Dr. Lam Akol’s Historical Controversy in Light of His Recent Statement on Borders
By Santino Aniek.
March 26th, 2019(Nyamilepedia) — Immediately after the 2015 Presidential Order establishing South Sudan’s 28 states before later being bumped up to 32 States, there was a grabbing news headline about a comment made by Dr. Lam Akol. Lam claimed that the former two counties of Parieng and Biemnhom should not have been put together as one state because, he alleged, they have no common border. This was not the first time that this controversial political figure had issued a false statement. There were many before, just as there have been many more controversial statements by him after.
Lam is a known political figure in the Greater Sudan, all for the wrong reasons. He has been successful in creating division not only within his own community but also among South Sudanese. Controversy is what Lam is about. This is who he is and will always be. He was a member of the Sudan’s communist Party, SPLM/A, SPLM-United and SPLM-DC. He is now a member of NDM and SSOA. He has no loyalty to any ideology.
During the recent presentation on the communal boundary disputes, we saw once more Lam in his usually demeanor and full gears trying controversially, but not surprisingly, to mislead South Sudanese that Malakal is a Shilluk territory. It is not clear whether this controversial statement could make Lam popular in his Shilluk community. What we surely know is that this is only a tiny addition to his unpopular contributions to the liberation struggle. Coupled with his recent pursuit of violence in the form of rebellion against our new nation, Lam’s controversy only diminishes his standing in society.
It goes without saying, therefore, that Lam’s rhetoric in recent months were not unexpected. The man thrives on fear-mongering, shallow bravado, and recurrent waves of divisiveness. Lam is not in this alone. The unreasonable attitude by our neighbors after South Sudan’s independence is as old as their controversial political history itself. It does not catch me as a surprise that the statement he delivered would unfold that way. He is the same man I knew in Nasir where he delivered the same message during the 1991 Coup, following which he issued many misleading statements through BBC with false confidence. In the end, he still failed miserably, leaving Riak Machar almost punished.
In his recent statement on Malakal, Lam’s and his brother’s underlying theory was that the Shilluks have historically lived on the riverside but Jieeng do not. But how many people think Lam believes in what he says? There are many rivers in South Sudan and the entire world and the last time I checked, Shilluk only lived in Upper Nile that make Lam a liar because Shilluk are not crocodiles. Those who live along these rivers in South Sudan and the world are not Shilluks. They are people of different tribes, race and religion. He cannot justify the ownership of Malakal on the basis of such a claim. There are so many Dinkas including in Upper who live on the river banks. But I was not surprised hearing Lam making that statement with a straight face. He is the same man who religiously fools himself on the evening of August of 1991 to the BBC that they have a legitimate reason to rebel against the SPLM/A. Yet, shortly afterwards, he abandoned Riak and joined Khartoum.
In the end, I doubt many if any minds in South Sudan would be swayed by Lam’s misleading statement. How many even read the representation produced by him and his community? Does it matter? Do we care what Lam, his supporters, and his community said or do? Previously, few folks from our neighbors have used the same strategy to at least play lip service to their communities and the worse of those on the other side to lie to them that the rich and fertile land of Ruweng belongs to them. Our brother Lam and his community, by instinct, necessity or psychology, only know the high stakes of this issue of border no matter how smooth they speak or misleading they are to South Sudanese. In fact, we have seen how that instinct ended up in his political business whether in the Communist Party, in the SPLM, SPLM-United, SPLM-DC, NDM, or in whatever party he is in now. But here we have no choice but to tell South Sudanese that this is the same Lam who has lied for much of his political career, beginning with the BBC in 1991 and as Chairman of the SPLM-DC. So no matter how his supporters or community think of him, Lam has no credibility or moral authority at all.
We learned more grave ethical and legal concerns about this misleading statement by Lam, which added extra revelation to a picture of a man that has been coming into focus for years and decades. We heard new headlines worthy of an inquiry, to add to the countless more embarrassing statements that already exist in Lam’s life.
We saw Lam trying to be a witness with no interest in the facts presented. His recent approach, thus, is the same style of marching to the tune imbued with tribal rhetoric and bigotry over the years and decades. This one was not surprising. Was I shocked by what I heard from him? Was anybody in the country? I doubt it if you have been paying attention to him all these years. But then I stepped back, and was shocked at how big knowledge Lam claim to have about the borders of South Sudan generally and of Ruweng in particular. Yet the reverse is what can logically be concluded. Lam made this controversial statement probably in order to get Nuer support. But this is not going to happen. He can get support even from America or heaven but as long as it is a claim that is not factually-based, it is a road to nowhere. Biemnhom and Parieng have had a common border since time immemorial.
Lam’s only defense is to ignore facts. Even the present Government of South Sudan knows that Parieng and Biemnhom share a common border and it is the reason the two were awarded with State. Lam has his own motives, the motive of ensuring that any Jieeng, even a Jieeng community with no harm to him or his community are targeted in pursuit of his Jieeng hatred. That is why he chose to mislead on Parieng—Biemnhom border as well as Malakal. This seemed to be unhinged ravings of a man bent on pursuit of ethnic hatred in commonality with axis of evil alliances on Jieeng—the Jieeng hating crowds.
As I took in the spectacle, the grandstanding and the honest outrage at what we were hearing in this controversial man’s mouth, I felt profound sadness for our two communities because if they insist, this will led the two communities into war. I have seen many misleading statements by him, but I have not seen before such widespread embarrassment at what Lam has become nowadays. The older he becomes the more ignorance he portrays. The tawdry shame that hangs over Lam and the consequences of his misleading leadership on his community are potentially dangerous.
The only hope is that while it is true that there can be no illusions as to what kind of a man Lam is, one still senses that the journey to the truth in South Sudan is continuing, even accelerating to greater national reckoning. This also means that the power of lies that we have been witnessing all these years, has its limits. In fact, we are aware that Lam and his community are riled and ready, but no statement will change the battle lines and political calculus over the future of our borders.
In conclusion, it is safe to argue that although misbehavior generally does not last in our nation’s moral and political consciousness, I am comforted by one thing: the changing is this perspective. Indeed, something interesting has developed in recent years and that is what political leaders say will not be forgotten anymore. In the same way, Lam’s false and misleading statement on ethnic boundary dispute will not be forgotten. Finally, my advice to brother Lam is to stay away from the tribal political rhetoric because Shilluk and Dinka in Upper Nile have lived together for hundreds of years without problems. Jumping into Johnson Olony’s useless bandwagon will create more bloodshed among our communities. Olony will never produce any good results for his community or for himself. The same can be said of Lam.
Santino Aniek is a concerned South Sudanese lived in Upstate New York, U.S.A. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, find me on Facebook, on Skype, and on twitter @saniek.