TRIBALISM IGNITES THE CURRENT AND PREVIOUS CONFLICTS IN SOUTH SUDAN
By Daniel Wuor Joak
April 16, 2014(Nyamilepedia) — Several nationals and foreign writers have been addressing this concern for a number of years and extensively made researches on it where they thoroughly figured out that “Tribalism” is the main obstacle to future peace and harmony to communities living in South Sudan. Both British colonial power and successive Sudanese regimes in Khartoum had voiced the same concern where they rightly predicted that South Sudanese people would not afford to rule themselves peacefully if granted a state of their own. The present situation can prove without any doubt to all of us as testimony. As South Sudanese who was born and grew up during the first Anya-Nya war and later participated intensively during the second war of struggle from January 1984, my experiences proved that something wrong is lingering in our minds that need to be readjusted in order for Republic of South Sudan to survive and be governed peacefully and transparently. Let us not pretend that everything is alright within our setups being on the government or in the opposition sides. Our society in general, unfortunately, is very much decay from top to bottom unless is drastically rescue from eminent demise through cooperation and understanding.
All the sixty-four tribes, which inhabited the Republic of South Sudan, are very peaceful and loving people but inherited only by wrong leaders who have been blindly followed by their subjects without questioning their integrities and commitments to their wellbeing. Education and exposures to other world civilizations has nothing in our applied knowledge. Some of our most learned South Sudanese leaders who are supposed to be the best exemplary behaves as if they had never gone to classrooms. They always incite their tribal groups once they run short of ideas to convince their political opponents at national level.
The December 15, 2013’s saga had nothing to do with either Nuer or Dinka for that matter. It was squarely an SPLM internal matter that would have been resolved by its members from within. The massacre and wanton killings perpetrated against over ten thousand Nuer civilians which was deliberately carried out by the so-called Presidential Guards and their colleagues from other organized forces from Dinka in Juba town for three days was an act of a defeated leader at national level. Those leaders who challenged President Salva Kiir Mayardit from SPLM Party including Dr. Riek Machar, Mamma Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior, Deng Alor Kuol, John Luk Jok, Kosti Manibe, Alfred Ladu Gore, Dr. Cirino Eteng, Madut Biar Yel, Pagan Amum, Oyai Deng Ajak, Chol Tong Mayay, Taban Deng Gai, Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba, Majak de’ Agot and Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth etc. Those who know the South Sudanese names very well can easily identify how many Nuer are on the list. They are only four in number among the fourteen SPLM leaders who advocated for change of leadership. The higher figures from the group who opposed Kiir’s leadership were from Dinka. They had five and the rest were from different communities from Equatoria states. The Nuer community for that matter was victims of political conspiracy intentionally hatched by President Salva Kiir Mayardit to eliminate them from South Sudan’s politics. The fabricated coup attempt, which was later, publicized by President Salva Kiir himself and his errand boys all over the world against his former Vice President Dr. Riek Machar, was a ploy to distort and detract the attentions of South Sudanese and their well wishers worldwide who were terribly shocked and saddened with great disbelieves about the awful massacres of the Nuer community which were systematically carried out by government supporters in Juba, Malakal, Bor, Leer and Bentiu. With this kind of systematic killings against the Nuer, the White Army and defected SPLA soldiers from Nuer in Juba, Bor, Bentiu and Malakal fought back against the government loyalists until they bravely overran the towns of Bor, Bentiu and Malakal as well as most of the counties in the three states of Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei respectively and this was the beginning of the rebellion in the South Sudan.
President Salva Kiir had in the past been mastering the same tricks against different communities throughout the country where he fomented tribal feuds amongst the Dinka themselves, Nuer v Murle, Murle v SPLA, Nuer v SPLA, Mundari v Bari, Achol v Madi, Acholi v Bari, Dinka v Fertit, Shilluk v Dinka, SPLA v SPLA etc. Such feuds were more less land disputes or indiscriminate disarmaments where he always favoured one group against another biasedly. It resulted to numerous rebellion movements.
With the current conflict, some selfish politicians who do not want their individual interests to be jeopardized have dragged in some communities into this war unnecessarily. For example, the Dinka Ngok of Baliet in Upper Nile State were not at all part of this wrangling but they were rather dragged in by none others than the State Governor of Upper Nile Simon Kun Puoch and his County Commissioner of Baliet Rev. James Tor Monybony. Before the fighting took place in Malakal town on the 3rd week of December 2013, a group of state lawmakers, state ministers, other organized forces officers and senior state officials from the counties of Ulang and Nasir, after they completely disagreed with the state governor over the killings of Nuer civilians in Juba whereas the governor himself with on denial that the government in Juba did not order the massacres of Nuer civilians. They were rather killed by individual criminals as his unwavering support presently with the government in Juba confirmed. After the group decided to travel to Nasir area without official approval from the state governor, their convoy of twelve cars was intercepted at Baliet Count by a force being organized by Baliet County Commissioner under specific order from the state governor Simon Kun Puoch where he instructed him not to allow the convoy to proceed to the last destination as planned. Instead the group were told to return back to Malakal or else be dealt with accordingly. While the were in state of discussions, the organised soldiers from Baliet opened fire indiscriminately killing: 1. Hon. Nhial Lual Wuol, SPLM Chief Wipe Upper State Legislative Assembly, 2. Hon. Bang Duop Lam, Chairperson of Justice Committee, Hon. 3. Thuok Puok Goot, Secertary General State Secretariat, 4. One Colonel from Police, 5. Two Major from Police, 6. Two Captains from Police and several officials. The total of those killed that day of 20/12/2013, were 17 persons.
When the news of their killing reached Nasir and Ulang, the communities of these two counties were extremely alarmed and the White Army decided to go and search for the survivals in Baliet County. The number of passengers in the convoy was over sixty persons who were dispersed by their attackers to wilderness. Most of them died of thrust and hunger in the forest. Instead of the people of Baliet County to apologize for the killings, the While Army from Ulang and Nasir found them prepared for war against them. This was the root cause of the first fighting in Baliet County. It was Governor Simon Kun Puoch and Rev. James Tor Monybony who should be held responsible for the death of innocent Dinka civilians from Baliet County and Nuer of Ulang and Nasir Counties respectively. It was not their wishes to kill themselves but the war was rather imposed on them by these two greedy politicians. This is a known fact and nobody will ever deny that as long as evidences are concerned.
The same thing with the prevailing human tragic befallen in Shilluk Kingdom where former militias recently absorbed by government of South Sudan under commands of Major General Johnson Oluony and Brig. General Ayuok Ogat and under overall influence of their mentor Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin have been badly used by government in Juba to wage war against the SPLM/A-In Opposition forces in Upper Nile State. This exposes the Shilluk community into danger because most of their recruits hail from Shilluk tribe and the fighting is concentrating in Shilluk area whereas thousands of Shilluk have been displaced from their ancestral lands either to UNMISS camp in Malakal town or into neighbouring country of Sudan. The blame still goes to Dr. Lam Akol who encourages the Shilluk militias to fight alongside that despotic regime in Juba for his selfish gains. He had been in opposition all these years until when he learnt that his erstwhile political rivals Dr. Riek Machar and Pagan Amum went on loggerheads with President Salva Kiir Mayardit. He hastily came back from his self-exiled in Cairo and took this opportunity to mend his relations with President Kiir in order to side-line the other two SPLM opposing leaders in his favour. The Shilluk as community has no reason to fight the White Army or the SPLM/A – In Opposition for that matter because the two communities have a lot in common and very much integrated culturally through inter-marriages assimilations. Because of misuse of Shilluk sons being conscripted into militia’s rank and fight alongside the SPLA, Brig. Ayuok Ogat, one of the factional militia commanders decided to defect to the rebel ranks. His forces and that of SPM/A – In Opposition recently captured the town of Kaka El Tigariah from the government forces. This marked the beginning of Shilluk community to disassociate themselves from Salva Kiir and Lam Akol’s ban-wagon. Their marriage of convenience will soon disintegrate as already the Chollo community realises the truth.
The same scenario has also been happening in Mayom County in Unity State where the sons of Monytuil Ojang, Dr. Nguen who is the Unity State Governor and General Bapiny have been organizing a militia band under command of Major General Matthew Puol Jang. The militia who hails from Bul Nuer clan has been fighting alongside the government against the SPLM/A – In Opposition forces all this time without being integrated into SPLA ranks like Shilluk Militia. Sadly, they are not in payroll but miserably used to fight for the interests of their godfathers in Juba. Until the day of yesterday on 15 April, when the Bul militia fighting force realized that they have badly been misused by the sons of Monytuil Ojang in Juba by killing their own Nuer people and destroying their properties jointly with SPLA of Dinka elements, SPLM-N, JEM and UPDF forces against the SPLM/A-In Opposition in Unity State. Over 600 of them under command of Major General Karlo Kuol Ruai have defected to the rebel’s rank and this made the capture of Bentiu very quick and easy.
Once again, the same tools also used by some politicians from Dinka Bor in Jonglei State where they deliberately dragged in their community into war unnecessarily. For example, the people of Pegi, Duk and Twic East Counties who are all from Dinka origins had never been part of current war because the SPLM/A – In Opposition or the White Army always consider them neutral. They did not participated in the massacres of Nuer in Juba and other towns in Greater Upper Nile as this was done only by some Dinka elements from Greater Bahr El Gazal. Therefore, they were not attacked during the first and second capturing of Bor town by SPLM/A –In Opposition in December 2013, and January 2014, simultaneously.
Unfortunately, the people of Duk were encouraged by their politician Hon. Philip Thon Leek to form their own militia group and fight alongside the SPLA and UPDF forces in the area. Following the recent fighting between the government and rebels forces, Duk County became a contesting zone and that was the reason why some of the structures including the lost boys clinic was destroyed during the fighting. Hon. Philip Thon Leek should not escape from being blamed for having encouraged the Dinka youth in Duk County to fight alongside the government and their Uganda ally forces against the SPLM/A-In Opposition forces. The Counties of Pegi and Twic East are free from attack up to this time from the SPLM/A-In Opposition and the White Army because they have shown their neutrality openly.
Frankly speaking, the government of President Salva Kiir Mayaridit in Juba has completely lost it full supports and confident of the Nuer people throughout the Nuerland in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile States because of the wanton killing and awful massacres its committed against the innocents Nuer in Juba and other towns in Greater Upper Nile states. It is now resorting on supports of individual’s personalities like Major General James Hoth Mai, Dr. Riek Gai Kok, General Charles Lam Chol, General Yohannes Yoal Bath, Simon Kun Puoch, James Kok Ruai, John Kong Nyuon, Dr. John Gai Yoah, General Johnson Gony Billieu, Major General Bol Kong, Nyang Chuol Dhuor, Hon. Timothy Taban Juoch, Justice John Gatwech Lul, Hon. Manasah Magok Rundial, Dr. Joseph Nguen Monytuil, Kuong Danhier Gatluak, General Bapiny Monytuil ect. who have no grass-root supports and at the same time being labelled by Nuer in general as sell-outs who compromised the death of their own fellows for material gains and positions. Whether President Salva Kiir have them in his camp, the grass-roots Nuer considers them like those perished in Juba during the aftermath of fighting. Their contributions are not valued very much at this time. That is why some of them resort on sending people with money to bribe the Nuer White Army in Eastern Upper Nile and Eastern Jonglei States. If they want Nuer to support their cause, why they do not approach the ones residing at UNMISS camps in Juba, Bor and Malakal instead of looking for people who have already escaped the government’s onslaughts. Unfortunately, their cheap dealings are rejected completely throughout the Nuerland. Some of their agents went recently through Ethiopia carrying with them several hundreds thousands of US dollars to bribe the White Army and some field commanders associated with Dr. Riek Machar to return to the government circle. But this mission ended up in fiasco where many of them have been arrested in Gambella region by the Ethiopian security or sent back to Juba unceremoniously. This is always the work of failed leaders who are virtually disowned by their own communities. Whether they like it or not the South Sudan is in turmoil and there will be no reverse at all. Therefore President Salva Kiir and his cronies must go by all means sooner than later or otherwise, Moamar Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein’s sagas will fall on them squarely.
The Author was former MP & Minister of Education, Science & Technology (UNS) and now Executive Director of African Centre for Human Advocacy (ACHA), which advocates for human rights and good governance throughout the Africa Continent.