South Sudan: contested or implored objectivities as a ground for sustainable peace (February 2014)

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(Photo taken from http://www.fletcherforum.org)

Last February 11 the Peace and Conflict Studies Centre of the University of Sydney organized a meeting to discuss sustainable peace perspectives in South Sudan.

The Deputy Minister of Information and Broadcasting Atem Yaak Atem started his talk by saying that he wouldn’t have explained the chronological events of the conflict: “This would immediately make you aware of who should be blamed”.

In a reality where the ruling power has always been oligarchic and at the helm of what William Reno would define as a shadow state, the majority of people “suffered from chronic social exclusion and political oppression” in the conflict started in 1955 – a few months before the independence from Great Britain – and ended in 1972 (called First Sudanese Civil War), when the region gained autonomy.

After the 1983 (second) civil war, where the soldiers were classifying individuals and groups in order to act according to their race and religion – typical criteria to discriminate against – the decision about South Sudan’s secession or the political union with the rest of Sudan was taken in 2005 with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). In 2011 slightly more than 98% voted in favor of the national independence.

Atem, Sudanese young student, affirmed: “The war is done, but there is still one in our head”. There are sixty-four languages and different cultures in the same country: do the Sudanese really have nothing in common then?

“Sustainable peace won’t come in the short run. But there is a common history of oppression, and the desire of a country of democracy and justice”.

The discussion interestingly shifted to the ground of a contested or claimed objectivity: “opinions create problems”, said a Sudanese sitting in the audience, mentioning how the suspension of judgment – present in Sudanese poetry – should be applied to seek out for real peace.

Atem Dau Atem, another Sudanese student studying the settlement of Sudanese families in Western Sydney, contended instead that objectivity is not just something hard to be achieved, but even undesirable. “Objectivity is fake by itself. It simply allows us not to be straightforward. It offers the ground to show only what is speakable, what part of one’s own opinions can be officialized. Everyone then would just eschew the real issues that keep dividing us… It is when emotionality emerges that a real discussion can arise”.

The people want freedom:

Aye, bellows the liberator;

The people want peace:

Aye, bellows the peace-maker;

The people want reconciliation:

Aye, bellows the mediator;

The people want love:

Aye, bellows the lover;

The people want food:

Nope, bellows silence;

The people want education:

Nope, bellows silence;

The people want houses:

Nope, bellows silence;

The people want hospitals:

Nope, bellows silence.

Ayes + Nopes = War

THE PEOPLE WANT WAR:

AYE, BELLOWS THE WARMONGER.

(Henry Jada)

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