South Sudan: The Bari Community Is At A Crossroad!
By Dr Lako Jada Kwajok
March 27, 2016(Nyamilepedia) —– Gwu’duge is a village near Juba on the eastern bank of the Nile ( Supiri ). It’s the centre of the current unrest around Juba in the aftermath of the land grabbing attempts by some SPLA officers and individuals from the Bor and Padang Dinka communities. The events were a game changer in a situation that has effectively gotten out of control. It prompted Lt. General Thomas Cirillo, a son of the area, to intervene in support of his folks. It must be stated that the general feeling within the Bari community is one of mistrust towards the government soon after its inception in 2005. There are valid reasons for the community to take that stand which culminated in its demand for the relocation of the capital away from Juba.
The Bari people are among the most peace-loving tribes in South Sudan. This applies to the rest of the Karo group of tribes( the historical name for the Bari speakers ) and the Equatorians in general. They have embraced and accommodated all the communities of South Sudan on their land. Even foreigners and refugees were wholeheartedly welcomed, treated cordially and in a dignified manner. I have never heard in my life so far that they harassed, intimidated or attacked members of other tribes, foreigners or refugees. They always act defensively to fend off aggression. The Congolese refugees were in Juba in their thousands in the late sixties and early seventies. Did anything go wrong in the relation between them and the Bari community? The answer is a big no. They were well received and allowed to cultivate crops, fish and produce charcoal. There have been positive social interactions between the community and the refugees and few inter-marriages did occur. Around that time the Congolese music gained popularity and our women who refused to wear the Sudanese ( Thop ) started wearing the Congolese ( Kitenge ) and even adopted the Congolese way in hair plaiting and hair styles. Conversely, the Congolese indeed went back home influenced by some of our positive cultures. Had they stayed longer, they would have quickly merged with the locals given the fact that their presence was never a threat in any way to lives or properties.
Well, times have changed considerably. Over the past decade, the Bari community and Equatorians, in general, endured the brunt of the misrule that has engulfed South Sudan. Even at the peak of the Anyanya war which was spearheaded by the Equatorians, the attacks on the Bari villages were never as intense as it is nowadays. It affected their way of life with enormous negative impact on their socio-economic status. All this time they remained patient and gave the government the benefit of the doubt with the hope that good governance would prevail at the end of the day. Alas ! Things got far worse than before in any way imaginable. It’s clear that the Bari community’s approach to the challenges facing it is not working so well. It’s time for the community to decide for either putting up with the status quo or be assertive and take full control of the course of events on its land.
All human beings, indeed all living creatures are born with the natural right of self-defence which is auxiliary to the natural and legally defensible right to live. It is customary all over the world that protecting individuals and communities is the duty of the government. However, in some countries the law allows individuals to possess arms for self-defence. In England before the formation of regular army and police force, it has been the duty of able men to keep watch and ward at night and to confront and capture suspicious intruders. The Minutemen ( who would be ready to fight at a minute’s notice ) were the American equivalent of the English vigilantes. The English Bill of Rights of 1689, regarded the right to bear arms as an auxiliary to the natural right of self-defence. In the USA, the Second Amendment to the US constitution that was adopted on 15/12/1791, protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
No reasonable person would ever dispute the fact that law and order have crumbled under the current regime. The events around Gwu’duge showed high-ranking SPLA officers from the Jieng communities leading the land grabbing activities. The Minister of Defence and his cohorts have already seized the area they illegally called Juba 2. Only a naive person would think that the ruling clique is unaware of what has been taking place in Bari land. It’s a systematic plot orchestrated by the Jieng Council of Elders ( JCE ) and aimed at driving the Bari people out of their ancestral land using the government machinery. There is a weird notion within some communities in South Sudan that you would never find anywhere in the world – where law-abiding citizens are branded as cowards while thieves and killers are tolerated or even celebrated as brave men. The Bari community needs to recall its history and highlight to the younger generation how it weathered the onslaught of well-organised and much stronger adversaries in the past and prevailed. As the government has apparently failed by incompetence, design or both in providing security to the Bari people – it’s then incumbent on the community to take up the task of protecting all its members like in the olden days but using different means. It should be regarded as a call for a collective effort to defend the community and is not directed against the government or anyone living peacefully in Bari land.
At this critical juncture, it’s imperative for all the sons and daughters of the community to come together and contribute ideas to help navigate our people through these difficult times.
In the first place, You ( the Bari people ) and the Equatorians in general, should look in contempt to whoever claims to have liberated you from the Arabs. It’s a laughable claim made maliciously to justify hegemony, looting and land grabbing. All the communities without exception have contributed to the independence of South Sudan. The SPLA never won the war in the battlefield and never captured Juba or the major towns.
The demand to relocate the capital away from Juba, indeed from greater Equatoria, should be reiterated and maintained. Let President Kiir and the JCE move the capital temporarily to Kuacjok, Rumbek, Bor or wherever until such time when Ramciel is built and ready to accommodate the capital.
You should not recognise any land grabbed or owned illegally by individuals or other communities. When the time is ripe the illegal owners should be evicted by whatever means deemed suitable. Armed pastoralists should never be allowed to roam Bari land. They have plenty of grazing areas on their ancestral lands hence should be made to go back home.You should liaise with your brethren, the Karo, and the rest of the Equatorians who have been reeling from similar issues. Coordinating self-defence at village level is necessary.
Most important is to acquire the necessary means for self-defence. The disarmament process was never adhered to in the Jieng areas. It was a plot by the JCE to disarm the Equatorians and others while allowing the Jieng to possess stockpiles of a variety of arms. The result is evident to everyone – a plethora of Jieng militias, armed youth groups and armed pastoralists. Therefore, you should arm yourselves as individuals and as village communities. Vigilante groups or well organised militias are the answer to the insecurity brought upon our communities. If the Jieng could be allowed by the government to have several militias, why not the Bari, the Pojulu and the rest of the Equatorians? There could have been different stories to the attacks that took place in Mundri, Yambio, Wonduruba and Lo’bonok, had the locals been well armed for self-defence.
The Anglo-Irish statesman and writer Edmund Burke once said, I quote – The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. End of the quote.
I believe the worst thing ever that could happen to a man is not to be able to defend himself. And remember, there is no power on earth that could deny you the right to self-defence because it’s given to you by no one but God.
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