martedì 8 luglio 2014

Independence Day, three years later

I haven't updated my blog for a long while. Since December 2012 I have moved to Juba, to start working for the European Union Special Representative (EUSR) for the two Sudans first, and then for the EUSR for the Horn of Africa as political advisor. This has limited my possibility to keep an active blog, but has allowed me to follow closely, first-hand, South Sudanese political developments. The last seven months, since violence broke out in Juba on December 15, 2013, have been particularly tough, both professionally and at a personal level.
Tonight, while in Addis for meetings related to South Sudan's peace process, I decided to break my silence and post here the status I've just posted on my Facebook page.

"I receive info from Juba that there are unconfirmed reports that the government curfew for today, being the eve of Independence Day, has moved to 8pm-6am.
The comparison with the night of 8 July 2011 couldn't be harsher: that night thousands of people peacefully "invaded" the streets of Juba, celebrating the impending independence as if they had won the World Cup. Traffic on the main roads was stuck and movement virtually impossible. From about 6pm on 8 July until very early on the morning of 9 July there were only celebration, horns, flags, songs and dances all around town. And no danger at all. I remember walking alone after midnight to reach Ambra's place where we could not sleep because of the loud music coming from the nearby club.
It was simply wonderful to witness all that joy and pride and hope for the future. As much as it is devastatingly sad today to witness how things have gone in such a bad way. Maybe unsurprisingly, but still senselessly and irresponsibly."

The sadness is great, the disappointment and worries for the future of the people of South Sudan too. I share same of the words the UN SRSG, Hilde Johnson, said today in her last press conference, upon leaving the country for good after three years at the helm of UNMISS:

To the leadership of the SPLM, whichever faction you belong to: 
You are all responsible for this crisis, collectively. What happened on December 15 and onwards could have been prevented. What preceded the crisis was very risky, and – as some of us warned that it could lead to ethnic violence. 
But none of us predicted the explosion of violence, the ‘hurricane’ – the scale, the scope and the speed of killings. None of us predicted it would be that devastating. And all of this because of a crisis of leadership within the ruling party, the SPLM.  
After decades of sacrifice and suffering you got your freedom, you got self-determination and independence. And then you turn on each other, and wasted all the goodwill and opportunities you enjoyed.
My friends, my brothers, my sisters, why did you do it and why do you continue now? The ongoing conflict can be stopped by you - right at this moment.
The country has now been set back decades. The terrible destruction of towns and property is one thing, but the divisions and wounds are deeper than ever. The gulf between communities is abysmal, and the animosity is worse than we have ever seen at any point in South Sudanese history. The social fabric is being torn apart. The nation building project which was extremely hard from the very beginning, will now be more difficult than ever. It has been set back decades.
For us who have shared the struggle of the South Sudanese for peace and justice for all, this is very painful to witness.As the people of South Sudan prepare to celebrate the third anniversary of their nation’s independence tomorrow, they see a country that is now at grave risk, not only of fighting, but also of failing. 
The leadership, across all factions of the SPLM, whether they are inside or out of government, released from detention or in the bush, are responsible for this. The achievement of decades of struggle can be lost. 
Even if the fighting is stopped, it is the terms of the peace agreement that will decide whether South Sudan in fact will be saved, or whether it will slide down the slippery slope and fail.  
Because the problems did not start on December 15. South Sudan has been afflicted by three diseases since 2005: (i) the cancer of corruption – with the oil becoming a curse rather than a blessing, (ii) rule by the gun and not by the law, with impunity among security forces and services, and (iii) rule by a self-serving elite, - for the elite, and much less for the people. 
And these diseases have been contagious throughout the interim period and after independence. These diseases have not only affected the population negatively, they also have the capacity to make South Sudan so sick that the country can fail. Corruption, for one, is like cancer. It spreads quickly and can reach every cell in the body. And then it becomes extremely difficult to stop. 
All three diseases have to be contained if South Sudan is to be saved; if South Sudan is to be the country the freedom fighters dreamt of and fought for; if South Sudan is to be the country for the people – the many, and not only the few. This is also necessary to avoid South Sudan from becoming a failed state. These crippling diseases must be cured.  
The IGAD peace talks should therefore not only be about finding ways to stop the fighting. This is about more fundamental issues. South Sudan as a country is at stake. That is also why South Sudanese from all walks of life should have a say in the peace process. 
The peace negotiations should not be about finding band aid-solutions that allow things to continue in the same way, with only minor changes. It is most tempting, of course, because the cost is less politically and implies less sacrifice. It is less painful in the short term. But it is more costly and it will cause more pain in the long run. Why? Because band-aid solutions don’t cure any diseases; sometimes they make things worse, much worse.

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