The Alternative Voices offering solutions to end South Sudan’s suffering
By Suzanne Jambo
10th October 2021
(Juba South Sudan) We have critiqued President Kiir, Dr. Riek Machar and other leaders for their failures in establishing a free, liberated South Sudan, their senseless wars and causing us so much suffering. We also pinned the international community for favoring one South Sudanese; Kiir over 12 million thereby prolonging his stay in power and longer years of suffering for us. The war didn’t stop at military and armed groups action against our People. Our social fabric was broken at core. South Sudanese stopped inter-marriages, escalation of divorces among intermarriages and the general social structures were sharply broken. We felt an unprecedented deep ethnic divide; a genocidal type. They extended their military prowess to politicize, arm and pit many of our communities against one another. There was no end to this senseless war! But we are not deterred. We are determined to reclaim our nascent country back from tyranny and mafia-like misrule, and put her on the track of harmonious living of our people, their cohesion, stability and progress. On our, we embarked on our people-people nationhood building. We developed strategies.
When a nation is so profoundly ethnically, violently divided, our strategy number one became our unity as a people! We realized as individuals we couldn’t immediately declare both our unity and technically unable to enforce ceasefires to stop the madness. But we could unite our People! For we’re South Sudan’s “David winning over Goliath.” So, since 2017, against all odds, alienated, in an acrimonious volatile divisive environment, we began a higher call of unity of our communities “We64”, with one call to all our 64 communities we set the pace towards a People’s-centred focus. In the face of tribalism and politics of domination, we focused painstakingly on our historical since time immemorial common identity, recalling our time tested co-existence, “We64 always peacefully co-existed, we can now, again.” To relate this call to now, we based “We64 unity and peacefully call” on equality, justice, hopefulness, restoration of our common abilities to unite—-how else could we have earned the trust of smaller communities to feel heard, to feel equal, to belong to this young nation in the face of ethnic dominance? How else could our call be heard by larger communities who are facing hostility and outright hate toward them by smaller communities? Politicization of our communities has been the most effective war tactic waged by Kiir and Riek! They created bitterness and mistrust amongst their own two major communities to engage them in bitter inter-communal fights, and they multiplied this by arming other communities against one another to wage a nation-wide ethnic violence and strife as they maintained their political leverage and grip unto power. Our people were busy fighting proxies’ wars!
So, our strategy of a united people is the most powerful force to reckon with. We declined positions offers by Kiir’s government, we stirred away from “IGAD-facilitated militarized peace”, we focused on a People’s-based peace—-our focus has been the People’s unity, not unity of a military generals driven by Kiir’s bait of posts and power share offers. Real power lies in the people! In 2017 the people’s movement Steps was birthed and called for our “We64” unity. This has resulted to a gradual and significant pacification of “war of words” on social media. In addition to their military prowess and mass killings of our people, since December 2013 many of our people were recruited by Kiir, Riek respectively to fight their rivalry on social media, this cyber war had triple effects across all divides which impacted on war escalation in different parts our bleeding nation and among our communities in refugees camps and in the Diaspora.
There has been so much ethnic hate on social media! Too much! Too painful! Given our youth are 70% (both young men and women) this social media hate hurt them the most, in different parts in South Sudan, so we focused on working with the youth. We held their hands, guided and mentored them. Thousands of our youth, from different communities embraced this unity and pro-peacefully call more than any other! We anchored our attention on “the youth, the leaders of today, not tomorrow.”
It is worth noting, when we set off, Steps cadres were publicly ridiculed by all on social media, we were laughed at and called names—-this shows how much many bought into “unity isn’t an option, peaceful methods isn’t a winning card and that power/or change is only by guns and ethnic divisions.” BUT, one person who didn’t underestimate “Steps We64, peacefully” has been President Kiir himself! From the outset, he issued “arrest warrants” against Steps leaders. And when we organised and recruited more affiliates on peaceful methods, he ensured to target our unity in 16th May 2019 and 30th August 2021 like no one else. His most sophisticated military tanks and personnel were on alert in both occasions. He feared a united people’s rise like no other! He is a failed leader who selectively acknowledges certain aspects of history; People’s revolutions have won without fail the world over!
Unity of our people and pro-peaceful methods grew from strength to another. Today, it is a common place in South Sudan to have coalitions of peaceful methods opposition, civil society organizations and individuals who are dedicated to the removal of the current autocratic government and preparing our country for a transition to the first legitimate, elected government since independence ten years ago. We are driven by a common vision of restoration of a people’s driven peace and stability in all forms, to pave the way for the rebirth of the Republic of Sudan.
I will in a couple more articles share additional insights to our viability as an alternative leadership for South Sudan.
Suzanne Jambo is Steps founder and current chairperson.