Re-response to Dancing with a Wolf: A Reflection on Gambella Politics

By: Chuol R. Kompuok, PhD

December 14, 2014 (SSNA) — On behalf of the Nuer of Gambella and on behalf of myself, I would like to take this golden opportunity to congratulate Mr. Ojulu Cham Ogola nicknamed Gamjot on the task he took upon himself in response to my article titled “Dancing with a Wolf: A Reflection on Gambella Politics.” Mr. Ojulu Cham with his excellent analysis as educated Anywaa tried to appreciate the contribution I have made, however, the inner ego of him being an Anywaa overshadowed the unearth truth to the extent of not seeing some of the clear statements even the blind person (s) can see.

In my understanding I thought I have addressed with fairness the problems of Gambella people and indicated plainly in the document the perpetrators who under normal circumstance could been held responsible but most of them went unpunished. In his response, he said to have found some fallacies, here I quote “However, I found some fallacies in his article which made me to respond to his piece of writing. He failed to address some issues fairly which I think he needs to reconsider his view on Gambella politics as an elite.” Here is another quote, “He attempted to re-write existing history dating back the arrival of Nuers’ in Gambella to 17th and 19th century. I think it would have been better for him to put the word…respectively.” In his first attempt to challenge my contribution with respect to the “Migration to Gambella from South Sudan”, there is no where I left out, “respectively” unless Mr. Ojulu Cham was reading between the lines and may be obsessed with hatred of thinking the Anywaa land was taken by Nuer, which was not the case, “the Gambella land is ancestral land for all the Gambella people (Majengir, Komo, Anywaa, Nuer and Opo) period! The highlanders are also part of Gambella people since the Federal Constitution of Ethiopia stipulated loud and clear the rights of every citizen to live anywhere in Ethiopia provided it’s within the Ethiopian sovereign land.

Here is what I said in the original article second paragraph line two (2), “History tells us both ethnic groups migrated from the original homeland, South Sudan eastward to the present day Gambella, Southwest Ethiopia in 17th and 19th century respectively.” To be more precise in term of migration/expansion, Nuer went as far as further north of Ethiopia Gojjam Administrative region of Amhara region, let a lone Bure and Shebel, which I indicated in the original document. The expedition was led by the following people and their names are as follow: Meen Diew, Jonyaang Thiwat, Maybai, Reath Yach, Thon Meat, Mut Dung, Jiokthiang Kir, Jock Wie (grand father to Ato Mark Chol Jock), and Yioy Binik. The expedition dated back between 16th century and early 17th century and the U—turn was taken as the condition in the highland areas of Ethiopia became unfavorable for cattle and human beings; tseseflies ticks and smallpox known in Latin word as “variola” were the main problems that halted the migration/expansion. If Mr. Ojulu Cham considered migration as setting bad precedent, he had migrated to the western world where nobody including the “Aboriginal Australians” complained of him being in Australia so to speak. If need be he would have remained in Gambella and carried the cross of eviction from the job as he was opposed to the GPLM policy. Therefore, Mr. Ojulu Cham should learn from vast experience as migrant and stop complaining about Nuer migration since he is also part of the “movement of migrants to the western world for a greener pasture.”

Mr. Ojulu Cham went on to agree with the first (1) charge and disagree with the second (2) charge against former president Omot Obang by Gambella people;

(1)    Masterminded the killing of innocent Nuer in 2002, 2003 and 2004 in Ochom along Baro River when he was head of Police Commission,

(2)    Participate directly in repatriation of Nuer who resided in Ochom village and other parts of Gambella areas for more than 15 years back to Jiokow and Akobo districts, a violation of the constitutional rights of Ethiopia citizens.

Mr. Ojulu Cham agreed with me in the first charge but seemed to have contradicted himself by adding that Anywaa were also killed in retaliation, which watered down the sense of humor and the consent he had shown in condemning the killings of the poor Nuer in the first place vindicating the former president Omot Obang and the Anywaa. However, such a war of mind will be left to him to put it to an end.

The second charges Mr. Ojulu Cham appeared to disagree with me is the core of the problem according to him but this shouldn’t be the core of the problem because Anywaa took over the ancestral land of some other ethnic groups in Gambella. If the Anywaa thought that Nuer took over their ancestral land and implemented the policy of assimilation, Majengir of Gog and Abobo districts pushed further to Godere of today’s Majengir Zone (County) who got assimilated, would have launched a rightful claims and made Anywaa resettled back to Jor district, Gambella town and Itang district shared with the Nuer. The inhabitants of Gambella town originally were (are) the Komo assimilated by the Anywaa and those who resented were pushed further north of Gambella along the Baro River and along the road connecting Gambella and Dembidolo of Oromia region are very much marginalized. Therefore, the Anywaa dispute of Nuer policy of assimilation is null and void for Anywaa are the actors and should have righted the wrong to Majengir and Komo of Gambella.

Mr. Ojulu Cham goes on by citing the Ochom case and here I quoted, “Therefore, what happened in Ochom, really, was wrong. It reached to point where the Nuers’ culprits would go out not stealing, but took Anywaa mangoes by force.” He goes on by saying, “Nuer craved their names on Mangoes trees as if there is no one who had planted them.” However, Nuer who had lived in Ocham for more than 15 years lived through the invitation of Anywaa chiefs and those whom they married to. Though they were invited, the Ethiopia Federal Constitution has actually stipulated it very clear that any Ethiopia citizens irrespective of race, color or creed, has all the rights to live wherever he/she wanted to live without prejudice. Does this mean that Mr. Ojulu Cham did not read the Ethiopia Federal Constitution or just wanted to bypass it for his self-interest? Nuer are mature enough not to crave their names on the mangoes trees to have the ownership of the land as was claimed by Ojulu Cham. It’s to be noted that the Nuer relationship with the Anywaa in the villages not limited to Ochom was so cordial and the process of assimilating Anywaa if it existed was peaceful unlike the case of Anywaa assimilating the Majengir and the Komo.

When the Nuer lived in Ocham, they suffered social cost—cost of their children not going to schools and lack of medical services while paying double taxes; one to the government of Gambella district and another one to Anywaa chiefs in the Ochom village with no meaningful returns. Despite all the due respect Nuer paid to the Anywaa as the host community, the Anywaa without shame would still go out to steal Nuer’s cows. If Nuer were bad guys as the way Anywaa perceived them, the December 13, 2003 Anywaa massacre would have created wrong precedent and Nuer would have not been used as human shield to protect their own brothers, the Anywaa from the tyrant government of EPRDF. Anywaa ran to Newland of Gambella town inhabited purely by the Nuer and Ochom village along Baro River and all were protected given all the bad things they did against the Nuer in the past. If Nuer had not pardoned the Anywaa bad deeds in the event of December 13, 2003, they would have revenged all the human losses incurred when Gambella was manned by the ruthless GPLM.

Therefore, the action taken by the former president Omot Obang to repatriate Nuer to their respective districts was wrong act condemned in a strongest terms possible and Ojulu Cham as educated Anywaa would have not supported the action of the most wanted criminal Mr. Omot Obang, the former president of Gambella. Nuer for very long time have been deprived of the regional resources by the GPLM leadership and access to social services was equal to none in the Nuer administrative areas in the region prompted the move toward where access to resources is possible; thus settlement in Ochom village should not be blamed on the Nuer. Ostensibly, the distribution of the regional resources meant for socio-economic development appear not to be fair with the application of model that favored six (6) Anywaa districts against two (2) Nuer districts plus one (1) special district of Majengir. Therefore, the Nuer inaccessibility of the resources from the center served as the pull factors toward Gambella and Anywaa would have contained the movement of Nuer by providing them equal access to all social services.

With respect to “liberty” Mr. Ojulu Cham challenged the liberty of Nuer from the bondage of the GPLM led party in Gambella. According to Ojulu Cham, GPLM liberated all the tribes in the Gambella region.” However, the claim Mr. Ojulu Cham put forward was not a legitimate claim since all the other four ethnic groups have rather suffered a great deal during the reign of GPLM. The liberation the inept GPLM party claimed to have brought to the Gambella people was only bloodshed and grieves. To put the record straight, the disgruntled Anywaa teachers with their ringleader Ojulu Ogala who was by then teaching in Akado village of Itang district ransacked and Killed teachers who came from highland area of Ethiopia in Chotgur village of Jiokow district. The killing of teachers in Chotgur village took place in 1978, four (4) years after the Ethiopia Revolution of the Junta regime of Col. Mengistu Hailemariam. Therefore, GPLM as a party did not liberate anyone from Gambella but the party is remembered for the worst human rights abuse and extra judicial killings of Nuer most of whom were educated including the helpless refugees resettled in Itang district summer of 1992 after the fall of the Derg regime. The barbaric act of the GPLM military wing towards the Nuer refugees in Itang district and around Gambella prompted the UNHCR to relocate the refugees to Dimma district for their safety. Nonetheless, the refugees in Dimma refugee camp after relocation were attacked by the GPLM military wing that cost lives of many Nuer, culminated the clashes between the EPRDF and GPLM military wing. If one would ask a simple question, why would Anywaa resorted to killing helpless South Sudanese refugees when they have nothing to do with land encroachment and Ethiopia politics? I would leave this question for Mr. Ojulu Cham and other readers to judge…

Bragging about Nuer supremacy: Mr. Ojulu Cham opposed to the statement I made as the worst fallacy, here I quoted, “The worst fallacy in this article is the statement, …… “Should the Nuer of today forget the rich history embedded in the struggle for the change in Gambella politics, it will be a systematic mistake in exchange for seat; a seat that will not recover the losses Nuer incurred in the process of climbing the top leadership in Gambella history and name recognition.” There was nothing wrong in telling the truth about the Nuer suffering in Gambella when GPLM took charge of Gambella affairs. It’s this rich history that would cement the unity of Nuer not to be divided no more as what former president of Gambella Omot Obang used to do for a cheap seat, which lasted only for a month or six months at max. Omot Obang was the worst president ever corrupt to the core in Gambella history coupled with the bad record of human rights abuse almost synonymous with the GPLM, a party, which did not control or capture any town let alone the village around Gambella and beyond during the liberation struggle of the EPRDF. The GPLM as a party after the EPRDF controlled all parts of Ethiopia was groomed and charged with the task of administering Gambella as sympathizer not as liberator and this is the strong message Gambella people should now know from today onward.

In conclusion, acknowledging the past mistakes and advancing the knowledge of the traditional methods of conflict resolutions would always serve as strong springboard binding the region together to move forward. Mr. Ojulu Cham as educated and well versed with the lives of both the Nuer and Anywaa plus the rich customary laws should have acknowledged the past mistake committed against the Nuer and condemned the GPLM in the strongest term possible instead of branding the GPLM as the liberator. The ordinary Anywaa and some elites suffered a great deal in the hand of GPLM but the degree of damage impacted negatively on the Nuer exceeding that of the Anywaa. For unity of Gambella people to be more attractive, Anywaa should drop the idea of them being called the “bona fide” Gambella inhabitants and….“we are more equal than the others.” Mr. Ojulu Cham for the Nuer and Anywaa to come to term as one family and fight the common enemy from the center, the Anywaa elites should stop praising GPLM as the liberator, thus condemn the GPLM for the worst atrocities committed against the Nuer and other ethnic groups in Gambella and beyond in the first place. In this line of argument, any qualify person (s) be it Komo, Opo or Majengir has all the rights to lead Gambella to the promise land, a land free of poverty with strong human security and peace. Land with no people is no man’s land. Therefore, people of Gambella should rethink their positions in term of looking at each other as enemies for the land of Gambella almost remains empty and the migrants from other parts of Ethiopia take advantage of indigenous conflict exacting the rights of land ownership.

Dr. Chuol R. Kompuok holds a PhD (Economics) from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and he can be reached at [email protected].

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