Why Nuer Unite During Wartimes and Split During Peacetimes? An Obnoxious Chronicle which calls for a Generational Change

By: Thomas Tut Doap

September 18, 2015 (SSNA) — First and foremost, allow me to advise the entire readerships to, analytically, read the piece before reacting to it. I am saying this because experiences have shown that many internet politicians do not allow themselves sometimes to read the materials present by the authors, digest the substance and respond accordingly. Instead they only read the title and the writer’s name then immediately form their own opinionated negative/positive response. With that being said ladies and gentlemen, and before embarking on the main topic of this article, one love ask whether  Aesop and his famous parables makes any sense to any of you in his quote which goes as, “United we stand divided we fall”?

While it gives the impression that “United we stand divided we fall” would be the war cry of some famous soldier, its actual first recorded use dates back to Aesop and his parables. This quote can be found as a direct statement in “The Four Oxen and the Lion.” It can also be found indirectly in “The Bundle of Sticks.” That I am going to relate hereunder:

Aesop’s The Four Oxen and the Lion

The first parable reads as follows:

A lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to wane another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling [sic] among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in the separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.

The second parable is Aesop’s The Bundle of Sticks

This short fable tells of a man whose sons often quarrel among themselves. To show them the benefit of working together, he brings them a bundle of sticks. He asks them to break the bundle of sticks. As expected, the brothers cannot break the sticks when they are together. However, they can easily be broken individually. The dictum of this tale is written as follows:

My sons, if you are of one mind, and unite to assist each other, you will be as this bundle, uninjured by all the attempts of your enemies; but if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as these sticks.

The two stories have the same moral value in that they embolden the unity of purpose among people whose vocation exclusively depends on it, whenever a need arises.

To this author, Nuer people’s behaviors fit well with the above two parables because of the following unfortunate circumstances that ensued for more than two generations:

1. Anya Nya I (South Sudan Liberation Movement) Era:

Like any other South Sudanese, the Nuer had heroically fought that war right from 1963 (the year well known to be the time when the Upper Nile Region joined the war of liberation, which started in August 1955, one year before the Sudan national independence) to 1972. When the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement between the government of the Sudan and the leadership of the Anya Nya One had concluded, some top Nuer field commanders came up with discontent attitude towards that agreement, among the well-known commanders at the time was Captain Kuanen of Fangak, who later got attacked and killed by Surgeon William Nyuon Bany by then, under the directives of Lt. Col. Mabil Riak, who assumed the Upper Nile zonal Command, after Oter’s mysterious demise at the battle of Khorfulus 1972. After the death of Captain Kuanen in the hands of his own brothers, William Nyuon was rewarded and given the rank of Captain Kuanen. This ordeal took place during peace time, when every Southern Sudanese inside and outside Sudan was preparing for the post-war projects of benefits, while Nuer were busy killing themselves due to the lack of better political orientation and education.

In early years of Addis Ababa Accord implementation, Samuel Gai Tut was grassed on and conspired against by his own fellow Nuer politicians and army officers, which culminated into his early retirement from the army. When Gai joined politics, he was assassinated, characteristically, by being sent to jail for good one year without charges and after pretested in the jail by going hunger strike, he was brought to court and absurdly charged with “possession of unlicensed weapon”. One would not waste a precious time and space to talk about who Gai Tut was and why he should not be qualified to own a handgun. This was done to bar him (Samuel Gai) from running the 1982 regional elections. (Judge Michael Makuei Lueth knows more about this). The conspirators were Samuel’s own colleagues, friends and even relatives that ganged up against him to destroy him militarily and politically. Gai was one of the renowned leaders and warriors during wartime, but during peace time, the very people he served and even saved turned against him and destroyed him permanently.

1975 Akobo Mutiny

Instead of Benson Kuany Latjoor and his team to be educated about the intend of their transfer to North by their informed Nuer politicians and military officers, they were decoyed into inadvertent and uncoordinated rebellion, which ended up with lots of their colleagues, who hesitated to take up arms in that hasty manner to lose their lives. As it was revealed later, Col. Abel Akol was one of the Officers who were planning a military coup against Jaafer Mohamed Numeeri in Khartoum and Abel was mobilizing some forces from Southern region to help in case of eventuality. But one of the Southern officers in Khartoum happened to know about Col. Abel’s mission and connived against him by misrepresenting the transfer to mean “disarmament” of that particular battalion in Akobo. That was peace time. But did Akobo incident made any sense for many Nuer politicians and military officers? Of course not! That was why Bilpam was easily overrun by the SPLA using the same William Nyuon as the Commander of Bilpam destruction without asking himself of who were in Bilpam to be destroyed?

1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement Era

Although the Sudan all-out civil war was still raging on, at least there must have been a relative peace in Upper Nile Region, which was predominantly a SSIM stronghold. Unfortunately, Nuer communities had lost a good number of their own sons in their own hands. Most of those who lost their lives were accused of unfounded allegations that were regretted later on. It was supposed to be a peace time that many had unnecessarily lost their lives.

2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement Era

After the conclusion of the CPA and the eventual convening of the South-South Dialogue, there supposed to be peace and unity among all ethnic groups in Southern Sudan. Regrettably, Nuer elements within the former SSDF, under Paulino Matip had remained with the North under the alleged reason that there was something amiss with SPLM-led government in Southern Sudan and that something must be done for them otherwise. The author of this piece volunteered to leave behind all beneficial engagements that would have earned him not only personal reward, but national benefit as well, to take time with SSDF Officers who remain in Khartoum to sway them that it was good to be with their leader, Paulino Matip. But that mission ended up with much disenchantment and loses of everything expected of me, including my education and daily earnings. On the processes and in less significant occasions, some of those officers who repudiated to follow Paulino under Juba Declaration, began to leave Khartoum and joined the same government they described as “Dinka government”, despite Riek Machaar being the second man in the leadership and technically the one in charge of Southern affairs at the time Salva Kiir was the fulltime Vice president of the Republic of the Sudan. Dr. Riek himself made more than necessary trips to Khartoum in an attempt to convince those Nuer officers that it was of their best interest to join the Southern government. One of the most disappointing meetings was done with this author present at Sudan Armed Forces HQs in Khartoum. One of the key speakers was Brigadier General Bapiny Monytuiil Wichjang, who had criticized Dr. Riek and accused him of “selling Nuer pride and dignity to Dinka”. Do one needs to ask now, who is who between Riek and Bapiny? That time supposed to be a peace time, but still many experienced military officers lost their lives fighting a war without clear agenda. Among those who died was Col. Met Monytuiil Wichjang, Kol Chaara Nyaang and Chuol Wal Banang, to mention just a few.

2015 Compromise Peace Agreement

Before the actual signing of the said agreement for some few days, there appeared a group of generals, who had expressed their frustration with Riek Machaar’s leadership and as a result, the later had taken an administrative action against those senior officers by removing them from their military assignments purportedly “pending” another assignments. When it became apparent to the detached senior officers that their commander-in-chief had an ill-intention for their removal, they declared their split from the movement and formed their own movement, which is yet to be named. Another group of politicians that called themselves as “Nuer Council of Elders” had announced their disassociation from Riek’s movement, expressing the same thing (dissatisfactions) with Riek’s leadership style.

All along, since the December 2013 Juba terrible incident, those senior military officers and senior politicians have been with Riek and they shared lots of events such as conventions and political consultative conferences in Fagaak, Nasir and elsewhere. In all the events, that took place under the chairmanship of Dr. Riek, there had never been a word of dissatisfaction of Riek’s leadership and how the convention or the leadership should bother about correcting it. Only in the last minutes that it appeared there has been something wrong with Riek’s leadership.

Let’s presumed that there is undeniably an issue against Riek Machaar, which might need remedy, The questions that the author of this piece would like the Nuer intellectuals to answer professionally in their own views as individuals wherever they may be, are that:

1. Is this time the right time to divide Nuer population, when the whole world have turned their open eyes to the implementation of the current peace agreement because of Riek Machaar’s leadership style?

2. Are all Dinka communities satisfied with Salva Kiir’s leadership style? If not, are they (Dinka) united behind their son, despite all reservations on his leadership style?

3. Why do we move anti clockwise when other South Sudanese are taking different direction?

Some people may agree with the writer in that during the CPA era even after independence, there were many political commentators and analysts who always talked about a need for change in South Sudan. However, after 2013 incident, it became apparent that those writers and commentators disappeared in thin air and the whole South see the big problem as a Dink-Nuer people one. Are Nuer intellectuals reading between the lines of political development in horizon correctly?  

One must acknowledge, in a true meaning of the term, that I don’t know how to illustrate our demeanors towards leadership, collectively as one entity and individually as people. However, one thing I know for real is a fact that issues and times go hand in hand. Once you missed one of them, the whole thing fall apart. In more clear elucidations; if someone has an undisputable case, but missed the deadline, this is calls, in legal term, “Limitation of Statute”. That means, no matter how much a person tries, the end result always is “Sorry, there is nothing we can do!” some niches may argue that there is different between what is being presented here and the developed world’s political system, but South Sudan is already a member of the world body who does most of the things using established procedures, and failure to live up to this conception, would be more than a disaster.

One little thing I know about our behavior towards leadership is that we want everything to be done our way; and tend to be perfectionists all the times. Another observation is that we always approach uncertain future with negative attitudes, thinking only the bad result. This behavior has been the reason behind the failure of Nuer leadership from 1982-2002, because we are quick to quit and give up easily. And you remember, “A quitter never Wins and a Winner Never quits” (Preslutsky, 1986). We always think as losers; and that’s why we lost more than once.

The author of this article would not entertain any reasoning around “Riek Machaar’s weakness”, as one of the dependence mechanisms for our collective quilt. If any of you insists, and dwells on Riek’s leadership, one must inform the uninformed that Riek was not in Anya One, but John Pidak Lieeth and David Koak Guok were. Riek was not in Anya Two, but David Dak Gai, David Dogok Puoch, and John Jock Reath Luot were. Riek was not in Regional Government, but Peter Gatkuoth and countless of Nuer intellectuals were.

In conclusion, it is with this author’s confidence that unity of each ethnic group in South Sudan among itself will categorically lead into the total unity of the entire nation. And therefore, my personal appeal to my fellow Nuer intellectuals, being those politicians or military officers, is that the issue at hand currently has sidestepped personality’s politics; and it becomes an individual ability to use mental capacity to question and answer oneself fittingly. Moreover, our failure to distinguish between yesteryears, when we were just freedom fighters and the current situation, when we are talking about a country which we all called our own, will lead into undesirable ramifications. As such, if anyone believes that he or she has a big contribution to make but Riek Machaar has been his/her problem, with current peace agreement, you and Riek become equal in that each one of you will have his own role to play in the implementation of the agreement. Some of you may not even be able to see Riek until 2018 because of your different assignments during this period. LET OUR UNITY NOT TO BE AT THE WARTIMES AND NOT AT THE PEACETIMES because, “United We Stand Divided We Fall”!

Thomas Tut Doap is one of the concerned South Sudanese citizens and a graduate student at University of Bellevue, Nebraska U.S.A, college of Business Administration, majoring Human Resource Strategic Management, he can be reached via [email protected].

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