Small Talk. Big Convos.

Of South Sudan, Pope Francis and a 5-year Old Civil War

Reading Time: 7 minutes

After a very sumptuous meal, I decided to lie down and perhaps check some updates on Twitter. I kept scrolling for about 10 minutes but could not just find anything interesting- except what I describe as sheer toxicity.

Apparently, a girl was trending because she tweeted that, any man who claims he loves her automatically owes her and henceforth should be responsible for all her financial needs. I saw a screenshot of the original tweet and replies she gave to people who questioned her opinion. And I just thought she was perhaps seeking clout or that’s actually her mentality. It actually sparked up a controversy.  

When the focus of the conversation shifted from her original position and moved a bit towards feminism, which most women have defined in a very wrong and misleading way, most of the replies she gave to people made it clear that she didn’t fancy the idea of gender equality and was okay with the patriarchal atmosphere as long as money greases her pockets. Left to me, she wasn’t just a bright mind. I mean, who on this earth does that?


Again, I describe this as toxic; in fact my eyes have seen more crazy things on this Twitter and this one of course is not worth my time; so I don’t really want to talk about it. Just one thing I need to say which you must have figured out is that, a man is never indebted to any woman financially because he loves her.

What actually struck my attention were the pictures of Pope Francis kneeling down to some three figures I didn’t even know before. The caption on the tweet was: ”The Pope appealing to South Sudanese President- Salva Kiir, Vice President-designate- Riek Machar and Rebecca Nuandeng De Mabio”. A follow-up to that same tweet stated that, “The Pope said, to the three of you who signed the Peace Agreement, I ask you, as a brother, remain in peace”.

 I became curious just immediately, and ran into the comments section to see what people had been saying about it. I was utterly shocked to see that almost everybody was saying the same thing. They were all of opinion that the Pope was doing a great thing by kneeling and kissing the feet of those people. But I somehow had a contrary opinion. But I kept mute and did not want to sound overly judgmental or forward. I just wanted to really understand what was happening.

So I went to my friend, Google and asked a few questions and as ever, he gave me some real answers.

The reason the Pope was kneeling for them was not even something that started yesterday; not even 2 months ago. It started as far back as 2011 when South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in 2011 becoming the world’s newest country with the backing of some Western nations. I could remember that day vividly. I was at a store waiting to pay for what I bought when the breaking news hit the TV screen; amidst loud fanfare.

Unfortunately, two years later civil war erupted in South Sudan. Tragic, right? More tragic is the fact that according to a report released as at September 2018, an estimated 383,000 people have died as a result of that war, after five years of fighting. At the time, estimations were made that the figure could even be way higher than that. The researcher who carried out this estimations attempted to calculate the death toll from the beginning og the conflict in December 2013 until April 2018 and were able to come out with this figure which was still marred by nihility.

You should begin to ask, what are the root causes of the conflict? The conflict began as a small feud between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and to then Vice President Riek Machar.  That small feud soon graduated to fighting among several opposing groups, putting the country in a hot pit of violence and eventually producing a devastating humanitarian crisis. According to an article published by The New York Times, “hunger and disease racked the country and millions fled to neighboring countries. Human rights abuses, mass rape and potential war crimes have been documented on both sides of the conflict”.


At the time, it was so hard to figure out the death toll because violence had taken over the whole country such that large portions of the country were inaccessible for periods of time, Researchers could not access those areas to carry out their analysis which made it further difficult to understand and fight the situation.


On September 12 2018, a new peace agreement was signed by all parties to the conflict during an event in Ethiopia. But unfortunately, the agreement was not designed to address the real issues surrounding the conflict, so most people said was structurally flawed and feared it might not hold- which of course did happen, as killings resumed all over the country further jacking up the already humongous death toll.

So apparently, it was and is still a case of power tussle between two heavily power-drunk  people who are so concerned about the top seat and do not care if over 400,000 people lose their lives in the process. Now, I can give substantial credence to what the Pope was trying to do. Sacrificing his pride for the sake of the innocent people who just want to live simple lives. It is actually laudable and worthy.

But how did it get to this point? Where a whole Pope has to kneel and kiss these people’s feet to allow peace reign. A civil war, for over 5 years? In fact, that is the longest civil war ever! Reports reveal that, since the conflict started in December 2013 more than 4 million people have fled their homes, with 2.47 million taking refuge in neighboring countries- with almost 200,000 living in six UN “protection of civilians” sites across the country.

After the research I made on the issue, my thought chain began to drift towards another direction. How callous, heartless and wicked could these people be that it has to take a whole Pope to prostrate and kiss your feet before peace can reign? Even the facial expression one of them had suggested that he particularly was not even ready for peace.

I always wonder why it is only in Africa that these kind of bizarre things happen. I once asked myself, “Is Africa cursed?”. I just could not find tenable answers to this question. But each time I hear this kind of thing about Africa, it reinforces that belief, which of course is subjective.

One crazily baffling thing about this South Sudan issue is the fact that, the conflict is not even because of a military coup or because of any military affiliations; the main actors are democratically elected. Unlike every other civil war that Africa has experienced, it has usually been a case of the military trying to oust the civilian government, or vice-versa. But in this case, we have the democratically elected leaders using the military forces in the country to cause mayhem all over the whole country.

Let’s get the facts straight, and not just deal with rhetorics. After South Sudan gained independence in 2011- fast forward to 2013, December precisely President Kiir accused his former Deputy Riek Machar and ten others of attempting a coup d’état. Machar after seeing how things were playing out denied the allegation and fled to lead the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement- in opposition (SPLM-IO).

Fighting started between the SPLM and the SPLM-IO, which eventually ignited the civil war. Several efforts were made by some local and international forces to stop the war, but all proved abortive as killings continued after the first ceasefire agreement was reached in January 2014 which was followed by some other failed negotiations, most of which were orchestrated by the “IGAD+” (which includes the eight regional regions called the Inter-governmental Authority for Development as well as the AU, UN, China, the EU, USA, UK and Norway.

The conflict is such a complicated one that one cannot really place definite tabs on all the actors responsible for the conflict. Apart from the major conflict between Kiir and Machar’s supporters, there have also been some small ethnic fights, where Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group has been accused of attacking Riek’s Nuer ethnic group.

From this time onwards, all sorts of atrocities have been committed in a country that was only 2 years in existence at the time. Rebellions, ethnic tension, open shootings, small ethnic conflicts, political instability, failed peace talks and rebel splits, rape, abuse of human rights, sexual violence, starvation etc. all became second nature in South Sudan, with no end in sight.

Questions need to be asked. Why do these leaders crave the top seat so much that they do not care if lives are wasted, as long as they get it? What exactly attracts them to that seat? The people who allow themselves to be used as pawns in this political game; don’t they have a reasoning site in their brains to let them rise against these oppressors- is it a case of illiteracy?

Why must civil wars be normal in Africa, to the extent of it spanning for more than 5 years and it seems endless? Why does a Pope have to kiss the feet of these wicked, callous ones before peace reigns?

These questions beg for real tenable answers.

One baffling thing is that it is not even a matter of terrorism- which is also Africa’s second nature. It is a case of a people who share the same historical lineage/descendancy just 2 years after they gained independence. Same independence they fought for by themselves.


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Kayode Adams O.

Kayode Adams O.

Kayode Adams O. is a budding writer of anything! - but majorly his writings have hovered around societal issues, politics, governance e.t.c.

When he is not writing, he enjoys reading books mostly by African writers, and listening to music.

His works have featured on several publications such as Vocal Sci-Lens, an editorial group based in Obafemi Awolowo University where he is currently studying Biochemistry.

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