The historical dangers of consistent lies: A response to Steve Paterno’s article

‘Why South Sudan Riek Machar is reneging on implementing peace agreement’ (part I)

By BB Biel

October 29, 2015 (SSNA) — If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, argues Joseph Goebbels, people will eventually come to believe it!  Though the above Goebbels’ argument suits to a least extent a portion of realities of a lying world, yet one thing remains disturbingly certain, which the liars have to wrestle with and that is; the battle of which the liars have to put up by keeping repeating the same series of lies less they are discovered. Can liars win over at the face of truth that needs no proof?  That is the question which partly rests on the core of this argument. It seems from the outset that the discourses are incongruent.

People think that a liar gains a victory over his or her victim, Philosopher Ayn Rand observes. What I have learned, he argues, is that, a lie is an act of self-abdication because one surrenders one’s reality to the person to whom one lies, making that person one’s master; ——the man who lies to the world, Rand continues, is the world’s slave from then on.

One wonders what has become of some South Sudanese intellectuals who instead of feeding the world with truthful perspectives about South Sudan’s current sorry state of affairs but have turned into making egoistic and flattery writings, squarely discussing personalities. 

Steve Paterno(Paterno), who oftentimes describes himself not far beyond being an author of; The Rev Fr. Saturnino Lohure: A Roman Catholic Priest Turned Rebel’ and nothing more, is so obsessed of writing lies and defamatory statements or character-assassination versions. Through this response, the reader will soon come to know his bare intention.

In Paterno’s own words:

On 23 October 2015, Paterno pieced up a trajectory of designed lies and unsparingly entitled it; ‘why South Sudan Riek Machar is reneging on implementing peace agreement’. (Sudan Tribune: Paterno, in his article centred on Dr Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon(Riek Machar),  the current leader of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement and Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army in Opposition(SPLM/SPLA-IO).

In summary, Paterno made the following unfounded allegations; that Riek Machar has a documented treachery in the history of South Sudan. That Riek Machar has been a signatory of many infamous agreements which Paterno referenced to the Khartoum Peace Agreement of 1997 and 2006 Juba brokered peace talks between Ugandan rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army(LRA) and the Government of Uganda, which peace talks Paterno seemed to ignorantly baptise as a brain-child of Riek Machar. That Riek Machar self-cashed the funding of the said LRA-Uganda Peace Talks. That Riek Machar has abandoned his forces and lives in foreign hotels. That Riek Machar is not interested in implementing the recently signed peace agreement and instead looking for ways of getting money for troops which are not there as Paterno openly stated that the forces under Riek Machar have abandoned him and now live peacefully in South Sudan without him being in control.

Why this response? 

This is part I of my response. What triggers this response is not that the personality of Riek Machar is attacked. Certainly no! Riek Machar is a politician who is a public figure and whose life is not at all of any secrecy. He can be criticised and if erred, could be equally exposed. However, what digs deep at stake, emanates from the fact that Paterno’s argument is continuously coated in concocted lies which is at variance with his conscience except his obvious flattery intention. I thought his mind should have been mature enough to discuss ideas rather than personalities but this has not been the case.

The lies fabricated above by Paterno against Riek Machar can be directly exposed for what they are:

Paterno wrote that Riek Machar has a documented treachery in the history of South Sudan! Looking into this concoction, Paterno assumes his mere imagination as a fact and prematurely, wants us to believe his fiction. 

We need to glance at a simple ordinary English definition of the term; ‘treachery’. Treachery means a breach of trust or betrayal or an act of unfaithfulness or treason. Paterno insulted the intelligence of his reader by leaving one in a guess as what amounts to Riek Machar’s purported documented notoriety, infamy and treachery. Or as at what stage has Riek Machar been treacherous? He just danced vaguely around the tune without any elaboration of his argument.

Presumably, Paterno is not alone in these uncoordinated lies and assumptions. The usual critics of Riek Machar including Paterno, normally attack him on the 1991 split within the SPLM/SPLA; the then South Sudanese lead rebel movement. To shed more light on this, the main reason for the split does not need any assistance of the Holy Spirit for one to know what it was. Late Dr John Garang de Mabior(John Garang)(RIP uncle); the former chairman of the SPLM/SPLA and his supporters wanted liberation struggles tuned towards a total liberation of secular united Sudan, whereas Riek Machar and his colleagues in  arms, opposed John Garang’s way of coining South Sudanese oppression by the North as ‘Mushkila Sudan’ or ‘Sudan Problem’. 

Riek Machar simply wanted the liberation struggles to be waged with a definite aim of total independence of South Sudan from the Sudan. The variance on liberation ideologies and internal governance contradictions combined, within the SPLM/SPLA, sparked the split, leading to the formation of distinct South Sudanese rebel factions; Nasir Faction led by Riek Machar and Torit Faction under John Garang. 

The resultant effect was the massacre of civilians of Dinka Bor by Riek Machar’s forces.  Similarly, Gawaar Nuer, Lou-Nuer areas and most parts of Western Upper Nile now Unity State were massacred by John Garang’s forces. The late General George Athor at the orders of Torit faction, killed his own Gawaar Nuer neighbours; mostly children and women in the church; something that generally was unheard of in South Sudanese adored values and among Nuer and Dinka in particular. 

The attack on civilians by both sides was unfortunate but specifically, the one on Bor was triggered by John Garang’s past SPLM/SPLA 1987 massacre of GaatJaak(Gajaak) Nuer, whom he accused of being supporters of  Nuer dominated Anya Nya II under Samuel Gai Tut after the 1983 SPLM/SPLA split, that was sparked off by power wrangles when Garang highjacked the SPLM/SPLA leadership in opposition to chairmanship of Akuot Atem, an elderly senior Dinka politician whom the Movement elected to lead the liberation war.

As the Torit and Nasir factions continued to attack each other while both were separately fighting with Khartoum government and with failed attempts for peace as seen in Abuja I and II with Khartoum government, then Riek Machar with other South Sudanese historical liberation leaders such as Vincent Kuany Latjor, Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, Arok Thon Arok among others merged their forces and decided to negotiate for a peaceful settlement to the conflict with Khartoum government. The negotiations led to the signing of the Khartoum Peace Agreement of April 1997(KPA). Riek Machar and his commanders then joined Khartoum government under the terms of KPA. He was appointed the Vice President of the Republic of the Sudan and then a chairman of Coordinating Council; a regional governing body that oversaw the affairs of the then ‘Southern Sudan’s states’. 

The KPA provided for a four year interim period with a stipulation of Self-determination that; after the interim period, a referendum would be held for Southerners(South Sudanese) to decide their destiny at ballot between whether to remain in a united Sudan or opt for their own independent state; South Sudan. The KPA seemed to impress Khartoum government that at the end, the question of South Sudan could be possibly settled through a vote. True, the unfolding events of 2011 independence of South Sudan, pointed to this dispensation.

If Riek Machar joined Khartoum government under KPA which he signed, then commonsense dictates that one should not be condemned for commitment made to the terms and conditions which one has signed.  If Riek Machar just did that, then where does the ingloriously sung treachery come from? His critics partly in the likes of Paterno are so subsumed in hearsay discourses. This behavior of assumption partly explains why the demagogues caused the current civil war in the name of unproven emotionalised coup de’tat in Juba by Riek Machar.

By Paterno labeling Riek Machar constantly as having his background tainted in treachery, this, it appears, portrays his abysmal ignorance of the events of liberation history at best and shameful flattery at worst. Paterno; is a kind of praising choir member of this or that ‘oyee.’ These blind singers of an ‘outdated oyee’ have so far offered nothing significantly productive to South Sudanese people except bullet, blood and sufferings.

The unionists had no heart to stoop low to South Sudanese demand for a separate statehood. Commander Salva Kiir as he then was, in May 1993 at Abuja II Peace Conference, as head of the SPLM/SPLA delegation elucidated the vision of the so called secular united Sudan or unattainable ‘Sudan Jedid’ or ‘New Sudan.’

Kiir stated; the objective of the movement since it was launched in 1983 had always been and continued to be the creation of a New Sudan. This is still our preferred and principled objective.

Was this vision, which in pursuit of it, killed many of our fellow citizens achieved? To rebut the lies of Paterno, simply put, Riek Machar was not treacherous by joining Khartoum regime through KPA if that is what Paterno alluded to in his article.

Instead, Riek Machar’s act of signing KPA, continues to show his patriotism to South Sudan and love for settling conflicts through dialogue rather than barrel of the gun and above all, his quest for a separate independent South Sudan determined by South Sudanese themselves in referendum vote as opposed to unachievable unionists’ notion of ‘Sudan Jedid’. 

As Salva Kiir, John Garang and other senior members of the clique were opposed to KPA and opted for the continuation of war against both Riek Machar and Khartoum regime, then Khartoum government reneged on the implementation of KPA, knowing that while the unionists under John Garang were still in the bush with majority of brainwashed gunmen on ‘New Sudan vision’ a referendum on self-determination was not feasible since the senior Dinka elite could never support an ideology championed by a non-Dinka!. WHAT DID RIEK MACHAR DO WHEN KPA WAS NOT IMPLEMENTED BY KHARTOUM? 

To be continued in part II.

About the author: BB Biel is lawyer; he holds Master of Laws degree of South Africa’s University of Pretoria, Bachelor of Laws degree of Busoga University, Diploma in Law of Makerere’s Law Development Centre and Diploma in Journalism of International Institute of Business and Media Studies, all in Uganda. He is 2013 Columbia University Human Rights Advocate at Faculty of Law’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights; where he studied Transitional Justice, human rights, law and development in New York City, United States.  He is former co-chair of the National Human Rights Forum with South Sudan Human Rights Commission. He also served as official spokesperson and Secretary General of the South Sudan Civil Society Alliance; a coalition of over 50 national and grassroots civil society organisations. He worked before as columnist with The Nile Fortune Magazine and the then Sudan Tribune English daily. Biel had also previously reported for South Sudan’s The Citizen English newspaper. He has been heading, as its executive director, the South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy (SSHURSA), an outspoken national human rights organisation. However, the views expressed in this article, are of his own and not of any of the institutions he is associated with.  E-mail: [email protected].

Previous Post
Tricky legal game between parliament and judiciary
Next Post
The historical dangers of consistent lies: A response to Steve Paterno’s article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.