By Emmanuel K. Emmanuel
July 6, 2014 (SSNA) -- It is absolutely inexcusable that Equatoria did not take a harder political and military stance against the central government right from the start of the events that are currently transpiring in South Sudan. They said they were going to finish with the Nuer and we were next. We heard it loud and clear. We did nothing. Our procrastination is proving a fatal mistake judging by the moves the central government is making against Equatoria at the moment. We are at a complete disadvantage to the government.
Troops are taking positions right now in Terekeka. And apparently the leaders there are saying, “That is the government army, and we have no problem with the government”. Our Equatorian brothers got killed in cold blood in Maridi for speaking openly about their political wishes. And what do our leaders do? That’s right, our governor shows up to calm things down instead of being furious about what happened. And they are forming “a task force” to investigate. Look around you Equatoria. Does it look like the time for calming down and creating investigative committees? Our officers, soldiers, and populations are getting disarmed. And who is getting armed and gets to keep their weapons? Look around you Equatoria. Does it look like the time to not have a problem with the government? Really look around you. This has happened before. Do we still think we have or ever really had a central government that is working for us or a country that catered to us? Are we free or safe in South Sudan? These are dire times for us and for Equatoria. If we are to get caught sleeping it is only us to blame.
Equatoria is still not taking these harder positions even up to now nor are its people acting as a cohesive and coordinated unit in the interest of Equatoria. There is no mobilization or a spirit of action by the youth. At the same time, most of the elders who should be leading us in these ominous times are still inexplicably standing by the central government when it is clear that this central government has declared war on Equatoria. As for the youth, I don’t know if it has to do with the distraction of the World Cup or any of the other distracting consumerist spectacles, trappings, and gadgets that have taken over the life of man twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and fifty-two weeks a year in the modern age. I don’t know if it has to do with the good living, the flow of beer and liquor in South Sudan. For the elders, it could be the flow of easy money in South Sudan and the “every man for himself” attitude it has engendered.
Maybe it has to do with responsibilities. Putting the next meal on the table. Looking for school fees for the next term. Finding the budget for that family house under construction. Scrambling for that dowry the in-laws are reminding you of all the time. Perhaps there are more pressing issues at hand. It could also be our now legendary reputation for “peacefulness and reasonableness”. An attitude and a reputation that continue to lull us into deep sleep and get us closer and closer to slaughter by this regime.
Or it has to do with this idea of a global community that is presently being fed to the youth throughout the world, an idea that is as far removed from the true nature of man as there ever was, an idea that has made young men find fluffy comfort and identity in a global citizenry at the expense of their concrete local realities. It has made man lose his strong nationalistic sentiments. It has become a copout for inaction and daring. It is an idea that has turned young men into evangelists of such lofty ideals such as peace, liberty, harmony, freedom, justice, and tolerance while at the same time stripping them of the fortitude and stomach for the difficult course of action that has to be undertaken to achieve those ideals. Instead they have morphed into creatures of passive-aggression, hash-tags, NGO and NPO engineered slogans, and faux outrage. It is an idea that has turned young men into proponents of “a global village”, while making them lose context and affinity for their local own. They have defaulted to the “big picture”, while becoming apathetic to the small one. They are the practitioners of political correctness, at the expense of being honest and pragmatic in their immediate vicinity and making the hard choices needed to achieve a more meaningful and fulfilling life locally.
It could be that the Equatorian identity that is the bedrock of my argument on here is as mythical and nonexistent as the purported South Sudanese identity and nationalism. The lack of serious collaboration and collusion in the Equatorias right now could be a sign that Equatoria as an identity is a figment of my imagination. This lack of collective intent, of acting as a unit could be the reason Equatoria has always been exploited politically and economically, treated as makeweight, easily played and nullified because it already exists in pieces. It could be that this lack of a united and fighting front this very hour, this delaying to act or react as signs of horrible things are showing up all around us is what has, to its detriment, rendered the region toothless.
But the lack of an existing Equatorian identity and solidarity does not add up to the storied history of coordinated Equatorian action in the past of both Sudans, a record of exploits and audacious leadership that existed in Equatoria before this lethargic and fragmented phase defined by political opportunism and individualism befell the region. It does not add up to the strong brotherly and sisterly love that exists amongst Equatorians. Why this very real and strong Equatorian identity has not translated into a unified leadership in present times defeats me. It could be all the reasons I listed. I don’t know for sure.
But something is definitely amiss in the Equatorian man of today. Something has made him indifferent. He is indecisive. He lacks the instinct of a man who is in possession of his wits. The Equatorian man, like the global man of today, seems to be divorced from himself. Slights against his dignity do not seem to affect him anymore. Invasions on his persons do not seem to rile him up. He is more interested in the injury report of his favorite professional team than he is of the butchering and circumventions being done to his constitution. He has more passion invested in the fortunes and misfortunes of teams in the World Cup than he does in the fact that his media houses have just been told to not publish anything about federalism, the hottest issue in his country right now, an issue that should be consuming every fiber of his being and any maneuvers by the government to stifle it should be a declaration of war. He is not worked up by the fact that his central government has denied this allegation of press intimidation but then the very next day this same government showed up at one of his daily newspapers and confiscated the paper in whose pages federalism was discussed. . Instead, he posts about it on the internet and feigns outrage and then follows that post with a funny meme and then it is all forgotten.
The man of the today hears that hundreds of his girls have been abducted by some lunatics. Instead of showing up in the thousands to sign up and go fight them and bring back his girls, he instead retweets a hashtag. An exercise that peaks on that same day and flattens off right after. The man of today seems unable to really get mad anymore. Instead he watches a movie clip on YouTube about a scene where a man is really really mad and is rallying up a whole nation. Then he tweets it. The man of the moment gashes at Charlie Chaplin railing against the evils of the world in “The Great Dictator” but he himself can’t seem to rise to such heights of emotions and sentiment. The man of today seems all intellectualism and nothing more. He is all consumption. He is not a man of action.
You would not be mistaken to think that the enslavement of the future, which in fact is already the enslavement of the present by the look of things, will not be man in chains. Rather, it will be a man so thoroughly programmed into consumption and compliance that he has no interest anymore in the great matters of the heart that have always stirred men. He becomes tolerant of tyranny and oppression because he has lost the ability to actually recognize them and lash against them. He will not care. Instead, these grave things become even more fodder for polite chatter and intellectual posturing. The man of today does not seem to feel things deeply anymore. And I wonder if the Equatorian man is also suffering from this disease that is affecting the man of today.
The Equatorian man seems more interested in the fact that team so and so in Latin America or in Europe has black players so and so instead of the fact that four South Sudanese where just stopped from boarding a plane for a UNMISS training abroad because of being from tribe so and so. He is more interested in the exploits of the “black” president of the United States than of the fact that his own Equatorian leaders are being intimidated and harassed with impunity right under his nose. Things are not about life and death anymore to the man of today. I wonder if it is the same case for the Equatorian man.
I wonder because life-threatening things are happening all around the Equatorian man but there is no reaction. Egregious things that should have made him fight back by now. Things that tell him that his government is working against him. He does not seem to have his pulse on what is happening. He lacks the awareness of all the pieces moving around him. At the center of this absentmindedness are our so-called Equatorian leaders. I frankly do not know if there is any strategy to what our Equatorian leaders are doing at the moment. I do not know if they have options for Equatoria and whether they are preparing Equatoria for these options. I do not know if they have contingency plans for our region, whether they have different ways to maneuver Equatoria in and out of what is going on in South Sudan and even the world right now. I wonder if they have the acumen to capitalize on the present climate in South Sudan and do so for the interests of Equatoria.
Take Iraq for example. Watch how the numerous pieces are acting in the recent developments in that country. More specifically, focus on the Kurds. The Kurdish region is not just sitting around being the “peaceful ones” and not reacting to the moving pieces. They are working on declaring their independence. They are selling their oil on their own. They are taking advantage of the new realities in their environment. Are our leaders in possession of such situational political thinking? Are they in complete grasp of what is happening to our beloved Equatoria? Talking and talking and talking some more does not deliver results in times of tyranny. You cannot reason with tyranny. You end up only giving it more time to consolidate its grip and to annihilate you.
The more I survey the landscape of Equatorian leadership, the more I cry for our region. What we seem to have for leaders are good people. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as they were in the clergy or something. They are good in the sense that they always default to peace, non-violence, unity, not pushing the issue, and definitely not shaking things up. Having these as the only weapons in one’s political arsenal is signing one’s death certificate and that of his people. Being completely good in politics is a death sentence. Our Equatorian leaders are not political animals. You do not see calculations in their eyes. You do not see instinct. You do not see political animals acting in the interest of Equatoria. But turn around and look in the eyes of the leaders from the other regions of South Sudan. You see people who are acting firmly in the interest of their people and of their regions. Our Equatorian leaders on the other hand can always be counted on to be the peaceful ones. They can always be counted on to not be a threat. They can always be counted on to be for South Sudan first and Equatoria last. They are a liability to Equatoria. They are sacrificing us in broad daylight for the sake of South Sudan.
Our leaders are slowly but surely leading us to the slaughter house. The desperate tones they have been striking in the past few days betray a group of men caught between two minds. I wish I could make them realize that they are up against something completely evil and capable of anything. I wish I could tell them we are hosting a murderous and dangerous central government in Equatoria. Yes, it is us keeping the government of South Sudan alive. Yes, it is us giving them sanctuary, not even their own people. But why exactly are we doing that? Why are we propping up a country and a regime that is completely against us? Why are we hosting a country and a regime on our land that is completely working to destroy us?
There is one idea that is the cause of all Equatorian social politeness, political anonymity, military inaction, economic inactivity, tyrannical tolerance, and cultural insignificance in the world. It is an idea that I wish I could go into the minds of every single Equatorian and cut out. This is the idea of South Sudan. It is this idea of South Sudan unity at any cost, even to the disadvantage of Equatoria, which is the root of all our problems. Out of all the people in South Sudan, we the Equatorians seem to be the ones who have wholeheartedly bought into this idea of South Sudan. And it is absolutely destroying us. It is killing us. It is burying us. It is taking us for a ride. It is abusing us. It is mixing us in situations we should not even be involved in. It is an idea that we have given our region to as the sacrificial lamb. Yes, the other regions also profess their love for this idea of a united South Sudan. But they do it in words only but act in their tribal and regional interests and use South Sudan to the advantage of their people. Only we Equatorians seem to express it both in words and deeds. It is an idea that as long as we still carry and nurture in us, as long as we still adhere to and tolerate, it will continue enslaving and subjugating us. We will be worse off for continuing to hold onto to South Sudan.
Our leaders believe in South Sudan too much, at the expense of Equatoria. And for some odd reason they still believe in this central government. I wonder if it is due to fear at this point because their steadfast and fanatical declarations of allegiance to this government, this country, and its despotic leaders are worrying. It betrays anxiety. The fact that they feel the need to come clean about everything to this government and the fact that they feel the need to qualify themselves all the time does not bode well. The government is not doing the same for Equatoria. It is not giving us signs that its allegiance is with Equatoria. This is a government that has shown that it is willing to contain Equatoria by any means necessary. It is not showing that it wants to work with Equatoria. This is a government that says we should not talk about federalism. Why our Equatorian leadership still thinks it can articulate things with this government or work with it towards something beneficial to Equatoria is baffling. This is a government that has blatantly resorted to using any trick in the tyrannical toolbox to repress this debate on federalism.
The level of doublespeak, glaring lies, and moves against Equatoria by this government should tell us that we are in the middle of a deadly dance with this central government. It might be getting to the time that Equatoria cannot play it both ways. It will risk getting caught unawares. Either Equatoria makes a decisive move and creates a third block in this conflict and goes for what it wants or it resigns to colonialism and continue being an accessory to this tyrannical regime.
If you study closely the identity and region of the people who are opposed to federalism, you will find that they are also the ones who constitute the elitist class in South Sudan at the moment. They are the ones writing and retweeting articles such as “South Sudan is not ready for federalism” and “Federalism will bring disunity”. As if there is already an existing unity in South Sudan. And there counter argument to that is that we should build a national unity first before we embark on federalism. The point they always purposely avoid to make when they make these circular arguments in the federalism debate is that the very obstacle to a South Sudan unity is them. Their policies, behavior, and handling of South Sudan made it impossible for a strong and united country to be built. Hence the call for federalism by the people they have marginalized. They demonize and ridicule the opposition or anyone that challenges the government while ignoring or explaining away the deeds of the government. They preach for peace and South Sudan unity while their people in the government commit atrocities against the other people of South Sudan. They are the disciples of the lies, doublespeak and containment strategies of the central government. They want the status quo and present set up of South Sudan to continue because it benefits them. They are not preaching a South Sudan brotherhood and unity because they actually believe in it as a tool for equality of all peoples. It is because they are the ones running the show.
I am proposing we get out of the South Sudan arrangement. Forget federalism. Things have deteriorated so much that any clear thinking Equatorian knows even federalism will do nothing for Equatoria. As long as we are still entangled in South Sudan, in any shape or form, we will continue being the battleground for the other two regions. It is time to get out of South Sudan. We got out of Sudan for much less. What is happening to us in South Sudan is stuff Bashir could only dream of. It is time for a daring philosophy in Equatoria. We have become so caught up in this business of being “the peaceful ones” that we seem to have forgotten the ability to think for ourselves. It is as if the motto of the Equatorian in South Sudan is “Keep Calm and Love South Sudan”. Even though he is at the bottom of that South Sudan, it does not matter, as long as he does not get to lose his “peacefulness” tag. It is as if that is the only thing the Equatorian can draw pride from in South Sudan because he has been stripped of everything else. He has nothing in South Sudan but at least he is the peaceful one. It is utterly mindboggling. The Equatorian does not know that his continued peacefulness keeps him from fighting for and getting all the other things he has been stripped of.
It is time for a daring philosophy in Equatoria like I said. It is time for the Equatorian man to wake up. Pieces are moving all around you young man. When will you move? Or are you waiting to get caught asleep and defenseless? It is time we got out of South Sudan. The current actions and threats by the government over our call for federalism should be enough to show us that as long as Equatoria is still a part of South Sudan this is how we will be treated. We will always be delayed, intimidated, postponed, and thrown the scraps. We will always be the region to be contained, not the region to play a big role. We will be the region to be played with. We really need to get out. I cannot stress this enough. These are the kinds of political options that our leaders need to have. These are the contingency plans that I am talking about. But everywhere you look in Equatorian leadership, there is nothing. Only talk talk talk. I don’t know if they are aware that they are talking to a tyrannical government that does not think much of Equatoria or its people.
Our Equatorian leaders should not even be talking too much at this point. These are treacherous times. The government is working in overdrive as it tries to keep its tyrannical grip. It is working in overdrive to repress Equatoria. Our leaders also need to be working in overdrive in the interest of Equatoria. Equatorians need to be on the battlefield fighting for Equatoria and not for the opposition, the government or for South Sudan. Instead of rushing to join the opposition we should be creating a third block that is entirely in the interest of Equatoria. We need to create an Equatoria which is detached from everyone and acts only for Equatoria. Pieces are moving around in South Sudan like I said. We need to be reacting to them and doing so decisively. We should not be members of anyone’s camp but our own. We should only be acting for ourselves. But alas, our leaders seem completely clueless to such things. “We are the peaceful ones we are the peaceful ones blah blah we are for unity we will continue talking we don’t like fighting blah blah”. Sure, continue talking and see if it will produce anything substantial for Equatoria.
There has never been a more tyrannical gesture in the annals of history than the disarmament of a particular group of people in the security and defensive organs of the state. It is the clearest sign that the state is in the process of rendering that particular group completely defenseless and put it entirely at its mercy. It has always spelled a declaration of war on the people being disarmed and has always resulted in an immediate rebellion and a fight for independence by the disarmed people. But again, Equatoria is not reacting. The next stage will be the targeted killing of our people that the central government deems a threat. Then, if we let them get away with that, indiscriminate mass killings will follow. These are things that have happened before. And it is happening in slow motion right before our eyes but for some reason we seem to be oblivious to it all. We are not reacting to all that has happened nor are we anticipating what will happen. We keep continuing to profess our allegiance to South Sudan as it quietly goes about the business of eliminating us.
Rumors or no rumors, it does not need to take the internet for us to start thinking seriously for ourselves. It does not need to take the internet for us to start defending ourselves. It does not need to take the internet for us to pick up arms. We should have already been working on all those options. Why we are still the ones completely for South Sudanese unity and neutrality is ridiculous. South Sudan does not care about us. South Sudan exists to make Equatoria irrelevant. People are spending all their energies trying to distance themselves from internet rumors that say that this government is plotting against Equatoria. Well, isn’t the government doing exactly that? Forget what seems to be over the top rumors on the internet. Isn’t what you are able to see for yourself and what has been confirmed as fact enough to raise the alarm and make you realize Equatoria is a target of this government? Are confiscated newspapers internet rumors? Are repressions of the federal debate internet rumors? Are disarmaments of your people in the army internet rumors? Are the killings of your people for exercising their constitutional right to political opinion internet rumors? Are conspicuous government deployments in your communities also internet rumors?
In fact, Equatoria should be preparing for an armed defense before it gets put in a position where it cannot fight anymore because it has been disarmed and surrounded. It is now becoming clear to everyone that this “peacefulness” and neutrality was a mistake. The actions of the central government against Equatoria are getting more blatant and more daring by the day. I think all Equatorians are now realizing that they are fools for thinking peacefulness and the toleration of mistreatment by others are great strategies for survival.
At this point, a military confrontation between Equatoria and this central government is inevitable. The soonest we start planning for it the better. This is a government that is capable of anything. I know December 15th seems like centuries ago in our twenty four hour news cycle and refreshing timelines but this is a bloodthirsty regime and we should not kid ourselves thinking we are exempt from its savagery. Whenever this confrontation happens, of which I am confident we will make quick work of this government because all that is sustaining it is really just fear and intimidation and not military might, we should come out of it as the independent Republic of Equatoria. At the end of this military confrontation we should quit South Sudan and get on with creating a meaningful life for ourselves in Equatoria. There is absolutely no reason to sacrifice Equatoria for the sake of a united South Sudan. What good is unity if it means you a slave in it? What is the benefit of being bigger as a country if it means Equatoria is lost in it? Any continued arrangement with the other two regions will always keep us marginalized and get us mixed up in other people’s instabilities.
But we cannot keep waiting for our political leaders to bring Equatoria to fruition. They are taking too long to come around to us. This is the time for the youth of Equatoria to take on the responsibility of Equatoria. We cannot let Equatoria be destroyed for the sake of South Sudan. The central government and South Sudan has declared war on you Equatoria. You are at war. Start acting like it. Start defending and liberating yourself. Distractions have always existed throughout history. More pressing issues have always occupied man. But when it comes to his liberties and the protection of his people from tyranny and oppression, man has always put everything aside and risen to the call of action.
All the signs are showing us that our liberties and our people in Equatoria are in danger. All the signs are showing us that our very livelihood and that of Equatoria are in danger.
Ignore them at your own peril.
The author lives in Juba, South Sudan.