By Dr. Hoth Giw Chan,
December 13, 2014(Nyamilepedia) — There are several letters circulating on the net these days written by the so called “Dinka Council of Elders”. In one of the letter (A letter dated October 30th, 2014); a good number of elders from Dinka Community signed the said letter. The content of the letter, especially the language of it seems not to match with the titles of those who appended their names on that letter. This is because; one would not expect members of National Legislative Assembly (MP) and the former Chief Justice, whose names appears on the list, to uses the word “terrorist Nuer” in a letter that is intended to launch a complaint of a national nature to an International or Regional Body tasked to mediate peace between the nationals of one country, especially, when there are a good number of Nuer on their side/Government. Not to mention the fact that members of the Nuer ethnic group were the ones slaughter in masses in Juba, by the very people who are calling them “terrorist” because their clan men responded to the genocidal acts ordered by Kiir—and now maybe with the advises from the “Dinka Council of elders”.
Historically, Elders have vital role in traditional Africa. Elders are the custodians of norms, culture, customary laws and peacemaking in most African countries. Their role is always respected as they are the social fabric that binds most African societies together because of their wisdoms and farsightness. The African old age institution is an institution that is respected across the board, and for that matter, eldership is always equated with wisdom, peace, and stability in most African societies, South Sudan included.
What has been revealed by “Dinka Council of elder” is something new, and a new low in South Sudan Politics. This is in fact a sign of a decaying role of elders in the Dinka Community, unless the smart ones are in the villages. Instead of putting the national interest first by encouraging intra- ethnic dialogue between the elders of both Communities, the Dinka Council of elder veered off and went astray by condemning the very community that has been wronged by the regime that massacred over twenty thousand (20,000) in four days and whose members are living in a concentration camps like in the National Capital, Juba, Malakal, and Bentiu, because of the fear of extermination by the members of Kiir’s ethnic group as represented by the so called “Dinka Council of elders”.
How would the Dinka Council of Elders expect the Nuer Community members to view the following statements from their complaints letter?
We, Jieng (Dinka) Elders are extremely saddened by this impression and precedence. Firstly, the mediators are busy visiting the capitals of Addis Ababa, Kampala, Nairobi, Washington and Juba organizing reconciliatory meetings between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and the Nuer rebel leader Riek Machar Teny.
Without a shame and slice respect to the Nuer Community, the Dinka Council of elders are referring to the leader of the Opposition/SPLM/A Dr, Riek Machar, as Nuer Rebel Leader, and to Salva Kiir, as the President. I believe all those who are calling themselves member of “Dinka Council of elders” knows very well that Dr. Riek Machar, is a national leader like Salva Kiir, whether in his previous role as Vice President, Deputy SPLM Chairman, or his current position as leader of the Opposition. The Opposition is not a Nuer Opposition, though Nuer might be a majority. Respect begin with respecting oneself and referring to an Opposition leader according to his ethnicity is disrespectful, hardly to achieves the reconciliation you are yearning for. Why are you signing using your titles (honorable) on the letter if that does not matter?
“Furthermore, the mediators are equating that rebel leader with the legitimate Government of South Sudan and the elected President, General Salva Kiir Mayardit. Will this not set precedence for a disgruntled individual or any South Sudanese ambitious power hungry armed group to stage a violent take-over of power from legitimate Government of South Sudan?”
When a group of people who considered themselves to be the top in their community fail to understand the reasoning why the mediators recognizes the warring parties to be treated on equal footings, one question the knowledge an experiences of such a Pack. Just to refresh your thinking a little bit, how did the Mediators who were mediating Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A during the CPA negotiation referred to Dr. Garang then? Was Dr. Garang, not referred to as the Chairman of the SPLM/A or just the Dinka Rebel Leader at the time? If the Parties are not going to be treated on equal footing, then why do they negotiate or what would be the point for negotiation?
“On our part it appears as a deliberate undermining of the mandate of the people of South Sudan, at the time when the end of the mandate of the legitimate Government of Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit, is only less than one year”.
Legitimacy is usually given to the Government by its people when the Government protects lives and properties of its citizens as well as respecting their freedom of all kinds. A Government that has just massacred its own people based on their ethnicity has no such legitimacy to begin with in the first place. As for the mandate to end “only less than one year (2015” it is true, but that is what begin the SPLM conflict because of Kiir’s refusal to organized a meeting for Political Bureau members to decide for the Candidate who would have contested the national election. Because he knew all along that he would not be a Flag bearer, your tribe man in the name of Kiir, resorted to the best things all African Dictators knows—creating an unnecessary ethnic conflict so people or Group like Dinka Council of Elders would jump to ride the tribal Camel. Is it not what you are doing currently—depending the Dinka Chief from the mess he created due to his lack of vision and poor leadership.
“Yes, it is absolutely true that Riek Machar Teny and his tribes’ terrorist Nuer white army succeeded to massacre countless number of innocent Jieng people in 1991 and many more after December 15th 2013”.
This seems to be an admission of quilt from those who knows that a crime (crime against humanity) has been committed by members of their community and would like to protect the said members. Connecting 1991 incident with the current massacres on Nuer by Salva Kiir, will not do. Did the Dinka Council of Elders advised Salva Kiir, to use the 1991 Bor incident as a pretext to massacre Nuer in Juba, and other places? Its important that group like Dinka Council of elders are admitting and taking responsibility for what had happened in Juba (Juba Massacre). This is what the Nuer Community and the SPLM/A has been trying to tell to the International Community that Juba Massacre was intentional with preplanning by Salva Kiir and his associates, which now includes the Dinka Council of elders. The justification as stated by the Dinka Council of elders in the above letter is to use the 1991 Bor incident to massacre Nuer in their thousands, and yet, the Dinka Council of elders considered their stand to be one way of bringing peace in the country. This is a self-contradictory position as you cannot admit massacring Nuer and want reconciliation at the same time.
“Fourthly, we know the value of national reconciliation and we have done it before! Rebel leader Riek Machar Teny even after massacring over five thousand in Jonglei and Upper Nile states in 1991, was granted amnesty in 2002; Paulino Matip with all other armed militia groups who fought for decades against the SPLA since 1983 were granted amnesty and were absorbed into SPLA in 2005 and thereafter”.
For the Dinka Council of elders to stated it in their letter that they are the one who granted Dr. Riek Machar, an “amnesty in 2002” back to the SPLM/A is bizarre and ridiculous. The SPLM/A internal issues since its establishment in 1983 and which eventually erupted into a full scale factional war in the 1990s had their origins in the formation of the movement, its management, and vision. There a lot of literatures written about that. These differences were settled peacefully again in 2001 by the main contenders of Dr. Riek Machar, and late Dr. John Garang. They resorted to work together for the national interest of South Sudanese. This was not done by the Dinka Council of elders as I remember vividly. It was an internal conflict that divided the Movement not along the ethnic line as there were Nuer and Dinka on both factions. Now you are lying to the World that Dinka Council of Elder was responsible for unification of the SPLM back then in 2001— that is pathetic. As for the Former Deputy Commander-in-Chief, General Paulino Matip, I remember that it was a Clause in the CPA that requires Other Arm Group to join the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) or the Government of Sudan (GoS). General Paulino, happened to be the leader of the SSDF (South Sudan Defense Force) which combined different Organizations in the Region. The Agreement was reached between the then Government of Southern Sudan and the SSDF. Government of Southern Sudan, was not a Dinka Council of elders Organization and one wonder why the Dinka Council of elders lies to the world that it’s had granted an amnesty to “armed militia groups”? Remember the Vice President of the Government at the time was Dr. Riek Machar—just in case it slipped away from your thinking.
“Finally, In the name of Jieng people of the Republic of South Sudan, we Jieng Elders want to surely inform the regional and International Community that Riek Machar Teny and his “terrorist Nuer white army” cannot and should not be rewarded with power to execute his “ELIMINATIONIST” Policy.
Now, you read the above statement and try to put in a way that we consider the role of elders in the African context. Imagine a club of elders whose members are currently Parliamentarians (MPs in the current Legislative Assembly) and one of them a Former Chief Justice of the country decides to write such a low letter that does not meet the standard of what a thoughtful, convincing, and well articulate letter should be. South Sudan is a country inhibited by roughly 64-more ethnic groups of which Nuer and Dinka are the major ones. These ethnic groups have lived peacefully over thousands of years in the present territory we called South Sudan. They lived peacefully because traditional methods of settling disputes between different ethnic groups were always employed by the elders of those communities. The elders in African context as I stated somewhere above have wisdoms of running the affairs of their people. In some instances, they go to an extreme of giving up one of their sons for the sake of peaceful co-existence between and among different ethnic groups.
The mentality of “it’s our turn to eat” must be led go and resort to the truthfulness of calling a spade a spade. Who in his right mind can deny the massacre of Nuer in Juba, when other South Sudanese and Foreigners were watching Nuer being slaughters in their hundreds? Did the so called “Dinka Council of elders” have a gut to even condemn what was done by your Dinka Chief, Kiir, when he ordered the massacred of over 20,000 in over four days period? Who is on the negotiating table on the side of the Government, Dinka Council of elder members or representative of Government? May be there is no different between the two after all?
Nobody is rewarding anybody with power because we are all feeling the pain of bleeding South Sudan. This unnecessary cost of human lives has been imposed on people of South Sudan because of a failure of a one man (Dinka Chief) who has ran out of ideas and only came up with a magic solution of killing his own people. Imagine a leader who has a gut to tell his people point blank that “nobody is going to come to rescue you because Riek Machar is not going to come to Juba, when his people are being protected by the UNMISS from him as he wants to exterminate them”? This is the person the Dinka Council of elders consider to be the best in the country. Those whose goals are to support and kneel down to the leader instead of the country because of the love of money, will find it sooner than later that, greed has no ceiling, and that the country is bigger than our collective greed for one single ethnic group to get rich in the expenses of other groups.
We all should know that the current madness imposed on people by Salva Kiir, will one day come to an end. There will also be a time for all of us to live in a peacefully and prosperous South Sudan. The current situation will certainly be corrected when the time is right and those who committed crimes against humanity by massacring their own people will be put where they belong in order to service justice.
Jurist Doctor, University of Massachusetts School of Law. Master of Public Administration, Drake University, Iowa. BA, Iowa state university, Ames Iowa.