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General News of Monday, 27 January 2014

Source: Cameroon Tribune

Interview - 'Co-Habitation Issues Must Be Addressed'

Dr Peter Sakwe Masumbe, Civil Administrator and Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and International Relations at the University of Buea, Cameroon, explains the conflict in South Sudan and looks at chances of peace.

What chances are there for peace after six weeks of fighting between South Sudan's army and rebels?

Having fought a bitter war for more than two decades with Sudan and obtaining independence in 2011, South Sudan, like many African countries, emerged out of the cancerous concerns that ethnic politics is the primary factor that positively or negatively shapes post-colonial African States.

Thus, the successes or failures in the efforts to achieve peace with the emergence of a democratic and development-oriented South Sudan will largely depend on how best the leaders of this nascent State eschew and accommodate ethnic differences in order to forge the process of nation-building. The recognition of ethnic differences and addressing ethnically-motivated conflicts such as the current one, through the creation of transparent institutions with soundly-articulated public policy initiatives, would certainly be crucial to the construction of an-inclusive South Sudanese State.

Ethnicity and the unbridled struggle for power and wealth, which are the root causes of the current conflict, are colonial vestiges that ought to be done away with in African politics. Irrefutably, President Salva Kiir and Dr Riek Machar and their followers should quickly realise where they came from - Sudan; and to where they are going - South Sudan; irrespective of their ethnic divides.

What has been the major hindrances to peace so far?

Ethnicity is at the centre of the current conflict in South Sudan. This has been aggravated by the myopic personality clash amongst leaders in South Sudan. Again, this external factor, such as the ambers fanned from Sudan, could escalate real tensions, hatred and internecine conflict in South Sudan. But a true sense of reason should arrest the weaknesses of South Sudan's leaders from succumbing to such petty gimmicks. Until these vices are purposely addressed with strong nationalistic and patriotic foundations, South Sudan may continue to drift into instability.

Do you think the cease-fire agreement signed in Ethiopia will be respected?

Yes, I think so, if only the various stakeholders in this conflict decide to bury their hatchets for the love of peace, security and growth of their country. Peace and security are commodities which can never be imposed on a people. If imposed, it takes little time for its foundation to collapse. Thus, if the leaders continue to parade themselves as the messiahs of their ethnic groups, innocent civilians and uninformed soldiers will continue to pay the unholy supreme price of death.

What are the chances of the quick return to normalcy in South Sudan?

There was no normalcy in the first place, talk less of its normalisation. From the onset and even before the creation of the state of South Sudan, this conflict was latently hatched. So, what you are seeing today is a manifestation of an existing conflict. What we should be asking is what are the chances of the eradication or reduction of conflict in South Sudan? The nearest chances for peace reside on the fast understanding and acceptance that ethnic co-habitation is a sine qua non in a plural society such as the South Sudan.

If the current fighting and fighters continue to view ethnic differences, power and wealth as their major stakes, and reason for individual and collective existence, then, peace is certainly being sacrificed for violence in that country. Let the South Sudanese use this fighting to address their major pre-occupations - that is how best to address their ethnic differences to resolve the co-habitation and other issues once and for all. They should not pretend to make and be in peace that has been brokered by outsiders. A true determinant character towards nation-building begins with the people's acceptance of individual or collective strengths and weaknesses and addressing them appropriately.

Minority as well as majority rights and obligations must converge to forge a state. This is practically what is not always present in African politics, and South Sudan might not be an exception. I can see a very bright and prosperous future for the people of South Sudan, irrespective of the current actors and conflict. Conflicts are usually not intended to destroy societies, but rather, they are also veritable instruments for nation-building or fixing relationships.

The issue is not whether a conflict has taken place, but whether actors and observers learn any lessons from the occurrence of such a conflict in order to forge a strong, dependable statehood personality. The people of South Sudan should see this conflict as a great stepping stone towards their total emancipation, even above their independence from Sudan.