By Elhag Paul
October 28, 2011 (SSNA) — The title of Dekuek’s article: “Mr Elhag Paul: Anchoring Tribalism and Hatred – A Rebuke” published in South Sudan Nation and South Sudan News Agency on 22nd October 2011 is misleading and unhelpful in that it strives to label me as a tribalist which has no relevance to the topic of our exchange. The main subject of our exchange is whether Dr Garang was a unionist or a separatist and this has nothing to do with tribalism and hatred. I expect that we concentrate on the topic and not to deviate from it in order to exhaust it properly. There is no need for muddying the water to confuse issues. Clarity is of essence here for the two of us as well as the audience interested in the topic.
Before I delve further into this article, I want from the outset to make it clear that I have not at any time claimed to be an intellectual either in speeches I made at many places or in written. Neither have I ever tried to moonlight with academic qualification in my writings because I do not believe that they are relevant here. What is important for me is what I can contribute as a South Sudanese citizen. I do believe that there are many people out there who have not attended any class but they have brilliant mind – a resource we should tap into as a nation.
Although Dekuek has asserted that I am “anchoring tribalism and hatred”, nowhere in his article does he attempt to explain or build a case to prove it. Those people who personally know me including many Dinka people, friends and foes alike may find the charge of tribalism and hatred labelled against me as baseless and unfair. I spoke out about the murder of Martin Majer (a Dinka) by Dekuek’s client (SPLM/A). I spoke out about the murder of Akot Atem (a Dinka) by Dekuek’s client. I spoke out about the murder of Benjamin Bol (a Dinka) by Dekuek’s clients. I spoke out about the murder of John Nambu (a Zande) by Dekuek’s client. I spoke out about the murder of Martin Kejivoru (a Moru) by Dekuek’s client. I spoke out about the murder of a Kakwa teenage girl by name Makka in Kaya by Dekuek’s clients. I spoke out about the desecration of Samuel Gai Tut’s body (a Nuer) by Dekuek’s client and many, many, many others from various tribes. Do all these unfortunate victims of Dekuek’s client come from my tribe? No! For your information, I have not yet even started talking about my own tribesmen who were lynched by Dekuek’s client. I am not trying to defend myself here, but just to shed a dim light on abuses committed by Dekuek’s client across South Sudan in the name of liberation. Soon or later, the brighter light will be shone on them. As a South Sudanese, I believe that I have a duty to talk about such crimes without fear and favour. South Sudan can only be a beautiful place to live in when we take our civic duties seriously to right the wrongs. By this you can see I come from a tribe called South-Sudan and that is who I am.
As Dekuek feels comfortable in labelling others as tribalists, it is time to ratchet this topic a little bit only for benefit of placing it where it should actually be. No Dinka man has the credentials to point an accusing finger of tribalism to anyone in South Sudan. Be it Dekuek, Isaiah Abraham or president Kiir. The evidence of Dinka tribalism can be seen in all the streets of all the towns in South Sudan in the form of Dinka police, Dinka army, Dinka immigration officers, Dinka custom officers and so on. Most of these supposed government officials do not even have the basic qualifications. Look at the ministries in Juba and tell us who monopolise them. Dinka police and Dinka army men kill others at will with impunity. Take the example of the equatorian police officers murdered by Dinka soldiers in Yambio, an equatorian doctor murdered by Dinka soldier in Yei, and many many others. Kiir and acolytes (mostly Dinka) siphoned millions of dollars from the countries coffers with impunity. So, please do not project the tribalism that you the Dinka practise rampantly at will to the victims of your tribalism. It is unfortunate that the decent and innocent Dinka are tainted by this brute tribalism. But as long as they keep quiet, no one would know their views and they would be seen as colluding with their abusive brethren. It is time for this group to speak out about the ills of their tribesmen so that they can stand up to be counted as true South Sudanese.
I am gobsmacked by the torrent of abuse that Dekuek has hurled on me throughout his article. As can be read, he has not spared me in any area. I want to assure him that though I feel sorry for him for exhibiting this kind of behaviour, I am not annoyed by him and thus no matter what level of abuse he dishes out it would not distract me from the main point of the argument because we need to exhaust this topic properly for the sake of future generations. Down in the main body of this article, I shall briefly say something about use of negative words and hope to put the issue of abuse within that context.
Now I move on to respond to some of the issues Dekuek has raised. Dekuek apart from the labelling and abuse has come up with two new important positions as follows: 1) Dr Garang’s ‘contradictory position’, and 2) acknowledgment of Dr Garang’s unionist position.
Dekuek argues that Dr Garang, “was not a simple thoughtless idiot who would clutch on to a position for its wanton sake. Having learnt the lessons and mistakes of his predecessors and contemporaries, Anyanya 1 and 2 and etc, Dr Garang then devised his contradictory position, which combined the historical aspiration of South Sudanese as advanced by the Southern Front (self determination) and SANU (Federation) at the 1965 Round Table Conference. These seemingly contradictory objectives had the methodology and means to achieve the desired end when combined together.” I concur with Dekuek that Dr Garang was not a simple person. I have consistently in my writings attested to that. There is no doubt that Dr Garang was a formidable thinker respected around the world. This is why his words were taken seriously in academic circles as well as high places like the Elysee Palace, the Lodge, 10 Downing Street, White House and the like. Hence, it is important for us to respect his words and take what he wrote and said as it is. It makes no point for us to speculate about what he might have thought because there is no evidence to it. Dr Garang took meticulous care of his political position by documenting it and airing it in the most high places around the globe that matter.
However, having said that I must admit this is the first time I am learning of Dr Garang’s concept of ‘contradictory position’. While I have not heard this concept from Dr Garang himself in any form (speeches or written) it raises some problems. Please allow me to ask: is this your own speculation or is it something that Dr Garang really said or documented somewhere where it might have escaped my attention?. If it is the former, then I am afraid that it is not going to be helpful as it would not add any value to the debate. It would just be hear-say. But if it is the latter would it be possible for you to furnish me with the evidence? (Because this would put the matter to rest once and for all). On the face of it, this concept denigrates Dr Garang’s greatness. It suggests that he was an opportunist who was not sure about his values and political conviction. Surely that is not right and it is not fair to present Dr Garang in that light because the man was not only intelligent but he was great and always knew what he wanted. Reducing him to a gambler who was gambling with the lives of South Sudanese people is an insult to him because it suggests that Dr Garang had no idea of what he was fighting for and what the outcome would be. If we take what Dekuek is saying seriously it then follows that Dr Garang was actually an irresponsible leader. Can this really be the Dr Garang that the world and all of us know? Whereas if we accept what Dr Garang personally said and documented in various fora, his integrity will remain untainted.
Dekuek goes on to argue that Dr Garang’s contradictory position which apparently makes him enigmatic “has come to define Dr Garang as a man and the father of the nation.” If this concept which we have discussed above portrays whoever behaves in this manner as opportunist, how can an opportunist assume the position of being father of this nation? Is this insistence on calling Dr Garang as father of the nation in this manner not an insult to his memory and great contribution? Must South Sudan have a father? What is the definition of father of the nation anyway? Is it anchored in opportunism? Is it based on ethnicity? Or is it based on how powerful one is as an individual regardless of what they have done?
With all these said, in the dust filled atmosphere created by Dekuek it should be noted and acknowledged that there is a positive development on his part and this is highly welcome. He has honourably thrown in the towel. Dekuek finally agrees that all of us agree that Dr Garang is a unionist. He asks that: “So, how does one solve this enigma which is Dr Garang? The fundamental questions that one needs to ask are as follows:
1) Since we all agree (I am assuming here that we all agree) that Dr Garang was a unionist. The question therefore is, was he a conditional or unconditional unionist? That is to say did he base his advocacy for unity on certain conditions or not? And if he did what were they?
2) If Dr Garang attached conditions to unification of Sudan, were these conditions acceptable to Jallaba or not? Did the Arabs accept secular democracy and getting rid of Sharia?
3) If the Arabs did not accept scrapping of Sharia in day to day running of the government and confinement of religion to mosques and churches, what did this objective reality make to Dr Garang? That is to say, did this make Dr Garang a secessionist in a clever disguise or a simple minded unionist, as Mr Paul appears to suggest.”
The most important thing here is that Dekuek now accepts that Dr Garang is a unionist. Truly, this is what all this debate has been about. All the other questions that Dekuek poses are secondary and irrelevant. The fact that Dr Garang was forced to accept self determination because the Arabs rejected his unionist conditions does not make him to be a separatist. Dr Garang simply was adapting to an environment which did not suit his political ideals. His conviction lies in unionism and this is what he preferred. Therefore, let me repeat – Dr Garang cannot be a father of a nation he did not want to see born.
Dekuek argues that it is becoming increasingly hard for me to hold a civil discourse without getting overwhelmed by emotions to maintain an intellectual argument. As I said at the beginning of this article, I have not claimed at any time that I am an intellectual and I do not wish to. I am happy being who I am. As with regards to emotions, Dekuek has borrowed these words from his dear friend Mr Brian Adeba who not only called me emotional but also a fool. It is worth observing that Dekuek implied the same in his story of ‘the deaf man and his son’. Invoking the word ‘emotional’ negatively in order to diminish an argument is so low from anyone who wants to be taken seriously. To try to exploit the word suggests, to say the least, a state of bankruptcy of ideas. In modernity, which is until the 20th century, science consistently denigrated emotions. It falsely claimed that emotions can not lead to objectivity. It promoted a macho culture and provided justification for discrimination and oppression of women and people of colour by men generally and imperialists respectively. When women argue with men in a passionate manner, they are usually dismissed by chauvinistic men as emotional. Similarly, when people of colour express themselves in an angry manner because of their experience, people of European origin label then as emotional. The implication is that their position should not be taken seriously because it is clouded with irrationality. But actually such labelling has nothing to do with the reality, it is cloak for abuse of power. In our case it is the arrogance of parading intellectual prowess whether available or not.
Since the dawn of post modernity, the vilification of emotions has been proven to be nothing other than a smoke screen for men and colonialists (those with power) to hide behind in order to exploit the ‘other’. In psychology, the concept of projection coined by Freud throws light on people who abuse others as fools, tribalist etc and use words like emotions negatively in order to diminish others. It is amazing when one looks closely at such people, it becomes clear that they themselves actually exhibit same traits they attribute to their opponents or hated objects. Because they hate these traits in themselves, they strive to banish it by projecting it to others they hate in order to make themselves feel good. In other words they want to run away from their negative part of characters, thus they push it to others and pretend that they are the ‘perfect’ beings. Psychologists advice that such people should not be shunned but supported for them to understand their inner selves. In doing this, the support allows them to accept who they are and work through their own issues rationally. This then allows them to develop a positive personality which is not threatened by failure in any form. Thus they would acknowledge failures comfortably as a learning process without erecting unnecessary defence mechanisms or being abusive and negative to others further blurring the boundaries of who they are and what the others are. For instance, use of words negatively. So in light of this I am not worried or angry by being called names: fool, emotional, tribalist etc. I can live with it as it really has nothing to do with me but with those who say it. It is about their insecurities, inadequacies, façade, sycophancy and fear of the powerful, for instance SPLM/A.
Currently it is the particular and the relative that matters more than anything else. It is acknowledged that all researches carry aspects of the researchers’ personalities and attitudes. The researchers’ values and elements of their identities are embedded in them and exhibited in their work – this includes things like their emotions etc. Hence, the importance for any researcher to state clearly where they come from, what their values are, who funds their research etc for ethical reasons. So, nobody should be made to feel inadequate by being called emotional. Certainly not me! There is nothing wrong with being emotional. It is part of life and part of being a human being. It should be celebrated and not denigrated. To enrich ones knowledge in this area, it is essential to understand the work of people like Capra Fritjof, bell hooks, Cornel West, Paul Gilroy, Vic Seidler, Stuart Hall, Liz Kelly, Bhavani Bhavani, Franz Fanon, Paul Freire etc. Negative use of the word emotions should be left to Fox TV because it is associated with backward conservative thinking.
Coming back to wind up this debate, I have gone through the most pertinent issues raised by Dekuek. The question of the whole debate was whether Dr Garang was a unionist or separatist. This has now finally been agreed upon by all of us. Dekuek in explaining the enigmatic Dr Garang has acknowledged fully that Dr Garang was a unionist. Although, he poses secondary questions which lead to Dr Garang opting for self-determination, these in themselves do not alter the fact that primarily Dr Garang was a unionist and therefore he remained unionist to the end. With this, hopefully the history of South Sudan will not be easily distorted as the Dinka controlled ministry of information would want to do.
The Author lives in the Republic of South Sudan; he can be reached at [email protected]