Fangak massacre: who to blame, GOSS or Athor?

By Deng Riek Khoryoam, South Sudan

February 10, 2011 (SSNA) — The people of Jezira Fangak have been made to suffer at the hands of a merciless and ruthless rebel leader, George Athor. George Athor rebelled against the government of Southern Sudan in April last year, in the aftermath of the general elections; following the announcement of the results, which he alleged to have been rigged in favor of the SPLM flag-bearer Kuol Manyang Juuk in Jonglei state gubernatorial contest. It’s to be noted that they were not the only two candidates who contested for governorship position in Jonglei state, they were three candidates. Joseph Duer Jakok, the former GOSS minister of water resources and irrigation also contested for the gubernatorial position but on NCP ticket, Mr. Kuol Manyang contested on SPLM ticket and George Athor contested as an independent candidate.

As the saying goes “easier said than done” it’s pretty much easier to say that I am contesting for the governorship position than to actually do, since this requires one to put efforts to try and convince his voters in order to garner support, which is supposedly a determining factor to enabling him/her get the post. This was not the case with the defiant general! George, knowing too well that his objectives might not be liked by the potential voters, given his bad records and the fact that there was nothing promising in him that would compel the voters to vote for him in Northern part of Jonglei state as he didn’t seem to posses any good qualities of a good leader, suitable for the job – which indeed is a requirement.

In January 2010, 3 months before the elections, he had mobilized and heavily armed his Rut-Dinka community to launch an attack against the ill-armed people of Fangak on the pretext that Phom El Zeraf, the county head quarters is their land. A lot of lives were lost in that fighting since the civil population of Fangak had been disarmed way back in 2006-2007, thus leaving them vulnerable to attacks by their hostile neighbor. He took advantage of the fact that the youth were now dehorned or disarmed and this precipitated his evil attempted move of incursion, which would have been countered were the Fangak’s youth not to be disarmed. Yet despite all this, his militiamen were quelled and overran by the law enforcement agencies in Fangak, though they were lacking ammunitions. So given this bitter experience and the unhealed wounds of our people having lost their loved ones, they couldn’t make that grave mistake to vote for him to become a governor in Jonglei. During the campaign period, neither himself set foot in Fangak nor were his supporters or his campaign manager seen publicly or privately campaigning for him.

To cut the long story short, the blanket amnesty extended to George Athor and his militia groups has given him a rare and perhaps a glorious opportunity to gain momentum and to galvanize his support in order to execute his devilish plan. But the question is: who is to be blamed for all that happened in Fangak yesterday? The many lives that were lost: – is it the government of Southern Sudan or George Athor? In my humble opinion and understanding, it’s the government of Southern Sudan that is blame-worthy for all this that has happened now because why would they give the rebelled commander Fangak as a place to re-integrate his forces at? Why Fangak County? Why not Khorfulus, his home-base? These are some of the logical questions a sane and rational person would not fail to ask about this pitfall situation, which befell our people. Reliable sources reported that the unscrupulous SPLA chief of general staff, Gen. James Hoth Mai gave Fangak County to George Athor as a designated place or their assembly point for re-integration into the SPLA, according to his radio message dated 10th January, 2011.

I wonder why the slave-hearted Hoth Mai acted this way without even consulting with the community of Fangak, who would have assessed the pros and cons of this impetuous decision. In fact, if there was anything special about Athor’s re-integration in the SPLA, which he took up arms against for no good reason, then he (Hoth Mai) should have given his Ulang County to George Athor and his allied forces as their assembly point, and not Fangak. James Hoth carries the biggest part of blame for the lives that were lost in yesterday fighting, including children and elderly who got drowned in the river as they tried to escape Athor’s men.

He went as far as ordering the commander of Division 7 in Tonga not to send any soldiers for reinforcement, but to also be vigilant and counter the move of Gabriel Tanginye if he tries to intervene. The other person to be blamed is President Salva Kiir for letting the people of Fangak down. The political leadership of Fangak County sent a memo or petition letter to President Salva Kiir on January 13, 2011, inquiring as to why Fangak was designated as assembly point for Athor’s forces without the consent of the concerned community but he kept quiet on the matter and never bothered, perhaps due to his usual inertia, to give it special attention. So Mr. President, watch what happens next if this situation is unrelenting and the sons and daughters of Fangak in uniforms say ‘enough is enough’ and get home to act either in defense or offense, and don’t be surprised to hear of reprisal attacks.

It’s to be remembered that Fangak has a very special place in the history of Sudan and specially the Southern liberation struggle for freedom. The sons and daughters of Fangak made a selfless and enormous contribution during the liberation struggle in which they died in every corner of the Sudan; and all was for a good reason, they wanted their future children to live a dignified life. But their hopes that their future children would live happy and enjoy the relative peace that other Southern Sudanese are enjoying have been thrown into disarray, following the yesterday attack on their children. It’s also worth noting that Fangak has produced super heroes who did not only nurse SPLA/M from its infancy but also sustained and gave it a good shape to this very movement. These heroes should never be forgotten, people like: William Nyuon Bany, William Abdalla Chuol Deng, Nyuon Kuach Char, Rier Puok, Marum Dut Khat, Michael Top Yach and the list is endless, who sacrificed their lives for the sake of this nation and that of their children.

Recommendations for GOSS/SPLA:

1.   Immediate intervention into this problem; dislodge Athor from Fangak and its surrounding Payams and Bomas.

2.   Send a high level delegation to assess the damages done to people on the ground.

3.   Apology for what the Chief of general staff did, designating Fangak as assembly point the Athor’s group, which has now resulted into many loss of lives.

4.   Send relief NGOs into the areas to provide relief supplies to the victims of this circumstance.

In conclusion, it’s now clear that George Athor was not fighting because of the alleged stolen victory; he had hidden agendas. This is a replication of what happened in January 2010, because surely if he was fighting for the alleged victory, why didn’t or can’t he go to Bor where his rival Kuol Manyang Juuk is. Now it’s as if his victory was stolen in Fangak and that it was Jii Fangak who robbed him of his alleged victory. GOSS must act now and implement these recommendations without any delay or failure to do so will result to something unpredictable. I am sure the few brave senior officers from Fangak serving with the SPLA would not want to see their home-land being destroyed or burned down to ashes while watching and remaining royal to the very SPLA which betrayed them, especially because it’s by someone’s design. This coward, slave-hearted called Hoth Mai must not only get reprimanded for his mischievous behavior towards Jageai people of Fangak but also be made to pay the price one day. I have never heard of any town that was captured by James Hoth Mai during the liberation struggle. Besides, he should know that blood is thicker than water and that every dark cloud has a silver lining!

The author lives in South Sudan, he is reachable at [email protected]

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