Written By: Justin Tombe Demetry,
March 18, 2016(Nyamilepedia) —— The history of the grand trans-migration in Africa have taught us that, ancient Africans embarked in migration because of the following reasons: population have expanded, scarcity of resources, drastic climatic condition changes, mysterious illnesses, threats of extinction, fierce disagreement among the same group or their neighbors, to explore better or suitable places for living, etc. Depending on the reason each group had, such a noble practice have position various groups or tribes in their desired or chosen destination to be in proximity with either friendly or hostile neighbors.
This brings me to the case of the Bari tribe which inhabits the present day Juba and their surrounding area which is situated in the Central Equatoria State, or the current Jubek State – which is among recently created 28 States of South Sudan under dispute. An excerpt from the Bari folklore is that, up until mid 1800, the land flanking the Nile were occupied by strings of villages spread out to the horizon as far as visibility could allow. This was also confirmed by the British explorer, Sir Samuel Baker in his book “Ismailia” (1874).
The fact that the Bari proper still exist in their sizable numbers despite all sorts of unfortunate events or upheavals subjected on them through all kinds of aggression is a testimony that, they were able to maintain their ancestral land by fighting the aggressors tooth and nail so as to maintain their existence and their ancestral asset, which is their land. In terms of hospitality, the Bari have been very hospitable, and it is the reason why Juba have accommodated almost all the tribes from South Sudan should it be during times of stability or hardship. Such hospitable practice have not been associated only to the Bari, but to the rest of their fellow Equatorians and some South Sudanese; unfortunately, this have always been associated with cowardliness by some unruly pastoralist and land grabbers from the neighboring regions of South Sudan simply because some land grabbers were able to get away, without being subjected to the laws of the land which theoretically prevent such kinds of unlawful behaviors and activities.
During the doom’s period of the SPLA/M liberation struggle (1983-2005) which prompted the liberators to seek sanctuary in some of the Bari land or most part of Equatoria, the presence of the pastoralist militia wrecked havoc to the normal existence of the population simply because the armed pastoralist militia deliberately allowed their cattle to mow the traditionally cultivated fields of the local populace with impunity. The moment the victims complain, they were always confronted with heavy weapons; and some unfortunately met their fate in the hands of those who were supposedly liberators of the Arab (mundukuru) hegemony.
Such practice of violence, subjugation and deliberate killing of the local populace is new to the history of the revolution; which is also contrary to the revolutionary principles exercised by Mao Zedong and Che Guevara which were emulated by subsequent freedom fighters in their liberation struggles.
Those two great revolutionaries aimed to control territories by winning the support of the local population through appealing for their “hearts and minds” so as to succeed in the struggle and achieve their objectives. The fact that our liberators failed to exercise such a noble doctrine gave rise to the creation of ill-disciplined soldiers, armed pastoralist militia and land grabbers combined, which continued their practice of terror on the vulnerable local population from the time of the struggle until date – an exercise that were not even practiced by the Jallaba occupiers. Not that the mundukuru were preferred, but such inhumane practice shouldn’t be done by the very people claimed to be liberator. As a matter of fact, the vulnerable people also contributed to the liberation struggle in various ways.
With regards to the recent classes between the Dinka Bor herders and the local Bari in the village of Lobonok which happen to be the village of the South Sudanese Vice President James Wani Igga; for the first time, unlike the previous games played by the then Central Equatora State government of being known for forming committees with no fruitful results of investigations, or arrest known to the public due to the skirmishes between the Mundari premeditated attacks on the Bari; the two governors of Jonglei and Jubek really did what is expected to the highest level. That is why in the recent clashes in Lobonok, the two newly appointed governors of the disputed states, Col. Philip Aguer of Jonglei State and his counterpart, Gen. Ausgustino Jadalla Wani of Jubek State, together with the community leaders exercised great signs of leadership to contain the situation. Please see ‘Bor herders, Bari Community agree to stop fighting in Lobonok,’ extracted from the following link: https://radiotamazuj.org/en/article/bor-herders-bari-community-agree-stop-fighting-lobonok
Subsequent to the decision, the Dinka Bor cattle keepers who were presumably chased away from the Madi corridor due to their ill-practices before their station in Lobonok – which also created clashes with the Bari that resulted to the death of some locals and even the chief; were asked to relocate their herds to the state of Bor, which has became peaceful with the signing of the Addis-Ababa Agreement in August 2015. Angry enough with such a high level decision, the Dinka Bor herders did not heed to the decision, but again; deliberately decided to bring their herds and stationed them in the Bari village of Gwuduge – Tokiman Payam during the month of February.
As usual with the Dinka cattle herders, wherever they go, it is not only about rearing cattle, but disturbance of the local population by deliberately allowing their cattle to feed on the agricultural field; and the worse of it all, illegal demarcation and selling of the land they do not own. That prompted the vigilante group from the community to forcefully chase the cattle herders away from their land because unlike the recent intervention by the two governors and the community leaders, the need to follow the due process of the law in the past have not yield any fruit; hence, was associated with a lot of bureaucratic procedures which amount to further suffering of the locals and the loss of lives. Their forceful eviction prompted them now a days to retaliate by preying on the local population at night; alas, such a barbaric practice by the armed pastoralist poising as criminals and retaliators have led to the death of some few locals in the village of Gumbo two weeks ago.
Few days ago, another disturbing information also surfaced around the Bari village of Gwuduge whereby, the forceful eviction of the Danka Bor ended up being traded now jointly with the Dinka Bor and Dinka Padang. On the other hand, those from Aliab were also not new to such an illegal practice; as they were known to be among the group that had forcefully occupied the portion of Gumbo on the way to Rajaf which were turned into a squatter, makeshift market, hotels and brothel. Their illegal occupation, land grabbing and dishonest selling/reselling of the land came to an end when the then former Governor of C.E.S., Gen. Clement Wani Konga demolished the area.
As if lessons were not learned, the Dinka Bor and Dinka Padang in a joint attempt now decided to besiege the land in the village of Gwuduge which resulted to another forceful eviction and the arrest of the culprits which have resulted to the following details, ‘BREAKING NEWS: Bari Rajaf Land Grabbed by Dinka recovered after serious intervention by Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirilo;” as per the following link: http://www.southsudannation.com/breaking-news-bari-rejaf-land-grabbed-by-dinka-recovered-after-serious-intervention-by-lt-gen-thomas-cirillo/
As a motto to the protection of the land, history have taught the decedents of this very Bari village of Gwuduge that, their ancestors were brave fighters who participated in the arms struggle to defend their land against slave traders, plundering warriors and invaders. Such legacies have been translated in some of the local revolutionary/war songs. It is therefore very important to point out that, with such a great legacy, this particular village has her sons and daughters, plus figures with roots to the village in all walks of life that are no nonsense fellows; and can never put up with such a heinous practice of illegal occupation of their ancestral land.
Thanks to Lt. Gen. Moga-lo-Cirilo for doing your best by expelling the illegal land grabbers in uniform from our ancestral land through the help of your superiors, colleagues and the locals combined. Such a practice is nothing but an utter disrespect to those who have equally participated in the liberation struggle of this country; and is therefore condemned in strongest terms possible. Likewise, Job well done this time around for you to have dealt with the same collaborator of illegal land grabbing in the way deemed necessary; and kudos to the sons of Gwuduge, Tokiman community at large, and the entire BC for the continuous alertness, protection and the necessary action required to keep the land free from illegal land grabbers.
Those marauding armed cattle keepers and their associated illegal land grabbers in uniform are the very group tarnishing the image of the Dinka tribe in South Sudan; as it is unfair to generalized the entire community as land grabbers because there are some law-abiding ones who have settled peacefully in other parts of South Sudan, and have also acquired land in a rightful approach; and therefore, cannot be associated with the bad apples. That being said, a massive program of peaceful coexistence, community awareness and the consequences of illegal land grabbing and inhumane practices is badly needed by those culprits who are tarnishing the image of their communities; else peace will never be realized for several generations to come if such practices are not put to an end.
Almost all the tribes of South Sudan have participated in the liberation struggles, not only one particular group; on the other hand, several other African countries have their own share of their liberation struggles, but when they laid down their arms; some freedom fighters melted peacefully into their various communities and societies doing what they are good at by becoming productive citizens of their own countries without any sense of entitlement over their fellow countrymen whom they have liberated.
Since a crime is a crime no matter who commits it; fingers cannot be pointed to the portion of the Dinka land grabbers alone. Indeed, the Bari village of Komiru and its residential suburbs referred to, or renamed as Mangaten and Mia Saba which turned out to be a nasty bloody killing field during the crisis of December 2015, were in fact illegally grabbed from the Bari by some section of Nuer land grabbers. Their illegal occupations of the area have miserably resulted in the death of some rightful Bari owners during their forceful seizure of those grabbed land. Such brutal behaviors by some unruly soldiers have led to some deliberations in the parliament around March 2012 as per details in the following link: http://paanluelwel.com/2012/03/08/south-sudan-tribal-crisis-parliament-breaks-apart/
As I have indicated earlier, due to the lack of faith in the long bureaucratic system with no tangible fruits; the Komiru incident which was deliberated in the parliament have gone nowhere; and therefore, the illegal land grabbers in uniform continue to build and sell/resell plots as they wish without any further intervention from any government establishment. As a last resort, the community leaders decided to approach the then Vice President Dr. Riek Machar so that he can use his influence to convince his own people to relinquish the land to their rightful owners.
Surprisingly enough, as I still recalled this vividly in a follow-up of one of my then responsibilities; Dr. Riek Machar’s responses to the community leaders were that, his own land was even grabbed by those soldiers. Furthermore, he stated that since Juba became the capital, there are a lot of people who have decided to relocate to Juba; and therefore, he was waiting for the then governor of C.E.S., Gen. Clement Wani Konga, so as to find a way to allocate land to those people.
Pathetically indeed, it made me wonder by then, for Christ sake! How can one of the top brass of the system who was heavily protected convince any sane living person that, his own land was also grabbed? How did that happen in the first place? I bet you, the moment any land grabber during that period found out that the land he grabbed belongs to Dr. Riek; the message is enough for him to pack his belongings and trash before even being approached by Dr. Riek’s men. With respect to the second response about waiting for the then governor Clement Wani, I reserve my comments on this for now.
In a nutshell, the Bari Community in overall have suffered tremendously for the last eleven years simply because of their land which have gone through all kinds of challenges that were never witnessed in their history. It is for this very reason that, in March of 2011, the BC petitioned the Government of South Sudan under the leadership of 2nd Lt. Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardid to relocate the new capital of South Sudan away from the indigenous land in Juba and the surrounding villages as per the details in the following link: http://pachodo.org/latest-news-articles/pachodo-english-articles/2018-bari-community-petition-for-the-relocation
When the recent war on December 15, 2013 broke out which forced the two warring parties to the negotiating table in Addis Ababa which culminated to the signing of the recent peace agreement; the same concern of the relocation never faded away. Upon Dr. Riek’s recent visit to the United States of America, this same question came up from one of the Bari elders regarding the relocation of the seat of the government; which Dr. Riek answered that, due to the rejection by the land owners, and the unfairness of taking other people’s land against their will, the need to relocate is necessary so as to create a peaceful coexistence of the South Sudanese people.
Understandably, the current political and the economical situation of the country, and the plummet oil price would not permit that to be realized any time soon; however, the demand is still there because the logic behind the reasons for the relocation outwait its contrary.
Therefore, even if peace is realized, economic situation improved, and the seat of the government relocated in the near future, and the federal system implemented – while illegal occupation of other people’s land persist; that will never bring stability if we were to function as a viable society in need of peaceful coexistence with each other. As for the uniform being worn and the government machinery being used against other vulnerable citizens; there will come a time when those grabbers will not be able to even carry the tools they used in the first place to grab the land; as such, it is of utter importance to use the rightful approach to seek land rather than illegally acquiring them – risking resistance, arrest or even blood spill for a place that is not even your own.
Justin Demetry is one of the sons of Gwuduge Village; have worked for several years in the oil and gas industry in Canada, but currently pursuing graduate studies in Mechanical Engineering, and can be reached at the following email: firstname.lastname@example.org