Its implications for the Bari people and Equatoria region
By Omondi OKonyi
Sept 17, 2015(Nyamilepedia) — Juba became the capital city after Rejaf, Gandukuru and Mongalla; all these areas are Bari indigenous and ancestral villages. Why these Bari villages became cities may be attributed to the level of civilization, generosity and peacefulness of the community.
The Bari people is the indigenous community of the territory comprising all the “A” Courts administered by Bari cultural leaders (Chiefs). They for time immemorial have inhabited the territory covering Juba, Munuki, Kator, Mongalla, Gandukuru, Rejaf, Northern Bari (Nyarkenyi), Bungu, Ganji and Lo’bonok Payams or localities. Like their cousins the Kakwa, Kuku, Ngepo, Pujolo, Nyangwara, Mundari in particular and like other Equatorians in general Bari are peaceful, generous and civilized people who are agro-pastoralists.
After the 1960s and the First Addis Ababa Agreement in 1972, particularly after Abel Alier a Dinka from Bor Jonglei State took over power from Joseph Lagu, a Ma’di from Equatoria Region through complicated circumstances, the Bari territory became a battlefield for control and occupation of Equatoria through Juba. Since then, the Bari territory has remained insecure due to the presence of tribal government forces mostly Non-Equatorians in collaboration with their armed pastoralists from their ethnic origin. The effects of insecurity, systematic and gross violation of human rights of the Bari and the people of Equatoria speak for themselves. This became even worst from 1985 through 2005 because of the SPLM/A liberation war and government after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 to South Sudan independence in 2011.
In July 1992 many Equatorians were massacred by President Omar Hassan el Bashir regime in Juba. On 15 December 2013 Juba, Bari land yet witnessed another rivers of human blood after Salva Kiir and his cohorts started a fight starting from within the SPLM against Dr Riek Machar and his group, and later engulfed the whole country until 29 August 2015 when the two warring principal order their respective forces and allies to respect the permanent ceasefire. This came after SPLM/A (IO) leader signed the Compromise Peace Agreement for South Sudan on 17 August 2015 in Addis Ababa Ethiopia and later by his counterpart Mr. Salva Kiir, the Chairman SPLM, the former President of South Sudan and C-in-C SPLA. Despite orders given by the two principals for permanent ceasefire observance by their respective forces, Salva Kiir Forces continue to kill people, rape and destroy property in Wondurba Central Equatoria State and Unity State.
The land in Bari territory is suitable for settlement, agriculture and commercial activities given its peaceful, open civilized community and generous people. This has attracted many people from other parts of the country and the world to seek fortune in the area. This included economic migrants, job seekers, business people, armed pastoralists and other categories of people including criminals. However, some of the people coming into Bari territory come with ill or evil intention of occupying Bari land, displacing the indigenous Bari people and to enslave them at all cost.
After winning the battle for control and occupation of the Bari territory the rest of Equatoria will be a walkover, the occupying force or occupiers think so. In spite of all these evil plans, until today, the Bari people in particular and Equatoria in general have remained calm, Godly and law abiding and peaceful people to the aggressors, occupiers and oppressors. Unless the pain begins to pain then the land question will become a matter of live and death to prevent landlessness, slavery and destitution.
Land is worth anything, life or death. According to Margret Mitchel (1939), “land is worth working for, fighting for, and dying for because it is the only thing in the world that last.” Land is an indispensable resource, a source of livelihoods ranging from food, shelter, clothing, education, health, farming, etc. Armed land grabbers and armed pastoralists since 2005 to date have been killing the Bari people and Equatorians in their own land with impunity. The recent attacks on the civilians and people of Mundri and Maridi by the armed pastoralists with impunity are a provocative act. Since 2005 those killings have continued with impunity. It happened in Yambio when police officers of Equatoria origin were gun down in their offices. In Yei, professionals and civilians were shot dead. In Nimule civilians, leaders and business people were shot dead with impunity. Since then killings of Equatorians have continued in Juba with impunity for over 15 years under the rule of Salva Kiir Mayardit, a Dinka from Warrap State. All records show that, Salva Kiir regime is a tribal government and has been promoting the interest of his tribe against the Bari people and Equatorians except traitors and betrayers of the former.
Land ownership, requires that community land include all lands traditionally and historically held or used by local communities or their members protected by law. When you look at the situation in upper Nile State, Dinka Apandang is claiming land traditionally and historically held by the Chollo people Community. The Kiir regime is alleged to have armed the member of his tribe and empowered them against their neighbours the Chollo under the pretext to protect oil pipe lines as if there is no national army in the country. The Chollo tribe now understands Mr. Salva Kiir and his tribal government intentions better than the Bari people and Equatorians.
Since 2005 to date the Bari people have relied on protection, security and safety from government at all levels. A patient human being is good when he/she is valued or respected. But patience is bad when a person is exploited by some body for his/ her interest and worse of all when he/she is misunderstood to be a coward. But patience has limit.
It is apparent that the systematic, organized and aggravated land grabbing in Bari territory in particular and Equatoria in general is planned, supported and financed by some high armed profile politicians, leaders and generals at all levels of government in South Sudan. They have been misusing military equipment, weapons and power against the indigenous Bari, their land, natural resources and property. All these illegal and unlawful activities have been happening since the establishment of the current administration under Salva Kiir Mayardit in 2005 to date though it has intensified of late. Sadly though both the South Sudan National and the Central Equatoria State governments have turned the other way intentionally to probably allow the evil plans against the Bari to continue or fear to offer equal legal protection to them and hence wipe them out from their land by all means.
The Bari Community has been patient to see the heavily armed pastoralists who encroached into their land. With this kindness the Bari people have towards these heavily armed pastoralists, the Bari people are misunderstood to be cowards. The coming of these pastoralists with their cattle in tens of thousands, have caused and continue to cause a lot of hardships and sufferings to the Bari people in particular and Equatorians in general. The few cattle, goats and sheep the Bari have are often times robbed at gun point, their homesteads torched ,farms eaten up by these thousands of cattle descending like locusts on the crops and when the Bari or Equatorians resist all these cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment manifested by unlawful actions, some of them are shot and killed in the process with impunity.
The cattle herders who are heavily armed are in fact military formations whose tasks are to firstly destabilize the Bari villages with the objective of chasing the owners away from these villages and secondly when those villages are vacated, the cattle herders take them over. It is apparent that the systematic, organized and planned land grabbing is ethnically motivated and calculated to exterminate, or wipe the Bari people and Equatorians from their ancestral lands such as Nimule, Yei, Mundri and etc.
Due to the patience and failure of the Bari people in particular and Equatorians in general to react on time, the situation have now reached an astonishing and alarming rate where some members of the SPLA hailing from those heavily armed pastoralists have been using deadly threats with military tanks and armored vehicles to evict the Bari populations from their villages in the pretext deploying SPLA and organized forces who mostly hail from the ruling tribe. As the SPLA and organized forces are predominantly made up from the heavily armed pastoralists, they end up dividing the land amongst themselves and even selling parts of it to whoever wants and build illegally or without permission. The presence of this huge cattle or livestock population make farming very difficult, systematically disown the Bari of their land, caused immeasurable sufferings and hopelessness. Have the Bari learnt a lesson from the Chollo and Masai of Kenya or not?
However, it is now clear that the governments under Salva Kiir Mayardit and Clement Wani Konga, now Juma Ali Malou, who is nearer to Yirol than Terekeka, have failed to prevent the aggravated land grabbing in Bari land. The Bari people are still patient though this negatives the peaceful, generous and welcoming Bari Community for cowardice, God-fearing and law abiding citizens.
The big question remains: Are the Bari people and Equatorians part of the independent of South Sudan or actually their territory only changed hands from bad colonialists and Arabs to worst occupying force? Today in Bari land armed pastoralists supported by Salva Kiir in juba are doing worst in the history of the Bari, Ma’di, Muru, Kakwa, and other tribes in Equatoria.
Before or after Sudan independent in 1956, nothing brought heavily armed pastoralists into Bari territory in particular and Equatoria region in particular if it is not Abel Alier, Bona Malual, Dr. John Garang de Mabior and Salva Kiir Mayardit, the one creating problems between communities.
The Catholic Bishops in South Sudan have cited the practice of seizing illegally public and community land for individual and private purposes as one of their major concerns, warning that the behavior could result in violent conflicts. According to a report by Catholic Radio Network (CRN), Archbishop Paolino Lukudu Loro said “South Sudan Catholic Bishops meeting identified land grabbing as a potential risk of violence that the government should address critically before escalation.” The Catholic Bishops warned that the practice of land grabbing can lead to a “break up in the country” and urged the government to act with speed to stop the vice. “Cases of land grabbing were highly recorded in Juba, the worst of which was at Kömiru, Gumba, Rombur, Lukilili, Bojur, and other Bari villages.
The vast majority of South Sudanese depend on land for their livelihoods. Since its independence in July 2011, some regions of the landlocked country have witnessed high levels of inter-ethnic violence and cattle rustling often triggered by disputes over grazing land and resources such as water. It is against this background that the Catholic Bishops in South Sudan view land grabbing as a potential recipe for disaster.
CRN News reported that South Sudan “Vice President James Wani Igga recommended review of Land Act 2009 to address present experiences including punishing land grabbers.”The concerns by Catholic Bishops in South Sudan over land grabbing echo those of their counterparts in neighboring Kenya.
It has been documented since 2005 to date that land grabbing has been rampant in Bari land. Land grabbing has affected all the land tenure which includes public, private and community land. It is evidenced that land has been grabbed with impunity and condoned by the South Sudan Government under Salva Kiir Mayardit and Central Equatoria State Government under Clement Wani Konga since 2005 to date. The whole of Bari territory have been devastated by land grabbing including but not limited to: 1. Bungu Payam e.g. Kuruki, Digala, etc; 2. Gandukuru Payam e.g Illibari, etc; 3. Juba Payam e.g. Juba NaBari, Gabat, Konyokonyo, etc; 4. Kator Payam e.g Kator West, Kassaba, etc; 5. Lo’bonok Payam e.g Lo’buju, etc; 6. Mongalla Payam e.g Garbur, Bojur, Bilingang, Mogiri, Jobur, Mere LoSule, Mankaro, Gobur, Mongalla town, etc; 7. Munuki Payam; 8. Northern Bari Payam e.g. Sureki area, Goromoyok, Komiru, Mere LoTor, Kangonamondur, Luri, etc; and 9. Rejaf Payam e.g. Gwu’duge, Gumbo, Mogoro, Logo, Kolwe, Nesitu, Konsuk, Gorom, Lokilili, etc.
Why land grabbing is the worst thing to do to human beings such as the Bari people? It is the worst thing to do because it has undesirable impact to a) The Bari people in particular and Equatoria in general; b) Agriculture; c) Religious, cultural and historical sites; d) Weak economy; e) Enmity, revenge, insecurity, increased rural urban migration and low or no productivity; f) Loss of revenue; g) Ethnic tension and conflict; and h) War for self in self-defense and protection of land and other resources; demand for internal or external self-determination; etc.
With all these immeasurable sufferings of the Bari people in particular and Equatoria in general, the governments under Salva Kiir Mayardit, Clement Wani Konga (now Juma Ali Malou) and Stephen Wani Michael to make just decision and take appropriate actions towards solving the issues of land grabbing, illegal occupation of the Bari villages and disowning of the local people in their own locality and illegal selling of the land. The Bari people have not gone to any town or villages of in South Sudan and either disown the local people or sell their land.
The National Government must relocate the Capital of the Republic of South Sudan from Juba to Ramciel without any further delay. Bari land has a bad experience of hosting the capitals since the time of Turks, British and Egyptian; Arabs; the then High Executive Council after the 1972 Addis Ababa Agreement; the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement; and 2011 Independent South Sudan.
Note that if the culture of impunity and violence intentionally and deliberately being caused by the heavily armed land grabbers and pastoral communities, evicting the Bari and people of Equatoria and occupying their land, destroying farms and crops both on the Eastern and the Western Banks of the Nile in Juba County and Equatoria region will perpetuates instability, conflict and enmity in South Sudan. The author appeals to the South Sudanese people; Civil Society Organizations; Members of Diplomatic corp.; national, regional and international media houses; East Africa Community; IGAD; AU; Trioka countries; UN and the international community to intervene and rescue the peaceful Bari and people of Equatoria from persecution, extermination and ethnic cleansing; systematic land and property grabbing with impunity condone by governments at all levels. The Bari and people of Equatoria have the right of self-defend to protect themselves and their protect their land and property at all cost and by all means from heavily armed occupiers who are in government and misuse government power and resource to advance their self interest or political masturbation. The Bari and people of Equatoria shall have no other option than demand for either internal or external self-determination.
The SPLM in Government and SPLM/SPLA In Opposition have signed a peace deal in August 2015 to end the 20 months old conflict. Will the Compromised Peace Agreement. Will the Compromise Peace Agreement for South Sudan (CPASS) 2015 on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan end systematic and gross violations human rights violations including genocide, terrorism, land grabbing, insecurity, killings, rapes and other crimes?
Issues Transitional Government of National Unity (TGNU) include adoption of full federalism as a popular system of governance for South Sudan; implementation of fundamental reforms based federal democratic governance; return of all armed pastoralists from Equatoria to their place of origin or villages immediately to allow the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to return to their villages to farm and contribute to food security, economic growth and development; relocate the capital of the Republic of South Sudan from Juba to Ramciel; demolish all structures illegally erected on grabbed Bari territory; return all grabbed land to rightful and legal owners; stop land grabbing in Bari territory; maintain original names of rivers, mountains, hills, streams, place, etc; reverse the situation imposed on the Bari and people of Equatoria; prosecution of all the heavily armed land grabbers; repatriation of all the heavily armed pastoralists roaming in Bari land and Equatoria region with their livestock to their places of origin in Greater Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazal.
The CPASS 2015 stated that Juba shall be the seat of the Transitional Government of National Unity for 30 months from the signing of the Agreement. The author asks the following questions:
- Will the TGNU ensure protection of civilians and their property particularly in Equatoria and South Sudan in general?
- Will the TGNU return all the land, plots and property grabbed by armed land grabbers to their rightful and legal owners within the 30 months?
- Will the TGNU respect, protect, promote and fulfill human rights and freedoms particularly in Equatoria and South Sudan in general?
- Will TGNU disarm armed pastoralists from Greater Bahr el Ghazal Greater Upper Nile regions roaming in Equatoria, killing Equatorians and destroying their crops?
- Will the TGNU protect the environment from pollution and deforestation particularly in Bari land and Equatoria in general?
- What are the implications of demilitarizing Juba by 25km radius and after to the Bari people, their land and environment?
- What are the implications of removing Clement Wani Konga, a Mundari from Governorship and replacing him with another Mundari, Juma Ali Malou to the Bari people, their land in particular and citizens of Central Equatoria State in general?
- Shall the capital city of South Sudan be removed from Juba to Ramcial?
- What are the implications of non adoption of federalism in the transitional period and thereafter to the people of Equatoria in particular and South Sudan in general?
- Has the Compromise Peace Agreement 2015 resolved the root causes of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan or it is a time tomb for the irreversible disintegration of the country?
- Like the Chollo people, shall Bari Nationalism be a solution to their problems within their territory?
The author is a human rights lawyer. He can be reached through: email@example.com