By Peter Reat Gatkuoth
April 10, 2012 (SSNA) — The year proceeding to the independent day of the South Sudan saw the first defection and open armed rebellion among the Southern soldiers. Some fought for unpredicted agenda and other had personal hidden issues to pursue within the rebel system. Among those defected individuals, some of them are pure civilians who had never been in training camp either from old Bilpham or from the current Bilpham. These group lack military training and discipline. This is why their action often resulted into indiscriminate killing of the civilian and the destruction of civilians’ properties. Being an army officer meant a lot in the developed countries where law are above everything. The society always looked at you as an individual with respect to human value and human dignity base on the perception that you have taken an appropriate and enough training.
Training in Military Academy means brainwashing the civilian perceptions, belief and prefer them for better duty in their chosen career. It meant to prepare someone to have skill and experience when dealing with uncertainty. An individual who had not given proper training is always kept away from guns or they are not allowed to carry the guns simply because h/she does not know the military regulation or legal consequences of mishandling military materials. The perception behind this was that those who are not trained well could do harm to civilian indiscriminately and the good example was the Fangak Massacre in Jonglei State. Giving someone a Military General’s license without proper training is an insult to the SPLA Military Academy. It reduces the system of the SPLA down to the lowest level and it will always lead the system to be challenged because civilian who are hired act like civilian. They always will make worse or simply decision like civilian while favouring the villagers.
Experience tells us that this system of hiring/promoting villagers had once destroyed the system of SSIM/SSIA because some commanders, after the split (August 28/1991) had brought their family from the villages to sit on the top of the trained ranking officers. What can you expect between the civilian commanders who do not know how to give even the report to the unit commander and the first Lt. Army officers who were trained and had full experiences/skills in Bonga since 1986? Disrespect emerged and mistrust within the system increased simply because the officers had no trust and they disregard themselves in the system. If the policy of the military code is not handled well, then it often leads into the failure of the whole system.
Imagine Dr John Garang happened to be alive today by chance, he would simply cry because it would be impossible for him to talk to the Generals who had never been in Military Academy training for at least four years. Keeping the rank rewarding system restricted is a policy of making sure that all new recruits had enough training and practice within the military field. It is like hiring employees’ policy because you cannot reward a new employee for $30 dollars per hour while others were there working for $20 dollars per hour for many years without an increase rate. If the employees discover such an action, they will definitely throw you out through the windows instead.
I believe it would be a very shocking experience and scary option for late Dr John Garang to visit the SPLA Military garrison, full of a newly officers who were not trained well because they lack the military discipline and the rule of engagement. The rules of engagement in the military units are the legal frameworks that guide army personnel in any activities or use of force. These regulations are designed as the control mechanism that allows force to be used across the spectrum of conflict with clear instructions. The rules of engagement in military unit or system are very important “lawful commands” or important steps that all trained soldiers had practiced during the training period. In most cases, all soldiers live with such a regulating disciplined practice as long as they are still working in the army unit. It is considered as very significant and important military norm that always regulate the conduct of soldiers engaged in an army activities. Perhaps it will be a good lesson to the SPLA commanding unit that has rewarded a defected civilian from civil services to the rank of General, a rank that some of the trained Bilpham groups had never dreamt to get in shortest period of time.
David Yau Yau was a member of Jonglei community recently prior to his lost against his opponent. After the failure to achieve the seat that he has fought for as an MP, he defected to the bush, recruiting his supporters to rebel against the Juba government. Few months after the election, he announced his intention to join the SPLA force, an intention to deceive the SPLA Command Unit in order to get a high ranks. It is also a policy to gain trust within the SPLA system. The fear by then is the operation that he will be conducting, mainly against the civil population who are unarmed in Jonglei. It is very clear by then that David Yau Yau, a General who has no ideas about the rule of engagement, principle of distinction and precaution will conduct an immediate indiscriminating attack against the civil population of Jonglei community or perhaps Upper Nile State without respect of humanity and human value. Who should be blamed; the SPLA Command Unit or the ruling party?
In the whole world or in the military system, one who defected does not always deserve any promotion beyond his/her crew. The reasons why the military command unit do not favour such a move is because it cause disrespect, differences within the system and therefore sometimes result into more defections. I think the SPLA Command Unit had made a wrong choice in the wrong time to promote David Yau Yau to the rank of General. If they were to give him some merits as an appreciation for his cooperation during the integration, Yau Yau would have been given a rank of Captain at least……a maximum ranks a civilian who is educated could get while in training for some period of time. This should be done simply to bring the people that he has blindfolded back to the system and get severe training for one year.
South Sudan Military policy need to be reshaped as the SPLA army became a national and regular army. Weak regulation will fail the system and it will affect the residents and the citizens of the country because army officers that have no proper training will cause injustice, for instance an army officer who was not train usually support folks in the village rather than the rule of law. Rule of Engagement, practising by the soldiers always appear in a variety of forms in national military doctrines, including execute orders, deployment orders, promotion system, operational plans or standing directives. Whatever their form is, they provide authorization and/or limits on the use of regulations, the positioning and posturing of forces and the employment of certain specific capabilities.
The principles of humanity and distinction in the military rule of engagement always highlighted and prohibited the use of forces against the civilian. Lack of good training and promotion of inexperience officer always lead into societal destruction because an Army officer who has not gone through proper training usually executed an inappropriate order without consulting the highest officers or assessing the situation carefully and critically. The experience of Fangak attack by George Athor officers indicated that those who attack the Fangak were pure villagers, being hired and promoted as officers while they had never gone into disciplined training.
Military attacks that do not use the rule of proportionality, discrimination and distinction are always likely to cause civilian suffering and damage of their properties. This is obvious from the massive violence against civilian populations around the South Sudan territories. And it is true throughout the conflict history of the South Sudan that most fighters do not see civilians as humanitarian agencies might see them. The SPLA must provide the guidance and limitations to ensure that the military forces are aware of the proper conduct and response levels appropriate and proportional to the mission objectives. They should not be deceived by anyone who regrouped the hunger people in the bush for personal agenda. The command unit must make sure that no one plays the game theory in order to achieve some benefits and merits within the shortest time while others soldiers served long enough since 1980s without better promotion.
The writer is a graduate student of International Law and Human Rights in the United Nation University for Peace. You can reach him for any comment at [email protected]