Lamentation from S. Sudan diaspora: We want peace not 'self-destruction'

As faction leaders negotiate in Addis Ababa, expat voices are chastising elites for bringing a war that the nation's enemies were never able to do. 

A version of this post originally appeared on the Enough Said blog. The views expressed are the author's own. 

On December 15, political infighting within South Sudan's ruling party mutated into an ugly and violent confrontation on the dusty streets of South Sudan's capital city.

Since then, violence and displacement has touched almost every part of the already heavily militarized country.

Former rebels came out of retirement and defected from the national army.Riek Machar and his alliance claim to now control at least a third of the country, including its oil producing regions. A country that was broadly at peace with itself returned to war.

Now, the warring factions have sent delegations to Addis Ababa to begin negotiations, but the fighting persists.  Almost 200,000 people have been displaced by spiraling violence that is increasingly moving along ethnic lines. Political leaders on both sides of the conflict are using divisive rhetoric to mobilize their core constituencies, which come from South Sudan's two largest ethnic groups.

Although no mortality surveys have been conducted, conservative estimates suggest that thousands may have died in just three short weeks.  As a result of decades of brutal civil war with Khartoum, many South Sudanese were forced to flee their native land as refugees.

Now, they comprise one of the most broadly dispersed diaspora communities on the planet. Every day these communities are being rocked by news of death and destruction back home.

However, instead of contributing to further polarization, many have taken to the internet to speak out against the violence unfolding back home and call for peace.  Eva Lopa pioneered the My Tribe Is South Sudan movement on twitter, urging South Sudanese to look beyond their tribal identity and to embrace national social cohesion. (The tweets for the hashtag are at: #MyTribeIsSouthSudan)

Chris Kwoji has also been working with her to advance a message of peace. His Facebook page, iChoosePeace, hosts testimonials from a broad range of voices, all calling for peace.  Another group of fifteen members of the diaspora issued a scathing statement directed to "the leaders in South Sudan who are at this moment bringing self-destruction down on our nation."

Without mincing words, the statement holds South Sudan's political elites responsible for the recent return to violence, as follows: 

Our deepest desire is to help our people of South Sudan, the country of our birth, the land we love so dearly. Not as Dinka or Nuer or Shilluk or Acholi or people of one tribe or another, but as people of our one nation. 

And now, YOU, the leaders that we and all South Sudanese have counted on to bring our nation to life.  Instead, you have brought us to the point where we are killing our own innocent people, our mothers and fathers, our old people and our children.

Our enemies were never able to break us apart.  They were never able to turn us away from our great cause of bringing our nation to life.  But what our enemies could never do to us, YOU are doing to us now.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.