness.

I am very afraid, I must say, South Sudan will eventually plunge into civil war. First, the military has openly admitted the loss of Bor, which is the capital of Jonglei state, to the rebels. It should be noted that Jonglei is considered one of the most volatile regions. Second, the fight between the Dinka soldiers and Nuer soldiers has escalated the ethnic tensions. When a conflict takes an ethnic dimension particularly in Africa, the end of that conflict becomes almost elusive. Third, South Sudan is blessed with oil deposits which no doubt generates revenue for the country. There are unconfirmed reports that some oil regions have been controlled by the rebels, hence signaling that the pro-government soldiers will fight tooth and nail to gain control of the regions. Finally, the African Union has not come out to mediate and provide African solutions to African problems as they often say. We have seen AU pronounce itself on some issues that touch on individuals such as ICC in the Kenyan case but we are appalled that they have yet to send a team of mediators to talk to the two opposing sides. Unless the world leaders move swiftly, the youngest country will plunge into civil war whose damage will be very hard to repair.

Ahmed Ogle, 25, Freelance Journalist; based in Nairobi, Kenya

The situation is tense and it is very sad for Africa’s newest state. Our business and manpower in South Sudan are no longer in a safe zone. After the attempted coup, the military fought over the control of key areas including oil wells and border points. The small arms proliferation among civilians and also the gangs and armed groups robbing, maiming and looting business premises is also a concern that is felt greatly in South Sudan.

The fight is now turning to be tribal cleansing and when it becomes a war between the Nuer and Dinka, it is likely to change into a civil war like the one in Rwanda and Somalia. If the regional neighboring countries consider it neutrally, the situation is likely to be much better than it is now.

Ahmed Farah Mohamud, 33, Activist, Ethiopian; based Nairobi, Kenya

As a political refugee and advocate for the freedom of the Somali ethnicities in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region, my safety has always been thin. So now, with the crisis in Juba, my protection in Kenya may become even more at stake.

 South Sudan is already on track into a civil war. This is because South Sudan lacks both a unifying and dominating distinctive trademark, other than the grievances towards Khartoum which led South Sudan to secede in 2011. Moreover, Salva Kiir, South Sudan’s President attempts to practice absolute leadership although he never created statehood or is still immature in the sense of earning the loyalty of the South Sudanese people. Therefore, seeking absolute presidency or leadership, instead of the traditional collective leadership earlier practiced by SPLM, led to the crisis we have observed since Dec. 15, 2013.

That is why both regional and global forces hesitate to fully back Mr. Kiir’s position and they urge both sides to give a chance for dialog, urging equally a legitimate president and a common politician who no longer occupies any influential government position.

Therefore, in South Sudan, neither absolute leadership nor traditional support might be seen in the meantime or even in the near future. Unless President Salva Kiir and his former Vice President Riek Machar undo their activities from July of 2013, the situation of South Sudan will likely plunge into a devastating civil war that will affect directly many countries in the region.

Carolly Maiyo, 28, Technician, Kenyan; based in Lansing, Michigan

With South Sudan to the north and Somalia to the East of Kenya, there is the possibility that this tribal or politically instigated fighting might spill into Kenya in the form of small arms (guns, bullets, and grenades) and refugees, which might later cause instability in the only island of peace in East Africa. If this spills into Kenya, my family, relatives and friends will be put in jeopardy and will live in fear. This explains why stability in South Sudan is tied to our stability in Kenya. Last Thursday Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta sent a delegation to Juba to negotiate a peaceful solution. This clearly demonstrates the weight these clashes in South Sudan have on Kenya.

I believe that South Sudan can sit and come up with a political solution. I believe with international assistance and maturity of the leadership, there will be a political solution sooner than later.

James Mathai, 32, IT Technician, Kenyan, based in Torit, South Sudan

I have been working here since 2005 and hope my answers can help you.

I live in a town called Torit approximately 85 miles from Juba and almost everything we use comes from Juba or neighboring countries, but
since the crisis we have lacked essential commodities such as food, so we had to tell people to send to us [supplies] from abroad.

Torit is in Eastern Equatoria State and people here are optimistic that the crisis will not transform into civil war. But they still have the fear of going back to the bush. Otherwise, here it has been peaceful since the first day.

Kremena Krumova is a Sweden-based Foreign Correspondent of Epoch Times. She writes about African, Asian and European politics, as well as humanitarian, anti-terrorism and human rights issues.