The Open Letter That Cost Renowned Professor and a South Sudanese nationalist, Taban lo Liyong, His Job
An open letter to President Donald Trump’s Special delegation to South Sudan Hon. Tibor P. Nagy
By Professor Taban Lo Liyong,
Feb 12, 2020(Nyamilepedia) — On behalf of myself and all the 99% South Sudanese who voted in 2011 for Separation from Sudan, and therefore effectively brought into life the present nation of South Sudan, Successor to the Southern Region of the Sudan which had got its independence from Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in 1956, I welcome you with open arms.
The present state legally came into being because we the South Sudanese voted for separation: the last will of father Clement Mboro for a referendum to conclude the comprehensive peace agreement. Had we willed otherwise, we could have voted for remaining in unity with the Sudan and would have perpetrated the status quo.
We are emphasizing the 99% creators of South Sudan by referendum because some citizens of South Sudan underplay it. It is true the SPLM-SPLA had fought a war using all tribes of South Sudan and had ground the government of Sudan to stalemate. And it was, let me say it, and emphasize it, the American government of President George Bush, a Republican, and the Norwegian government, the Ethiopian government which took the major part in taking the two leaders to the Naivasha Peace talks ending in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement [CPA], and all that followed.
To prepare the way for taking President Bashir to the agreement took a lot of lobbying, particularly of the Christian nations. To be singled out is the contribution of the Evangelical Christian Churches of the United States. Our self – actualization as a viable nation is far from being achieved. Had you created a monitoring base here, they who are quick to take up arms would have thought twice or you would have deterred them. We still fear the reactions amongst diehards for tribal hegemony. The other churches, those in the Sudan, neighboring states, Britain, Canada, and America generally are not ignored.
When the truth has to be stated, it was the Evangelical Christian Churches of America whose voice sounded loudest in urging the government of the United States to get fully engaged in the taking the main course that ended up in bringing us this independence, that some of us have been playing with. And foreign national enjoys and parties treat us with kid gloves. Not without reason, some of us use our newness in the modern world as an excuse for murderous experimental actions.
When funds from United Nations agencies and foreign nations’ embassies, the Europeans and IGAD nations that are untouchable by our armed forces do not have to hurry bringing our near genocide to close.
Afterall, most of the moneys are earned by their officials, some of whom are already career officers earning handsomely what they would not have got at home.
I am therefore happy in welcoming you here and reminding you of the fact that you, and Americans generally, but American Republican government in particular, should not sit idly by when the national status we had won with the assistance of your predecessor governments has lost sense of national cohesion and now destroys itself like a crocodile or hyena that senselessly eats its own intestines.
As they say, better late than never. President Donald Trump, as an American Republican President has the right not to sit idly by when a state created through his republican predecessor is now undermining the voices of concerned participants in seeking to bring to halt the land that was created by them. What I see being tried is a local colonization by people who, I hope I am not wrong, took fellow citizens for a ride for a two ties mission, to decolonize from the Arab local colonialist, as well as immediately transfer those very shackles on fellow citizens at home here. But when some of them state openly that they are replacing the Arab colonialists, and want to have 17 states whereas the rest of the 63 tribes from 64 only have only 16, how can one get the arithmetic wrong?
The referendum must rank higher than the military efforts alone. The result could have been inconclusive if it had been left to the fighting forces alone. But then we were ready to try anything but continue living under Khartoum. And this final fight – THE CASTING OF BALLOTS IN A REFERENDUM was fought by every South Sudanese.
No tribe can claim winning the final war single-handed. Just as when the first shots for independence in 1955 were fired in Torit Barracks by the Equatorian Corps of the Torit Battalion, all other South Sudanese joined. Most of us had believed SPLM/SPLA was a popular war of liberation. Some citizens of South Sudan now seek to disabuse us of that blind belief. Nevertheless, we shall remain solid citizens of South Sudan of the districts we were in when independence was given Sudan in 1956. Then, we had belonged to the 3 provinces of Equatoria, Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile. When for administrative reasons successive Khartoum governments re-arranged us into 10 provinces, it was these 10 provinces we took with us when in 2011 we ceded from the Sudan and became South Sudan. It is logical that the present discussions return us to the 10 states.
With the proviso that some arrangements to join us together in greater Bahr el Ghazal region, Greater Upper Nile region, Greater Equatoria region for cultural and economic reasons could be created in the future. There could also be another arrangement whereby each state or two or more could rearrange their citizens for administrative, economic or cultural reasons or cohesion. Such arrangements could be adhoc, or interim, but there must be a mechanism to be created giving it a judicial status. If it is seen unworkable, or open to abuse, it could be revoked. Such arrangements should not have permanent standings. National constitutional arrangements can come and go, or stay as is normally the case everywhere.
We as South Sudanese fall into short and tall citizens, many and states with few citizens, reasonably educated citizens, and illiterates. And are scrambling to better the conditions of our people.
The means one of our component tribes has chosen is foul. It uses national resources to promote itself and its own people and keeps others behind or starves them form the resources or takes from the resource a territory that has wealth and transfers it to its own. So when, using the resources of the nation, it has taken away, but holds its own already extant ones to itself, this is modern colonization. Taking away resources, removing the resources by giving them to their own foreign nationals is colonising.
This is the position comrades of yesterday wanting to demote fellow comrades into the category of menial servants or second class citizens. And when you felt the bitter cold of Torit or Kapoeta thorn bushes during the war and had voted for separation are now again being colonized you baulk at such demotions, or degradation or take up arms. Worse still if the government you had voted into power does it to you.
And are zealous of your equal status being removed from you. You do not want to accept second class citizenship of the freedom your ancestors had initiated the fight for nor do you let go that easily the land God had given you being taken away by fellow nationals who leave land and confiscate yours. The above happens to be the reason for the fight against the 32 states.
Those citizens who actually stick to 32 states initiated the abrogation of the 10 states, so that the wealth of all the 32 states with Abyei Administrative area tilts the balance their way: 33 for them.
They, alone abrogated the former states and their boundaries. They alone divided the land into 32 states. They gave themselves 17 states, which is more than half the 33 states.
That, Sir, is the bone of contention. All the foreign ambassadors here either had not been given the naked truth, or they cared not for it, or they had itching palms which wanted greasing by the oil dollars since they say everybody has his price. When the government has the oil money if they have desire to use it, who can blame them? But with the Americans who are zealous of their rights as you are, we beg that you return the government from the 32 illegal states to the legal 10 states that had also taken into consideration the arrangements of 1956. Under which we had learned to arrange our affairs equitably. It may not be the best arrangement, but it is best of the rest.
Please, President Donald Trump’s emissary, don’t leave us in the present oligarch’s hegemony. I beg you, on behalf of the 99%, who still believe that we are all good people and can see sense when explained to them, and can still be lived with as fellow citizens in equality when given better sense as fellow national citizens, and had started to see that their own people need to be taught national, rather than tribal, civic lessons.
When 63 tribes out of 64 are on one side and it is only one tribe in opposition. If you side with the lonely tribe, there will be instability forever. Even a blind man can feel the head of President Abraham Lincoln on the one dime. 63 dimes will be heavy in his hand, one dime will be nothing.
We do not promise that we shall fare faultlessly when we are out of this bush. But we have shed enough blood of our fellow national brothers or our own relatives, or caused the shedding of our own relatives, or have seen our own relatives killed by those with the powerful Russian Kalashnikovs or Chinese-made pangas and sabres to know why we should reform our lives or be jealous of trespasses in the ethical world and in moral deeds to nip in the buds any future taking of our people into the national wilderness, or future exercises in imperial expansionism into fellow nationals’ lands. The era of colonialism is over. The era of tribal hegemony cannot be introduced, so that some parts of South Sudan become new ‘closed States.’
The bone of contention, dear Honorable Nagy is land encroachment. There are two big tribes: Dinka and Nuer. The Dinka claim they are the Majority, the Nuer protest, saying they are equal or nearly equal. But both have been involved in territorial expansionism. Now the Dinka seem to have taken away the Nuer desire for it. With the Dinka leading, that is, members of their tribe going to lands which traditionally belongs to the other smaller tribes and taking over lands and properties by force. And they are aggressive in defending the lands they have taken over.
And if the International Community does not stop it, it will go ahead enjoying this dictatorship guaranteed by the UN, USA, UK, IGAD etc. Demographically, the rest of the tribes lead in numerical count, followed by Dinkas, then the Nuer. So, there is no reason to have the lion share of states. We the non-Dinkas and the non-Nuer deserve the most states.
In Upper Nile, the main losers are the Shilluk whose kings had given other tribal ancestor’s lands to shelter in for a while in the past but now they have pushed the Shilluk away, and seek to push them permanently from their ancestral lands into the wilderness. Not even the King is respected; he has been brought down to the level of being fraternised as comrade.
In Equatoria they have done the same to the Bari of Juba and the Madi of Nimule. When, during the SPLM-SPLA war of liberation, the Madi of Nimule had been requested to relocate elsewhere so that Nimule becomes a fighting zone, and they complied, after the war the Dinka moved in and occupied most of Nimule claiming the land was devoid of people. And now all the permanent building in Nimule belongs to Dinka Bor. Elsewhere in the Madi land all the buildings of the Madi are burnt, or ransacked, or destroyed. And the Madi dare not to come back. With the result that there is hardly a Madi in Madi land. Nimule has become New Bor city of Dinka Bor.
You hear a Bari fighter has not signed peace agreement. But in and around Juba, there is serious land grabbing. In Sherikat industrial area across the river they have become land – owners, distributing Bari land to fellow Dinka at will. General Peter Cirilo’s ancestral village was dug up by tractors. His grand-father’s very grave was dug up and he had to flee for dear life. Who can blame him when some tribes’ people moved away by force from their own land to settle in Bari lands, and if the Bari youth request their only national General to lead them in defense of their land, and he consented, can you blame him? Even you Ambassador Nagy, if it was done to you would you not also do the same? Meetings after meetings, Peter does not sign, pleading that the ‘root causes’ of his revolt that he has stated in details be dealt with. Why don’t the Americans also read the mighty root causes?
I won’t go to lands in Muru land, or in Kajo Keji, in Magwi, in Yei or Bahr el Ghazal. The story is the same, go to Rejaf East to see why Cirilo cannot sign any peace-agreement. For it gives to the Dinka settlers permanent residence. Their land in Bor is now left for cattle-grazing. If this agreement is not reached, if the lands-encroachers do not return to the District boundaries of 1956, are we sure the Shilluk will not again take up arms? Will the whole South Sudan not be burning from one side to another? If your Excellency joined the other ambassadors to let the government do as it wants if you buy into the ploy of postponement, 90 days, three months after three months whilst the government gains grounds after grounds, how will the United Nations avert any future impending genocide? Won’t you Americans also be held complacent and complicit? Will not even the international community blame them when they have been with the government’s point of view and get false advice from president of Uganda Yoweri Museveni who has built Uganda with South Sudanese civil war money? So long as oil dollars keep on flowing, our government continues funding developments in Uganda, in Kenya, in Ethiopia, in Egypt, in Eritrea as we did when General Bashir also was developing Sudan on our oil bribes. The present Junta ruling Sudan seems to be a different brand of rulers, and so far we respect their leaders, and decisions. May God help them.
As far as Western ambassadors in Juba are concerned, the present U.S Ambassador is an exception from the other former American ambassadors. There is a feeling amongst all European ambassadors (including former American ones) to meet before sending their reports home and whatever their leader (it used to be the Norwegians) is the agreed report to be sent. Therefore whenever the leader had sketched out the scenario, each one would then rehearse it in her or his way, differing only in details. Why there is no counter espionage to check on the veracity of their report and advice is a mystery. We used to respect the Christian Western countries but we now doubt it, ambassadors, emissaries come, talk tough on arrival, we begin to look for change, let a week or two pass, then their teeth cannot bite any more. They ask for postponement, for more time, 100 days, three months etc. What is so complicated about the South Sudan’s problems to defeat Ugandans, Kenyans, South Africans, Norwegians, Americans, Britons? Even His Holiness the Pope?
When we returned home in 2005, dear sir, the land we left was what we inherited later from the government of National Congress Party of Bashir. Nobody quarreled with that bequest. Why? Because it kept the territorial land-boundaries that were used for elections of 1958. And those had respected the distinct boundaries.
In other words, the Arabs had respected our culture and for a better or worse, whenever you were placed by God, whatever terrain you had landed in; or whatever land your migrant ancestor had got from ancestor or God was neither good all over, no bad all over. Perhaps it suited your culture. Or you had learned to adapt yourself to your terrain. In the Sudan, the Sudd was not all together bad. There was oil underneath. Just as Botswana was not entirely a desert, there was diamond underneath! The British did not know it.
What we need was a survey of the lands of South Sudan to see what each area is good for. Rather than leave yours behind and go grab somebody’s land in addition, causing pain to him and telling your terrain be destroyed by oil pollution because of your absence.
I am sure the politics of state numbers in relations to division of national wealth, national members of parliament and their effects on voting in parliament has been given to you. But did they tell you that our senators are also affected by the politics of states. There are already 17 members of senate from one tribe and we the rest have 16! In the other words, if you have 17 members and the rest have 16 you are already ahead: the winner in any election or wealth division. Election rigging is already built into the illegal constitution that was abrogated into 32 states.
To re – iterate:
We welcome you on behalf of the Republican President of the United States, President Donald Trump. The Naivasha Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the last conflict had been brought about by Republican President George Bush.
Though SPLM/A had brought the Sudanese government then to a stalemate, it was the 99% vote for separation that effectively won for us independence. Without it we would have still been in the Sudan.
We all, as South Sudanese contributed to the war. So the governments belong to us all. Some tribesmen have been trying to throw others aside, selfishly.
Evangelical Christian Churches in the lead, and others following did a lot. But we had hitherto all taken a lackadaisical attitude to it. We should not have done so.
The states numbers at our independence is part of our formational constitution. It cannot be abrogated by presidential decree. Since everybody else is against the 32 states President Salva Kiir has promulgated, let it be scrapped and let us return to the 10 states that were there. This will bring peace all over South Sudan. Mr. Nagy, please study all contributions on this matter and have the courage Republicans are known for. The conclusion stares you in the face.
The electoral laws and numbers will need to be reviewed. There are far too many members of parliament, [450-500] and the caucus system makes discussion a mockery. For if the Majority party can do without any discussion it would not have an effect. The caucus has already decided. And it suits 32 people well.
Let these laws be reviewed by the interim government that will rule for 3 years. There are no political parties. After the election the so called elected members of the opposition go to seek posts from the government. They call it inclusivity. It is as if General Jaafar Nimeiri’s Ass As You [SSU] is here again. If a member seeks to cross to another party, he or she has to resign and seek election on the strength of the opposite party’s platform. At the moment All parties of parliament and House of Chiefs are employees of SPLM whatever party they claim belonging to!
The present system is not democracy, it is dictatorship by conclusion.
Observing the South Sudanese government behaviors of the last 5 years, it looks like a path for bringing into being a tribal hegemony of one tribe over the other tribes was being pursued. And, mechanisms that were to bring it into being were being set into place, as well as those that would perpetrate it. And to me, it looks like the abrogation of the interim constitution’s Ten STATES and its replacement with the Thirty-Two STATES was the linchpin. In other words if the nation is divided into 32 states that give one tribe 16 with Abyei Administrative Area making it 32, then for everything that has to be divided according to states, that one tribe would get a major share.
It would take 17, and the rest of south Sudanese would remain with 16. Besides the oil fields that had belonged to other tribe had now been gerrymandered into the ruling tribe’s state, as created by that tribe’s elders, the master planners. We leave it as it is then tribal hegemony is going to be the occupation of all the big tribes of Africa.
Leave it as it is then you will have stamped into being Dictatorship that was being created through the postponement after postponement of South Sudan peace talks whilst gaining fresh ground and consolidating others. Instead of rapping fingers of cheats, the international bodies now would have brought into being a state ruled by one tribe through the mechanism of “blame – both parties; be even-handed, blame the cheat and cheated equally!
The only way to nip it in the bud is to return us into the 10 states we inherited from Khartoum and not to tamper with the constitution of South Sudan that the CPA had given us.
There is a suggestion for an arbitrator from South Africa to settle the 32 states issue. How does South Africa come in to settle South Sudan’s political problem? Was there an arbitrator for South Africa’s case? A political issue deserves political settlement.
We want to have arbitration, then let the ‘British House of lords’ be called to come and sort out the mess that the last British created instead of postponing independence , he ran away and we gave ourselves this problem that is still ongoing.
We look for a bold decision Hon. Tibor P. Nagy. Deliver it to South Sudan that was created with President George Bush’s power. We do not expect less from you, President Donald Trump’s envoy.
If I have written much, it is because there was more to write. I am not writing for myself, but for peace loving South Sudan, loving citizens who created it by 99 percent votes. We pray that you make a difference, bring us all to 10 states. And end the War. If one tribe finds itself at odds with the other 63, it is obviously out. Thank you very much we trust you will.
Go and greet he who sent you, President Donald Trump, a Republican and may God give him his best wishes. That is the only payment I can offer him on behalf of myself and the 99 percent South Sudanese who had voted for separation and brought the nation called South Sudan to life.
Again thank you,
Professor Taban lo Liyong, a South Sudanese nationalist.
BA – Howard University 1966
MFA – Creative Writing, University of Iowa, 1968
FIWW – University of Iowa, 1968
Senior Lecturer an Head of Department – University of Papua New Guinea
Lecturer, Literature Department, Royal College, Nairobi, later University of Nairobi.
Senior lecturer and later Professor – University of Juba, South Sudan, 1985,
Imperial Visiting Professor – National Museum of Ethnology, Minpaku, Osaka, Japan 1993
Inaugural Visiting Professor in Social Science, Curtin University of Technology, Western Australia 1994
Professor of English, University of Venda, Thohoyandou, Republic of South Africa 1995-2005
Founder and Inaugural Professor, Eskia Mphahlele Institute of African Studies, University of Venda 2000-2003
Andrew Mellot, Visiting Professor in Creating Writing, Rhodes University, Grahams town, Republic of South Africa, 2017