President Kiir’s strategy to cover up ethnic cleansing collapsed in London

By Elhag Paul

February 21, 2014 (SSNA) — The horrendous crimes against humanity being committed in Republic of South Sudan from mid December 2013 is gradually oozing into the international political space causing concerns to the government of President Salva Kiir. Aware of the consequences and scared by the likely loss of power, president Kiir has gone into the offensive to cover up the horrors.

The strategy for the cover up is premised on the aggressive selling of the story of attempted coup d’etat. A claim discredited by American Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield who conclusively stated in her testimonies on South Sudan that there was no coup. There is a belief in Juba that the world has not been made to understand the position of the government of South Sudan. As a result, a “Mission to convince international media and the UK government to accept Juba’s version of events over what triggered the conflict” was despatched to London. (Sudan Tribune 10/02/2013)

A similar mission led by Ateny Wek Ateny was despatched to East Africa for the same purpose. While in Kampala Ateny like Dr Barnaba Marial in London asserted that Riek announced a coup on 16th December 2013. Both expressed disappointment with the world for not believing their side of the story. But the question is: did Riek really announce a coup on that day? The over whelming majority of the people may have already answered this questions for themselves. Most likely in the negative and this is what is exasperating the authorities in Juba. 

However, the truth is that it was president Kiir in military attire flung by his ministers on Monday 16th December 2013 who announced on SSTV that Riek attempted a coup and that he (Riek) was in the American embassy in Juba. So, how and where did Riek make the announcement when he was in hiding for his dear life? Ateny’s mission as expected did not give him any problems since he went to friendly countries sympathetic to president Kiir. The Uganda media cowed by Museveni obliged and now they are parroting Juba lies.

Unlike Ateny, Marial’s mission was tough, but he deluded himself and believed he could work miracles to pull the wool over the eyes of the British. His large entourage was composed of macho men only in black suits presenting as serious. To prove president Kiir’s chauvinistic government there was no woman in this delegation although the instruments of governance in RSS say 25 percent of posts and by inference representation should be given to women. Addition of the “other” usually ignored but in most cases intelligent, diligent, issue-focused, considerate and gifted with various skills in relationship and conflict management in the form of sisters and mothers have no place in this herd of bulls. For example, slotting Suzanne Jambo in the middle might have coloured this herd giving it a much milder and less thuggish look.

But the Oyee machine unfortunately has no time for sisters and mothers. The other day president Kiir despatched one of his Rottweilers to Warrap to chastise a sister: Nyanaguek Kuol Mareng because she simply stood up for the truth. Shamelessly Nyanaguek was forced out of her job. Oyee chauvinism has unfairly injured our sisters needlessly. Do you remember the case of Dr Pauline Riek? Do you remember the case of Josephine Lagu? Do you remember the case of Dr Olivia Lomoro? These are just few examples. Any wonder why GRSS is in the current mess. Unless South Sudan learns to value its women it will have a long way to go.

When Marial and his interesting entourage arrived London the first presentation he gave was at Chatham House on 10th February 2014.  The second presentation was at the International Institute of Strategic Studies on 11th February 2014 and the third was at London School of Economics on 12th February 2014. 

Marial’s presentations in all these venues leave a lot to be desired. He engaged in unnecessary waffle narrating British history to professors of history in Oxford University and other institutions like professor Douglas Johnson, the author of ‘The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil Wars’.  Then from history he shifted to promoting tourism and investment in RSS. He devoted little time to the issue of substance and this mainly was on the legitimacy of the government and condemnation of the “coup”. If he thought to sell the story of mid December 2013 as a coup it was a big flop.

Unfortunately for Marial, the allegation of a coup d’état in RSS was analysed on Wednesday 5th February 2014 at Oxford by a scholar who demonstrated convincingly that there was no coup. The literature on the subject say that for an act to satisfy the definition of a coup there must be a takeover of, or an attempt to takeover,  government institutions viz: radio/TV stations, river ports, airport, bridges, major roads, central bank, presidential palace, main military institutions etc in a well coordinated and synchronised manner under one command. Crucially, the coup must have the element of surprise.

In mid December 2013 Riek et al manifestly did not think or even attempt spontaneously to takeover any government institutions. The clash at the headquarters of the presidential guards as it is understood was purely a military issue caused by conflicting orders from senior officers and suspicious soldiers. In a nutshell there was no coup.

Marial’s argument that there was a coup is grounded on the clash at the barracks of the presidential guards. According to him, the Nuer troops were under orders to take over the barracks leading into a coup. Sorry this unconvincing explanation is thin. Who were the military officers in the plot? From which radio/TV station did Riek make his alleged announcement? Where is the evidence from the intelligence reports? Nothing! The whole thing is a dump squib. The story just would not sell. 

Here are some of the few quotes from conversations with some of the attendees after Marial’s presentations

“He (Marial) thinks we are fools”
“Not adding up” in reference to Marial explanation of the 15th December 2013 incident.
“Not convincing. Where is the evidence?”
“No evidence”
“Load of trash”
“The regime is deceiving itself”
“Think we can not sieve the wheat from the chaff”

There you are, in fact this in itself is a mini battle between tyrants in Juba and democrats with Dr Marial representing the former and the audience representing the latter. Had the Dinkocrates won the day with their lies, that would have been a bad omen for development of democracy in RSS. The BBC HARDtalk programme was the icing on the cake of failure of RSS’s strategy to cover up the ethnic cleansing.

Marial’s entourage came to UK confident to feed the British with a load of lies to sell the biggest lie of all – the story of coup d’état. Marial certainly was over optimistic to expect a well enlightened, free thinking and critical people to just buy his baseless stories to cleanse the image of his murderous government because he is a minister representing the newest country in the world. The audience he spoke to is amongst the most sophisticated, well educated, well informed section of UK. They are knowledgeable about issues of South Sudan and the behaviour of president Kiir’s government. 

The stance of the west on the story of the coup was best expressed by Douglas Johnson at Chatham House when he said, “Too many details surrounding the events in Juba remain unclear or unaddressed.”  and James Copnall at the International Institute of Strategic Studies who stated, “..the African Union had also not condemned the fighting as a coup attempt and suggested that the International Media analysis and diplomats would need further evidence to convince them of the government narrative.” The BBC HARDtalk interview with Barnaba Marial Benjamin drove the final nail into the coffin of Juba lies, please access it through this URL for your information.

It is easy to sell stories in the west, even lies but there is a caveat that must be met and that is provision of credible evidence. If no evidence then it is unworthy of any attempt. Nobody would buy any story without concrete evidence. The apparatchiks in Juba should have known that the Western societies are evidence driven. This culture has its roots in the enlightenment era, scientific revolution, industrial revolutions and political revolutions. Western societies are protected from lies among other things by a robust independent media, freedom of speech / expression, and an independent judiciary. Unlike in the RSS where the security stifles truth and promotes lies through violence internally, and through diplomacy externally like what Marial’s delegation attempted to do. In the West lies are exposed and openly spoken about. For instance, when Tony Blair, the former prime minister of UK presented a dossier on Iraq to justify military intervention. This document was analysed and exposed for what it was. With such examples how did Juba think they would fool Westminster?

Worse still the people charged with this task appear to be insensitive to their host. During the presentations at those three prestigious institutions Marial seemed to offend their host by use of chauvinistic language and other negative comments. Marial was also openly insensitive to the South Sudanese Diaspora. 

When Marial was asked how could president Kiir’s government be a democratically elected administration when there has not been any elections held in South Sudan since it attained independence on 9th July 2011? Marial responded by saying the general election of April 2010 in the then Sudan gave president Kiir mandate of five years and that was why he assumed power on independence day. Surely this was totally absurd. Any person with constitutional knowledge would see that this was not right. The five years Marial refers to was only applicable in the event of South Sudanese voting for unity in the referendum, but not in the case of secession which now is the case. Therefore, the mandate that president Kiir and the SPLM got in the general elections of April 2010 technically and legally expired with the break of the Sudan into two countries. Thus president Kiir and the SPLM are squatters in J1 and in the ministries building. 

They should be evicted fast and the people of South Sudan should make the long overdue decision democratically through the ballot to choose who must govern the country. Now that president Kiir and the SPLM have abused power and engaged in ethnic cleansing they have no any legal basis to continue in government. They must make way for an interim government of national unity which should include all South Sudanese.

These current foreign missions are utter waste of resources. The truth of what happened can not be pushed under the carpet. Even if it could be, it would not be in the interest of the country to do so. The repercussion in the near or distant future will come back to bite the people. The victims of the on going ethnic cleansing who have lived and survived this heinous ordeal may wait patiently for the opportune time to revenge such that the spectre of violence in RSS would remain a live volcano waiting to erupt any time.

Further the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity may feel invincible to continue committing such crimes. The talk now in RSS from this quarter is that Equatoria would be the next. The Equatorians are peace loving people but it is not certain that they will continue to take the abuses endlessly without reaction in self defence.   It would be easy to do what president Kiir and his tribal militia did to the Nuer on Equatorians in the towns but the response to any such actions might be the collapse of RSS as a state.

For this reason the international community represented by the United Nations need to ensure that president Kiir is referred to International Criminal Court in The Hague to answer for the crimes against humanity presently taking place in the country. South Sudanese have no faith in IGAD. If this sad case is left in IGAD’s hands nothing will come out of it leaving the surviving victims and the people of South Sudan with incurable internal injuries that may lead into repeat of similar crimes in future. President Kiir, his tribal militia and any other actors involved in crimes against humanity must account for their actions. 

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the International Community must not be swayed by the charges of racism labelled against them by Africans in defence of indicted African leaders because this is about abuse of humanity. Crimes are crimes and they must be appropriately addressed in court of law wherever that might be. Justice must be seen to be done in this particular case of RSS to act as a deterrent.

Finally, the mission of Marial to sell lies in order to divert attention from the grave human rights abuse going on in South Sudan has collapsed.  His failure to convince the British is down to two things. First, as already shown above he did not have any evidence, and secondly his presentations were not properly focused coming across as stalling. Vitally, he failed to balance his arguments and he mainly dwelled on supposed success of president Kiir’s administration. This oversight can only be a very good outcome for the suffering people of South Sudan.

[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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