South Sudan: The price of war, the price of peace – a graphic story

In December 2013, South Sudan erupted into civil war as President Salva Kiir’s army battled rebel forces led by former Vice-President Riek Machar. Tens of thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. The cartoon below tells the story of the conflict and the dynamics of the political marketplace that determined the direction of the peace talks.

SOUTH-SUDAN-TWO-front-pageSOUTH SUDAN TWO page two-page-001SOUTH SUDAN TWO page three-page-001SOUTH SUDAN TWO page four-page-001SOUTH SUDAN TWO page five-page-001 SOUTH SUDAN TWO page seven-page-001 SOUTH SUDAN TWO page eight-page-001Text by Alex de Waal. Artwork by Victor Ndula’. The project was co-sponsored by the Cartoon Movement, Justice and Security Research Programme and the World Peace Foundation. Part One: Who Got What?” is available here.

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18 thoughts on “South Sudan: The price of war, the price of peace – a graphic story

  1. Great cartoon, brilliantly depicts the sad reality of South Sudan. I was in the Addis Sheraton several times when times were good for S.Sudan, the early days of hope and opportunity and ironically even during an ‘anti-corruption’ phase. I cannot believe Salva Kiir and Riek Machar can be so selfish and are willing to sacrifice millions of innocent lives for their ego and personal enrichment. Many countries and regions are led by such people but the effect in S.Sudan of their actions is so despicable that there’s isn’t a parallel for this disaster in modern times.

  2. To Alex De Waal,
    It’s really tragically too late that you and your buddies, the Eric Reeves and the rest who practically ensured that this monstrosity, the SPLM/A was enabled by US support to ‘misrule’ South Sudan, are now belatedly waking up to see your error.
    By the way, where is Mr. Dagne, who once became Kiir’s closest adviser and was reputedly one of those who knew about that list of the infamous 75 thieves, why doesn’t he avail to us the names of those in the list?
    It’s really time your group cleared their consciences since this monster, kiir, was your by-product.
    Your cartoons and comments attached, which irrefutably reflect the crimes commissioned and committed by our ‘war-lords, would most certainly make a strong case at The Hague against the two protagonists and others, especially with the preponderance of witnesses and evidence of war crimes available.
    When will America, the Troika and your group, the infamous ‘midwives’ of the tragic independence of South Sudan, step forward?
    Peter

  3. Dear Peter, I don’t believe you have been following my writings or activism on Sudan and South Sudan for the last 25 years. I have argued since the 1990s that the SPLM/SPLA leadership should be held to the same standards of human rights and democracy as the Government of Sudan–and indeed pointed out that a liberation movement worthy of the name would hold itself to higher ethical standards than the government against which it was fighting. In taking this position a I found myself on the opposite side of the argument to most of the pro-South Sudan lobby groups, which were ready to excuse the failings of the SPLM/SPLA leadership because they were fighting against Khartoum, which they saw as evil. I won’t detail the history here. But look for example at the Committee for Human Rights in the Transition in Sudan, established in 1997, with (inter alia) the objective of democratizing the Sudanese opposition, especially the SPLM, and its Kampala conferences of 1999-2003. Regards, Alex

  4. This is sadly a solid description of what is happening in South Sudan. That said, I have to sympathize with Peter Wankomo. I think he is right. I lived and worked in Juba from 2006 to 2011 and prior to that I worked with South Sudanese for over a decade, including during the civil war. As far back as 2006/2007 it was clear that catastrophe was in the making. We, who were there on the ground as part of the international community did not confront South Sudan’s new elite to arrest the pattern of abuses and the massive, astronomical grand corruption that we saw daily. Some of these cases of corruption were so grotesque that one would be laughed out of a room for describing them. And yet, we call cheered them on; refusing to face the fact that this young state was bound to collapse sooner rather than later. Peter is absolutely right in calling us out and demanding accountability from us. We, the international friends and expats who worked in Juba and had unprecedented to access to these elite are just as guilty as they are and we ought to respond to the call by South Sudanese to explain ourselves.

  5. This is sadly a solid description of what is happening in South Sudan. That said, I have to sympathize with Peter Wankomo. I think he is right. I lived and worked in Juba from 2006 to 2011 and prior to that I worked with South Sudanese for over a decade, including during the civil war. I visited and worked in the liberated areas regularly.

    As far back as 2006/2007 it was clear that catastrophe was in the making. We, who were there on the ground as part of the international community did not confront South Sudan’s new elite to arrest the pattern of abuses and the massive, astronomical grand corruption that we saw daily.

    Some of these cases of corruption were so grand and so grotesque that one would be laughed out of a room for describing them. And yet, we cheered them on; refusing to face the fact that this young state was bound to collapse sooner rather than later.

    Peter is absolutely right in calling us out and demanding accountability from us. Out of respect I will not mention names, but I will speak for myself. We, the international friends and expats who worked in Juba and had unprecedented access to South Sudan’s new and highly corrupt elite are just as guilty as they are and we ought to respond to the call by South Sudanese to explain ourselves. It is the ethical thing to do.

  6. Powerful, sad and true. I will be sharing. The ‘silent’ Sudanese are key to solving this nightmare..but who will galvanize them?

  7. Thanks, Alex, for this new political barrage destined, as usual, to discredit the South Sudanese liberators and their rightly earned state. All nations in transition tumble, with the hiccups of the kind South Sudan currently faces quite mundane and reflected in all histories of mankind. Indeed, South Sudanese political and military leaders have made numerous mistakes in their efforts toward state formation, but which country has not? Every country, including Great Britain, has experienced incredibly bad moments. That a select number of the western countries is to blame for the emergence of South Sudan as a state is overtly incoherent. Incoherent because such argument takes away the sacrifices, zeal, and liberation commitments South Sudanese made to obtain their sovereignty. To be sure, South Sudanese fought formidable wars for nearly a century, even in the face of obstructions from the west at some points in time. This eventually produced the CPA. So, with or without the involvement of the US in the birthing of the CPA, a South Sudanese state was inevitable. It remains unexplained how you believe mediators make for the liberators. Yes, the US assisted in the CPA’s negotiation but it was war that primarily caused all the parties to come to the table.

  8. The only justice that one can do to the people of South Sudan is to hang the two leaders in public or to send them to Robin Island and to throw the key in the sea. These are two criminal leaders who should not be allowed to hold the people of South Sudan in bondage. Shame on the AU and the international community.

  9. South Sudan is not a state – it’s a territory with groups of bandits competing for resources. Ultimately, this is about oil, and access to the spoils and rent seeking demands political access. Hence Kiir vs. Machar, both equally sociopathic incompetents who should hang from the same tree.

  10. Alex should consider himself a clear rebel against the Government of the Republic of South Sudan because I don’t see balancing the argument he created. Comparing just two words that is to say “Massacre” and “Attacked”, shows clearly the side of his ideas. The word “Massacre” is being used to have been committed by the Government and “Attacked” by the rebels. What about what was committed in Bor, Akobo and other towns like Bentiu? -How do you call it Alex? If this is not the case, what about in Bor in 1991? Was it not by the same rebel group? What do you think they want if not destruction?

  11. Once again; a question to Alex, is it a tribal war as your cartoon portrays it? If yes why is the Government still multi-tribal?

  12. Making Nonsense of South Sudan

    The problem here is that the oversimplification and graphic/cartoon medium fails to contribute to making “sense” of the situation in South Sudan.

    My initial feeling is that this contribution is overly reductionist and insensitive. An important caveat is that Alex DeWaal has indeed contributed to the wider understanding of conflict and politics in the region and this piece contains some truths. However, the medium gives an insensitive, overly sarcastic, presentation of events that are too raw and upsetting for many. Would it have been appropriate in 1948 to present the holocaust in graphic cartoon form?

    It is thus no surprise that many South Sudanese might respond negatively to presenting the suffering of family, plight of their peoples, and of their country in such a trivializing way.

    Underlying this more than anything is the tone resulting from the medium and the caricature of actual events, such as the burning of the clinic in Duk.

    The fact that Alex DeWall, who certainly has a deep understanding of the situation in South Sudan, has penned this piece adds to the feeling of frustration expressed by many, at the oversimplification present here. It seems this piece actually gives too much detail – rendering the sarcasm a problem – and yet not enough to result in any more clarity on the situation for readers, even laymen readers.

    I understand the idea that the graphic medium may access a wider audience and is “hip”. Academia and researchers alike are working hard to make itself/themselves relevant and dynamic. That effort, while laudable, must take care not to go beyond respectful and reasoned treatment of serious and traumatic issues.

    Therefore, this combination of medium and oversimplification, in this instance, at this point in time, on this subject, is insensitive and should have been more circumscribed.

  13. Dear Jacob,

    In response to your first point, I hope that the cartoon was seen as scrupulously balanced. If you read it carefully I think you will find that I call it “a war of massacres, not battles” without ascribing the massacres to only one side.

    In response to your second point, please read the first cartoon, “South Sudan: Who Got What.” This is a pictorial version of my article in African Affairs, entitled “When Kleptocracy Becomes Insolvent” which seeks to explain the South Sudanese civil war as a crisis over resources, not an ethnic conflict. However, it is impossible to ignore the ethnic dimension to the targeted killings.

    Best regards,

    Alex

  14. Dear Matthew,

    I recognize that the events in South Sudan are deeply traumatic, and also that they are exceedingly complex. However, it is clear to me that South Sudanese have a profound anger at the betrayal of their hopes and the profound transgression of their rights and values, by those who came to lead the country.

    Yes there are both simplifications and details. Who would have believed that on February 13, 2014, the South Sudanese delegates to the peace talks insisted on suspending the discussions which were being held in a secluded hotel outside Addis Ababa, to return to the capital so they could enjoy themselves on Valentine’s Day? It happens to be true. Who would have thought it possible that President Salva Kiir would rent a villa at the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa for $30,000 per night during the January 2012 African Union Summit? (The hotel generously provided a sixth night for free.) That, incidentally, was the time when the Government of South Sudan shut down national oil production, arguing that the South Sudanese had gone hungry before, and could do so again. (That episode and a hundred others of comparable moral depravity are not included in this cartoon.)

    I respect your research into South Sudan and your concerns. But, as an activist, I am not content solely with writing academic texts. And, if anything, I would argue that South Sudan’s political elite have gone beyond caricature.

    best regards

    Alex

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