The first anniversary of independence under a chaotic regime of tribal gangs

By Elhag Paul

August 15, 2012 (SSNA) — Like a spoilt little brat sniffing glue, it neither listens nor learns from its mistakes.  It just carries on doing all the wrong things antagonising every body; it has unknowingly slipped into a state of trance.  Now with its first birthday, it expects everyone to celebrate it and praise its imaged and drummed up achievements that never have been.  Well, the celebration itself tells a different story.  If South Sudan does not learn from the messages of this yet again shambolic celebration, then the future does not bode well for it.

As people were gearing themselves for celebration of the first anniversary of independence they were hoping that they would be spared the daily horrific news of crime.  That was not to be.  They had to live with the reality of Oyee poor governance even during festive periods.  The Oyee ruling party has completely failed to protect its citizens.  Every morning people wake up to hear disturbing news of looting, murders and abductions that take place during night time in Juba.  On 4th July 2012, the criminals decided to celebrate the independence of South Sudan by abducting non other than the leader of the Civil Society organisation, Mr Deng Athuai Mawiir.  He was deemed to be a loud mouth and perhaps this is what led to his rough treatment.  His brutal chastisement in Oyee style was a signal to democrats and free thinking South Sudanese to note that the government of the “cow boy hated” Kiir is a totalitarian regime composed of fragmented gangs and it won’t tolerate any criticism. 

The news of Mawiir’s abduction came as a shock to everybody who keeps abreast with developments in the country.  If the leader of Civil Society is not safe, who else is?  The chilling message that the abduction of Mawiir sends silently to the general population, not only disables them but terrorises them to the core.  Certainly, this is what the criminals intended and this they had delivered with clinical precision.  The abduction is one act which amounts to depriving a citizen of their freedom of movement.  In effect, it is unlawful imprisonment.  Then there was the suffocation with a plastic bag in the car which amounts to literally attempted murder followed by beatings and torturous acts until the victim fell unconscious.  What was all this for?  What did Mawiir do to deserve this kind of barbarity during a festive period?  The questions posed to Mawiir by his assailants such as ‘Is that your father’s money?’ indicate that his call for eradication of corruption must be the reason why he was singled out.  Taking this to be the case, does Mawiir not have the right to express his view?  Why violate his person?  Why was he not openly arrested and charged according to the law if he committed a crime so that he could be tried in a court of law according to the constitution?  It is clear now that we are not to be in any doubt as to who the abductors are?  They must be those guys in black Toyota V8s without number plates cruising around in the streets of Juba.

What is the significance of this sad incident?  Certainly it can be unpacked in many ways.  But, without doubt it is a serious crime perpetuated by those in position of power whose motive is clear.  They want to keep the loot of over $4 billion at all cost.  In order to keep the loot, they must silence the people and to silence the people they must terrorise them.  This is the modus operandi of all totalitarian regimes.  Hence, the abuse meted on Mawiir is a warning to all to forget about the issue of corruption or else the consequence can be dire.  Fighting corruption is a dangerous business as John Githongo the anti corruption tsar of Kenya found out to his detriment.  Githongo had to flee to the UK to save his life from powerful quarters in Kenya.  Paradoxically, he is now advisor to non other than Don Salvatore, the lord of corruption in RSS himself.

While the literature explicitly with examples from West Africa to Russia acknowledges that fighting corruption is dangerous, this should not deter us from confronting the criminals in Juba to recover the people’s resources.  Terror is the business of cowards who hope to hide behind it.  Terrorists know that they can not win support of the people through talking thus they resort to violence.  The abductors of Mawiir belong to this class.  They know that they unlawfully stole people’s resources and they are trying to terrorise the people.  This is not acceptable and it must be confronted by people’s power.  When the people come together and stand firm nothing can stop them.  People’s power has smashed the one time thought iron fist leaders like Causescou of Romania, Amin of Uganda, Gaddaffi of Libya, Mubarak of Egypt and the list can go back to the days of Aristotle.  

These so called strong men, when things come to head, they and their henchmen who always are their tribes mate start running about like ‘rats’ and hiding in culverts but when as now they are yet exploiting tribalism and the divisions they sowed in society, they are audacious in their cowardly acts such as in the abuse of Mawiir.

The other significance of Mawiir’s abduction showcases the absence of security in RSS and the rule of gangs.  It is no secret that all the generals in the SPLM/A have their own body guards whom they recruited personally and are paid for by the government through them.  These body guards who normally are tribe mates pay their allegiance directly to these generals.  To make sense of this, just walk around Juba and have a look at the houses of the ministers and generals.  The first thing one sees are numerous huts (tukuls) occupied by soldiers and their families at the backyard of the residences of these generals.  These are the tribal bodyguards as well as members of the SPLA.  This contradictory security arrangement negates the role of the state as the protector of its officials and people. 

In all non failed states, government employees are protected by the members of the law enforcement agencies who are recruited from all over the country based on fitness and merit.  These bodies prepare their daily, weekly, monthly and yearly rotas to ensure that the senior government officials are well protected by the state.  Senior officials do not rely on their kin and kith for security but on professional protection service from state organs.  In RSS, it is the other way round.  Bodyguards are tribes mate recruited by the tribal lords solely on grounds of tribe.  No fitness and merit is considered and they are answerable to their own tribal lords, or the generals.  The law enforcement agencies are packed with members of the ruling tribe – the largest chunk does not even know a word of Arabic or English. 

If they happen to see something suspicious they either shoot or arrest and begin beating the suspect without questions asked and if the suspect is unlucky he/she could lose their life.  A good example to enlighten the reader is the case of the Kenyan school teacher Miss Tabitha Musangi employee of Dr John Garang International School.  While the flag was being lowered on 13th May 2012, the unfortunate lady in a car happened to be passing near Dr John Garang mausoleum.  The body guard of the mausoleum thought they broke the law and he instantly without halting the car and asking questions responded by shooting at the passing car killing the teacher and wounding the driver. This is the consequences of having a failed tribal government with illiterate and brutal tribal forces.

With this point in mind and looking at the structure of SPLM/A described above, what emerges is a very complex system of clanism, predominately dominated by one tribe interwoven into the wider structure of government of South Sudan.  It is this amorphous structure that disables the machinery of the state in South Sudan from functioning as it should.  What matters in this structure is the tribal interest of those holding the levers of power. Anybody questioning this system regardless of tribe, no matter who he/she is, will find themselves in hot soup by any of these gangs just like Mawiir.  Though, Mawiir is a Jieng from Warrap, the president’s hub, he is seen as a threat to the wider interest of the Jieng people as a whole and therefore he must be dealt with accordingly. 

The most surprising thing is that the Jieng who support this backward and primitive style of governance are so loud in labelling anybody who disagrees with their tribalism as a tribalist.  Read the various papers and websites specialising in RSS issues and you would not miss this pertinent point.  The practitioners of tribalism are loud in throwing the tribal label at any one in order to distract the masses from their vicious tribalism and to entrench their hegemony.  It is interesting that this kind of behaviour was exactly practised by the Arabs against the African tribes in the then Sudan.  Recall the failed coup attempts carried out by people of African origin like the coup of Hassan Hussein in 1974.  The Arabs called it a racist coup while forgetting that they the Arabs were the masters of racism.  So, what we have in RSS now is the mirror of this nasty behaviour.  It is a case of the abuser blaming his victims for their predicament which he is responsible for – a classic example of abuse of state power by demagogues a psychological pathos resulting from oppression.

While in the short term the rulers can massively benefit from this mismanagement of state affairs eventually it is self defeating because essentially this negative behaviour fragments the society.  The abused and disadvantaged groups (general masses) consciously will dissociate from the state as the vital links of social trust that bind the people to the state are eroded or broken.  RSS will not mean anything to the average person on the street.  The people will be alien to their own government and country and this is when serious situations of unquantifiable destruction and loss like what happened in Libya and what is presently taking place in Syria begin to happen.  RSS does not need this.  We can stop this now by working together towards a healthy society. 

So, for a start, let us begin to talk honestly about the vices taking place in our country to appreciate the magnitude of the problem.  If a Bari is doing wrong, he/she must be told and if a Jieng is doing wrong, likewise he/she must be told.  Then let us isolate and challenge those practising tribalism and corruption as a way of rebuilding social trust among ourselves to regain our collective worth.  This is the only way forward, otherwise the future looks bleak under Oyee as it is driving us towards an inevitable internal conflict.

Back to the issue of Mawiir. His abduction could have been committed by anyone, but the fact the victim was asked why he talked about corruption raises questions as to the motives and characters of the assailants.   We know who would not want the corruption problem to be dealt with – Don Kiir and his acolytes.  Do not take Don Kiir’s façade of his letters to the 75 thieves seriously.  He is a liar.  Remember on 23rd September 2011 he lied to the UN General Assembly on this very issue of corruption.  And again it appears he may have lied to a president of a friendly country which ended with an apology from him in written.  Lastly, he personally confessed to lying during the Independence Day in 2011 by saying “anihna ma akazib bitana da” meaning us and our lies.  Secondly, the government has not denounced this barbaric act in the strongest terms possible.  Thirdly, no mention of what would be done to deter such acts of violence. Is it any wonder why RSS is a failed state?  The sad thing is that Mawiir’s torture symbolises the closure of the first anniversary of independence under a chaotic regime of tribal gangs.

The international community correctly sensing what type of government in South Sudan they are dealing with has become cautious.  They are gradually distancing themselves.  As they do this, RSS becomes more and more of a pariah state.  The evidence to this can be deduced from the way the international community ignored the invitations extended to them by GoSS to attend the first anniversary of South Sudan independence.  Of all the invitees, only president Museveni of Uganda turned up.  The rest including Kenya which benefits massively from South Sudan did not show up.  To appear polite, these dissatisfied countries and international organisations despatched very junior or low ranking officials to represent them in the event.  In diplomatic speak that was tantamount to a snub and a withdrawal of confidence in the rulers of new country.  As you can see the damage is already done. 

On the Independence Day itself, the president’s speech turned out to be a recycled version of his speech delivered on Independence Day in 2011.  It was all full of lofty ideals but empty in tangible substance as the “cow boy hatted” president failed to live up to his words in his first year of rule.  He promised democracy but delivered Dinkocracy.  He promised eradication of corruption but delivered millioniarisation of Oyee apparatchiks.  He promised lean government but delivered a bloated government.  He promised law and order but delivered lawlessness and insecurity throughout the country.  He promised equality but delivered tribalism.  He promised policies of good neighbourliness but delivered conflicts.  He promised good governance but delivered mismanagement.  He promised government of the people but delivered a government run by foreigners and miscreants.  Name anything and the opposite holds true.   

Because of Oyee’s spectacular failures in governance, they have managed to squander the good will of the international community towards RSS.  In just one year they turned the entire world against our country.  If this is allowed to continue, all of us will sink with Oyee.  The cracks under the boat created by Oyee misgovernance need to be sealed quickly before they widen and water begins to gush into the boat.  So president Kiir should use the realities of the poor balance sheet of RSS’ first year of business to speak to all the opposition political parties, armed groups, civil societies and religious leaders in order to hold a convention of the people of South Sudan.  This is the only way RSS can be salvaged.

[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]


The Author lives in the Republic of South Sudan. He can be reached at [email protected]

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