May 8, 2014 (SSNA) — According to the facts on the ground, South Sudan has already reached the tipping point in its inter-ethnic hatred and targeted killings. However it is only of recent that much talk of averting a possible genocide at this advanced stage of the onslaught is beginning to be seriously considered in the international corridors where decisions are made.
Yet judging by what is happening in other parts of the world like Syria, the Central African Republic Somalia ……etc, one does know if it is not all down to the usual last minute political P/R for which many of these big powers are known or they could still be ways of keeping up appearance. It is simply too early to pass a judgement.
Much of the scepticism expressed here is not intended in any way to discourage any well intended efforts at stopping the vicious cycle of revenge killings. We are all in agreement that people shouldn’t be left to be butchered while the world watches.
But the fact of the matter is that innocent souls were already lost to these brutal massacres that engulfed parts of this new country, since its President chose ‘ ethnic cleansing’ as his way of dealing with all those he perceives to be enemies or rivals.
You don’t have to call it genocide if you don’t want to. Yet the bottom line is that a real targeted killings, on ethnic basis and on a massive scale have long taken place in South Sudan under the current leadership, while the world watched and talked.
And those who continue to talk as if this new country was indeed some kind of a good, peaceful and stable place prior to the December 16 – 19, 2013 massacres in Juba, are right out hypocrites. They are doing so simply to justify their inactions when this embattled country was sleeping-walking into the current self-destruction.
Killings of innocent civilians were ever since a common place not just in remote parts of Jonglei, Lakes state, Yambio, Wau, or Nimule. But even in Juba where the President and his ministers, advisor and MPs wine and dine, people’s lives are constantly in jeopardy from the undisciplined security agents. Life for the common person has long since become a gamble between surviving it today and possible not being able to do so the next day.
If the SPLM/A led government of President Kiir Salvatore excelled in one thing, then that thing is the state orchestrated insecurity.
This also is not aimed at exaggerating the current state of affairs where the Dinka and the Nuer have butchered one another which only confirms the message being passed here.
But even outside the Greater Upper axis of Bor, Malakal and Bentui, there is an under-reported human disaster going on right now in the Lakes State. All that President Salva Kiir did was to send in another criminal and human right abuser in the person of the current Care-taker governor, who only made the situation far worse.
The underlying message of this article is, when a system of governance is rotten to the core as it is with the ruling SPLM/A government under the current leadership, no amount of sweeping real incompetence under the carpet can improve the image of what for all practical purposes is a fast sinking ship.
It is very unfortunate that the whole world chose to turn a blind eye to the pariah leadership of this nascent country even though every bit of its many deviations from the international laws and norms kept unfolding on a broad day light and on everyone’s watch.
Even the Obama administration was aware of what was brewing inside the SPLM/A – administration, but yet it chose to allow it to hatch into what it is now!
So why the change of heart now that the US is at last rethinking its initial position of standing on the fence and only to throw its weight after hundreds of thousands of innocent people had been lost.
This carnage could have been stopped much earlier. First the “Black December” 2013 of Juba, then Bor, then Bentui, then Malakal and finally Mapel in Western Bahr el Ghazal State and now of recent Nasir Town in Upper Nile. All could have been stopped.
The true number of people killed in these onslaughts cannot be told as many died of their wounds after escaping deep into the swamps or bushes where nobody even recovered their bodies. But many have also survived to tell the horrors!
Unsurprising people all across the globe, knew from day one that the current wave of ethnically targeted killings that engulfed South Sudan, has its roots inside the SPLM/A – liberation history. Yet they chose politics to actions.
President Kiir and his Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Barnaba Marial Benjamin were given the audience they never deserved while they travelled around justifying the government orchestrated killings of the Nuer in the name of some imaginary foiled coup attempt.
In a place like South Sudan where everything is done on tribal lines, it is only fair to openly recognise the role of ethnicity in the politics of the country. Hence it is natural that every fight, even a tiny local bar brawl anywhere in the country will be fought on ethnic lines. Is it a good thing? Well, I don’t know! But what I know is that it is how South Sudan operates.
It is for this reason that we need to be cautious when dealing with issues that are often overshadowed by ethnicity. And by the way there are no shortages of these kind of issues in South Sudan.
In such circumstances it may be a good thing that, even optimism that could have helped in bridging the gaps, will need to be taken with a pinch of salt. To underrate the magnitude of ethnic politics in this parts of the world, is in fact to gamble with human life. Be it your life or someone else’s.
But whether the country can really be rid of ethnic politics, is another thing. Some people will answer “Yes”, yet in many cases they are just being too superficial.
Nevertheless something can still be done to minimise the extent of these things if they are to be kept away from negatively impacting on issues of sovereignty, statehood and the likes. This too will also need to be tackled through a breath-taking and tedious efforts at bargaining. But never ever through coercion.
To a local South Sudanese it is only natural that people have to gang on ethnic basis whenever there are national issues that needs tackling. Unfortunately it does not only stop there as even South Sudanese University Students have also become notoriously known for constantly ganging on tribal basis when electing their Students’ Union Bodies. Then how worse can it really get to be?!
A wiser decision at this stage, would be in fact to disengage the people for a while in a Federal System that dis-incentives the Central Government. Why not create more states and take most of the development budgets over there.
Let people go and serve their own areas. We shall then see who are those who will embezzle their local areas’ funds and still get the tribal support that they now get for the same actions as they ruthlessly embezzle funds at the Central Government level?
The call by US administration requesting President Kiir Salvatore and his rival Dr Riek Machar to negotiate a Power and Wealth sharing system can only serve the purpose of peace if the power and wealth to be shared are moved out of the centre and into the periphery.
In this way, it can be guaranteed that indeed the Power and the Wealth will be shared by all South Sudanese in their various localities without having to come and ethnically gang against the rest of the countrymen with the hope of getting away with the lion’s share.
It must also be stressed that the current government in Juba can no longer hide behind a legitimacy that it has since betrayed when it chose to indiscriminately butcher a whole section of its citizens in what will always be remembered as the infamous “Juba Massacre” of the post-independence South Sudan.
The people of South Sudan must be given the opportunity at this critical moment in their history to voice their views and hold their leaders accountable. There is nowhere on Earth that people can be butchered in their hundreds of thousands and still the perpetuates continue to keep their jobs and are continued to be looked at with reverence and respect.
It is true there is a US targeted sanctions which has targeted two of the most senior military officers on both sides of the warring factions. Obviously the common person in South Sudan expects the international community to do more than just punishing the field commanders, while the real “Godfathers” are left untouched.
The announced US economic sanction on someone like President Kiir Salvatore’s Commander of the notorious Presidential Guards’ Unit a.k.a the “Tiger Battalion”, Major General Marial Chanuong Mangok, may not mean much to stop the onslaught.
However it does signify that the Obama administration is convinced beyond reasonable doubt that he, Marial Chanuong Mangok has a major role in the December 2013 massacre of the Nuer citizens in Juba, that went on to trigger the crazy wave of killings and revenge killings.
The same can be said of the rebel General Peter Gadet Yaak, who oversaw the SPLMA in Opposition’s recapture the town of Bentui, the country’s Oil hub and capital of the Unity State.
We are told that under the US sanctions, both men are banned from travelling to the US and any assets they have in US financial institutions will be frozen. But do they really want to travel to the US or does anyone of them really have their cows in some ranch in Texas, which they will be worried about!
It is for these kind of reasons that the US should not “Americanise” the South Sudan crisis. For any step towards justice make any real difference, it must have to be tailored to suit the local circumstances. First it is no good beginning down-low when the true perpetrators are high up in the top offices.
Apparently president Kiir ordered Major General Marial Chanuong Mangok, who in turn ordered his men to go out on the man-hunt of Nuer citizens. No way could Major General Marial Chanuong Mangok had carried out the Juba Massacre on his own, and still keep his job.
After all he (Marial Chanuong Mangok) is just an officer serving under a commander in Chief who in this case happens to none other than President Kiir Salvatore. And given the nature of the carnage, it is now anyone’s guess that the orders were given in “Classical Dinka language”, practically leaving no room whatsoever for any Dinka soldier on duty to misinterpret.
That was how the authorisation of the mass butchering of Nuer people made its way down the chain of command to the foot soldiers of the Presidential Guards who then went out on the killing spree of their Nuer countrymen.
Nowhere on Earth can a General in the army order his troops to carry out a carnage of this magnitude and still keeps his job unless he did it under orders from the highest authority in the country.
In this particular situation of South Sudan these orders could have only emanated from President Kiir Salvatore. It was upon his orders that the indiscriminate onslaught that took place in Juba between December 16 to 19, 2013 and thereafter could have taken place.
People of South Sudan are in a dire need for peace and stability so they can go along with their lives. After all it is not really much of a life. But that is all what they have. And they have the right to live it to its full potential. However should this peace come at the expense of justice, it will without the least doubt only help breed more bitter feelings of frustrations and a quest for future revenge.
At the end of the day it is not too much for the people of South Sudan to ask for an alternate leadership when the ones the US administration is seriously contemplating to force down their throats are better-off in some maximum security prisons somewhere in The Hague or the Guantanamo bay! Is it not where they lock up terrorists and mass murders?
Our people are fed up of this ‘‘déjà vu scenario’’ which took place between 2005 and 2011. The same abusive wealth and power sharing that occurred between the generals and politicians of the SPLM/A- and the northern NCP under the Government of National Unity (GoNU, happened in the total exclusion of the down-trodden masses.
John Kerry is free to utter all kinds of threats but he should not be allowed to reproduce that abusive CPA style Power and Wealth Sharing arrangement again. No group of disgraced Generals or Politicians should be allowed to serve under the transitional arrangement when all they cherish is to have a share in the abuse of state Power and Wealth!
Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba is a concerned citizen and a voice for the voiceless. He can be reached at [email protected].