Editorial: The decapitation of Equatoria

By Elhag Paul

December 30, 2015 (SSNA) — The attack on Equatoria is evidenced by the series of abductions, detentions and killings of Equatorians in South Sudan and neighbouring countries. The recent abduction and detention of Dr Leonzio Angole Onek demonstrates this calculated attack to eliminate Equatoria leadership in South Sudan, as a means to render Equatoria leaderless, so as to be subject to control and abuse by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE).

The objective of the JCE and The SPLM to destroy Equatoria is being recorded in contemporary history where a series of Equatorian leaders are presently unaccounted for, such as the elimination of Joseph Oduho, the elimination of Martin Kejivura, the elimination of Cecilia Oba Towongo, the elimination of John Nambu, the elimination of Equatorian police officers, the mysterious death of Dr Wani Tombe, the unexplained disappearance of Justice Peter Sule and General Elias Lino Jada and many others.  Presently this regime is actively terrorising Joseph Bakasoro, the former Governor of Western Equatoria state.  As I write he is being subjected to arbitrary detention afflicted with physical and emotional abuse.

If terror and death could extinguish the will for freedom and the ideas that go with it, South Sudan would not have been freed and born as a sovereign state; for the ideas and proclamations made by the pioneers of South Sudan liberation such as Emilio Tafeng, Paul Ali Gbatala, Joseph Oduho, Zbon Mundiri, Fr. Saturnino Ohure etc would have atrophied with them. However, their words and deeds became the fuel that ran the struggle against Khartoum for over half a century.  With the present oppression of Equatoria by the Jieng, the words of Peter Sule, Dr Wani Tombe etc will be the fuel that runs the emerging Equatoria resistance to the Jieng regime.  Just listen to some of these words in this YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIcJ6IQw-SI

The abduction of Dr Onek similar to the detention of Joseph Bakasoro further highlights the undeclared decapitation policy that the Jieng Council of Elders is promoting to destroy Equatoria.  This Jieng’s policy eventually will intensify the resolve of the people of Equatoria to double their energies and efforts to assert their right.  The weakness pulling Equatoria down is the division that the SPLM has planted in its midst via vulnerable Equatorians, who are intimidated and bought with government posts.  In addition to this the SPLM sets one tribe against the other. 

Dr John Garang was the first to device the fragmentation of Equatoria by instituting a policy that any person wishing to join the SPLM, must come as an individual.  This policy that appeared simple and harmless on face value ensured that Equatorian leaders were stripped of their leadership and subsequently their following. This was the initial process of decapitation of Equatoria.  Please see, ‘The marginalisation of Equatoria’ http://southsudannewsagency.com/opinion/articles/the-marginalisation-of-equatoria

The other SPLM factions similarly use the same intrigues to keep the Equatorians out of positions of power and influence; of all these techniques, the real problem lies in the pitying of one tribe against the other.  Presently, albeit the Equatorians are agreed that the current system in the country is their worst nightmare they still operate as divided, with each tribe supporting their own in the ranks of the opposition.  For example, each tribe will collect material and monetary contributions to support the cause for their tribe. In this, the Equatorians have failed to see that without coming together under a clear objective and working as one there will be no head ways. 

Nimule, Wonduruba, Mundri, and Yambio will continue to burn and the other areas will follow too.  This is the reality.  Politics, as Niccolo Machiavelli, the Italian thinker and author of the influential book The Prince, argues is about power, and getting power involves nasty things like those taking place in the mentioned towns in Equatoria.  This is what is called realpolitik.  It is simply pragmatism and it has nothing to do with emotions and civility.  Bari on their own means nothing, Moru on their own means nothing, Kuku on their own means nothing, Pojulu on their own means nothing, and Zande on their own means nothing etc.  Because Equatoria is fragmented the way it is, its enemies confidently find it easy to pick on them one by one.  For example, when President Kiir and the JCE abused Peter Sule, they did so, knowing that he did not have group support behind him.  They are now abusing Dr Onek and Bakasoro knowing that there is a lack of regional group support.  The behaviour of President Kiir and the JCE is typical of predators preying on their quarry.

If Equatoria wants to regain its lost strength in order to be protective of its people, its people must discard short sighted approaches and work as one, or Equatoria’s future in the jungle that is called South Sudan is bleak.  Simply put, if Equatorians cannot protect and sacrifice for their leaders the future looks very bad.

This protection must start at home.  First it is important for Equatorians to shun or distance themselves from Equatorian informers and lackeys of the “born to rule”.  These informers should be shunned from the society in line with Equatorian cultures.  This is necessary for survival, as informers are used as tools by oppressors to aid in the subjugation and enslavement of a people(s).  Addressing the issue of informers, allows for a group to begin addressing the oppressor; this is because the oppressor lacks leverage without informers.

The literature on conquest, social control and domination posits that for powerful groups to exercise their power over a target group that is to be dominated, the target group must not have leaders.  Without this, it is next to impossible to succeed in colonising any people.  This is why the imperialists and colonialists in the past destroyed indigenous leaders and replaced them with handpicked leaders serving the masters.  In South Sudan, Equatoria’s handpicked lackeys include the Vice President, some of the national ministers, Equatorian apparatchiks of the SPLM, appointed governors, appointed members of parliament, and one or two appointed ambassadors who distinguish themselves by extreme subservience to the Jieng. 

But why do the Jieng strive to colonise Equatoria?  This is a big question that cannot be answered in one article.  The genesis of this problem is explained in my previous article, ‘SPLM a pathological organisation’ http://www.southsudannewsagency.com/opinion/editorials/splm-is-a-pathological-organization

In the mind of the Jieng, if they are to achieve their objective of establishing themselves as the elites in South Sudan, Equatoria must be destroyed.  They believe that Equatorians hate the Jieng and as such it is the main obstacle to their project of ‘born to rule’. This belief though unfounded, is real to them.

In his book, ‘Sudan and South Sudan: from one to two’, Bona Malwal vividly conveys the feelings of the Jieng towards Equatorians.  He argues that “Unfortunately, Equatoria, this rather unusual indeed non-existing constitutional being in South Sudan, has now got onto the bandwagon of Riek Machar Teny, hoping to defeat and overthrow the Dinka (Jieng) that Equatoria has always hated.”  The tone and sentiment expressed here speaks for itself.  While the Jieng assume they are hated by Equatoria, what are the feelings of Equatorians?  In reality, the Equatorians do not hate the Jieng or any other social group in South Sudan for that matter.  What they abhor is the uncalled for senseless violence of the Jieng.  A good example is what is going on throughout Equatoria presently and the horrendous events of December 2013.

Equatoria, therefore, does not hate the Jieng people but certainly it hates their destructive and abusive behaviour.  If the Jieng could only discipline themselves and behave in a humane way, nobody in Equatoria would dislike their ways.  For example, the family of Gordon Ayom and the family of Khatir Jubara who hail from the Jieng, are integrated in Equatoria because they know how to interact with people with respect.

Now the United States has come to the same conclusion as the Equatorians about the behaviour of the Jieng and their government.   Can President Kiir and the JCE really look the Americans in the eye and ask them as to why the US has a low opinion about their government?   If the Americans can not put up with the Juba nonsense, why should South Sudanese and Equatorians do so for that matter?  Please listen to the Senate Hearing titled, ‘Independent South Sudan: A Failure of Leadership’ http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/independent-south-sudan-a-failure-of-leadership-121015

The paradox in this bitter relationship between the Jieng and Equatoria is found in the Jieng Council of Elders whose actual leadership is not Jieng.  The most vocal and hawkish ones who intensely execrate Equatoria are of Equatorian and Jur blood.  These non Jieng leaders of the Jieng have their own issues rooted in their childhood which unfortunately they internalised and turned them into depraved persons.  They strongly hate their Equatorian and Jur traits.  By riding on the back of the entire Jieng they have found a convenient outlet to release their vent up hatred towards their own people in Equatoria and Bahr El Ghazal. 

This may come as a shock to many people as it sounds unbelievable.  But it is the truth.  Here we have a lost Equatorian and a lost Jur conniving to disguise their true identities in order to destroy the source of their very existence in this world.  These are not the only ones in the JCE, there are more.

The behaviour of concealment is associated with many things chiefly among them is the feeling of shame.  Shame often makes people feel inadequate and worthless.  In order to feel better, some people suffering from shame will resort to cover up traits considered negative in their lives.  The hawkish members of JCE appear to be doing exactly that.  Let us have a brief look at their background. 

The Equatorian Jieng is a product of colonial intervention in Jieng cultural life.  When the British came to Bahr El Ghazal they were shocked by the nudity of the Jieng.  They decided to acculturise them, and the plan they put in place was to import Equatorian tailors into Jieng land specifically to produce Chabong – a half robe or ‘Nus Jalabya’ in Arabic.  Initially the British thought the locals would embrace the robe but the Jieng resisted.

After a struggle the Jieng showed interest in Chabong.  The preference to Chabong may have something to do with the comforts of air fanning the lower parts of the body.  It must be remembered that these specific parts are conditioned to free flow of air since time immemorial and the robe in its usual form blocks the entire body from receiving normal aeration.  So the Chabong was the solution provided to introduce clothing to the Jieng.

Like most expats, the imported Equatorian tailors those days did not come with their women and as mother nature does not allow vacuum, interaction with the local women ensued and there we have our Equatorian Jieng leader in the JCE.  So, in essence a combination of British resourcefulness, Equatorian ingenuity and Jieng nudity produced an angry individual who hates Equatoria, part of his own identity.  This person has devoted most of his life to erase Equatoria out of existence.

As for the Jur, his story is tragic.  When he was a young child, he was vulnerable and uncared for, he roamed the streets and found his way to Babanousa and then Khartoum through the weekly train service between Khartoum and Wau.  Once in Khartoum he became a water boy in house of an influential political family in Omdurman.  He grew up there in the nooks of the Arab kitchen feeding on daily leftovers under the supervision of Haja (an old Arab house wife).  It is said that Haja used to refer to him in Arabic as – da walad kwes kalish, meaning this is a good boy.

The above is the brief background to the most hawkish of the JCE leadership.  Is it any wonder why the JCE is doing what it is doing?  These are people who are angry with the world.  People who have had a troubled and challenging childhood, and or those who have had an identity crisis, can experience internal conflict, low self esteem and feelings of worthlessness. While some children grow up to be responsible adults who work through these conflicts, trauma and challenges; others grow to become destructive to themselves, their community and their society.

In the case of South Sudan President Salva Kiir who is another one with dubious background refers to the JCE as dogs because he knows their background very well.  These are individuals who have no loyalty to anybody on this earth but themselves.  They have now hijacked the Jieng tribe and they are using it to the maximum to fill the void in their lives to make themselves feel good.  They do not care about the well being of the Jieng tribe.  Look at the emotional and mental destruction they are inflicting on the young Jieng boys they recruit into the killing machine of the Jieng militia (Dootku Beny, Mathiang Anyoor and Gelweng). 

Malek Cook-Dwach in his article published by The Sudan Tribune, ‘Tribal politics is what is destroying our social fabric’ correctly points out that the damages inflicted by the JCE’s war will have long term impact for the recovery of the Jieng youth to return to normality due to the economies lost, lack of education, physical and psychological trauma.  As for the overall consequences of the JCE’s evil plans, please see, ‘The Jieeng Council of Elders, the erosion of Jieeng values and the Jieengization of South Sudan’ http://www.southsudannation.com/jieeng-council-of-elders-the-erosion-of-jieengs-values-and-the-jieengization-of-south-sudan/ 

Therefore, the hatred of the JCE towards Equatoria is irrational and very dangerous as this group has set itself, the task of destroying Equatoria.  The destruction is being born out in two ways.  First, through the SPLM/A, the JCE is systematically eliminating Equatoria leaders and disempowering the whole community.  Secondly, the name Equatoria is being erased from existence in South Sudan through use of presidential decrees like the Decree 36/2015 Establishment Order.  This decree fragments Equatoria into smaller states and wipes out the name Equatoria.  Equatoria has no option left but it must rise to the challenge.

Now the abduction of Dr Onek has its root in what has been expressed in this article.  As a professor and a very intelligent person, the tribal system perceives him to be a threat, because should he decide to lead his people one day it would be difficult for the JCE and President Salva Kiir to push him aside.  So in line with Jieng policy of keeping Equatoria leaderless, Dr Onek has been preyed upon.  His abduction like the ongoing detention of Bakasoro is not only humiliation to him personally but in reality it is the humiliation of the whole Equatoria region. 

Previously the system did this to the Kakwa chiefs, it did it to Justice Peter Sule whose story now remains an enigma, it did it to the chairman of the Equatoria caucus in the parliament, it did it to the paramount chief of Didinga, it did it to the chiefs of Madi and Acholi, it is doing it now to the former Governor of Western Equatoria, Joseph Bakasoro.

The message in all this is clear.  If you are Equatorian with potential, then your own survival is at risk because the JCE has decided to destroy Equatoria through decapitation.   Their practice to achieve this objective includes arbitrary detentions, abductions, killings and terror.  The crucial question is: For how long is Equatoria going to be humiliated?  The cases of Dr Onek and that of Bakasoro are Equatorian cases and they must not be allowed to go on like what has happened to Peter Sule.  If the system has a case against Dr Onek and Bakasoro, they must be brought to open court and let them have their day in court.  It is just unacceptable that people are abused and oppressed to satisfy the ego of the JCE, because they are Equatorians.

This challenge demands the so called Equatorian Front in SPLM-IO to do something about it because of their unique position as partner of President Kiir in the peace agreement.  If General Alfred Ladu Gore is an Equatorian leader as is claimed, he needs to speak out and ensure that Professor Onek and Bakasoro are safe and released immediately.  This is very important for three reasons.  Firstly, this is because it is an act of solidarity.  Secondly, it is an act to protect Equatoria, and thirdly and crucially it is an act of self protection – ensuring he does not fall in the same trap. 

Equatoria community need to realise that their unity is a must if this predatory politics of the JCE is to be stopped once and for all.  So the Equatoria community in the country need to write to the trio (President Festos Mogae, President Salva Kiir and Dr Riek Machar) demanding the release of Professor Onek and Bakasoro together with an enquiry on why Dr Onek was abducted and Bakasoro detained.  This very piece should serve the same purpose.

Finally in the larger context, the survival of Equatoria depends on the extent to which the people of the region (a third of the population of South Sudan) are prepared to resist in self defence.  President Kiir and JCE’s terror directed to Equatoria leaders and the people must be brought to a halt through a concerted multi prong action.  If Equatoria wants its sons and daughters to stand for it, it in turn has to protect them by whatever means available.  Otherwise the future of Equatoria is bleak in a system run by people who hold deep unfounded grudges against it for no rational reason.

[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]

The author lives in the Republic of South Sudan. He can be reached at [email protected].

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