Balancing South Sudan’s Coup story: A Respond to Prof. Jok Madut’s Presentation on January 4th, and his recent comments on Coup

By Dr. Hoth Giw Chan

August 26, 2014 (SSNA) — On the 19th of this Month (August) a respected Professor who is currently an Undersecretary at South Sudan’s Ministry of Youth, Culture & Sport, Dr. Jok Madut Jok, surprised everyone by stating that the Coup story is true, though he might not have concrete evidence. According to him, “there was indeed a badly planned Coup, I don’t have concrete evidence”. Professor Jok, uttered these statements in contrary to the current view held by many people, as supported by evidences that there was no Coup planned in the first place on the 15th of December 2013. The Opposition Group has been on record persistently on this view of No Coup. Their position was supported by the fact that no single tangible evidence was ever founded. The trial of those who were arrested for Treason charges in connection with the said Coup had proved that there was no Coup as there were no evidences presented by the Government in the Court of Law. As a result, they were released based on the Court findings that Coup never took place. The No Coup Position was indeed echoed by none-other than the President of the Republic of Uganda, whose forces are fighting alongside government forces in the current South Sudan civil war. The Ugandan President rightfully admitted that there was in fact No Coup that was planned by Dr, Riek and his Camp during the recent IGGAD meeting in Addis.

With these information in mind, all disputing the Coup allegations by the President and his entourages, Prof. Jok, still persist like energizer bunny that “there was indeed a badly planned Coup” forcing one to wonder what the Professor was after. Could it be that the Professor himself has a different motive—perhaps acting as a mouthpiece for a dying and brutal regime that is on records for massacring its own people based on their ethnicity? Is the Professor not using The SUDD Institute, he help co-founded, to promote his own ethnic (Dinka Bahr-el ghazal) agenda internationally? Are we not tribalizing our positions and exposing ourselves in order to shows to the World who we really are when those of us who supposed to tell the truth reduced themselves to tribal spokesmen?   

In digging what the Professor was up to, I had an opportunity to go through the document presented on January 4, 2014 by none-other than Prof. Jok Madut himself. The document was supposed to be a “Policy Document” presented by Professor Jok, this time around, the Professor was a member of the Civil Society, when he was in fact a member of the Government—indeed an Undersecretary in the Ministry of Youth, Culture, & Sports, a contradicting role for one to play as one can hardly be neutral in such a situation. The Policy Document was given an interesting title “South Sudan and the Prospects for Peace Amidst Violent Political Wrangling” that supposed to steal the imagination and attentions of the audiences—given the urgency of the situation.

The twenty pages documents begin with a Summary of the whole document followed by the Introduction section. It’s important to notice that the Introduction section was made to captured the attention of the audiences/readers in reflecting on the events of December 15, and how the events should not surprise people who are not familiar with South Sudan Politics, because the December 15, events, according to the document, was a part of a larger picture—the Overthrow of the legitimate Government by some disgruntle tribal groups,–or so the saying goes. 

On the section where Professor Jok, asked “Did these Political Differences have to turn Violent” he was presenting to the World that he and his Organization (The Sudd Institute) had done some research and found out that “While Taban Deng Gai, an ardent loyalist to President Kiir, then, was a recent recruit to this Group, Riek had been planning to depose President Kiir by force for quite some time, and was ready to take action if his political alliances with the other Group did not bear fruit. Remember, the Professor came to such a conclusion as a result of an academic research carried out by The SUDD Institute. The questions that beg asking here is why the Professor and his Institute not provided such vital findings to the Court at the Trials when the Government Prosecutor desperately need these evidences in order to prosecute those who were caught red handed?

On the same section of the document, the Professor continued by narrating how the event of December 15, started, and here is what he has to say “In the hours leading up to the night of the revolt, these personalities were still together, deciding to boycott the last day of the proceedings of the NLC, with the political action to depose the President looking rather unlikely. So, Riek Machar made his move without telling others, as he was unsure all along if the rest would support him to become the head of the Pack. On of the Officers who was in on the uprising within the Tiger Battalion lined up a members of his immediate officers and executed them by himself and the fighting broke out in the main Military Command Center, known to local as al-gayada, located to the Southwest of Juba Town. By 11 PM, hell broke loose and Juba residence could not hear anything else but gun and artillery sound for the rest of the night, all day and all night on Monday, all the way until 3:30PM on Tuesday when the Government Forces finally neutralized the revolting forces”. According to Professor Jok’s version of the event—or rather, the Government’s version of the event, how did an incident in the Military Base between the Presidential Guards who were in charge of guarding the President (remember, Dr. Riek, was relieved of his position as Vice President sometime in July) turned out to be an ignition for Coup by the Former Vice President in the person of Dr. Riek?  Prof. Jok, you failed to presented to us in your research findings, how or who ordered the members of the Presidential Guards to start shooting at each other on that particular date? Where is the other version of Disarming members of Presidential Guards who were from Nuer Ethnic Group only, thereby leaving the one from Dinka Ethnic Group?  Or maybe your Citizen News Paper Source whom you claimed to have all the evidence of Dr. Riek’s Coup plan since 2005 failed to supply you with such sources.

Remember your admission to the fact somewhere in your document that the Nuer constituted 50% of the whole South Sudan’s National Army. With that number, do you thinks Dr. Riek Machar, would have left Juba, had it been a Coup that he planned? Where is the story about President Kiir, ordering his loyal Commander in the person of Gen. Marial Ciennoung, who was in charge of Presidential Guard, to disarm Nuer soldier who were part of the Presidential Guards on the evening of December 15? Wasn’t statements made by the President when he was touring Greater Bahr el Ghazel, part of the preparation for December 15 event?

On the same paragraph, Prof. Jok, stated that “On Tuesday Riek Machar went from denying knowledge or any involvement in any Coup to being the leader of the rebellion, almost overnight, which would have been quite an about-face if he had indeed been truthful about being unaware of a Coup Plan”. I assume that the Professor relied on the media statements to reach such a conclusion as Dr. Riek, was not in Juba by then.  Dr. Riek, never stated that he was the leader of the rebellion, quite the contrary, he was telling the media that he “ran for his life and that he was with his people” as he was chased out of Juba using the pretext that he staged a Coup, when it was the President and his Group who cooked up the stated Coup. In fact, one would argue that the badly planned Coup was made by President Kiir and his entourages when they failed to capture Dr. Riek in order to execute him as was their plan since 2005. Their failure let to the frustration which they transferred into massacring Dr. Riek’s ethnic Group—I suppose. Yes, there were responses from the Greater Upper Nile States when Dr. Riek, was made to run for his life to his Region. The Officers and the members of White Army who responded did so as a result of hearing that members of their ethnic group were targeted and massacred in big number simply because Dr. Riek happened to be from them. Is it not funny Prof. Jok, for somebody of your caliber to be surprises about why Dr. Riek was received by an Army Officer in his Region when he was being chased away simply for wanting to contest for the top Seat in the country?  Or you are shy and shaky because the plan your tribesmen made to capture Dr. Riek failed and as a member of that tribe, you are not comfortable to loose what you have been enjoying in Juba.  Let me make it clear here that Dr. Riek, became officially and Opposition Leader after being nominated by the Opposition Group SPLM/A on the 14-18th of April 2014, in Nasir Town. The statements you made about him declaring himself to lead the rebellion right away after running a way for his dear life does not hold any truth to it.  

Prof. Jok, you are right and I agree with you when you narrated on the last paragraph on page 14 that the past events in South Sudan Revolutionary Wars against the North, especially the struggle carried out by the SPLM/A saw a lot of wounds among the South Sudanese Communities—indeed these conflicts were carried out by SPLM/A against Civil Population in many areas of the South. However, I thought you went overboard and shown your true color when you point finger at Dr. Riek Machar alone, to be the cause of all these mess in South Sudan. On the paper you presented, you stated that “The 1991 Revolt by Dr. Riek’s Camp…saw Machar ordering Massacre against the Dinka of Jonglei State, which give rise to a protracted Dinka-Nuer conflict for the subsequent seven years”. And you added that “This set the precedent for the kind of politics whereby the political ambition of the individual or small groups of individuals translates into efforts to gain power by force”. Well, Well, I don’t think this is a laughing matter anymore. I think it’s a serious matter as you are trying to attack the character of Dr. Riek for the past event in order to connect him to the atrocities committed by your regime in order to justify it to the world what had happened in Juba on December 15-20th.   Are you saying that what had happened in Juba was planned by the regime as a revenge for 1991?

Government of South Sudan had been on record for many years about the 1991 incident. This was done purposefully in order to tarnish Dr. Riek’s character and to show to the World that Dr.Riek is not fit for leadership. This has been the strong point for Kiir’s group and this is what you are echoing on your presentation. Yes, all of us—including Dr. Riek, condemned what had happened in Bor, in 1991. Remember, Dr. Riek, never ordered anybody to carry out such acts, but was made to be responsible because he was a leader of that faction by then. That was one of the reasons why he (Dr. Riek) personally apologized to Bor Community. Prof. Jok, let me remind you about something you forgot to mention in your elaborate presentation—or you omitted it intentionally. In 1984-7, SPLM/A carried out an ethnic cleansing against Gaat-Jaak Nuer (Eastern Nuer) who are the inhabitant of the present day Maiwut & Longechuck Counties in Upper Nile State. Young, old, women etc, were innocently massacred in their hundreds as villages were burnt to ashes by SPLA soldiers. The villages of Dorong, Baziel, Mading, Lol-Gungjang, Lol-Deng, Manjangdiit, Nyalonglong, Tharyier Machar, Torbaar, etc, in the Eastern Nuer land were all burnt—with a lot of dead bodies. The soldiers were given Orders to massacre villagers by none-other than Salva Kiir, who was the Chief Security Officer as well as commanding the Gaat-Jaak Operation, at the time. The second operation was carried out by Keribuno Kuanyin Bol, who was stationed at Nyoplew village.   When the village chiefs of Lol-Ngungjak (Kang Wal Balook and Ruey Kir Jany), were sent in 1985 as peace committee to meet with Commander Salva Kiir, who was an operational Commander posted in the nearby Marial Village, these Chiefs never saw the light of the Sun again as they were executed by Salva Kiir—and the massacre continued until 1987.   Prof. Jok, these are the information you may not know or intentionally hided from the World during your elaborate presentation about the root causes of the problem, and why that might be—perhaps, it was intentional on your part. 

In your presentation on page 14, you stated that “when the current mayhem started, many people were reminded of these historical incidents, and some individuals, especially soldiers who escaped or survived them, reacted with pain of these memories in minds and heart as their moral compass. The revolve and subsequent clashes resulted in hundreds of deaths of both soldiers and civilians, partly due to avenging of past actions, as some of these soldiers read the situation as being yet another of Riek Machar’s ethnic-base struggle for Power. As a matter of fact, many soldiers fought nearly without commanding officers to direct them or to prevent them from going overboard, as many of them were caught off-guard by the fighting and simply ran into the fight in random manner. That is what let to the excesses that are now being reported as state-sponsored killings”. Here, we finally have it in the open; the Professor put the blame squarely on Dr. Riek, for not being caught alive and on the soldiers for not acting in a coordinated passion when they were carrying out the Massacre of Nuer ethnic Group in Juba. Professor Jok, even disputed the facts of the killings in Juba by pointing out that they should not be reported as “State-sponsored killings”.   Professor Jok, what you presented to the world—whether it reflects your own views or those of The Sudd Institute, or that of the Government of South Sudan, is not entirely true for the following reasons: The author of this paper (myself) happened to be a survivor of that Genocide in Juba, as I was detained with three other Cousins, on the December 16th, at 4:15PM in Lou Clinic Area, on our way to Juba Town. Two of our Cousins who were both American Citizens never made it alive where we were taken too by those tribal militia organized to carry out the massacre. We were asked about our tribe, after admitting it that we were Nuer, we were laughs at and told point blank that the orders from above (from Kiir– perhaps) were to take Nuer, like us to an undisclosed location in Town for investigation/killings.

And to refute what you are saying about soldiers not being commanded when carrying out the massacres, here is the true story that is on record. On the early morning of December 16th (at around 2-3AM, a meeting was held in JUBA ONE—Juba) where the City of Juba was divided into Sectors A-D, for commanding purposes in order to slaughter Nuer ethnic Group. Sector A, which covers: New Site, Gudele 1-2, Mangoteen,107, and Munuki, was commanded by General Ping Deng Majok (current Inspector General of Police) & General Aleu Ayeny Aleu (current Minister of Interior). Sector B, which covers Khor William, Nyakuoron, Check-Point, Numbra Talata-3, and Lologoo, was commanded by General Marial Cheinnuok (Commander of the Presidential Guard who started the fight on December 15). Sector C, covering, Thongpiny, Gabat, Juba, Konyo-Konyo, and Amaratm was commanded by President’s own body Guard, and were supervised by Salva Mathok Gengdit (Deputy Minister of Interior). Sector D, covering Gumbo, Charkaat/Factories, was given to the Air Defense Officers, etc. Trucks were provided to transported members of the Nuer ethnic groups caught in these areas in order to take them to slaughter houses designed by the regime. Remember, all these personalities hailed from your home region of Greater Bahr el Ghazal, with the sole aim of protecting power of the tribe—much as what you are currently assigned to do.

Now, Professor Jok, are you telling me as you had presented the document to the whole World that the massacre were not organized and coordinated? Of course, why would you admitted it, since you are member of the group (Dinka—Bahr-El-ghazal) that carry out the massacre and you want to clean their image using your intellectual knowledge—a division of labour indeed.

Still, Prof. Jok, did not hide his dislike for the fact that the majority of soldiers in the SPLA were from Nuer ethnic Group. He even admitted it openly that “The Sudd Institute has been ringing alarm bells since its founding in 2012 about the poor management of the security situation of the country, lack of reckoning with the history of ethnic relations that had been wrecked by long liberation wars…” According to Prof. Jok Madut, in his presentation to the World, the Juba fighting was “unsurprising due to the absorption of large militia forces from the many rebellion in Greater Upper Nile into the (SPLA), the Liberation Army now turned into National Defense Force”. In other foregoing paragraphs, Prof. Jok, blamed President kiir, for encouraging such policy where one Tribe (Nuer) became dominant in term of their numbers. He stated that “First is the swelling of the Army rank with one ethnic group, the Nuer who make up over 50% of the total national defense force”. Given the above presentation, one would not expected balancing story teller in the person of Professor Jok Madut Jok (History Professor). I thought the learned Professor could have known—from his extensive academic learning that the absorption of Other Arm Forces was something agreed upon by the Parties at the Naivisha Agreement, in which the then two Parties of Sudan Government and SPLM/A, agreed to integrated their Other Arms Groups. Second, the Agreement was not particular only to the Army, it was also agreed that the Civil Servants and many others were to be absorbed by both Government (Government of Sudan & Government of Southern Sudan). Thirdly, the people the learn Professor referred to “swelled the SPLA” not South Sudanese with all rights and privileges to enjoy in their country—be it in the Army or Civil Services? Fourthly, the absorption were not particular to the Greater Upper Nile alone, but were also done in Greater Equatoria region (Equatoria Defense Forces), and Greater Bhar-El-Ghazel, respectively. Fifthly, choosing to go to Army is not easy matter. During the Peace Time and after the CPA, some ethnic Groups got the opportunities in the Government as their kinsmen were running the Government; they left the Army in big numbers for greener pastures. Are we to condemn members of an ethnic Group who believed the war was not over and who defended the country successfully in Heglig/Panthou, as well as ABYEI?

In another paragraph, Professor Jok Madut, like some members of his ethnic group blamed President Kiir, for why Dr. Riek, was in the Government. The learned History Professor, has this to say “Riek was accommodated was accommodated in order to bring him back into the fold, so as to unite South Sudanese ranks for the purpose of working together for the succession referendum and independence”. Anyone who presented such type of information in the International Forum, like the IGADD Meeting in Addis, to solve South Sudan problem must have something really wrong with his intellect. This is because, nobody brought back Dr.Riek, into SPLM/A. It was an Agreement between his faction, then and the late leader of the SPLM/A Dr. John Garang. What made Salva Kiir, to be the leader today was because of SPLM/A hierarchy, not because he fought for it and defeated all the contenders! The same hierarchy was what made Dr. Riek, to be his second—and perhaps, his Vice President. Is it not what made Wani Igga, the current Vice President, next in the line of succession? I don’t think the question of who brought who should be a factor here—to be presented as cause for current problem in South Sudan. Indeed, stooges are claiming these days that Salva Kiir, was elected and now protecting the legitimate Government. Who was not elected? Did Kiir and Dr. Riek , ran in one ticket during 2010 election and did we ever research on the person with more votes between Salva, and Dr. Riek?

Is it not funny the way SSTV is carrying out it’s news these days that Government soldiers are carrying out their Constitutional mandate in exterminating one ethnic group in the country, thereby supporting the government’s campaign for ethnic cleansings.   Remember, Prof. Jok, the President is on record for stating on BBC Hard Talks that “These People (members of Nuer ethnic group) are lucky to be a live” he meant those who are currently living in UNMISS CAMP in Juba. Imagine a President of a country who can utter such words on the media when the people he mentioned supposed to be his people.  Now you are defending such government in your elaborate presentation to tell the world that things are find in Juba, and those who caused problem initially are out, is isn’t a troublesome for you?

In his conclusive remarks, Prof. Jok, has this to say “A politically mature and stable country may see Machar’s actions as crimes punishable by law and pursue him in that regard, but South Sudan is not such a country”. What an indictment by a History Professor. When those of us who are considering ourselves to have good academic credentials—indeed experts in their fields made those wishful and unthoughtful statements, it shows that our current civil war will not have a quick solution. The mentality of ethno-centrism that made some of us to see only what is beneficial to one’s ethnic group will make that country of South Sudan a divided nation for quite some time. Why indicted one person when you very well know that even in the Court of Law, there are two Parties to an issue? Is it not the whole purpose of your presented document—the notion held by your people that Dr.Riek, is a bad guy who should not be allowed to accent to power by all means because he has been an obstacle since 2005 to Greater Bahr-El-Ghazal’s hold on Power in South Sudan?

Dr. Hoth Giw Chan is a co-author of the book entitled “South Sudan: A legitimate Struggle”. He can be reach at [email protected]

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