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Analysis: Salva Kiir’s visit to Jonglei State, what it damaged and whom it served!

By Dr. Ran Kuoth Chak,

April 3, 2021(Nyamilepedia) — In an ideal society, the president is the Chief Executive, Chief Diplomat, Chief Legislator, Leader of a Political Party, Commander-in-Chief and the Head  of State; however and more importantly, for the president to be constitutionally presidential i.e. perform his duties and leave a legacy, the president must be a symbol of national unity, the custodian of the rule of law and must be able to uphold multi-racialism, social cohesion, peaceful coexistence and harmony. 

President Salva Kiir talking to Dinka Bor chiefs in Jonglei State(Photo credit: Courtesy image)
President Salva Kiir talking to Dinka Bor chiefs in Jonglei State(Photo credit: Courtesy image)

In a war-torn countries like South Sudan that have known war more than peace, dwelled on hatred than love and thrived on division, the president should wear the symbol of unity-in-diversity on his forehead and preach love, peaceful coexistence, healing and reconciliation; however, Mr. Salva Kiir, who is determined to hang on power through tribal politic, is devoted to serve only the interest of a few people whom he considers to be his people.

On one hand, a significant number of the sixty three (63) plus tribes of South Sudan still perceive him as their president and, more or less, a symbol of national unity but on the other hand, the president believes and un-apologetically shows it to the non-Dinka ethnic groups that he is only a president of his people, the Dinka; however, even among the Dinka some sub-tribes or clans are more Dinka than the others. This is what Salva Kiir demonstrated on his recent visit to Jonglei State’s capital, Bor, on April “fools’ day”:

The Composition of his delegation;

Before leaving the national capital, Juba, Kiir must have deeply thought about the trip, his target audience, the message to deliver and the activities to conduct on his way to and from Bor.

Without fear of contradiction, he ensured that none of his Nuer senior politicians made it to the list although Nuer form the majority in Jonglei State. This must have been done intentionally!

In African context, a leader always find the “sons and daughters of the soil” when  they visit a somehow foreign backyard or else they may piss off the gods; however, in Salva Kiir’s mind the visit was meant for the Dinka, and not all the Dinka but the Bor section of the Dinka Jonglei, most likely because he believes they stood in solidarity with his leadership during his reckless wars of thrones, and perhaps they may continue to do so!

Among the 11 high-level delegates that he acknowledged, 7 were Dinka politicians mostly from Bor, three from Equatoria and better yet, one Murle politician. The 12th politician that Salva Kiir called out was his son, Thiik Thiik, and son of Achol, who is also a daughter from Bor. 

Even more interesting, the president did not acknowledge the governor of Jonglei State, Mr. Denay Chagor in his speech, and it’s mostly the case that Mr. Denay was not formally informed. It is also clear that he, the rubber-stamp governor, did not play a role in the organization of his visit. As a matter of fact, Denay was busy organizing an inter-communal dialogue between the Lou-Nuer and Murle in Uror County until Wednesday or Thursday, and therefore, if he was consulted at least one week ahead, he could have either postponed the inter-communal dialogue or urged the president to delay his visit for him to wrap up the dialogue, if he could ever find a gut to do so. That would have ensured that he gets sufficient time to organize a presidential visit to a state he believes to be its most senior official, a governor, although he is not. 

The Target Audience

General Kuol Manyang Juuk giving his re-conciliatory speech in Bor, Jonglei State, on April 1, 2021(Photo credit: courtesy image)
The Dinka Bor traditional leaders in Bor town, Jonglei State, on April 1, 2021(Photo credit: courtesy image)

 Without ambiguity, it would be naive to believe that the visit was random or it was meant for the entire population of Bor or Jonglei State. The target audience turned out in a mosaic that must have taken weeks to design and the fact that it read the tribal brain of president Kiir justifies that the message must have come from president Kiir’s office. The dress code of the elders, the cultural activities and the composition of the audience clearly evidence the segmentation of the people of Jonglei State along their ethnic lines. 

It would be hard for Mr. Governor to justify how he financed and organized such a function without inviting cultural groups, youth, women, traditional and political leaders from his own Nuer Ethnic group if this was his initiative as he wants to claim credit for organizing it!

In addition, president Kiir visited the IDPs in Mangala but not the IDPs in Bor town or those at his backyard in Juba, most likely because they are predominantly Nuer and other none-dinka nationalities.

Speaking in Dinka Language:

If any doubting Thomas would still believe that everything else was a coincidence, then addressing the crowds in the Dinka language must have been a clear send-off for the none-Dinka tribes. This should have also sent a plain message to Mr. Denay who wants to claim credit for “welcoming the president” when in the eyes of Mr. Kiir he was less than a shadow. This is what it means to be hand-picked and work for someone who does not recognize you and your people! 

In sum, president Kiir unapologetically demonstrated enough that he did not mean to visit the people of Jonglei State but this one particular sub-tribe!

The Purpose of the visit,

General Kuol Manyang Juuk giving his re-conciliatory speech in Bor, Jonglei State, on April 1, 2021(Photo credit: courtesy image)
General Kuol Manyang Juuk giving his re-conciliatory speech in Bor, Jonglei State, on April 1, 2021(Photo credit: courtesy image)

The real purpose of the visit must have been an attempt to reconcile the recent fall-out between president Salva Kiir and Gen. Kuol Manyang who felt hopeless and helpless in Juba. 

Deep down in his heart, President Salva Kiir sees himself as the president of the Dinka people and therefore the unity of the Dinka people is more important to him than anything else. Knowing that he holds the upper hand in Bhar el Ghazal region, President Kiir feels that he needs Gen. Kuol Manyang and Michael Makuei Lueth in his government to maintain some grisp on Jonglei Dinka. 

In addition, there is a narrative that it was Kuol Manyang who fought for him [Kiir] to succeed Dr. John Garang in 2005 and since then Kuol stood tall supporting Kiir’s incompentant, tribal and reckless leadership for the past 16 years. Although Kiir does not care very much of who fought to death for him during his dark days, like he did to Gen. Malong and others,  dumping Kuol Manyang, just like that, could break the hearts of Dinka Buor and perhaps this was the reason he produced the son of Achol to heal some wounds. 

The purpose of the visit was to cement reconciliation between Kiir vs Kuol Manyang and his people; however, Kiir could have killed three birds with one stone if he tried to reconcile different communities among themselves and the communities with their lost politicians who have been hiding in Juba for years. He could have also made some political moves like visiting the prisons and hospitals to see the conditions of prisoners and patients, respectively.

In conclusion, there is nothing wrong for a president to visit or serve his tribe as Salva Kiir has openly demonstrated for years; however, it’s a constitutional crime for a president to use national resources on his constituents while blackmailing the rest of the population. The president can choose whatever symbol he wants to represent but he cannot choose to segregate and fit the communities against one another and expect no repercussions!

The author Dr. Ran Kuoth Chak can be reached through his email at rankchak@gmail.com,

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