January 8, 2012 (SSNA) — More than one hundred and five Nuer intellectuals, elders and youth conducted an emergency teleconference on January, 1st and 7th, 2012 on the disarmament of Murle tribe by the White Army of Nuer and Dinka. The participants gathered to discuss the disarmament of Murle tribe and its future implications. The agenda of the meeting focused on whether there was a need to explore ways to prevent clashes between the regime of Salva Kiir in Juba and the popular White Army which is mandated by the entire Nuer and Dinka of Jonglei State to disarm Murle.
After serious deliberations, the Nuer intellectuals, youth and elders in Canada and United States concluded that the disarmament of Murle tribe in Jonglei State by combined White Army of Nuer and Dinka of Upper Nile and Jonglei states was a legitimate exercise in order to return all the abducted Dinka, Nuer and Anuak kids to their parents. After talking to leaders of Nuer and Dinka White Army that invaded Murleland in search of abducted kids, the participants concluded that the operation launched by a combination of civilians from Lou-Nuer, Jikany-Nuer, Gawaar-Nuer and Twic-Dinka to disarm Murle to end abductions and cattle rustling in Jonglei state, was justified and is in line with international principle of self-defense. It should be recalled that the right of self-defense, which includes preemptive strike, is a right that could also be exercised by communities in absence of a functional government that guarantees security. In an organized state where there is a functional government, personal security is a responsibility of a government which has a mandate to protect the lives of individuals and their properties from criminals. Unfortunately, a functional government does not exist in South Sudan and different tribes in the South live in Hobbesian anarchy in which men live without a common power to keep them safe.
1. Condition which led to the invasion of Murleland
Since the signing of the CPA in 2005, South Sudanese and international community had hoped that the government that was established after the conclusion of the agreement would end the state of anarchy in the South. However, nobody thought that the widespread thinking deficit among SPLM/A guerrilla commanders would indeed increase anarchy in South Sudan. Since2005, it has been noticed that when it comes to relations between the tribes in Jonglei, there is no authority that regulates them in order to prevent abductions and cattle rustling. Despite the establishment of an imaginary government in Juba after January, 2005, individuals still rely on no one but themselves to protect their kids and cattle from being taken by armed Murle men. There is no higher authority to whom the Nuer, Anuak, Taposa and Dinka can appeal to when armed Murle abduct their children and loot their cattle. In the absence of functional government that could exercise its duty to guarantee individual security, tribes and communities are compelled to rely on their abilities to defend themselves and their properties.
The introduction of some sort of a government after the conclusion of the CPA in2005 made many people to erroneously believe that cattle rustlings and abductions would come to an end. For the last two hundred years, Murle have been in a business of cattle rustling including abducting Nuer, Anuak, Taposa and Dinka’s kids to increase their population. During the British Condominium, the colonial government, in conjunction with chiefs, was very effective in managing cattle rustling and abductions. Although raids between tribes used to take place, the colonial government set up structures in handling them. After the conclusion of Addis Ababa Agreement, the government of High Executive Council in 1970s was also effective in managing abductions and raids by providing security and buffer zones between Murle and other tribes in Greater Upper Nile region. The then Major William Nyuon Bany and Major Kerubino Kuanyin Bol of Battalions 105 and 104 respectively provided security and prevented cattle rustlings and abductions.
The outbreak of civil war in 1983 introduced lethal weapons to Murle because the successive governments in Khartoum armed them as militias to fight insurgency in the South. For the first time machine guns were used in cattle rustlings and abductions in South Sudan. Although the SPLA/M kept Murle in check through fighting in the middle of 1980s, the Nuer, Anuak, Toposa and Dinka tribes neighbouring Murle were armed with AK-47s and were able to protect their cattle whenever they came under attack. Abductions of kids and cattle rustling were controlled because each tribe was able to provide its own security by deploying armed youth to retrieve cattle and abducted kids whenever armed Murle attacked villages.
The biggest mistake committed by Salva Kiir’s regime in terms of security is when it decided to disarm the tribes neighbouring Murle in 2006 without capacity to provide them security and protection in time of danger. Not only that Kiir’s regime failed to disarm Murle in 2006 but also failed to deploy the SPLA army to protect the Toposa, Anuak, Nuer and Dinka from Murle who were still holding guns and were determined to exploit the situation. In pastoralist societies of South Sudan, cattle are the livelihood of the communities that if they are being stolen by a certain community it could surely spark a tribal war. The British colonial administration prior to 1956 understood the importance of cattle and never messed up with their protection. Unfortunately, the SPLM/A guerrilla commanders like Salva Kiir failed to understand their own society and embarked on a dangerous mission of disarming communities without providing security. The most important thing for pastoralist society is protection of cattle, not protection of border between the North and South Sudan.
2. Failure of Kiir’s regime to find a solution to Murle’s cattle rustling and abductions
The tragedy facing South Sudan today is lack of visionary leadership which should provide solutions to all problems facing the newly independent nation. The issue of cattle rustling in Jonglei is something which was misdiagnosed by Salva Kiir Mayardit who is expected by the people of South Sudan to provide rational solutions to address the problem. When his regime decided to disarm the Nuer and Dinka civilians of Jonglei in 2006, the rationale was that too many guns in the hands of civilians were detrimental to their lives and security. When the Nuer and Dinka chiefs of Jonglei raised a legitimate concern about the problem of cattle rustling prior to disarmament, Salva Kiir brushed it aside and refused to address the concern.
After the disarmament of Nuer and Dinka of Jonglei, so many people were killed as a result of cattle rustling. The statistics demonstrated that the number of civilians killed after disarmament was hundred times more than the civilians killed between 1983 and 2005 as a result of cattle rustling. In 2011 alone, 1,600 civilians died as a result of cattle rustling and 800 wounded. The Murle committed genocide twice against the Nuer without any response from Kiir’s regime. In 2009, Murle massacred 350 Lou-Nuer women, children and elderly in Nyandit Payam. Prior to that, people were also massacred in 2007 and 2008. The worst genocide ever to occur in Nuerland is the massacre of 720 people in Uror County on August, 18, 2011.
Other ethnic groups in Jonglei state also experienced killings particularly among Dinka community. The recent massacre took place on December,5, 2011 in Jalle and Maar Payams where over 50 innocent civilians were killed. With all the massacres against the Nuer and Dinka civil population, the regime of Kiir Mayardit never intervened to save the lives of the people they are supposed to protect. The government didn’t bother itself to address the crimes being committed against the Nuer and Dinka after disarming them in 2006.
Instead to provide rational solutions, President Kiir argued that Murle abduct kids because they cannot bear children due to venereal disease (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhsQb8UR7AQ) which affects the entire tribe. He talked about the need to build hospital in Pibor town that would invite international experts to treat Murle. Unfortunately, he has never invited specialists let alone building a hospital. The only clinic which exists in Pibor town is run by the MSF. His regime has never built a hospital let alone the invalidity of his claims. There is no scientific evidence to prove that Murle have venereal disease which prevented them from bearing kids as Salva Kiir wants us to believe. The medical community is wondering where the President got his evidence that the tribe is infertile because of venereal disease! There may be gynecological problem for the reason why Murle cannot produce more kids in comparison to Nuer and Dinka. But nobody has medical evidence that the problem is venereal disease. It could be genetic or environmental problem and nobody for sure could make a legitimate claim without scientific studies.
Even if there is a medical proof that Murle have fertility problem, treatment can take years to correct the situation. The Nuer and Dinka whose kids are abducted daily cannot wait for Gynecologists to correct the infertility first. The civilians want immediate protection from such abductions and cattle rustling. If Salva Kiir believes that treating Murle is the best option to address cattle rustling and abduction of kids, he should quickly re-arm the Nuer and Dinka to protect themselves until medical science is able to cure Murle’s infertility which compelled them to abduct kids. The fundamental priority of Nuer and Dinka civilians is security and they don’t have time to wait for medical experiments which could take years to address the problem.
The reason why Salva Kiir disarmed civilians in 2006 was to protect them from harm. If what he did is now yielding opposite results, it is reasonable for civilians to arm themselves so that they will protect their kids and cattle. The primary responsibility of a government is to provide security to the citizens. If a government lacks the capacity to do so, then, it follows logically that there is no government in South Sudan and the citizens should bear arms to protect their lives and properties. In the Unites States which has a capacity to produce guided missiles, civilians still bear arms for their own protection because a government cannot provide one hundred percent protection to an individual.
Statistics in South Sudan demonstrates than Nuer and Dinka of Jonglei were more secure prior to 2006 disarmament than after Kiir’s regime forcefully disarmed them. The increase death toll after disarmament challenges the Kiir’s rationale for disarming the civilians because he could not provide them security. It took EPRDF’s government of Meles Zenawi five years to disarm Ethiopian communities after toppling the regime of Mengistu Hailemariam. In 1991, Meles Zenawi told various communities in Ethiopia to keep their firearms until the government was able to provide security. The first disarmament in Gambella region of Ethiopia which borders eastern South Sudan took place in1996 after the federal government was capable to protect civilians.
3. Resolutions of the meetings
The participants, after deliberating the action plan the Nuer White Army should pursue, have agreed on the followings:
3.1. The problem of insecurity in Jonglei should squarely be blamed on Murle tribe which has been stealing Nuer, Dinka and Anuak properties for more than three hundred years. Murle’s cattle-rustling is a menace that will never be resolved even if the SPLA and UN forces are deployed because it has become part of Murle’s culture. Given the vastness of Jonglei and Upper Nile states, the Nuer, Dinka and Anuak communities should not rely on the SPLA and UN forces to protect their kids and cattle.
3.2. The Nuer White Army and Dinka White Army must continue disarming Murle throughout the year until they are completely subdued and shall not pose any threat to people and properties. The operation which took place on December, 23rd, 2011 should not be the last one because Murle will retaliate against Nuer and Dinka civilians.
3.3. The Nuer and Dinka youth must raise a force of 50,000as white army to fully protect their properties and villages. Murle are very illusive people who are trained from early age in how to attack and steal cattle. To fully protect communities, the Nuer and Dinka youth must have a force over 50,000 which shall be armed for self-defense.
3.4. The Nuer community in USA, Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Australia must raise funds for the Nuer White Army to defend properties and cattle of Nuer civilians. The money shall be used to purchase firearms and ammunition from Ethiopia. The Nuer Diaspora must also bear financial burden to buy medicine for the treatment of the wounded members of the White Army.
3.5. The Nuer White Army must reject any attempt to be disarmed by the SPLA army. The Nuer Diaspora condemned the Resolution of Council of Ministers on January, 4, 2012, which called for disarmament of civilians in Jonglei without paying attention to the security threat posed by Murle. The only community that should be disarmed now is Murle community because it the source of instability in the entire eastern South Sudan.
3.6. The SPLA and UN forces must be deployed at the border between Murle and other tribes to deter armed Murle from stealing cattle and abducting kids. If security prevails for a period of three years and there are no more cattle rustling, the Nuer and Dinka white armies shall lay down their weapons and surrender them to the government. Any disarmament must be based on existence of security on the ground.
3.7. In the event that Salva Kiir’s regime insists on forced disarmament of Nuer and Dinka youth, the Nuer Diaspora would advise the Nuer White Army to join hands with Dinka, Anuak and Shilluk youth to form Youth Resistance Movement that shall mobilize South Sudan youth to launch popular uprising that will bring dynamic change in Juba. The events which happened in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and the rest of the Middle East should serve as encouragement and motivation for South Sudan youth to work together to address the root causes of insecurity in South Sudan.
3.8. In any dialogue with international community, the Nuer White Army shall be represented by Nuer Youth in the Diaspora that will formulate modalities to deal with ongoing crisis in Jonglei. It has been resolved that the Nuer elders, chiefs, religious figures and politicians are not legitimate representatives of Nuer White Army. Any peaceful resolution of the conflict must be between Murle youth on one hand and Nuer—Dinka youth on the other hand.