Challenges And Prospects For Nation Building In South Sudan
Peter Adwok Nyaba
Nation building in South Sudan – a discussion
[Against] nature man can claim no rights, but once society is established poverty immediately takes the form of wrong done by one class to another.” Hegel
The category we call nation is a political construct. In South Sudan, the emergence of a South Sudan nation must of necessity be consensual; any attempt at coercion is likely to fail or result in the disaster we are experiencing now. However, the road to national consensus is fraught with real obstacles, which will need enough time, change of attitudes and perception of reality in order to overcome them.
The first obstacle is leaders’ lack of political will to resolve the primary, secondary and tertiary contradictions in the state and society. The primary contradictions link to the socio-economic and cultural underdevelopment of the people reflected in poverty, ignorance, illiteracy and superstition. This give rise to secondary contradictions, which come out into the open as ethnic nationalism and ideologies of supremacy, hegemony and dominance. The insecurity and conflicts lie at the tertiary level of these contradictions. Therefore, the failure of the political leaders, either because of lack of political good will or because of ignorance, to address the socio-economic development of South Sudan is at the root of the social fragmentation, taking place in South Sudan.
The second obstacle, which indeed we cannot completely delink from the first obstacle, is self-awareness and consciousness, representation of people (ethnicity) or democracy and democratic practice having preceded socio-economic development and industrialization, and the false belief in immutability of ethnicity underlying persistent ethnic autochthony. I remember my father and others, half-naked and complete oblivious of state, having gone to vote for the 1st Constituent Assembly in December 1953, a democratic act in Britain but which did not then correspond the level of social and economic development in the Sudan. This process had the negative consequence of being an impediment to socio-economic development, the political elite overemphasised power [ethnic hegemony and dominance], which triggered violence, conflicts and wars. This explains how the SPLM leaders translated the power struggle among them into ethnic wars. This interrupted and likely to freeze for a long time the development of the national productive forces and with them the nation building processes.
The important elements of nation building process or for nation building are freedom, justice and fraternity, which if viewed dialectically they represent the primary pillars of social existence in South Sudan and indeed, they underscored the six decades of the collective resistance to the different regimes that came and went in Khartoum. The jealous application of these principles ushers in a democratic political environment constituting a strong foundation for a peaceful, harmonious, stable, civil, productive, knowledge-based diverse but united society or ethnic multiplicity that exists as ‘unity in diversity’.
The concept of ‘unity in diversity’ would be meaningless if conceived outside the political and ideological context of freedom, justice and fraternity. This explains why it was impossible to anchor ‘unity in diversity’ in the Sudan predicated on political exclusion, social discrimination based on race, religion and language or economic marginalization and/or exploitation. It equally will be impossible to anchor ‘unity in diversity’ in a South Sudan based on the political and economic dominance of one nationality say the Dinka, Nuer, Azande or any other group on account of demography or military might. This ‘unity in diversity’ must jealously guard against ethnic chauvinism and bigotry.
The precarious balance between ‘ethnicity multiplicity’ (‘ethnic diversity’) a concrete reality in South Sudan, and ‘unity in diversity’ as socio-political construct requires above all leaders’ fidelity to the people and a sense of patriotism. Short of fidelity to the people it become populism sloganeering. It is therefore necessary to understand the linkage between revolutionary ideology and fidelity to the people and patriotism as conscious attributes, which failed to inculcate in the context of war of national liberation because the SPLA/M leadership shunned ideological training, political education and organization. Political and ideological consciousness juxtapose the leaders and the masses of the people in the liberation process. In this way, the leaders and the people learn and put into practice the principles of equality, freedom, social justice and prosperity for all which underpin the concept of ‘unity in diversity’. Absence of political ideology meant that the SPLM/SPLA did not spearhead a revolution but remained an armed insurgency that produced a military elite completely alienated from the masses. That is why the war of national liberation produced the civil war after independence.
The conditions conducive to manage amicably negative fallouts of ‘ethnic multiplicity’ requires sensitivity on the part of the political leaders to implement these principles including inter alia equality before law and equity in the distribution of social, economic and political opportunities (power). The principle of social justice suggest that no one would be discriminated against based on ethnicity, religion or faith, gender, language and politics. Social justice must pervade all aspects of social-cultural, economic and political life of the citizens. The principle of social justice links up with freedom to enjoy social, political and civil rights on the one hand and freedom of expression, association and movement on the other hand. The respect and promotion of human rights by the state will enhance all these rights and freedoms. This will have multiplying effects on peace and stability in the country with strong bearing on ‘unity in diversity’ characterized by mutual recognition, acceptability and respectability.
The national democratic revolution – necessary condition for nation building.
South Sudan is living through the stage the Marxist categorize as the stage national democratic revolution. This is the stage of socio-economic and political development colonial peoples enter upon independence. It is a stage for consolidating national independence and free the productive forces from all kinds of foreign domination; stage in which the social political forces build democracy and a democratic national state to address all the legacy of colonialism including those inherent in ethnic, religious and linguistic multiplicities. As part of the Sudan, southern Sudan entered the stage of national democratic revolution in 1956 and like the Sudan and many African countries remains frozen therein.
The reason is simple. Not all social classes have political interest and ideological capacity to free the national productive forces. The national petty bourgeoisie – the parasitic capitalist class, which emerged out of the war of national liberation as the leading political force could not promote the interests of the masses in social and economic development. By virtue of its class character, the parasitic capitalist class tied its existence, development and political survival to the regional and international comprador capitalism interested in nothing but extraction and plunder of South Sudan natural resources. This explains why this class neglected the social and economic development of the country; it engaged through unbridled corruption, theft and expatriation out of South Sudan what it earned from the oil revenues. South Sudan is in dire economic straits not because it is poor but because the parasitic hooked it onto the global imperialist system.
The civil war is an expression of social and political contradictions within the parasitic capitalist class. It could have been an opportunity for the revolutionary and progressive elements within South Sudan society to emerge to transform the civil war into a revolution. Indeed into a national democratic revolution to construct a national democratic state to address the nagging problems of socio-economic development including the relicts of the oppressive regimes like the question of ethnic, religious and linguistic multiplicities and the contradictions inherent in them. However, the dominance of right wing and conservative elements in the opposition has rendered impossible this transformation. This means that the people of South Sudan will have to endure and weather the current difficulties.
The question of national building in South Sudan tie up neatly with addressing the prevailing socio-economic and political system in the country. South Sudan became independent after the long war of national liberation. The lack of ideological thrust during the war of national liberation meant that the SPLM could not dovetail theory and practice in envisioning the nature of society it wanted to construct in South Sudan. Political independence was not the end of the liberation struggle but a phase within the liberation as a process of socio-cultural transformation. However, social change in the context of abject poverty, ignorance, illiteracy that stare us in the face in South Sudan must a priori involve winning indigenous control over the social means of production.
The post war experience has shown that the former liberation era combatants transformed themselves into a comprador elite completely alienated from the people that it rendered conflictual ethnic diversity in South Sudan. The current political crisis is a consequence of the paradigm shift away from the revolution. The struggle for peace must link up with struggle for social change, which puts in the centre stage the people irrespective of their ethnicities, religions, languages, etc. As mentioned elsewhere in the text, the younger generation of the political class, not cosy with ethnic prejudices, must through self-education imbue themselves with political ideology for social transformation and the important task of nation building.
It is imperative that a paradigm shift in the political thinking of the dominant elite from ethnocentricity to South Sudan nationalism and patriotism in order to stop the war and end the bloodletting. Coming in the context of liberal peace making, the end of the war will not translate into resolution of the fundamental problems of poverty, ignorance, illiteracy and superstition, which submerge the consciousness of the people of South Sudan. The end of the fratricidal war will only create conditions conducive for the emergence and growth of the revolutionary and peace loving forces that will continue to struggle for the national democratic revolution. It will also create conduction to liberate the elite from the bourgeois petit mentality that over the last twelve years has turned South Sudan into an economic colony of the countries of the Horn of Africa through the alliance of the parasitic capitalist class and the regional comprador capitalism. The political economy of bourgeois petit engendered conflictual ethnic relations that eventually led to social fragmentation along ethnic and provincial contours.
In conclusion, the SPLM and its variants and splinter groups have no capacity whether political or ideological to unite the people of South Sudan. The current realities represented by the civil war, the upsurge of ethnic nationalism, the pauperization of the masses of our people consequent to the transformation of South Sudan into an economic colony of East African Community countries has proved beyond doubt the failure of the SPLM as a national liberation movement. This made complex state formation and nation building in South Sudan. The only opportunity now lies in stimulating the national democratic revolution.