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By Yanta Daniel Elisha - 1 Nov 2018

Opinion: How can South Sudanese free themselves from fetters of conflicts?

Answering such a question is costly in terms of life as one can be victimised for one’s opinion and yet it salvages the suffering people of South Sudan. Sometimes, it is far better to die for a just cause than dying of mere malaria contracted from mosquitoes. Remember questions of what, why and how are of philosophical nature. A person or persons must answer philosophical questions; I think it is my duty to let the light shine all the time as long as I hold it.

What is the meaning of dying with one’s knowledge without using it to educate, inform or entertain to save lives?  “A person who has not chosen something to die for is not fit to live”, a common saying from unknown source puts it.  What is the purpose of life if not to produce much fruits to bring great glory to the author of life Himself? For God cuts off every branch of the vine that does not produce fruit, warns the gospel according to St John 15:2. This means censorship of whatever nature is against the command of “be fruitful”.

As for my case, certainly, I am the safest by virtue of my name “Daniel”; lions never harm me at all, as you have read from the holy book. In my 37 years’ experience in the University of Life gaining modest education of formal, informal and non-formal nature, I have realized that if anyone intends to harm my life, God acts faster to eliminate that person to safeguard me. So, never dare to attempt me for your own safety.

Before I answer the question clearly with the reassurance of safety from God, I would like my reader to understand what fetters are, especially fetters of conflicts in South Sudan. Fetters refer to chains, manacles, shackles, obstacles, setbacks, bottlenecks or bonds that hold back freedom or progress efforts of South Sudanese in their quest for justice, liberty and prosperity.

The next question in mind is what are the fetters of South Sudan conflicts in the first place?

What comes to the mind of my reader as he/she reads about the fetters may be persons, on the contrary to avoid being judgmental because the bible warns us against judging others, I am focusing on issues. You know persons are like trees in a forest that can fall or wither as the forest remains. Why should we talk about persons who are like shadows that can disappear with the disappearance of the real objects?

To hit the nail on the head, I would like to mention the obstacles associated with South Sudan conflicts that hinder freedom and development efforts mnemonic as 5A + 3I.

The 5A plus 3I remains notoriously the most destructive things ever realized in South Sudan as elaborated hereunder:

Alcoholism is the most severe form of alcohol abuse and involves the inability to manage drinking habits. Alcoholism has hit South Sudanese leadership to possibly three categories of mild, moderate and severe. Yet the Bible in the book of Proverbs 31:4-6 advises that kings and rulers should not crave beer or wine because drinking makes them to forget the law and deprive all the oppressed of their rights. That beer should be given to those who are perishing and wine to those who are in anguish to drink to forget their poverty. Therefore, it is not surprising that excessive drinking leaders turn out to be disastrous to a nation like South Sudan. It is evident that investment in beverages is one of the leading projects in Juba. That unfortunately without moderation is very destructive.

Anger is an intense expression of emotion. It involves a strong uncomfortable and hostile response to a perceived provocation, hurt or threat. Anger in South Sudan is too extreme to the extent of revenge boiling beyond 100 degrees. Is it ungovernable? The answer is that it is governable. The Bible advises us to control anger as quoted from Luke 6:37,

“Do not judge and you will not be judged.

 Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.

Forgive, and you will be forgiven”.

Again in Proverbs 19: 11, it is written that, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offence”. Hence, we are advised vehemently to control temper. By the way, if leaders want to have what is described as wise leadership they should read this book of King Solomon, the wisest man ever known in the world.

Arrogance is an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in big-headed assumptions, For instance, if a section of South Sudanese professes that “it is born to rule”; that is arrogance of the highest order. What is wrong with arrogance? How destructive is arrogance? Arrogance fragments individuals as well as the nation. Arrogance generates anger, which leads to commitment of evils. The epistle of James 4:6-7 cautions us that,

                        “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”.

We should submit ourselves to God to resist the devil to flee from us. Arrogance is associated with the devil and so we will remain devilish if we cannot refrain from arrogance. Arrogance breeds dictatorship and dictatorship breeds destruction of lives and property.

How can we tame arrogance into humility? The answer to such a question is coming up in the essay at a later stage.

Attitude problem: Attitude is about mindset, specific way of thinking or feeling about something or some people. Most South Sudanese have attitude problem in the sense that they seem to have negative or wrong mindset about fellow nationals or non-nationals. Tribalism, for example, which is the behaviour that stems from strong loyalty to one's own tribe, is a clear manifestation of such dysfunction in South Sudan. Have you chosen to be of Dinka, Nuer, Murle, Mundari, Bari, Kuku, Pojulu, Kakwa, Chollo or Zande tribe?  Have you chosen to be of an African, American, European, Australian, Asian or Antarctican continent? All resembles God’s image. Why do we think or feel bad about others? Do we not understand that humanity is one regardless of race, tribe, height, colour, culture or language? Yet attitude according to philosophers is what makes life 100 percent perfect.  Attitude as such influences individual choice of actions, thoughts, speeches in response to incentives, rewards or challenges referred to as stimuli in psychology. When you consider the alphabetical letters in the spelling of ‘attitude’, assuming that A is equal to one and Z is equal to 26 as in the mathematics of life, you can confirm that ATTITUDE makes life 100 percent blissful. Since that of most South Sudanese and their neighbours perhaps seems negative, then it is not surprising that the projected real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of South Sudan this year 2018 is -3.2 and that the standards and costs of living are decreasingly indescribable.

Avarice is a greedy longing for material gain like money or power. South Sudan has undoubted history of avarice as evidenced with reports of corruption, looting, robbery and power struggle. Such ills have driven the country into economic hardships culminating into untold suffering, fatality and displacement. Are we stewards of our resources? Do we have caring selfless leadership? Is leadership about looting public resources for meeting selfish ends or stewardship? This is certainly a big vice to scan and resolve because it retards national welfare and development. The worst character trait ever known on earth is selfishness.

Ignorance is a noun meaning a lack of knowledge. It is formed from the adjective “ignorant” that describes a person in the state of being unaware or individuals who deliberately disregard important pieces of information or facts. Sometimes, my nights are restless and thoughtful about the state of affairs in South Sudan wondering whether it is lack of knowledge or deliberately disregarding knowledge (information and education) to do or say things contrarily to satisfy selfish motives. Why should the beloved nation continue shedding blood when it is aware that such is evil and punishable by law and God on the judgement day? Why do we continue to uphold unpopular system of governance if we are leaders of the people who had long demanded for federalism prior to Sudan independence in 1956? What had we learnt from the Juba Conference of 1947? What a harmful ignorance of not learning from the past! Life is a teacher: Why do we not learn from life experiences being successes or failures?

Illiteracy is the state of being illiterate especially inability to read or write. The consequences of illiteracy are many and harmful in several respects. Such as limited ability to obtain and understand essential information; unemployment, lower income; lower-quality jobs; reduced access to lifelong learning and professional development; precarious financial position. Illiteracy breeds low self-esteem, making people willing to kill or die for what they do not understand. Therefore, illiteracy is like darkness that blocks vision thus South Sudan ranks the highest illiteracy level amounting to more than 70 percent according to United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO; meaning majority of the country is illiterate. I even wonder how many people read my opinion articles lengthy as they are. Even some literate ones are lazy readers so they are also literally illiterate because they are unable to read or write about things they observe.

Immorality is the violation of moral laws, norms or standards. Immorality applies to people or groups, institutions or actions, beliefs, religions and works of art.

One may ask how immoral are we, Yanta? Some South Sudanese have proven too immoral to debate for, take for instance, US Ambassador Nikki Haley’s  comment about South Sudan as quoted by THE HILL news agency, “political opponents are not evil” in the US, saying she had seen "true evil" in countries such as South Sudan or Syria; citing rape as a routine weapon of war.  We always read news about killing, robbery, looting or gang raping with impunity in South Sudan moreover by men in uniform. Such news is damaging indeed.  Yet news is not created. It is the reflection of realities.

The greatest loss in life is actually the loss of trust and integrity. In this regard, I advise that let there be Ministry of Ethics and Integrity in the Republic of South Sudan.

Morality, which refers to principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong, makes us trusted and respected, but immorality makes us unfit in the world of humans and even in heaven of the angels as the Bible teaches us as quoted from the epistle of St Paul to the Galatians 5:19-21:

            The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;

Idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies (sex parties where guests freely engage in open and unrestrained sexual activity or group sex) and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Some readers may say to hell with your morality we are not in the church, but I would like to remind you that morality is an essential virtue of society. According to Professor Clive Staples Lewis (29 November 1898-22 November 1963) of Oxford University, morality ensures fair play and harmony between individuals making them fit in society and in a good relationship with nature. That should be why each society has laws or virtues to live up to.

Now if the diagnosis of the fetters of conflicts in South Sudan made above is accurate, how can South Sudanese free themselves from such chains? Do we see or touch such chains? Are they concrete or abstract nouns?

See again as reiterated here: Alcoholism, Anger, Arrogance, and Attitude problem, Avarice, Ignorance, Illiteracy and Immorality. These abstract nouns are felt and experienced. They are emotions and thoughts. Can we fire emotions and thoughts out of people by guns? How can we change attitudes from negative to positive using guns? When Excellency Festus Mogae, the former chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) bade bye to South Sudan with the remarks, “Instead of buying guns, buy textbooks and turn swords into ploughshares,” Some South Sudanese might have thought that he was running out of his mind. Nevertheless, caution, I would like to reassure you that the old man offered the answer to the question, “How can South Sudanese free themselves from fetters of conflicts?” South Sudanese should learn from now that “A short man is not a boy”. Excellency Mogae, the former President of Botswana is not a boy as some of us might have thought.

The answer to the emotional and ideological wars of South Sudan is education: Just ‘education’, the simple noun with all the vowel sounds of English Language. Education empowers, develops or directs, universalises, consolidates, accentuates, teaches, inculcates or informs, organises or orientates and neutralises humans from atavistic instincts. Through education, positive attitudes and values are inculcated to address alcoholism, anger, arrogance, negative attitude, avarice, ignorance, illiteracy and immorality.

Who are the right people to address the problems of South Sudan, military or academia?

Academia is the definite answer to the question. Therefore, the exorbitant budget allocation for national security and military by the government of the day (executive, legislature and judiciary) was further devastation of the beloved country. Teachers deserted their jobs for military or so career to earn either their hard living by endurance instead of enjoyment or die of starvation. Yet teachers of whatever levels should have been the right professionals to fix the problems of South Sudan. When I talk about teachers, I refer to all professionals in charge of information, education and knowledge. That means teachers of the classroom, journalists of all media, lawyers, nutritionists, anthropologists, tutors, lecturers, authors, philosophers, psychologists, playwrights, dramatists, poets, comedians, musicians, politicians, counsellors, physicians and engineers, that are summarized as artists and scientists of different specializations. You know, education is the motherly profession, so it brings all occupations onboard.

Some of the readers may begin to wonder if educators are the ones to cause transformation of South Sudanese society for peace and stability, then what is the role of the military in society. Can a nation do without military in absence of aggression? Who is an ideal political leader of society? Are militarists the right political leaders of society? Is militarism ideal for social, political and economic transformation of South Sudan? Can militarists transform a society confined in emotional and thoughtful matters like Alcoholism, Anger, Arrogance, and Attitude problem, Avarice, Ignorance, Illiteracy and Immorality? If not then begin to question the credentials of South Sudanese leadership. What do philosophers say about ideal political leadership of society?

Plato, the renowned Greek philosopher otherwise referred to as the father of rationalism and political philosophy (political idealism) professes dealing with things as they should be based on rationalism and ideas.  As such, he came up with political leadership pyramid-putting Philosophers (Great thinkers) on the top ladder, Workers (technocrats) at the middle ladder and Warriors (military) at the bottom ladder. The pyramid ranging from top to bottom can be put into an acronym as PWW.  Such is an inverted pyramid in South Sudan’s circumstances, which is WWP. Has South Sudan proven Philosopher Plato wrong?

The founding father of Tanzania, an African philosopher of education, President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere proved the Greek philosopher right as a philosophical political leader. Yet with humility, he said in one occasion that he became a politician by accident. He identified more with the professional calling of teaching. Tanzania is a democracy to admire in East Africa. Thank God, I stepped on the soil of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 2014. The people there are hospitable, loving and peaceful.

Philosopher Aristotle, actually a student of Plato also referred to as the father of empiricism and political science professes dealing with things as they are, implying realism. That made Aristotle to conclude that “man is a political animal” and therefore any man of whatever level of intellect can govern a given society. Has South Sudan proven Philosopher Aristotle right?

Naturally, I agree with Philosopher Plato that philosophers should be the heads of states and governments in the world just as the mind is the greatest masterpiece of humanity followed by the body, that has all mechanisms of manipulation and of course, the soul (spiritual) that acts as the moderator or detective. Where the body parts like the arms, legs or reproductive organs (penis and vagina) act uncontrollably, I mean without reasoning from the mind, the complete human system is duped into trouble.

That seems the situation of South Sudan. Either let us face reality or the reality faces us as it is.

Try education to free South Sudan from the fetters of conflicts now. The challenge is that it takes decades to be educated and that transformative education with national philosophy is suitable for children, adolescents and youth as opposed to adults who are not likely to change attitudes easily.

Forget the past and look forward to what lies ahead by pressing on to reach the end.

The author is a seasonal journalist and educator. He can be reached via email

The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.