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.

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