By Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak,
October 3, 2017(Nyamilepedia) —— The crisis in South Sudan has taken too many dangerous wrong turns since its outbreak in 2013. Its gravity and magnitude acceleration had affected innocent South Sudanese people enormously, particularly the gravity of the abuses and ethnic dynamics that accompany the abuses. Thousands of people had already perished and yet thousands more will keep perishing if final inclusive peace is not found within the shortest time possible. From the beginning of its start, all horrors it generated had extensively and publicly been documented by the international entities like the United Nations, African Union, and non-governmental organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
The first destructive wrong turn South Sudan civil war had taken was when Salva Kiir private army whom he trained secretly on the watchful eyes of Paul Malong Awan, a governor at the time who later on was promoted to Chief of General Staffs of South Sudan armed forces and now fell off with Salva Kiir and face house arrest, kill Nuer civilians in Juba for three days after Salva Kiir had decided to settle the political disagreement within the SPLM-party through the use of force. In regard to that discriminative killing in Juba, opposition responded by waging a guerrilla warfare in Upper Nile region. After few rounds of barbaric confrontation, especially in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile States, Salva Kiir’s government was furious to retaliate against SPLM/A-IO hit-and-run attacks on their forces.
As the conflict spread to largest cities of Bor, Bentiu and Malakal, and both sides engaged in large scale offensive and counteroffensives with some key towns changing hands multiple times, the violence triggered horrific attacks on civilians, massive destruction of property and prompted mass displacement to the UNMISS bases. In those engagements, many civilians were killed in both government and rebel held areas. Some civilians were apparently killed for the reason that they are sympathizing with rebels. This include the killing of civilians at the United Nations compounds like the killing of 140 civilians in Bor town on April 17, 2014 and the killing of unarmed 192 Nuer trainee in Mapel on April 21, 2014.
As those skirmishes continued, the parties to the conflict were also pushed by the regional and international communities to engage in negotiation in Addis Ababa Ethiopia. That negotiation resulted to the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan in 2015. Both IGAD regional States and the international community forced the parties to sign the agreement on August 17 and 26, 2015 respectively; aiming of sharing power and establishing a transitional government of national unity where Riek Machar who was Salva Kiir former deputy has to resume his previous Vice-presidency position.
The document has further indicated that, 325 members of the national parliament will be maintained and those who defected to rebel during the crisis will be reinstated to their previous parliamentary positions like it was before December 15, 2013. Ten cabinet positions, three State governors, and some additional parliamentarians will be appointed by the IO and other political parties until when a new election is scheduled at the end of 33 month transitional period. The Agreement had also stipulated that, cantonment sites will have to be established, SPLA-IG and IO have to be reintegrated, justice and reconciliation mechanisms had to be set up to provide accountability, and most importantly, a Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS) had to be established in order to try genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious crimes parties to the conflict had committed since the war broke out on December 15, 2013.
Moreover, ARCSS established a Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), which is tasked to supervise the implementation of the agreement, ceasefire, and Transitional Security Arrangement Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) to monitor violations of the peace agreement by the parties. Those agreements were just jot down on the paper, the government was not adhered to ensure their full implementation for numerous reasons. First, when the peace was signed on August 17, 2015 in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, Salva refused to sign. He only initialized the peace agreement after Uhuru Kenyatta prevented him from leaving the hall.
On August 18th, Salva delegated James Wani Igga to Uganda to consult with Museveni to see whether Museveni who left Addis Ababa before Riek Machar and Pagan Amum signed the peace agreement will agree with their refusal to sign. On following Monday, August 26, 2015; Salva signed the peace in Juba, after Yoweri Museveni told them both regional and international communities are unified on the idea of signing the resolution of the conflict document and nothing else.
However, on October 2, 2015 Salva Kiir unilaterally decreed the unconstitutional establishment order NO. 36/2015 for creation of 28 States a decision opposition opposed. Although creation of 28 States violates the Peace Agreement that was signed on the basis of 10 States, JCE perceived it as a strategy dominate others and the country’s natural resources. JCE and Kiir annexed other communities’ ancestral land to their tribe without consent or knowledge of the owners of the land.
Instead of finding the solution of the 28 States’ issue, Riek Machar and his group were pressured to return to Juba. When he landed to Juba on April 26, 2016, fighting did not ceased, it slowly was escalating and spread to areas previously untouched by the conflict in 2013. Due to the government abuses, armed groups emerged in Greater Bahre-el-Ghazal and the Greater Equatoria regions, given that the ethnic dimension that was first planned to target only the Nuer ethnicity had later been planed against other ethnic groups who were suspected of supporting the opposition. For example, civilians in Juba, Yei, Yambio and Wau; were unlawfully killed, rapes, tortured and their properties were looted before the government forces can ransack and destructively set fire on their shelters.
Finally, the hope of preserving peace dashed when violence broke out on July 8, 2016 at presidential palace (J1) on Friday. That mark the beginning of another senseless war in South Sudan. The fingers are largely pointed on President Salva Kiir and his JCE backers as the primary instigators of renewed violence. Due to anti-peace planned and coordinated efforts of assassination attempt on First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar. All these activities fulfilled Salva Kiir skepticism on the peace agreement, which was the reason he refused to sign the peace on August 17, 2015 in Addis Ababa Ethiopia. It also was the reason why on Sunday July 10, 2016, President Kiir ordered SPLA-IG to launch an attack on SPLA-IO bases at Jebel and demolishing the First Vice President residence. At that juncture, Dr. Riek and his forces were dislodged to the bushes of Equatoria region. They continued to chase him up to the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) using helicopter gunships, drones, tanks fully-equipped ground forces. Then, in the absent of Dr. Riek, Kiir appointed Taban Deng Gai to replace Dr. Riek Machar as the new First Vice President. Such an appointment made it very clear that the Agreement on the resolution of the conflict on the Republic of South Sudan (ARCISS) was dead killed by Kiir and buried by Taban Deng Gai. While Dr. Riek was chased away, the government had also fired many rounds of bullets at American diplomat vehicles, fortunately, no one was hurt, except the rape of their aid workers at hotels in Juba town.
This year, Kiir and Taban decided to control all areas under rebel in Wau, Equatoria and some part of Upper Nile region. That is why horrible atrocities are being committed on innocent civilians in Waat, Maiwut and Pagak. The attack on Maiwut and Pagak by Salva Kiir and Taban Deng soldiers had generate some confusion in Border between South Sudan and Ethiopia. Informants on the ground provide different accounts on the incidence.
On one hand, it is being communicated that Ethiopian army had involved in South Sudanese internecine fighting in favor of helping tyranny regime when Nhial Batoang and Bol Ruach fighters were uprooted in Pagak. On another, it is said Ethiopian authority demanded to disarm Taban and Kiir fighters once the later had entered Ethiopian territory or let them remain on the side of South Sudan land. Up to this moment, there is no clear explanation whether Taban/Kiir forces had cooperated with the Ethiopian authority or they refused their warnings. They only stationed in some part of Pagak without clear indication of what would happen when the two sides had clashed again.
The news about Ethiopian involvement in gunfight against rebels during the fighting in Pagak surprise many people among the Nuer society who are the citizens of both countries. Nobody know whether current regime will repeat the same mistake colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam Communist military junta had made in 1980s when it formed alliance with John Garang who began to wage guerrilla warfare against Sudan. Mengistu/ Garang deal immediately had a greater effect on Gaat-Jaak Nuer Ethiopian citizens given that Mengistu Soviet-backed Ethiopian government stay aloaf while sophisticated weapons passing through his totalitarian regime territory were used against unarmed civilians. Aimlessly, Gaat-Jaak civilians were massacred for four painful years. Such horrible dejavu Gaat-Jaak had experienced under derg regime seem to be on the edge of reoccurring if Ethiopia will not calculate the status quo correctly.
Such an issue require Gaat-Jaak on the side of Ethiopia and those (IO) members to figure out how their children who turned enemy can be removed in Pagak town without jeopardizing the relation in the border. . Their removable in that location is the only solution that will prevent further bloodshed in days ahead and those who can play importance role in such an action would be our sons and daughters on the side of Ethiopia given their pivotal role in the Ethiopian government. The reason why Ethiopian government has provided Ethiopian-Nuer with an autonomous political administration is to protect their territories for any intruder who can bring danger to their midst.
Maiwut and Pagak are bounded together with Gambella region by a sense of solidarity and wished to perpetuate this solidarity through some political means. This solidarity is guided with common objective factors such as history, territorial integrity, ethnicity, culture and the language of the people in our common border.
Due to the above mentioned factors, there is a special relationship among the people of Gambella and greater Gaat-Jaak territories on the side of South Sudan which enabled the people to cooperate politically. This time around, there are practices we need to avoid. For instance, in 1983 Thokwaath Pal was made head of the Gambella regional chief security using political maneuver that resulted into the birth of the SPLM/A. Although such a contribution have had a greater political impact on the nation building, it surely had a negative effect on the Nuer society given that he was helping non-Nuer politician to secure power in the midst of Nuer majority at that early stage of the movement inception. Gaat-Jaak sons/daughters in Ethiopia, need to avoid making the same mistake and stood with policies that promote interest of South Sudan government which is being led by the very same people who massacred their loved ones in early 1980s.
If there is no careful analysis in place from patriotic sons and daughters of Gaat-Jaak Nuer in Ethiopia, no matter how active participation of sacrifices they had made in Ethiopia politics, the region will be just a subject of intense geographical greedy, rivalry, and military power calculation where unwanted politicians comes and practices their dirty games. Nuer children in Ethiopia need to understand that their becoming self-governing body in Gambella region involve striving for the welfare of their fellow Nuer on the side of South Sudan. Their political participation has to be a backbone dynamic of change and greater good of our common heritage.
In regard of the above socio-political, security, economic, and dire humanitarian’s crisis, nobody know whether these wrong turns will stop. Let only hope for best miracle that may save our civil-population in shortest time possible can happen.
Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak