To: Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the (Peoples’) Republic of South Sudan
Dear Mr. President,
February 2, 2012 (SSNA) — We the undersigned members of Panrieng County, South Sudan, would like to take this golden opportunity to once again, congratulate you and the people of South Sudan for having recently taken a bold step towards our true and lasting independence. The recent decision by your government to shut down oil production across the country in order to counteract the irresponsible act of thievery and belligerent behaviour of vainglorious militants in Khartoum is clearly a great step in the right direction. Our dependence on the terrorism sponsoring government of Khartoum, with the support of their Islamic ideologues, in respect of oil infrastructure was potentially suicidal. The sooner we anticipate the detriments of such a reliance, the safer and more proactive we are. For this reason, we the undersigned citizens, like all other South Sudanese around the world, are earnestly supportive of the position taken by the Government of South Sudan (GOSS). We also register our full support for the construction of new pipelines passing through friendly states. Although such a move was indeed long overdue, the proverbial adage that it is ‘better late than never,’ has appropriately been fulfilled.
This decision is also laudatory for another great and important reason: it removes the so called-oil-sharing-agreement from the table of negotiation with the Taliban-like government in Khartoum. It is our hope that the GOSS Delegation does not table this item anymore unless it is tied in with other fundamental issues in order to reach a comprehensive deal. We ask you to stay steadfast in this regard or we will feel badly betrayed should your government decide otherwise.
But the nucleus of writing this open-letter to you, Mr. President, is to draw your attention to something more specific to our people’s situation in Ruweng and Biemnhom Counties in Unity State. While we acknowledge that your government appears to be making commendable progress, albeit, faltering occasionally as expected, we would like to once again, bring to your attention, as we did before, the alarming rate of Nuerisation of the state government in Unity State or Western Upper Nile State.
The State of Politics and Nuerisation of Government in Western Upper Nile
To begin with, it is plainly obvious that the government of Unity State is a government that serves the interest of one ethnic group: the Nuer. Indeed even though the state comprises two ethnic groups, namely, the Dinka (25% of the state population) and the Nuer (75% of the state population), the process of Nuerisation of the state politics appears to be at its peak. Ideally, this approach to governance runs counter to what was envisioned by Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, about 150 years ago. In his most famous speech yet, the Gettysburg Address, in 1863, Lincoln rightly underscored an enduring democratic principle that democratic governance is one in which a government belongs to the people, not to oligarchs or portion of the peoples thereof. Put equivalently, it must be a ‘government of the people by the people and for the people.’
The Western Upper Nile State government, under the leadership of Gov. Taban, has betrayed this noble Lincolnian principle because, as matters stand now, the Unity State government is a debased government whose administrative policies go against the grain of the principle of statecraft in its modern terms. Even independent observers have accurately prophesied that the Tabanic System is unquestionably a ticking time bomb not only because of its ineptness and incompetence but more importantly because of its discriminatory approach to governance, where governance is based on personality cult. One such an independent observation was contained in the 2011 report by the International Crisis Group last year. The report pointedly warned that governance in Unity State presents very unique challenges not just because of rampant corruption and the wide reign of kleptocracy across the state but also due to unwillingness of the state governor to form an inclusive government. In a verbatim the report made it clear that “Politics in Unity are deeply polarised, and the reverberations are felt well beyond state boundaries. Citizens in many states harbour grievances about their local governments, but resentment is particularly palpable and widespread in Unity.”
This statement is certainly a euphemism for the unwritten policy of Nuerization of the state government at the expense of the Dinka people of the state. With that in mind, we the undersigned citizens would like to be upfront and call your attention, Mr. President, to the ongoing obnoxious practice of marginalization of the two Dinka counties and their people with respect to the running and governance of the state affairs, including but not limited to the following areas:
Representation in the State Government:
The government is entirely dominated by one ethnic group. Unlike Jonglei or Upper Nile states in which allocations of government positions is fairly representative in ethnic terms, the entire government in Unity State is dominated by the Nuer ethnic group. For instance, the Governor is a Nuer, the Deputy Governor is a Nuer, the Speaker is a Nuer, and almost all chairpersons of specialised committees and directors are Nuer nationals. Out of nearly 64 senior positions of key decision-making and leadership, only 11 positions are allocated to the Dinka from the two counties. The same applies to the positions of directors, advisors and other positions of public service including employment in various departments in the civil service and in the running of state apparatuses such as state commissions. In general, when all is put together, more than 95% of the positions are currently occupied by Nuer. Put differently, apart from senior positions, to be outlined shortly, there are less than 15 positions given to the Dinka counties out of more than 200 none-senior positions in civil and other positions of public service. Furthermore, employment in the Police Force, Wildlife and many other organs or state departments, and or state-owned projects are entirely occupied and led by Nuer. The case in point is the employment of citizens in the fields in respect of which more than 98% of the employees are Nuer despite the fact that more than 60% of the oil produced in the state comes mainly from Panrieng County. Clearly this state of affairs is reminiscent of the days when the Sudan got independence. At the time, out of 180 Parliamentary positions, only 6 positions were allocated to the South. Are the Nuer ethnic chauvenists, under the opprobrious leadership of ethnic extremists Governor Taban Deang Gai — new colonisers of the Dinka in the state?
Composition of Government of Unity State as of 2010
Governor: Brigadier Taban Deng Gai (Nuer)
Deputy Governor and State Minister of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Development:
Mr. William Daud Riak (Nuer)
State Business Committee:
Speaker of the State Assembly-Brigadier Simon Maguek Gai Majak (Nuer)
Deputy Speaker – Juma Puok Gatkek (Nuer)
- Colonel Samuel Luony Geng: Minister of Animal Resources and Fisheries (Nuer)
- Mr. Thomas Jal Thomas: State Minister of Finance, Trade and Industry (Nuer)
- Engineer Diew Charow Kuel: State Minister of physical Infrastructure and Urban Development (Nuer)
- Mr. Them Michar Kuol: State Minister of Education, Science and Technology (Dinka)
- Mr. Stephen Pei Bilieu: State Minister of Parliamentary Affairs (Nuer)
- Engineer William Gatjang Geng: State Minister of Environment and Natural Resources (Nuer)
- Mrs. Deborah Kur Minyiel: State Minister of Health (Dinka)
- Mr. Joseph GaiRiek: State Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement (Nuer)
- Mr. Buoth Puok Baluang: State Minister of Agriculture and Forestry (Nuer)
- Mr Joseph Arop Mialual: State Minister of Labour and Public Service (Dinka)
- Mr Gideon Gatpan Thor: State Minister of Information and Communication (Nuer)
- Mr Samuel Reyhok Nger: State Minister of Social Development (Nuer)
State Government Advisors
- Colonel Michael Chiangjiek Geay: Security Affairs (Nuer)
- Mrs. Nyachieng Biy Tueat: Gender and Child Welfare (Nuer)
- Mr. John Yak Jany: Political Affairs (Nuer)
- Colonel Stephen ThieyYar: Peace and Reconciliation (Nuer)
- Mr. Samuel Sudan Tot: Culture, Youth and Sports (Nuer)
- Mrs. Teresa Nyakat Chuol: Humanitarian and Food Security (Nuer)
- Mrs. Norino Nyagai Tut Lul: Housing and Public Utilities (Nuer)
- TBA will be the State Advisor for Economic Affairs
Chairpersons of Specialized Committees
- Legal Affairs – Simon Barnabas (Nuer)
- Economy Affairs – Guol Jiel Bekot (Nuer)
- Services Affairs – Lubna Abdelgana (Nuer)
- Security Affairs – AropYuot Kamaud (Dinka)
- Local Government Affairs – Gatkuoth Hothnyang (Nuer)
- Members Affairs – Zaki Garang Deng Dinka)
- Information & Communication – Gatjuot JiechWour (Nuer)
- Energy & Mining Affairs – William Ruei Lok(Nuer)
- Social Welfare Affairs – Jacob Mading Kok (Dinka)
- Peace & Reconciliation Affairs – William Theangjiek Toang (Nuer)
- Land, Natural Resources & Environment Affairs – Mary Pual Nguendeng (Nuer)
- Women and Child Affairs – Nyakal Joseph Kong (Nuer)
- Human Rights Affairs – Daniel Gai Bath (Nuer)
- Culture, Youth & Sport Affairs – Gabriel Ngor Marial (Dinka)
- Legal Affairs (Deputy) – Maria Nyakhor Waat (Nuer)
- Services Committee (Deputy) – Faud Mut Ngoang (Nuer)
- Security Committee (Deputy) -James Madut Ruei (Nuer)
- Economic Affairs (Deputy)-Mabiel Tuak Law (Nuer)
- Local Government (Deputy) – Kulang Gatluak Thon (Nuer)
- Women & Children (Deputy) – Angelina Clement Gatot (Nuer)
- Social Welfare (Deputy) – Awathip Ngok Kueth (Nuer)
- Culture & Information (Deputy) -Sarah Louis Lamba (Nuer)
- Land & Environment (Deputy) – Hajah Gai Rier (Nuer)
- Members Affairs (Deputy) – Majid Wuor Dau (Dinka)
- Energy & Mining (Deputy) – Kerbino Puok Gtaluak (Nuer)
- Peace & Reconciliation (Deputy) – Aluel Dau Adul (Dinka)
- Culture, Youth & Sport (Deputy) – Jerom Thon Dhuor (Dinka)
- Human Right (Deputy) – Peter MakuelRiek (Nuer)
- Agriculture (Deputy) – David Juang Puok (Nuer)
Directorate of Contracts, Legal Aid, Human Rights Convention and Treaties
- Director: Deng Kuot Michar (Dinka)
- Legal Counselor: James Deng Kau Akon (Dinka)
- Legal Counselor: George Aleu Deng Aleu (Dinka)
- Legal Counselor: Geek Puot Dak (Nuer)
- Legal Counselor: Dut Isaac Kuot (Nuer)
Directorate of the Commissions
- Director for Land Commission: Joseph Nhial Ruac (Nuer)
- Director for Investment: Liah Mut Kuon (Nuer)
- State Director for DDR Commission: Charles Machieng (Nuer)
- State Director for HIV/AID Commission: Paul Puot Juoc (Nuer)
- State Director for Peace Commission: James Nien Nhial (Nuer)
- State Director for Anti-Corruption Commission: Mut Kuon (Nuer)
Total: 64. Dinka are given only 11 positions and all 53 positions have all been allocated to and occupied by Nuer
Health and Water Facilities:
Panrieng and Biemnhom counties are in a deplorable, if not an emergency, state of health service delivery, and are acutely in need of clean drinking water. Yet, as a matter of fact, this is a deliberate dereliction of duty, if not political machination, on the part of state authorities. What is happening in Unity State is a stark reminder of the Panrieng Genocide masterminded by Dr. Riek Machar in the 1980s forward, which peaked in the 1990s. When the disease of kala-azar, for instance, broke out in the state in the mid1980s, an outbreak which eventually wiped out a significant portion of Panrieng people, Dr. Riek deliberately and pitilessly decided to locate all the three kala-azar clinics on Nuer land, several hundred kilometres south from Panrieng County, leaving the Dinka to die hopelessly in their hundreds every day. Not only did this genocidal policy lead to the death of the Dinka in the order of 50% of the population at the time, it was also the case that those who managed to reach those clinics by walking for weeks were butchered in their hospital beds when Riek declared his coup against the SPLM in 1991. Furthermore, before Riek declared the coup against Chairman Garang, Dinka patients who managed to reach those clinics were treated differently. They were given the most junior health attendants to look after them. In some cases, Dinka patients were given placebos or wrong drugs instead of the kala-azar curing drugs. Worse yet, they were treated, if any, after the Nuers were treated first. They lined up differently from the Nuer counterparts.
Clearly what is happening in Unity State today under the infamous Taban is something similar in nature and approach to what happened in Unity State between 1987 and 1998 during which period Riek was either the Zonal Commander or both Riek and Taban were accomplices in the genocidal crimes committed by the NIF in the Panrieng oil fields. At the time of this writing, February 2012, there is no single hospital staffed and equipped with at least good facilities in the counties belonging to the state Dinka communities, a state that receives 2% before independence of RSS, now a 5% of the federal revenues generated from oil produced in that state. Similarly the issue of drinking water is still a major threat to our people’s survival when every county in Nuer territory has abundance of clean drinking water. Needless to say, schools are nowhere to be found in our sisterly counties and if there are, they were never built by the state or if built by the state, they are of a lower standard and no teachers have been trained and dispatched to teach children in our two counties.
Taban is managing the whole state like his personal property. Government positions are rewarded on the basis of loyalty, not qualifications. He threatens individuals who dare to question his iron fist policies with summary dismissals and other severe penalties. Taban is the lord who gives and takes. It is in this system that the Ruweng people have entirely been marginalised and are required to beg for their legitimate share in the government as if they have no rights in the process of running the state in the first place. In fact till recently, Nuer were the heads of payam administration in Panrieng County. No single Dinka has ever been a payam administrator in any single one Nuer county. Did the South Sudanese take up liberation arms only to replace old oppressors with new oppressors?
Manipulation of the Borders, Land Grabbing, Banning of Dinka Language Services on Bentiu FM Radio
The Taban who signed away Karsana and Heglig (Panthou/Aliiny) areas of Panrieng County in 2006, a treacherous move that should be considered treasonous because it not only ultra-vires the powers of a governor but because it significantly endangered our national security and legitimate interests of South Sudanese, is the same Taban who has consistently abused his official powers by daring to grab upon himself the land that traditionally belongs to the people of Ruweng County. The current mansion he has built at Manga is entirely in the heart of Dinka land. When he was asked by Panaruu elders in 2008, he sent his community to threaten the Dinka with war. His proxies dared the Dinka to suck it up or take the land back by force. In this regard not only has Taban commandeered a Dinka territory, he has also redrawn the map by interfering with county borders between the Dinka Counties by allowing the Rubkona and Bul Counties to portion up the border between Biemnhom and Panrieng Counties. His abuse of power at the expense of Dinka is clearly a recipe for a national disaster. In other words, it does appear that Taban is clearly fermenting or potentially masterminding the nature of violent episodes witnessed in Jonglei State between Lou Nuer and Murle. Furthermore, it is also worth mentioning that Mr. Taban has unilaterally entered into an illegal contract with multinational companies to use the Dinka toich areas as a state agricultural land, even without consulting the community. Finally, Taban has recently condoned a ban on Dinka Radio services on Bentiu FM, where notorious and radical Nuer men, who are anti-Dinka in everything, have moved to stop the radio from announcing important messages in Dinka.
It therefore follows that the state is being run and administered as a Nuer entity. Consequently, equitable dispensation of power, resources and opportunities among different ethnic groups inhabiting the state is considered a mere fantasy. In short, the ongoing tension in Unity State is simmering a long-lasting negation of creating a cohesive state and Juba should not simply ignore it because it will, in the long run, have long term consequences in all aspects of the life of our people. In the meantime, both the federal and state governments should spare no efforts in their attempt to create conditions favouring peaceful environment for co-existence among various groups; to bring to an end the illegal occupation of the Dinka land; eradicate Taban’s divide-and-rule policy on the Dinka people and finally, to swiftly put to an end to political patronage that has characterised the one-man-Nuer-system in the State.
It is imperative to say that the ongoing rebellion in Unity State was partially caused by the political exclusion of the rest of the State citizens by Governor Taban. Areas made worse off by this archaic rule are northern counties of the State (particularly Biemnhom, Panrieng and Bul counties) in favour of southern counties.
The State citizens generally and we, the undersigned citizens, specifically do expect the next government to be inclusive when it is formed and to create a political environment where there are checks and balances so as to leave no room for ethnic chauvinism that has, hitherto, bred political and economic domination of the state by one ethnic group and to create a state where there is an equitable, shared and fair governance. It is patently unreasonable and indeed, a travesty of justice to have all four (4) powerful top leaders namely, Governor, Deputy Governor, State Assembly Speaker, in addition to Finance Minister, Local Government and Law Enforcement Minister, Minister of Labour etc., from one ethnic group (Nuer) in a multi-national state. Why not adopt the Upper Nile and Jonglei States’ models in which all ethnic groups are structurally represented in the government?
To eliminate corruption, we demand that leaders be held accountable to citizens and be treated by the law like any other citizens in accordance with the rule of law. Besides the act of siphoning or channelling state resources into individual leaders’ pockets or offering scholarships to their children rather than to able children, we are of the opinion that having the same county commissioners occupy the same position for more than a decade, because they collude with governors in plundering resources, speak volumes about the state of corruption in our country. In the meantime, we call upon Gov. Gai to reshuffle the State Government by replacing commissioners, who have consistently failed to offer basic services to the people and to bring new faces so that service delivery is done in a timely and reasonable manner and in consultation with the people.
Above all, for all the above and more reasons, we are deeply saddened by the state of politics in Unity State and ask for your immediate intervention to resolve the issue of marginalization once and for all.
Why not learn from the past mistakes which caused all kind of conflicts throughout old Sudan and South Sudan in particular?
Would it not be a good idea to avoid ‘divide-and-rule’ policy or internal marginalization in all aspects, which often leads to social conflicts among different ethnic groups and put in place what will guarantee peaceful co-existence among all ethnic groups in South Sudan in the long run?
Why not implement the core ideologies that South Sudanese fought for and for which millions of heroes gave up their lives in the name of “justice, liberty, democracy and prosperity” written in the SPLM Historic documents, principles which are now engraved on the Coat of Arms of South Sudan?
If there is no political pluralism, economic pluralism, social pluralism, and cultural pluralism after the independence of RSS, would it not be just hypocrisy after all the efforts made by our people who paid so dearly during the struggle for freedom that lasted for almost six decades?
Sincerely concerned Panrieng County citizens,