TCT spoke to Edmund Yakani (left), Executive Director of Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), a South Sudan civil society activist, on the current state of affairs in the country. He said citizens should demand that political leaders stop using violent means of resolving their political differences and instead embrace dialogue.
TCT: What would you say about the current state of South Sudan?
EY: South Sudan is at a critical point between becoming successful or a failed state. The recently signed peace agreement (2015) demonstrated the fate of the state of South Sudan.
TCT: What is the role of civil society in the current state of affairs in South Sudan?
EY: The civil society is weak because majority of civil society organizations are partisan, they have either directly or indirectly taken sides on the political situation facing the country. Few civil society organizations are playing the actual role of civil society as the bridge between the government and the citizens. Civil society is weak to the level that they cannot hold the state - government or any public governance institution - accountable.
TCT: Are you satisfied with what the government is doing to help those in need?
EY: The government is doing less than what is expected. Majority of public officials are corrupt and seriously engage in malpractices such as nepotism, tribalism and favouritism. The high rate of corruption has impacted negatively on the role of the government in social services delivery to the citizens. Following the current humanitarian situation and poor economic status, the government is doing little.
TCT: Are you satisfied with what the civil society is doing to help restore peace in South Sudan?
EY: I am somehow satisfied but not as expected. It is only a few civil society organizations that are doing well in restoring peace. They are considered by the government as enemies, or by the rebels, as allies of the government.
TCT: What role should the church play in restoring peace in the country?
EY: The church is expected to be proactive in seeking solutions and giving early conflict alerts. The church has played the role of mediation among the politicians. At the moment of peace implementation, the church has to take a leading role in issues of trust and confidence building among the leaders of the peace pact, beside their spiritual role of reconciliation and healing.
TCT: Has the African Union /Intergovernmental Authority on Development, done much to help restore peace in South Sudan?
EY: At the level of mediation, yes. But at the level of implementation, they have done little. They failed to work on matters of trust and confidence building among the peace parties.
TCT: What, in your opinion, is the way to bring peace back to the country?
EY: The only approach for restoring peace in South Sudan is through building of national institutions that place citizens’ interest first than politicians’ self-interest or group interests.
TCT: What message would you like to pass to political leaders in the country?
EY: They should stop seeking for political power through violence. They should stop using ethnicity as a political ticket for buying public office and power and give choice for peace and stability to prevail, and finally, allow the power of the vote to decide who should be the leader of the country.
TCT: What message would you like to pass to church leaders?
EY: They should take lead in building trust and confidence among the peace parties, not to be silent on wrong actions of leaders that lead to public sufferings. They should firmly stand for reconciliation and healing.
TCT: What would you like to tell the young people in South Sudan who are faced with numerous challenges?
EY: They should stop supporting the violence created by politicians as a means of seeking for political power. They should start deciding on what future they want for themselves and for the generations to come. It is high time they built an inclusive South Sudan instead of embracing violence among themselves.
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TCT: Any message that you have for leaders in the East African region?
EY: They should support South Sudan in resolving their political differences in a non-violent way. Taking sides in the conflict in South Sudan is worsening the situation. Secondly, they should stand firm on the matters of civilian protection. The chances that South Sudan will get to the point of (the 1994) Rwanda genocide or worse is imminent. Avoiding that is through supporting urgent settlement of the South Sudan political crisis.