Nuer Supreme Council Responses To The Jieng Council of Elders
July 24, 2015(Nyamilepedia) — In their July 6, 2015 response to the IGAD Power Sharing Proposal, the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) make some comments that should not be allowed to pass without response. While there is much in their article that requires response to, this article focuses on only two major points. These include the JCE’s claim that there has never been a genocide in South Sudan and their contention that the general power sharing ratios are wrong. We end this article by discussing the social inequalities that the Kiir regime has been facilitating in South Sudan and their possible future outcomes. In another article we will make a point by point rebuttal of the JCE’s article, but in the meantime it is necessary to make our position known on the two points above.
JCE: [T]he proposal talks about the court [hybrid court to try suspected cases of genocide] having jurisdiction in respect to matters of genocide and other crimes committed since December 2013. Since when has IGAD determined genocide as having been committed in South Sudan? This is telling enough in a sense that there is a serious degree of prejudice and bias towards South Sudan and this is sufficient to warrant our objection to the creation of such an international body.
It is clear from the above excerpt that the JCE is denying that the current conflict has seen the carrying out of genocide in South Sudan. We shall, therefore, deal with this underlying assumption and not attempt to answer the question of IGAD’s determination of occurrences of genocide. IGAD’s determination of genocide is of no consequence to the question of whether genocide has actually been committed in South Sudan; inconvertible evidence that it has abounds. What is more, since this determination of genocide has been made by credible and neutral international organizations IGAD need not make its own investigation. This overwhelming evidence and near unanimous agreement of international bodies clearly implicates Kiir’s regime in genocidal acts against the Nuer ethnic group. If the JCE did not doubt that genocide has occurred in South Sudan there would be insufficient reason to warrant an objection to the establishment of an international human rights tribunal.
There can be no doubt that a state-planned, state-sanctioned genocide of ethnic Nuer has occurred in South Sudan. In Juba alone it was reported without equivocation by international news agencies that the death toll in Juba of Nuer civilians was over 10,000 people. It has also been confirmed that this ethnic cleansing was committed by a government trained and government funded Dinka militia. That said, the claim that there has never been genocide in South Sudan cannot be made in good faith. Add to the number of dead the Nuer civilians targeted by government soldiers, or government backed Dinka militia in Bor, Bentiu, Malakal and the death toll as well as the number of atrocities rise significantly. These atrocities are highlighted by the brazen attempt by government soldiers to flush out rebels from the UN base in Juba, and the killing of over 100 refugees in the Bor UNMISS camp by government backed Dinka militia. Amazingly, in the first case, Kiir’s soldier withdrew only under threat of the use of force by UN soldiers. More recently Kiir’s forces attacked villages and civilians in Bentiu where that assault saw the murder of over 129 children, many of these children were gang raped and burned alive. Many young boys were castrated and left for dead. All of this was done by Kiir’s forces as reported by UN observers. Time does not permit to list all the official and unofficial reports of atrocities committed against Nuer civilians by Kiir’s regime; a regime whose defenders argue still upholds the mandate to serve and protect South Sudanese citizens. All such arguments can be nothing but tacit avowals that the Nuer are not citizens of South Sudan. Thus, it should be clear that to continue to deny genocide is incendiary and will serve only to further infuriate and alienate the Nuer which are, by dint of the ethnic cleansing in Juba, the main supporters of the SPLM-IO.
But there is a serious lesson here that the JCE would do well to learn. If further denial of past and present incidences of genocide continue, the SPLM-IO is well within reason to unfetter the restraints it has bound itself with; restraints that have hitherto prevented it from accepting military aid from states that have offered near unconditional support. Should the SPLM-IO sign agreements for military aid including supply of arms to SPLM-IO fighters, either the Kiir regime would suffer a quick, decisive defeat, or this conflict would escalate into a regional war. It has been only the remarkable restraint of the SPLM-IO that has prevented this possibility from materializing. Instead the SPLM-IO has repeatedly agreed to every peace talk, accepted all reasonable conditions of peace, and has reiterated the need for a broad based and inclusive resolution to this conflict.
In contrast to this restraint, the Kiir regime has practiced pre-emptive recruitment of foreign state and non-state actors the principal of which is the Ugandan Army. Let us not forget that Ugandan military forces were called into Juba only days after Kiir’s killing of Nuer in Juba, months before the SPLM-IO was even formed. Uganda made its presence known by indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets in Jonglei state to such an extent that it even deployed cluster munitions. Thus, the Ugandan military was called in to help the Kiir regime intimidate and kill Nuer civilians and by so doing silence political opposition within the SPLM that depend upon the Nuer people for their base. Clearly these crimes are of the most serious nature and implicate Yoweri Museveni as an accomplice to genocide. This is, of course, just another stanza in the Ugandan dictator’s litany of crimes.
Articles II and III of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide define genocide as:
Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Article III: The following acts shall be punishable:
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide.
The ensuing discussion of the above articles in the Convention makes clear that it is criminal to publicly incite genocide, conspire to commit genocide and to be complicit in genocide. These three criteria have been met by Salva Kiir’s regime. It should be noted that the satisfaction of any one of these conditions is sufficient to justify the charge. Accordingly, Kiir and his supporters have publicly iterated that the Nuer should not be surprised by the killing of Nuer in Juba, it was revenge for the Bor Massacre. Statements of that ilk are not only admissions of genocidal intent and action but are a thinly veiled attempt to justify it. In fact, little more than a year before the Juba genocide, the Kiir regime was promoting talk of the Bor genocide in response to Dr. Riek Machar’s push for a glasnost and perestroika within the SPLM party and GOSS generally, combined with the call for implementation of anti-corruption measures. Kiir responded by sacking Machar and subsequently demonizing him and the entire Nuer people for the Bor conflict. All of this despite the fact that Machar publicly apologized for the massacre, even though, Kiir and John Garang, for that matter, never made any public apology for their part in a campaigned waged against the Gaajaak Nuer tribe that saw over 6,000 civilians killed; this is a death toll three times the death toll in Bor. What is more, the Bor massacre occurred when there was no South Sudan, so to equate the Bor conflict with the genocide in Juba is further evidence of the presence of genocidal intent and a flagrant disregard for the mandate of government. What else is required to prove that Kiir is illegitimate? For what responsibility is hoisted upon a government that is higher than the protection of its citizenry?
Power Sharing Ratios:
JCE: What is the justification for giving the opposition 53% in the war affected states? Does this suggest that the mediation had assumed that Nuer community in opposition, which almost constitutes all of the rebellion, is the majority in the three states? If this is the case, has IGAD mediation accepted the narrative that the war is between the Jieng and the Nuer? If the decision is predicated on this, has the mediation taken due diligence to establish the exact ethnic ratios in the three states to form the basis of how power ratios were calculated? Moreover, if power is being shared on the basis of ethnic ratios, how could the Nuer in opposition get 33% of the state power when the whole ethnic group constitutes no more than 15% of the total population of South Sudan? This is perhaps also assuming that the whole Nuer community has joined the rebellion. It has not. Of course, the truth is that the conflict is not between the Jieng and Nuer but rather between the government and those who rebelled against the state. The reality of this war is that it is a political one. Besides, the opposition does not control the said states.
In opposition to the power sharing agreement and the ratios therefore, the JCE states that there is no justification for giving the SPLM-IO 53% in the war affected states. They then assume that IGAD’s rationale for that percentage must be that it assumes that the Nuer are the majority in the affected states, which suggests to them the thought that IGAD accepts the narrative that the war is between the Nuer and the Dinka. The JCE then questions whether IGAD has taken care to establish the exact ethnic ratios in each state. In response to the JCE we should like to point out that even if the exact ratio were taken into account the Nuer comprise more than 53% in the affected states, so by the JCE’s own logic the SPLM-IO should get more than 53% in the affected states. The JCE’s reasoning here is therefore, nebulous at best. The rest of the JCE’s reasoning fares no better. They go on to infer that the Nuer should not get 33% of state power since they are only 15% of the South Sudanese population. This is reasoning is, of course, predicated on the assumption that IGAD sees this as a conflict between the Nuer and the Dinka. In response, IGAD need not assume that the conflict is a war between the Nuer and the Dinka for the above ratios to be introduced. It is enough that they see this as a conflict between the Nuer and a state bent on their destruction. If IGAD sees this then its impression of the conflict is a veridical one.
The fact is that this war is, at its core, an attempt to consolidate Dinka power in South Sudan by using state power. And pro-Kiir regime groups like the JCE will deem any opposition to this agenda rebellion against the state. Associations like the JCE realize that the best way to ensconce Dinka power is to silence the rival Nuer and seize the ancestral lands of the Nuer under the guise of national unity so as to ensure Dinka ascendancy in this incipient state. This narrative has been seen the world over in states much less diverse and less economically viable than South Sudan. There is no comely way to put this point, but it is no less true for all its ugliness. Recalcitrance to this reality portrays either profound ignorance or determined maleficence.
The JCE resolutely states that this conflict is a political one. Of course, simply stating that it is a political conflict says nothing. There is, afterall, nothing barring political conflicts from becoming ones in which an ethnic group is targeted by the government. Nothing whatever stops political conflicts from generating genocides. The above explanation fits well with the nature of the violence, and the JCE’s queer insistence that this conflict is a political one.
To back up their assertion that the conflict is political the JCE points out that the entirety of the Nuer people have not joined the fight against Kiir’s regime. Perhaps the JCE is referring to Nuer individuals in Juba and some Nuer clan groups that have not joined the SPLM-IO (although in most cases these clans openly assert that the Kiir regime is targeting Nuer, but have for their own reasons chosen not to fight). But even if every single member of the Nuer people has not joined the SPLM-IO, does this make the genocide of Nuer by Kiir forces any less egregious? Of course not. The fact that there are Nuer who are complicitous in the genocide of their own people only strengthens the case against the Kiir regime by showcasing the moral bankruptcy of his regime. Lastly, the JCE states that the SPLM-IO controls only one-fifth of the area in the Greater Upper Nile region. This is simply false. The SPLM-IO controls nearly all of the Upper Nile State, approximately 50% percent of Unity and over 60% of Jonglei. And all of this is without military aid and accomplished thanks to the Nuer White Army. The JCE should not allow hubris to blind it to the fact that these numbers would increase nearly overnight should the SPLM-IO agree to military aid. The fact that the SPLM-IO has not agreed to military aid is at once the boon of a more earnest desire to preserve South Sudan, and the saving grace of Kiir’s regime but even grace has its limits.
Lastly, the defacto overrepresentation of Dinka in all key social and governmental positions is staggering. Dinka comprise 90 percent of the judiciary, 85 percent of all key executive positions in the government and 80 percent of all foreign ambassadorial positions. It is worth noting that this was the case before the war and this trend has only increased during the war. What is more, these numbers do not state the overrepresentation in educational scholarship to foreign institution of learning, sensitive military positions and awarding of business contracts. A shallow investigation of these sectors is enough to establish this fact.
Aside from such an investigation there is the solemn complaint of non-Dinka Southern Sudanese. So to overlook such blatant and unabashed entrenchment of wide-ranging social inequality in as multi-ethnic a state as South Sudan is to pave the way for future civil problems, and to assist in turning South Sudan into the personal estate of the Dink people. This dystopian future is not acceptable to any Nuer or South Sudanese with any degree of dignity, or for that matter any Dinka not devoid of scruples.
In the event that scruples are in short supply, it is worth stressing that in light of the genocide of Nuer and the ongoing violation of their human rights, it is becoming increasingly rational for Nuer to opt for strongly decentralized federalism, con-federalism, or even succession. The grave injustice and humiliation that the Nuer people have suffered certainly warrants any of these options. Nations have, after all, succeeded from oppressive states for less than what the Nuer have suffered. Gerrymandered unity is often the wrong choice. Southern Sudanese should know this lesson well. In any event, options one and two preserve a South Sudan that includes the Nuer and their ancestral lands but option three would by no means be an unnatural solution. The Nuer with respect to distinctiveness in language, size of population and strength of identity are a nation. None of the desiderata for nationhood bars them from forming a nation-state especially in light of the relentless injustices against them despite their monumental contributions in the quest for South Sudan. To say otherwise is just to accept the tired old myth that the peoples of Sub-Saharan Africa have never reach the level of social sophistication required to produce nations; that the highest level they have attained to is the level of tribe. This reasoning has led to the notion that any assemblage of African peoples should make a functioning state when the vast majority of the world’s states (and certainly of Europe’s) are relatively ethnically homogenous. By the same token, if badly needed federalism fails to take shape, the division of South Sudan along natural ethnic territorial lines would do more to promote peace and development than a centralized system controlled by one ethnic group to the ruin of all others and ultimately to its own ruin however much this may elude the understanding of the JCE.
Mr. J. Nguen President of Nuer Supreme Council
Dr. Y. Chiek General Secretary and Research Coordinator of Nuer Supreme Council