Appalling crimes have been committed in South Sudan against civilians for no other reason than ethnicity, according to media reports.
This was underlined “when President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka – the country’s largest group, sacked his deputy Riek Machar, who is from the second largest community, the Nuer.” In December 2016, the UN warned that the civil war was setting the stage “for a repeat of what happened in Rwanda” in 1994. So far the war has killed well over 500,000 people and displaced over four million.
The Most Rev Moses Deng, Archbishop of Wau, has challenged the Jieng Council of Elders in South (Dinka Council of Elders, mostly politicians who support President Salva Kiir), to seize “the opportunity provided for by the current National Dialogue” to solve ethnic hatred and discrimination.
He declared: “It is the system, not South Sudanese, who are bad.”
The archbishop said that grievances should be openly discussed. “I am sure they, (other tribes) will share any grievances they have against the Dinka. The Dinka elders will also take the opportunity to share with them their grievances with elders the other tribes as well.”
“My prayer and hope is that this dialogue will lead to mutual understanding and respect so that we build a new
national identity that reflect all our views and interests as South Sudanese,” Deng said.
To demonstrate that Sudanese can unite and work together, and fully “aware of the mistrust created by the current war in South Sudan” the Archbishop pointed to “our guiding principles of integrity, transparency and accountability” by setting up a recruiting team that “brought different tribes in an interviewing panel to recruit an Education officer… so there were five interviewers three Fertite, one Dinka and one Luo.”
“Interestingly all the five interviewers gave more marks to a Dinka candidate who was clearly more qualified than the rest of the candidates.” Archbishop Deng said, “If Dinkas were being hated by the rest of the 63 tribes just because they are Dinkas, then why did three Fertite and one Luo give higher marks to the Dinka candidate than Candidates from their own tribes?”
“If everyone in South Sudan apply the principles of Equality, Justice, Transparency and fairness in all their daily activities in their sphere of influence the result will be Peace, Unity and Prosperity. We may not be able to convince Dr Riek and other rebel commanders to stop the current war because it is not in the sphere of our influence, but we
have been able to convince the young people who applied for the position of CARD’s Education Officer that justice can be done to all South Sudanese regardless of their tribe, gender, age, skin colour.”
If the country is “guided by the principles of Equality (Gen 1:26-27, ‘all are created in God’s image’) and the great commandment of Loving God and your Neighbor as yourself… It is my prayer and hope that our political leaders will accept to be guided by the Biblical principles and consult church leaders on what the Bible teaches about decisions and actions they want to take if they are not sure which what the Kingdom of God is all about,” Archbishop Deng said.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos