Collo Community Deserves an Apology to tip balance for Peace in South Sudan
By Gwado J. Ador
March 4, 2015(Nyamilepedia) — In March 2014 and on a chilly Sunday morning following mass service at one of the Catholic Church in Addis Ababa; I could remember when a young Nun ostensibly from South Sudan approaching us while standing waiting for the vehicle to pick us up back to our residence.
Madame Angelina Teny, Rev. Tijwok Hadir Agwet and I were standing inside the church fence, when the young Nun whom I could identify very well as a Sister from Malakal spoke in Collo language. With great joy and happiness, we introduced ourselves, as some do not know one another but only from far distance.
In the course of conversation, which was covering general issues, including a little bit of the situation at home; the young Sister jokingly remarked:
“By the way, is this Madame Angelina Teny, the Wife of Dr. Riek Machar? We answered in affirmation. Then, with a big friendly smile, and a slight feeling of anguish, she calmly added in Collo language, ‘I which, I had the opportunity to bite, bite and tear her apart with my own teeth! Because, she had all the power to stop looming crisis that took many innocent lives at home.”
The Sister’s remarks left me numb with shock not because of the embarrassment that might have been caused by her words, but because I could see and feel for the first time the emerging facts on the crisis of Malakal, its magnitude that had afflicted and wiped out many elders, relatives, friends and love ones. Her remarks left a deep scare on my conscience that had never gone away until the writing of this article.
However, the swift decision some of us took in joining the struggle came against persistent opposition from family members, friends and love ones who were unhappy about the whole idea of ascribing to the current arm struggle in South Sudan.
As one of the disgruntled citizen of the Republic of South Sudan, I felt obliged to join the opposition with out any much thoughts; thus, putting the future of my children and the entire family members at risk.
Down the road while struggling for the cherished values perceived to bring about civility and the rule of law for the respect of human dignity and equality, there was a lot of under current some of us might have sensed, it could jeopardize the very basis for which our existence as people with one aim and objectives.
The issue at stake is whether the future government after signing peace deal would show any departure from negative practices? It is crystal clear that, the attitude and behavior of some comrades; mainly intellectuals suggest continuation of business as usual. Obviously, some communities believe in power monopoly and military might that could secure sustainable leadership and the wealth that goes with it, compromising the sense of nation building and progress as one people in diversity.
The attitude of these comrades however, show disregards to recognize others especially minority groups within the country, a situation that could threaten the very purpose for which our solidarity and unity were built on for years. There are wide general fears that the rule of a single ethnic majority might replicate if not carefully observed. It should be resisted and fought by all means to avoid recurrent of conflicts.
The fact that we have made our position from the beginning very clear and that to carry the banner of the opposition so as to fight injustices and segregation; there was still lack of trust and confidence, which could undermine our solidarity for justice and peace.
“The Collo Resistance Front (CRF)” a name that was tactfully devised for the purpose of attracting hesitant support within the Collo circles had been viewed by the leadership of the opposition with suspicious eyes. Thus CRF was ordered to demobilize its forces and cease function.
It would still look baffling and strenuous to justify our existence as fellow comrades with distinct name within the movement, if we don’t explain our shortcomings and failures to convince others about our genuine motives.
In July 2014, Pacodo Battalion got renamed as Collo Resistance Front (CRF). Since then, the number of Collo members who were convinced about the philosophy of the movement and its strategy to bring about lasting peace slightly exceeded the actual number reported at the beginning of April 2014. Many Collo youth still maintain that relatives sere brutally killed in cool blood for no apparent reason, as a result they refused to join the opposition.
Perhaps, lack of trust, suspicion, and consistent counterproductive military campaigns in Collo areas might have added more into why youth have rejected or renounced the struggle.
However, the understated reasons could be sufficient enough to conclude this assumption, which had adversely contributed or discouraged many Collo from joining the struggle.
1- Concentration of war in greater Upper Nile as many people of Malakal, mainly Collo community blame the opposition for killing of innocent civilians in the process of reprisal and counter reprisals. Collo argue that Nuer have chosen a soft target at a wrong location to avenge on their relatives’ killings in Juba. Many Collo youth believe that it was unprovoked deliberate punitive action against Collo community at large.
2- Since wanton destruction and indiscriminate killings in Collo land, there had never been a formal apology rendered even from the government side. The opposition leadership who had the advantage to win Collo support on her side because of proximity had not even seized the opportunity to step forward and apologize for the crimes committed in the name of the aggrieved Nuer Community. According to many Collo, the war, which has continued claiming more innocent lives, had never even moved away beyond their backyards.
3- There are allegations that some comrades managed to obtain and compile substantiated stories supported by images on mobile phones. These images show pleading of trapped innocent young women being threatened by execution or give in for sex. These are mostly being displayed in total disregard of relatives’ sensitivity, especially feeling of those Collo comrades who have joined the struggle.
4- Some recruits or soldiers who have joined the movement in remote areas of Upper Nile have reported being harassed for the counter reprisals in Collo land. As such, a considerable number have abandoned their posts for fear of being attacked in revenge.
5- Some senior comrades within the movement do not take Collo presence and their contribution seriously as some few youth adept to play in the hands of skilful politicians to fan dissent among the community members.
6- Collo members of the opposition are hardly or not adequately represented at national secretariat or in the Foreign Service; their representation is being downplayed as not proportional to their size on the ground.
All the above-mentioned factors have contributed to foster the sense of not belonging or encouraging for further alienation.
As one of the collo members in the opposition, I understand very well the trend of the conflict and its far-reaching implications on our communities. The Malakal catastrophe in which many people lost massive lives created undeniable rift between Nuer and Collo communities.
The comrades in the high echelon of the opposition must step forward to apologize to Collo Community for lost of love ones in Malakal and to stop any further attempts to attack the remaining sports where bulk of Collo elders, women and children had taken shelter.
The looming crisis must be averted at all cost so as to pave way for reconciliation between the two sides, which have had no feuds to remember. The opportunity is still ripe for the leadership of the opposition to begin meaningful process of binding our fresh wounds before turning into septic.
Because of the above-mentioned factors, I would not rule out backsliding to support Collo cause outside the parameter scope of the SPLM/A –IO.
It is a pity that South Sudan might turn or evolve into special spheres of interest or ethnic enclaves where each and every tribe must exist to fend against outside aggressors. This is evident from our behavior and actions currently being under taken to resolve our differences.
Forward, and in God we trust