Farewell, Dr. Seth Kumi, friend to South Sudan and earnest supporter of National Dialogue. 70 Juba VIPs attended a special event organized by Ebony Center for Strategic Studies and Sudd Institute at the Juba Grand Hotel’s Gudele Hall on Saturday to bid farewell to Dr. Seth Kumi, the outgoing Political Affairs Director of the UNMISS.
Dr. Kumi (after being dressed with South Sudanese Lawo of Authority) was very frank with his reflections on the past and future of South Sudan from the perspective of UN multilateralism (we will post the primary document from him in PDF soon). The richness and depth of the presenter’s reflections emanated from his Ghanan & Pan-African orientation, combined with his experience for 11 years in South Sudan; in Equatoria, Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile and Abyei, where he served within the UN system, in addition to other experiences abroad.
From the history and connection, Dr. Kumi made for the past, he drove home the point that the bad situation that South Sudan is undergoing is not exceptional because of a number of post-colonial and newly liberated countries, especially in Africa, experienced similar wrong path. For him the core drivers of conflicts therein were:
1) having a common enemy to fight
2) greed over the struggle for power and resources
3) human nature itself.
But as far as geopolitics and international security is concerned, Dr. Kumi warned South Sudanese leaders against failing into ‘Belgian Trap’ where the neighbors and interested allies tend to use it (i.e. the territory of South Sudan) for their ‘theatre of operations and battles’ to grind their axes. He wanted South Sudanese to use ‘Smart Diplomacy’ and ‘Political Wisdom’ for addressing their grievances and issues, rather than reactionary fighters’ militancy. Also, he wanted the transitional justice to be served in accordance with the context of South Sudan, which should satisfy the victims’ outcry for redress of the losses incurred on them by the perpetrators.
Dr. Kumi’s greatest message to international community was that South Sudan is not a hopeless country as negatively reported by those who ignore the ‘voice of the frogs’ from the depth of water but only impress the crocodiles at the surface by playing into the perceptions of the Interest groups who they intend to persuade for one reason or another.
Dr. Kumi wanted South Sudanese (leaders & people) to hold on Hope, Faith, and Dream for the best of their country. He wanted them to fear ‘The Fear’ and prioritize the following in their actions:
1) culture of dialogue as military victory won’t work in the decentralized setting of the tradition of South Sudanese society;
2) Prudent management of diversity but not ethnic or sectarian federalism;
3) Political process to achieve peace (i.e., inclusive ARCISS revitalization for elites but credible NDSS for voiceless grassroots who should also participate inclusively to complement the peace deal);
4) economic vitalization and paying due attention it deserves in order to avoid the devastations of ignoring the principle ‘it’s the economy, stupid!’
5) Revisiting the costly humanitarian delivery in South Sudan where donors monies (billions) get largely consumed above 60% by aids agents before the help reaches the needy.
6) No Money, No Peace in South Sudan.
Dr. Kumi concluded with great emphasis that South Sudan will rise again on collective efforts of ending the war and embracing the peace. He advised the international community to be realistic and treat South Sudan, not as a lost cause but “Oyee” of Hope and Prosperity.
All the attendants stood up in big applause as they got moved by the strong reflective statement of Dr. Seth Kumi on Past and Future of South Sudan. All those who commented on his presentation were all appreciative and satisfied with his contribution to the good of South Sudan.
The occasion was Chaired by the PDF Co-Chair, Hon. Aggrey Tisa Sabuni. It was moderated lively by Hon. David Mayo and with constant focusing on the main concepts and themes. Hon. SPLM Acting Secretary-General Jemma Nunu Kumba and Hon. Chairperson of Foreign Affairs Committee in TNLA Prof. George B. Nyombe gave their comments frankly on the presentation.
Dr. Kumi responded to the comments and confirmed the role played by the UNMISS to ensure that Gen. Paul Malong Awan’s standoff with President Salva Kiir was resolved amicably via dialogue. He referred to the case where the U.S imposed reduction on military budget in Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution after its people smelled the damages of dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But Japan became a great productive world’s economy today. “Why not us in Africa?”, he lamented!
Dr. Kumi is retiring to his Coco Farm in Ghana where his people have been producing what goes to the international markets with low price but returned to be sold as chocolate with high prices. That made him not to eat chocolates.
Other share mini-anecdotes and remarks to mark the occasion:
- Hon. Sabuni wanted him to add value to Coco so that it gets better marketing as he leaves South Sudan with the blessing of Nile Water in his body system, which will make him come back again.
- Hon. Lilian Risiq related the clarity and precision of Dr. Rumi’s description of the differences and commonalities between the National Dialogue and ARICS when he addressed UN Women in the Summer of 2017.
- Hon. John Gai related a story of first Pan-African anglophone leaders in London who spent their idle days insulting colonialists while being served tea and food by British spouse of Dr. Kenneth Kaunda Banda, former president of Malawi, who listened to their talks as they divided Africa Commonwealth among themselves after freedom from the British.
- Hon. Sarah Rial and Dr. Abrham Kuol urged Dr. Kumi to write a book on his tale about South Sudan.
- Hon. Richard K. Mulla wanted him to come back to continue his help in laying the foundation of federalism in South Sudan. Sudd and Ebony promised to engage him in future.
- Hon. Kuel Aguer wanted the international community to give relief assistance to peaceful areas in South Sudan as a reward for their co-existence, rather than focusing on risky troublemakers zones.
- Dr. Lual Deng related winning a Ghanan Shirt (given to him in 1986 when visited Accra and got a job with AfDB in Cote d’Ivoire later) and was concerned about President Omar Al Bashir’s visit to Moscow and wondering too whether SPLM’s Cairo Reunification move is ‘smart diplomacy’.
Many more comments were appreciatively shared with compliments for the good work done by Dr. Seth Kumi in South Sudan.
What a Great Man! Africa is Blessed.