May 6, 2014 (SSNA) — The attack on the innocent civilians in the United Nations protection camp in Bor on Thursday 17th April 2014 is a stark reminder that the genie of ethnic cleansing that President Kiir released from its bottle on 15th December 2013 is growing bigger and bigger poisoning the much needed spirit of tolerance. Now added to this conundrum, are the atrocities of Bentieu and Mapel. Unless the people of South Sudan wake up from their slumber, the country is sliding into a total civil war between the Jieng and the Nuer. With the apparent lack of genuine engagement of the government and the rebels in finding a solution, it is unlikely that the country will pull out from the crisis it is in any time soon. The IGAD talks by the day is proving to be a facade and South Sudanese should not rely on it as the only solution. Even the recent flurry of activities ushered in by the visit of Secretary of State John Kerry may not help the situation because the Americans with their half baked prescriptions so far seem not to understand the political culture of South Sudan to intervene decisively. If at all they want to be of help they need to appraise themselves with the mindset of the “born to rule” which is fuelling the war. The solutions to the problems of the country is in the hands of the people and nobody should be under illusion that it will come from outside.
The bonds linking the people of the various ethnic groups together were shattered to pieces by President Kiir’s catastrophic decision to unleash his tribal militia to ethnically cleanse the Nuer people and eliminate people he labelled as anti-government elements on 15th December 2013. The social relationships connecting individuals, families, communities, and organisations forming the state were fractured weakening the core of the state of South Sudan. http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/all The existence of South Sudan itself has become an issue with some international commentators doubting whether it would survive.
Socially, the developing national identity in South Sudan at the grass root has become one of the casualties. Literally, President Kiir strangled life out of the emerging modern South Sudanese society. The deep wound inflicted on the Nuer in Juba by the brutal actions of Dootku Beny has destroyed the people of South Sudan. The exposure of the masses to this barbaric act has wrenched human normality out of them. The neighbours, family friends etc who either witnessed or found their acquaintance gone overnight have equally been slain emotionally and psychologically. For the residence of Juba of all ethnicities before 15th December 2013 already began to gel and form a new social group based on neighbourliness and community interaction. Tribe in this new emerging group did not mean anything especially for the children. So in a sense the killing of the Nuer in this community is the killing of the people of South Sudan as a whole. The surviving Nuer and the other ethnicities who witnessed this heinous crime against humanity are much more likely to be scarred for life.
Therefore, the action of President Kiir’s militia amounts to a grave crime against the people and the state of South Sudan. Although Kiir just assumed power without approval of the people on Independence 9th July 2011 as a President, he has betrayed the people of South Sudan. He is mandated to protect every South Sudanese and nurture the state. Instead he grossly neglected his duties and abused the trust bestowed on him as head of state.
Yet President Kiir and his group appear oblivious to the consequences of their brutality.
The impact of the actions of President Kiir’s militia has had a disabling effect on organisations in the country. The fear it generated permeated throughout organisations instantly changing behaviours of workers while forcing others to flee to places of safety, and others to rebellion. Overall, it has corrupted the dynamics in organisations. The naked display of brute force exercised in the mass killing of the Nuer and opponents of the system frightened state agents and everyone in the country.
Out of fear state agents silently began to act obediently even in the face of violation of laws of the country. A perfect example is the perpetuation of President Kiir’s naked lie that there was a coup. As a result, everybody within the country by default out of fear now sings this song religiously. Again, another example can be found in the deteriorating relationship of the government with the United Nation. The government waged an unfounded campaign of hate against the United Nations by vilifying its head: Ms Helda Fjord Johnson.
While publicly there is visible dysfunction generated by the atmosphere of terror, the worst malaise with the working of the state is exhibited by supposedly independent bodies which should be protecting Human Rights. Take for example South Sudan Human Rights Commission (SSHRC), it finds itself totally paralysed. It has lost focus and the objective of its own existence. Rather than being the upholder of truth, it has become a tool for untruth, injustice and oppression.
The interim report of SSHRC into the ongoing problems in the country under the title, ‘Interim Report on South Sudan Internal Conflict December 15, 2013 to March 15, 2014’ raises serious issues about the credibility of the supposed professionals working in this organisation. file:///C:/Users/Rosemary/Downloads/REVISED%20AND%20APPROVED%20VERSION%20OF%20RREPORT%20ON%20CONFLICTS%20IN%252.pd
The report is glaringly sympathetic towards the government. The language used and the presentation of events tends to hide the experience of the Nuer while embellishing the allegations against the SPLM-in-Opposition or the Nuer. For example, on page 4 of the report under clause 3.1 headed ‘The Government.’ The author used only139 words to report the event of 15th December 2013. The report omits the role of president Kiir’s militia. It watered down the activities of Dootku Beny, and refers to them as, “some elements in the security forces” painting a positive picture of the militia and reducing the whole crimes against humanity to “some elements” only. The report is silent on the voices of Nuer victims. No description of the residential areas (Gudele, Mia Saba and surroundings areas) where the Nuer lived. No reason is given for these areas becoming ghost vicinities overnight without residents. No explanation is given for the disappearance of the residents. No mention of the overloaded trucks ferrying dead bodies with limps of children and women dangling in Juba roads witnessed by local residents. No mention of the infamous police station in Gudele where over 150 Nuer were massacred. No mention of the mass graves. No mention of the over 200 Nuer youth locked into containers and left to die of suffocation. No acknowledgement of the over 10,000 Nuer killed in Juba. In clause 4.2 of the report the authors reduced the number of the killed Nuer to only 600. No reference to testimonies from the Nuer victims in UN protection camps.
SSHRC obviously omitted this vital information deliberately to appease President Kiir and the Jieng. This is in spite of the fact that important reports on the subject already exist. For instance, The Guardian wrote a detailed article under the title ‘South Sudan: the state that fell apart in a week’ describing how President Kiir’s militia targeted Nuer of all walks of life. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/23/south-sudan-state-that-fell-apart-in-a-week
If anyone googles the Juba massacre the data on the incident is huge. How can the so called SSHRC officers fail to review this literature and check the stories out with the Nuer taking refuge in the UN camps? At best this report can be taken as biased and at worst it constitutes work of an accomplice in the ethnic cleansing. Being economical with the truth in such a highly sensitive case will not help president Kiir’s position, SSHRC’s credibility, and the healing of the people of South Sudan.
In the report SSHRC on page 4 clause 3.2 under the heading ‘The Rebel Forces’ the authors rightly describe the alleged atrocities in Bor and other places committed by the White Army in detail mentioning the tribe of the victims. The level of reporting in this part of the report clearly is geared towards criminalising the supposed perpetrators and portraying them as the aggressors. Was it really the Nuer who started the ethnic cleansing? In my opinion this report of SSHRC is not worth the cost of the ink used to writing it. It represents the triumph of President Kiir’s terror and his success in subverting the truth.
SPLM itself as an organisation is also affected by the actions of President Kiir’s militia. SPLM broke up giving birth to three new factions: SPLM-in-Opposition, SPLM G7 and SPLM G4. Similarly its military wing, the SPLA split into two along ethnic lines. This has created crisis of identity for the SPLM and what it stands for in the context of South Sudan.
Without minimising the historical context of the social relationship of the two warring tribes and the neglect of organisations, this particular crisis South Sudan is going through, is made worse by President Kiir deploying the power of the state for the advantage of his tribe. The activities of certain people in the government clearly show this abuse. For instance, General Paul Molong Awan, the newly appointed chief of the army last year illegally formed a tribal militia which was then renamed presidential guards. This particular force, previously known as Dootku Beny was the one unleashed on the Nuer and persons labelled anti government in open violation of the constitution of the country.
The introduction of the use of state power into tribal conflicts makes the whole problem a serious national security issue. The other 61 ethnicities must for the sake of survival of South Sudan become involved and play a crucial role in bringing about a solution. For both warring ethnicities to feel safe, the state must be managed by someone out of the 61 remaining tribes. Thus a neutral leadership is absolutely essential for survival of South Sudan as a state and also for reconciliation and healing of the country.
The level of distrust and psychological vulnerability in the two warring ethnicities require careful attention and approach with issue targeted programmes that will take years. It is in the interest of South Sudanese to see to it that we embark on this process without the Jieng or the Nuer holding the levers of power. This is the painful reality that President Kiir and Riek as well as their respective tribes may have to face if posterity is to shine for all of people of South Sudan. Which means President Kiir and Riek must accept the noble idea of interim government without them. Any person who has the interest of his people and country at heart will easily see the benefit and make such a noble sacrifice. Will President Kiir and Riek show such statesmanship? This remains to be seen. But perhaps the Jieng and the Nuer, given their patriotic contribution to the country will see the sense in this and convince their over ambitious leaders to abandon their quest to rule South Sudan for the common good.
Riek is known for being stubborn and he can stubbornly insist to rule and he may wrench power by force of arms from President Kiir, but will such behaviour lead to peace in South Sudan and the development of a civilised society at ease with itself? The essence of leadership entails self sacrifice for the well being of society. Any person who claims to be a leader must be judged among other things on his/her ability to sacrifice in the real hour of need for the greater good. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela among others had to do this kind of sacrifice to save their countries from self destruction, and they did it honourably with humility and dignity. South Sudan now urgently needs this kind of sacrifice.
Riek has a lot to gain by taking such a position for he will first and foremost be ensuring survival of his people. Secondly, he will be highly respected for fighting militarily, morally and peacefully for the soul of South Sudan. No doubt if he takes this noble position he will truly be the founding father of South Sudan as this critically will be the foundation of a viable state of South Sudan.
To quote Shakespeare in his famous book ‘Macbeth’, “What’s done can not be undone.” This is the reality of life. In South Sudan people express the meaning of this phrase by saying once the milk is spilt it can not be recouped. What President Kiir and his tribal militia did on 15th December 2013 on the Nuer can not be undone. However President Kiir can mitigate it in the same manner Riek did with the Jieng of Bor. Riek demonstrated remorse on his actions of 1991 which shows he is able to acknowledge his weakness as a person. This makes him a responsible person who understands the feelings of his victims and others.
We are yet to see whether President Kiir is humanly enough to demonstrate such behaviour. Whether President Kiir proves his capacity to emphasise or not, as a leader of the Jieng and the president of South Sudan, he is well placed to push the country on the path of reconciliation, healing and unity if he wants to. If truly President Kiir wants to ensure the safety of the Jieng, he could strike two birds with one stone. That stone is a unilateral decision to step down from power and allow an interim government led by a neutral person. By taking such an action he will first pre-empt Riek from winning the war militarily where the consequences for the Jieng may be so dire. Secondly, he will improve his image as a reasonable and responsible leader who cares about his people and the well being of the country. In this way he will be able to salvage some positive reputation in spite of what he has done.
The status quo is untenable. The exercise of brute force by both sides will not bring a lasting solution and peace. It will only entrench the unwanted culture of tribalism and violence which will condemn our country to perpetual instability and destruction. For South Sudan to be at ease with itself, it needs to develop a democratic political culture. This is one thing that most African countries have failed to note and take seriously. As a result, everywhere in Africa we see failure of states and despair except in very few countries like South African. This shameful failure of Africans is down to the type of leaders it has. They seem not to believe in the concept of common good but in ideologies of self and tribal interest.
With this simple highlight, both President Kiir and Riek with their organisation the SPLM need to see that they are actually the problem of South Sudan and they can as well be the solution right now. If President Kiir and Riek step aside they will truly be the statesmen that peacefully saved their country at the brink of collapse. Such a service from them will be timeless. Harry Hepner, the prolific author of psychology books illuminates the enriching benefit of timelessness by counselling, “Once we discover to appreciate the timeless values in our daily experiences, we can enjoy the best things in life”. This is something that Kiir and Riek deserve. They deserve to enjoy the best things in life for their contribution to the independence of South Sudan in peace and not to in the kind of turmoil they are now in.
Both actors should think carefully about their destructive quest to maintain and accede to power. Is it really worth the huge sacrifices of lives of innocent people? The soldiers fighting on both sides are South Sudanese who should be defending the country. They should not be sacrificed in senseless and egotistical adventures of power. The civilians being mowed down are South Sudanese who should be enjoying their country. They should not be victims of their own leaders’ failure in governance.
Possessing power and exercising power is time limited. The test of time has conclusively proven this point beyond doubt. This is what the law of nature has decreed and no human can overcome it. Leaders before them like Moammar Gadhafi of Libya, Idi Amin of Uganda, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Jean Bedal Boukasa of Central African Republic, Mobutu Sese sekou of Congo (formerly Zaire) and many others to mention but a few going back to the time of Romans all were felled by this basic law.
On the other hand if President Kiir and Riek submit themselves to realities and humility like Nelson Mandela of South Africa and others, their greatness will shine timelessly. They will save their tribes and people from the path of destruction. President Kiir and Riek need to rise to the challenge and be the statesmen they claim to be. The time is now to call it quits in their own interest, in the interest of their tribes and in the interest of the whole country. They should peacefully let an interim government of national unity under a neutral person sort out the mess they both created and unite the country. Such a neutral leader should emerge from the neglected South Sudan power house of civil societies including the other political parties. For instance, Margaret Akulia in her recent articles provides good pointers to such leaders.
Having said this, I now turn to the other 61 tribes of South Sudan. What happened on 15th December 2013 has grave repercussion on the state of South Sudan unless we take our national duties seriously. As explained above, although this time the Nuer bore the brunt of the barbarity, all of us also are bleeding internally. We thus share the pain and are equally victims of the actions of President Kiir and his tribal militia. Above everything else now we must see to it that the current madness is stopped and such a catastrophe must not happen again in our country.
As part of the solution to the present crisis, all the other tribes should throw their weight behind the power house of civil societies and assert their right to be part of the dialogue going on in Ethiopia. The current exclusion of civil societies and other political parties from the talks is unacceptable. The problems of South Sudan are created by the SPLM and SPLM can never be the solution. So SPLM should not be allowed to exclude the affected; and in fact it should be pushed aside for a genuine solution to emerge. The great thinker and physicist, Albert Einstein warns, “we can not solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” The international community and IGAD need to take note and act accordingly within the realities of South Sudan.
The affected people have the right to decide their destiny. Therefore, the 61 tribes represented by civil societies and other parties should begin to engage both the Jieng and the Nuer to step aside from power for the sake of the establishment of a positive political culture for peaceful co-existence of all South Sudanese.
The civil societies should be fully engaged to realise the building of a new South Sudan. So, within this, in our minds the talks in Addis Ababa need to concentrate on the theme of interim period with all the stakeholders taking part. Nobody should be excluded. The problems of South Sudan though created by the SPLM are our problems and we therefore must be part of the solution.
As already said, President Kiir, his tribal militia and the SPLM are a problem to South Sudan. They deeply injured our (South Sudanese) feelings and destroyed the evolving identity of South Sudan. But out of this catastrophe if all of us individually and collectively take our national duties and give our sacrifice where it is needed, a new peaceful and caring South Sudan should emerge where all of us live happily with each other.
Racing to the finish, at this particular moment in our existence as a sovereign people, the survival of our country hinges on the security of Jieng and Nuer. Without these groups being reassured of their survival South Sudan will continue to be an unstable slaughter house of innocent lives. The Jieng and the Nuer will kill themselves mercilessly to the detriment of the country. Without security, it is inevitable that gradually but surely the other 61 ethnicities will be dragged into taking sides whereby the problem will become more complicated to sort. Already the murmurs have started in Equatoria. View it in this youtube video for yourself. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmE3BN-QmKc
Thus it is first the responsibility of President Kiir and Riek to vacate the political space of South Sudan for a neutral government that will protect both the Jieng and the Nuer without favour like all the others. Secondly, the other tribes should think seriously about their own stake in South Sudan. Whether they like it or not, the problem now falls on their laps to solve. As a group, they need to engage the Jieng and the Nuer to step aside as this is the easiest solution than later dealing with a more complicated problem whereby armed groups will have mushroomed everywhere in the country due to lack of a properly functioning government as it is now.[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]
The author lives in the Republic of South Sudan. He can be reached at [email protected].