Cold and hot war: the Story of Contentious Animosity between Nuer and the Dinka Tribes of South Sudan

By Stephen Pajok Kong

October 17, 2012 (SSNA) — [Edited version]: Dear South Sudanese in South Sudan and around the globe, congratulation!! As our country officially became independent on July 9, 2011, it’s our collective calling that made July 9, a success. As I am writing this piece I am still in a foreign country where I cast my vote for independence of our nation.

Our jubilation fades away after a couple months of success because there are people in South Sudan government who cling on their own tactics to fight a cold war against the people of South Sudan, or the Nuer Tribe in particular. For the past seven and half years, millions of dollars have been spent by few leaders on destruction trying to bribe other people to help build their own empires; for some, it is just a shrinking business, for many, there is money that should have been spent on better things like peace building or construction of roads between North and South Sudan.

Now, I would like to take you back to the genesis of contentious animosity between the two Cousins, the Nuer and Dinka. I have been thinking why there has been an enormous hatred between these tribes; I have seen this twisted face of hate in 1988. We were crammed on the Red Tank routed from Baydit of Manyadeng as the local people call it. To Anyidi than Ajakger than from Ajakger to Gumuruk of Murlee territory an overweight captain three times intervals of my size, by the name of Thon Lual slapped me just because I say something in Nuer language. The only thing I still remember is when Mr. Lual said NYAGAAT CIN RAN JAM THONGE NUER, from there I changed. Not only because I was slapped but also because I was disturbed by outpouring joys of other Dinka boys who were glad because Nuer-son was humiliated. South Sudan is a country today; it must be a good idea if we go back and pondered to the worst things we did to ourselves. Time and time again, I discover that the contentious animosity between Dinka and the Nuer was a chronic disease that South Sudanese need to give some consideration.

Now, let go back to what I termed as Cold and Hot War: contentious animosity between Nuer and Dinka:

Dinka’s Cold War Against Nuer:

In 1839, Egyptian expedition who try to discover the source of the White Nile when their Flotilla approached Nuer village on the east bank of Bahr Al-jabal, Known today as Fangak inhabited by Jagei Laak and Thiang’ were met by villagers who have flocked to the shores of the river Nile looking for the Egyptians’ sailing vessels. To Egyptians surprise, the Nuer sacrificed an Ox as shoew of respect to them (Egyptians) before they returned to their villages. There, the Egyptians were confused about the killing of animals because the Dinka soldiers fabricated a story by telling Egyptians that the Nuer will kill them. Then, to their surprise, the suspicion was confirmed when Dinka soldiers who were serving as interpreters told Egyptians that the killing of an animal by the Nuer in front of Egyptians meant that the Nuer are ready to kill the Egyptians.

The next day, Nuer villagers returned with goats and tobacco as gifts to Egyptians, as the gifs were to be presented to Egyptians by the Nuer, the Dinka soldiers then told their masters that tobacco is a poison, there, Egyptian soldiers opened fire, killing one Nuer and wounded a few, at that point the hostility between Nuer and Dinka was pushed into a high gear. The whole idea was intentionally done by Dinka soldiers who regard the Nuer as powerful enemy against them (Wilson 1903-13).

Again in 1899, the Dinka Leaders who contacted the new government with fictitious stories about Nuer atrocities and belligerence were made by the same Dinka leaders who were expulsed by Ngundeng and at the same time expelled by Deng Laka. Since then the Dinka soldiers who lied to gain acceptance became the government’s vital subject to protect. The unfounded allegations made against Nuer by the Dinka forced the government to confront Ngundeng. As a result, the governor of Upper Nile province led a patrol against the Lou Nuer, the most important homestead of Gon Lou Nuer was burned and much of their livestock were captured.

Despite the despoliation done by the government soldiers and their Dinka auxiliaries, Ngundeng and most of the Lou Nuer refused to give up; it was later confirmed by Dinka informant that Nuer gave up the fight because they always felt sorry for Nyarraweng (Nuer-Bil) and Ngok Dinka who always enjoyed good relationship with the Nuer and never want trouble (Wilson 1905).

Another Dinkas’s Cold War Against Nuer:

In 1983-84, the jubilation of South Sudanese to join the SPLA/M Liberation force was enormous compared to the jubilation during South Sudan’s referendum. Both jubilations are being reverse by SPLA/M as it has transformed itself from being a movement of change to tribalist and racist organization. For the first time of it inception, the conduct of SPLA forces was chaotic, with many murders committed against the civilian population, especially against Eastern Nuer of Gajaak who have good relationship with the separatist movement of Nyanya II.

From the commencement of the movement’s early inauguration between 1983-7, the SPLM’s political deployment took sharp turn on tribal lines where the Twich Dinka were given a significant opportunity for a reason to join and attain military’s strategic places; with a purpose to defend themselves against the neighboring tribes such as the Nuer, Murle Toposa, and Mundari. It was clear when John Garang gave speech in Fugnido Refugees Camp in 1989, seventy five percent of his speech was all about Late Samuel Gai Tut Yang, Anyanya I, Anyanya II, and their wicked beliefs for South Sudan independence.

This proved my suspicious that John Garang was a tangible Arab proxy who tried to stop Southerners from achieving their goal of South Sudan independence. As the story suggest, Garang was not part of revolution, he first tried to stopped movement when thing got tough he followed them any-way so as to kept his dirty secret of making sure that South Sudan independence will not be achieved. I should say in heart-beat that his death was blessing to Southerners; but great tragedy to the people of Abyei, Nuba Mountain and Ingesena who shared his views of secular united Sudan.

Nuer’s Hot War Against Dinka

When the historic Nasir declaration was announced on August 28, 1991, by two former members of the High Command of the SPLA, Riek Machar and Lam Akol. The two leaders issued a radio message that called for the removal of Garang from the leadership of the movement. Initially, Machar and Akol blamed their defection from the SPLA/M on the dictatorial leadership of Garang, and also on the accusation that Garang committed countless human rights abuses against SPLA/M members including civilians. This announcement opened a huge door for Nyanya II rebels who have great grumbles against SPLA/SPLM Garang and his tribe.

Nyanya II rebels quickly rushed to Bor areas with great excitement for the first time in decades, and the result was a historic. Beich State commander Simon Gatwich Dual, who is rumored to be under arrest by Dinka conspirator in Juba, was the only commander who protected Bor Dinka from being attacked by Anyaya II groups. At that time became an alliance to Garang-led group and offered no resistance and the result was catastrophic.

Another Dinka’s Cold War Against Nuer:

For the first time in the history of Nuer and Dinka animosity, Late George Athor’s Army killed forty seven civilians in Fangak County in the summer of 2009, and for second time in 2011 after South Sudan referendum, Late George’s army killed one hundred and thirty two (132) civilians in Phom Chuol Deang.  Then Fangak sons and daughters in the army intervened. In the first place, Fangak citizens were happy and believed that late George Athor was too power-less to kill them against. Hey they don’t be too sure. During that unfortunate time, SPLA/M soldiers with big guns opened fire on Fangak Nuer indiscriminately, men, women, and even children were killed and hundreds of civilians were wounded, according to witness accounts contained in confidential U.N. reports. A United Nations team that traveled to the Nile River village 11 days after the April 23 killings saw more than two dozen corpses and said grass-roofed mud huts clearly contained many more bodies, the team confirmed the death toll of two hundred and fifty seven (257) civilians.

But the number given by local officials was 389 and it was not been independently verified by UN team; despite all these killings Junglei state authority never pay a visit to Fangak County. All these killings were taking place in Fangak Nuer, plus various massacres of over a thousand people in Uror, Akobo, and Mayom County of western Nuer. If you do the math, a quarter of people who vote for the independence of South Sudan were ripped off their lives by their own government who claimed to have protected them couple months before they celebrated the birth of South Sudan Nation. The worst part of it is, there is no justice for their lives, and worse than this, the military prisons somewhere in Equatoria were stamped with people who have been wrongfully accused of trying to assassinated Banydit Salva Kiir Mayardit. South Sudanese, if SPLA/M learned anything from its extensive failures and butchery idealogy, it should recognize that Samuel Gai Tut Yang’s death will stalk the SPLM down for many years to come; unlike the death of hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese leaders who were slayed in cold blood by those fictitious accusations made by leaders who some of them are leaders of our nation today; shamed on them!

In conclusion, I should argue that our government’s violent attitude toward its own citizens will produce more Militants, more crimes, and less economic stability. The killings of Nuer in all four counties through intimidation method, persecution without due process, and incarceration, will produce public outcry.  The fact that the government is claiming to be a democratic government and act like one is a wishful thinking. The government of South Sudan always reacts unlawfully violently against its citizens to protect its undemocratic practices. This is method use by the government to identify the people it sees criminals, it is not a good way to lead a nation that once fought for democratic rights. South Sudanese should also declare all-out war against militants and that should help eradicate from our society bad elements like late George Athor’s soldiers.

The Author can be reached at [email protected] 

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