October 23, 2014 (SSNA) — South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir Mayardit and SPLM – IO Chief, Dr. Riek Machar said Monday (October 20th) they have accepted mutual responsibility for a 10 – month civil war in which thousands of people have been killed, AFP reported. “The parties acknowledge a collective responsibility for the crisis in South Sudan that has taken a great toll on lives and property of our people,” said the deal signed by Kiir and Dr. Riek in Arusha, Tanzania. Now the question is, who is/will be accountable for the slaughter of over 10,000 innocent Nuer civilians in Juba and who fabricated the war at the first place?
But then have a look at what President Kiir and Dr. Riek had to say. “There is no reason for our people to suffer again after independence,” Kiir said. On the other hand, this is what Dr. Riek had to say, “we do not want this opportunity to go away like other opportunities before.” Technically and intellectually, one can judge over whose statement make much sense. President Kiir has said such things often before, including “I will never take this country into war again.” So now what happened under his (Kiir) leadership?
It is always difficult to predict the political future, but even if the East Africans’ regional bloc (IGAD) pursues a very different policy in South Sudan, I doubt it will acknowledge the amount of violence caused by the war during its nine months. Historically, the SPLM government has a poor record of acknowledging its responsibility for death or destruction of other peoples, beginning with the genocide against innocent Nuer in Juba (never officially acknowledged up to date), continuing through nine months and culminating in the ongoing refusal to acknowledge ten to fifteen thousand deaths of Nuer civilians in Juba; caused by Salva Kiir attempt to eliminate Dr. Riek Machar within the SPLM party.
Personally I think South Sudan mainstream media has a poor record of acknowledging the many for instance in which it has (collectively) failed to maintain its constitutionally mandated independence from government policy, and instead has ignored or written false report supporting government malfeasance. It was refreshing that the Sudan Tribune and Gurtong Trust acknowledged their failure to report the contrary evidence to the South Sudanese’ government claims about innocence in this conflict, but this is rare movement that has not led to more independent reporting on other Juba government’s actions in Upper Nile region.
I think that we can expect the South Sudan mainstream media to continue to compromise its journalistic integrity in reporting on this conflict, and will mean failing to report its own suppression and continue to misreport the Juba government’s role in South Sudan conflict. This expectation is, of course, speculation, but the best evidence for this speculation is the fact that the major media have been withdrawing their personnel from this conflict, instead of taking advantage of more favorable security conditions to send reporters to location that were previously inaccessible and therefore more thoroughly report the impact of the war on South Sudanese lives.
However, I have to be honest to you that I found the reporting in our very own Nyamilepedia, South Sudan News Agency, Upper Nile Times, Sudan Tribune and other international media more comprehensive in their coverage of this conflict. I would not say that they take the situation more ‘‘seriously,’’ – there has never been a problem with South Sudan media taking the war seriously. The differences are in the very specific parts of coverage: reporting on the Juba government’s involvement in the deaths and destruction, reporting on SPLM-IO resistance to Juba based government, reporting on the economic policies in South Sudan; reporting on who is fighting against the Salva Kiir’s government; reporting on the actual reality of life under Salva Kiir’s leadership and reporting on day-to-day antagonism of South Sudanese’ conditions.
I should add, however, that these failures are not so much failures of South Sudan’s mainstream reporters, but of the editors and publishers who assign reporters to particular stories and not to others. There are many reporters who feed information about all these issues into assignments that are aimed at other subject. One small example that will illustrate what I mean; is the recent battle in Upper Nile State that inflicted heavy losses on Juba based government but no man up-to-date knows what exactly happened on the ground over there apart from God! This information appeared toward the end of published report, but it was published nevertheless. In contrast, a SSTV report on the overarching destructiveness of the offensive and of the anger of residents at Juba based government’s military actions in Bentiu and Upper Nile was not broadcast.
Africans’ purpose in this comparison is supposed to be the same as my purpose in comparing the deaths of Nuer in South Sudan to those in Rwanda (1994): we are trying to give people a sense of the scale of the violence wrought in South Sudan by Kiir’s government. The mass murders in Juba under Salva Kiir Mayardit and the disappointment and genocide in Rwanda – as well as so many other recent and more distant instances of such a violence-all have different sources, intentions, and outcomes from the South Sudan violence and from each other. The point of making these comparisons is to point out the magnitude of the slaughter in Juba, not to make analytic comments about the dynamics of the war.
But do you believe that Salva Kiir – administration should face trial for their actions? In “the fog of war,” the current South Sudan minister of defense, Kuol Manyang said to the camera that if the Juba based government would be found guilty of 15 – 17 Dec – 2013 Juba massacres of innocent Nuer civilians, then he and other SPLM – Juba government officials would have stood trial as war criminals for massacring Nuer and coordinating UPDF to bombed Bor with cluster-bombs. Certainly, the action of SPLM – Juba political leaders and military commanders in ordering their troops and mercenaries to attack Nuer Civilian targets in Juba, Bentiu, Malakal and Bor failed under the same definition of war crime that Kuol Manyang was considering in the making this statement, and so it would be perfectly appropriate for Salva Kiir, Kuol Manyang, Makuei Lueth, Paul Malong and the various commanding generals to stand trial for these actions.
But take note that Kuol said that trial would have taken place if Juba based government would be found guilty of 15th to 17th Dec – 2013 massacres of Nuer in Juba. This statement has actually tuned out to be a kind of haft truth. In the nine months of battles, SPLM – Juba and its mercenaries committed horrible atrocities against Nuer, inclusive UN staffs, but only a relative handful of those responsible for their war crimes will stand trial. Most of international political analysts say that Salva Kiir’ government committed these atrocities, but neither IGAD nor ICC takes these as war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during that long, nine-months conflict.
They are not predicting the future, but I expect that, no matter how the South Sudan war ends – with either Salva Kiir’s “victory” or with the “defeat” that SPLM – IO has repeatedly warned the Juba based government about – there will be no war crimes trials of opposition political and military leadership.
The author is a Law student at Nkumba University – Kampala (Uganda) and an independent columnist who has written numerous articles on politics, democracy, human rights, Law and order. He can be reached through [email protected] or add him on facebook; by searching for the above mentioned names. You can also follow him on twitter @gaijames.kai.