FULL TEXT: Statement by Jieng Council of Elders
In a strongly worded statement published yesterday morning, the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) rebuked the idea that they had taken part in South Sudan's recent political decision making. Most notably, the statement saw them reject the R-ARCSS and urge the Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to discard the 2018 peace deal.
Breaking the Silence
We the members of the JCE wish to break our long silence. We want to speak about the state of affairs in our country, South Sudan. Our nation came into existence on the sacrifices of millions of South Sudanese people who paid the ultimate price to free us with the hope that such freedom, once achieved, would be grounded on liberty, justice and prosperity for all. It is self-evident that South Sudan is indeed an independent country, but we can all attest that liberty, justice and prosperity remain elusive in South Sudan.
Since its inception, the JCE intensified its activities in 2014 after the country descended into a political crisis. Our hope then was that we could save the country from fragmentation. However, the JCE came under extreme criticism over the last few years for its stand on issues of importance in public discourse.
The JCE did not exist, in any form, prior to the 2013 political crisis, it was born as a result of the conflict to contribute to the restoration of peace, stability and unity. The JCE has been accused of being responsible for the detrimental decisions that have pushed the country to the brink of collapse. It was accused of pursuing a parochial interest to establish a state that only serves the interest of the Jieng people.
Many of the opposition leaders, who rebelled against the state, have always cited that they were opposed to the system that is influenced by the Jieng Council of Elders. We have not publicly responded to these allegations because such exchanges at a time when people are in the state of war would simply widen the divide. Now that there is semblance of peace in the country, we see it appropriate to address these allegations and to speak about the state of affairs in the country and the way forward.
First, the Jieng Council of Elders wishes to make it absolutely clear, that the crisis in the country, as diagnosed perfectly by the National Dialogue, is a result of state and leadership failure and has nothing to do with the Council. The JCE has, in fact, tried its very best to prevent the collapse of the state, but the political stalemate and the acrimonious power struggle chokes every effort. We can say with confidence that we played a positive role to keep the dialogue among communities alive.
We did not do this by making decisions for the state, we did it by simply engaging various stakeholders in dialogue. We have been deliberately misunderstood, although the JCE is a force for good of the country, not its destruction. Yet, in 2017, President Kiir spoke in the National Parliament and complained that his biggest problem in South Sudan were the Jieng (ethnic group) and the SPLM.
The Council is deeply aware of the history that brought the independence of this country. The people of South Sudan fought collectively against a system that was built to favor one race, Arab, and one religion, Islam, at the expense of the African majority and their traditions.
Third, the JCE saw the need in 2014 to organize the Jieng Community to maintain its unity and to discredit reports propagated in the international media, at the time, that the conflict was a Jieng-Nuer conflict. It was not; rather, it was a political conflict, triggered by power struggle between those who wanted to capture state power forcibly and those who wanted to maintain it.
The 2013 conflict was and remains a political conflict that has nothing to do with the Jieng, the Nuer ethnic communities, nor any other community. We did not only say this, but we also went ahead to engage the Nuer elders and issued a joint statement under the auspices of former President of Kenya, late Daniel Arap Moi stating clearly that our communities are not in conflict, the politicians and warlords were. We have also engaged other elders from Equatoria, Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile to defuse tensions and to give our word to them that the Jieng Community is not at war with any community.
The JCE also came out openly against attempts by some quarters to advocate for international trusteeship. The JCE maintains its position and would oppose any external intervention to decolonize South Sudan, but it welcomes any constructive engagement to advance human security, democracy, and economic prosperity. Regarding the current state of affairs in our country, the JCE is appalled by the outrageous violence happening across the country.
States and local governments were dissolved abruptly a year ago, and there is no government in the countryside but the proverbial state of nature in our country as we speak. Evidently, we have seen escalating communal violence in the country. The economy has manifestly collapsed and our people are starving even here at the National Capital, Juba.
The national army and other organized forces, who are entrusted with defense of the country, keeping the rule of law, and security are not paid regular salaries. The same is true for civil servants who go for months, or years in the case of diplomatic missions, without salaries. Needless to speak of the perennial corruption, which has bankrupted the country and enriched a very few. The international relations have worsened, and the country is extremely isolated. In 2015, the JCE came out openly to oppose the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS). The JCE’s position was that the Agreement was partially imposed on the parties and did not fairly settle the conflict and ignored the root causes.
The whole issue affecting South Sudan was reduced to power sharing, nothing significant was done to address governance challenges facing the country, including corruption. We were misunderstood and vilified for our position. However, we were proven right as the Agreement collapsed in July 2016, only three months after commencement of its implementation, and the country returned to war.
When the parties signed the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) in September 2018, the JCE did not make any statement because we did not want to be misunderstood again and be considered as anti-peace. Now the verdict is out, and our fears have been confirmed once again.
The 2018 R-ARCSS is far worse than the 2015 ARCSS and so the JCE does not believe it will bring permanent peace in South Sudan. As we write, the Revitalized Agreement has existed for two years and four months and nothing much has happened in the way of implementation.
The Army is not unified, while this is the basis of the whole security arrangement; the RTGONU is not fully formed, although this is the core of the entire Agreement. The verdict is that the R-ARCSS is failing, or has already failed, and its breakdown cannot and should not be attributed to the Jieng or Nuer communities; it is a failure of the parties contending for power.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Troika and the international community must reconsider the R-ARCSS. In our view, the South Sudan National Dialogue has come with a very clear way forward and ignoring it would be a recipe for discontent and could have negative and far-reaching consequences. In our view, the aspirations of the South Sudanese people have been clearly articulated through the National Dialogue resolutions. All the nationalities, ethnic communities, and religious communities have talked, and they have listened to one another and they have charted a way forward. The Jieng Council of Elders fully endorses the outcomes of the National Dialogue, including the Covering Note of its Leadership.
The JCE, therefore, wishes to congratulate the people of South Sudan for embracing one another and for ultimately deciding on the future of their country through the National Dialogue. We want to also congratulate the delegates to the National Dialogue National Conference, the Steering Committee, especially the leadership team and the Secretariat, for doing a great service to their country, and Indeed President Kiir for initiating the Dialogue and sponsoring it for nearly four years. We applaud the National Dialogue for pointing out the truth and for sharply dissecting and pointing out state and leadership failure as the root causes of the current crises in South Sudan. We are in agreement entirely with their assessment and call upon President Kiir and 1st Vice President Dr. Riek Machar to listen to the voices of the people.
The JCE wishes to conclude that there is no problem between us, as communities and ethnic groups, the problem is in front of us all. Let us face it head-on.
Joshua Dau Diu, Chairman of the JCE
Charles Majak Dau, Co-Chairman, JCE
Maker Thiong Maal, Member
Aldo Ajou peng, Member
Daniel Dhieu Matuet, Member