Lessons from Srebrenica
By Dr Lako Jada Kwajok,
July 14, 2015(Nyamilepedia) — Last Sunday 12/7/2015, an incidence in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica during the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre brought up lots of thoughts and exhibited similarities with what happened in Juba in December 2013.
The Serbian prime minister, Aleksander Vucic had to flee the scene with the crowd pelting him with stones and plastic bottles. The crowd could have tore him up to pieces if not for the excellent job of his body guards who whisked him out of the cemetery for the victims of the massacre in no time.
The Bosniaks have not forgotten the perpetrators of the slaughter of 8,370 muslims even after 20 years have elapsed. During the war Vucic was reported to have said “For every killed Serb, we will kill 100 Bosniaks” and clearly the Bosniaks haven’t forgiven him. Despite the fact that some Serbian leaders were made accountable ( Serbian president Slobodan Melosevic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Kradzic were both tried at Hague ), yet the anger and bitterness haven’t gone away.
Some families of the victims have not reached closure to their ordeals as the remains of their love ones are no where to find. Hence there are no graves and the families
could not enter into a normal bereavement processes that end with closure. It will always be difficult to forget such kinds of atrocities if the bodies of the victims were not found and the perpetrators were let loose.
In his speech on independence day 09/07/2015, the day he lost legitimacy as president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir spoke about working for peace, reconciliation among other empty promises of starting some development projects in the country. In earlier releases he doubled up in regard to the coup d’etat and even had the audacity to say he had pardoned the group of former detainees who have returned to Juba. Also he has been talking about SPLM re-unification, with the effort being lead by the group of the former detainees.
It seems they think if they can strike a deal for power sharing and the effort to reunite the SPLM bears fruits then the conflict would come to a precipitous end. The SPLM and the government can then go back to business as usual.
In all the above, there was no mention of the atrocities that took place in Juba on 15/12/2013 and days after. Kiir has never admitted that heinous crimes were committed on that fateful day and afterwards. So far the perpetrators have not been brought to face justice. This is very telling as to where the responsibility of these crimes rests. We have seen no pledges from the government to help and support the families of the victims. Some have lost their bread winners in this tragedy and have no where to go except UNMISS for food and protection. Instead we heard Salva Kiir urging these families to leave the UNMISS camps with no clear solutions and alternatives to their humanitarian needs.
A closer look to the Juba massacre of the Nuer civilians would yield the following facts:
- 20,000 plus or minus, innocent Nuer civilians were brutally murdered in cold blood by none other than the government that is bound by constitution to protect them.
The perpetrators are still holding the highest government positions and their tenures in office have recently been illegally extended.
The remains of the majority of the victims have not been recovered.
The analogy with the Srebrenica massacre is certainly there. The Bosniaks could not forget 8,370 of their people massacred 20 years ago while we are now being told to come to terms with the loss of 20,000 of our fellow citizens in less than 20 months. It’s quite baffling to any reasonable person.
We can not equate the atrocities that were committed in 1991 in terms of accountability to the Juba massacre for the simple reason that there was no government in the bush thus no rule of law. However the situation is completely different with what took place in Juba. Here you got a government that is recognised by the United Nations, several foreign countries and numerous international institutions. On top of that South Sudan is signatory to many international treaties upholding human rights and protection of the
civil populations. So what took place in Juba has violated all the international norms, damaged our reputation as a country and embarrassed our well-wishers.
Any sound minded South Sudanese would have been shocked by the horrors of 1991 and would undoubtably condemn the atrocities. Dr Riak Macher was not the only leader who carried a baggage in the aftermath of the 1991 inter-SPLA fighting. At least he was brave enough to acknowledge the mistakes and has since apologized to the Bor community. As we know his apology was accepted and people have moved on. Who can tell us with a straight face that none of the leaders other than Dr Riak Macher was responsible for atrocities committed during the struggle?
The facts show that all the top leaders in SPLM/SPLA including Dr John Garang and Salva Kiir were involved in one way or the other in serious human rights violation acts. For example, who was responsible for the Gajak Nuer and the Bul Nuer massacres? Was it Dr John Garang or it was his deputy Salva Kiir?
In Equatoria I recall the Mundari massacre and the slaughter of the Didinga people under the watch of Dr John Garang. In regard to Juba, what was the strategy behind shelling the town with the result of high civilian casualties and no or minimal military gains. In those days they were telling the Juba population to vacate the town and go to the bush. It was simply a propaganda war as the SPLA had no capacity or capability to accommodate hundred of thousands of civilians let alone to feed them in the bush.
The SPLA has never been in its whole history in a position to capture Juba. John Garang and his commanders knew that fact, yet in total disregard to the safety and welfare of the civilian population, they continued to shell the town ineffectively between 1984 to 1992. The Juba shelling was irresponsible and malicious to say the least.
Right now the future of our country is at stake. In essence we are at crossroads, to remain as one country or to disintegrate into three or more separate entities. Let us not be complacent, the danger is real. The way forward in my humble opinion is the following:
- Dissolution of the current government and all the institutions and positions that lack legitimacy. Salva Kiir must go, after all he has been a total failure.
Rapid formation of a government of national unity to steer the country towards free elections.
All the perpetrators of the Juba massacre should be brought to justice. They should be handed over to the ICC to undergo fair trials. This is a big deal. We can not restore trust and social cohesion among our people if this matter is left unresolved.
Adoption of a federal system of governance as the only viable option to keep the country united.
The SPLA should be disbanded with the formation of a new professional army reflective of all the ethnic groups in South Sudan. The name SPLA should be abandoned as it has become a symbol of a divisive and tribalistic institution. As a matter of fact the name SPLA, at least in Equatoria, was for some time synonymous with bad news. This is because the SPLA soldiers tend to be unruly and have the culture of looting, raping and sometimes killing the civilians. This kind of uncivilised and criminal behaviour was unheard of in Equatoria during the Anyanya 1 movement. So why not change the name to one that is meaningful to our situation. We are not in the business of liberating the Sudan.
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