15 December 2013 will be remembered in the history of South Sudan as a very bad day “black day”, a day in which South Sudan went a blaze again when the Dinka and the Nuer in the Presidential Guards unit open fire against each other on “suspicion” or “intended” of staging a coup d’état against the President Salva Kiir Mayardit by his former Vice President and his immediate political rival Dr Riek Machar.
Prior to that day (15 December 2013), South Sudan was relatively a stable country, South Sudan used to be rank behind Sudan and Somalia in the index of failed states. Prior to that day South Sudan was not in the danger zone of famine and starvation, there was return to Kakuma refugees camp in Kenya but there was not huge influx or massive exodus as after the 15 December, there were no IDPs in the UNMISS camps but the camps were constructed already by UNMISS waiting for the arrival of the IDPs when comes the day.
But was South Sudan stable prior to that day 15 December 2013? No, there were fighting everywhere in greater Upper Nile, there was SSLM/A movement of General Bapiny Monytuil and General Matthew PulJang killing and maiming civilians in Unity state specially Mayom county. They were fighting the government in Juba on claims that the government was corrupted and that Bul Nuer were marginalized in the state government. It was Mayom revolution that ends with all the top generals of the SSLM/A being absorbed into SPLA and others were awarded some advisory positions in the Presidency in 2014. There was Cobra faction of David Yau-Yau in Greater Pibor who were engaged in abducting Dinka and Nuer children and cattle, and his tribe Murle was subjected to repeated massacres through the hands of the infamous “White Army” of Nuer Lou. General Peter Gadet was assigned to head SPLA division 8 which was fighting David Yau-Yau insurgencies in Jongeli, he ends up being accused by human rights groups of committing crimes against humanity, there were left-over grievance of George Athor SSDM/A in Pigi County, there was the insurgencies of Gordon Kong’s South Sudan Defense Force and Johnson Olony Agwlek in Upper Nile state. Greater Upper Nile was not at peace before 15 December 2013!
Quest for Peace:
IGAD peace led processes was stuck in how to reshape the old CPA of John Garang and Ali Taha into Salva Kiir and Riek Machar new CPA therefore; many other initiatives were parallel initiated in the region to try bringing peace to South Sudan. South Africa and Tanzania coordinated SPLM factions’ reunification was a good one, another one was President of Kenya Uhru Kenyata initiative and lastly, Sudan President was tipped to be the right persons to bring peace to his old foes just before his famous escape arrest in South Africa. Anything to do with “south” now is not sweet to his hears.
The hunt for peace continue, but with new proposals reaching to negotiation table everyday from the mediators, the two warring groups just want to get “get it all”. During the SouthSudanAt4 celebrations in Juba, President Kiir reaffirmed his commitment to bring peace in the country before the end of his new Parliament given term. The President and his government are going to bring peace in the country, but how to do bring peace is not explain to the audience, it is more Addis Ababa, Tanzania and Kenya hotels. Sit and relax, wait and peace will come from the government because they know what they are doing!
In his recent interview with reporters from Nairobi, Dr Riek called upon President Kiir to resign with his entire government on the basis that “Kiir government term is going to expire on the night of July 8th 2015” he called upon South Sudanese to UP-RISE against Kiir. In another interview with Aljzeera, Dr. Riek said he wants a Power-sharing deal with President Salva Kiir but when his conditions are met like compensation of loses inflicted in greater Upper Nile and of course on the Nuer tribe. Not agreed to “Arusha Agreement” on reunification of the SPLM factions.
In the rebels’ camp, there are few common things recited by all zeal supporters of the FREEDOM Fighters:
- Nuer ethnics were killed in thousands in Juba: Kiir Dinka government has killed the Nuer and Kiir and his Dinka government must GO. The “RED CARD” campaign on the social media. Yes Nuers were killed in December 2013 but is the government in Juba a Dinka government? What about those national ministers who hail from Nuer like Benjamin Marial, Riek Gai, etcetera? ICC should start investigating crimes against humanity in South Sudan and Kiir must be ousted because of his crimes.
- Dr. Riek Machar is the Savor of South Sudan: Riek must lead the country now and not later for South Sudanese to be free. No freedom as long as the Dinka is the leader of this country! No room for dictator.
- Uganda army must leave South Sudan: those fat guys or Nyamnyam are the ones preventing the mighty White Army to enter Juba at daylight! The coward Dinka cannot stop the bravest tribe Nuer from entering Juba, freed the IDPs masses sheltering in UNMISS camps across the country.
- Federal system of governance must be introduced in South Sudan: Federalism or we keep fighting to the last man blood! More states must created because South Sudan was divided by the British into 22 provinces, we must obey what the masters did long time ago and there must be 22 states in South Sudan for the ten million people. Counties of 3000 population, Payam of one man with his 10 wives.
- Kiir is sick and will die soon, actually he was died in late May and earlier June until he resurrected in South Africa summit. This is counter-propaganda of government’s Dr Riek eyes cancer.
President Kiir stated that he cannot bring peace alone, he need all his comrades to come together to come and raid together again! Pagan has joined the come-raids and the rest of G10 are expected to join in. Riek is not coming because this time he doesn’t want to raid with old comrades, this time he wants to raid alone.
Government camp has these in common:
- Riek Machar rebellion is a tribal movement and must be crash! King Paul is around.
- Riek Machar will not rule this country, he is an evil man who have killed and delayed the independence of South Sudan in 1991 when he split and form his Nasir faction of SPLM/A
- Riek Machar and his white army are welcome back as civilians, not to be reintegrated in the SPLA again.
- Riek Machar is sick with eyes cancer is going to die soon.
While South Sudanese people are waiting for the conflict to end, civilians are attack, rape, abducted, killed, displaced and castrated in the fighting fields. No end in sight for the suffering to stop!
South Sudanese people need peace now, peace which addresses the problem that causes the current conflict and the previous insurgencies. The continuous attempts by IGAD to replicate the CPA are not only a recipe for instability but a direct execution of South Sudan as people and country.
The world through UN and NGOs are calling for sanctions hoping it will stop the war, but they are wrong, sanctions will not stop this Dinka and Nuer war. Charles Obbo could be right “They should be left to fight, kill each, and eventually, when the country has bled to exhaustion and one of them is standing over the corpses of his enemies, they will sober up and stabilise their homeland”. He continue to say that “What makes this complicated is that rebel movements like the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement had members who live in the Diaspora and are successful professionals in London, New York, Kampala, and Nairobi, and too were used to a good life”. The same thing to government supporters who have good life, unfortunately, there is no good life for majority of South Sudanese civilians who lives in the war torn villages.
Note: I was about to share this piece before the crises in South Sudan, we are there, South Sudan in abyss of tribal-ethnic conflict!
“They are crying for the power and influence they have lost”!
There is no problem with Dr Riek to become the next President only that, he must show to public that he has the stake to lead this country. Dr Riek political history is very very noticeable, Riek the student political activist, Dr Riek the zonal commander for Western Upper and led the first expansion of the SPLM/A into Nuba Mountains, Dr Riek the 1991 splitters leader in search for democracy and good leadership within the rebel movement SPLM/A, Dr Riek the chairperson of Southern Sudan Coordination Council in Khartoum, Dr Riek the leader of the SSIM, Dr Riek the VP for both government of Southern Sudan and South Sudan. Vast history and stories in politics of South Sudan before independence and in the independence South Sudan, Dr Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon is a leader of the people largely the Nuer nation. He is very right to contest to become the President in the next general elections “doubted” for 2015, but the political circumstances that has unfolded during the last eight years, his chances are very gloomy, he is not widely accepted as the next leader of South Sudan nation. Dr Riek did not failed to do good things in his different capacities but his political history and stories have failed him. “Dr Riek is a traitor to the struggle case of South Sudanese people” you would hear Torit faction yells at you when you urge Dr Riek could be the next President. Regardless of what were his thoughts in 1991, that very history-story has held him persona non grata politically.
The literature written about Dr Riek misbehave in 1991 is huge “if all the things that were done by Jesus were written down, even the whole world could not hold this book” John 21:21, yes, orphans, widows and political rivals of 1991 and today are investing on the SPLM/A split of 1991 to block any attempt by Machar to be the President. The only way, is that Dr Riek leave the SPLM and form his own political party with his supporters. He has so many supporters, if he breakaway, he will safe South Sudan from falling into abyss of tribal conflicts.
Except for a naive person could believe that it was only Nasir faction which has committed atrocities and crimes against humanity in 1991, and that Torit faction didn’t committed the same atrocities. There are mad communities about Riek 1991 split and they are ready to set themselves a blast if Riek made it to Presidency. This is a result of a hatred mixed of his past deeds and tendency of supporting one’s tribal leaders with their appalling inabilities.
As for the so called Garang boys, “What comes around goes around”, Machar tried to correct things at first, but look at those boys (Aloor, Pagan, Taban, Gier) the list is long to include the boys from Equatoria and Bhar elgazal, they were not helpful, they were busy looting South Sudan in every corner, they were only attentive to hear SPLM Oyee chants from the politically-blind South Sudanese. Remember during the transitional constitution making process when Dr Machar “advocated for terms limit” as well as “limited powers of the president” but quest what, it was those of Taban, Pagan, Nyandeng, Gier, (Riek group now) who bluntly refused these suggestions and instead accused Machar that he was “eyeing” the top position, the Presidency! It is pathetic wickedness to this group to consider themselves better than Kiir, instead of this group advising President Kiir accordingly in the beginning, they were all engaged in hypocrisy, they were sabotaging, sitting pleasuring their statehood entitlements just to let Kiir mess up in an ill-keenness that they will grab the power from him when he is in total mess.
Practically, President Kiir politically has better qualifications to cling to power and in the course of doing that, many unintended messes will happen in fear of losing power. Kiir need absolute powers in the way Garang used to have absolute powers, he is not ready to listen to young people like Pagan because he is a big man, “monydit” or at least big brother. He listens better to Uncle Daniel Awet, Uncle Mark Nyipuoch, Uncle Bonadit, Uncles. And why not new Kiir boys like Garang boys? those of Paul Malong, Riziq Zecharia, Telar, Aleu, Dhieu and the long new list?
“Sire, can I rent your vehicle? How much can I pay? 5000 SSP, but that is a lot of money! Okay, how much would you afford to pay? I pay 500 a day. No, that is very little! Okay how much do you want, 1500 SSP without fuel. Fine, I will pay you that amount but including fuel”. Agreed! This is usual discussions with vehicle owners when engaged in renting a vehicle
Renting a vehicle is very difficult in Bentiu town; it always ends up getting prices that is not logic in many states capitals in South Sudan. Here, the owners of the few cars available are not only greedy, but they are crazy for money. Everything here is hard, very expensive for no good reasons.
Vehicle owners, those who own vehicle here are not local business people, men and women of Unity. There are very few local business people who can manage to buy vehicles. So who own these few vehicles in the town? Most of the vehicles in the town are owned by the most senior government in-officials and off-officials. Here is how it goes, when someone is appointed into government position like advisor, commissioner or a minister, s/ he is provide with a government vehicle, but s/he puts a private flat number. So the vehicle bought for 200,000 and above is owned to a government appointed minister who stayed in office for a year and get relieved. How many relieved government officials, there are so many of them and all of them left with government bought vehicles. In one of the counties, the commissioner when relieved from his duties left with four county government vehicles and communications equipments. He is using those vehicles now in business to generate money for his big families. Is there any pension for relieved government officials? Yes they are paid lot of money, but it was said that the reasons they go with the vehicles is that they are not given pensions after their work in the government, no, it is not true, they are paid very well.
The minister takes the V8 with him, the commissioner take land cruiser hard top with him; they are lucky people, only the rich one.
Who else own vehicles in Bentiu, ah, it is Nyakek Company, and who is Nyakek? Nyakek is a company said to be owned by the former governor of Unity state Lt. General Taban Deng Gai, it has so many vehicles as a company of course.
Last week I was riding in a commissioner vehicle, it was rented to one of the NGOs, government flat number removed and so was numberless to cover the shame of renting a government out to NGOs. Last year in November I was asked by a friend to facilitate for his travels within the state, the man was from a small NGO from America and was interested in visiting the refugees camp in northern Unity state, I negotiated the cost from 5000 SSP to 1500 SSP, the man agreed to pay the amount but in few minutes later my friend called me to tell me that 1500 SSP is a lot of money and his boss in Juba cannot accept that and the contract must be cancelled. Well, the contract was cancelled but the vehicle owner left with 500 SSP advance paid. I learned later that it was one of the directors of one of the state commissions who allured my friend with low prices. The director promised to lend his vehicle for 1000 SSP including fuel and a good driver.
You need to know more, ask GPOC and Sudd oil companies in Unity and Thar Jath oil fields they will tell you where and who own those vehicles they are renting for their staff, they will tell you that this car is rented from the agent of former minister of health, former minister of education, former minister of agriculture, and the list goes to include director generals, county commissioners.
The bad one, the police car, the only police ever car in Guit County is very busy every afternoons and evenings transporting people to and from the county to Bentiu town. A UN donated car turned into a public transport mean. Not only Guit who is doing this, all the counties does.
When is it going to stop, using government vehicles for personal uses? “No, no it is not going to stop soon, I don’t know when but I am sure it is not going to start with us those who are in this government, why us?” a ministers disputing the idea of government stopping buying and donated vehicles to individuals.
It is very noticeable in Unity state that government officials are heavily guarded by heavily armed soldiers or police forces. Governor is more guarded than the minister, this include SPLA trucks full with red-head military police caps, secret agents and some police for decoration. All the law enforcement agents must get involve in guarding the big man. His residential house is surrounded by men in uniform 24/7/30/12. Whenever the big man goes to secretariat general “SG” offices, the narrow and dirty roads are left for his well armed convoy by both footing-humans and the lucky ones in the other few cars in the capital city. Life within the SG building is not less terrifying than his residential house, here, in every corner and under every tree there is either a police or soldier with AK47 and a bunch of extra ammunition-bags. Standby, are the military trucks with machine guns mounted on the top. The place must look neat-tight with security agents.
The honorable minister, the honorable advisor, the honorable Member of Parliament, all must be heavily guarded on the roads, in the offices and at home. One police in front seat, two in the back seats, one or two in the middle seats making body shelter for the honorable from any unknown attacks specially coming from the eyes of passing-by citizens. He must be heavily guarded because guarding is a privilege for honorable, if not guarded well, s/he is not respected and a fool. It is like he is not dress up well for his official duty, guarding is part of official dress.
Origins of being surrounded with armed men: it is the culture of war, all over the South Sudan during the war, culture of carrying a gun for getting food or killing an enemy was the show of the day and night. It was worse in Unity state where there were the mighty RMGs, the SAF soldiers whom were instructed to clear the lands from any livings to pave way for smooth and safe oil explorations and the SPLA fighters in all corners. In this situation, many awful stories were narrated on how one star officer used to be guarded by “circling” himself with armed soldiers and walk in the middle. After the peace agreement and the integration processes and so, so, number of guards reduced a bit but it is still the same mindset, but why? Just fears, “there are unknown enemies whom may target me because of my position in the government”,” government officials can take decisions which may not be well taken by some people and can give them reasons to attack me”. The naked truth is that, there have never been any assassination attempts on the lives of government officials since the signing of the CPA till today in Unity state. It is just kudos like having many cows or marrying many wives here in the land. Soldiers are enslaved by the officials to guard them to scary away civilians who entrusted them to lead and manage their daily affairs. Recently I met the former security advisor on the worn-out road in Kalibalek market footing and with no guards, before his removal from the office, used to have guards in his cars, in his house every moment. This time the man was a very happy citizen with no rude face he was used to. With guards around, no peace with others, with no guards, there is peace with others.
If the government officials carry all these guns in their cars, restaurants, events, bars, offices and they are government officials, what about ordinary people in the villages where there are raiders, hyenas, lions?
Sire, why should you surround yourself with all this guns?
There is need to disarmament the state government officials in the next disarmament campaign.
Our traditional system: vulnerable but effective
Chief Juoy Machar, chair of the town court
Question: why the chiefs are not using the COTAL building in Bentiu town?
Chief: in the first place, the minister for physical infrastructure in the previous government was reluctant and unwilling to allocate a piece of land to use to build the COTAL but the intervention of the former governor Taban Deng has facilitate land allocation for the COTAL. After completed construction of COTAL building, the ministry of local government turns it into a directorate for traditional authority.
Question: what will happen if a new building is constructed for the chiefs like town court?
Chief: if a new building is constructed for us, it will not be taken over again by the ministry of local government. We will seek written commitment from the state governor or his deputy to protect our properties.
Question: how many cases your court can settle every day?
Chief: we settle every day 13-14 different cases and around 200-300 people attending the courts.
Question: how many members are there in your court?
Chief: There are 18 chiefs who are members of the court. 2 out of the 18 are women. The composition of the court is like this Rubkona: 4 members, Guit: 4 members, Pariang: 2 members, Mayom: 2 members, Abiemnom: two members, Koch: 1 member, Mayendit: 1 member, Leer: 1 member, Panyijiar: 1 member
Question: What are the most cases brought to your court?
Chief: most of the cases brought to us for settlement are mostly cases related to women involvement like elopement, illegal pregnancies, adultery with some body’s wife, dowries payment and cow theft.
Question: who else help the chiefs do their job?
Chief: there are police guards who help keeps the order in the court and we have secretary who keeps records of the court
Question: do you have records of your cases and where do you keep them?
Chief: we do have some records but not all the cases are documented because we do not have an office and board to keep our files.
Question: how do you value your work?
Chief: we are the most important institution in the state in term of intensive work pressure, providing solutions social problems, keeping peace among the community members. We are working more than the government who have lot of money but do very little to people.
Signing of the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) in 2005 Africa longest civil war which was raged between the North and Southern Sudan was brought to an end leading to the birth of South Sudan nation in July 2011. According to different reports including UN, hundreds of lives are lost in a month on different tribal fighting over different matters mostly cattle raiding in different states of South Sudan. Eminent facts are that; before the war in 1983, tribal conflicts were not in frequent occurrence in South Sudan due to lack of arms, minimizing the possibility of youth and community members involving in cattle raiding and in addition to presence of strong and trusted community leaders led by paramount chiefs with credible powers to execute justice among the people. With massive armament of the tribes either by Sudan Army forces (SAF) or by Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) cattle raiding became a business of these war fragile communities. Over the years of struggle wars, communities of Lakes, Warrap and Unity states have never experienced peace because of hostilities; continuing-organized cattle raiding which has claimed the lives of old and young, women and men as well as clear lack of rule of law, no perpetrators are brought to book as well as blood compensations which is a practice in South Sudan.
It is important to revisit the cultures of the Nuer and Dinka tribes in relation to cattle raiding: It is because culture defined the system for making meanings that shapes human behavior both consciously and unconsciously while people are not always aware of its impact. Cattle in Nuer and Dinka culture are viewed as an exemplary sources and symbols of life, health, fertility, status, and prosperity. Cattle, however, are valued above and beyond their material contribution to human survival, cattle are the principal medium through which Nuer and Dinka create enduring social bonds among themselves and forge new alliances with outsiders. The important of cattle highlighted above, make it a deprivation of wealth as well as lives by the raiders. In the case of South Sudan, cattle’s raiding is an organized crime and not theft because in the culture of Dinka and Nuer tribes, theft is not tolerated in the communities instead; thieves are cursed or excommunicated from engaging socially with others.
The wars of cattle raiders “deserve serious national attention. This situation, is posing a critical challenge to state authority and credibility. This is because the provision of security is a domain that primarily belongs to the government. Failure to ensure security to all its citizens in order to promote harmony, peace and stability poorly reflects on the government, and severely undermines its authority, and even legitimacy, in the eyes of the public”. Zachariah Diing Akol, Sudd Institute. The current phenomena of cattle theft is attributed to some factors like economic crisis and weak rule of law in the country which has contributed to loose in social structures. To halt these cattle raiding tragedies, government and the humanitarian actors has to embark on improved economical activities.
There is no way that cattle raiding be stop unless the raiders find other means of livelihoods! Among the livelihoods activities should the government and humanitarian actors be serious and willing, is the encouragement of agricultural projects to provide alternative means of livelihoods. Since agriculture is the predominant income generation activity in rural areas, providing inputs and agronomic training to farmers can address both food security and livelihoods issues. UN agency like FAO should encourage and support cattle herders to transformation livestock herding for economical purposes and not prestige. This can be done through crossbreeding or hybridization to generate new breed of cattle for milk products and meat for market purposes.
One of the ways out of this nightmare and day tragedy is to empower the local authorities, the chiefs and community leaders because the problem is local which affect the nation at large. In the past, it used to be annual meetings for difference bordering communities to plan for dry season, settle disputes and compensation payment. These meetings are not there right now. Despite the fact that there are some conferences, workshops and meetings to solve cattle raiding conflicts, however, the disputes between the judiciary system and the traditional authority hamper the follow up of cattle raiding cases.
The security organs at the grassroots level should be neutral and not locally captivated. It is observed that local government is too local to consider national issues! Local Commissioner, local executive Director who act as the deputy commissioner, local administrative officers, local police officers and local CID. “It is my cousin who was involved in raiding the Nuer or Dinka why should I investigate seriously this case? I will have a share of his spoils if he return alive”. This localness employment was raised in one of the workshops to discuss the issue of cattle raiding between Warrap and Unity state; in fact it was raised by an Executive Director of one of the counties participating. As mentioned earlier, stealing others properties is a crime which requires criminal investigation, but behavior changing tactics can be tried to address this problem. These are some of the forums that can be use to change the behavior of the youth and other age groups that are involved in this conflict state owned FM radio stations, the churches and other faith groups. Restoring manhood attitudes which emphasize and encourage hard-earned living instead of stealing others properties should be encourage through social mechanism within these communities by all actors being government or community based organizations.
Applauds is due to different levels of government and international community as well as civil society in South Sudan for tireless efforts to apprehend the cattle rustling in the country. Even so, a progressive reconciliation and trauma healing efforts should continue using different tools like social carnivals for cultural exposure involving women, youth, and community leaders of the raids affected communities and tribes. Dissemination of previous and current peace agreements, challenges and reporting of new incidents is very important in the fight against cattle raiding in the country.
God Bless South Sudan