Justice Peter Sule on a legal and grassroots solution for South Sudan

By Margaret Akulia, Canada

“They are Obama girls” my friend jested in reference to two gun toting elegant looking American women of Nuer descent! “They are Americans” he continued as I stared at a photograph that was making the rounds on various South Sudan fora in utter disbelief. A caption accompanying the photograph declared something about being born Nuer and dying Nuer because they did not choose to be Nuer but God did. The exquisite looking women were quoted to have said “If joining White Army could prevent elimination of my tribe Nuer I am ready to resist as a woman. My life is not more valuable than 17,613 Nuer who were brutally killed in Juba."

April 30, 2014 (SSNA) — There was no mistaking that the women were members of the notorious White Army, a militant organization comprised of Nuer people because they had smeared their skins with the signature white light coloured ash of the Nuer White Army. They are Americans?! I exclaimed dumbfounded as I continued to stare at the photograph of the two gun brandishing immaculately toned Nuer American women. Their story could have made an incredible Hollywood Blockbuster if it wasn’t for the sullen association to the carnage that continues to unfurl in South Sudan. My friend sensed how staggered I was so he offered an explanation.

“The Nuers are like that. In a fight, they don’t ask questions until the fight is over. Everyone who ever lived in the other Sudan before South Sudan became independent knows that if a South Sudanese was involved in a fight with an Arab, the Nuer would “jump” the Arab and then ask what the fight was all about after it was over,” my friend explicated in reference to how fiercely protective Nuer people are of their kin and how they have no qualms whatsoever about “jumping” into the fracas and “ganging up” on individuals and groups who threaten their people.

“When the police show up, the Nuer would tell them to ask the person they rescued from an Arab’s pummeling what happened because they are the ones with the information.”

“Ask him. He knows what happened”, they would always egg the police on after a fierce battle between a Southern Sudanese, their Nuer protagonist and a Jallaba (Northern Arab)”.

As my friend continued shedding light on the Nuer mindset, I became even more flummoxed because a scenario similar to what he was describing was unfolding right before our eyes. Nuers from all over the world including but not limited to the two Nuer women featured in the photograph and others from the Gambela region of Ethiopia converged on South Sudan to defend their kin without the least bit of care for the restrictions imposed by transnational borders. However, who gives a hoot about those idiotic boundaries anyway? They are contrived demarcations born out of the very containment that is partly to blame for the upheaval in South Sudan!

“The Nuers are an egalitarian society” my friend divulged, which was music to my ears because South Sudan will need that egalitarianism to jolt itself from the current melee and usher in a formidable and unprecedented democratic state. However, the desperados responsible for the current lawlessness need to be kicked out first using the legal and grassroots solution being promulgated by Justice Peter Sule! He is a brilliant lawyer and politician with the competence and commitment to translate the wishes of all South Sudanese into legalese and a final, fundamental and rock-solid constitution that protects all South Sudanese and guarantees the future of the country as asserted by Lieutenant General Ladu Gore in my article titled “Solution oriented conversations with Lieutenant General Ladu Gore”. 

I had pursued Justice Peter Sule in Juba to continue picking his juristic brains about the legal and grassroots solution he is prescribing for preventing South Sudan’s melee from mutating into an all-out decimation of the country’s Nuer and Dinka tribes and he didn’t disappoint me! An all-out tribal extermination has become even more imminent because of the total disregard for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan by parties to the conflict and the continuing uninhibited massacre of individuals from the Nuer and Dinka tribes. Consequently, it is imperative to find a sustainable solution that will halt the bloodbath immediately so that South Sudanese can begin a course of healing that was doomed to fail because of Salvatore Kiir Mayardit’s anarchic government. Justice Peter Sule has that sustainable solution!

“We believe that this conflict has transcended and gone beyond both our president and Mr. Machar and even the SPLM. It has now become an issue which must be solved by the people of South Sudan” Justice Peter Sule has written in a very eloquent position paper he sent to Ambassador Seyoum Mesfin, the Ethiopian politician and diplomat chairing the IGAD Mediation Committee jobbed with the insurmountable task of brokering a peace deal between the SPLM/SPLA in Government and the SPLM/SPLA in Opposition. He was forced to dispatch his thoroughly thought out legal and grassroots solution for resolving the mayhem currently unfolding in South Sudan through a go-between because the government of Salvatore Kiir Mayardit has banned him from travelling outside Juba in flagrant violation of Part Two of the Interim Constitution of the Sovereign Republic of South Sudan respecting the “Bill of Rights” and Freedom of Movement and Residence. The absurdity is that the “Bill of Rights” is embedded in the very constitution Salvatore Kiir Mayardit is using to latch onto a defective presidency and churn out decree after decree for harming the people of South Sudan with impunity! Apparently, the constitution is only applicable when it is the President and his cronies who interpret it.

27. (1) Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of movement and the liberty to choose his or her residence except for reasons of public health and safety as shall be regulated by law.

(2) Every citizen shall have the right to leave and or return to South Sudan.

“There is now an open ban on my travel anywhere outside the country. That makes it impossible for me to go to Addis for the peace negotiations” Justice Peter Sule wrote in an email he sent me after a long phone conversation I had with him in Juba to continue picking his experienced brains about his legal and grassroots solution for South Sudan.

Justice Peter Sule couldn’t be more clear-cut in the methodically thought out legal and grassroots solution he has for the disarray currently unfolding in South Sudan. However his way out of the South Sudan bloodbath which complements a submission by intellectuals from the Equatoria region of South Sudan has yet to see the light of day. This is because the groups that have the most noticeable interest in South Sudan specifically IGAD, the African Union and the Troika countries are sponsoring the wrong solution, namely “cajoling” belligerent teams of the SPLM cum SPLA to conciliate their differences so that they can continue with their “business as usual!” However, should it really be “business as usual” in South Sudan with an “impaired” SPLM cum SPLA in all its variations at the helm? An honest, “no holds barred “democratic” debate” on this “audacious” question will undoubtedly anger “maniacal” supporters of the SPLM cum SPLA. However, I am challenging them to it anyway, in the spirit of the democracy the SPLM/SPLA in Opposition is flaunting! Simply put, the ability of the people of South Sudan resident in South Sudan and the Diaspora (hereinafter referred to as “the People”) to voice their true sentiments in this debate without being bullied or “shot at” will determine if the SPLM/SPLA in Opposition is fighting for actual democracy or putting up a fraudulent front to get into power so that they can continue to gorge on “the People’s” resources.

Here are my initial submissions in the honest “no holds barred “democratic” debate” that must take place with the “maniacal” supporters of the SPLM cum SPLA for the “Freedom Movement” they are “broadcasting” to be an actual democratic movement! 

It is preposterous for IGAD, the African Union and the Troika countries to depend on the very “SPLM cum SPLA collective” that fashioned the anarchy that has consumed South Sudan to also come up with the solution to their lawlessness! Consequently, IGAD, the African Union and the Troika countries should put an end to involving only the SPLM/SPLA in Government and the SPLM/SPLA in Opposition in coming up with a solution to the unrest their “collective” created and turn to “the People” instead as advocated by Justice Peter Sule. In other words, Members of the SPLM cum SPLA are jointly and severally liable for the current catastrophe in South Sudan and they are also jointly and severally culpable for the human rights abuses their movement cum army has meted on “the People”. Consequently, it is an abomination for the organization’s members to dictate to “the People” how the country should be run. This means that they ought to stop “boasting” that they are the only South Sudanese who can lead and/or govern South Sudan!

Simply put, out of respect for families and friends who lost loved ones during the SPLM/SPLA instigated so-called war to “liberate” South Sudan, the SPLM cum SPLA in all its variations should not be the ones dictating the agenda for the country! They should not be leading any dialogue respecting a solution or governing the country either. If the organization and so-called “freedom fighters” are unable to “hunch” that leading any dialogue respecting a solution to the cruel and intentional murders their members inflicted on millions of South Sudanese is irreverence, they should submit to the long overdue “collective counselling” they need, to deal with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that has contributed to the extreme behaviours that have brought South Sudan to the brink of total collapse without delay. It is detestable to mass murder South Sudanese and then purport to help them heal while placing guns to their heads! In my opinion, if the SPLM cum SPLA “collective” is serious about honouring the memory of the millions of South Sudanese whose lives were snuffed by their members, they should exclude themselves from governing South Sudan in the interim on their own volition. Healing should be one of the top priorities after the carnage and it cannot be ushered in by the “murderers” and “rapists” themselves.

Notwithstanding the foregoing and in the spirit of democracy, if “the People” will that selected individuals currently and historically affiliated with the SPLM cum SPLA “collective” should lead dialogues for coming up with a solution to the bedlam they created and even run for elected positions on an individual appropriateness basis, I have no issue with that. However, the organization as a “collective” in any variation is too “unbalanced” to lead any form of “restorative dialogue” or government, which statement is a direct challenge to the “consultative conference ” organized by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLM/SPLA) “armed resistance” under their leader Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon from April 15, 2014 to April 18, 2014 in Nasir, Upper Nile State, South Sudan for purposes of “restructuring all public sectors in the state of South Sudan to conform to the federal system of governance”.

I am convinced that for South Sudan to emerge triumphant from under the superfluous rubble and this dark history, Justice Peter Sule’s legal and grassroots solution ought to be explored to the fullest extent. If members of the SPLM/SPLA in Government and the SPLM/SPLA in Opposition really love South Sudan as they claim, their “collective” in all its variations will take a very long look in the mirror and do something about the demented images that “stare back” at them! Their “collective” needs to reflect very deeply on those demented images for members to understand that although they are willing to govern South Sudan, they are unable to do so as a “collective.” They can participate in “the People’s” dialogue as individuals but it will be reprehensible for them to lead the “restorative dialogue” and interim government which must be planned and implemented by “the People”, not them.

As if to mock Justice Peter Sule’s law profession and “Lawyer’s Oath” to uphold the law and justice as an officer of the court, he has been subjected to the most hideous forms of human rights violations by the government of Salvatore Kiir Mayardit, including but not limited to attempted murder. For his “crime” which is speaking up to the President and challenging the President’s “constitutional roguery”, Justice Peter Sule has been banned from travelling outside Juba. Consequently, he can’t travel to Ethiopia where he needs to be in order to share his legal and grassroots solution for stopping the South Sudan atrocities. Justice Peter Sule served a two year prison sentence without even being charged, in a deliberate high level abuse of power and violation of another part of Part Two of the Interim Constitution of the Sovereign Republic of South Sudan respecting the “Bill of Rights” in relation to Freedom from Torture and Fair Trial!  

18. No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

19. (1) An accused person is presumed to be innocent until his or her guilt is proved according to the law.

(2) Any person who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his or her arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him or her.

(3) In all civil and criminal proceedings, every person shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent court of law in accordance with procedures prescribed by law.

Is it any wonder that the four political detainees (Pagan Amum, Oyai Deng Ajak, Lol Gatkouth and Majak Agot) accused of plotting a so-called coup against Salvatore Kiir Mayardit were dragged through a kangaroo court that concluded with the oxymoronic pardoning of individuals who were innocent in the first place? Justice Peter Sule languished in jail without being charged for two years but even after being released, he continues to be punished! In addition to the open ban on his travel anywhere outside the country which will enable him to share his legal and grassroots solution to avert the current mass execution in South Sudan, Justice Peter Sule has even been banned from going to his own village! He is suffering the same unlawful confinement the four so-called coup plotters are now suffering despite their so-called pardon and release from custody.

So much for the democracy being swanked by Salvatore Kiir Mayardit and his cohorts!

However, despite Justice Peter Sule’s brutalization, he hasn’t given up in South Sudan, hence his articulate position about the solution for the carnage that continues to unfold in South Sudan being at the hands of “the People”. Justice Peter Sule believes that all South Sudanese need to come together to stop the bleeding and he has a rock-solid prescription as a lawyer, politician and grassroots activist! I have no doubt in my mind that Justice Peter Sule’s prescription to involve “the People” in coming up with the solution to the current bloodshed themselves will terminate the bloodletting in the country because it is a solution “the People” will all own! Justice Peter Sule’s love for “the People” and his confidence in them to come up with the solution to the South Sudan carnage themselves was distinctive as he gave me a blow by blow account of his life story and what needs to happen for South Sudan to emerge victorious from the bloody rubble.  

“We should present this country with a hope; a hope for good government, for good administration which will lead us to unity, a new unity in the near future, hopefully”, Justice Peter Sule continued undeterred by the pain and suffering he has endured because of his pursuit of a better South Sudan – one that respects the rule of law where all South Sudanese are protected with a fundamental constitution, including the two tribes that are out to wipe each other out, namely Dinka and Nuer people.

When I conveyed apprehensions about the solution Justice Peter Sule was prescribing, he was very optimistic about deferring these apprehensions to “the People” so that they can discuss them as a knowledgeable group. He asserted something about “negotiating amongst ourselves, to persuade ourselves and to make that future government a possibility, to agree on a system of administration that will be acceptable to all of us. It is better that way, rather than having one or two political parties that will make something in Addis which will be brought back only to find that that thing is unacceptable. It is better if more of us are there so that when we come back, we come back with something that is acceptable to all the people, to all the Southerners”.

Justice Peter Sule was reaffirming his position about including all the people of South Sudan in a dialogue that is certain to bring about resolution to the bloodbath. In his eloquent statement to Ambassador Seyoum Mesfin, Justice Peter Sule highlighted the “ugly secrets” of South Sudan which until the explosion on December 15, 2013 eluded the eyes of the world. The lengthy list of “dirty secrets” includes but it is not limited to gross mismanagement of the country and its resources, marginalization of entire ethnic communities from decision making, inequality in the share of power and wealth, lawlessness, infringement of human rights and civil liberties, etcetera.

“The conflict between the two leaders; the president and his former vice-president which locked the two ethnic nationalities into a life and death struggle, was not the result of marginalization, oppression or mistreatment of either nationality, but a struggle for total dominance and continued superiority by one over the other” Justice Peter Sule dared to “unclothe”. He was referring to the incomprehensible hostility between the Dinka and Nuer tribes of South Sudan which is threatening to obliterate the two tribes from South Sudan and take the country and the remaining 62 tribes of South Sudan down with them if a solution to the needless mass murder is not found soon!

“To restrict the present on-going negotiations in Addis Ababa to the two leaders of the SPLM, would be to confine future control of the country in their two hands to the exclusion of all others, a situation which would hardly be acceptable to the excluded. It would also be tantamount to reaffirming the tyranny and dictatorship which brought this crisis into being in the first place.” 

“It must also be realized that the two groups are negotiating generally as "greater Upper Nile" led by Dr. Riek Machar, and "greater Bahr El Gazal", led by our president. In this case, it is "greater Equatoria" which is not represented. It is therefore only fair that Equatoria be represented in these negotiations so that nobody feels sidelined and cheated. It is to be said that negotiating on regional basis is the only realistic and quickest method to bring about fair distribution of wealth and power all over South Sudan and with it fair chances for reconciliation, harmony and finally unity of the people of this country. It is in this manner that democracy, good governance and social justice could be realized, bringing with it stability for a long time to come. It is also one way of cutting off the heavy expenditure being used on the huge army of ministers and members of parliament all over South Sudan”.

Justice Peter Sule’s unabashed assertions shed a lot of light into the bloody skirmish that is currently unfolding in South Sudan with an inference that there are three major components to the bloodbath that must be dealt with separately! Firstly, a struggle for total dominance and continued superiority by one of Dinka and Nuer over the other which explains the systematic targeting and massacring of innocent South Sudanese from the Nuer tribe that set off the current carnage. A spin-off of that is Nuer People converging on South Sudan to defend their kin from extermination by Dinka lawbreakers. Secondly, a genuine pursuit of democracy by South Sudanese who don’t belong to the “ruling class”, which explains why other South Sudanese have “teamed up” with the Nuer in a “wobbly” coalition that lacks clarity and thirdly, the ability of the SPLM cum SPLA to lead and/or govern South Sudan.

Simply put, there needs to be differentiation between Nuer People jumping into the fray to protect their kin and the pursuit of democracy by all South Sudanese including the Nuer and the Dinka. It is my strong opinion that the lines are currently blurred. However to attain sustainable peace and then usher in unprecedented democracy and development, all three components must be clarified and dealt with separately.  

“Inclusivity must, in our opinion, be the rule to be followed in the present situation” Justice Peter Sule argues and I couldn’t agree more because all the people of South Sudan who did not instigate the mass murders that have brought the country to the brink of total collapse must now be involved in the way South Sudan is governed. Otherwise, disparagers could argue that everyone should vamoose to their corners of "greater Upper Nile", "greater Bahr El Gazal" and "greater Equatoria" in indescribable shame because the people of South Sudan will have failed despondently to keep a country with such potential in one piece! For the sake of the country and “the People” he loves, Justice Peter Sule is daring to “unclothe” a lot of things South Sudanese “tip toe” around while they “seethe” in anger at the blatant injustice brought about by their deliberate victimization. However, in the eloquent position paper he sent to Ambassador Seyoum Mesfin, the Ethiopian politician, Justice Peter Sule suggested a number of solutions for resolving the current melee in South Sudan which solutions include but they are not limited to an all inclusive national dialogue, an interim period for a length of time to be agreed on (preferably three years), an all inclusive government of national unity during the interim period with a specific mandate to oversee the drafting of a permanent federal constitution for the proper governance of the country, restructuring and reorganizing the army in order to reflect regional balance and tribal representation (each region to recruit one third (1/3) of the entire National Army), organizing a national census, preparing for elections and other things.

As the international community continues to watch a horrifying ordeal unravel in South Sudan, the full realization of the threat of the total annihilation of both the Nuer and Dinka tribes is becoming very substantial unless the bloodletting is halted immediately! Guilty by tribal association has been the norm in Africa for too long but the South Sudan situation takes that “guilt by tribal association” to a whole new level! It is no secret that apart from the Nuer who have been forced to defend themselves against a slaughter instigated by Salvatore Kiir Mayardit and his cronies on December 15, 2014, other South Sudanese are also “seething” in anger against Salvatore Kiir Mayardit’s Dinka tribe. A mammoth worry that this “collective anger” could also mutate into “lynching” Dinka to “placate” it if a solution to the South Sudan slaughter is not found quickly is genuine. That is why Justice Peter Sule’s proposition to Ambassador Seyoum Mesfin needs to be implemented very quickly because it can avert the current “rule of the jungle” brutal fight to the death between the SPLA in government which substantively represents the Dinka tribe and the SPLA in opposition which substantively represents the Nuer tribe. However, the recommended solution is being asphyxiated by the government of Salvatore Kiir Mayardit because the adept lawyer is perceived as a threat by the current government of South Sudan. His only crime for the blatant violation of his rights which are supposed to be guaranteed to all the people of South Sudan by the very Interim Constitution Salvatore Kiir Mayardit is using to afflict South Sudanese is opposing the President’s “unconstitutional inclinations” and attempting to flee South Sudan because of a death threat!

A million questions are going through my mind in a “mad scramble” for a more potent solution for the never ending carnage in South Sudan because IGAD seems to be completely vanquished by the opposing sides. What if all South Sudanese, IGAD, the East African Community, the African Union, the United Nations Security Council, the Troika Countries, the European Union and all the people of the world “ganged up” on South Sudan’s spoilers the way the Nuer do to protect their kin? What if a consensus based political system is instituted in South Sudan in the interim so that a deal is reached that is owned by all South Sudanese? I know the Nuer will be open to that because it is consistent with their egalitarian culture and that is what is needed in South Sudan at once. Salvatore Kiir Mayardit is a danger to himself, his family, his Dinka tribe, the Nuer tribe, South Sudan as a whole, Africa and the entire world. We need to “gang up” on him and his cronies in order to wrest South Sudan from their “deranged clutches”. We can do that by “wrestling” them to the ground in unison if necessary and having them all committed to an asylum so that they can receive specialized treatment for their “collective mental illness”. Continuing to stand by as these criminally insane individuals orchestrate the mass murder of “the People” is being accomplices to mass murder. It is criminal negligence of the highest order. The same one that involved “standing by” as millions of Jews were exterminated during Nazi Germany and the Rwandan genocide occurred in 1994!


Nuer American White Army Women
Sudan: South Sudan Academics’ Letter to U.S. Envoy – Resolution to Current Crisis
Constitution of South Sudan
Solution oriented conversations with Lieutenant General Ladu Gore 
Preventing genocide in South Sudan
South Sudanese rebels call for federal state formation

Margaret Akulia is co-author of the sequel Idi Amin: Hero or Villain? His son Jaffar Amin and other people speak. She brings to the South Sudan dialogue a multidisciplinary professional background including but not limited to “grassroots activism”. Additional information at https://travellinglearningcircles.com/Save_South_Sudan.html

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