There’s no tribe called ‘Equatoria’ in South Sudan

By Kuir ë Garang

March 20, 2013 (SSNA) — I don’t know what I’m saying in this article so bear with me. You can laugh all you want but hey mwalimu, I’m no George Carlin. Well, you might not know Carlin but you definitely know Chris Rock and Eddie Griffin. So now you can stop laughing, would you?

Every single South Sudanese contributed to the liberation struggle in one way or another. And all of us have suffered under the devilish regimes in Khartoum; directly or indirectly. These ‘Arab’ leaders with bigoted perception of socio-political governance in Sudan wanted to maintain the anachronistic perception of the ‘African Person’ as inherently inferior.

I laugh at people who call me inferior and then they run to plead to some invisible man who’s hard-of-hearing. This invisible man allows one-year old girls to be raped while he’s watching and you expect him to give a damn about your problems?

Did you stop laughing? You can go ahead and laugh if you’re insane! Let’s go back to the article.

There’s been (or should I say there’s always been) a lot of bickering about inter-tribal and intra-tribal accusations. And this classless bickering is between groups that see themselves as the ‘liberators’ and ‘custodians’ of the independent South Sudan, and those who are regarded as ‘ungrateful beneficiaries’ of the liberation struggle. By this time you can guess for yourself who the groups are.

I don’t care who is right or was right, something got to change. Only a fool would want the other person to change while sticking to his/her status quo. Change if you want the other person to change! Compromises are the order in any organized society.

Of the shameless voices who claim to have liberated South Sudan, we have the Jieng and Nuer people and others there about. Of those who are claimed to be the ‘ungrateful beneficiaries’ of the liberation fruits, we have the ‘Equatorians’. By the way, some of the so-called ‘Equatorians’ regard themselves as people with class, composure, critical out-look on things and a general sense of ‘wests’’ understanding of ‘civilized.’

People talk of Dinka, Nuer and the Equatorians, as if Equatoria is a tribe. When I hear ‘Equatorians!’ I don’t know what to make of it. However, when I hear Bari or Pajullu, I immediately know there’s tradition, cultural values, norms and a sense of human dignity associated with them. That’s why I don’t like the regionalist sentimentalism in the word ‘Equatorian’. Some might argue that it’s better to regionalize than to tribalize. The only problem is that this regionalism is borne out of response to Dinka tribalism so it has more or less some elements of tribalism disguised in regionalism for efficacy.

Equatoria is a large area with a rich assortment of tribes with tribal allegiances that are as divergent and varied as their attitudes towards the so-called tribal liberators.

Equatorianism, as romanticized by its proponents, has become a deeply rooted regionalist and affective congregation of different tribes in Equatoria as a reactive response to the claims and mad attitude of the respect-demanding ‘liberators.’

I call someone a fool if that person presents a problem without proposing a possible solution to the problem. Stop whining and accusations because those will not solve anything. No one has ever solved any issues by whining.

Oh! Maybe what I call whining is the presentation of the problem. Okay, some of you actually present the problem clearly. But wait! So you’ve told me the problem. Where then is your proposed way of solving the problem because at the end of the day, the solution is our only savior. Who am I talking to? I’m talking to all of you South Sudanese.

If you think people from the three states of Equatoria didn’t fight and that you should take their land by force then you are a shame to freedom fighters.  A freedom fighter’s honor is in the fact that he/she fights selflessly for others not for him/herself. If you ‘liberated’ Nimule, for example, and then settle in a land that belongs to someone who fled to Uganda during the war, you have to give the land back to that person in the spirit and honor of freedom fighters. Unless you paid something for it! In that case, you have to negotiate that.

You fought on that person’s behalf. You’re a shame to freedom fighters who died during the war if you refuse to leave the land in the name of having liberated the land.

If you leave in peace, it’s possible for this native owner of the land to see the honor in you and arrange something for you. A demanded ‘honor’ is a shame. If you implore the owner of the land by citing personal reasons he/she can understand. It’s possible for such a person to understand you. Unless this person has no heart at all! You can respectfully explain to him the loss you experienced throughout the war.

This is my message to the ‘liberators.’ I don’t know what these people refer to people like Wani Igga, Mobutu Mamur, Thomas Cirillo and other freedom fighters who hail from the three states of Equatoria. They’re just assumed as exceptions! Mmm!

How about the people who are assumed to have not contributed to the struggle? This is my message to you.

I know many Jieng and Nuer people, who’ve not even fought at all, claim liberation credit by association. These people are not worth my salt. However, there are people who genuinely fought and lost limbs or relatives. Any right-minded person from Equatoria would understand if they feel their contributions or loss are not being acknowledged.

Some of these people didn’t go to school and lost many of their relatives during the war. Just imagine, as a right-thinking human being. Imagine such a person being told by someone, who spent his time in a refugee camp and managed to go to school; telling such a person that ‘you have to evacuate this place because this is my ancestral land.’ Just imagine, after years of having taken care of the land and made some life with his family for years. Now he’s being told to pack up and go without compensation or even with compensation. If you say I don’t care then you are sick.

What I urge my people in South Sudan to do is to be realistic in their approach to issues. Undermining people from the three states of Equatoria isn’t going to bring us peace, or build a country. Passive, non-developmental pride is stupidity! Bragging about having liberated the country isn’t going to build bridges, schools or hospitals. The hospital builder might be that Lotuko woman who spent all her time studying in Kampala. It might be that young Kuku man who just came back from United States.

And being unrealistic about the liberation struggle is outright madness. Any intelligent person would acknowledge the sacrifices made by people who fought. Having done that, one is now able to caution them about their misdeeds because a country cannot be built by mere past glories. It’s true that the majority of people in the three states of Equatoria didn’t take part in the direct liberation fire. They might have contributed through education because the liberation struggle is not finished. Development is the second phase and that will be the contribution of those who didn’t fight; people like me.

If you call a Kakwa man, who’s come to help built hospitals in South Sudan, an ungrateful coward if he tells you to let him do his job to help South Sudanese, then you are not worth the life in you.

There are commentators from Equatoria who talk and write and present people from the greater Equatoria as if the people are some silly whiners. These people have genuine grievances about politicking, nepotism and land-grabbing. The commentators at times trivialize these issues unintelligibly. However, people from Equatoria need to be realistic in their grievances and their approaches to issues. If you call a person, who’s lost all his relatives in the struggle and didn’t have any change to go to school, an uncivilized fool, then you’re the greatest devil in South Sudan. Unrealistic presentation of issues and expectations isn’t going to take us anywhere.

We have to highlight our issues and propose possible solutions. Let’s stop regionalizing South Sudan when we are already being eaten from the core by tribalism.

How can you fight tribalism by being a tribalist? Oh, I see… you’re saying the truth! Truth my foot. There’s no such a tribe called Equatoria but there’ll be one tribe called South Sudan. You can laugh now. The article is over.

Kuir ë Garang is a South Sudanese poet and author living in Canada. Visit for more information.

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