Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 14 February 2014

Throughout my travels, glimpses of hope


By Esther Sprague

February 13, 2014 - I’ve been a Sudan activist since 2003 when I met Mamer, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan who was concerned about the genocide in Darfur. Together we celebrated the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and its promise of democratic transformation – a promise that was broken five years later as we witnessed rigged elections that were sanctioned by an indifferent international community and that guaranteed Southern Sudanese second class citizenship. As a result, Southern Sudanese voted for independence; Mamer began to re-build his life in his new country; and I continued to support those in Sudan who struggle and suffer to establish the country envisioned in the CPA – a country “based on the free will of its people, democratic governance, accountability, equality, respect, and justice for all citizens.”

For South Sudanese and friends of Sudan and South Sudan, the events that unfolded in Juba on December 15, 2013 and spread throughout parts of the country were a shock and disappointment. While it was understood that South Sudan had its problems, we believed that fundamentally its leaders believed in and would uphold the vision and values of the New Sudan, which they had fought so long for and at such a great price. It is estimated that 2.5 million people died and 4.5 million were displaced during a 22 year civil war between the government of Sudan and rebels (now leaders) from Southern Sudan – a war fought for freedom, democracy, justice, and equality.

As stories began to surface about the devastating brutality that South Sudanese inflicted upon each, I lost hope. How could people who had treated each other so badly ever live side by side again? How could peace and the promise of prosperity ever stand a chance? I traveled with these doubts and concerns to Addis Ababa to attend the Sudan and South Sudan Civil Society Forum hosted by the Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre. There and in subsequent conversations, for me, glimmers of hope emerged.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Historically, Sudanese have been robbed of opportunity by leaders who have manipulated their differences - race, religion, tribe and gender - in order to secure personal power and wealth. In Sudan, the fight is fueled between Arabs and Africans or between Muslims, Christians and those who practice traditional religions. In South Sudan, tribal affiliations are used to advance political gains; and in both countries, women are oppressed rather than empowered to help build truly great nations. As a result, everyone suffers except those at the top who benefit from the dysfunction.

But in Addis at the Civil Society Forum, a different picture emerged. Africans, Arabs, Muslims, Christians, Dinka, Nuer, Sudanese, South Sudanese, men and women sat together for three days to learn from each other and to discuss the problems that plague both Sudan and South Sudan. For three days, relationships were built, ideas exchanged and ultimately resolutions drafted that were shared with the African Union and the international community – a real-time example of African solutions for African problems.

While in Addis, I witnessed the outpouring of support by the international community as a ceasefire was signed for South Sudan. I was struck by the anguish expressed by international leaders who believe in and have invested heavily in the government and people of South Sudan, and I was inspired by their commitment to stand by and assist the parties as they resolve differences for the benefit of the country and the region. The room originally arranged for the ceasefire could not hold the numbers of South Sudanese, Sudanese, international leaders, NGOs and press that seemed to care about the fate of South Sudan. And yet, the question in the air was and is, “will the ceasefire hold? Is peace in South Sudan possible?”

Nairobi, Kenya

Amazed by the events in Addis, I traveled to Nairobi to visit Mamer. He introduced me to his friends from Bor - young men who had experienced firsthand the recent violence in Juba and Bor. These young men expressed, with varying degrees of aggravation, different experiences and viewpoints as well as many questions for the international community about perceived injustices. But as we shared information and acknowledged mistakes, a small transformation began to take place as these young men became less frustrated and instead begin to identify and agree upon the necessary components for a strong country – a country they still believe in and are committed to building. In particular, they recognized the need for good governance, accountability, effective resource management and the protection of human rights.

Later I met with Mamer’s wife, Aliet, who ran with her five year old son to hide in the bush as the fight moved to her village. She explained that she and others didn’t know why fighting had returned, because for the most part, people from different tribes were living side by side in peace. She explained that although it would be difficult, if there is peace, “we will just return to our homes.” In some cases, that process has already begun.

Washington, DC

Last weekend, I traveled to Washington, DC to help facilitate an Institute for Sustainable Peace reconciliation and healing workshop organized by South Sudan Women United, a Diaspora group based in the U.S. with connections to women in South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and elsewhere. These extraordinary women from different tribes in South Sudan sat together for three days and listened to each other’s pain, grief, frustration, guilt and loneliness. They asked forgiveness for contributing, even as silent bystanders, to the conflict in South Sudan; they envisioned a brighter future for the country they love; and they strengthened relationships that were tested by the unimaginable. These women, through a message to the mediators in Addis, challenged the negotiating parties to bravely follow their example.

It’s almost a cliché to say the hope of a nation is its people, but it’s true. I traveled to Addis with a heavy heart, and although I know there are tremendous challenges to overcome in both Sudan and South Sudan, after spending five days in East Africa with an incredibly diverse group of Sudanese and South Sudanese and then to spend the weekend with South Sudan Women United, as always, I am overcome and uplifted by such compassion, brilliance, resilience and determination, under the most difficult of circumstances, to achieve what seems nearly impossible.

The February 4th statement by the Catholic Bishops of Sudan and South Sudan following their meetings in Juba, says it best, “The reconciliation we seek is a process that involves truth telling, knowing what happened when violence erupted between various communities, and why… There are no quick-fixes to the deep social divisions and trauma within our society. With time and by promoting processes that are holistic and people-centred, we believe that our painful history and our trauma can be healed and our nation reconciled.” Throughout my travels, I have seen this process work. It is difficult, it requires courage, but it may be the only hope.

Esther Sprague is the Founder of Sudan Unlimited, which seeks to support Sudanese and South Sudanese in their efforts to secure and enjoy freedom, justice, equality, democracy, peace and prosperity.

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  • 14 February 2014 05:32, by Tutbol

    Esther Sprague,
    When you write something about S Sudan & its peoples in future, it would be best not mix up S Sudan with Darfur. S Sudanese have nothing in common with Furs. You may relate the Furs with Chadians or West Africans. Darfur was not even part of N Sudan, but was forcefully cramped into N Sudan by the evil Anglo-Egyptian into that hell-hole.

    • 14 February 2014 05:42, by Tutbol

      And now they want their own space, but there are some criminals in Europe, gulf states & the US that love to use other people for own Geo-political greed on other people even if other people do not want a force union. A union is a mariage & if a mariage isn’t working for both parties; then they go to courts to part ways. The Europe & the do these all the times & i don’t know why is these mariage..

      • 14 February 2014 06:06, by Tutbol

        laws different from the territorial laws---because all about Europeans laws are frauds, shams, ful of intrigues & shrouded with myriads of contradictions; it is about the slick tongues playing puns. Why do little countries like many countries in Europe that are far smaller than Darfur, S Sudan & other happened to get their own spaces? Because these days, countries like England who made a mess---

        • 14 February 2014 06:26, by Tutbol

          of creating fraud unions in other peoples’ lands are now feeling the fraud systems they enforced on others in own back yards, the Scot will go their own way, the Welsh may also see that having your own space is not all that bad after all. And parasites like England would be left alone, probably to depend on its London Banking system, which its often defrauded & rigged....

          • 14 February 2014 06:36, by Tutbol

            And now countries like England are working very hard behind the scenes to once again fool other depressed peoples around the world that want to get their own spaces, from the likes of England fraudulent crafted unions. But human beings, no matter how foxy & powerful you think you are, they will day one time, spot your fraudulent & will tell you to back off---

            • 14 February 2014 06:48, by Tutbol

              it is an essence & instinct of human civilisation. No one loves to servile or lives under another human beings dictates, but there are some countries like England that think, that they are entitled (on their own imagined crooked world’s view) that they know what is best for other peoples better than the other peoples themselves. Eample, in our S Sudan’s ongoing negotiation in Ethiopia---

              • 14 February 2014 06:59, by Tutbol

                , there is another group apart from the regional body IGAD, that called its self *troika* (the US, Norway & the UK). The UK to which England is a part is not been invited by any S Sudanese to be a mediator, but its somehow invited its self unvited. The Norwegian peoples & all the Nordic nations, the US, Canada, Australia, Newzealand & many other countries i failed to mention have stood with...

                • 14 February 2014 07:03, by Tutbol

                  S Sudanese all along... the UK to which England belongs, to honestly mediate S Sudanese peace? My foot!

  • 14 February 2014 06:49, by Observer

    Another long boring nonsense rambling from you.
    Maybe if you tried to actually understand what the writer is trying to convey but no you just launch your usual diatribe.

    • 14 February 2014 07:20, by Tutbol

      You have a right to call my rant "Another long boring nonsense rambling from you" But since when have Furs have anything in common with the Dinkas & Nuers? The Nubas & the Funjs have a lot of connections with S Sudanese, with the Furs, Africa is the S Sudanese connection with them. The Furs are the almalgam of West Africa pilgrams to Mecca & Chadians---

      • 14 February 2014 07:34, by Tutbol

        the Furs do not even a slightest commonality with S Sudanese, whatsoever. But remember, during the war, most of the Arab killed & captured were 60% Furs. So keep your usual N Sudan twisted way of doing things, but be ware, the days of keeping the *masses fools* in the former so-called united Sudan are all, but gone. N Sudan should better, look for way to reconcile its self its with---

        • 14 February 2014 07:37, by Tutbol

          Fur peoples. The Nubas, the Funjs & the S Sudanese will take care of themselves.

        • 15 February 2014 13:44, by Mohammed Ali 2

          Tutbol, Observer is not " north " Sudanese !

  • 15 February 2014 14:02, by Mohammed Ali 2

    Sprague,I wish you come to Sudan & you will be allowed to travel to everywhere so that you could be able to talk about us.Forget about the fantasy stories of the so called "lost boys"" "which is a borrowed term from Australia, where the whiteman robbed a whole country from it’s owners" come to Sudan & see the real pple of Sudan.

    • 15 February 2014 14:12, by Mohammed Ali 2

      CON: Forget about the talk in the forum , by people paid by you, to say what pleases & appeases you.Forget about the propoganda of the 2.5 million death, which was propogated by the SPLA theieves, who robbed their ppeople at least $ 12 BILLIONS in 6 years, while their own pple are starving and their own families & childrens are enjoying the looted money outside SS !

      • 15 February 2014 14:24, by Mohammed Ali 2

        CON:Come to Sudan & see our brothers are coming back from SS " the SPLA paradise & promise land" in thousands goining to their relatives & friends. No question of religion, race , colour or ethinicity is raised.President Basheer issued strict orders to open the borders for them and allow them to live as citizents not as refugess.In Sudan we don’t know hate,we only know love.

        • 15 February 2014 14:33, by Mohammed Ali 2

          CON:I don’t want to disappoint you, but this war in SS is going to continue for some time, more brutaly and more devastating than you imagine or willing to admit!The only sufferers will be the innocent, needy, vulnerable who don’t care about north/south, Basheer/Kiir, SPLA/NCP, Islam/christianity, Arab/African or whatever in your imagination or whatever serves your own crusade !

    • 16 February 2014 03:12, by Tutbol

      Mohammed Ali 2,
      You guys love to call others of using fantasies, but the truth is, the opposite is true! The term "lost boys’ came about in 1988, when thousand of kids from S Sudan where displaced by you clowns from N Sudan & fled to Ethiopia. The US congressmen came to Ethiopia to see how the US would help them, but when the then govt of Mengistu was toppled by the current adminstration,....

      • 16 February 2014 03:20, by Tutbol

        the "lost boys’ as the US called them, because they were just young kids; were then pushed back to Pachalla, Nasir, Raad & eventually to Kakuma Refugee camp where the the US that wanted to help them 198th eventually resettled in the US in 2000. So your assertion that the phrase ’lost boys’ originated in Australia is ’your pure fantasy’....

        • 16 February 2014 03:39, by Tutbol

          The phrase that I know has its origin in Australia is ’stolen generation’ were some Natives Australians kids were inadvertently adopted to white Australians without the native Australians consents. But as far as I know, the white Australians & their Prime minister apologized to the native Australians in 2007. So stop making things up chap. But hey! what is the different between....

          • 16 February 2014 03:51, by Tutbol

            the Australia’s *whitemen* you presumed to have coined the phrase ’lost boys’ on the Aborigenes; and the N Sudan’s so-called ’Arabs’ whom some of you just came to N Sudan just as the ’whitemen’ went to Australia? When are the so-called N Sudan Arabs going to apoligized to the native Sudanese, for the pains they caused them just as the white Australians did to their indigenous counterparts?....

            • 16 February 2014 04:07, by Tutbol

              Over 2 millions S Sudanese, 300,000 Furs have been, countless victims of Nubas in their Mt & countless victims in Southern Blue Nilotes, genocidered. But because, in the history of Arabs & their culture; *they don’t have the word, ’moral guilt’ in Arabs vocabularies* The so-called Arabs of N Sudan should just accept the reality, they have manipulated the indigenous Sudanese for a long time...

              • 16 February 2014 04:16, by Tutbol

                And the free thinking indigenous Sudanese are not going to buy Arabs bullshits in their lives & the of their next generations. S Sudanese have wriggled their hands off the ’false union’ of the Sudan, the Nubas & the Funjs want the same & so do the Furs. The on going violent in S Sudan is a family affairs in S Sudanese context, but the vultures who want S Sudan fails at cost would be disappointed.

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