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By Yanta Daniel Elisha - 30 Sep 2018

Opinion: Why South Sudanese revolutionary movements have distinctive factions?

Factions refer to groups that are part of larger groups with varying opinions contrary to those of the mainstream. Take for example, the breakup of the SPLM into several factions such as SPLM In-Opposition, Democratic Change, Former Detainees, National Salvation Front, Federal Democratic Party, National Democratic Movement, National Movement for Change, People’s Democratic Movement, Patriotic Movement and the list is infinite.  Movement is a common terminology in this case. What is a movement or movements as they are multiple in South Sudan political landscape?

Movements refer to groups of people with the same interests or aims. If some groups of people have the same interests or aims, why do they again break up to form factions or even fight against one another in South Sudanese revolutionary movements, is it normal? To answer such questions, we need to understand the justification of conventional revolutionary movements before driving to the South Sudanese context.

What is the justification of revolutionary movements conventionally?

Renowned philosopher Rousseau, for those familiar with European history advocated for uprising or civil disobedience against oppressive rule.  Dated back to the days of 1789 French Revolution, King Louis XVI proved the greatest despot only comparable to God. You know, you cannot question God about your height, nationality, tribe, colour, figure, voice and lifespan. God dictates on such matters. We have to accept His design with appreciation because He knows how to compensate where there seems to be inadequacy. Why must humanity with arrogance assume such almighty powers of omnipresence (everywhere nature), omniscience (all knowing nature), omnibenevolence (infinite goodness) and omnipotence (all powerfulness)?  King Louis XVI’s rules in that regard propagated oppression, dictatorship, extravagance and arrogance, to mention but a few. Such and more prompted the French Revolution of 1789, which proved the ‘overt mother of all revolutions’ in the world.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), a renowned theologian and philosopher outlined some conditions for a just war as follows:

An appropriately instituted authority representing the common good, which is peace for the sake of humanity’s true end that is happiness with God, must wage a just war.

Just war must occur for a good and just purpose rather than self-gain or selfish motive. That is national interest as opposed to exercise of power. The purpose should be restoration of some good denied by the regime such as territory, property, right to life or punishment for evils perpetrated by government of the day, army or civilian population against some nationals.

Just war must consider peace as a central motive even amidst the greatest heights of violence. The fighting authority must fight for the right reasons for declaring the war in the first place. Central to this motive is the right intention.

The School of Salamanca, according to Wikipedia free encyclopaedia stipulates that war must be the last resort necessitated only to prevent greater evils. Such school prefers diplomatic resolution to use of military force before, during or in the aftermath of the war.

The School of Salamanca gives the following as causes for a just war:

            Self-defence with reasonable prospect of success

            Prevention against prevailing or looming tyranny

            Punishment for guilty enemies

The School however concludes that it is obligatory to take advantage of all options for dialogues and negotiations before undertaking war or even during the war. War is only legitimate as a last resort.

Away from the conventional justification of revolutionary movements, but remaining cognizant, what is the justification of South Sudanese revolutionary movements?

Some of you may begin to wonder what Yanta is driving the reader to by asking such a question when the stakeholders of the Revitalized Peace Accord (RPA), my new acronym for it are stepping up implementation measures. Remember where you come from to determine where you are going. For that reason, the question is relevant and valid.

The justification of the South Sudanese revolutionary movements of course by different factions from what I hear, watch and read from numerous sources including radios, televisions, online media and newspapers is just the same conventional one. Leaders and followers of the revolutionary movements have been using strong adjectives to describe President Kiir’s regime as ‘tribal’, ‘dictatorial’, ‘heinous’, ‘kleptocratic’ and  some nouns for naming the regime, ‘charlatans’,  ‘despots’, ‘ perpetrators of genocide’, ‘rapists’, ‘unknown gunmen’ and the list is endless.

Why then have some revolutionary factions disagreed to endorse the Revitalized Peace Accord amidst desperate mass demand for peace?

Reading from their arguments through the media, the reasons for distinctive factions in South Sudanese revolutionary movements lie in ideological misunderstanding, egoism, tribalism, misgivings about some provisions of the agreement and lack of trust and confidence in existing leaderships. Obviously, there are several leadership styles such as transformational, servant, autocratic, laissez and democratic, charismatic and bureaucratic leadership.

The ideological misunderstanding and misgivings about some provisions of the accord may be related to how the war should be concluded. The individual factionists are entitled to their opinions. That is their ‘democratic right’. People decide following their conscience. In Kuku where internal communication within self creates a mental debate, that is the mind, body and soul are in conflict on a particular matter of decision making, the ‘Chief of the Heart’ (Matat lo toili) overrules. The ‘Chief of the Heart’ is actually the mind, which is in charge of reasoning for an appropriate action. If you act without reasoning, that is to say emotionally, the Kuku elders describe that you act like women, believed to have no ‘Chief of the Heart’. Anyhow, it is a bias generalization against women. Women should not associate me with the platitude of the elders. Certainly, there is some truth in it, which does not sincerely apply to all women.

How should wars be resolved?

According to the President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, David Krieger (2003), there are precisely five ways for ending wars in the world:

  • Requiring the leaders who promote and support war to personally participate in the hostilities
  • Showing the faces and telling the stories of the children of the “enemy” until we can feel the pain of their deaths as though they were the deaths of our own children
  • Giving full support to the establishment of an International Criminal Court so that national leaders can be tried for all flagrant war crimes at the end of any hostilities
  • Impeaching any elected leaders who promote or support illegal, preventive war, what was described at the Nuremberg Trials as an ‘aggressive’ war?
  • Rising up as a nation demanding that the government follows its constitution by cutting off funding for war and finding a way to peace

Even so, can those ways apply in South Sudan’s context?

Those ways may not apply in South Sudan’s context as per now because of the same reasons for distinctive revolutionary factions such as ideological misunderstanding or lack of national ideology, egoism and tribalism as opposed to nationalism, misgivings about some provisions of the agreement and lack of trust and confidence in the prevailing leaderships.

Such have made South Sudanese fallen preys to divide and rule policies. Where there are approximately equal antagonists and collaborators, no revolution is most likely to hatch, as history has shown. Remember “united we stand, divided we fall”. Why does factionalism happen amidst knowledge of the above slogan?  What does factionalism mean to South Sudan as a nation? Are South Sudanese revolutionaries, principled politicians, mere opportunists, history makers or survivors at least?

What is wrong with factionalism in South Sudan?

Factionalism refers to the existence of or conflict between groups within a larger group according to Encarta Dictionary: English (North America).

Factionalism is wrong in South Sudanese revolutionary movements because it has caused gross loss of lives and property. It has also derailed peace efforts besides demeaning South Sudanese cause for justice, liberty and prosperity. Factionalism continues to tear South Sudan apart as either a nation or even a family. Offspring of the same parent fight against one another in various factions. Factionalism seems to herald further territorial separation of the Republic of South Sudan. Very soon, you may hear some factionists declaring their states or counties independent nations. For example, I can start by declaring ‘Federal Republic of Kajo-Keji’ (FROKK) ordaining myself as the first President, FROKK. Hahahaha! I think, by so doing I will have made a global history to realize self-actualization need as prescribed by psychologist Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper on ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’, popularly known as Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I am kidding anyway; I have no intention to engage in such extreme moves although “abnormal situations may require abnormal measures”. What I mean is that either factionalism is likely to drive South Sudan to that destiny desirably or undesirably: The wind seems to be blowing to that direction.

The world has mixed reactions to South Sudanese factionalism, some people in the world label South Sudanese as ‘ignorant’, ‘idiots’,  ‘incapable’, ‘hooligans’, ‘looters,’ ‘land grabbers’ and so forth. Yet, it may be to some extent true though largely untrue. South Sudan has some of the most intelligent individuals of high integrity and humility, the world has ever produced.

What is the way forward to sustainable peace and stability that South Sudanese yearn for every minute?

Morally, peaceful means through dialogue like the Revitalized Peace Accord signed on September 12, 2018 seems the option. Nevertheless, will the parties to the deal implement it in letter and spirit to end the protracted wars in South Sudan? Does the appearance of pregnant clouds after some drought ascertain immediate fall of rain?  Anyway, I remember one deceased priest who prayed for rain after seven years of drought and then immediately it fell. Hence, where there is life, hope lingers. Let us hope and pray that South Sudan will realize lasting peace and stability as soon as desired.

The author is a seasonal journalist and educator. He can be reached via email

The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.