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Why South Sudan Today is in Turmoil is not a Surprise?

Armed Conflicts and the International Humanitarian Law: More Questions than Answers

In 2011, the world celebrated the birth of a new state in the heart of Africa, the Republic of South Sudan. Unfortunately, all this had to come only after the death of the founder and the father of the nation, Dr. John Garang. Actually he had the vision and the sense about building a nation out of a divided people. This blog story is revisiting what has already been shared earlier in this series some time back.

Africans still see their ethnic inclusiveness as key in forming a nation. The World Factbook shows the people of South Sudan as follows: Dinka 35.8%, Nuer 15.6%, Shilluk, Azande, Bari, Kakwa, Kuku, Murle, Mandari, Didinga, Ndogo, Bviri, Lndi, Anuak, Bongo, Lango, Dungotona, Acholi. Dinka are the leading majority followed by Nuer. The two are also political giants in South Sudan, their presence in the top leadership is critical for other groups. The breaking up of President Salva Kiir and his Vice President Dr. Machar is the recipe to chaos and this has been mentioned in the previous stories. Salva Kiir is from the numerous Dinka community while his rival is from the other numerous Nuer. This has brought a dramatic mistrust that we cannot wish away unless we expect a miracle to happen.

Another technical mistake in South Sudan is, the involvement of armed military in the matters of politics. Each civilian leader seems to be commanding a section of armed troops in the defense and security forces. Mr. Salva Kiir is the first democratically elected President by the people of South Sudan and he has the numbers from his Dinka group. However, he is also one of the fierce commanders of the armed forces on the ground. As he enjoys 100% of loyalty from his populous tribe, the Dinka, he may not get the same vote from other groups. To balance this problematic situation, Machar could attenuate the situation with his followers from Nuer community and render the forces balanced. But both have the military other than civilian rule and civilian democracy is just a disguise.

The third mistake in South Sudan is: both Kiir and Machar were to invest in nation building first then think of other things later. In any democracy, it is always a problem when it comes to sharing of the national cake. Those who fought for independence usually claim that the biggest portion must go to them when it comes to democracy. It is the same in other African democracies: Kenya, Burundi, among others. Those who have fought until the country achieves its status usually claim that they must lead when it comes to sharing of wealth. This is against equity and social justice. The Dinka will not easily allow other groups to get to the top without creating problems. It is unlikely that an Acholi may become the President without provoking the Dinka or the Nuer since the latter are the majority.

Power-sharing is always a big problem in multi-ethnic African nations including Kenya. The tendency is always to apply the exclusive approach and such tendencies rarely go down well for the nation. Shrewd leaders usually tend to command power by the barrel of the gun. It is a soft dictatorship that may not add value to the long-time struggle to bring South Sudan back to the track.

Oil money is another a silent killer of the young nation. Actually who is commanding the oil money? Where does the money go if the population is still poor? It is simple. Whoever has the gun, has the might, and the might makes right. Corruption has become the order of the day and every leader in power will always fight to ensure that he gets the best portion of the national revenue atorvastatin generic. This cannot allow peace to reign in South Sudan since such wealth shall also buy weapons to defend the wealthy.

South Sudan may find it difficult to correct the historical errors unless there is a sincere and mutual inclusiveness in the government. Firing of Dr. Machar was a grave mistake and ill advised. His absence has not helped in the peace process. Replacing him with Deng from the same community may appear to be the smartest move, but remember, he has the stake in the peace process in South Sudan. Some political analysts have disqualified him but lets not be on a hurry, he has troops behind him.

As we all wish that there should be quick solution in South Sudan, it is equally right to take precautions on the move of the international community. The question of African problems must require African solution is still valid. I know that nobody is clear about what is the African solution but it is the only way forward. Africans are losing confidence with ideas brewed in New York and implemented in Africa. The worst example is that of Libya. Libya is in turmoil. The intervention of the international community in Libya was a miscalculation that many African states will never forget.

The international community has been pouring money into South Sudan. The outcome has been grand corruption and the use of bullet as the only language governance. Governing people with the gun is a tyranny and not good for any democracy. Killing one who has questioned your act in South Sudan is like a small joke. Now people are getting immune to the sound of the gun in the streets of Juba.

The blunder has been done and we are under obligation to fix the situation before we get to human tragedy. Remember South Sudan may get into total anarchy and a quagmire if the situation is not reversed by the same African leadership. There must be serious commitment from the AU, East African Community and the Horn of Africa. God Bless South Sudan and the People!

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About Peter Onyango

Dr. Peter Onyango O. is one of our main contributors. He is a senior law lecturer, a writer, a consultant, peace ambassador, and a researcher. He assists so many professionals, legal minds, and debaters with his skills and scholarly wealth! He supports children and village community as a way of giving back to community. He edits, proof reads, and publishes various articles for our page!


  1. South Sudan must overcome its problem by going beyond the Nuer and the Dinka. There are many other citizens, perhaps, with better leadership quality that would steer the nation. If the two tribes cannot bring peace then other tribes must be given chance to share their part of the story. Alas with guns. There should be a stop from free use of guns as whips.

    • It is prudent to use comparative analogy in order to understand conflicts and their dynamics. The Republic of South Sudan has got a lot in common with the Republic of Kenya. Both countries struggled for independence. Both countries have many ethnic groups. It is realistic to argue that South Sudan government should disarm the civilians and allow only the trained and professional forces to use the guns in the defense of their sovereignty but not against themselves. Education in South Sudan is another worrying factor. When literacy is too low in a young nation then we expect people to fail in forming strong and effective institutions. South Sudan had to invest in building schools, promoting education and using the oil money to strengthen public institutions. It was a blunder for international community to pour in lots of dollars in the economy of South Sudan without clear administrative structures. We cannot rewind the clock but think for tenable policies in short-term and long-term solutions.

  2. I believe it has something to do with the international community more than the people of South Sudan. There is always a war of resources everywhere globally and the different interested parties invest divisive measures if they cannot acquire such resources. Only alternative news and education into what really is the issue will awaken people into realizing that fighting among-st themselves is not the answer. This is my opinion though.

    • International politics and conflict of interests have always been there, there are still there and shall ever be there in human history. I beg to differ with the feeling that Africa is always a baby to other world powers. African states are of age to be on their own and make decision on their natural resources. Look at what is happening in the DRC for example! Ask yourself if Joseph Kabila is a true Congolese then tell me the answer. Why is Rwanda interfering? Are these not Africans killing their brothers and sisters? Yet we blame USA, China, France and others. Lets look at ourselves and find home-grown solution to the African conflicts.

      • Mwalimu, let’s upgrade this conversation beyond individuals….. Democracy is a foreign ideology on this continent and by extension Kenya…..it’s a mirage….how do African scholars address the issue?

        • Mr. Mwangi, I really do agree with you. African scholars should provide avenue for shaping the African democracy. I do ask myself the same question but the answer am given is not very convincing especially in Kenya. When we talk of scholars we mean to learned or erudite person especially one who has a profound knowledge about a subject. They are intellectual professionals who have invested their life-time in academic world and are vast with knowledge. They make contribution to the universal ideas and whose ideas are found in publications. They are always associated with universities. Remember that the UN designated Secretary General, Antonio Getuerez, a Portuguese scholar, has been appointed by the main world brass to be the man to lead the world organization after Mr. Ban Ki Moon. The world is coming back to the age of scholarships to re-shape itself. When you say that we should go beyond individual personalities, you are very right. People should debate ideas other than individual persons. But, politics does not look at it that way. Political science and law are both disciplines that will never divorce themselves from the real society. Actually, social sciences still agree that the society requires both the ideas and the reality. It would be less practical to have pure scholars…Remember the world renown scholar, Prof. Wole Soyinka of Nigeria has tried to venture into politics but he failed badly. In Kenya, we have Professors in politics, namely, Anyang’ Nyong’o, Kivutha Kibwana, Kindiki Kithure, Olweny, and many others. They do provide something into the Kenyan system, but politics disarms them. Actually some are total failures in politics. Some have written books on Kenya that we can refer to. In a nutshell even this kind of revolution shall take time…but what I wanted to say, the Philosopher King by Plato also failed. Scholars hadly make it to successful politics. I hope this response has helped you a little bit to see what you are asking…carry it forward.

  3. Analysts have listed overlapping foreign influences, water issues, economic interests and population groups a some of the issues that have been bedeviling South Sudan, Africa’s newest nation as regards to its fragile peace state. The country’s external relations have been greatly influenced by the United States, Kenya and Uganda which are the countries that have been at the forefront in brokering peace deals between the two main political protagonists. By extension, the reason why even after the USA poured all the money in form of aid to the country yet fighting still persists is mainly because of two political figures ; Kiir and Machar. They have until recently continued to hold the country at ransom with their selfish political interests. None of them appears to be sober enough to realize that their grandstanding continues to cause inexplicable suffering to the people of South Sudan. The main axis on which this war is premised is the existence of ragtag militia which has been assimilated into the army. The army was however so divided along the Dinka, Nuer lines that each of the two politicians seemed to be commanding an army within an army. Loyalty by the army was torn between the two political figures with ethnicity being the main determinant. The UN warned South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir that any political appointments must be consistent with a peace deal that ended nearly two years of civil war. Some analysts opine that the rift between South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and former deputy Riek Machar has deep roots that reach back to the period before the nation’s creation in 2011.

    Simon Mwangi Muita

    • Joyce Chebet k50/88601/2016

      even if politicians have fought for a countries democracy they should be able to share the country’s wealth equally because even the common mwananchi suffered during that time and they must have also struggled for independence.
      it is only that this world is unfair because the citizen of a country might have been in the forefront but because he is not famous then his efforts can’t been seen to bear any fruits.

      • Am I allowed to mention that your assertion sounds so superficial….give us the facts…..what do you know about Kiir and Machar?….Let’s get factual

        • That is why we need to debate. Nobody can claim full knowledge of a human being. What we are doing is to tell what we know which is limited. Our knowledge is limited and finite. Imagine even you, you may not claim with full accuracy that you know yourself that much. So, when we debate on leaders lets stick to what they demonstrate but we cannot go further than that. It is wrong to believe that we can know President Kiir or Dr. Machar more than what they do, say, teach, write and express in public. Even me I don’t know myself and I cannot lie to you that I do.

    • Martha I do agree with your sentiment. Any peace contract between the contractors bears positive expected results when the two privy of the contract are committed to fulfilling their obligations. In case of any breach, then the concerned must go back to the drawing board and even revise the contract. President Kiir replacing Machar is not the right path to lasting solution and peace in South Sudan. The decision has only yielded more hatred, suspicion and mistrust among rivals.

  4. The decision to replace Riek Machar with Taban Deng after a whole year of negotiations between him, Salvar Kiir, East African, and the USA Governments towards a peace agreement, was a wrong move.
    This move may push Machar and his Nuer community to the brink of collapse, making them very volatile. This split seems to fuel turmoil as rebels and government military troops clash across the country. Military involvement worsens the situation; even children are recruits. Only Dialogue will offer a solution to the fate of South Sudan.

  5. For South Sudan to enjoy peace a structural over haul of the society needs to happen, where all tribes feel represented.
    Sudan is currently divided along tribal lines , with two majority tribes wrestling for power as all the other tribes watch. My guess is the other tribes would identify with either of the two whose ideals they probably share. This crisis have affected the economy of South Sudan , food prices have shot up, people have been displaced and others trapped in the war zones. The never ending wars have seen the future generation of the country turned to child soldiers { dysfunctional individual because all they know is violence} A nation of a people who have never enjoyed their hard earned independence, a country with no hope.Like a patient hooked on a drip, South Sudan is hooked to humanitarian Aid, unless they stop the war.Leaders need to come together and reason soberly for the country’s sake if there any external parties involved in peace dialogues its time they listened to the people of South Sudan not ideal s that favor them..

    • I do agree John. Recently Kenya pulled out its peace-keepers from South Sudan and suspended its role in peace process following the sacking of the Kenyan General Commander Ondieki who was accused of doing too little to protect the civilians from the attackers. The civil war in South Sudan has brought a new understanding of the Blue Helmets. UN Peace-Keepers have been perceived as passive observers whose role is exclusively to be neutral and to inform the international community of what is happening. The failure of this naive approach to war processes has made the Secretary General of the UN, Mr. Ban Ki Moon to provoke the government of Kenya causing un ease with diplomatic relations. Some South Sudanese leaders especially Dr. Machar has described Kenyan withdrawal as ill-advised. Was it right for Kenya to react with pulling out from war-tone South Sudan?

  6. John Ngigi K50/88442/2016

    The united nations organization has in the past refused to acknowledge that the only way to solve crisses is by the use of participator paradigm shift theory. Participatory communication plays an important role in the process of negotiating since all parties are involved and given a chance to air out their grievances and also provide solutions . When our leaders hold meeting in Europe with an aim to solve issues in Africa ,this means that they want to force things on Africa that the affected may not at any point adopt and this has led to escalation of small criss.
    South Sudan been the youngest of Africa’s children is in need of both political and social assistance .Africa can not stand and watch as thousands are killed and property worth billions destroyed. Though ethnicity is a major challenge in solving the problems in S.Sudan . My view is that the lack political accountability of available resources is the nightmare in this nation. A county that has oil fields should not have poor people if the leadership is honest. For instance before the Americans invented Libya ,the late Ghaddafi had made sure that his people benefited from the oil his nation was producing. Today Libya is in turmoils after the death of there leader.
    President Uhuru said that UN spends millions of shillings in buying cars and houses for its workers thinking that the are helping us while in the real sense we are the once who know what project can help us grow as a Africa. For South Sudan to heal its leaders must become accountable and shurn away ethinicy .
    Africa is a rich nation with diverse culture and Africans need to rise above there ethinic alignment and promote democracy ,peace and understanding.

    • John last month witnessed Kenya withdrawing her troops from S.Sudan because Ban Ki-moon sacked the Kenyan Commander for allegations of failing to protect civilians during the recent Juba crisis where civilians were killed within the UN mission compound . I do not seek to support what the government did, but my argument is that this was a classical case where the United Nation made a far much reaching decision without consultation with Africa and the consequences will soon be felt bearing in mind that Kenya had almost 1000 soldiers in the war tone Juba.

  7. Wendy Nashipae Kantai

    Sorry I arrived to the party late.
    This situation is such a mess. THIS country needs Jesus. THE amount of corruption, arrogance…where do you even start. I am a little overwhelmed with this post. My contribution is let’s just pray for this young country. Someone who has the best interest of this country at heart like John Garang needs to rise up otherwise they will finish themselves. I know their culture does not help at all as they are very violent in nature. Or should they be colonized again for at least four decades?

  8. Most wars in Africa are a creation of the west. Look at any country in Africa that is mineral rich, none enjoys peace. Instabilities cause most institutions to malfunction such as schools, hospitals. To end the war in South Sudan the government should strengthen institutions to improve literacy levels, with time those fighting will stop handling guns and embrace books. Busy minds will not think of wars

  9. RWANDA STANLEY K50/81838/2015

    Arguably, the problem in South Sudan may be deeply rooted beyond tribalism. Who have keen interest in South Sudan and why? There might be more hands in it in a battle of supremacy.

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