South Sudan: “For Us Here There Is No Government”
Speaking in a focus group discussion reported by the National Democratic Institute’s study of the “three areas” of South Kordofan, Abyei and Blue Nile, a Nuba man complained that “The peace is now three years and there is supposed to be tangible things. The government should have expressed its presence, but for us here there is no government.” This is one among many worrying statements in this important report about the disappointing outcomes of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the fears of a return to war. People are notably more optimistic in Blue Nile. Abyei is flashpoint: the Ngok Dinka interviewees report that their relations with the Missiriya have been irreparably damaged and that they will all be voting to join the South. But the gravest messages come from the Nuba Mountains, where insecurity is still a major worry and inter-ethnic tensions are high.
Several issues of major concern stand out. One is that while people are all in favor of elections, most will vote along ethnic lines and many will not accept a governor who is not from their ethnicity (broadly construed). A second is that the process of “popular consultation” provided for in the CPA is not well-understood and most Nuba and Funj believe that they will participate in a referendum on their future. Underlying causes of conflict–notably land–have not been addressed. While the CPA designed these democratic processes to resolve the fraught questions of the political futures of these areas, an underlying message from the report is that people’s hopes were chiefly vested in the peace dividend, in the form of economic development.
The NDI report is entitled “Losing Hope: Citizen Perception of Peace and Reconciliation in the Three Areas,” and its cover shows a darkening sky. This is a warning.