There has been a large and wide-ranging response to my comments this week about President Salva Kilr and the role of the region In South Sudan.Many wonder why I focus on South Sudan and why I single out Kiir for personal criticism. The simple answer is that I hold Kiir’s regime in large part responsible for the conflict that has destroyed much of the country and taken a horrific toll on the lives of its people – a conflict which I have personally witnessed.
I was present during the massacre in Juba in December 2013. I was in Bor as it was burned by opposition forces, and then saw the atrocities in Bentiu and the destruction of Malakai. Over the past six years, l have worked in the camps of South Sudan’s displaced; I have traced the arms used In atrocities; and I have followed the money financing the war and profiteering of the country”s elites.The inhumanity and injustice of these events make me angry.They should make all reasonable people angry too.
All of this has happened with the on-going collusion of the region. Oil revenues are embezzled, gold and teak smuggled out. Corrupt officials are paid to remain silent. while illicit weapons stream into South Sudan to be used against the people.
The lack of effective political action from the region is no accident;South Sudan·s collapse has been very profitable for some, at the expense of the great many. Elites in Juba and the region have amassed huge fortunes while ordinary people starve.
I have raised these points personally with Kiir and many other senior leaders in South Sudan and the region (as have others), but calls for change have fallen on deaf ears. The incentives to preserve personal power are too great,and the pressure to change too weak.
Why do I say these things publicly? These facts are not secrets;they are openly discussed and acknowledged in private. In public, however, representatives or the international community fall back on generic calls for accountability and complaints about the lack of political will for change. People are encouraged to buy into the fiction that Kiir and those around him, through quiet diplomacy, will miraculously change and implement the reforms South Sudan desperately needs. In reality,in the absence of consequences for their crimes including being publicly discredited – there Is little hope that we will see anything different from the violence and corruption of the past six years. I believe we need a different approach.
Silence Internationally also makes domestic dissent harder. Some of you sent private messages to me in recent days saying that you have been forced to remain silent on South Sudan due to well founded fear of retaliation against your families. That is why it is imperative that outsiders speak out about what we know. Opposing injustice wherever we encounter it is a moral obligation.
Unless we speak truthfully about the crimes being committed in South Sudan – as harsh as this truth may be there can be no genuine hope for a peaceful, prosperous future for the country.