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South Sudan: How culture of revenge inhibits development and progress

By Steve Paterno

Admittedly, revenge or the act of it is inherently human in nature. The human beings since biblical times could not dissuade from the proverbial practice of an ‘eye for an eye.’ Even the most advanced civilisation of the day still practices the same. For example, if a Palestinian boy hit an Israeli soldier with a rock, not a rocket, you bet, tanks will roll and the entire neighbourhood will be bulldozed a ground in an act of vengeance. In the same vein, if you mess with America, cruise missiles and all sort of bombs, even the ‘mother of all bombs’ will fly your way. The Americans euphemism for revenge is rather a fancy phrase known as ‘retaliatory response.’ The Americans can beat their chests hard and then invoke the phrase, without displaying any sense of barbarism or remorse. Just ask those of Maumar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, Osama Bin-Laden, and the rest of them, for they know it too well as to what that means.

As much as humans are naturally prompt to vengeance, they are also at the same time attracted to righteousness, a genuine act of just being good for its sake. Therefore, the human being is capable of both evil and good but does not want to live either to the extreme. Hence, they tend to strike the balance. For sure, the Israelis, with their powerful weaponry can cause much more damage to the Palestinians and the Americans can also do the same to their enemies, but yet they never go all out. With the kind of the stockpiles of nuclear weapons today being possessed in the world, if put into use, it is not an exaggeration to say that humanity will be extinct in a blink of an eye. However, those with such powers are exercising them in a measured way, proportional to the perceived crimes. This is to say in other words that by nature, they exercise self-control and that is when humanity is at its best, once they exercise self-control.

Nevertheless, when it comes to South Sudan, a country full of conflicting cultures—a country trying to forge a common destiny, the act of revenge is taken totally to a tragic level. Take for example the current escalation of violence between the two communities of Bor and Murle. The conflict between these two neighbourly communities is of course time immemorable, even though presently, it increases in intensity, due to plentiful of deadly modern weaponry systems. This, however, not also to say that there have never been times of tranquillity between these communities. Theirs, just like other communities in South Sudan, is a vicious cycle of violence, which is reoccurring for generations, but made worst under the current modern system.

The cycle always starts with peace and tranquillity. In such times of peace and tranquillity, a few stubborn and spoiler youths will go on a raid to the neighbour. The neighbour of course by nature will retaliate. This will follow with counter-retaliations until the next peaceful settlement is reached, which will mark a full vicious cycle of violence and peace. The tragedy of it all, during this cycle, the damages caused can never be recovered.

This cycle is happening in a vacuum, where there is no third party and that third party under current circumstance is the government security apparatus. Unfortunately, those from the warring communities who are serving in the government and are supposed to be responsible as a third party, pitifully, abandon their public service duties and are jumping into the fray. They further exacerbate the already worsening crisis. Just imagine a scenario where both Michael Makuie and David Yau Yau are given nuclear codes, with options of wiping each community out. Then, you guess the rest.

Anyway, since this is a pattern, that keeps reoccurring, and often starts with peace and tranquillity, is it then not possible to stop this cycle within the period of peace by preventing it from further escalations into violence???

Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at [email protected]

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