South Sudan:The Untold Story

Saturday, 09 July 2016 2145 Views 1 Comments

5 years into independence and the future of South Sudan looks bleaker than it has before. Wallowing in internal wrangles and renewed civil strife, South Sudan has become the epitome of a failed state proving naysayers ( dubbed enemies of progress) ; who were shunned upon by  Hon. Salva Kiir on 9th July 2011; right.

booklaunchSouth Sudan- The Untold Story

In a timely fashion, today Hilde F. Johnson, former Special Representative of UN Secretary- General and Head of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), launched her book today “South Sudan: The Untold Story”. The event attracted ambassadors, ministers, citizens of South Sudan and loads of curious academicians and onlookers within international humanitarian scene.

In her opening remarks the author, Hilde emphasized that “the people of South Sudan did not deserve what happened to them” and carefully narrated the events before and after the onset of the now protracted civil strife, all based on her experience and role at the UN. One might, however, note the air of mystery and regret in her tone almost as though the book ironically did not cover the untold but there was indeed more to be said.


Role of international community:

Once again the impending role of the international community and its ability to solve and provide amicable solutions to conflict was questioned. The author, in a guilty tone, repetitively asked whether there was anything that could have been done and what could have been changed.


“More could have been done but would that have changed the dynamics…”The ability of the UN to act as a buffer to the strife was highly contentious ; even though as mention by the author, it had sufficient contingency plans. Much like Rwanda, Hilde noted that her office saw the civil strife coming but thought it best not to intervene until necessary. In this sense, Hilde became a mere cliché and mirror to Koffi Anan. Let’s call it the “Annan syndrome”.


“ they play a mockery of our lives and work their guilt by shifting blame and leaving us to struggle on our own…”

Jok Madut Jok,Sudd Institute

Similarly, the validity of Article 7 of the UN charter that outlines the steps to be taken when protecting civilians, was debatable. As there are several cases  of UN camps being attacked such is the case of  Malakal camp one of the many that was compromised..

“what is the point of having the U.N in the country if it appears as helpless as the people…”

Civilian observer



Hilde in her capacity and as observer  within the UN reckoned that the strife within the leadership called for a lot of preemptive steps that ended up escalating “a situation that could have been maintained“. This shadows the wanting leadership that exists in South Sudan riddled by greed for both power and wealth highlighting some of Africa’s oldest vices; corruption, ethnic violence and unsolicited dictatorship coupled with civil strife. Similarly there were many questions on what really happened during the supposed coup-that mark you, the government has denied its existence. It is important to note the events during the time, like : how rapid the opposition now vice president transformed from heading a coup i.e rebellion leader to being a fugitive and later in the same month a presidential elect?

One thing that stood out was the need for South Sudan to establish a working governing philosophy.


Security Sector Reform:

It was clear that there have been a lot of shortcomings in the security sector reform as the government was unable to effectively transition from militia to a fully-fledged government. The book notes that unavailability of  “rule of law” and instead the use of  “rule by gun” tied up with other shortfalls such as : lack of political will, corruption scandals, weak institutions, elitism, continued poor infrastructure (in spite of the large donor funding) ,ethnicity; just to mention a few- all of which are self-inflicted ills by the governing body .


An ailing country with a light at the end of the tunnel:

Of the many questions that sprung up; one was how does the country get itself out of this conundrum? Was it wise for the same actors who have inflicted such immense unmentionable pain to the people of South Sudan to remain in positions of leadership and continue tearing the people apart as we watch “liberators become looters”.

The one obviously and constantly mentioned solution was that indeed echoed through the hall is that the solution needs to come from the people themselves.

“HOPE is a renewable natural resource in South Sudan that occurs in abundance…”

John Ryle, Executive Director RVI



There were outstanding thematic resemblance between the book and  proclamation of independence speech made by President Salva Kiir – and it would be good to revisit as you read this book. The book also  brought to light many issues that have lingered and been debated over the international scene over the last few years. And is a great read for anyone who is keen on international security and politics.



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