By Kuir ë Garang
I’d like to express my condolences to everyone who’s lost loved ones.
Inciting Tribalism: Not Jieng vs. Nuer but Government Forces vs. Nuer
December 18, 2013 (SSNA) — Those comparing what is happening in South Sudan to 1994 Rwanda don’t understand the nature of what is happening in South Sudan. To call the issue Jieng vs. Nuer is to mischaracterize the situation. It was not the average Jieng civilians who were killing Nuer civilians in Juba. It was government security forces.
This problem was started by the government by calling the Mutineers Riek’s loyalists because of their ethnicity. It’s the government that tribalized the tension and no one else. Besides, why was the security force going house to house and why were they mostly Jieng? Where there Nuer forces among those who went house to house? If this security force was made up of members from all tribes including Nuer, Nuer civilians would not have been targeted.
Now, whose fault is it that the security force was predominately Jieng people? Were there Nuers in the security force that went from house to house but allowed their fellow Nuers to be targeted? A presence of Nuer soldiers would have prevented this mess. However, the government came out to talk to South Sudanese who have nothing to do with this mess!
Civilians didn’t start this and they are not the ones killing themselves. The government and its security forces started this mess and they have to end it.
No Evidence of a ‘Coup’
At the end of the day, we are the people to tell our truth. Our government has failed its people. And the politicians opposing the dictatorial and misguided leadership of president Kiir failed to properly read the mind-set of the president. Irresponsibly and tactlessly opposing a man who has no sense of genuine purpose is a disaster in itself.
However, the world has to know and properly contextualize what is happening in South Sudan. It’s not a ‘coup.’ A number of things need to be understood as facts don’t add up!
- The government has no documented proof of a coup plot: meeting place and word by word proof that it was actually a premeditated coup to oust the president. With a proof then we’d never forgive these politicians and they would be tried for treason against South Sudan. However, without any proof the government will be considered the problem itself and the president and the cabinet would be tried for treason against South Sudan should they be the ones who instigated the mess!
- The fight started among the presidential guard units, an elite force that’s supposed to be under the command of the president and his trusted folks. Why the fight started in the army headquarters is a puzzle as the government failed to provide a convincing answer. Opposing groups provide contradicting accounts.
- The ‘coup’ started in the army barrack rather than a place in which coups are mostly effective: president’s office, presidential palace or the state TV station.
- The claim of mutineers’ loyalty to Riek Machar is based purely on ethnicity as the soldiers who mutinied are ethnically Nuer so the government is the one that tribalized this disaster. What other criteria did the government use to establish that the mutineers are Riek’s loyals? And why did Nuer officers, and not Jieng officers, mutiny while the ‘coup’ plotters are not all Nuer?
- If this was a premeditated coup orchestrated by the arrested individuals, shouldn’t soldiers loyal to them be part of the mutiny too? Why weren’t soldiers loyal to the likes of Oyay Deng Ajak, Majak D’Agoot, Gier Chuang and the rest, part of the mutineers if they plotted the ‘coup’?
- The government’s only support to the ‘coup’ claim is the reported Saturday shooting outside the venue of the National Liberation Council meeting immediately the dissenting politicians walked out in protest. And the fact that these group have publicly criticized the president! Are these people really that stupid to meet publicly to oppose the president and then plot a ‘coup’ when they don’t have a strong grip on the military?
- It’s not clear if the mutineers clearly intended to oust the president and what they’d done in that regard to show that this is what their primary aim was. A mere mutiny isn’t proof of a ‘coup.’ For the government to retain some credibility it has to provide undeniable proofs.
- The implicated individuals except Riek Machar (who ran away for reasons he’ll have to clearly explain to South Sudanese) were arrested in their houses without any resistance and there’s no proof of their coordination of a ‘coup.’
What’s very clear and what no one can dispute is that a number of soldiers mutinied for a reason we are yet to clearly understand. It’s not clear in the events that followed and the ensuring fighting that the mutiny was geared toward removing the president. Machar, for argument’s sake, like president Kiir, could have taken advantage of the mutiny. However, as facts conscious people and people who need information from the government, a concrete proof is needed.
What needs to be Done Now
The president and his administration need to stop inflammatory statements to the media and call for a national dialogue as soon as possible to follow up on the recent promise in the today’s press conference. Innocent civilians, who have no idea what the politicians are talking about, are dying in great numbers. Civilians around Bor and surrounding areas are being subjected to what they have no part in. These people are still traumatized by the events of 1991 SPLA split. They shouldn’t suffer again under greed for power and leadership incompetence.
The president needs to:
- Release the detained politicians
- Call for national dialogue with a conscientious air of national unity. And stick honestly with what he said regarding his promised talks with Riek Machar today!
- Avoid abusive language and inflammatory language
- Stop the lies and stick with the truth by giving verifiable facts for people to analyse for themselves.
- Call for unequivocal protection of civilians regardless of ethnicity
- Remember that people who were killing Nuer civilians in Juba were not Jieng civilians but security forces who happen to be, intentionally or unintentionally, predominately Jieng.
- Make sure the security forces in Juba has a visible presence of soldiers from different tribes in order to ease the tension and anxiety
- Make it a priority to protect Nuer civilians in Juba and other areas of South Sudan that are predominately populated by Jieng
- Hold people who are responsible for the atrocities accountable as he said during his second press conference.
Riek Machar needs to:
- Reach out to Gatdet and his forces and the entire Nuer community to prevent further ethnic bloodbath
- Reach out to Kiir, as Kiir promised to talk, through a mediator as soon as possible before things further deteriorate.
- Understand that history will not forgive him if another ethnic killing happen in something that implicates him whether he’s to blame or not. People will not remember that Riek Machar ran away because he was about to be arrested in the name of democracy. People will only remember that Riek rebelled in 1991 and innocent civilians were massacred and he rebelled again and in 2013 and innocent civilians are massacred …again. That’d be Riek’s history!
- Call for protection of civilians all over South Sudan, especially in Bor area. The Dinka of Jonglei suffered in 1991 and they are again suffering in 2013.
The sooner Riek and Kiir show a sense of leadership, responsibility and humility, the better things would be for the young nation. Otherwise, we are looking at the second failed state in Africa; a nation of warlords. They owe it to the young generation and the country to straighten things out. What do they think would happen in 30 years when they are gone or too old to govern?
Kuir ë Garang is the author of ‘South Sudan Ideologically’ and “Is ‘Black’ Really Beautiful?” For contact see www.kuirthiy.info or follow him on Twitter:@kuirthiy.