August 24, 2012 (SSNA) — I was preparing my second novel (The Pipers) for publication so I had no time to respond to Elhag Paul’s response (SSN, July 29th) to my article (SSN July 19th). This article will be superficial given the angle and the manner Mr. Paul has taken to handle the issue; and that is, he’s mentally fixated on the fact that the problem in Juba is squarely a Dinka-engendered problem.
So every Jieng person has to bear the responsibility of the insecurity and economic mess the country is facing. Now, each and every Jieng person has to keep in mind that Elhag Paul is holding ALL of you people responsible for the problems we are facing. I bet the Jieng people have to change to make Mr. Paul pacified and respectful of Jieng’s humanity.
Well, Mr. Paul will have to tell us my conjectures above are wrong and that he means something different. However, I like literary, political and analytical discourses that are handled with emotional maturity and political realism. I’m glad Mr. Paul has emotional maturity, well, not so much political realism.
I’m writing not because I’m a Jieng man but because we have to scour our political landscape for solutions so that Nyoka in Kaya can take her kids to school in peace and also find a job relevant to her education and experience. We need to remind the government that Nyakong in Akobo needs a secure home, school and well-equipped clinics for her children.
We have to write because we are solution-focused. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be hate-filled reservoirs motivated by our tribal allegiances. Every single corrupt soul should be exposed for who they are; and not protected because they are from one’s tribe. Anyone familiar with my commentaries over the years knows that I don’t spare anyone. Whether it was Dr. John Garang or Salva Kiir or Pagan Amum or Riek Machar; I give them their dues. So, enough of that!
Definition of Dinkocracy
How about what Mr. Paul says about Dinkocracy? Mr. Paul defines ‘Dinkocracy as
"a system of rule that can be found in South Sudan based on tribalism whereby parliament is either wholly or partially filled by appointment of corrupt members. Institutions and structures that are presently in place are just for face saving purpose. In this system consultation and citizen’s rights are not respected. The views and opinions of citizens also do not mean anything. Looting and corruption is accepted as a method of wealth gathering with the façade that the government is working to address it. The police force is predominantly illiterate and come from the ruling tribe. Their job is to administer brute injustice. Violence is routinely exercised freely by members of the ruling tribe (in the organised forces) with impunity. Government officials are guarded and protected by their kith and kin as opposed to agents of the state."
Now, if that is the definition of ‘Dinkocracy’ then Mr. Paul is either trying to be clever or he doesn’t know what he’s actually saying. The definition and his actual application of the word are different. I’m not trying to be ‘subtly abusive’ here. For the term ‘Dinkocracy’ to make any sense, the word Dinka has to appear somewhere in the definition. I do understand the ‘ruling tribe’ being alluded to is Jieng; however, the definition has to be unequivocally clear; otherwise, what Mr. Paul is defining is a general ‘Tribocracy’ or tribal tyranny (dictatorship/totalitarianism/fascism). The given definition can apply to any tribe given the ‘ruling tribe’ of the time. So Dinkocracy, Nuerocracy, or Bariocracy are all subsets of Tribocracy.
What makes the system in Juba Dinkocracy, as per Mr. Paul, is because the ruling party majority is Jieng (Dinka). Would the system of governance still be Dinkocracy if the ruling tribe wasn’t Jieng (Dinka)? The answer is No in honesty. The rulers in Juba are not all dinkocrats; they are tribocrats of different tribocracies overshadowed by one tribocracy.
Bari, or Nuer, if they are in power, wouldn’t want to belittle themselves by adopting, or adhering to, a different tribal system of governance. Nuer, Bari, Acholi, Azande and what have you, have their own rich, and grounded tribal systems of government. They’d want to brandish their tribal heritage. Mr. Paul will convince us that the ruling tribe would adopt the instituted system based on the rule of the former power tribe; the Jieng.
I’ll therefore ask Mr. Paul to give us another definition because what he’s defined is just Tribal Dictatorship with no tribal specificity; only sinister allusion.
Jiengcenterism vs. Dinkocracy
Mr. Paul assumed I misunderstood the meaning of Dickocracy. No, I didn’t; he’s just given us a term that is loosely defined. Dinkocracy is a system of governance in Juba as he says, but is that system of governance based on which tribe’s tribal thoughts? The thought informing the governance in Juba, as per Mr. Paul, are from the ‘ruling tribe’. So the government is driven by self-centered thoughts from Jieng (Dinka) making South Sudan a land informed by Jieng’s ways of life, supposedly. I’m not saying this is true; I’m just working with Mr. Paul’s line of thought.
You can’t have a system of government controlled and informed by the thinking of a given tribe and maintain, at the same time, that that system is not that tribe-centered. That sounds oxymoronic at best and pointless at worse.
Just to make things clear, I admit, Jiengcenterism might not be Dinkocracy, but Dinkocracy in all its essence, if I understand it well, is Jiengcentered. Jiengcenterism might not be Dinkocracy because Jiengcenterism isn’t restricted to the system of governance or government. However, Dinkocracy is Jiengcenterism because it’s derived from it. It’s one of the subsets of Jiengcentered spectrum of ideas.
Elitism and Aristocracy in Juba
I didn’t say we have elites in Juba per se. What I said was that these guys are building a society of elites to remain on top as untouchables. If Wani’s son and I go to President Kiir now in search of a job, Kiir would not prefer me because of my tribe or qualifications. He’s going to prefer wani’s son over me even if Wani’s son isn’t qualified for that given job. He’ll identify with Wani’s son on the basis of the elitist system they are building. They see themselves as important aristocrats of the country. That’s clear. And by the way, an elite doesn’t have to be an important, moral person, as Mr. Paul wants us to believe.
Besides, Mr. Paul, your understanding of aristocracy is anachronistic. You wrote:
Aristocrats are land owning ruling people who the masses accept as rulers because they believe them to be superior. The notion of aristocracy has its origins in feudalism, nation state and the theory of chain of being.
This is what I call copy-and-paste-to-dazzle. Would you call the government in the USA democracy? Maybe Cleisthenes’s intention when he instituted ‘democracy’ in Athens isn’t what is being practiced in the world now. His intentions and methods are different but we still call our electoral processes ‘democracies.’ What I’m saying is things don’t have to be understood in their primordial sense. Yes, history has to be kept in mind for meaningful comparison and discourse.
This is another unhelpful anachronism. You wrote that
A nation is a society of people who share the same cultures and more importantly speak one language such as the French in France, the English in England, the Germans [sic] in Germany or the Swazi people in Swaziland in Africa etc. In RSS we are a society composed of different tribes with different cultures and languages.
Granted, but this is not 19th century! Part of understanding of a given idea is to apply it to the existing realities, not to adhere to out-of-place and archaic understanding of the concept. It’s unfortunate to say that because we no longer have ‘feudalism’ and land ownership in the 19th century feudal understanding, then we can’t apply it now whatsoever.
Now, contextualized, we can say we have this systems now only to a different degree and in a context. We have leaders in Juba who have a feeling of superiority and who are grabbing lands from Equatorians. Some leaders are doing that in other parts of the country. You will be surprised to understand that some people still regard these commanders as respectable leaders who shouldn’t be questioned.
This is partly an imposition of their aristocratic intentions. They would want to wield their power and wealth and subjugate the poor. If you understand feudalism, you can apply it appropriately and intelligently to existing realities. This is the difference between going to school and getting educated.
All in all, some concepts have to be contextualized to fit in with contemporary realities. Saying that South Sudan is not a nation given your archaic understanding, then many countries wouldn’t be nations. No country would be a nation if we go by strict application of linguistic and cultural homogeneity. Mr. Paul, you have to apply old concepts with an air of contemporariness; otherwise, you’re only reading and not understanding.
Who’s benefiting in the South
You wrote that “People like Wani Igga, Alison Magaya, Kosti Manibe and even Riek Machar are powerless cogs but important for the smooth running of this Dinka juggernaut machine.” However, these men are intelligent and if they have the interest of the country in heart, they’d have confronted the systemic thugs. They are quiet because the system favors them. If their tribes are being subjugated and they keep quiet, then what does that make them? Why aren’t they speaking up? Why are they supporting that rotten system? It’s because the system is favoring them. And that is why I say the top brass (the self-professed elites) are the problem because they are benefiting while ignoring the suffering of the average person.
And you are wrong to write that “For some time now, few among us have been duped to believe that the problem in Juba is created by elites. The use of this concept is again more of a distraction and does not help in addressing issues.” It’s not a distraction but the real path to solutions. If the elites see the problem and sleep on it, then why aren’t they the problem? Are they afraid of Dinka? Are they afraid of Kiir? You seem to belittle these people more than necessary.
Well, these people (the ruling class) don’t care about their tribes that much. They care about the status quo being built in Juba. Mr. Paul, open your eyes. You are so fixated in finding faults with Jieng that you are losing sight of the main problem. Wake up, the Iggas, the Machars, the Kongs, the Dengs, the Amums, the Kiirs are building a claque whose intentions will surprise you.
Again, it’s not the average Jieng (Dinka) who is benefiting. I smiled smugly when you wrote that
I have passed through some Dinka villages and I was dumbfounded by what I saw. Deep in those bushes surrounded by Muras I saw hundreds of V8 vehicles parked with GoSS number plates looted from the ministries in Juba. The sizes of Muras and herd have expanded beyond believe. Cattle are now transported from Jieng villages to all over Equatoria in trucks in violation of Equatoria way of living with impunity.
The Jieng cattle herders are well armed and they freely terrorise others with impunity.
I thought you were more sophisticated than that. Do you want to say that the average Jieng elder with his cattle, who cannot read or write and cannot drive a car owns an V8 vehicle? These vehicles are owned by the same Jieng elites who look down on the average Jieng people you think are benefiting from Juba loot. The average Jieng is dying of hunger and disease just as the average Nuer and Equatorian is dying of the same. People are dying of hunger even in the President’s home state. Wake up Mr. Paul and part with your 1980s mentality.
Those Jieng civilians who wield guns haven’t been afforded a proper system. It is you and I who will pressure the government to make sure that those guns are gone and be replaced by an enduring and sustainable economic and social system.
I cited in the previous article that there are some Jieng people who are actually benefiting from the loot and that we should see them for who they are: thieves not Dinkas or Jieng. You seem to ignore that. You victimize the average Jieng person for reasons I don’t know. The average Jieng person (like me) should be your ally in the fight but you sideline us with insensitive tribal generality. You seem to have a point only to belittle your discourse with tribally motivated ‘invective’ and ‘diatribe’ against the whole tribe; most of whom are suffering like everyone else.
Why don’t you stand up for the oppressed poor in general and not Equatorians only? You’d be better a person if you stood up for the poor in every tribe. Stand up for the poor and don’t localize yourself as an Equatorian. You are better and bigger than that, I believe. So stand up to the government on behave of the poor generally, not Equatorians only. I’d want to believe that you are not a tribalist. Prove me right!
Kuir ë Garang is a South Sudanese novelist and poet living in Canada. For more information visit www.kuirthiy.info