Opinion: A conspiracy or cover-up for war criminals in Sudan and South Sudan?

By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi

Unknown prisoner in one of South Sudan Prisons (photo: file)
Unknown prisoner in one of South Sudan Prisons (photo: file)

October 23rd 2019 (Nyamilepedia)I have to start by alerting the reader that this is my personal story and a story of my father Alfred Yoron Modi (http://www.sudantribune.com/), a journalist and Chairman of Justice and Peace Committee of the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba who is widely and credibly believed to have been killed in the1992 Juba Massacre (http://lokeji6.tripod.com/) when the Sudan was one under former President Omar Al-Bashir.

Many other silent families of victims of war crimes in South Sudan and beyond may relate to the story and I am bringing it out for the sake of greater reconciliation and moving a Country forward.

My father Alfred Yoron Modi was arrested in February 1992 and was held for three months at the infamous “White House” (https://www.bbc.com/news/) accused of inciting students to resist the government’s attempt to introduce Arabic as the medium of instructions in Southern Sudan’s Schools, according to a Human Rights Voice article on Sudan Archives(https://www.sudanarchive.net/ Read Page 7 (State Radio Announcer Disappeared) and Amnesty International (https://www.amnesty.org/ page 14 to 16 titled Alfred Yoron Modi “disappeared” ) Websites. He was an editor though and was also writing for the Church media, several local and international media.

The article went further to mention that in May 1992, Alfred Yoron Modi was again arrested, this time for announcing the impending beatification of the nineteenth Century Sudanese Nun Josephine Bakhita (Now Saint).

He was accused of broadcasting “an offensive and subversive” announcement. And he was taken to the military headquarters for questioning, the article says, the authorities were objected to the mentioning of Bakhita being sold as a slave.

A conspiracy or cover-up for war criminals in Sudan and South Sudan?

The article on Human Rights Voice and Amnesty International later contradicted itself and never mentioned about the editorial Alfred Yoron Modi wrote calling on the UN to intervene in bringing peace to the Country then. Plus, his name has been mentioned as the author of the article itself and that he was released after ten days, adding that “permission was given for a second broadcast that did not include details” of now Saint Josephine Bakhita slavery. “Alfred Yoron Modi has not been seen or heard of since his latest arrest in June 1992,” the article stated.

That Alfred Yoron was released in Juba 1992 was not true since in August 1992 since he wrote a letter to his family from the detention indicating that he was still alive and he was being framed. Remember, the then armed opposition Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) Mainstream (Torit) faction had mounted a major assault on Juba, the largest town in southern Sudan under government control in June 1992, and many South Sudanese intellectuals and military leaders in the town were being framed of collaborating with the SPLA/M in the attack or having prior connections with the SPLA/M.

In the letter he wrote, addressed to my Grandmother (his mother Anorine Itwari and my mother Pauline Poni) and signed August 17th 1992, Alfred Yoron Modi wrote:

My fate of survival may no more be there as of today. However, I urge you to take courage and live normally. You will be briefed about the cause of my disappearance which is regarding working for the protection of our human rights in the Church, the South and the Country at large. I have never committed any other crime at all in God…my accuser has won his battle.”

He went further to ask my mother Pauline to help make the Archbishop of Juba Paulino Lukudu Loro come to his rescue as he was being tried as a military man instead of a civilian for the Church activities he was doing.

Pauline you can brief Sr. Regina Achen who will brief H.G Lukudu (Archbishop Paulino Lukudu) about my military trial as a result of the Church activity.

I have never been involved in the recent [an unreadable word] at all in God. I may only be forgiven by going to prison, otherwise, God Bless you,” He wrote indicating that he was being framed and was about to be killed. He was certainly referring that he was never been involved in the “recent” attack of Juba for which several were framed and were being tried for made-up charges, including himself.

Back to the letter which was handed to my father’s uncle Valente Modi Horinyang to give to my mother Pauline for action, my mother refused to take the letter and go brief Sr Regina Achen as requested by my father. My mother argued that my father was killed since June and the letter was too late for her to act on. That was the story she told me since a kid in several forms until I could detect that something was definitely wrong and she was trying to cover up. Was my mother acting on a conspiracy against my father in collaboration with others? Her very close relative was a politician and minister in that government then. Why she didn’t ask him to help, I asked and she got furious. Why didn’t Archbishop Lukudu go to visit his Archdiocese Chairman of Justice and Peace while in detention to check on what was brought against him? Was it because Archbishop Lukudu was feeling insecure, which he was, or there was a bigger conspiracy? My father’s boss at Radio Juba was also required to go and testify that my father was a journalist, he did not turn up and instead travelled to Khartoum and changed his religion to Muslim. My own direct maternal uncle John Kenyi Geri was also detained in the White House but he made it out safely.

When I told my mother about the above article that I found on Amnesty International website about my father’s “disappearance” without complaining that the article was contradictory, my mother told me that she was the one “interviewed” for that article.

Were all the above part of conspiracies or cover-up for war criminals? Still, those are issues I’d like to keep out of the public.

Anyway, I later found a copy of the letter my father Alfred Yoron Modi wrote from detention from my paternal uncle.

In 2014, when I returned from Nairobi-Kenya, In 2014, I found my mother and my (step) sister Grace John Kenyi wrote a biography about my father to be submitted to a certain NGO which was to write a book about the 1992 Juba White House massacre (as widely known).

However, in that biography I found that certain facts were not adding up. I discovered that my mother and my step sister created a lie just to cover up for my mother’s negligence, arrogance and probable conspiracy when my father was still in detention and wrote the above quoted letter which my mother refused to act on.

My mother and step-sister were claiming in the biography they wrote that my father was killed in June 1992 in the Juba White House Massacre. My step sister even cited another “detainee” who she claimed that was present when my father was taken out from the cell and got “killed” in June.

I disputed that by saying that my father could not have been killed in June and again write a letter in August from the detention. My mother said I was trying to blame her for my father’s killing and since then our relationship with her and my step sister deteriorated.

When my mother knew that I knew their theory about the killing of my father that he was killed in June 1992 was fake she brought the other fake theory that my father was released and he was killed on the way as they were making it to SPLA/M controlled areas for safety. Those were all attempts to distort the truth and bock my father from becoming a Saint as several faithful and Catholic clergy who know his work want.

Since then, whenever I would get into a heated debate with facts with my mother about my father’s killing and she was unable to defend herself, she would insult me in Arabic that “Killap katulu”which translates to “dogs have been killed” referring to my father.

When both of my families (paternal and maternal) met in late 2014 to resolve the differences, my mother made up several irrelevant claims against me. She just wanted me out of her house or wanted me to utter out what I knew about my father’s killing.

After the meeting of both families were unsuccessful, I brought a Catholic priest who was related to her and still the Priest was unsuccessful. My mother was not bringing the background story. My mother maintained that I and my wife should leave her house. I eventually left the house but still, my mother and step sister came after me.

In 2015 when I was working for The Citizen Newspaper, my mother and my step sister used their networks in the security sector and had me detained at Juba Central Police Station. My mother claimed I threatened to kill her and that I said she killed my father Alfred Yoron Modi. I was held for one day and the next day my paternal uncle bailed me out.

My mother proceeded with a court case against me. Everyone who knew my family or the case was shocked at how a mother could treat her own child the way she was treating me. I was the only one who understood that I was being treated that way because I questioned certain information that were not adding up regarding my father’s killing, and my mother’s role and lack of care.

I represented myself very well in the case and as my mother saw the case was collapsing since it was all fake, her sister (my aunt) pleaded with me that my mother would withdraw the case and that I should not in turn press charges against her since she is still my mother.

In the end I accepted to forgive her for all the suffering I underwent in detention and representing myself in the fake case; a ruling was issued by the presiding Judge setting me free in 2015 but since then I had no contacts with my mother and step sister until late 2017 when I was in Nairobi in exile already. There are certain stories here but I would like to keep them out of public also.

Anyway, were all that my mother was doing were conspiracies or cover-up for war criminals who implicated or had a hand in the killing of my father?

As you have seen my father’s letter I quoted above, my mother’s name was Pauline that was also how I knew her when I was a kid. However, at some point, she changed her name to Paulina.

Also, I was born on 25th February 1991. I saw my original birth certificate with that date. And as is known by many who were present, I was born and named Roger after the late Cardinal RogerEtchegaray, the then President of Vatican’s Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace who led a Vatican delegation to Juba in February 1992 (the time I was born) together with Mr. Julian Filochowski, the then director of the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development CAFOD. The delegation had meetings with my father who was the Chairman of Justice and Peace of the local Church then and several other Church leaders on Vatican’s intervention on the conflict situation and peace efforts.

However, despite having an original birth certificate, when I was sitting for my primary school leaving certificate, my mother took me to the hospital and forced me to have my date of birth changed through the Assessment of Age certificate and since then my official documents all changed to born on 1st January 1992. For me, those were all attempts aimed at blocking me from enforcing anything related to the rights of my father, then, or in the future.

What they forgot was that even saying I was born in January 1992 cannot still make me not a child of my father since he was still alive and got detained for the last time in May 1992.  In general, yes, those were failed attempts to distort my identity and reality.

So again, I ask, were all those that my mother was doing were conspiracies or cover-up for war criminals who implicated or had a hand in the killing of my father?

I keep my answers private and I let the reader judge from the start to the end of this article.

Currently, because of my critical journalistic profession which I have been practising from exile since 2017 and because of the things I know about my father’s killing, I’m not safe in exile in Kenya and I am not safe returning to South Sudan now. That is why I am asking for safety elsewhere.

Indeed my father’s struggle was a peaceful one and over twenty-six years later, it was a peaceful protest in Sudan that brought President Al Bashir down and now has given a window for democratic transformation.

Even South Sudan’s Independence was through a peaceful means, it was those of Pagan Amum and others who let peaceful protests in Khartoum and elsewhere to have the Comprehensive Peace Agreement implemented and the Referendum Act enacted to allow Southern Sudanese to exercise their right to self-determination. It is though worth pointing out that the presence of a Southern Army was instrumental, however, the change and Independence were achieved through peaceful means.

The same now for South Sudan’s Peace Agreement (R-ARCSS) and the transition it needs, real change will come when the Agreement is implemented, including the security arrangements but most importantly through peaceful means, through courageous men and women who shall enlighten the people on their rights and interests and lead peaceful movements, peaceful protests when necessary and achieve the needed reforms.

Recently in my article “The Sentry Report, War Crimes: Isn’t it time for immunities and restarting South Sudan afresh?” I called for greater reconciliation and healing in South Sudan and restating the County afresh because I understand the nature of the grievances the people of South Sudan have against each other.

The same arguments in the article can be used for reconciliation, healing and starting (Northern) Sudan afresh.

Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, a South Sudanese journalist is a former Editor-in-Chief of Radio Bakhita and Managing Editor of Juba Monitor Newspaper living in exile. He previously worked for, among other media houses, The Citizen Newspaper and freelance for The Nation Mirror Newspaper both of which have been shut down by the National Security Service. He has a background in law. He can be reached via rogeryoron@gmail.com or his twitter handle @RogerYoronModi

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Editorial Team.

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