July 8, 2013 (SSNA) — For most countries celebrating their day of independence is an event eagerly awaited. It is celebrated with pomp and razzmatazz. From early morning hours one sees parades, children taking parts in various activities with towns and cities creating their own carnival like environments. At night, fireworks of unimaginable sorts are shot high into the sky bursting into tiny balls of various colours and formations creating captivating mental sensations. The boom sound s from fireworks not only dazzles sending hearts pumping but psychically creates a feeling of its own that is indescribable. People beam with happiness and exude confidence with expressions of deep feelings coming from their sense of freedom and pride. They go to pubs, bars and night clubs to enjoy themselves.
Heroines, heroes and the fallen are fondly remembered. History comes to the present to be lived for moments in this important day. Epic stories of struggle are told, re-lived and proudly owned.
In healthy states, the fruits of freedom and independence can be seen everywhere in functioning institutions reflected by the provision of quality of services in health, education, security etc rendered to the people. In contrast, we have our newly liberated country: Republic of South Sudan. A country of 8.2 million people with an area the size of southern Europe. The mood in this beautiful country endowed with abundant natural resource ironically is sombre as if there is not a very important day to be celebrated.
The majority of the populace look dejected, under fed with few extremely beaming with happiness in the most expensive automobiles one can imagine. For example, Hammers and V8s land cruisers. The physique of this group of people can not be mistaken. The most noticeable thing they carry around with them is their amorphous bodies, a sign of overfeeding from unnecessary abuse of food itself. Ignorantly as they are, these know-nothing identified by Gerard Prunier as “idiots …….rotten to the core” believe their distorted figures are a sign of riches. Unfortunately for them, health experts have a different view of this self inflicted shapelessness from gluttony. The locals see it as a sign of thievery. Their greed can be seen from their blobby faces, fattened with oil bags around their eye lids threatening to shut them off. Oh dear!
Welcome to South Sudan, the land of thieves for liberators. This group is the only one celebrating the independence day with happiness. Blinded by ultra corruption and oblivious of their environment they can not see the sea of suffering surrounding them. One of them, who may not fit the above description recently got fed up. Inspired by Mr Gerard Prunier, he declared the system “rotten from top to bottom”. That is starting with president Kiir at the top and ending with Ateny Wek at the bottom. Wow! At last there is an Oyeeite who dares to speak out the truth. Had there been many like him, perhaps this second anniversary might have just been refreshing. Unfairly, this Oyeeite got himself sacked. I can only say to him – welcome back to the world of the oppressed. The very bottom filled with rot he helped construct and later discovered before he started yapping to the dismay of his boss.
The consequence of being led by “rotten” people has obtained the bleak situation in the country to the extent that people do not have the energy to even celebrate the day they are supposed to be most proud of. Understandably, also there is a section of the society that regrets South Sudan getting its sovereignty from the Arabs due to the shocking abuse of the current rulers. All the abuses in the country must be put in context. These are the result of the Jieng usurping power at independence through the SPLM/A Oyee. It was unfortunate that at the birth of South Sudan, it was delivered into the care of the Oyee machine which is a deranged organisation and so the present mess is not a surprise to some of us.
Nevertheless celebrating independence is important. It should not be confused with the current poor governance and the sentiments of those who did not vote for the secession due to Jieng abuse of power. It is a truism that oppression and discrimination know no colours of skin. This is a fact. Arab oppression and discrimination was and is not different from the current Jieng one. It must be recognised that oppression and discrimination stems from abuse of power, poor knowledge of human relationship and poor management of diversity. All these unfortunately are things that saturate the government of South Sudan. Even with all these I still argue that our independence was an absolute necessity visa viz our humanity and self determination. The abuse of power in Juba is a temporary thing in the development of the state. It will be gotten rid off and it may take a couple of governments and sacrifices before it stabilises. In a sense these are inevitable teething problems. What is important is for the people of South Sudan to continue fighting for a decent and fair society until it is achieved. With the Arabs out of the way, the fight for democracy and good governance in South Sudan is achievable.
Why independence from Arabs was a priority and a must? In the Sudan, the South Sudanese African identity was under a real threat. The definition of the Sudan as an Arab country with all the consequences that flowed from it was in direct conflict with our normal way of life. Basically, Arab culture automatically criminalised our cultures and way of living. All of us saw how Arabic language and culture was foisted on us by the state. The naming of all the land mark places in South Sudan with Arab names. The operationalisation of a state policy of Islamisation and underdevelopment, stealing of South Sudanese resources for developing the north only and the list goes on endlessly. Being in the Sudan was no option for anybody who valued their own worth and humanity. So, the key to get out of that mess was attaining sovereignty and this could only come through secession. South Sudan fought for it and rightly achieved it.
Now, problem one solved. The second problem is what we have at hand in Juba: the abuse of state power by the so called “born to rule”. They terrorise people at will. With full control of the media they use it to spread lies and division while creating havoc throughout the country. For example the ruling groups have developed an insatiable appetite for land grabbing. This issue was recently articulated by the amnestied General Johnson Ulony.
On 15th June 2013, Malaak Ayuen, the chief propaganda officer of SPLM/A Oyee on SSTV initially appeared content with himself in preparation of his interview with General Ulony. He beamed with confidence as usual. But this time he was hyperactive and looked like a cat that had just caught a mouse and was about to play cruel games with it of tossing it up and down. Allowing the prey to run and then again pounce on it and so goes the torment. Watching the programme, at first I was disgusted but as the interview progressed I had to slowly change my mind. Certainly Ulony was no easy prey. As usual Malaak was trying to milk the interview to strengthen the Oyee machine. But to his surprise Ulony told him point blank and through the programme to the people of South Sudan and beyond that the government in Juba is a Jieng government and the reason he rebelled was because the Jieng dispossessed the Chollo of their lands.
Malaak became agitated, uncomfortable fidgeting in his chair and wanted to divert the issue but there was no let up. Ulony drove the message home to all the South Sudanese. For once SSTV became a carrier and conveyor of truth that the Jieng do not like. The important thing that has come out of this interview is the public exposure of Jieng policy of land grabbing and their use of the government machinery for that purpose.
Similar story is going on throughout Equatoria. Recently, in Yei Kiir’s government advancing Jieng interest arrested 6 paramount chiefs of former Yei River district based on flimsy accusation. It was alleged that the chiefs were collaborating with M23 rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo with the aim of breaking up South Sudan. Subjecting this allegation to analysis, even before getting to the depth of it, it falls apart. First of all M23 is an organisation mainly of Hima and Tutsi people of the great lakes region. This group has no relationship with the people of Yei district in any way be it by ethnicity or culture. Geographically Yei River district is almost a thousand kilometres to the north of M23’s area of operation. The people of Yei have no any source of weapons to help the M23. So the whole allegation is baseless. However, the main reason for this facade is to threaten and humiliate the entire people of Yei district with the aim of stealing their lands. The Jieng had wanted 15 miles square of Yei land to be allocated to them which the chiefs rightly refused and as the result the chiefs are being punished and intimidated to give in with the support of some stooges from Equatoria in government.
The determination of the Jieng to displace the other tribes in South Sudan is a very serious thing. Its magnitude can be deduced from these two examples:
Dmajak (a Jieng) commenting on my article ‘Jay Johnson: the anxiety of the general election of 2015’ published in South Sudan Nation on 7th June 2013 said: “To Paul, you have said many bad things about Dinka, but you should know that Jieng will not leave any Equatoria land very soon because this land has taken blood of Dinka who defended it during the war with Arab people. To be honest with you, we are not leaving Nimule, Yei and other towns in South Sudan to either Uganda or Congo. There is no way out. If you are South Sudanese, please do not waste your time writing nonsense about Dinka, they are true owners of this land of Equatoria.” Now this kind of blatant assertion of rights over fellow country man’s land is not any different from the behaviour of the Arabs or early European imperialists. The Jieng have clearly by their actions chosen to be domestic colonialists.
Lukudu Gatkouth Garang (another diluted Jieng) commented on the, ‘Press release: Western Bahr El Ghazal community in Diaspora’ published by South Sudan Nation on 17th June 2013 saying: “They (Fertit) have already taken their chances and actions against the so called idiots. Now it is the idiots turn to either forgive them or punish them severely. Please stop instigating war between Jieng and Fertit in Wau and plan for your own safe exit from your own backyard. Those SPLA/M idiots are everywhere and watching and monitoring your every move and they will catch up with you one day at the Konyokonyo market of wherever you may be on this planet earth. Mouse, keep dancing around on the SSN while cats are watching you planning their next move on you.”
This comment conveys what goes on in the mind of the Jieng. The Jieng basically have dehumanised the ‘others’ and this is why they are able to abuse people without any remorse. Imagine calling fellow countrymen ‘rats’. As social theory posits that the abuser in the process of abusing others dehumanise himself/herself too. I wish to pray for them by saying, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
As I argued elsewhere, with all its immense pain, this is not comparable to the Arab problem because it is easily solvable. In South Sudan there are about 63 tribes and out of these one tribe or so is deluding itself that it can lord it over the rest because they make 18 percent of the total population of South Sudan. This is what I call fantasy. Which is greater – is it 18 percent or 82 percent of the population? Obviously 82 percent is the majority and this is what really matters in deciding the fate of the country. Once all the other tribes converge on the view that Jieng behaviour must be addressed, the current nonsense in Juba will be history and South Sudan will be one step closer to total independence.
However, with dogged insistence from the people of South Sudan the next government can be made to see to it as a duty to arraign the current criminals in Juba to ensure that they pay for the mismanagement of the country ranging from wanton looting to killing of innocent people. The proceeds of their loot must be legally confiscated and this includes animals like cows bought by looted cash.
South Sudanese should not accept anything less than total righting of the current wrongs. There must be a total overhaul of the system so that people get the message that crime does not pay. Knowing that we can do the above, why not then celebrate the independence of South Sudan. South Sudan is bigger than any ethnic group and this should assure us of good things to come.
With the above I am of to Queen of Sheba restaurant to entertain myself to a large dish of Ethiopian cuisine downed with a bottle of Chateau Moncontour Vouray wine in celebration of independence from the Mundukuru. After which I will go home and listen to Bob Marley’s: ‘Get up stand up, stand up for yours rights. Get up stand don’t give up the fights.’ Yaa oppressed, are you listening! Let us celebrate our independence.[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]
The Author lives in the Republic of South Sudan. He can be reached at [email protected]