Jay Johnson, the advocate of Squatters and fake IDPs in South Sudan

By Elhag Paul

March 27, 2013 (SSNA) — I read Jay Johnson’s article titled “Equatorians: Stop Land grabbing, occupation and colonization Nonsense” published in South Sudan Nation on 23rd March 2013 in disbelief.  The audacity of Mr Johnson to sandpaper the facts around the issue is puzzling.

Mr Johnson from the outset made it clear that he wished to address “the question of land grabbing or more broadly the alleged occupation and colonization of the Equatoria region by Dinka” and to a large extend he has done so.  So far so good.  That is Ok and I shall restrict my argument to this premise for fairness shake. 

In arguing his case, Mr Johnson refers heavily to the second civil war which took place from 1983 to 2005.  According to him, the presence of the Jieng in Equatoria is the consequence of the war and he passingly mentions the fratricide between the Jieng and Nuer.  Johnson writes,” this displacement phenomenon was undoubtedly felt and experience by people of South Sudan as the civil war intensified and became sectarian during the early and late 1990s”.

True, when Riek Machar unleashed his troops in 1990s on SPLM mainstream territories, the most affected area was south Jonglei, mainly Kongor and Bor with their surrounding areas.  The slaughter of the Jieng of Bor by Riek’s troops was so heinous that both South Sudanese and the international community condemned it unreservedly.  So, the fleeing Jieng who came to Equatoria for safety and protection from Bor and Western Bahre Ghazal were sympathetically looked upon by the indigenous people. 

Unfortunately, given Jieng’s poor skills of interactions with other people, and having been intoxicated by Dr Garang’s indoctrination assuring them settlements wherever they wished in South Sudan, the fleeing Jieng  ignored the local authorities in the area and began to set up their own structure of administration whereby they embarked on systematic confiscation of people properties.  

For example, Jieng came to various places in Equatoria and evicted people from their homes under gun point forcing them to go across the border in Uganda and Congo while they took over occupancy of the properties.

So, the crucial thing here is the manner in which the Jieng came to settle in Equatoria.  Their approach was violent and illegal.  Instead of coming as guests with respect, they came as occupiers by force proving the social theory which states that the abused always turns abuser.  Having been abused by Riek Machar’s troops they came to Equatoria to abuse Equatorians and make themselves feel good.  

Mr Johnson for whatever reasons conveniently omits this point from his article.  That is understandable since we know that the Jieng are in a state of denial of their atrocious behaviour.   He then sarcastically says, “Put it simply, there was no grand plan to invade the Equatoria region and specifically, Magwi County by Bor IDPS.  The war forced them to sought (seek)refuge in the border region of Equatoria and Nimule town in particular.” 

Although the war forced the Jieng to come to the border areas, it has to be noted that the war only accelerated and facilitate a plan that was already in the pipe line for years.  Please read Jacqueline Ajak’s article “Let’s try to reform our people.  A Dinka woman’s point of view on Madi land issue” published by South Sudan Nation in February 2009.  

In addition there is a document recording minutes of a secret meeting held by Dinka cabal in Ark hotel in Kampala, Uganda in 2009 which exclusively states that, ‘The Dinka are the SPLM/A and the SPLM/A are the Dinka, The two are the two faces of the same coin.’. The motto of this group is ‘He who wins can not be in the wrong.’ In this document, there is a clear laid out plan for the Jieng to forcefully grab Mundari and Muru land in Equatoria 

The plan for the Jieng to settle in the border areas and in Equatoria in general was designed by none other than Dr John Garang himself – the wolf who came to Equatorians in sheep skin and cunningly devoured them rendering them powerless and helpless in South Sudan now.  

But to be fair, Equatorians also played a very important role in their own disempowerment by blindly believing in Dr Garang when the evidence was clear for everyone to see.  For example, the “Dinka SPLA soldier” during the war behaved savagely throughout Equatoria with impunity and yet the so called Equatoria SPLM/A supporters buried their heads in sand like ostriches singing all the time “Monye likang Yewani” meaning our father Garang.   Now Equatoria is reaping what it sowed during the war years.

Mr Johnson challengingly asks, “And why in the world should these people (IDPS) be called squatters and land grabbers in their own country?  The eviction threats, land grabbing and Squatters nonsense campaign have been particularly spearheaded by the Bari and Madi communities more than any other community in Equtoria region.  Is there any evidence of land grabbing and occupation? Or is the presence of Dinka people in Equatoria region being used as pretext of starting another Kokora?”

Certainly, the Jieng in the border areas fit the legal definition of squatters neatly.  Mr Johnson argues that “the people of Upper Nile and Bahre El Ghazel regions like people of Equatoria region are citizens of the Republic of South Sudan.  Therefore it is invalid and irrelevant to label and consider these citizens as Squatters, land grabbers, occupiers or colonizers, when they in fact exercising their rights to live, work or travel within the defined borders of the state in which they hold citizenship.”

Citizenship does not preclude a person from being labelled as a squatter.  If the person engages in squatting, it does not matter whether he/she is a citizen or not, they become a squatter.  Mr Johnson appears to think that squatters are only foreigners.  No, he is wrong and ignorant of the term.  Anybody can be a squatter.  By definition a squatter is anybody who occupies someone else property or land without express permission from the owner.  

As exemplified above, the manner in which the Jieng came to settle in the border areas does not confer any legitimacy on the Jieng to settle in those lands.  Their settlement was/is unlawful and this remains to be the case.  Therefore, they are squatters and subject to eviction.  Simple as that and they will be evicted now or in future whether they like it or not.

Had the fleeing Jieng on arrival in these areas approached the local authorities (chiefs and head men) and applied for land to settle, the situation would be completely different.  Because internationally, IDPS always are granted land to settle in by the local authorities and they must also abide by the local customs and laws.  It is unheard of that an IDP fleeing from persecution comes to an area and he/she becomes a law unto himself/herself.  It is only in Dinkocracy that such practice exists.

It is cynical for Mr Johnson to accuse Equatorians of harassing the Jieng in the border areas.  It is the fully armed Jieng squatters who are harassing the unarmed indigenous population on daily basis.  Not only that but they are daily importing more Jieng into the border areas to advance their settlement plan.  This is done with the support of the Jieng government in Juba.  

The question that needs answer is: why are the Jieng continuing to be IDPs in an independent South Sudan?  Why don’t the Jieng repatriate to their original homes in the country?  In 1985, the SPLM/A ravaged Mundari land and the Mundari came to Juba in big numbers as IDPs.  The Mundari peacefully settled among the Bari and when the peace came they repatriated to their villages.  Why don’t the Jieng do the same? 

Mr Johnson invokes refugee laws and international laws as justification for the Jieng to remain in the border areas.  This is ridiculous.  What Mr Johnson has shown is that he lacks analytical and interpretation skills.  His understanding of domestic and international law is warped.  He argues that both South Sudan and United Nations laws allow people to freely settle anywhere they like.  While it is true that individual’s liberty can not be restricted and is protected by law, such liberties are exercised within prescribed local laws and does not include communal liberty and movement. 

To put it simply, an individual is free to move and seek settlement anywhere provided that they are accepted by the host community, and they abide by the local rules and respect the host community by subjecting himself/herself to the customs of the area.  The law does not allow for mass (communal) movement unless in cases of war.  

It is important to note that even in one country like South Sudan, you can not move en mass to another people’s area and impose your will because you are a citizens. No! it does not work like that.  Otherwise this would be a recipe for chaos and instability.  Mr Johnson in his mentality of denial chooses to interpret the law to suit his expansionist and colonialist views.

Drawing parallel with the South Sudanese diaspora in order to strengthen his case amounts to an act of intellectual dishonesty.   First of all, most of the South Sudan in Diaspora either are people holding full refugee status or citizens of the respective states where they live.  When South Sudanese where resettled to their current second countries they were processed by the local authorities (receiving countries) and the United Nations agency for refugees.   

There was a vetting process and some unlucky people were eliminated.  Those chosen were processed and transported to their respective areas of settlement.  They respected the host laws and lived peaceful which enabled them to be accepted as citizens.  Crucially they did not impose themselves on the host community.  They did not occupy properties of the host community unlawfully.  They have not imposed themselves as administrators of their new country.  How can Mr Johnson then make comparison with the lawless Jieng in the border areas?

To show that Mr Johnson is confused, he argues “If the Equatorian elite see the transition constitution of South Sudan as a Dinka political playbook, then they should respect the United Nations mobility right under article 12.” What is he talking about here?  There is nothing called United Nation Mobility right article 12.  What is he referring to?  He should be clear and specific with reference when quoting.  It seems he has no clue of what he is writing and thus engages in unnecessary waffle.

Now let us look at the issue of land grabbing.  Mr Johnson makes very valid points in his argument about land grabbing, especially in his reference to what he terms Equatorian elites.  The only flaw with Mr Johnson’s argument lies in the fact that he restricted the definition of land grabbing to large scale activities.  

He defines land grabbing as “large scale acquisition of land through buying or leasing by domestic and international companies for commercial purpose.”  This definition appears to have been lifted from the article of A. Haroon Akram-Lodhi titled “Contextualising land grabbing: contemporary land deals, the global subsistence crisis and the world food system” published on 26 June 2012 by Canadian Journal of Development Studies.  

Basically it refers to the current capitalist dealings in which multi-national corporations are seeking to invest in land all over the world to produce either food or bio fuels or exploitation of mineral resources etc. 

However, there is another definition which is more politically grounded and this comes from Ruth Hall in her article “Land grabbing in Southern Africa: the many faces of investor rush” published in 2011 by Review of African Political Economy.  On page 194, Hall defines “land grabbing” or ‘farms race’ in Africa as “a new neo-colonial push by foreign companies and governments to annex key natural resources.”   

The cases that Mr Johnson has referred to: the  Mukaya Payam deal which involves “Equatorian elites” and a company from USA; and the Acholi land exploitation by Uganda fall within this definition.  

It is true that “Equatorians elites” as he calls them were involved in these shoddy deals.  This phenomenon also was unveiling itself throughout the country.  The “Equatorian elites” , Mr Johnson refers to do not in any way represent Equatoria.  These are agents of the Jieng.  They are working for the Jieng.  Remember that in 2010 none of these so called elites were voted into the parliament.  They were out rightly rejected by Equatorian people.  

It is president Kiir who forced them on the people against the wishes of the people.  Since they are appointees of president Kiir and the government of South Sudan is a Jieng government, the issue of land grabbing automatically becomes a Jieng problem.  Therefore Mr Johnson’s argument that “South Sudanese citizen of Dinka and Western Nilotic origin in Equatoria region can not be reasonably and objectively labelled as land grabbers when in fact they did not appropriate any piece of native land” falls flat on its face. 

On the other hand, there is land grab exercised by Jieng throughout Equatoria which relate to properties and small plots of land belonging to individuals.  The courts in Equatoria are overwhelmed with such cases.  This is a huge political problem brewing up and the Jieng can not deny it by mixing it with large scale land grabbing.  Some of the large scale land grab like the Mukaya Payam one has already been solved and the others will also be solved with time. 

Therefore, land grabbing, occupation and colonization is not nonsense as Mr Johnson would want the world to believe.  It is central to Jieng plans of expansion to dominate the entire South Sudan.  This plan was constructed by the suave Dr Garang with the likes of late Dr Justin Yac and others.  It remains the objective of the Jieng even under president Kiir.   

All the little, little things done by the government to disempower and frustrate the Equatorians fall within this plan with the aim of wearing the Equatorian down to a total state of hopelessness to allow the Jieng to prevail.  If the Jieng want to convince the world and everybody, then they need to pack and repatriate to their respective homelands for the sake of peace and harmony for the greater good of South Sudan.  

They have no business bossing and abusing others in their own homes and people like Mr Johnson need to stop sandpapering facts which create disharmony in the country.  There is no need being an advocate of squatters and fake IDPs.

[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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