By Okuc P. Awol
Dec 16, 2020(Nyamilepedia) — Nyamilepedia electronic journal published on 14 December 2020 an article in the name of a certain Santino Atiek who claims to be a South Sudanese living in “Upstate New York, USA.” The article purports to be responding to Dr Lam Akol’s article dated 10 December which was published by numerous media outlets but turned out to be a brazen personal attack on the person of Dr Lam Akol. The writer called him all kinds of names without substantiation: liar, dishonest, inane, crazy, peddles conspiracy theories, pursuing narrow personal interest, reckless and careless with his public statements, spreads confusion in the society, short-sighted, opportunist, capricious and tribalist. This article is not to counter his fallacious allegations but to clarify certain points to the public lest his false and shameless allegations sink in.
The writer writes in a windy verbiage that makes it difficult to fathom the point he wants to drive home. For instance, what do you make of the title: ”….flew like a fertilizer spreader in a wind like wildlfire”!! The article is replete with similar verbose expressions. To begin with, the guy from Upstate New Yor who arrogated to himself to be speaking on behalf of Padang Jieeng, calls it hypocrisy that Dr Lam Akol did not question the legality of President Kiir’s appointment of the 9 Governors “but when it comes to Upper Nile state, Lam is now out with full apparatus”. Well, he is to be excused for his ignorance. The explanation is simple: It was within the constitutional power of President Kiir to appoint the Governors but not in his authority to appoint state Governments. Why would one question what was right? But then this is his mindset as comes out in his rants.
For the benefit of the writer, who doesn’t seem to have read the article referred to above, the essence of it was:
- It was not within the constitutional power of the President to appoint state Governments. That is the work of the Governors,
- The peace agreement stipulates that the President doesn’t receive nominations of the individual Parties to the reconstituted Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) directly from them but he gets the full list of 550 nominees from the National Constitutional Amendment Committee (NCAC).
- The appointment of the Governor of Upper Nile State is a matter between the leadership of the SPLM-IO and the President to sort out and should not be tied with an Upper Nile State reconciliation conference.
- The sons and daughters of Upper Nile State have already initiated a process leading to the convening of a conference for the reconciliation and healing among the five communities of Upper Nile state.
This is a summary of the article; there was no mention of Padang Jieeng nor Johnson Olony for the writer to conclude where the position of Dr Lam Akol was regarding the appointment of Olony or what he calls “land conflict between the Padang Jieeng of Upper Nile and Shilluk”. Nothing in what the writer spewed out comes anywhere close to the above summary. It is therefore clear that the writer was not responding to what he calls “outrageous article on the Upper Nile Conference” but embarking on a personal or group vendetta in a futile attempt to tarnish the good image of Dr Lam Akol. Similar outbursts were ignored in the past but the perpetrators saw such course of action as accepting their baseless allegations. Hence, the need to refute these misguided concoctions as one is about to do.
The relationships between Chollo and Padang Jieeng
The writer gave the game away when he wrote: “there is no plausible way for a politician [meaning, Dr Lam Akol] falsely who claimed that the Shilluk have historically lived on the riverside but Jieeng do not, who disgracefully clams (sic) that Malakal is a Shilluk territory, who dishonestly claims that the former two counties of Pariang and Biemnhom should not have been put together as one state because, he alleged, they have no common border, and seeks to undercut our sensitive and hard-fought borders, to credibly claim to be a steward of our history”. Yes, Dr Lam Akol has written on the boundaries between the Chollo and their neighbours including the Jeiing of Upper Nile region. He has also written extensively on the unconstitutionality of the creation of the defunct 28 states which later became 32 states before their abrogation and return to constitutionality in February 2020. However, instead of using abusing adjectives he should have responded on the same forums with his counter facts as Dr Lam did on the issues he is now referring to. For instance, since when did Malakal become a Dinka territory when it is surrounded from all directions by Chollo villages? Provide the facts supported by dates for your claim to even get attention. Who is now making a “disgraceful” claim? The claim of “our sensitive and hard-fought borders” doesn’t hold water. Where did he fight hard for the borders?
The truth is that there has never been dispute let alone “conflict” as the author would call it between Chollo and neighbouring Jieeng in Upper Nile state for the two centuries since the later moved to the area. The only conflict in 1982 was with the Jieeng in Jonglei state. In one rare moment of listening to his conscience, the writer admits this fact when he wrote: “Padang Jieeng and Shilluk in Upper Nile are far more alike than they are different because they lived side-by-side and always intermarried. That’s why they can make great progress if they can work together…” The question is: who spoiled that cordial historical relationship between the two communities? Again, the truth is that it was the Jeiing who, under instigation from their kith and kin outside Upper Nile state, who began to claim Chollo territory east of the White Nile, first when a group of Lual Yak Ngok SPLA officers wrote to Chairman Dr John Garang in November 2004 which the later dismissed as far-fetched. With the ascendance of Gen Salva Kiir to power they got emboldened and resorted to seizing Chollo land by the force of arms. When the Chollo youth, such as Johnson Olony and others reacted, they were faced by the Government army. So in fact, Olony, the bete noire of Padang bigots, never ever fought the militia of the Padang on their own. He has been fighting the government troops. Therefore, this tall claim that Olony has killed the Padang and will kill them if he became Governor is not borne out by facts on the ground. Olony’s deputy, General Bwogo, was killed in 2015 by militia comprising the Jeiing and he never reacted to that. The real blood was shed between Olony’s forces, armed by the Government, and the Nuers supporting SPLM-IO in 2014 and on the fight over Malakal in 2014/2015. Then the Nuer White army exacted a revenge and killed hundreds of Chollo innocent citizens. So, if there were to be tribal animosity in Upper Nile because of killing each other, it should have been between the Nuer and Chollo; not either of them with the Jieeng. True, there has been targeting of prominent leaders from both the Jieeng and Chollo, such as Chief Thon Wai and Nyiradh (Prince) Akic Dak Padiet, respectively. But these were the exception rather than the rule. The life of a human being is precious and of sanctity. Therefore, no loss of life should be tolerated. But war is destructive and all families in South Sudan must have lost a dear relative one way or the other in the devastating war. The atrocities of the war affected all not only a particular community. The peace came to stop all that and for all Parties to forgive each other. Hence, any person who takes people back to those difficult and dark memories can be nothing but anti-peace. My sincere advice to the Padang is to delink themselves from external influence and reestablish their erstwhile good and cordial relations with the Chollo. This is more enduring than beating the drums of hostility and hatred.
Developments in the SPLM and in government
As mentioned earlier, the writer wasn’t responding to the article which Dr Lam Akol wrote on the 10th instant. He had his own scores to settle and for that reason he labelled a lot of allegations against him without supporting evidence. Such writings are reminiscent of those pens in the Diaspora which were instigated by some elements within the SPLM leadership in 2005-2009 to write articles, some anonymous, attacking the personality of Dr Lam Akol. However, the facts speak for themselves. The current writer keeps referring to the Nasir move and the so-called betrayal of the cause of the struggle. The Nasir move came with clear objectives including the call for the right to self-determination for the people of South Sudan, respect of human rights in the Movement, establishment of political organs of the Movement, etc. These were the main objectives. In the process of putting these into practice it was bound to be successes and failures or mistakes. The major success was that self-determination rather than the pursuit of a united New Sudan was adopted by the two factions of the SPLM and the Movement began to establish civil authority. Genuine commitment to the right to self-determination was the real game changer that led to the reunification of these factions in 2002 and 2003. It was not one faction surrendering to the other as it is always made out by those who benefitted from the SPLM/A disunity. The immediate impact of the unity was the conclusion of the CPA which provided for the right to self-determination for the people of South Sudan. It also was that unity that saved the SPLM/A from disintegration following the Yei standoff in November 2004. If there were a surrender to the enemy those alleged to have done so would not have joined hands with their brothers again. The inter-fighting between the factions was the most negative aspect of the split and had very damaging military consequences including military survival tactics. Now, the killings in Bor area in November 1991 were a result of failure of control from the Nasir leaders rather than a premeditated intention to kill Dinka Bor civilians. Some armed elements from the Nuer neighbouring Bor villages and some groups of the Anya-Nya 2 that had just joined the SPLM were bent on ‘revenge’. That loss of innocent civilian lives was regrettable indeed and must be looked at with remorse. Yet, Dr Lam Akol is always alleged to be the perpetrator of these atrocities. This is malicious as well as hollow. It will be remembered that Dr Lam went to Nairobi in September 1991 for talks with the other faction of the SPLM. He did not return to South Sudan until April 1992 to prepare for Abuja talks. So, he has never been involved in, let alone mastermind, this incident.
When Dr Riek Machar dismissed Dr Lam Akol from his faction in February 1994, Dr Lam formed his faction of SPLM-United in Chollo kingdom. The SPLM-United under him never shot a bullet against their former comrades in SPLM/A or SSIM/A. The SPLM-United opened a corridor for the SPLM/A in the Nuba Mountains, under the command of Cdr Yousif Kowa, to get their supplies from east of the Nile and was extending relief to the forces of SPLM/A under Cdr George Athor in Khorflus area which was cut off the main body of SPLM/A Mainstream. These are established facts for those who care to know. Where is the betrayal this guy is talking about?
When the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in 2005, Dr John Garang appointed Dr Lam Akol as the Administrative Supervisor (Governor) of Western Bahr El Ghazal, one of the three principal states in Southern Sudan. This was a reflection of the trust he had in his abilities. The 1991 incident and what followed did not cloud his judgment unlike the present day tribal bigots who would want to be holier than the Pope. In that line when Gen Salva Kiir assumed the leadership of the SPLM/A after the tragic death of the Leader, he appointed Dr Lam Akol as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sudan, the first Southern Sudanese to hold that office. Envious elements within the SPLM leadership began to concoct stories that Dr Lam was advancing the policy of the National Congress Party. This was because he appointed 90 South Sudanese as ambassadors and other diplomats in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For those who know how coalition governments work, there could have been no NCP or SPLM policy to be pursued in the Cabinet, but the Transitional Government of National Unity’s policy developed and agreed by all in the Council of Ministers. Each Minister is bound by that agreed policy. Despite this obvious fact the campaign continued, some out of ignorance, others out of malice. The atmosphere became unhealthy and in October 2007 Dr Lam asked Gen. Salva Kiir to find someone else for the position. He agreed and proposed him for Minister of Cabinet Affairs. This change did not please the instigators and Dr Lam was dropped from the Cabinet in December 2007. He still remained a member of the SPLM. In the SPLM Convention in May 2008, the Constitution was amended so that members of the Political Bureau are appointed rather than elected. He was not appointed to the Political Bureau on the advice of the same elements. No objective reason would have justified excluding Dr Lam Akol from the membership of the Political Bureau of the SPLM. Still, he remained in the SPLM but still those elements were bent on seeing him out of the SPLM. They began talking about dismissing him after they had succeeded to dismiss Telar Deng, Aleu Ayieny, Manoah Aligo and Ghazi Suleiman from the SPLM without following the disciplinary procedures laid out in its Constitution and Regulations. Since members were not protected by the Chairman and the Constitution, he chose to uphold his dignity and resigned in May 2009. He and some of his colleagues established SPLM-DC in June 2009 as an independent Party. As a leader of his Party, SPLM-DC, he ran for the position of President of the Government of Southern Sudan in the 2010 elections. His competitor was Gen Salva Kiir, Chairman of the SPLM. The rest is history.
So, when this guy in Upstate New York talks about Dr Lam “ended up in the Communist Party, in the SPLM, SPLM-United, SPLM-DC, and NDM”, he must be made to understand the context. First of all Dr Lam Akol has never been a member of the Communist Party. Second, it was already explained how the SPLM-United and SPLM-DC came about. As to the NDM it was formed when he resigned from his position as Chairman of the DC Party (the successor of SPLM-DC) which was using peaceful means in the country to form a new Party which does not limit itself to political means only. In all these cases more than 90% of members were intact. Hence, it was tantamount to a change of name only. This is not something to score points on unless we want to worship names rather than pursue objectives and principles. He has been consistent on the principles whatever the name of the organization was.
It is not my intention to respond to the baseless abuses the author heaped against Dr Lam. Some of them, in fact, such as lying, dishonesty or craziness can only be proved by him. One will only limit himself to those which have an impact on general policy matters.
Let us look into the claim that Dr Lam Akol was a tribalist. For instance, in the list of 90 ambassadors and diplomats he appointed in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2006, the Dinka were more than 50% including the first diplomats ever from the Ngok Lual Yak Padang. It is an established fact that the Dinka population in South Sudan is far less than that percentage. The Chollo were only seven (7) and three of them came as replacements for those who declined to serve preferring to go to the South where the salaries were far higher. These sons and daughters of South Sudan were appointed on their academic merits and aptitude to work as the CPA demanded.
Also if Dr Lam Akol were to be an opportunist and self-seeking, he would not have left his esteemed position as Lecturer in the prestigious University of Khartoum to join the struggle, he would not have resigned from the SPLM which was the only gateway by then to power and wealth accumulation, he would not have competed with Gen Salva Kiir for the Presidency of Southern Sudan in the 2010 elections with all the risk involved to his personal safety, he would not have resigned from the Ministry of Agriculture in 2016, he would not have stood out against the manipulation of the peace agreement the consequence of which the writer calls Lam having “terminated himself” for not being in “the present government”.
Facts must always be told. Who can claim to have input into the negotiations leading to the formulation of the current Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) more than Dr Lam Akol? Some paragraphs and articles in the agreement are traceable to him. Now, they are scrambling over positions provided by that agreement and some conspired to exclude him from participation. However, he continues to be committed to the letter and spirit of the agreement.
We can go on ad infinitum listing the occasions of self-sacrifice Dr Lam Akol (the first PhD holder in the whole of Upper Nile region) made in the service of this country and its people. No amount of campaign of denigration and character assassination will change that reality or erase his achievements.
Santino Aniek claimed to be responding to Dr Lam Akol’s article published on 10 December 2020 in a number of media outlets. It turned out that he had his scores to settle and he may be fronting others. Nothing in his article had relation to what came out in the original article. His rambling and ranting was full of personal abuses and unfounded allegations. He even questioned why ‘people with privilege’ “still allow people like Lam to have a say in national agenda”. This is ominous. We will ignore all that and focus on dealing with objective points only.
Dr Lam Akol came out clear in his article that he was for a conference in Upper Nile for the reconciliation of its five communities but he was against tying it with the appointment of the Governor because these are two separate issues. Olony is not Lam’s warlord as the writer claims. He is a member of the SPLM/A-IO which nominated him to be Governor of Upper Nile state according to the peace agreement. It is up to the SPLM/A-IO leadership and the President to sort that out. He has no say in it.
The Chollo and Padang Jieeng of Upper Nile have coexisted peacefully for two centuries. The current deterioration of relations between them is an aberration which is the work of outsiders. The Padang Jieeng are advised to build their case claiming Chollo’s land on historical and administrative facts as they see them. They need that collection of information for any arbitration on the matter. Threats such as “…Padang Jieeng in Upper Nile is riled and ready. No political calculus of Lam will change the battle lines and the future of Padang Jieeng in Upper Nile.” will not help. Nor will the use of state power to impose an occupation of other people’s land. There are no battle lines between the two brotherly communities. It is the facts, not the might, that will finally triumph as Juba has come to learn the hard way.
Okuc P. Awol can be reached through email at email@example.com
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