Wednesday, Jan. 21, a potentially great thing happened for the world’s newest nation — South Sudan. The leaders of the three governmental factions — who have led their citizens into politically motivated tribalism at the cost of thousands of lives, and have displaced approximately 2 million individuals and a famine — finally signed a peace agreement.
The world has witnessed these very leaders sign peace agreements and cease fires before, only to smudge the ink of their word by pulling the trigger of tribalism within hours of laying down their pens. Both the European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions against the commanders of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for breaking the ceasefire.
However, I find myself questioning “Why the commanders?” instead of going to the root, holding the men accountable who drive and direct the commanders.
It seems, in South Sudan, we are taking the same impotent stance that we have taken with Sudan in Darfur and the Nuba Mountains. United Nations whistleblower Aicha Elbasri states, “The Sudanese government enjoys near total impunity from the international community, and regularly leverages it to commit targeted acts of violence against its own citizens…”
A youth walks past a United Nations peace keeper in the North Darfur state capital of El-Fasher, on June 17, 2013. The opening session of the two-day 'retreat' by Sudanese envoys, who meet every two years to review developments in Darfur, is taking place in El-Fasher in which Eltigani Seisi, head of the Darfur Regional Authority, told the meeting that traditional mediation techniques involving tribal elders are no longer effective. Getty Images
I question if this is not a patterned failure of leadership we have fallen into in an effort to keep the peace, when in fact there is no peace to be kept. Have we become so ensconced in an image of Mr. Nice that we have forgotten how to confront the evil that mass rapes women and ties their children to the tail of a horse, dragging them into sexual, domestic, and military slavery?
Now that both Salva Kiir Mayardit (president of South Sudan) and Riak Machar Teny (sacked vice-president) have signed this peace agreement, I wonder what difference we could make by standing with them and the people of South Sudan by making it clear we will not tolerate another betrayal. What proactive, preventative boundaries can we draw now to protect the people of a new nation when their leaders are willing to kill them to climb to the top of Mount Power?
What if we congratulated these men for their willingness to stop spending $21,000 per day for “peace-talk meetings,” already totaling more than $17,000,000 as of August 2014, for which they often didn’t bother to show up, while at the same time let them know that we expect them to honor the words above their signature by outlining immediate sanctions they will face if they break them? This could include sanctions against the Callers of all Shots, Kiir and Machar, rather than only punishing the bullets fired through the barrels. If we draw that boundary now, instead of after potential slaughters, we could prevent 10,000 more deaths.
The best content in the peace agreement is: “Among the issues agreed upon by both parties is the restoration of peace and stability in South Sudan and the demand for SPLM leadership to make a public apology to the people of South Sudan for all the atrocities committed during the bloody conflict.”
The thought behind this reminds me of Spain’s response to the Spanish Inquisition as well as their long history of persecution and massacres of Jews. In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II led the Vatican, and specifically Spain, to repent of their persecution and massacre of thousands of Jews. My husband and I moved to Spain around this same time. As we heard the stories of villages proudly donning such names as “Castrillo Matajudios” (Camp Kill Jews) and how many citizens struggled to change their names, we couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if the United States had a similar day of repentance for our genocide against our own indigenous people, Native Americans, and Africans, who we enslaved, and then finally African Americans who we made subservient for generations after the end of the transatlantic slave trade.
As I write all this out, I find myself stunned at where I’ve landed.
This place is what kids would call, “Stick Your Finger in Your Eye.” It’s the land where when you’re willing to look at your own mess, you realize that perhaps the reason you weren’t willing to stick your finger in another’s mess is because you hadn’t touched, known or even faced your own. Many of us know this place well in our personal lives. Perhaps if we can help each other face it at home, we can do a better job helping the world face their mess with the sort of patience, tolerance, kindness and love that leads to healthy boundaries and healing.
Kimberly Smith was recently interviewed by TheBlaze Faith Editor Billy Hallowell. Read her revelations about her faith and missionary work here.
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