Contributor's Dak Buoth Opinion

Opinion: Panyijiar County commissionership is not rotational

By Dak Buoth,

Nairobi, Kenya.

Dak Buoth and other South Sudanese holding protests in Nairobi, Kenya in 2018(Photo credit: courtesy image/Nyamilepedia)

Dec 17, 2020(Nyamilepedia)‘‘The Magician and the politician have much in common: they both have to draw our attention away from what they are really doing.’’ Ben Okri.

Panyijiar is said to be the second largest county in Unity State after Parieng County which has now become one of the three semi-Autonomous Administrative Areas in South Sudan. We cannot talk of the number of people for there has never been a census since our country gained her independence on 9th July, 2011. The Khartoumers led census which was conducted prior to South Sudan independence cannot be referred to. The post- independence Panyijiar history is very bad. It is characterized by lack of clean water, lack of telecommunication Network, Road and other basic necessities of life. The unending flood has worsened the deteriorating situation. As we converse, the Residents of Panyijiar are lacking almost everything, and they are depending on a few humanitarian agencies for things like food and drugs. Of course all of South Sudan was marginalized by previous Khartoum regimes. Now Panyijiar faced double marginalization by the past and present regimes. The Marginalization of Panyijiar is unique in the sense that there are varieties of things in other places that are missing in Panyijiar County. Now the biggest problem in Panyijiar is that people are behaving and talking as if nothing went wrong in the past. I’m afraid if they continue embracing this complacent attitude, history will repeat itself. This means the post-R-ARCISS Panyijiar history will be worse unless or until its members think and change tact.  The causes of Panyijiar problems are both natural and artificial. Going by what many used to say that God gives and takes, He has been robbing us of our people whom we can rely on for representation at a critical time like this when we are being neglected and denied what we deserved on the national cake. The Panyijiar problem is artificial in the sense that most Panyijiar members are abetting and aiding their systematic oppression and marginalization by handling their detractors and tormentors with kid gloves for fear of the unknown. Anywhere you find there are socioeconomic and political disparities the leaders in power must be blamed and condemned consistently. In 2013, South Sudanese including the people of Panyijiar County rose up in earnest to fight for reform.  They fought a good fight, but they are almost missing out in the national cake that came as a result of the war.  It is good that I’m raising these issues at the time when we are marking the 7th Anniversary of the Nuer Juba Massacre which occurred on 15th December 2013. This massive loss of lives happened due to political and administrative errors on the part of those who are in leadership at the time.  I must say these are mourning statements and sentiments meant to tell our martyrs and ancestors that we are still wailing in the hands of the very detractors that they know. On 3rd this month, I penned an opinion following the social media reports that the First Vice President and SPLM-IO Chairman, Dr. Riek Machar has removed and replaced incumbent Panyijiar commissioner Dr. Yohanes Kujiek Top Loge with my friend, Justin Machien Luoi. I lengthyly described the move as nothing but an attempt to divert Panyijiar people’s attention from seeking representation in the National and State levels under the SPLM-IO ticket.  I then averred and argued that Kujiek Ruot should be maintained as Panyijiar commissioner until his term finishes, and that Justin Machien should be appointed to fill the vacant deputy Interior Minister Position left by Mabior Garang months ago. 


New reports have emerged that SPLM-IO chairman and vice President Dr. Riek has appointed a little known soldier Gatgiek Mabor as new Panyijiar commissioner. Of course Brother Gatgiek Mabor is the son of the soil. We hail from Kol Panyam in Panyijiar. But the challenge is that he is an inexperienced soldier. When Gatgiek was working for Riek as one of his security men, he never entrusted him to take charge of anything important. I don’t know what made the First vice President believe that Gatgiek can make a good commissioner at a critical time.  I think Panyijiar County needs a commissioner who is tried, tested and trusted to run county affairs at least moderately. I have seen brother Gatgiek is an energetic young man who should continue to grow and learn in the army. At the moment there is a humanitarian crisis which needs medical officers like Yohanes Kujiek who can easily understand and feel the pain that our people are going through.   


I wonder why the First Vice President and his close Associates are fighting hard to oust Panyijiar commissioner on their own motion. One would ask: Where are the Panyijiar people’s petitions calling for commissioner Kujiek’s removal? So far I have only seen endorsement letters written in support of those who are mentioned to replace Kujiek. A leader cannot be removed without tangible reason. In 2018, former Panyijiar commissioner General Tappuot was removed for no good reason at all. Therefore we will not let this latest plot happen in our watch without uttering a word. Initially, it was said that Kujiek must be removed and replaced with Justin Machien because the latter is better than him. Commissioner Kujiek is also better like the rest. The people mentioned to replace him are also human beings who can commit mistakes like him. I don’t really deny that there are many who are better than Kujiek but the bottom-line is that he should complete his terms and mandates given to him by the people of Panyijiar in 2018. Secondly, he should first be confirmed as Panyijiar commissioner under the Revitalized Agreement of the Resolution of the conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCISS). If the First Vice President doesn’t want him, he can remove him afterward.  The newly devised strategy to oust Kujiek is the rotational formula. The information I have is that Kujiek should be removed and replaced by someone from Kol Payam because Kol Payam had not produced a commissioner before. This is a weak and strange strategy. They should come with another formula which I know they don’t have now. Like I said therein, I and Gatgiek hail from Kol Payam. The simple reason why Kol payam had not produced a commissioner is because our people were busy supporting commissioners and leaders from other Payams. I’m sure the day someone in Kol becomes a commissioner, he will be granted the full support by Panyijiar people from all walks of life. The people of Panyijiar and Kol Payam in particular have a history of supporting each other. Thus none of us can be used to topple Commissioner Kujiek merely because Kujiek comes from Nyal Payam. They should keep Kol far away from this plot. In kol, we are not opportunists. We don’t want to take unfair advantage because that is unethical. In short Panyijiar commissionership is not rotating. You would remember that the Late General Peter Gai Joak became Panyijiar commissioner twice and no one has ever raised a finger calling for his removal and replacement on ground that he hailed from Ganyiel Payam. Late Commissioner Gai went down with the support of Panyijiar people to the grave. Late Commissioner Peter Gai was always sober and a man of integrity. This rotational strategy is an unripe and unsellable idea in Panyijiar. It is a divisive strategy in nature. We don’t want to purchase now.  If we must buy this rotational strategy, it must originate from Panyijiar. It should not be imported and implemented for us. 


It is not easy to extract the reasons behind this ouster move. The plot to divert in Panyijiar is not the only reason. The First vice President might have unseen grudges with anyone from Nyal Payam for reasons I choose not to discuss at the moment. Those who have hawk eyes will correctly agree that there is the Kuong Danhier factor in this political drama. What is haunting Commissioner Kujiek cannot be far from the said Factor.  The second grudge is that in the past, Panyijiar people rejected the SPLM-IO nominee in the person of John Gai Riek in 2018. When SPLM-IO governor Tor Tungwar was appointed, the first thing he did was to oust veteran Panyijiar commissioner, General Tapuot Kang, to test and cement his authority in Unity State. In response, people protested and rejected Governor Tor’s nominee. After a long tussle, Panyijiar and SPLM-IO reached a consensus and compromise that General Tappuot be removed on condition that Panyijiar People will appoint someone they like to replace Tappuot. Thereafter, Panyijiar stakeholders like chiefs, top army officers, women and youth groups invited interested persons among its sons and daughters. And out of those who expressed interest, Kujiek emerged the winner in 2018 after a month-long process of selection. From the look of things, they still hold the grudge. Hence the SPLM-IO are coming back to revisit that topic. SPLM-IO cannot come back to dethrone the people’s commissioner using the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the conflict in South Sudan. The values of this peace accord are forgiveness, reconciliation and justice. The First vice President should be reminded and warned of the repercussion because what they are doing is in contravention of the aforementioned values of the Agreement.


In the event that the First vice President defies all these counsels, the Panyijiar people’s commissioner will have no option but to defend the seat. The fundamental question is: what will happen if Kujiek doesn’t vacate the commissioner’s office? In the past, I suggested that Kujiek should stay put. He should notify the Unity State governor who is the appointing authority of his intention not to vacant office soon. First, I said commissioner Kujiek should call for the speedy formation of an internal SPLM-IO tribunal where he can challenge Dr. Riek’s decision to remove him for no good reason. But if Kujiek observes that he won’t get justice considering that the tribunal and Adjudicators will be constituted by the First vice President, he can simply state his position clearly that he is not vacating the seat. She should leave it and allow the people to judge. If that happens what will happen? 

  1. Will the first vice President Dr. Riek Machar sent SPLM-IO troops to evict him in Panyijiar by force like what Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed did in Tigray region?  
  2. Will there be internal insurgency? I don’t think the head of Panyijiar brigade Tappuot will attempt or allow that to happen for he could have done that in 2018.
  3.    Will they say they won’t recognize commissioner Kujiek or that Panyijiar will not have a commissioner the way Upper Nile doesn’t have a governor?  
  4. Will they have power to ban flights and humanitarian operations in Panyijiar? If they did that they would be in violation of the Agreement and the International law that permits humanitarian access to needy people everywhere. 

In a nutshell, listening to people and respecting people’s opinion is very important for a leader. Therefore the first Vice President should not keep rubbishing our pleas to maintain Panyijiar people’s commissioner. You will remember in the past, the Panyijiar community has no problem with vice president Taban Deng. The problem occurred when the latter refused to give the share of the state oil revenue meant for all counties. He chooses to impoverish our people. Panyijiar County became what it is under his leadership that is why he is very unpopular in Panyijiar. Similarly, if the first vice president Dr. Riek Machar continues with his habit of undermining our people, nothing will bar us from telling them not to take him seriously. 

The Writer is the Chairman of Liech Community Association in Kenya; the views expressed here are his own, and he can be reached for comments via eligodakb@yahoo.com.

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