December 29, 2013 (SSNA) — Thursday 8th July 1965 around 10 p.m. or so at night I was woken up abruptly by unfamiliar sound. Tat! Tat! Tat! sharp sound in three successions. This was the sound of the German made G3 rifle standard issue to the Sudanese army. It was an extremely frightening moment for me at a very delicate formative age. I was confused and gripped with panic as I heard my mother in our darkened house praying with my elder brother hurrying the family to move out quick. I had never heard my mother’s voice sound forlorn as it did. She must have thought we would not survive given her lamentation to the Almighty. Under the guidance of my two elder brothers we left our house and just few meters away we heard a burst of gun fire and we saw our uncle who must have been coming to us fall. Survival dictated that we had to forget about him and continue least we perish too.
On the way one of my sisters found a baby abandoned by its parents. Female human instinct kicked in and she grabbed the crying baby. My elder brother was against taking the baby because its crying was exposing our position to the army shooting everyone on sight. The Sudanese Arab soldiers were going from residential block to residential block shooting anything living and torching the grass thatched houses. My sister stuck to the baby and refused to part with it. Eventually, my brother gave up his view. My sister with support of my mother calmed the baby but from time to time it would cry. The baby might have known that my sister was not its mother from things like body smell, voice, heart beat etc. It must have been traumatised by the loss of its mother and therefore security.
Under the guidance of my elder brother with constant scouting of the surroundings and frequent hidings from the Arab army he safely led us to the safety of the Police living quarters in Juba. Our escape from Atlabara started from around 11 p.m. at night ending with our arrival at Hai Police at around sunrise. That morning is unforgettable as Juba was covered in a blanket of smoke with dogs howling ceaselessly. I later understood that the dogs were feasting on the dead bodies and had gone mad all over the town. Juba being a small town then, people knew each other. We heard about the parents of the baby and their search for the baby. Contact was arranged and the baby was reunited with its mother.
This horrible experience is stamped in my brain. Sometime out of the blue it comes to my mind and it makes me sad. I have not discussed this painful experience with any of my family members although it is a family experience as well as an individual one. There were other similar situations of existential threat that I faced under Khartoum rule with similar impact. The one thing I know is that these experiences have shaped my life making me who I am today politically.
Precisely 48 years, 5 months and 1 week another horror of the same nature takes place in Juba. This time it is president Kiir and his tribal militia named ‘presidential guards’ who have taken over the place of the Arabs. Under a pretext of a coup, president Kiir imposed a curfew supposedly to safeguard the citizens. But in reality the curfew turned out to be a mechanism to contain, isolate and murder supposed opponents (predatory behaviour). Under the cover of the dark, president Kiir’s militia went from door to door shooting people of Nuer origin and individuals from other tribes who do not approve of his mismanagement of the country. The events unfolding in Juba from 15th December 2013 to the present and ongoing has brought forth painful memories inflicted on me and fellow countrymen by the Umma party led government of Mohamad Ahmed Mahjoub.
The mass killing of the Nuer people of all age groups in Juba by president’s Kiir militia could not have happened unless the killers convinced themselves that the Nuer are not human beings. Therefore, there must have been a process of dehumanising the Nuer as a people among the militia. It is not easy to kill a human being unless the killer believes that the victims are not worth living.
To throw light on this point, Let us briefly refer to a historical debate that took place in the College de San Gregorio in the Spanish city of Valladolid (1550- – 1551) regarding colonisation and slavery. When the Spanish monarch took control of South America it was faced with the problem of the humanity of the native people. This triggered a fierce debate between Bishop Bartolome de La Casas and Dominican Juan Gines de Sepulveda. Bartolome argued that the native on becoming Christian could not be enslaved whereas Sepulveda argued that the natives were less than human and therefore could be enslaved regardless of conversion. This debate was inconclusive but it laid the marker of who can be colonised and who could not. The lesson of this debate is important because it identified who could be colonised and the process that follow the identified persons/ethnicity/community. Such process includes dehumanisation in order to justify horrendous acts on others.
For Europeans to justify colonisation and slavery they had to dehumanise the ‘other’ to enable them behave in an inhuman manner towards their victims with impunity. They used science and literature to portray the ‘other’ as inferior. This is what resulted in the holocaust and the sad history of colonisation.
So the Nuer pogrom by president Kiir and his militia arguably is a result of dehumanisation simply because it appears to be well planned and supervised by the tribal generals. The imposition of the curfew simply put was to contain and isolate the victims, then the killing of the victims followed by silence of the system. While this crime has been going on, president Kiir failed in his duties. He has so far not made any effort to visit the victims of his policies in the various camps of safety. Crucially, it is important to know that he did not condemn the behaviour of his militia. It was only when the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon raised the prospects of accountability that he scrambled to the church during Christmas prayers to say he had asked for those who committed crimes to be arrested. How believable is this facade?
President Kiir’s abuse of state power to create a tribal militia and to unleash it on innocent citizens has plunged our country into a serious problem. What was the purpose of creating a parallel militia force composed of only Jieng from Warrap if it was not purely for such actions? How does this militia force serve the general interest of the people of South Sudan when there is a national South Sudan army in place?
The Nuer now appear to be targeting the Jieng in a tit for tat game claiming innocent lives. The Nuer must desist from revenge if they want to gain support and sympathy of South Sudanese. Equally any Nuer committing crimes against the Jieng must be made to account.
Surely president Kiir and his entire cabinet are suspects of a crime of ethnic cleansing against the Nuer people. The evidence to this lies in the fact that the cabinet remain united and perpetuates the lie that there was a coup attempt (when they will know that there was not) and continue to support president Kiir in this lie. President Kiir and his cabinet must be made to account one way or another. If this Nuer pogrom is not appropriately addressed, the question remains: which tribe will be next and who will protect them? We now know that the UN is always asleep. It only wakes up when thousands have perished and their response is always too little too late. Examples range from Rwanda, former Yugoslavia etc.
If president Kiir and his cabinet are not made accountable: what would stop all the other tribes from arming themselves? And if all the tribes arm themselves, would this not be evidence that South Sudan can not be a country because the concept of social contract has been broken? Why should South Sudanese be in one country if they do not trust their government?
The current chaos that has engulfed the country and is making us ask all sorts of questions is unfortunately diverting the attention of the people away from the true problems of South Sudan. The break of South Sudan from the Sudan has not been a complete one. South Sudan came out with psychological and cultural baggage of the old Sudan in its entirety. The reason for this is simply because the unionist SPLM/A hijacked the secession of South Sudan when they have no idea at all of how to run it. They had an ideology to run the old Sudan which was well articulated by the late Dr John Garang. SPLM/A taking over control of an independent South Sudan and without any blue print of how to run it, they continued to haphazardly apply unionist ideologies mixed with tribal ideologies. This is not what South Sudanese fought and voted for.
SPLM/A looks to Khartoum on how to rule South Sudan. Khartoum is a strong believer in identity politics. Its oppression of South Sudanese was based on it. For them to be human is to be an Arab and Muslim and since South Sudanese were not Arabs and Muslims the solution was to Arabise and Islamise them. The result was a conflict and the eventual break of the country. Even now Khartoum has not yet learnt a lesson. It treats the African tribes in the Sudan with contempt simply because they are not Arabs and this may lead into further fragmentation of the country.
SPLM/A has copied Khartoum’s way of doing things. Right from its inception it has embraced identity politics. SPLM/A total make up is tribal and it exercises Khartoum’s way of doing things. Just like Khartoum was committing massacres and carnages against South Sudan, SPLM/A was committing massacres against other tribes in South Sudan. For example, under Col. Dr John Garang, the SPLM/A targeted the Uduk people in Upper Nile in the late 1980s and early 1990s and in late 1990s it targeted the Didinga people in Eastern Equatoria with all the rest of the tribes in South Sudan experiencing unprecedented oppression by the Jieng tribe. Under Garang, the SPLM/A had an efficient disinformation network that made all the Western NGOs in the SPLM/A controlled territory look the other way pretending to be unaware of what was going on. It fitted the Japanese proverb: “ see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.”.
After the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 the SPLM/A targeted the Chollo people and the Fertit people in what can arguably be proven as an organised persecution. Please see ‘Transcending Tribe’ http://www.aljazeera.com/photo_galleries/africa/201111010324526960.html Now SPLM/A has turned to the Nuer. Who is next?
What does this then mean? It means that South Sudan needs to move away from the political enmeshment it is trapped in with the Sudan to avoid recurrence of pogroms in future. It needs to truly break free from the Sudan psychologically and culturally to realise its independence and be what it needs to be. Contradiction such as in the SPLM/A flag being flag of the Republic of South Sudan as well as the flag of SPLM/A-North must be brought to an end. South Sudan needs to have its own flag independent of any party. The name SPLA must cease to be the name of South Sudan army to eliminate association with certain tribal interest. Fallacious agreements foisted on the people of South Sudan like the Cooperation Agreement of September 2012 must be reviewed or dissolved.
Ironically the double political enmeshment which involves the SPLM/A on the one hand and the Republic of South Sudan and Sudan on the other disables South Sudan to be independent in its thinking in relation to the Sudan. Close observers of South Sudan would not miss noticing that independent South Sudan is promoting more Arabisation and Islamisation than the Sudan. Just watch SSTV and judge for yourselves. What is going on here?
Therefore, the SPLM/A must be scrapped by all means and replaced by a truly South Sudanese party that is able to break free from the double unhelpful political enmeshment. Thus, the people should not be duped to think that reconciliation in SPLM/A is going to solve the problems of the country. The so called ‘senior members of SPLM/A’ who disagreed with president Kiir are all aware of the crimes their beloved organisation has committed. In a sense they are complicit. Since 2002 after the return of Riek into the fold from Khartoum, no one amongst these senior members raised or expressed any concerns about SPLM/A abuse of the South Sudanese people and state resource: open looting of public resources, entrenchment of tribalism, killing of opponents and journalists etc.
It is only on 5th March 2013 when Riek declared his ambition to challenge president Kiir and on 23rd July 2013 when president Kiir applied the laws this very ‘senior members’ enacted on them that they started singing about democracy. Since when have they become democrats? Overnight? Surely people do not just become democrats over night. Democratic ideals are values and believes that come from the encore of the individual which are frequently expressed and practised. For example a true democratic would speak out against any proposed laws that curb democracy and liberties. Remember who empowered president Kiir through the interim constitution? Was it not this very group? Who among them opposed the constitution? These are questions that people need to think about.
I am convinced beyond doubt that all these ‘senior members of SPLM/A’ are only vying for power. Should they get it, believe you me, the chances are that they will be the next ruthless dictators of tomorrow oppressing the people mercilessly and we will be back in this same place. The interview of Riek Machar with Al Jazeera on 22nd December 2013 in which he tactlessly admits wanting to be the next president tells the public what this whole fuzz over democracy is about. It is about the presidency and the power that comes with it. This very group of ‘senior members of SPLM/A’ will if received knowledge is valid fracture when Riek accedes to power in a bitter squabbles and recrimination which will recreate similar problem like the one we are in.
Thus the problems of South Sudan essentially stems from the SPLM/A. This organisation is responsible for all the chaos and unnecessary bloodshed in the country for the reasons given above. The victims of the current chaos sadly enough are SPLM/A supporters murdered by the SPLM/A machine. In effect as already said SPLM/A is the big problem. President Kiir is an SPLM/A. Riek Machar et al are SPLM/A. The victims are SPLM/A with South Sudan being the real loser. That SPLM/A is a tribal organisation dominated by the Jieng can not be disputed and note that this tribe steering this deadly machine only comprise less than 18 percent of the population of South Sudan. The Nuer and the Jieng combined comprise about 30 percent of the population with the other 61 tribes making 70 percent. There is a myth peddled by the leaders of the SPLM/A, the media and the international community that the ruling tribe is very large which emboldens the leadership of the SPLM/A to become unrealistically adventurous.
Knowing the damage SPLM/A has caused to the country thus far, the remaining 70 percent of the population must be part of any long lasting solution because they have been victimised and also suffered greatly from the mismanagement of the SPLM/A. It is they whose lives have been turned upside down bearing the brunt of all the negative sides effects of mismanagement of the country. Which means any talks must be based along national dialogue involving all the stake holders in the country. The regional and international community now erroneously are focusing on the SPLM/A yet again. This mistake was committed during the negotiation of the CPA in Kenya and it should not be repeated.
SPLM/A is the problem and it can never bring peace and stability to the country. Any agreement in this cancerous organisation will only lead to future pogroms and this should not be allowed. The talks for peace can not only be confined to president Kiir and Riek et al, the destroyers of South Sudan without any agenda of government.
Given the ugly experience visited on South Sudan by the predatory behaviour of the tribally controlled SPLM/A copied from Khartoum politics, which has raised and revived painful experiences under the Arabs, the people of South Sudan should not let themselves be taken advantage off any more. SPLM/A has proven beyond doubt that it is a criminal organisation of thieves, killers and unprincipled people only interested in controlling power to perpetuate their crimes and self interest.
SPLM/A as a party now serves nobody’s interest. Please ‘Tear down the SPLM’ – Will South Sudanese Now Respond? http://allafrica.com/stories/201209030002.html?viewall=1 In fact it is a source of national pain and destruction to every South Sudanese. SPLM/A with its tribalism is the real threat to the national security of South Sudan. The least anyone can do is to cease being a member of this organisation for the greater good of South Sudan. Please fellow South Sudanese, consign the SPLM/A to the garbage bin of history to save our beloved country. Dr Justin Ramba wrote elsewhere that South Sudan comes to life the day SPLM/A atrophies. This could not have been more bluntly put. So let us save South Sudan by de-listing and withdrawing support from this murderous organisation.
Critically South Sudan needs to break free from the Sudan, in order to develop a political mind and culture that is true and humane to itself and completely independent. The political enmeshment with the Sudan, and within South Sudan with the SPLM/A confuses the current rulers in Juba creating mismanagement of the country and sad things like the Nuer pogrom by president Kiir and his militia dubbed presidential guards. Which clearly means SPLM/A is the real problem. Thus the current efforts by the regional and international community must be a holistic one involving all the stake holders in a form of national dialogue to bring a lasting peace to the country. So if the regional and international community really mean business then they need to widen the scope of participation to include all the stake holders. The silence of the other 61 tribes that are not involved in the current abuses in the country should not be misconstrued to mean weakness. After all most of these tribes regardless of numbers are warrior tribes.[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]
The author lives in the Republic of South Sudan. He can be reached at [email protected] .