The ‘Good Book’ says in John Chapter 8 verse 32, “… Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”.
By Dr. Gatwech Koang Thich,
Former research scientist at United States Naval Air Warfare Center and;
a NASA research fellow.
Jan 15, 2017(Nyamilepedia) —— The phrase “the truth will set you free” is a common saying in academic circles that want to promote academic freedom and the power of learning. However, I am neither here to preach nor to lecture, but to address what I strongly believe is the right path for the people of South Sudan: a new don of leadership different from the so-called SPLM/A and the SPLM/A-IO.
First, let me take this opportunity to encourage my readers to approach this article with an open-mind. For my part, I will accept any criticism on where my argument may go wrong. Nonetheless, I am confident that once you finish reading this article, you will agree with me that the leadership of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement and the Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLM/A) both in government (SPLM/A) and in opposition (SPLM/A-IO) should be dismissed.
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In this article, I will try my best to refrain from criticizing the deceased leaders, as the dead cannot defend themselves. However, if I mention their names, I would do so to make a statement.
Many of you may have already formulated an array of questions. I am guessing the first question you may ask is, why do I advocate abjuring the entire current leadership of South Sudan? This is a very good question and the essence of this article. But let me turn that question around. Why would you want the current leadership? I may even go one step further to ask if there is a single good reason that can be provided why South Sudanese should continue to countenance the current leadership.
Don’t tell me that they liberated South Sudanese from the North or the ‘Arabs’, because it’s you, the citizens who freed yourselves by waging a just war for more than twenty-one years. When the time came for self-determination, you voted 99% to have your own nation. With the help of international community, and of course the Sudan government, your wish was granted and South Sudan became an independent nation on 9 July 2011. We could go on and on in this back and forth debate. In the end, the direction of this conversation could turn ugly between us before coming to any understanding. Enough said, therefore; let me start my argument at once.
The SPLM/A leadership started on the wrong foot at its very inception in 1983. What is happening today in South Sudan is the manifestation of early missteps in SPLM/A policy toward its cadres and/or its own peoples. Now that policy remains silent to anyone who dares to challenge any SPLM/A cadre and/or SPLM/A leadership. This is exactly what happened in most parts of South Sudan immediately after the formation of the SPLM/A under the leadership of the late Dr. John Garang de Mabior (may God rest his soul in peace).
The butchering of civilians by the SPLM/A began in 1984, one year after its formation. However, I will start my argument from the 1985, two years after its inception in 1983 in reference to a dispute over fishes. Yes, you read it right! It was over “FISHES”. Well, you may ask, how can dispute over fishes cause massacring of innocent civilians? Just, bear with me for a moment and I will tell you the rest of the history.
In the year 1985, the problem started with SPLA soldiers when they snatched away fishes from the young Nuer fishermen. Because the soldiers used force to get the fishes, the young men refused to give the fishes and the situation turned hostile. In that instance, the soldiers opened fire and shot one of the young Nuer by the name Kuerial Bol and killed one of his friends. In response, the young men shot to death two of the SPLA soldiers. When the news of the incident reached the SPLM/A leadership, they decided to revenge their fallen comrades rather than settling the situation peacefully by investigating the cause. One of the SPLA’s first targets was a village called Palkoyni inhabited by one of the Gajaak-Nuer clan called Thiang cie Taar. They butchered the women and children and took the cattle from that village. In response, the civilians turned to any SPLA soldiers they could see roaming around their areas. Subsequently, the fighting spread to various villages of Gajaak-Nuer and sadly this is the beginning of the hostility between the SPLA and the Nuer civilians. Wherever SPLM/A goes in most parts of South Sudan, they loot properties, rape women and butcher men, women and children in cold blood. In return, the citizens revenge their fallen families. I could go on and on in this back and forth revenge killing between the SPLA and the civilians or shall I say South Sudanese, but I would rather refer my readers to good books dedicated to the chronological order of these events written by Riang Yer Zuor and Hoth Giw Chan titled “South Sudan: A legitimate Struggle” and another book written by Daniel Wuor Joak titled “The Rise and Fall of SPLM/A Leadership”.
Judging from the above events, one would conclude that the leadership of SPLM/A is not adhering to the core objectives of the movement that is thought to liberate its citizens from the tyranny of North Sudan, but instead the so-called ‘leadership’ has pursued other hidden agendas. These agendas are now surfacing in the current South Sudan civil war that began on December 15, 2013.
Before taking any verdict, let me pick another string in my arguments to demonstrate the bad leadership of SPLM/A – one that is rooted in the negotiation of the so-called Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Dr. John Garang de Mabior, from Greater Upper Nile, realized that peace was about to come in Sudan. He was intent on ensuring that the outcome of the agreement serviced his own interests as the leader of the movement. During the negotiation, he and his team managed to snatch the positions of First Vice President of the Republic of Sudan as well as the President of the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS).
In addition, he ensured that he would remain the Chairman and Commander-in-Chief of Sudan People Liberation Movement and Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLM/A). Not bad for an Iowa State University graduate! However, what Dr. John Garang de Mabior didn’t comprehend is that God, or shall I say ‘the Universe,’ had a different plan. He led the people of southern Sudan in a struggle for twenty-one years, but these twenty-one years became twenty-one days in office as the First Vice President of the Republic of Sudan. After the death of Dr. John Garang de Mabior on 30 July 2005, the South Sudan leadership took a three hundred and sixty degree turn. The government of the people now fell prey to the current leadership. I am not implying that Dr. John Garang was not a good leader. This is another debate by itself and I promised earlier to leave the dead alone.
The ruling party, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM), nominated General Salva Kiir Mayardit from Greater Bahr el Ghazal, the current President of the failed State, to take over as the First Vice President of the Republic of Sudan. With this nomination, Kiir inherited all the goodies in the CPA that Dr. John Garang de Mabior negotiated for himself. Not because he was the right person to lead the people of southern Sudan; rather, soley because he was there, as the second in command. Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon, from Greater Upper Nile, became the Vice President of the Government of Southern Sudan. The two brothers in liberation from the two largest tribes were set to form their government. The SPLM ruling party nominated General James Wani Igga, the entertainer from Greater Equatoria, as the Speaker of the National Legislative Assembly, whilst General Pagan Amum Okiech from Greater Upper Nile was nominated to take the position of the Secretary General of the SPLM party. This is the birth of the Republic of South Sudan’s own version of the “Game of Thrones,” which has now taken the world’s youngest nation back to the Stone Age.
In this early stage of the government of southern Sudan, crude oil production was at its highest peak. The Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) was receiving hundreds of millions of petro-dollars every month. By then, General Taban Deng Gai, the current First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan, was the governor of Unity State, which was receiving 3 to 5% of the petro-dollars as a producing state. With these millions of petro-dollars, you would think, as a good liberator, the governor would put forward plans to develop the infrastructure in his state and change the lives of the citizens he served. If you would think that way, you are dead wrong. The governor made a conscious decision to please the King of the nation (General Salvatore, the President) by contributing a portion of these millions of petro-dollars to the President’s personal account, whilst in the process making sure he got his own share. As such, the governor made himself a prince on his own turf. In his state, he decided who would become the Minister in his cabinet or MPs in the state legislative assembly. He had the power to remove and replace the officials as he wished in the Unity State government. If you had the temerity to disagree with him, the prince would make sure that you would meet your creator.
That is exactly what happened to the late General Gatluak Gach, a renowned warrior who disagreed with him over the election results of 2010. Not bad for a high school graduate who became general during the struggle! Now, the good governor (General Taban Deng Gai) is sitting on the throne as the First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan (RSS).
With the game set, those in power could now plan their chess moves carefully. It is imperative to point out that most of the GOSS Ministers and governors are former generals who have been in the bush for over twenty-one years. They don’t have any wealth and none of them have the experience to run a civilian government. I am not trying to disqualify them, but only to highlight their lack of experience. Although few are PhD holders, perhaps more importantly, few had ever worked in their field of studies to acquire proper training. The SPLM doctors joined the movement right after their graduation. What a novel profession!
The executive leaders of GOSS put their twenty-one years of experience in the bush into practice. There is a saying in South Sudanese communities that SPLM/A are good for one of two things. If they are in the government during peacetime they loot all the money. If they are challenged they turn to their guns and kill the citizens. This is exactly what happened during the peacetime. The President of the Republic of South Sudan registered ABMC group (found at World Wide Web: http://www.abmcss.com) and gave it to his nephew (Dr. Benjamin Bol Mel) to run it. His Excellency, the President uses his power as the head of State to make sure ABMC is awarded any contract that it can comprehend. ABMC signs contracts and gets paid without delivering anything in most of the projects it is ostensibly involved with. High-ranking government officials subsequently copied the president’s business approaches by registering their own companies and using their power (as they have seen by example from their boss) to enrich themselves. The man with the black Texas cowboy hat and his officials have all become multi-millionaires in less than five years. I love Texas cowboys, but whoever bequeathed the hat, gave it to the wrong man.
The President uses state money as his own. There is no accountability whatsoever. Those in his office find it easier to steal millions of dollars. The anticorruption commission became a symbol of impotence. It could not prosecute anyone, neither the President in office nor any public official as the game of robbing the public money was set and everyone had to chip in to enrich him/herself. In June of 2012, the President announced to the public that seventy-five of his government officials stole billions of petro-dollars and he asked them to return the money as if he was bagging spoiled children. Of course these were the spoiled children of an SPLM/A acclimatized to looting the citizen’s properties. Most of the seventy-five officials bought luxurious houses in East African countries, United States of America, Australia etc. with public money they had stolen. The worst thing is that after his announcement, not a single one of them was brought to court to face charges. They are now the leaders who are leading the South Sudanese in both government and in opposition and promising change or shall I say reform. If you doubt the description I gave over the corruption of the SPLM/A leaders, I would kindly refer you to “The Sentry Report”, published last year by George Clooney and John Prendergast and can be found at the following link: https://thesentry.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Sentry_WCSP_Final.pdf
As the public moan over the lost wealth and lack of development brought by the SPLM/A leaders entrusted to lead the nation, they were not aware that the same leaders are planning to butcher them as in the liberation period just because the top leadership disagree over who will be in the ticket in the next election. Some said they are born to rule and begin to incite their communities, whilst others said it’s our turn to rule. The communities were not aware that their leaders have no remorse over their lives. This is one of the signatures of SPLM/A culture they were habituated with during the struggle.
On December 6, 2013, the reformists as they called themselves, led by Dr. Riek Machar, the current chairman and commander-in-chief of the SPLM/A-IO, held a press conference in the SPLM House. During the press conference, they charged their brother in liberation for dictatorial tendencies, corruption and nepotism, among many things. On December 15, 2013, the President’s protection forces called the ‘Tigers’ unleashed the venom of the SPLA at their headquarters. It was the beginning of the civil war that engulfed the youngest nation. Ordinary citizens fell victim and the army entrusted to protect the innocent became a killing machine. They killed, looted properties, raped women and castrated young boys. If these are the leaders you still think should lead South Sudanese for the next few years then you are not in your right mind. These leaders are with dictatorial tendencies and they have been privileged to acquire this rare profession in the SPLM/A.
Many South Sudanese believe that the solution to end their suffering would come from the leadership of the SPLM/A-IO. If any of you think that way, I would kindly ask you to pause for a minute.
The birth of the SPLM/A-IO was the result of a rescue mission by brave young men and women from the Nuer tribes when they heard the news that their families were being butchered in Juba by President Kiir’s government. However, the opportunist used their cause as a means to return to power once they had lost. In April 2014, Dr. Riek Machar Teny call a meeting in Nasir and persuaded the Nuer and small minorities from other communities to nominate him as the chairman and commander-in-chief of the now SPLM/A-IO. He succeeded and became the leader of the movement. You would think, as a leader of the movement he would organize the people and give them proper training. If you thought that way, you are absolutely dead wrong.
In early 2014, many Nuer youth and other minorities joined the training camp in Pagak determined to wage war against the regime that massacred their families. Good numbers of these cadres came from the United States of America, Canada, Europe and Australia and were trained for more than six months hoping to be deployed to face the government forces at the frontline. Little do they know that the man leading them would find his way to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa and rent a luxurious house where he lived comfortably.
While in his new founded residence, Dr. Riek Machar Teny’s first major action as a leader was to create twenty-one states, as if the cause of the suffering of the people was attributed to the lack of more states. President Kiir and Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) later used his initiative to first create twenty-eight states and now that number reached thirty-six. The chairman and commander-in-chief of the SPLM/A-IO movement forgot his cadres that once brought him out of the Lion’s den. He dismissed his top Generals who questioned his leadership. Among them was General Peter Gatdet Yak who rescued him when he was chased from Juba. Before the signing of August 15, 2015 peace agreement, he mostly spends his time in Addis Ababa and on some occasions touring the East African countries.
The August 15, 2015 peace agreement allocated ten Ministerial posts to the SPLM/A-IO and the position of the First Vice President in the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGONU) that was assumed by Dr. Riek Machar Teny. Amongst the ten Ministries allocated to the SPLM/A-IO was the Ministry of Petroleum, a lucrative ministry and the only life-blood of the country’s source of income.
The First Vice President of TGONU sees the opportunity to nominate someone who can channel petro-dollars to his account, rather than a well-qualified person that could run the Ministry and change the trajectory of this corrupt Ministry for the good of the country. He succeeded and nominated former governor of Upper Nile State who served for eight years as a state governor before South Sudan became independent. What Dr. Machar didn’t comprehend is that the move he made would later prove itself to be a fateful one.
The chief negotiator of SPLM/A-IO, General Taban Deng Gai, who in the process believed that when the posts are allocated to their rightful candidates would take the Ministry of Petroleum, did the selection of the Ministries. Many South Sudanese, especially the Nuer, know that Dr. Machar and General Gai are cousins-in-law. After General Gai realized the ministerial post has been given to someone else, he became uncompromising and planned to get ride of his cousin-in-law from the TGONU.
The family feud became a national issue that threatens the fragile peace singed on August 15, 2015. General Gai formed an ally with the President Kiir party to over throw the First Vice President of TGONU and install himself as FVP instead. Although the party of President Salva Kiir was not genuine enough to implement the peace agreement, the entire process was exacerbated by the differences within the SPLM/A-IO. The greed unleashed the venom of the SPLM/A once again on July 8, 2016 and on July 10, 2016 a full-scale war inside the capital broke out. General Gai succeeded and once again, Dr. Machar was dislodged from Juba.
Dr. Riek Machar Teny emerged from Congo and claimed to have walked forty days and forty nights in the wilderness. This history sounds familiar to me. Yes, I remember! Of course, this is the famous history I read from the good book about Jesus. You be the judge!
Dr. Machar was airlifted from Congo to Sudanese capital of Khartoum for medical attention. While in Khartoum, he held a meeting with his Political Bureau and came up with the resolutions of their meeting (founded at the following link: https://www.nyamile.com/2016/09/24/the-final-resolution-of-splmsplaio-political-bureau-meeting-in-khartoum-sept-20-23-2016). Part D of the resolution “call for the reorganization of SPLA (IO) so that it can wage a popular arm resistance against the authoritarian and fascist regime of Salva Kiir in order to bring peace, freedom, democracy and the rule of law in the country”. After the announcement, the chairman and commander-in-chief of SPLM/A-IO left for South Africa.
Dr. Machar, the chairman and commander-in-chief of SPLM/A-IO in his new movement appointed his brother-in-law as the Chief of Logistics. He appointed his wife, the first lady of the movement, as the Chairperson of the National Committee for Security and Defense and his cousin as the Head of Military Intelligence as if there were no others capable of taking these positions. This is your leader who charged President Salvatore, his brother in liberation on 6 December 2013 with nepotism, corruption, and dictatorship, among many. You talk about double standards; right there is your double standard.
The mismanagement of SPLM/A-IO affairs by its chairman and commander-in-chief is very disturbing to anyone who strongly believes in the cause of December 15, 2013. In early 2014 and 2015, thousands of Nuer and other minorities’ youth were trained in Maiwut and Pagak hoping to participate in the frontline. However, these youth were never graduated even when they completed their training. As a result, all of these young men and women deserted the camp after realized that the chairman and commander-in-chief of SPLM/A-IO wouldn’t graduate them.
Having failed to organize his own forces that would have helped him overthrow the government of President Kiir, the first question that came to my mind is whether Dr. Machar could in fact be able to manage a country. The answer to this question is absolutely NO.
Being a leader is not an easy task. You need highly qualified experts from different disciplines to work behind the seen and make things happen. However, in the last three years I observed the leader of the SPLM/A-IO, I realized that Dr. Machar doesn’t understand this essential catalyst of leadership. The chairman and commander-in-chief of SPLM/A have proven many times to be the enemy of Nuer intellectuals. This kind of behavior is disconcerting to those intellectuals who have the best intention to support the cause. It is for this reason the SPLM/A-IO hasn’t yet succeeded in toppling the government. Thus, I strongly believe that with him at the top of the leadership, the SPLM/A-IO wouldn’t reach its objectives, if in fact there were any.
The three years of civil war have devastated every community in South Sudan. Citizens have been forced to live inside UNMISS camps in their own country in the thousands for the last three years and only God knows how long this ordeal is going to last. Children born inside UNMISS camp never go beyond the fence, leave alone seeing other parts of the city or the town. It is as if they are living in a zoo. Of course, this is the zoo your leadership chooses for you to live in for the last three years and most likely for a few more years to come.
My people, this is the country you voted 99% during the referendum for its independent. The leaders who forced you to live in cages like animals are the ones you voted for in the 2010 election. You have lost your humanity in your own country. You are now at the mercy of the international community to bail you out in your daily life. The strangers help you by giving you and the remaining families a ration and it may take a few days until they are able to provide another one.
The leadership you entrusted to lead the country are butchering you and your families without any mercy. Your lives are not important to them and you mean nothing more to them than flies that are squashed as they continue as if nothing has happened. Your women and young girls are being raped daily and your young boys castrated.
Your children are not going to school. Your women are not bearing children because the men are at the frontline fighting the wars that never end. Your young men are dying at the frontline in the thousands. Your population is declining everyday as this leadership struggle continues.
The families of your leaders are living in foreign countries comfortably in the luxurious houses they bought with the stolen money from your resources. Their children are going to the best schools and getting the best medical attention. They are driving expensive cars and enjoying their lives, while your families suffer.
To my Dinka brothers and sisters, the hatred preached by the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) and President Salva Kiir’s government toward other communities in South Sudan will ruin your future. South Sudan will never be a country without the rest of the 63 tribes that these leaders are trying to marginalize. Any woman or child from Equatorian, Nuer, Shilluk or from the rest of the other tribal communities living in the UNMISS camps for the last three years are related to you one way or another. Their suffering is yours too. You all have bright future ahead and you need to start thinking like free men and women.
To my Equatorian and Shilluk brothers and sisters, I feel the pain you are going through. South Sudan is being ruled by gangs and will stop for nothing. They don’t value your lives and you have to say enough is enough. Only then will you see this country charting a new path and I believe with all my heart the time is now to put an end to the current leadership once and for all.
To my Nuer brothers and sisters, you have been in the midst of these crises. You have been fighting the South Sudan government and its allies for the last three years. The government and its allies know very well that you have defeated them in the battlefield. Your 1370 brave men and women who landed in Juba proved to the world in July 2016 that you are a force that cannot be taken slightly and you should be proud of your boys and girls. However, you should know your limits. The kind of leadership you have doesn’t help your cause. You have to start thinking like free men and women. I should remind you of the Zulu tribe of South Africa. When you have the wrong leadership, even if your cause is just, you won’t get anywhere regardless of how hard you try. The leadership you have is nothing, but a curse to you. Be smart and do your homework as a community.
South Sudan will never be a country without all of its sixty-four tribes. Dinka will not purge the Nuer, Shilluk and the Equatorian from South Sudan and vice versa. You have to manage one way or another to find it in you to forgive. However, you have to stand together as citizens who have been robbed by its leaders and obliterate your current leadership. Because with them in any form of government, you won’t have any peace in South Sudan and your families will continue suffering.
I call up on all sixty-four tribes of South Sudan to remember why you voted 99% during the referendum. You fought a just war for more than twenty-one years. In those years, nearly 2 million of your children gave up their lives in the struggle. You achieved it on 9 July 2011 and I remembered on that day all of your towns and cities streets as well as your villages were filled with joy.
You were all dancing your traditional dances during the independence celebrations. You believed it then the new nation would offer each and every one of you a right to exercise his/her freedom, be it religion, speech, and so on. You believed it then that your children would go to school and have a successful life. You believed it then that your families would get the best medical attention whenever they fell ill. You believed it then that you would have a place to work and support your families. With all the untapped resources your country has, your wishes would have been fulfilled if the right leadership was in place.
The leaders you entrusted to lead have now turned you to fight among yourselves. They succeeded in installing hatred within you. Families are divided into groups and are forced to fight among themselves. You now kill and rape women and young girls as well as castrating your young boys. Was this the country you envisioned? Was this the country you danced for on the 9 July 2011 on all the streets of your towns, cities, and villages? How many more of your brothers and sisters do you want to butcher? Who would you blame when you find out that your country disintegrated into small pieces?
My people, it is not too late to stand up together as one family and say to your leaders enough is enough. The leaders pushing you left and right are few in numbers. You cannot let the whole country be destroyed by a few that don’t care for the future of your families as well as the country. They are only interested in filling their pockets with your petro-dollars.
My people, I have only one question to ask, is your country better off today than when you got your independence 5 years ago? If the answer is no, I urge you to stand up for your country. Stand up for your families. And say no to any leader who preaches hatred to any of your communities. Believe it or not, you are all families. Your future is in your hands.
Gatwech Koang Thich is a South Sudanese-American who was requested by the government of South Sudan to help in the nation building in 2012. He was the Director of Pipelines in the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining before 15 December 2013 crises. Prior to his appointment as the Director of Pipelines, Dr. Thich was a research scientist at United States Naval Air Warfare Center and a NASA research fellow. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org