By Makwei Achol Thiong
OPINION – Popular uprisings basically lean on the core principle that power belongs to the people. When the people understood why they need power not even a bullet or cloud exploding with solid ice rain will distract them. We have seen how effective it was in Sudan, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.
But how about it in the context of South Sudan?
In contrast to popular uprisings acknowledged above, in South Sudan everyone is nearly armed. Every General is powerful in his own vicinity and nearly a commander-in-chief of his forces/tribesmen. President Salva Kiir has always tried to maintain single unified SPLA/SSPDF command but Gen. Paul Malong Awan, Gen. Thomas Cirilo, Gen. George Athor, Gen. David Yau-Yau, etc still got to bush and either formed their own rebellions or affiliated themselves to others.
Dr. Riek Machar tried to maintain his IO forces under one command but he failed as exemplified by recent declaration by Gen. Gatwich Dual and his commanders. For Gen. Paul Malong Awan it’s not any better. Same for nearly all other rebellions that are either active, ended militarily or through some form of peace agreement.
Even for non-military organizations, maintaining group’s hegemony has proven tough in South Sudan. The case in hand is constant permutation of Dr. Lam Akol’s founded SPLM-DC, the disintegration of former political detainees, discontent within the SPLM (e.g the recent Red Army announcement) and SPLM-IO, etc.
At communities levels, every youth leader is a commander of his tribesmen. Your neighbor is your historical cattle raider or child abductor that you’ve some historical scores to first settle. There is very less power and incentive to coerce you to follow the same agenda of peaceful civil disobedience with your long time enemy.
Professional associations and trade unions are either non-existent or lack capacity to even achieve their basic functions including local institutional recognitions. The civil society is politically poisoned. The church is bitterly divided already with men of God putting faith in judiciary than the God’s power of forgiveness. In short the church is confused and at its weakest point in recent memory. The civil society is confused and divided.
So ‘the people’ are not yet the people the People’s Coalition for Civil Action (PCCA) envisions. ‘The people’ are not yet matured to function as a unit especially under abrupt theory of popular uprising.
For now PCCA is an idea that cannot work. Should it happened as planned, the organizers will have leadership challenges in giving directives or organizing demonstrators that have guns in their houses. Any small provocation from security personnel would lead to state of anarchy.
The youth are armed and many are more likely to loot than change the government. Jebel Market now remains a shadow of its busy past because of 2013/2016 lootings, same to Marol Market in Bor and nearly all other market centres affected by those wars. Chaos. Isn’t it?
If solar panels for street light are stolen and used by individuals; if recreation areas in cities are owned as plots by individuals and same individuals turned those few busy streets into venues for community functions/prayers, blocking certain life-saving interventions; If a Madi thinks the problem of South Sudan is Dinka and a Dinka thinks the problem of Nimule highway ambushes is Madi; If a civil servant/soldier still thinks it’s his right to cut down a tree to make charcoal for a living but not his right to demand monthly pay; If we give red-carpet reception to thieves of public funds in our communities; If we welcome and hide those who stole/raided cattle from neighboring community….then it’s a long way to think about this regime change through popular uprising.
A political process such as elections can replace ethnic segregation with democratic alignment, instills spirit of nationalism through shared national programs and values as candidates will travel and interact with people across the state/country, enhance tolerance and build common understanding towards state building, thereby leading to more peaceful and sustainable form of power transfer. Thus, the immediate priority should be rallying behind the current Revitalized-Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) and holding the parties accountable to implement the agreement wholesomely.
The author is a concerned citizen of South Sudan. Reach him via: email@example.com.
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