By Juma Mabor Maria
May 11, 2014 (SSNA) — Lakes state comprised of eight (8) counties of which all but one, are inhabited by the Dinka sub-ethnic tribes and out of these counties, none except one of them have so often had sectarian fighting among the smallest sub-clans. The possible and probable causes of these conflicts are aligned but not limited to perceived historical rhetoric of community defense, cattle raiding/rustling/stealing, girls’ elopement and impregnation, adultery and revenge for the death of a relative etc..
Administration after administration have gotten their fair share of blame for failing to contain the situation and indeed, out of the four governors that the state have had since CPA, one of them was sacked/removed on the ground of having been in one way or another implicated in the local and sectarian fighting. Others too, have been reprimanded for negligent and omission to carry out what was thought they ought to have prudently done to foil the sectarian clashes as the authorities at the time.
Even with the ousting of governors by electorates and some by the president under the transitional constitution with the hope and desire to improve insecurity in the state, the situation unprecedentedly escalated and most people lost their lives with the state turning into lawlessness and almost getting to the level of a No-Go zone for both the indigenous citizens of the state and even worse, the foreigners and other citizens of south Sudan feel that it would be a grave mistake of a life-time to go to Lakes state which they thinks going there is the same as signing a death certificate.
On this account, the question that people asked themselves and most of us as citizens of Lakes state have been and are still being asked every day is?, why are the people of Lakes state killing themselves? The easiest answers are being framed around the above-mentioned causes while others are quick to point fingers at the state government, local authorities and the so-called cattle mentality. However, even with the answers being easily written down, it is still puzzling to note that no long term solutions could be found to resolve once and for all the intra-clans fighting in Lakes state.
It is vital to also note that, on the very outset and prior to the Signing of the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, Lakes state and particularly it state capital Rumbek was the administrative headquarters of the SPLM/A where major decisions on both the political and military coordination were being undertaken by the Movement. It was here that several NGOs and United Nations offices were located. In Rumbek, several ethnicities co-existed and the state was then seen as undoubtedly an epitome of peace and reflecting the diversity of the South Sudanese people even at such a time when the lives of the south Sudanese were frustrated by the successive regimes in Khartoum.
It was in Rumbek that the internal divisions within the movement were being resolved and this has served to keep the movement alive until the independent of South Sudan was ultimately achieved in 2011. Outstanding among this peace initiative mid-wife in and by the people of lakes state in Rumbek was the 2004 disagreement between Late Dr. John Garang and his Deputy Salva Kiir Mayardit, a disagreement which if it were not for the peaceful spirit that then existed and extended by the people of Lakes state (Rumbek) could have escalated into a fully flown semi- internal civil war which would have eventually restrained the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and subsequently affected the realization and secession of South Sudan.
Such a beautiful and historical peaceful profile is what Lakes state (Rumbek) use to be before the curse and craziness of butchering one another set in. A lot of people including ourselves the citizens of the state continue to wonder what has become of our people that they have decided to turn against one another instead of working together and enjoy the dividends of peace like the rest of South Sudanese.
It is here that, all of us who are wondering should try to go beyond our reach to get insight of what exactly should be done to find long term solutions to the on-going and devastating intra clans fighting in lakes state. To do this, one must be bold, honest, neutral and even professional in trying to bring out issues that have led to this an unending catastrophe in our beloved state. This too, cannot be done without identifying the root causes and the possible perpetrators of these perennial conflicts, the government, politicians, professionals, students, traditional leaders and every single inhabitant of Lakes state have to be scrutinized for every little role they might have played to escalate the fighting. This is where one can easily find solutions to the on-going conflict because individual interests seemed to be very much intertwined with what is going on in lakes state today.
Although of course, the primary causes of intra-clans fighting are clearly spelled out above, it is imperatively significant to critically look at the back-door roles played by the above group of individuals because the lakes state conflict is very complex and cannot be attributed to one, two or just three factors. It is in this regard that, these analyses will apportioned blame to different segments of the society of lakes state from the government to politicians, professionals, academicians to students, parents, cattle keepers (Galweng) to chiefs and every single citizen.
Now, let’s start with what both the national and state governments have done or failed to do to restore peace and quell insecurity in lakes state. During the freedom struggle, although political and administrative units were imaginatively established, it was exceptionally known that, each area was well kept in peace and order by the military commanders on zonal arrangements. This is where military commanders like Matur Chut (now caretaker governor of Lakes state), Dut Manyok, Deng Monydit just but to name a few were posted in lakes state around 1990s where their actions were taken as God’s given instructions and everyone was then fearful of soldiers colloquially known as ‘Anya Nya’.
Unfortunately, this epoch of deterrent and administration by ‘Anya Nya’ phase out with the signing of the CPA as the conventional and semi democratic governments had to be established. However, this arrangement didn’t completely phase out the military rule within the civilian government but instead gave the former military commanders an added advantage as most of them were scrutinized based on the military profile one had and this paved the way for most of them to be appointed as governors in the states. This is where people like John Lat and Daniel Awet Akot became the first post CPA governors in lakes state.
Out of these gentlemen, John Lat was the first governor and his tasks were to establish an interim administration and government of Lakes state under the interim arrangement. John faced difficulties as the realities of having a government were very strange to the marginalized people of south Sudan and in particular the lakes state citizens. Lat’s government was marred with cases of nepotism, corruption, insecurity and incompetence among other challenges. It is during his time that the genesis of intra-clans fighting began not by design but coincidental as people turn to take law into their own hands motivated by cases of cattle rustling, raiding, stealing, girls’ elopement, revenge killings among others.
Although these shortcomings were condemnable, it was equally understandable that Lat had to be sympathized with and forgiven for starting from the scratch. It was also conceivable that Lat was from a military background and therefore, the circumstances under which he was establishing the foundation of the government of lakes state were too demanding and challenging for an ordinary soldier like himself. Lat left lakes state not a stable state but a state that was through an exodus to doom.
After John Lat, came Daniel Awet Akot, a renowned military commander who was once a zonal commander in lakes state, Akot by coincidence hails from the same county (Cueibet) as John Lat. His terms of reference weren’t to establish the state government but to correct the mistakes that his predecessor created and introduce reforms and development in the state. These tasks were too heavy for the military oriented governor as well as an arrogant Akot. the vices of nepotisms, corruption, incompetence and even sectarian feuds escalates instead of deescalating during his time, numerous critics emerged and the governor was pushed to a defensive position of always shifting his failures to blames of other sub-tribes whom he perceived as being his traditional opponents.
Akot’s term came to end with the legacy of more corruption scandals, more animosity among politicians, more intra-clans fighting, more nepotism being strengthened instead of being eliminated and what he left behind was a more confused, divided and insecure lakes state than he had found it. The only positive and memorable thing that can be archived about Akot’s tenure is his dramatic instead of charismatic character that minimized instead of eliminating the culture of gossip with governors in lakes state as he was well known for directly informing people on what other people tells him about them. This could have been his point of strength but it was less a leadership skill, instead, it earned him several enemies.
It is clear from here that, with the inefficacy of these two gentlemen to curb insecurity and promote development in lakes state, the central/national government as the appointing authority has to shoulder the blame for taking the back seat and failed to supervise its appointees. The national government and particularly the president did not deem it fit and appropriate to appoint persons with competence and skill to establish a stable platform and permanent foundation for the people of lakes state. Instead, the national government and the president favored friendship and comradeship at the expenses of the future and destiny of lakes state and this is why he appointed not just his military colleagues but the incompetence ones to be the first governors of lakes state. It is squarely on this ground and up to this point that, the on-going cycle of violence and instability in lakes state should be blamed on the weak foundation stone laid by the president and his two former governors.
Don’t miss to read part II and III about: the remaining negative roles played by the two governors of lakes state, politicians both at the national and state governments, professionals, academicians and students, chiefs, Cattle keepers (Galweng), and the recommendations to resolving the lakes state intra-clans conflict.
Kindly circulate this article among your sisterly dailies.
Juma Mabor Marial is a Lawyer and concern citizen of Lakes state Reachable at: [email protected].