By Dr. Bior Kwer Bior, PhD
Jonglei state 2014-04-04 at 10.06.12 PM
Jonglei State, South Sudan

April 04, 2014 (Nyamilepedia) — Prior to the commencement of the raging unwarranted, unnecessary and ruthless war in our nascent republic, another war was being bitterly fought in the bushes of Jonglei state between the Government in Juba and David Yau Yau’s Murle-dominated SSDA-Cobra faction. This armed insurgency was deadlier, and notoriously inhumane relative to the one being fought right now between Riek Machar and the same Government.

Yau Yau’s war was characterized by child-abductions, cattle wrestling, ambushing and cold-blooded killings of unsuspecting civilians in the bushes of Jonglei. In addition to its sporadic attacks on the SPLA garrisons, Yau Yau’s militiamen were also carrying out attacks against the villages of Lou Nuer of Northern Jonglei and the Dinka Bor villages west of Murle’s stronghold of Pibor town. These raids brought about painful and unnecessary sufferings in terms of lives, properties and emotional wellbeing to the citizens of the aforementioned communities.

While the state of Jonglei was on fire, literally, there wasn’t much talk in Juba regarding the raging calamity. The rest of the country habitually dismisses it with some air of indifference as some savage undertaking being involved in by the nomadic tribes in Jonglei , something that the rest of the semi-civilized South Sudanese communities shouldn’t waste time pondering over.

What the rest of country failed spectacularly to consider was the fact that what seemed to be a Jonglei problem was actually the problem of Juba. It was Juba’s hasty attitudes to meddle in the local politics that gave Yau Yau some pretexts to wage a war that he knew was unjustifiable in the first place.

Before Yau Yau ever fancied being a freedom fighter, he was working for the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC) in Pibor County as the secretary of the said organization. During the 2010 general elections, Yau Yau contested for the seat of his Gumruk constituency in the state parliament. But for some really weird and bizarre reasons, Mr. Boris Judi Jonglei , who hails from the Buma constituency, was endorsed by the SPLM. Feeling disowned, Yau Yau ran as an independent candidate, like other independent candidates of those elections. Mr. Boris won and Yau lost, spectacularly and bitterly.

In May that year, Yau Yau determinedly took to the bush, citing as his grievances elections rigging by the SPLM, import of Mr. Boris by the SPLM to take over the Gumruk constituency seat, and the general neglect of the Murle tribe by the state government in Bor Town. He organized his Murle youth into ragtag bands of guerilla fighters and started attacking government military positions in Pibor County.

Instead of crushing the rebellion, the government dragged its feet incompetently and allowed Yau Yau’s army to wreck serious and deadly havocs on the villages of Bor Dinka, Lou Nuer, and Anuak as well as on the villages of Mundari tribe in Central Equatoria State. These communities lost thousands of children, livestock, lives, trust and love for the Murle people. The wounds inflected were deep and untreatable. No amount of tranquilizing drugs of political mental soothing would lessen the pain so unjustly inflicted. There was no magic wand in sight to wipe off the nightmarish memories brought about by this unjust war.

In 2011, barely a year into his rebellion, a patchwork of  peace was hastily concluded between Yau Yau’s movement and the government. The root causes of the conflict were hardly addressed, and the aggrieved communities were never consulted for their opinions. Yau Yau got away with an unfathomable volume of crimes as he was catapulted up the military ranks; his militiamen, the real war criminals, were integrated into the SPLA and paid huge salaries. The Murle tribe was left in the cold, and the communities affected by Yau Yau’s war were writhing in unbelievable agony, scratching their heads, trying feverishly to understand what brought about their suffering.

But the honeymoon didn’t last long. Yau Yau probably realized that he was bought cheap so in 2012, he again jumped the gun and sprang to the bushes of Jonglei. His men, the ones who were still in the bushes to continue the criminal enterprise, and the ones who were integrated into the SPLA, followed him earnestly. Their ranks rapidly mushroomed, and their crimes spree resumed, and this time, more intensely. The villages of Bor Dinka and Lou Nuer were again victimized. While Yau Yau was killing innocent civilians in large numbers, his intentions began to be a little clearer. He was constantly asking for the establishment of a state east of Jonglei only for the Murle tribe.

Again, the nation remained mute. His demands were always dismissed with an air of indifference as the talks of a lunatic. The communities of Dinka Bor and Lou Nuer were unjustly accused of selling their kids to the Murle while trying to inflate a rather benign situation. The request submitted by these communities to have the Murle thugs disarmed went unanswered. Unabatedly, Yau Yau’s men continued to maim the villages of the Greater Bor (Bor County, Twi East County, and Duk County), as well as the villages of the Greater Akobo.

In April, 2013, the Lou Nuer youth, tired of seeing their sisters, mothers, and little brothers herded off by the Murle’s armed herdsmen, took laws into their own hands. They organized in thousands and attacked the villages of Murle viciously. Lots of them were killed, and they killed lots of Murle civilians. Hundreds of wounded Lou Nuer young men were treated at the Bor Hospital ran by the author. These young men didn’t have any other ulterior motive other than the fact that they were sickly tired of being portrayed as lesser men by Murle’s constant attack on their villages while the government, which was supposed to be the vanguard of our collective security, remained resolute in its intention not to raise a defensive hand to protect the innocent civilians. Theirs was a war of vengeance.

They sought, using unimaginable dose of violence, to restore their stolen dignity, cattle, children and pride. The victims of this war of vengeance were defenseless civilians, from the sides, integrity and unity of the Jonglei state, and trust between these communities. While running the hospital, the author had to take extra measures to protect the few Murle civilians who were being treated in the hospital from the angry mobs of Lou and Bor civilians visiting the hospital. This was the defining moment for the author. The realization that these communities’ relationships had irreparably been severed asunder, and no amount of political pretension would ever fix them, was bitingly overwhelming.

And then came this senseless war between the government and Riek Machar’s white army. When this war flared up violently again in the nascent republic, the state of Jonglei got the worse of it alongside Upper Nile and Unity States. Prior to the outbreak of the war, Bor Town, the capital of Jonglei State, was home to citizens from all the eleven counties making up the state of Jonglei. In town, the majority of inhabitants were Nuer and Dinka Bor citizens followed by the other smaller communities such as Anuak, Murle, Jie and Dinka of Pigi.
In the middle of Bor Town, a huge chunk of land was allotted to the Nuer tribesmen, and this place came to be infamously known as “Che-nuer ben,” which in Dinka means the Nuer have come.

The Dinka Bor civilians welcomed their Nuer brothers warmly with open arms, hospitality, and affection notwithstanding the nightmarish memories elicited by the destructive wars of the 1990s when the same Nuer were armed by Riek Machar and used against the Dinka Bor. The citizens of Bor had wholeheartedly forgiven their Nuer brothers and allowed them to settle on a piece of land that was not surveyed. They didn’t have to buy plots of land like other people looking for lands in Bor Town. It was a show of brotherhood which was expected to be replicated by the Nuer. The other communities were treated equally, and nobody felt left out in Bor Town.

When the Juba incident of the December 15th, 2013 got out of control, the Nuer citizens in the organized forces in Bor and their civilians clandestinely planned to ethnically cleanse Dinka Bor in Town. Che-nuer ben became the center of such clandestine activities. On the night of December 16th, 2013, the residents of Che-nuer ben attacked two boys from Dinka Bor whose house was located in the Nuer neighborhood. These boys from Kongor were butchered with machetes, their house was looted, and their naked bodies were thrown outside their compound only to be discovered in the morning by their unsuspecting relatives. To the Bor community, this incident was traumatizing, and to the relatives of the slain, it was a horror they will never forget.

The following evening, another Bor Dinka officer went to his house in Che-nuer ben. Again, he was attacked, shot in the head, and his home looted. His bodyguard escaped with a gunshot to the chest. Again, the Bor community held its horses tightly, hoping that the government in the state would address the issue with a fierce urgency. Unfortunately, the state government failed to act while the Nuer in Che-nuer ben kept agitating for more violence against their Dinka Bor neighbors in the town. Little did we know that Mr. Hussein Mar Nyuot, the acting deputy governor of Jonglei state, was colluding with the rebels against the citizens of Dinka Bor.

On the evening of December 18th, 2013, the Nuer citizens in Bor Town in conjunction with their tribesmen of division eight (8) who defected to the rebels’ side attacked Bor Town and drove all the citizens out of the town. Then in earnest, they went on a killing spree, targeting members of Dinka Bor. Hundreds of innocent civilians of Dinka Bor were slain in cold blood, and the rest were sent fleeing to Awerial County, Lakes State. As far as the relation between Dinka Bor and Nuer of Jonglei is concerned, these actions are the last stroke that broke the horse’s back.

To think that the Dinka Bor and Lou Nuer will ever co-exist as members of the same state will be an illusion of the highest order. It will be hypocritical to ask Dinka Bor to forgive their Nuer counterparts in the face of these unearned aggressions. The Nuer can say the same thing about the Murle, and the Murle will probably say the same thing about the Lou Nuer or the Dinka Bor. It is unequivocally clear that the relations between these communities have suffered a calamitous failure. The sooner this is realized, the quicker the ultimate solution to the Jonglei’s problem will be devised.

To bring about an atmosphere of peace in Jonglei, a lot of things have been tried. Disarmament was carried out but that didn’t work. These disarmament campaigns actually left the citizens of Bor vulnerable to the Murle relentless criminal expeditions. Community peace talks have been held, but those bore no appreciable fruits. At the expense of the Dinka Bor people in the state government, peace has been bought from the Nuer and Murle, but that wasn’t enough.

To think that these tactics, which didn’t work in the past, will work now is crazy. Insanity is defined as an act of doing one thing over and over again, hoping for different outcomes. I would rather not participate in this insane experiment. We’ve to begin to think outside the box. We’ve to begin to think outside the unity of Jonglei State.
Recently, a fantastic development was brought to my attention and I earnestly seized upon it unreservedly. A great political window of opportunity oughtn’t to be wasted, especially when things are this dire. All the pretensions of tribal unity, which have enslaved us in Jonglei, ought to be thrown into the dustbin of history. This beast called Jonglei has fallen and we ought to dismember it, and dismantle it to save it, and this has to be done rather quickly.

The solution to the pestering problem in Jonglei came recently from an unlikely source: David Yau Yau’s SSDA-Cobra Faction. After realizing that a constant state of war wouldn’t bring peace to Jonglei, the government in Juba and Yau Yau’s faction finally sat down and brought forth an agreement whose tenets ought to be replicated to solve the wider problem of Jonglei State. The SSDA-Cobra-Government peace accord made the following concessions to Yau Yau’s movement:

•    In the Greater Pibor Area, an entity whose borders are yet to be legally demarcated, there will be established an area administration called the Greater Pibor Area Administration (GPAA).
•    This political entity will be governed by someone whose functions will be equivalent to those of a state governor.
•    The area will be divided into six counties, which are going to be administered by commissioners, whose powers will be equivalent to those of state counties commissioners.
•    The Presidency in the central government will establish a development fund for the Greater Pibor Area (GPA), and this fund will jointly be managed by someone to be appointed by the President of the republic of South Sudan.

The provisions of this agreement obviously set up a pseudo-state within the state of Jonglei for the Murle ethnic group. This has to be admitted from the get-go because it makes no logical sense to continue to pretend that something is not happening when it actually is happening.

I am acutely mindful that this is South Sudan and anything bizarre can happen, however I am still struggling to understand how this area governor will take orders from someone sitting on the bank of the River Nile in Bor, someone whose powers are equivalent to his/her. I don’t think anybody thought about how redundant this is going to be, but again, we’re political mavericks here; we don’t have to adhere to the already established political operation mechanics. We like to devise our own.

In my previous piece, I dismissed as lunatic any attempt to establish a state in Pibor area solely for the Murle people for the fear that others in Jonglei State may use the precedent to split the state into many warring tribal states. Jonglei state is already giddy with excitement, ready to blow itself asunder, and this agreement has just made it very easy for this eventually to be realized. It is now inevitable that this cumbersome state will finally be sliced into many manageable states that may be uni-tribal or multi-tribal in nature.

However, our fears of the eventual disintegration of the Jonglei state are really unwarranted and unfounded. It could be the best thing that had ever happened to this state since its inception.  The state of Jonglei is unfathomably vast. It is cumbersomely huge, which makes it an administrative and a logistic nightmare. What is the point of having a state whose government has difficulty accessing the areas in which it writs run?

In the eyes of our people in the far-fetched villages of Jie at the Ethiopian border, there always existed no government. Not only that, the influence of the government sitting feebly in Bor, precariously unaware of the things going on at the periphery, only stops at Pakwau area, leave alone those far-fetched villages, say in Anuak, Jie, Murle, and Akobo areas.

Therefore, this peace agreement could be read and conceptualized differently. It was probably signed after realizing the difficulties inherent in the management of Jonglei state, and that the state ought to be dismantled, dismembered and transformed into smaller administratively manageable states that are multi-tribal in nature.

Also, the dominant communities in Jonglei state have times and again demonstrated their unwillingness to co-exist peacefully. This agreement, which seems to disfigure the state, ought to jumped upon and expanded to solve once and for all the recurrent tribal conflict in Jonglei state. To build upon this agreement to solve the fundamental problem of Jonglei state, I propose the following amendments to the agreement:
•    A similar set-up should be instituted for the Greater Bor area, which will be comprised of Bor County, Twi East County, and Duk County. This political entity should be referred to us the Greater Bor Area Administration (GBAA). The counties making up this area are large, and should be further divided into smaller counties. Bor County may give birth to three counties, Twi East to Two, and Duk County should probably remain the same.
•    Greater Fangak area should have similar administration; Greater Akobo area should be administered as such.

These area administrations in conjunction with their counties commissioners will spearhead the development of their own areas. They should be given enough autonomy so that they don’t have to rely on the corrupt bureaucracy in the state government which is out of touch with the little guy at the periphery and reality. All area administrations should have their funds established by the presidency, and the management of these funds should not be managed at the state level. After all, the state government in Jonglei is heading for extinction, thanks to this peace agreement.

These political arrangements will drastically weaken the central state government since they reduces the areas in which its unwelcomed writs run. This weak state government should now be relocated out of Bor Town to some place very insignificant where it will quietly await its slow and painful demise. Eventually, the state of Jonglei will conceivably give rise to the following states:

•    Greater Bor State
•    Greater Pibor State
•    Greater Fangak State.
•    Greater Akobo State.

Or better yet, to avoid having states that are uni-tribal in nature, the greater areas of Akobo and Fangak may be lumped together to form one state north of Jonglei, which is to be referred to as the Northern Jonglei State, while the greater areas of Pibor, and Bor may be pieced together to form another state south of Jonglei, which is to be referred to as the Southern Jonglei State. The Dinka of Pigi should be transferred back to the Upper Nile state. They are closer to Malakal than to Bor, and their issues will be adequately addressed there.

These states will be relatively small and administratively manageable. The resources from the central government will be equitably shared, compared to the present arrangement in which the meager resources coming from the central government are sponged up by the gluttonous state government, which is feebly sitting at the River bank in Bor doing nothing really tangible for the citizens in the villages.

The citizens of the Southern Jonglei state may choose during a conference to either keep their state capital in Bor, or relocate it to another ideal place such as Boma. The citizens of the northern Jonglei state will pick a place of their choosing for their capital. The citizens of the northern Jonglei (Akobo, and Fangak) should greet this proposal with eagerness since this will solve the recurrent problem of money/materials/food destined for their areas disappearing in Bor as they have always been made to believe.

They can choose to airlift anything intended for their areas from Juba so that nothing of theirs should ever pass through Bor. These arrangements need to be speedily done to give Lt. Gen. Kong Nyuon enough time to put in place necessary arrangements geared at the efforts to relocate his capital either to Akobo or somewhere else before the rainy season commences.

As far as the names go, the inhabitants of these states may later choose different names as they deem fit instead of the northern or Southern Jonglei states names, but for the purpose of the present nomenclature, let them remain like that. As the citizens of Jonglei state, we ought to jump upon this opportunity earnestly and push for these political dispensations to be realized.

These political arrangements will solve our chronic problems, which have always been mistrust, resources scarcity, insecurity, lack of appreciable level of development, and unfathomable hatred of each other. These vices have been crippling the development in our state. The solution has been sitting there, ready to be stumbled upon. Multiple states solution is what will deliver us from these chronic evils.

Notes on the author of this piece:

Dr. Bior Kwer Bior is a citizen of Jonglei state. He currently resides in Bor Town, Jonglei State, and works with the State government as the Medical Director of Bor State Hospital. He also teaches at Dr. John G. Memorial University of Science and Technology in the department of Life Sciences and Technology. Dr. Bior holds B.S., M.S., and PhD degrees from the University of Vermont, USA. He can be reached at: biordengchek@gmail.com

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