Dr. Yual Chiek’s Speech During a Nuer Genocide Memorial Service in Calgary, Canada

Calgary, January 8, 2015 (SSNA) — On Sunday December 15, 2013 a day that some Nuer youth have dubbed “Bloody Sunday,” Salva Kiir the President of South Sudan, an ethnic Dinka commenced the genocide of the ethnic Nuer citizens of South Sudan. The killing began in the capital city of Juba, and was carried out by members of a personal army of ethnically Dinka soldiers. Most of these soldiers are from Kiir’s own home state of Barh-el-ghazal. Few Nuer were safe from execution: government officials, members of the clergy, police officers, and ordinary men, women and children were fired on with extreme prejudice. As the week wore on the bodies began to pile up as did fresh reports of atrocities. There are reports by NGOs of trucks load of bodies dumped in mass graves. Many people were dismembered, and/or burned. Women and girls were raped, and men were forced to eat the body parts of dead relatives, or face death. Nuer citizens were pulled out of their homes and summarily executed. Their crime? Being Nuer.

In one report at least 200 Nuer men were rounded into a one room building, soldiers fired upon these men through the windows. Only one man survived the ordeal to tell and show UN officials the scene. Initial estimates of the death toll were conservative, too conservative: various international news agencies cited a death toll of 500, figures received from Salva Kiir’s government and not from NGOs, or from those Nuer that survived by fleeing to the UNMISS compound on the outskirts of Juba. As civil unrest in response to these killings grew throughout the country, Kiir’s soldiers and militant tribesmen inspired by his genocide, began targeting Nuer in other parts of the country, and the genocide spread to Bor, Bentiu, Malakal. In Juba alone, official estimates now place the death toll at approximately 10,000. The Nuer count their dead at over 20,000. While it is true that news agencies report that approximately 10,000 people have been killed in this genocide, almost all these agencies admit that this number is almost certainly too low. Many that have witnessed the killing, describe what they consider “unspeakable crimes.” There are reports of dismemberment of bodies, and hanging and burning of citizens in the outskirts of town. In conversation with members of the South Sudanese community that narrowly escaped the genocide with their lives, it has been repeated to me that the number of dead (many of whom are buried in mass graves) number as high as 12,000. All these people were killed in a little over one week. I have also been told by family living in South Sudan that sporadic targeting of ethnic Nuer by government forces were still taking place in the strategic town of Malakal weeks after initial killings in Bor.

In response to the killings ethnic Nuer soldiers under the command of a prominent Nuer commander by the name of Gadet Yak, an outspoken critic of the Kiir regime, retaliated against the killing of Nuer civilians and took control of Bentiu, the capital of the oil producing “Unity” state. Also fighting against the Kiir regime is a militia of Nuer youths named “The White Army” or “White Army,” a name derived from a white ash smeared on the face to prevent insect bites.

This is the course of events as it has been told by a wide range of people that comprises Nuer government officials who have fled to the UNMISS base on the outskirts of Juba; Journalists; Intellectuals; and students. Add to this the overwhelming eyewitness accounts of ordinary Southern Sudanese, (accounts that are in near perfect agreement in regards to both the root cause of the present conflict and the Kiir regime’s genocide of ethnic Nuer) and the conclusions are clear: Kiir’s genocide of the Nuer must be condemned by the International Community; Kiir must allow thorough investigations of all allegations of atrocities committed by his regime, or by its indirect sponsorship. These investigations should be carried out by a team comprising individuals from established neutral parties. It should be clear by now that IGAD cannot serve in this capacity. All members of both Kiir’s Presidential Guard and the members of his executive who had any part in the planning, and execution of this genocide must resign from office and face subsequent charges under a South Sudanese Ad Hoc Criminal Tribunal, or some international body like the ICC for crimes against humanity. In the starting months of the conflict it was also reasonable that Kiir release all political prisoners. However, many Southern Sudanese and some outside analysts at the time marked the release of political prisoners as the key demand but this has only tended to reinforce the Kiir regime’s stance that the genocide is a political conflict and not a premeditated mass murder motivated for political reasons. I, for this reason, place it behind what I think ought to be the core demand so as to keep this human rights violation at the forefront of this crisis.

To make matters worse, Kiir has recruited Uganda and North Sudanese rebels (JEM) to fight against those who want Kiir to step down. In Bentiu North Sudanese rebels have been targeting Nuer civilians. Ugandan, and perhaps Rwandan forces have been instrumental in protecting Kiir, leaving him free to carryout mass murder while the international community gazes on silently. Through a policy of lies, propaganda and subtle obfuscation of the truth, Kiir’s regime has managed to convince the world that the killings in Juba and throughout the country were random occurrences. That anyone who insists that this war is a largely government sanctioned ethnic cleansing be deemed a traitor to South Sudan and an inciter of ethnic strife. Thus Kiir has been repressing South Sudanese journalists and intellectuals who do not toe the line he demands. All of this while feeding to International media a perverted picture of the truth. Even now the killing of innocent Nuer civilians at the hands of forces loyal to Kiir continues. No doubt, Kiir is confident that he will get away with this. He and his advisors reason that by confusing the issue they will shield themselves and Kiir’s followers from censure and evade any punitive measures. They reason that in the event that the world realizes the true extent of their crimes, confusing matters to the extent that they have will make true for them the adage “it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

Ugandan Involvement:

One of the biggest factors in the civil war in South Sudan has been the involvement of the Ugandan Military. The presence of Uganda has bolstered a regime that has committed genocide against its own people. Even at strong disapproval from regional powers, Uganda has continued its campaign against Nuer rebels. The Ugandan Defense Force was pivotal in regaining cities in rebel-held territories. The combined fire power of the Ugandan forces and their aircraft capability has been a major help to the Kiir Regime. It is this help that has enabled the Kiir regime to carry on its policy of ethnic cleansing under the guise of requesting help from Uganda. Where it not for the military aid the Kiir regime has received from the Ugandan government many lives might have been saved. For instance, Nuer residing in UN IDP camps might have been freed by rebel forces as was done in then rebel held territories of Malakal. At one point the Kiir regime even dispatched soldiers to the UNMISS compound outside of Juba demanding that those on the inside come out. The troops only retreated after UN armed personnel issued an ultimatum to disperse within three hours or be fired upon.

Ugandan involvement in a combat situation was first denied by Ugandan president Uweri Museveni. The accusation by rebel forces was thus not taken seriously. However, rebel accusations were confirmed when Museveni admitted to the deployment of the Ugandan Defense Forces for military purposes. By its involvement in the South Sudanese civil war, Uganda has violated the sovereignty of South Sudan. Even if they were requested by the South Sudanese Government, the presence of Uganda is a major obstacle to the peaceful resolution of this conflict. What is more, because the South Sudanese Government has committed genocide against its own people, the most egregious misuse of the state power, it should no longer be considered the legitimate government of South Sudan. Uganda and IGAD have reiterated the fact that they wish to protect a democratically elected government from violent overthrow, but the nature of the human rights violations that the South Sudanese Government has inflicted on the Nuer people, makes it all the more guilty for the fact that this government was democratically elected.

The Nuer people like all peoples of South Sudan were integral in the creation of South Sudan: Nuer formed the military back bone of the Southern People’s Liberation movement in the late 1970’s right up to being consistent backers of separation during the referendum of 2011. And it was Both Diu, a Nuer, who in the 1950s passionately argued that Sudan must either accept federalism or agree to an independent South Sudan. The Nuer gave their sons and daughters, who in turn gave the last full measure of devotion to an idea. The idea that it was beneath them to be treated as serfs in their own land. The idea that Arab domination was an indignity they could not and should never endure. These youths fought and died for a land devoid of oppression, and full of independence, opportunity and morality. A land for all the blacks of Sudan who would accept it. That a government these people fought for, died for, argued for, and helped form, should turn upon them in a wave of ethnic cleansing of Nuer civilians, elected officials, military personnel and even clergy that has never before been seen in South Sudan is all the more heinous for the fact that Salva Kiir’s regime was given legitimacy by the people of South Sudan of which the Nuer are an indispensable part. What is even more disturbing is that the bulk of this genocide occurred while the rest of South Sudan, indeed the world watched on in silence and continues to watch in stolid reservation. Uganda’s alliance with this regime is nothing less than being complicit in genocide and must answer to the Nuer people for its part in it.

The conflict in South Sudan has already seen the employment of Cluster bombs. When the initial reports came in that cluster bombs had been used, there was reluctance on the part of some to point the finger at either side, but the fact that the rebels do not have aircraft rules out the possibility that they could have been using them. It is therefore, either the Ugandan, or South Sudanese governments that have used them. What is more, the cluster bombs were all deployed in rebel held territories, sometimes in areas where non-combatants resided. Cluster Bombs are a type of weapon that explodes in the air while dispersing dozens, sometimes hundreds of subamunitions, called “bomblets” over an area as wide as 46,000 square meters. Within this radius it is impossible to determine where the bomblets will land. The inaccurate nature of cluster bombs, combined with the size of the area they cover, and the fact that some of the “bomblets” often do not ignite when hitting the ground, effectively turning them into landmines has prompted strong condemnation from Human Rights Organizations the world over. The International Community has, therefore pushed for a ban on such weapons. Since the year 2008, 84 countries have ratified an agreement called the Convention on Cluster Munitions. While South Sudan is not a party to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, Uganda has signed (December 3, 2008) but not ratified it. The U.N. Mines Actions Service and the U.N. Mission in South Sudan identified cluster bomb remnants in early February. The type of bomb used was, the RBK-250-275 A0 1SCh contains 150 bomblets.

Adding to the problem in the South Sudanese context is the fact that North Sudan used these weapons in the Sudanese civil war, these remaining bomblets that litter the South Sudanese territory, in conjunction with remaining landmines poses a real and continued threat to civilians in this largely undeveloped country. Recent Ugandan deployment of these weapons threatens to continue the sad story in which innocent civilians are the hapless victims of these undetonated weapons. In fact, cluster bombs were dropped in Uror County, an area of Jonglei state where members of the Lou Nuer White Army reside. The White Army is a civilian militia, so to attack the area in which the White Army is simply to attack civilians. To attack the parents, children and extended family of these men. The last employment of cluster bombs was (March 13, 2014) confirmed by Dutch Minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschart. Cluster bombs were dropped from a plane along the road between Bor-town and Juba. This, of course, was denied by Kiir’s regime.


To salvage South Sudan we must recognize some extremely uncomfortable and even disturbing truths. The first of these truths is that despite the narrative that this conflict is political in nature, or in event that blame is attributed at all, it is often attributed to the incompetence or villainy of Salva Kiir, the true cause of this conflict are much broader. Thus both disjunctions are false. The inconvenient truth is that this genocide is the result of Dinka fear and hatred of Nuer, and Dinka desire to turn South Sudan into the personal estate of the Dinka people. Integral to this aim is the control of resource rich Nuer land. This genocide and the resulting war is the natural conclusion of a people who believe they were “born to rule.” It is imperative that this truth be recognized by every Dinka who claims to be a friend of Nuer people, or of South Sudan. Dinka must denounce the actions and policies of their elites, and the approval these elites have repeatedly enjoyed from the Dinka people. There must be a decided, sustained and detectable shift in the Dinka world view in this respect. It is not enough for Dinka to display such a change to the Nuer people, or among the Nuer people. It is insufficient for Dinka to display this shift to the international community, or with the help of the international community. All such displays amount to mere feigning of change. Dinka must speak with and if necessary disagree with their fellow Dinka. They must dare to go against their own people, for the sake of what is right. Otherwise, mistrust of Dinka will never and should never be abandoned, and this crime which marks the height of cowardice and the xenith of depravity, must forever stain the reputation of the Dinka people.

What is South Sudan?

South Sudan is not a nation. It is much more. This fact must be recognized by all who care for its preservation. Let us remember that South Sudan was formed as a response to Arab aggression. In its purest form South Sudan is supposed to be an incubator for the nations and cultures that compose it. It is supposed to be a safe haven in which the languages, customs, and unique world views of the civilizations of this part of Africa could flourish and find unfettered expression. This is precisely what the Arabs did not want. Thus Arab policy was to push upon the black peoples of Sudan a poorly gerrymandered notion of unity while systematically denying the accoutrements of civil life to Africans, the very people to whom the land rightly belongs. All of this was done so that by dint of this confusion the way could be paved for Arabization of Africans. This is, to the letter, what Dinka are attempting to do to South Sudanese. By pushing upon South Sudanese a dubious understanding of South Sudan as a nation, an organic and natural unity, while denying the benefits of civil life to non-Dinkas by and large, the Dinka (like the Arabs) hope to establish a hierarchical society made possible by “Dinkanization” South Sudan. A South Sudan for the most part bereft of the rich cultures of its peoples and nations. A land without its diversity, a cultural wasteland. This same result will be reached by anyone who insists that peace will come to South Sudan when all its cultures and peoples are melted into one. These proponents of cosmopolitanism argue that this is nation building. These people seek a South Sudan that is death to the peoples of South Sudan; a South Sudan that betrays the purpose of its founding. We must swerve clear of both these options: rampant Dinkanization and misguided Cosmopolitanism. South Sudan must remain what it was always meant to be, a confederation of peoples. A state founded by the peoples of South Sudan for the peoples of South Sudan.

Neither the Kiir regime’s crime nor his tactics are new. They are the same tactics that dictators and demagogues have used in times past. In the sad and sorted history of our world men like Kiir and their supporters—which in this case is the Dinka nation—have always covered up the truth, and they have often bought out unscrupulous individuals who are members of the targeted ethnic group in order to cover up the true nature of their crimes. Sadly, all too often men like Kiir and their followers are caught only when it is too late for thousands, sometimes millions of their victims. Too late for the children they violate; too late for the hopes and dreams they extinguish, and too late for the voices they silence forever. But this does not have to be the case anymore. South Sudanese and the International Community at large can stand against Kiir’s tyranny, and Dinka hegemony. We can tear down the wall of lies they have erected. We can do this by choosing to listen to the voices of the oppressed; the voices of the powerless children, women, and men who are being hunted simply because they were born Nuer.


Nuer, you are the victims of this genocide. In this killing you have lost tens of thousands of your brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. Barring the possibility of laying eyes upon these loved ones in Jehovah’s rest, you will never see these people again. It is tempting to blame all of this loss of precious life on the reckless hatred of Dink, or the indifference and fear of the rest of the South Sudanese peoples and the world, but the sad truth is that there is evil and weakness among you that has rendered the Nuer susceptible to this horror. As we speak there are Nuer men and women who for personal gain continue to side with a government that unabashedly murders their own people. These Nuer are perhaps the worst enemies of South Sudan for if they have no loyalty to their own people, no bowels of love for their own kin, how can they claim to love and respect other peoples? Nevertheless, as disheartening as this reality is Nuer must rise above it. Nuer must do the impossible. Nuer must gather courage from the cowardice of faithless Nuer; loyalty from their treason, and love from their abominable selfishness. But you Nuer have done the impossible before. The future of the Nuer nation and (with the cooperation of other South Sudanese) South Sudan is in your capable hands. This is your time. Arise!

Yual Chiek, PhD
Calgary, Alberta


The United Nations. 2014. “Interim Report on Human Rights: Crisis in South Sudan.” Report Coverage: 15 December 2015 – 31 January 2014.

Statement by Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaer, Minister of Defense, Tweede Kamer website, “Conceptverslag van een Algemeen Overleg over: Verlenging Nederlandse bijdrage aan UNMISS Zuid-Soedan” (The Netherlands Parliament website, “Concept report of a Plenary Debate about prolongation of the Netherlands’ contribution to UNMISS South Sudan”), 2014D10660, 13 March 2014.

Land Mine and Cluster Munition Monitor. 2014. “Netherlands”. http://www.the-monitor.org/custom/index.php/region_profiles/print_profile/953

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