AFTER many years of struggle, bloodshed, heartache, and what
seemed at times like an impossible dream, when the birth of the new
country of South Sudan finally took place on 9 July 2011, we knew
that, like any new child coming into the world, it would have some
teething problems. You would not expect a new baby to get up
suddenly and walk on its own: it needs time to assimilate to a new
environment before it becomes strong and confident enough to
Changing our former rebels into a fully functioning army is one
of the most difficult challenges that we have faced so far. These
men were used for years to living in the bush, surviving in
whatever way they could manage - and now they are suddenly members
of a new and legitimate army. Despite this, I think that the Sudan
People's Liberation Army (SPLA) has done a great deal in the
difficult year-and-a-half since independence.
Extreme economic difficulties are strangling governments in both
Khartoum and Juba, making it difficult for our politicians and army
to get on their feet. There is still little movement towards
settling the dispute about oil shipments and ownership. Relations
with our former governor in the north have been exceptionally
difficult, because, sadly, not everyone comes to the negotiating
table with a sincere heart.
There is also an inability within the government of South Sudan
to articulate its questions and gain enough allies to make things
move its way at international level, especially on vital questions
such as the resolution on the status of Abyei, South Kordofan, and
Blue Nile states, as well as the transhipment of its oil.
In the contested oil region of Abyei, there has, I believe, been
a fundamental betrayal by the United Nations, which said that it
was there to protect the people, but, as soon as the first shots
were fired after independence, abandoned the very individuals it
had been sent to help.
This is also reflected by the rest of the international
community, in that nobody has paid any attention to a ruling by the
International Chamber of Commerce's International Court of
Arbitration that Abyei belongs to the Dinka Ngok tribe, of South
Sudan. (The court, based in Paris, comprises members from about 90
countries, and is one of the most experienced and re- spected
institutions for the resolution of international commercial
Nevertheless, notwithstanding a few tiny droplets of help from
the international community, no one seems to care about the people
of South Sudan. Instead, it seems that it is all about the politics
and economics of the oil underneath our feet, and who controls it.
This saddens me.
The inter-ethnic violence that erupted in Jonglei last year was
a shock (
News, 27 January,
18 May, 2012). Initially, everyone seemed to have lost hope for
the area, which is the largest, poorest, and least developed in
South Sudan. The Church stepped in quickly, however, and we managed
to get the Murle and the Lou Nuer people talking to each other.
The President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, then came in, and
supported preparations for an inclusive conference for the six
tribes of Jonglei. The hundreds of brutal attacks before the peace
conference were halted. I was involved in these reconciliation
efforts, and I am proud to say that there is a lasting and tangible
improvement between the two tribes, now that the rogue elements in
both communities have been removed.
Nevertheless, the recent resurgence of rebel activity as a
result of David Yau Yau in Murle areas has interfered with the
stabilisation of the state; but the SPLA seems to be working hard
to get things under control. Mr Yau Yau is a self-styled rebel
leader from the Murle tribe, a minority that lives in Pibor county,
which borders Ethiopia. Unlike other insurgent leaders, Mr Yau Yau
was a civilian before he launched his armed revolt after the
elections in April 2010.
He is viewed by Murle elders and the tribe's élite as having
support only among youths in the area, and is resented for not
having sought the consent of Murle leaders before running in the
elections. Unfor- tunately, Mr Yau Yau has not stated what he
wants, which makes it difficult for talks to take place.
The Church will never abandon the Murle people: the fact that Mr
Yau Yau comes from among them does not make them a rebel community.
The Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) is not only continuing its
trauma-healing ministry, but also building a health facility in
Gumuruk, one of the most populated places on Murle land, although
one that is currently without medical services of any kind.
ECS is also running a sports programme for the youth of the
diocese of Twic East, where much of last year's violence was played
out. The idea is to help promote social cohesion and peaceful
coexistence among the communities that have suffered the impact of
the fatal clashes that have erupted over the past two years.
This, in addition to regular community-consultation meetings,
held under the auspices of the Presidential Committee for Peace,
Reconciliation, and Tolerance, is having a positive impact on
society there. For instance, the chiefs have al- ready resolved
land-disputes in Wangulei.
Providing the basics for our people so that they are
self-sufficient and are able to fend for themselves is crucial.
Independence means nothing to a hungry person, and we cannot depend
on hand-outs perpetually; neither do we want to. We are a proud
people, and, of course, we want to look after ourselves - this is
what independence is all about; but the road is a long one, and we
are only at the very beginning.
The Most Revd Dr Daniel Deng is the Archbishop of Sudan. He
was speaking to Emma Pomfret, Africa Editor at Christian