Understanding the Nuer Political Thought in the South Sudanese War of Liberation

By Tethloach D. Ruey,

The Nuer council of elders addressing Dr. Riek Machar's leadership in Nairobi, Kenya(Photo: Machar's profiles)

The Nuer council of elders addressing Dr. Riek Machar’s leadership in Nairobi, Kenya(Photo: Machar’s profiles)

May 16, 2016(Nyamilepedia) —— Since the outbreak of the South Sudanese civil war on 15th of December 2013, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) clique has been depicting the Nuer ethnic group throughout the media as people who “rebel and return” to the SPLM/A. The clique vilified the Nuers as an undirected ethnicity even by the unsound-minded individuals such as Michael Makuei Lueth, the incumbent South Sudanese Information Minister and Brig. Gen. Malaak Ayuen, the SPLA’s Information Director, who further described the Nuer ethnicity as “flies” and “dogs” respectively. This is a fallacy of the Nuer political thought in the South Sudanese war of liberation. It is such misconception that causes the impending doom of the SPLM/A clique, the self-proclaimed “born rulers”.

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The demise of the clique commenced on 15th-17th of December 2013, when it massacred more than twenty thousand innocent Nuer civilians in Juba. These days shall be known in the history as the beginning of the fall of the SPLM/A clique.

Nonetheless, the vision impaired SPLM/A clique didn’t comprehend its fall even today as it prepares military gunships to bomb the internally-displaced Nuers in the United Nations protection sites countrywide. The clique, infatuated by ethnocentrism, neither learns its fate from the Third Reich’s holocaust error, nor fathom what the Nuers do when their nerve centre is being attacked. In other words, the clique doesn’t comprehend the magnitude of its crimes and their consequences.

Did the Nuers really rebel or forced to rebel by the behaviour of the SPLM/A clique? If they rebelled, when and which cause of their rebellion was unjust? If the Nuers really rebelled and re-united with the SPLM/A clique, how would the Nuers’ dedication to the unity of South Sudanese during the war of liberation be wrong?

The object of this article is to assist the SPLM/A clique understands the Nuer political thought during the South Sudanese war of liberation (1983-2011), which the clique misconceives as a cultural lukewarmness as well as a political undirectedness. Such an unfounded notion shall be dismissed through the exposition of the historical events the SPLM/A clique perverted as the Nuer idiocy, and unveil the political wisdom of a just man during the war.

The loyal Nuer politicians in Salva Kiir government post for a group photo after a meeting that deliberates the political interests of loyal Nuer in Salva Kiir government(Photo: Buay/Nyamilepedia version)

The loyal Nuer politicians in Salva Kiir government post for a group photo after a meeting that deliberates the political interests of loyal Nuer in Salva Kiir government(Photo: Buay/Nyamilepedia version)

The power struggle within the South Sudanese liberation movement commenced during the inception of the SPLM/A in 1983 in Ethiopia, the birthplace of the SPLM/A. The contending leaders, late Col. Samuel Gai Tut (a Nuer) and late Col. John Garang Mabior (a Dinka), recognised the importance of unity in the war against the government of the Sudan. Col. Gai’s faction desired late Akuot Atem Mayen, a politically matured Dinka, also a relative of Col. Garang, to lead the movement. And Col. Garang’s faction desired Garang to lead. Both factions went to the polls in Itang/Ethiopia to decide the future of the movement. Akuot Atem was elected by simple majority vote, an election, which the Ethiopian government had abolished on the same day through the influence of Garang.

About two days later, Garang was elected in a new election attended mainly by his faction, and the Ethiopian government endorsed him. Col. Gai’s faction didn’t attend the second election because of the contention that there was nothing wrong in the first election save that it didn’t please the Ethiopian government. Consequently, Gai’s faction didn’t recognise the Ethiopian engineered election. Afterwards, it emerged that the Ethiopian government planned to arrest Gai through the request of Garang.

One morning in 1983, David Oduru Ojulu, an Ethiopian Administrator of Itang District from Anyuaa ethnicity, who opposed the Ethiopian interference in the South Sudanese rebels’ affairs, went to Gai’s home, and informed him of the looming crisis. Hours later, the Ethiopian troops landed with helicopters.

At noon, Col. Gai appeared around our home with about four bodyguards, and right there he encountered the Ethiopian junior officer going to his home to arrest him. The officer left his main force a distance away, and had only two bodyguards. An aggressive discussion went on between the two leaders. The Ethiopian officer urged Col. Gai to leave, but Gai was defiant. The bodyguards of the Ethiopian officer were about to take action, but the officer signalled them not to.

At this juncture, the main Ethiopian force approached to take action. My mother desperately urged Gai’s bodyguards to carry Gai by force or he would be killed. Immediately the bodyguards seized Gai’s gun, threw him on their shoulders and ran into the forest. This account means Gai didn’t rebel, but unwanted.

Following this incident, Col. Garang attacked the Nuer dominated Anya Nya II force in 1984 at Bilpam Military Base in Ethiopia. The SPLM/A outnumbered the Anya Nya II, whose most of its force was in operation fighting the Sudan government. The Anya Nya II didn’t expect the SPLM/A to stab it from the back. The Anya Nya II followed Col. Gai forces in South Sudan and united. There they received military assistance from the Sudanese government.

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Occupied by the problem of Southern Sudan, Col. Gai convinced his faction (hereinafter the Anya Nya II), that the rift in the South Sudanese liberation would be exploited by the government of the Sudan. For the sake of unity, Gai’s leadership decided, on their initiative, to endorse Garang as the leader. Gai communicated the decision to Garang, and Garang agreed. However, not many would know whether Garang’s acceptance of Gai’s request was genuine or bait. Then, the Anya Nya II returned to Ethiopia to join Garang.

On the Anya Nya II’s arrival, Col. Garang changed his mind or displayed his true colour. He attacked the Anya Nya II. However, to avoid confrontation, the Anya Nya II retreated to South Sudan. The SPLM/A pursued the Anya Nya II, and killed Gai in battle before reaching South Sudan. Was it not for the sake of South Sudan that Gai sacrificed his life? Wasn’t it Garang and his followers that weren’t genuine patriots?

After the killing of Col. Gai, late Lt. Col. Abdallah William Chuol Deang assumed command of the Anya Nya II till killed in battle. When Gen. Gordon Koang Chol took command of the Anya Nya II, he agreed through the initiative and mediation of the Nuer leaders, to re-unite Anya Nya II with SPLM/A under the banner of the SPLM/A. The unity was taken as a Nuers’ surrender to the SPLM/A rulers. Those who initiated the mediation understood the cost of discord. The Anya Nya II hardliners didn’t accept the unity, and opted to join the Sudan government. Was it a mistake that Gen. Gordon Koang didn’t want the Sudanese government exploit the South Sudanese differences?

In 1991, the SPLM/A Politico-Military High Command staged a coup d’état against Garang. Among the members of the High Command Council, only Gen. Kuol Manyang Juuk and Garang himself weren’t coup members. The incumbent South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, who plotted another military coup against Garang in 2004, was among the top coup plotters in 1991. If there is anyone to be proud of never staging a coup it would be Kuol Manyang, the current South Sudanese Defence Minister.

Dr Riek Machar, the incumbent Vice-President of South Sudan, the scapegoat of the 1991 military coup, was busy fighting the Sudan government on the Northern Front when an already planned coup was presented before him to lead. The main plotters required him to lead the rebellion because Riek would use the Nuers to fight Garang. Besides, the coup plotters knew that if a Nuer doesn’t lead their coup, Garang would crash them through the Nuers. It was a brilliant mind game.

Prior to taking the leadership bait, Riek attempted to resolve the issues peacefully because he knew the coup would jeopardise the objective of liberation. But the defiant Garang kept himself busy with other issues. As Garang kept ignoring Riek’s meeting, and the coup plotters on the other side agitating Riek to leave Garang alone, Riek had to take the law into his own hands.

When the coup was announced, the main plotters, including Salva Kiir, made a swift U-turn and re-joined Garang. Then, the non-Nuer and non-Dinka coup plotters washed off their hands pretending to be the good guys. The coup shamefully ended as a Nuer-Dinka affair. The coup d’état went nasty.

Though Riek was scapegoated, there was no error in “his coup” objectives. The noteworthy objectives of the coup were opposition to Garang’s unionist ideology, massacring of non-Dinka civilians and assassinations of senior military officers and politicians. In other words, Garang’s objective was the transformation of the Sudanese system not the secession of Southern Sudan, an objective which was not an agenda of the broad masses.

Therefore, Riek was a symbol of secessionism, whereas Garang was a symbol of unionism. Whose ideology succeeded at last? Didn’t South Sudanese vote for the secession of Southern Sudan? In spite of that, the 1991 military coup was SPLM/A’s coup conducted by leaders who couldn’t cope with the consequences of the coup. If it was a Nuers’/Machar’s coup, then, the Nuers’/ Machar’s agenda was the Pan-South Sudanese agenda that Nuers/Machar should be proud of.

The Riek-Garang factional conflict continued for eleven years till both leaders decided to merge forces. If Riek-led movement didn’t merge with the Garang-led movement, there wouldn’t be an independent South Sudan today. The Nuers have the wherewithal, which would be a folly to underestimate, to prevent the independence of South Sudan. It was in recognition of this fact that the Nuers were flexible to re-join the SPLM/A Ranks and Files. Would South Sudanese have defeated the Sudanese government without the contribution of the Nuers? Judge it for yourself.

Garang, the sole wise man in the SPLM/A clique, recognised the Nuer military power, yet, committed grave errors. In 2005 when Southern Sudan and Sudan signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), Garang didn’t even want to talk to the late Gen. Paulino Matip Nhial, the no-nonsense Nuer, who had no agenda to be under Garang because he believed Garang was a liar. The Nuers are by nature sensitive to lying. This is why they easily clashed with the SPLM/A clique that never comes close to the truth. Nonetheless, the Nuer elders pressed Gen. Matip to talk to Garang for the unity of South Sudanese.

The then Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the SPLA, late Lt. General Paulino Matip Nhial(Photo: file)

The then Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the SPLA, late Lt. General Paulino Matip Nhial(Photo: file)

However, Garang declined to talk to Gen. Matip. When Garang became the Vice-President of the Republic of the Sudan, his first task was the closure of Gen. Matip’s office. This was a declaration of war. Yet, the Nuer elders begged Gen. Matip to calm down, holding the problem of Southern Sudan like a torch in the darkness. To the Nuers, there was no heavy burden as the problem of Southern Sudan! Gen. Matip calmed down till Garang’s death resolved the matter. Then, Gen. Matip and Other Armed Groups opted to work with Salva Kiir for the sake of the unity, nothing else. Was it a mistake that the Nuers were mindful of the problem of Southern Sudan?

When the South Sudanese civil war broke out in 2013 in Juba, Riek didn’t fire the first shot nor did he opt to rebel. He was forced to rebel because he would have been killed if he didn’t run into the bush. Other Nuers followed him because they were the target of the SPLM/A’s clique whose mission was to exterminate the Nuers. Riek or Nuers have no blame as to who started the war. Kiir and his henchmen will eternally take responsibility for the war.

In sum, the Nuers have never rebelled against the SPLM/A. They were forced into rebellion by the incapable SPLM/A clique. The clique is short-sighted to see the needs of South Sudanese as a unified nation. The Nuers were dedicated to the liberation of Southern Sudan. It was such commitment that compelled them to re-unite with the clique because they knew unity is power. This is the ideology of a responsible man, which the clique twisted as cultural lukewarmness as well as political undirectedness. The Nuer should prove the clique wrong in the near future.

The Nuers’ pre-independence conflict with the SPLM/A clique was ideological or administrative, and Nuers were flexible on these issues. They sacrificed their dignity throughout the liberation struggle because they didn’t want the Sudan government exploit the differences within the SPLM/A. In other words, the Nuers acknowledged their military power. They couldn’t jeopardise the future of Southern Sudan due to ideological or administrative issues. This touch pressured them to be the main vanguards of the South Sudanese liberation. Without their effort, the question of Southern Sudan would have vanished.

Now, South Sudan is independent, would the Nuers be the same as an “undirected ethnicity”? This is where one would prove the Nuers wrong, i.e., at the end of the peace deal between the government and rebels. The Nuers’ return to Juba is not business as usual. The SPLM/A clique should not play with the Peace Agreement Riek and Salva have signed because the Peace Agreement, in and of itself, has become a BURNING FIRE. If the clique plays with it, it will burn them to ash!

The enemy’s action to exterminate the Nuers is not as compromising as ideological and administrative issues. It’s the NERVE CENTRE of the Nuer wrath! In other words, humiliating the Nuers the way it has been is severely punishable!

THEREFORE, in spite of the Peace Agreement, there are three options the SPLM/A clique should choose from for South Sudan to have a lasting peace. First, Salva Kiir and his henchmen, which comprise Gen. Kuol Manyang Juuk, Gen. Paul Malong Awan and Gen. Marial Chanuong, must face trial for the crimes committed. If the trial is burdensome, they must resurrect the Nuer civilians they have slaughtered like wild animals. If the above options are tougher, then, Kiir must relinquish power to Riek Machar! The SPLM/A clique have stumbled on a serious matter!

The author of this article, Tethloach Ruey, can be reached at teth.ruey@gmail.com

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2 comments

  • Napoleon

    What nonsense is this? Riek and folks joined in 2003 when Spla/m had signed the Machakos protocols, give credits where it belongs..Nuer 85% population was fighting South for decade plus. They didn’t help much in self succession. Riek can’t be given this leadership handfully as u claimed. You can kill yourself if u can’t bear with it. He must faced the trials first for grave crimes he committed. You rebellious community. Look at how weak and unsound your mind tell lies to cover for your nothingness. If it wasn’t for US and cohorts u couldn’t be barking as much as u are. Riek ran from Juan till he was brought back by UN. Take notes.Gadet forces are fighting in Yemen. You Nuer got no vision u enthroned Riek for. Too many rebel factions within one community? ?? What a total waste of time to clear you. You are not patriots, just killers who always get paid to kill. Hear what Bashir said about u Nuer rebellious leaders. That rebelled and asked him for support to go and kill the South Sudanese every time and he granted them his full support. Power belongs to people and it shouldn’t be given without paying for it. What self determination do u applaud Riek for yet he was busy get commissions for fighting south Sudan for decades as he acclaimed to guard the oil fields, the same as Matip, Gadet and all those your filthy militias who don’t know how to read and write and all wants to be presidents. Civilization will come to you Nuer after a century. And for your information as for this senseless or I should call it a war for salaries no io forces attack Barh el Gazal the war was at your door 24/7 till US and UN came to your rescue. ..upper Nile get it and digest it into your nut. Failed mutiny turned coup can’t indicate Gen Marial or Kuol Man yang or King Paul Malong. Every international observer as come to clear understanding about how cunning and unworthy u as a community is. Arab 20th century slaves. Rebuke me 85 Gadet as a vision to lead …can’t read and write and all want to be president.

    • GatNor

      QUOTE:
      The Nuer should prove the clique wrong in the near future. In other words, humiliating the Nuers the way it has been is severely punishable! End of Quote

      Need I say more…I think not.

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