Contributor's James Nguen Opinion

War of Words, over the Founding Father (s) of South Sudan

By James Nguen,

Alberta, Canada.


SPLM Reunification agreement in 2002, a recipe to 2013 conflict(photo: file)
SPLM Reunification agreement in 2002, a recipe to 2013 conflict(photo: file)

Nov 10, 2016(Nyamilepedia) —– This piece analyse a showdown between President Salva Kiir’s supporters verses late Dr. John Garang’s enthusiasts. The article also underlines who really fits in the definition of a founding father in South Sudan and on what grounds, if, only if all tribal and clannish bullshits were thrown overboard.

I am well aware that South Sudan is currently at war and crossroad both socially, politically and economically. Based on these particular points, some may see no reason to write about the founding fathers of the nation because there are plenty and many better things to write about including peace and war, death and salvation and who the villain is.

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Hence, I must remind my readers that major fundamental changes occur when a nation is at the crossroad. Based on this dogma, there are those in South Sudan who are so determined to define South Sudan reflecting only thy image and this must be corrected today not tomorrow. Back to the war of words!

The war of words we witnessed, on who’s the “Founding Father” of the Republic of South Sudan is a genuine debate if you peel out the clannish undertone. But because South Sudan is a nation where tribal allegiance is strong and has taken a centre stage after independence, because President Kiir’s policy for the nation was/still is for Dinka political hegemony. Because KIIR is tribally programmed, he is prone to divide Dinka based on their clans.

So the riveting war of words at play is clannish in nature between the Dinka of Upper Nile (Dr. Garang’s hailed region) and those from Bahr El Ghazal (Kiir’s region). The opposing sides in the face-off include Ateny Wek Ateny, Kiir’s proponent vs. Pager Ajang, Kuire Garang and Mading Koc and many others who unnecessarily emotionalized this national agenda on social media on both sides.

In the light of this debate, Ateny Wek Ateny came out negative and childish to be exact, mostly because he was let down by his writing ability and also based his piece on personalities (Dr. Garang’s family). On the other hand, folks from late Dr. Garang’s home of district were just hell bent to protect the dead man’s legacy at all cost, from what Kuire Garang termed as “bootlicking” misguided thugs. Similarly, Mr. Pager Ajang could not just stomach comparing narrative between KIIR and Dr. John Garang. For Mr. Ajang, this is more than an insult to the dead man’s legacy.

Thus, the punching lines therein is similar in merits but grossly limited in scope for anyone to decisively qualified one side as an outright winner in the debate over other. Hence, both arguments failed in the process of explaining their modalities properly, how and why KIIR or DR. GARANG met the criteria of founding father of the nation.

The other issue that undermined their offensive and defensive bickering is the fact that the topic under discussions is a national question that needed not to be tribalized despite the desperate clannish witch- hunt egos in South Sudan. At any rate, this issue is bigger than any two tribes let alone the two Dinka clans’ clashing egos.

However, before I move further, I like to remind my readers that Mr. Ateny Wek Ateny has already chicken out in this debate and has long retracted his debacle on the ground that he was misinterpreted as “planting seeds of discords” as Kuire Garang put it.

The caveat herein is that if the question asked would be interpreted as a planting seeds of discords between X and Z, then, in my view, we are doomed as a nation because this account add to the clannish nature this issue undertook.

More so, if the planting seed of discords narrative has indeed caused Ateny to chicken out from the debate, I can affirm that there was no need for Ateny Wek Ateny to withdraw his piece. However, I honestly think that Ateny would have just apologizes to late Dr. John’s family on the ground of disparage. I humbly think that the question asked has merits and was necessary though the timing might not be right.

For example, late Isaiah Abraham on December 8, 2011, before he was brutally assassinated by KIIR’S regime asked the same question of who’s the “founding father of the republic of South Sudan.” Mr. Abraham enquiry came because some prominent politicians from Dinka Bahr El Ghazal region led by none other than the former Chief Justice of the Republic, Judge Ambrose RiinyThiik, and now the chairman of the infamous Jieng Council of Elders (JCE).

The group allegedly distributed booklets which declared KIIR as the Founding Father of the Republic of South Sudan while they relegated late Dr. Garang as a founder of the Sudan People Liberation Army/Movement (SPLM/A).

Because the allegedly booklets were not widely shared, I was informed that Uncle Thiik and cohorts’ argument was based on the ground of independence. The group was reported to have argued that Dr. Garang died before South Sudan becomes #54 of African countries, and therefore, he can’t be the father of the nation.

Considering that statement, it’s good to remind ourselves that Ateny’s poorly written article was not off the map but followed the same line of thinking. Ateny’s piece was not just a repeat but a stark reminder that the Jieng Dinka from the West of the Nile has a concern regarding the founding father of South Sudan, which other may sees as desperate attempts to elbow late Dr. Garang out of nation’s fatherhood status and other importance milestones in the history of South Sudan.

I can see some desperations and logic in that. For example, soon after Dr. Garang death, the people of DINKA TWIC EAST were targeted and undergone all kind humiliations from Salva Kiir’s regime. For instance, their sons and daughters were insidiously weeded out from the SPLA-military files and ranks and politically without any possible caused. Therefore, this gives people very good reasons to wonder.

Despite this good reason, my problem in this regard is the fact that the question asked should never be taken or appears as two Dinka’s thing, which is at play. Simply because there are long set criteria for anyone to be a founding father of the nation. In our case such criteria required constructive and genuine debate from all walks of life in South Sudanese without prejudice. In my humbled opinion, the founding father question in South Sudan isn’t addressed by Ateny running into hiding because he unnecessarily snubbed Late Garang’ family over the issue.

Ateny Wek’s piece

For those who may not know Ateny, Ateny Wek Ateny is the press secretary in the office of the President. In his first article on who’s the founding father of South Sudan, I felt Ateny started his piece wrongly by rubbishing the people of Southern Sudan’s intelligent as “ignorance,” which he thought lack of staying power stemmed from years of marginalization in the Sudan.

“It is even worse, when the majority of people of South Sudan have either having no stamina or has been made throughout the years of marginalization in the Sudan not to appreciate the different between the SPLM and the Nation,” he wrote.

To unpack this statement, it’s clear that Ateny didn’t communicate any sensible meaning furthering his argument on the founding father of South Sudan question but instead insulted people of South Sudan staying power and wrongly perceived them to lacks endurance.

Ateny went on to say, “Mr. Kiir’s adversaries often intentionally referred to Dr. John and Madam Nyandeng as Father and Mother of the Nation, in an attempt to belittle him and his wife Madam First Lady.” This sentence is simply saying that people of South Sudan are hardcore opponents to Pres. Kiir, which is unfortunate to say by a person representing the highest office in the land.

In lay man terms it means Pres. KIIR is at war with the people of South Sudan and KIIR’s supporters must do anything in their disposal to dump down people of South Sudan’s rightful demands deemed contrary to KIIR’s supporters’ misguided gratifications.

Second, because Ateny made his piece as an issue between Dr. Garang vs. SALVA KIIR, I must state that people of South Sudan held high regards for Dr. Garang and his family if such a comparison is necessary here. For one, Salva KIIR betrayed people of South Sudan’s trust and hard won independence by dragging them into the current raging unnecessary war. In addition, Salva Kiir fitted Dinka tribe against the rest of the tribes which will take years to undone. Finally, Salva Kiir is a disgraced killer who literally proved to the Arabs that, we, the people of South Sudan cannot govern ourselves, which a shame.

In compatible to the founding father narrative, KIIR MAYARDIT has ruined his chance because he would have been considered as one of the founding fathers on two grounds: (1) On the Declaration independence; and (2) by signing in to law the supreme constitution of South Sudan.

Third, it’s true that South Sudan gained its independence after Dr. Garang passing in 2005 but this doesn’t remove GARANG’s immersed contributions during the war of liberation which in my view in one way or another led to independence.

Fourth, Ateny doesn’t know how to articulate his thoughts and this is evidenced in his retraction and original piece on the “founding father question.” Therefore, it’s unfortunate that Salva KIIR has employed a press secretary who only doodles on issues of national character, lied when accorded with an opportunity and chicken out when challenged.

For Mr. Ajang, Mr. Kuire Garang & Koc and many others who made their oppositions to Ateny’s article known. I am for the opinion that most of their arguments were superficial and some had unwarranted emotional undertones and foul language which made them irrelevant.

For example, Kuire Garang argued that Ateny was not genuine because his thoughts were driven by material “bootlicking” interest and Ateny’s personal problem with the dead man, Dr. Garang. Thus, Ateny is ill-bent to trashing Dr. Garang’s family good image and legacy, according to Kuire. The caveat in this regard is fact that this issue of founding father in South Sudan has arisen before and unfit be boiled down to Ateny’s personal problem with John Garang.

Another Kuire Garang’s line of argument is as follow:

“President Kiir only implemented what was already negotiated by John Garang between 2002 and 2005. Without John Garang and his role in founding of the SPLM/A, Liberation strategies and CPA negotiation, we wouldn’t have a nation called South Sudan. Without John Garang negotiating the CPA personally with Ustaz Taha, President Kiir would have had neither an agreement to implement nor any country for which he’d have assumed presidency.”

All is true but Kuire seems to forget that Garang was not alone in signing the CPA and during the war of liberation. For example, KIIR and many others were part and parcel of the liberation and peace agreement and KIIR himself signed one of the protocols in the CPA.

Moreover, Kuire failed to mention the declaration of independence and signing into law the South Sudan’s virgin constitution which are vital in considering possibilities for anyone to be the founding father of the nation.

Brother Kuire’s justifications for Dr. Garang as one of the founding fathers of South Sudan was based on the liberation struggle, but, I must clarify that the SPLM/A’s vision for the Sudan under Dr. John Garang was a secular Sudan based on the separation between church and state and has nothing to do with the Right of Self-determination for the people of South Sudan.

If anything, Dr. John was true to his words. It’s true that he died promoting the secular Sudan agenda which embodied freedom, equality, justice and prosperity for all Sudanese in the Sudan. Needless to say that Dr. John has say time and again that he was fighting for united Sudan and that South Sudanese are not secessionists.

In numerous occasions, Dr. John Garang even boasted openly about firing his first bullet against the separatists. Therefore, these are facts, hard to deny and damning reasons to question Dr. John Garang’s qualifications to be one of the founding father of South Sudan.

Besides, it was wrong for Kuire Garang to compare Dr. John’s political vision to those of Mwzee Kenyatta of Kenya, Nkrumah of Ghana, Mwalimu Nyere of Tanzania and so forth, simply because these leaders fought for an outright independence of their nations from the colonial rules which is incompatible to what Dr. John fought and died for in the Sudan.

On a personal note, it’s perplexing seeing people who should know better about the state affairs of South Sudan and refused to be honest. Brother Kuire knows better and should be honest.

Finally, I agreed with Kuire Garang that Ateny Wek is a pathetic lair and has lied in numerous occasions in the past. Ateny also has unnecessarily centred his piece on late Dr. Garang’s death and family than the criteria for the founding father.

Mading Koc’s argument for the part is in line with Kuire Garang’s piece. Besides, Koc argued that “Dr. Garang knew that people of South Sudan would conduct referendum on January 2011 and they would proclaim their independence on the 9th of July 2011… there was no coma and there was nothing whatsoever that KIIR did in the CPA.”

This is puzzling and undoubtedly one of the emotional undertones I mentioned above. If I may, it’s true that Dr. Garang signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (PA) but he was unaware the referendum for the people of South Sudan would be conducted successfully on January 2011 and South Sudan would declare independence on July 9th, 2011.

Rightfully so, you would agree that Mr. Koc is dwelling on misplaced platform and misguided assumption simply because the successful implementation and outcome of the CPA at least for South Sudanese was unknown before and even after Dr. GARANG died.

If for any wild reason, one would think that Dr. Garang knew the successful outcomes of all protocols signed in the CPA, then, it would be equally true to say the Abyei, the Nuba Mountain and the Blue Nile protocols were to be successful as well even though all were abrogated by Khartoum at will. I wonder how my brother Mading Koc would explain this diversion in a lay man terms.

On the other hand, Mr. Pager Ajang’s piece dwelled much in comparing SALVA KIIR’s contributions during the war of liberation struggle in contrast to that of Dr. Garang, which in my view is irrelevant in the light of the founding father.

It’s true that SALVA KIIR has not done much compare to GARANG but there are also things KIIR has done which could have been attributed to claims of the founding father status, and these includes the declaration of independence and signing into law the constitution of South Sudan.

In regard to other dramatic reactions toward Ateny’s piece, I felt there was no proper reason to respond to them because they were all amount to unnecessary abusive nature this matter turned to in the social media.

The founding father of South Sudan

Father of the Nation is an honorific title given to a man or men considered to be driving force behind the establishment of their country and in this respect I must affirm that South Sudan does not have one monolithic founding father. Men who were the driving force behind South Sudan’s independence were many and I am pleased to announced that Dr. John Garang is one of them

One of my reasoning is that Dr. John Garang de Mabior led a guerilla movement, Sudan People Liberation Movement and Army (SPLM/A) which fought a deadly civil war for 21 years to remove the despotic regime in the Sudan.

As a result of this seemingly endless civil war in the Sudan, the rulers in Khartoum then felt threatened and opted to allow the people of South Sudan to exercise the right of self determination which resulted to independence.

This accidental political trajectory underscored the legitimacy of Dr. Garang as one of the founding fathers of South Sudan. Without this, I am afraid Dr. Garang would qualify an honorific title of the founding father of South Sudan.

In contrast, Dr. Garang was a firm unionist. Without any doubt, Dr. John Garang was determined, prepared and died promoting the programs and agenda of secular Sudan which embodied freedom, equality, justice and prosperity for all Sudanese in the Sudan.

SALVA KIIR on the other hand played limited political roles in this respect but he (Kiir) inadvertently became chairman of the SPLM/A, First Vice President of Sudan and Principal of South Sudan after tragic death of John Garang in the helicopter crash in 2005.

Sadly, immediately after Garang’s sudden death, KIIR changed goal the post and joined his deputy Dr. Riek Machar whose central goal was to have an independent South Sudan. Both men championed for the Right of Self determination for the people of South Sudan and achieved it through a referendum. South Sudan became independence and Salva KIIR became the first President of the new nation.

This prospect could have landed Salva KIIR an honorific title of the founding father of the nation but KIIR ruined when he turned South Sudanese against each other and the nation into a killing field. As a result, Salva Kiir became a satanic messiah of the high order.

For example, Salva KIIR planned and executed the massacre of 20, 000 Nuer innocent civilians in 2013 using his Dinka tribal militias and then trialed by retaliatory killings. This episode was also followed by mass killing of thousands of the Equatorians, the Fertits and the Chollo civilians in cold blood by Salva Kiir’s regime.

In closing, the question asked about who is the founding father of South Sudan is significantly important and required honest and constructive answer. Therefore, anyone who downplayed or misrepresented this profound question in attempts to protect Dr. John Garang de Mabior’s legacy or wrongly award Salva Kiir with what he did not sown is disingenuous.

Nguen is a Chairman of Nuer Supreme Council, Political Commentator and Analyst. He can be reached at jamesnguen@gmail.com  

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