Trials, tribulations, injustices, and the peril destruction of the Nuer people

A section of the Nuer Community conference in the United States; March 2015. Photo: SSNA

Trials, tribulations, injustices and the peril destruction Nuer people are inflicted on themselves, due to the lack of political will to sit and compromise their differences once disagreements occurred

By Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak

August 11, 2017 (SSNA) — The fragmentation of the Nuer society among politicians, commanders, all officers in military attires and civil-population in some extent, is somewhat dismayed and disappointed for numerous reasons. Some of these disappointments or short comings in the Nuer society are the push factors that force this author to write. The author will lengthily address all issues of disappointments in this article from their very core of origination and how they affect the Nuer society. Although an unjust set of trials, tribulations, peril destructions, injustices, and oppression, which constitute the nucleus of today’s problems can be found in any society, these cruel disturbing violence actions are common among the Nuer nation. One is a living witness of this fragmentation, injustices, and destruction Nuer regularly brought to their society.

For centuries, Nuer had inhabited Nuerland and ruled themselves with customary laws without the presence of the government. In that long-extended period, their practices whether good or bad were known only to them internally and their immediate neighbors. They became part of the Sudanese policy in the 1820s when the nation State was taking shape beginning with the Ottoman invasion of Egypt in 1821. Like any other South Sudanese groups, Nuer have resisted incorporation into the Sudanese political structure that led to the development of two distinctive parts of the Sudan, the north, and the South.

When British came to colonize Sudan in 1898 and later had contact with Nuer, Nuer met them with resistance and that resistance resulted in a long confrontation which took many years to cease. Out of that long confrontation, Nuer advance the culture of aggression toward each other as well as their neighbors. Although popular rhetoric phrases concerning so-called “Nuer unity” is usually pronounced, political injustices that result in violations of human rights within the Nuer society are always raised and committed by Nuer politicians and commanders. In that regard, my aim and purpose to write this article are to criticize and condemn those who call themselves “Nuer politicians and commanders” for trials, tribulations, peril destruction and injustices or an enormous pain they are inflicted on the Nuer society. Those who may argue and try to deny these facts in a sense that wrong this author’s point of view, would be deemed as short sighted individuals in our midst who just want to lie and do not want to admit the fact. Our community misdeeds surpass cover-up motives, given that our so-called modern Nuer politicians and military officers had ruined Nuer reputation and decency to the maximum.

Initially, Nuer are one of the recognized ethnic group in South Sudan national politics. They are one of the biggest nationality who participated in South Sudan affairs since Turks and Anglo-Egyptian colonial eras. They have been part of South Sudan liberation movements since Anyanya-one, Anyanya-two, and the SPLM/A. During the war of liberation, Nuer were in the forefront in both armies the SPLM/A and Sudan armed forces (SAF). They died on both fronts. At least a quarter of the 2.5 million estimated casualties between North and South are believed to have been Nuer. This might include the death caused by Nuer themselves internally.

In countless occasions, Nuer politicians turn against each other and brought harm to themselves and General Nuer civil population. Severe violation of basic rights to life and physical safety is sometimes enacted by the so-called Nuer politicians and officers through the movement policies aiming in inflicting pain on ordinary citizens by the course of warfare. Whenever political dissatisfactions aroused between these so-called politicians and commanders, they usually retreated and recruit their sectional kinsfolks to back them up and help them achieved whatever they want to achieve. It is commonly recognized that Nuer political leaders, soldiers as well as some civilians who engaged in those dangerous violent activities, have to be held accountable for perpetrating injustices, destructions, and unmeasurable pain among the Nuer society.

During the course of SPLM/A tenure in the bush, Nuer adapted a sycophantic behavior following the leadership disagreement in Ethiopia between Samuel Gai Tut and John Garang. As early as the movement was formed, William Nyuon Bany and John Kolang Puot were set against Samuel Gai Tut and William Chuol Deng who at the time had retreated to Lare. Due to that setup, the new organization and the Ethiopian forces did not waste time, they began to attack Bilpam where Anyanya-II and some separatist had stationed. The separatists were defeated in a heavy flood autumn and took their way back to Sudan. Then, the rest were reintegrated into the SPLM/A. That attack triggered the war between the Anyanya two forces and the SPLM/A. One of the people who helped late John Garang to dislodge the Nuer dominated Anyanya-two from Bilpam was Thowath Pal who hail from Gaatjaak section of Jikany-Nuer community in Ethiopia.

Throughout 1983, Gai had nowhere to attach his political movement, other than linking it to the general Nuer public in villages. In the beginning of 1984, Gai tried to negotiate with the SPLM/A. First, he led his group and match to Itang aiming to meet with the members of the SPLM/A, eager to see if it would be possible to reunite their forces. Unfortunately, Ethiopian troops did not allow him and his group to enter Itang, where dialogue between him and Garang could have possibly take place. Gai left with no other option, other than returning to his base and make a move to really his movement with the Sudanese government if necessary. Up on his return from Ethiopia headed toward Sudan-Ethiopia border, and stationed in Thiajak and Bukteng; two places they previously occupied following their defection from the government of Sudan in 1983, SPLM/A was making preparation to destroy those locations once the dry season has come. Second, in April 1984, Gai tried again to move back to negotiate with the SPLM/A; unfortunately, his forces had clashed with the SPLA forces, where he was killed on the battlefield by Nuer soldier on the side of the SPLM/A. After his death, Chuol Deng continues to lead Anyanya-2, until when the SPLA-Nuer forces under John Kolang Puot: killed him. Not to mention low ranking and private Nuer soldiers who slaughtered themselves daily on both sides. At that particular period, the whole struggle became a nightmare! Many separatists retreated to their ethnic group villages seeking their native tribesmen backing. After the death of Chuol Deng, Gordon Koang Chuol became the overall ringleader of Anyanya-II operating in Nasir District, getting his recruit from Jikany and Lou Nuer; Paulino Matip Nhial went to Bentiu and drew his support mainly from Bul Nuer.

It would be termed as South Sudanese had divided themselves given that Akuot Atem defected along with Anyanya-II officers but literally, only Nuer were divided in actual fact, given that at the early stage of the movement inception, Nuer make the majority on both sides.

As the war was raging, Nuer on the SPLM/A side became a liability or second-class citizens, it depends on how you would term their categorization. They were treated unfairly and criticized daily that their brothers are fighting the movement. Even the ration in refugee camps was not distributed equally. Our cousins took the lion share while we collect the leftovers. The movement had created discriminatory policies that aim of denying other opportunities and also plan to capture former Anyanya-two soldiers who went back to their native villages after Bilpam had been destroyed by a combination of the Ethiopian and SPLM/A forces. For many years, it became a trend for all Nuer officers who were conscripted to the movement the SPLM/SPLA in its early inception, to mistreat their fellow Nuer who was former Anyanya-II soldiers. They betrayed these ex-officers as well as civilians thinking that they are patriotic to the movement. Their action culminated into the war between Gaatjaak and the SPLM/A, which began in January 1985, when Nuer SPLA soldiers were canoeing in Baro-river from Itang to Mangok or Chatyier. After reaching Majaak (an Anuak village on the side of Baro River), they saw Gaatjaak civilians fishing at the shore. The soldiers call upon these villagers in demanding of fishes they caught after all day fishing. Then, fishermen refused to surrender their fishes to be taken by force and began to run. Mistakenly, SPLA soldiers start firing at them that became the bitter long period of violence between SPLM/A and Gaatjaak. Nuer commanders were the main enemies who order soldiers to kill their own kinsfolks in villages.

In Bentiu, SPLM/An area commander Paul Dor Lampuor, engaged in fighting with Brigade or Anyanya-II under Paulino Matip Nhial. That fighting led to the destruction of human and property, important people like Baling Kaway, John Bang Gatbel, and many others lost their lives. From August 20, 1983, to March of 1987 Nuer fought one another until the merger of the SPLM/A and Anyanya-two under Koang Choul Kolang. Matip Nhial remained in Bentiu and was not a part of 1987 reunification.

The effect of the merger of the SPLM/A and Anyanya-II:

In March of 1987, SPLM/A and Anyanya-II had merged. Gordon Kong Chuol and his forces were integrated into the SPLM/A. Within the same year in summer, Gaatjaak were disarmed and the war between them and the SPLM/A ceased. Although active confrontation had ceased, the movement had not normalized the relations, it has created discrimination policies targeting Nuer civilians especially Gaatjaak-Nuer, for the reason that Gaatjaak were considered outlaws at that given period.  Many people are sometimes detent for no specific reason.

Dangerous atrocities were committed and commute between Gambella, Itang and other places was unsafe, given that soldiers detent people for no valid reasons, rob civilians, rape women and girls and humiliate men in front of their spouses. Up to this moment, people they tortured are carrying deep wounds. The followings examples will give you a clue about some of these mistreatments. In 1986, char a Gaatjaak young man who was canoeing a boat to Itang to collect sacks of maize. When he arrived Maker force, he rowed his boat on the far end of the river shore avoiding having contact with soldiers at Maker. Soldiers saw him and called him to come to them. He did not have any other option other than turning and rowing his boat across Baro-river. When he arrived the shore, soldiers told him, the captain wants to wash his face while in your boat. When captain steps in the boat, he intentionally pushes the boat and he felt in the water. Soldiers told Char, you be belt our captain, we are going to waterboarding you. Soldiers capsize the boat and put Char underneath deep down in the water. They set on the boat. When Char almost drown, soldiers brought him out and went to nearby Nuer cattle-camp and asked whether some people know Char. Fortunately, his in law were in that cattle-camp. They took him and soldiers confiscated two cows just because captain throws himself in the water.

Another case was of Doguar. His cow was taken by soldiers while cattle were grazing. He came and demand to take the cow. He was told to show the evidence why the cow is his. Doguar told them the cow has a small calf and he still has that calf with him. Soldiers told him to go and bring the calf. He went and brought the calf. The calf recognized each other with the mother. Soldiers capture Doguar and beat him really bad. While they beat him, they also encourage him to say the cow is not his. Doguar was beaten until when he denies his own cow and say it is not his.

These are some known facts that indicate SPLM/A started its administration in liberated areas as a torturer organization. The immediate administrative priorities of the SPLA were to mistreat civilians and limit the frequency and intensity of inter-community confrontations by first establishing an effective system of indirect rule. The movement introduces a system of arms controls and policy of gun licensing. Knowing that civil population in South Sudan had acquired firearms in late 1800 and early 1900 and used them to either protect their herds and settling personal scores with other citizens. The SPLM/SPLA made an effort to curb the civilian’s use of firearms, by tripling the charges and blood-wealth compensation rate, for bullet victim from twenty-five or thirty—to 100 cows. Eighty of these cows had to be given to the victim’s family and twenty of which had to be claimed by the administration as a fine.

In addition to such a huge amount of cows, the movement has also imposed a seven years’ term of imprisonment. It also has been stated that “a person who has been convicted of killing another person of any type of gun assaults, has to be sentenced to death by the use of a firing squad.” If the killer stabbed or slain the victim with the spear in a declare sectional fight, the fine is fifty herd of cattle, 30 of which have to be given to victim’s family and 20 has to be taken as an administration fine. Besides 50 herds of cattle, a five years’ imprisonment term was also proposed in such circumstances. The above regulations are for civilians. There was no clear regulation for the cases that involve civilian and a soldier or soldier and a soldier. When a soldier had killed a civilian, no blood wealth compensation is being claimed. Then, when a civilian kills a soldier, 100 cows must be collected. No blood wealth compensation that has to be given to the victim’s parents. All 100 cows have to be taken by the administration. Then, if a soldier kills another soldier and the killer family is dwelling in an area under SPLM/A jurisdiction, their parents’ cattle have to be seized and nothing has to be given to victim’s family. In SPLM/A jurisdiction in early days, there was no clear judgment and no presumption of innocence. The investigation was so harsh and frightening.

To give you a clear picture of what I am talking about here, I must summarize two cases that had occurred when the movement was still one under John Garang. First, on April 1987, an unknown gunman murdered an SPLA soldier near Wute, a small Anuak village close to this author village. After the news of such an incident reaches Bilpam the army headquarter, a strong force was sent to take care of the deceased body and round up the village. That day, there were six Nuer civilians drinking alcohol in the village and the soldiers capture these six Nuer men and took them to Bilpam headquarter.  A few days later, SPLA soldiers had conducted a trickery or stratagem interrogation. The men were taken to the forest and were allowed to sit down under a tree on watchful eye of the group of soldiers. Nearby, soldiers had dug six graves, as if each of the men will be buried in any of the graves. The men had taken one by one by the soldiers.  The first man that was taken to graves site was told, “this is your grave where we are going to kill you and bury you, the only thing we need from you is just saying yes; you kill the deceased.” If you keep saying, “I didn’t do it,” you must be beaten and at the same time encouraged to say yes! When you really resist and do not say anything other than crying, you had to be taken in a difference-hidden route. Then, two to five bullets had to be fired and one grave must be concealed pretending that the interrogated individuals are actually has been killed and buried in that concealed grave. This was done to scare the five men who were awaiting interrogation to make them believe that their fellow village man has actually died. Five people who were first interrogated had been beaten very badly, but none of whom could not admit he killed the victim. When the last number six came, he was told, “we have killed five of your friends, and did you hear the sound of bullets we had just fired?” He said, “Yes” then the soldiers replied, “Yeah, we kill them—these are their graves, only yours remain open. If you do not say you killed him, we are going to kill you right now like them. Then, if you say you killed him, we will only be going to collect cattle from all your homestead villages. The cattle should not be yours a lone.” Then the man said, “Yes, I killed him!” Although he was not the killer, he admits it out of fear of death.  He did not know that other five men are still alive and taken a different route. He was taken to prison and soldiers were ordered to collect one hundred herds of cattle. He remains in prison and got released after five years later.

Another case involves two soldiers. They were ordered as eight soldiers to look for a fellow soldier who went back to his native village. According to the SPLA/M rules and regulation, when a soldier returns to his village, and do not come back, some remainder soldiers are being ordered to bring him back by force and charge him for two cows. These charges of two cows are being termed in Nuer language as (ca their part) which literally means that his buttock has been slapped. While these eight soldiers reach the village, they capture their fellow soldier with his gun and two cows. They, later on, went to the head chief’s home where the head chief for his hospitality kill a Billy goat for them and order his wives to cook the meat and a food. He went to the village to collect some alcohol for them to drink.

After soldiers got drunk, they start quarreling among themselves and one of them fire at his fellow soldier. After the soldier, he fires at responded, the soldier who started shooting at the first place was killed. Then, the head chief orders them to leave the village. When they went back to their headquarters Jiekou, the killer was arrested and the area commander ordered 50 soldiers to go to his father village to bring 100 herds of cattle. Then 100 cows were collected from all villages and the killer’s father went to Bilpam where cattle were taken and stationed. He asked for the reason why his cattle have been confiscated. Officers in charge told him your son kill someone. Then the man had softly spoken and replied, “I don’t have a son in the army.”  He was told, “His name is Nhial Lok and your name is Lok.” Lok reply, “Nhial is not my son. He is an SPLM/A son. Since he said he wanted to join the army, I told him, you are not my son anymore—you are SPLM/A movement’s son. That is why I said Nhial is not my son.”  Lok asked the commander, what if Nhial got a kill in the war between you and Arab would you pay me compensation? In addition, he said, “I have relatives whose children had been killed by your foes, are you going to pay their parents compensation?” Then, the judge saw the point Lok was making and decided to give him the cows that have been confiscated, except five cows that already killed.

In above two cases, you may see and conclude that judgment in the SPLM/A was very poor. In Nhial’s case, for instance, soldiers could not have been ordered in the first place to collect his father’s cattle. They would have known that it is wrong for them to do so. After his father cattle were returned, Nhial was punished for one month in a trench. SPLA deployed him to the front line at Nasir where other soldiers are rotating daily but he has to remain in the trench together with those who have just change his team members.  Authority wanted him to be killed by the enemy in a tree where three soldiers already been killed. Nobody knew he would spend one month in the trench without being killed or wounded given that the trench directed to enemy headquarters. It is a dangerous location, soldiers who are charged to bring him lunch refused despite the fact that three soldiers were wounded while bringing him the food and five others were arrested because of refusing to bring him the food. In the last day, he was rotated and later was told to take a leave to meet his parents; that when this writer talks to him and explain what had happened to him in details. After one month, he returns to army headquarters and was not punish any longer because he has already done with his sentence. They think God did not want him to die.

The 1991 Era:

After the split in 1991, internal injustices did not go away. However, Nasir-Faction tries to introduce some changes. For example, it reduced the charges of murder by ordering that if somebody intentionally kills a fellow human being with a gun, 70 herds of cattle instead of 100, had to be taken; administration still will take twenty herds of cattle and fifty has to be given to victim’s family. If it is an accident, the charges have to be reduced from 70 to 50 herds of cattle still administration will take 20 and 30 must be taken by the victim’s family. In term of spear causes death, if it is intentional, 50 cows had to be taken, 20 for administration fine and 30 to victim family. If it is an accident, 30 cows must be claimed 10 for administration fine and 20 for victim family. Riek read these regulations in a conference at Ketbek in March 1992. This author was among the attendees working as a secretary for a paternal uncle who was a head chef. The reason Riek read the regulation aloud was that, in February 1992, unknown killer killed a soldier near a village call Dualjiok. After the body was discovered, the late deputy area commander Kwach Kang Riai ordered the soldiers to seize one hundred cows. Instead of only one hundred cows, 20 goats, 9 sheep, 11 hens and 6 cocks plus 6 mosquito nets were taken. Riek asked late CDR Kuach, “Why sheep, goats, hens and mosquito nets were taken, did mosquito nets help in killing the person?” Kwach responds that he did not know such properties were confiscated except 100 cows, which he said was taken because the assailant took the victim’s gun. Then, Riek has to remind soldiers that the charges have changed from 100 to 70 herds of cattle and there is no point of taking anything else. The whole case pop up through the paper I wrote describing what had taken place; after chiefs, I went to Ketbek with urging me to do so.  Anyway, when these regulations were put in place, especially when the movement was one, inter-community and tribal confrontations had reduced dramatically. Civilians were afraid of the impunity that the movement was imposing on them.

Peril destruction, injustices, and violence among the Nuer following 1991 movement division:

Since August 28, 1991 when Dr. Riek Machar, Dr. Lam Akol, and Gordon Kong Chol announced John Garang was deposed as the chairman of the SPLM/A, Garang responded by instigating rebellion in the areas controlled by the SPLM/A-Nasir faction, using promotions as inducement to the officers on the side of the SPLM/A-Nasir in order to create instability. Then he shifted gear to open aggression by planning and executing major attacks deep inside the area controlled by the SPLM/A-Nasir. The first was two pronged attacks to capture Nasir launched from Bor and Pibor. The second was to mount a river attack on Adok and Leer started on September 9, 1991, just ten days after the declaration; Dr. Lam Akol the Nasir Declaration (2003 p. 31-6). Garang plan was that Salva must collect forces from Boma, Pochalla and Khor Chum or Pakok to assemble in Pibor and advance to capture Akobo. Then William Nyuon forces must advance from Born to capture Ayod. Nyuon executed the order. On November 7, 1991, he made a surprise attack on Adok and captured it. They then advanced to Leer and began massacring innocent civilians. After William Nyuon was pushed back, a combination of former Anyanya-2 soldiers and armed civilians of Lou and Gawar sections of Nuer who are neighbors to Bor Dinkas teamed up with the Anyanya-2 soldiers. They found it as a window of opportunity to look for cattle or may be to settle some old scores between their communities. At that juncture, the pursued of William Nyuon following his surprise attack on Adok has resulted in the incidence of Bor.

From that time onward, the war along the Nuer-Dinka frontier restarted and did not stop along that line. It had been having a direct impact on security “among” the Nuer-themselves in the period of the split in 1991-2002. As early as 1992, there have been serious inter-community fighting, which broke out between Lou and Gaawar, Lou and Jikany especially Gaatjiok, and between Jikany sections. Gaatjiok began fighting with Gaatgwang: Gaatjaak sections were fighting each other. For instance, Ciewaw engages with Cie-Nyajani, Cie-manner with ice-any, Cie-Chany with Ciewaw, Cie-Nyajani with Thiang-center, Thiang-center with Cie-Reang and so forth. The SPLM/SPLA-Nasir control areas dwelled by those mentioned Nuer sections became a death stream without good jurisdiction to control criminals who had taken law into their own hands. Such sectional fighting would have been prevented if the grievances raised by the warring parties had been given sufficient attention.

For example, the Gaatjiok-Lou incident should have been avoided by sending neutral forces in the area, who will not favor any claim put-forth by either party. Lou-Nuer would have been told to stop invading Gaatjiok land and grassed their cattle on the border without crossing into Gaatjiok pastures.  Despite the fact that the cause of war between Lou and Jikany was being that, Lou believed they were excluded from necessary riverine pastures and fishing grounds. Some Gaatjaak sections particularly Cieng Nyajani, had the same grievances that they do not have enough fertile alluvial soil on Baro riverine. Hence, the shortage of riverine land for Cieng-Nyajani move them to take over part of the land, which belongs to Ciewaw and that ignites the conflict between the two communities.

However, the conflict between Ciengawa and Cieng-Nyajani was caused by the SPLA/M. In the summer of 1985, eight young men from Cieng-Nyajani went to Gewkel a small village near Chatyier army base. SPLA soldiers learned about their present and decided to capture them. Seven of these young men were aimlessly killed, only one of them survived after his body was covered by blood and soldiers thought he was also killed. When Cieng-Nyajani took an initiative wanted to revenge an incident, they mistakenly murdered one Cieng-Waw young boy while trying to target new recruit of SPLM/A soldiers. Later on, Ciengwaw revenues the killer of the boy in 1986. Then, in 1994, a man who married to Cieng-Nyajani wanted to claim his dowry, he was killed and his demise resulted in a sectional war that took painful ten years. In many occasions, these grievances were present to Riek but did not take any necessary action that would help quell civilian feuds.

Ironically, it is undeniable that some of the warring parties in Gaatjaak area were fighting on the side of Ethiopian jurisdiction. However, both authorities would have taken measure actions. Due to the lack of necessary actions, some intellectuals began to take their own routes seeking to protect their clans. One of the moves taken by Nasir intellectuals was to approach the Sudanese government in Malakal to come and occupy Nasir so that Lou-Nuer youth had to be protected from entering the town after the destruction of Ulang and Nasir it-self. Commanders of both Lou and Jikany left army headquarters and associated themselves with civilians of their background. This brought growing concern among educated Nuer in exile to look for the means to stop these unnecessary killings. Then, the educated Nuer intellectuals’ reaction had resulted into convening a large inter-Nuer peace conference that convened and take place in Akobo as an attempt to sort out inter-Nuer feudal problems and demanding improving relations with their neighbors in the South or Anuak in Ethiopia.

Some military officers opt to abandon SSIM/A contesting the suffering of their clan-mates.

Among Nuer commanders, Duol Choul had defected to SPLM/A and teamed up with Gathoth Mai. His defection resulted in the attack of Pagak in 1995-6. Within the same year, fighting started in Lou-Nuer between Manyal Kueth and Kong Banypiny as Manual defected to the SPLM/A. Many Nuer soldiers from Lou-Nuer, paid the ultimate price including Manyal himself and Panom Banypiny. Also in 1995, William Nyuon Bany defected to SPLM/A, and later on was instructed to prosecute factional war between SPLM/A and SSIM/A. He was killed on the night of January 13, 1996, in Gul located between Ayod and Waat in present day Jonglei State by SSIM/A forces, which means he was killed by Nuer because the majority of SSIM/A fighters were Nuer.

Injustices following the 1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement

Although some obvious reasons that contributed to the failure of Khartoum Peace Agreement were developed and focused on the distribution of offices. One obvious spark was when Paulino Matip Nhial and Riek Machar backed rival candidates for governor of Unity State (Western Upper-Nile, formerly known as Liech State under SSIM). Due to governorship rivaling, fighting broke out in Bentiu when Taban Deng Gai, Riek Machar’s brother -in-law was elected as the governor over Paul Liliy. Paul was an insider who never been in the bush and was supported by Paulino Matip Nhial, while Taban Deng came from the bush and was favored by Riek Machar the chairperson of the coordinating council. The fighting between the two opponents increased and had supported by their backers. Such escalation continues throughout 1998 and 1999 until when the hostility had propelled Paulino Matip out of the SSDF and from South Sudan Unity Movement/Army (SSUM/A) as a rival to Riek’s SSDF. The rivaling between Paulino and Riek Machar became increasingly hostile, after a shoot-out at Paulino Matip’s residence on the outskirts of Khartoum between their respective bodyguards in June 1998. The second incident occurred in a wedding in Omdurman in August that year. Then by the end of August, the SSUM/A sacked Leer, Riek Machar’s hometown and killed many civilians.

In the following months, many more armed groups in Bentiu and Upper-Nile defected either back to the SPLM/An under John Garang or they aimed in forming their own groups rivaling to Riek’s SSDF. Peter Gatdet for example joined SPLM/A. In Jikany area for an instant, three separate movements were formed; these were Thorejikany, Pinylick, and Tutkernyang or Twokernyang, which were operating in Nasir and Chotbora areas respectively. By the end of 1999, Mai Duany began to organize SSDF forces in South Sudan while Riek was in Khartoum. He met with all SSDF officers and announce the outcome of their meeting on BBC radio in Nairobi where he claims leadership of the new organization that has to be called South Sudan Liberation Movement and Army (SSLM/A). The whole SSDF command structure begins to fall apart. Riek realized that he was losing all his soldiers on the ground and decided to defect from the government in the year 2000 and accused Omar Hassan Al Bashir’s government of violating the peace they signed. Shortly thereafter, he reorganized the remainder of his royalist and renamed his movement Sudan People Democratic Front. Mai Duany narrowed his movement to Akobo recruiting only Lou-Nuer. Dangerously, the Nuer-land had become a killing field where many different armed soldiers and civilians were fighting daily for unknown objectives. In 2002, high ranking officers: Pathot Dup, Tuach Lual and Kach Nyang Kier were killed by defected Nuer soldiers while they were traveling with Riek Machar trying to make peace with defectors who previously were their forces.  Internal Nuer conflicts did not go away until 2005 when CPA had been signed and Government of the South Sudan had decided to disarm civilians which also resulted in the death of much Lou-Nuer youths after they resist the disarmament.

The period of 2013 to 2015

The demise of Nuer in 2013 was not originally Nuer created incidence. It was Salva Kiir making to retaliate Bor incident.However, fellow Nuer citizens initiated some Nuer deaths. For an instant, the chief of General staff James Hoth Mai who is a Nuer by ethnicity planned the death of 35 Riek’s bodyguards. According to Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, interview aired in Nairobi and published on Sudan Tribune website.  Hoth came to Dr. Riek residence early in the morning on December 16, 2013, and found Riek’s guards guarding the house. He told the bodyguards that, he has to disarm them in order for him to serve their lives. After he disarmed them, he later notified Tiger battalion soldiers to enter Dr. Riek’s house in order to kill the guards. In Juba massacre, about 20,000 Nuer citizens are believed to have died. Many of these innocent Nuer civilians lost their lives simply because Dr. Riek Machar trace from Nuer and he had the ambition to run for the presidency of South Sudan.

The majority of those who died are killed from door to door search. Some of them were shot at as they were running to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan basses. Some were round up in Gudele and nearby neighborhoods and taken to the Gudele police station. In one documented case, about 200 to 300 Nuer civilians were imprisoned before being executed in the following evening of December 16, 2013. The killing had continued for four days until when some survivors were rescued by the UNMISS security personnel adding to those who survive because they covered themselves with dead bodies and get away after their killers’ retreated thinking they killed every one of those they clustered in ghost buildings. As the week wore on, the bodies of slain began to pile up and fresh reports of atrocities dissimilated by NGOs had increased, the government order soldiers to remove bodies out of the scene. Hence, there were reports by NGOs that trucks were loaded with dead bodies carrying them to be dumped in mass grave burials. Many people were dismembering or burn. Women and girls were raped and men were forced to eat the body parts of dead relatives or face death if they try to refuse. All these atrocities were carried out by Salva Kiir private militias with some Nuer support.

Due to this discriminative killings, Nuer began to form a resistance movement as a reaction to atrocities committed by the government of Salva Kiir. However, it did not take a long time for Nuer politicians and commanders to fall apart. Some Nuer including individuals whose brothers, mothers, sisters and so on, got killed, began to run back to the same government that killed their loved ones. Individuals like Lul Ruai Kong, Gathoth Gatkuoth, and Yiey Punch went back to the government. Others like Lew Chang, Peter Gatdet Yak, Tang Genye, and Chuol Gaka among others took their way to Khartoum. They all forgot about the death of the Nuer in Juba, Bor, and Mapel and only count whatever they disliked of the SPLM/A-IO leadership.

This year, Lou-and Gaatjaak Crown Hotel members shuttled to Bilpam to request an extension of a military operation to their territories. That made Salva Kiir policy of divide and rule reach its true meaning everywhere in the Nuer society. In his policies, whenever he decreed a governor on SSBC, the next day, he expects their guns to boom in their Nuer native villages. He and everyone he decreed, has to start the process of opening the roads to liberate the State for the governor from the very people he is supposed to go and serve. Among people who request government soldiers to come and commit atrocities in their areas were Lol Gatkuoth, Bol Ruach Rom and many other Taban supporter Gaatjaak sons in Juba.

Momentarily, Nuer youths are being recruited from UNMISS by Taban Deng Gai to go and fight their kinsfolks in Nuer land. Even people who were wounded in Juba massacre are now deployed to fight in Bentiu, Waat, and Maiwut. For example, During door to door search in Juba, Gatwech Gach survived because he jumps out through the hotel window, in January 2014, he was the one who fought Nuer in Gadieng and also was the one who chases Dr. Riek to DRC in 2016. Minyieny Lual was wounded in Juba, now he is fighting his own people in Maiwut and Pagak.

Do these people have a brain? The period from 2016 and present:

The period extended from July 8, 2016, and present, witness another destructive era in Nuer community. Following military skirmishes that engulfed whole Nuer territories since 2014, enormous attempts for a peaceful solution were made between the SPLM/A-IO and the SPLM/A-IG. These attempts resulted in the agreement of the resolution of the conflict signed on August 17-26, 2015 in Addis Ababa and Juba respectively. Many people began to hope that the peace pact between the two warring factions will hold. Such hope began to fade away when Transitional Government of National Unity (TGONU) was formed. Some members of the SPLM-IO were dissatisfied for positions the Chairman of the Movement offered to them.

Among these individuals was Taban Deng Gai who this author believe is a Judas Iscariot of the Nuer society. One of the darkest moments in the history has been the betrayal of Jesus by one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot. This sort of betrayal is similar to what Stephen Taban Deng Gai has done to Riek Machar in July 2016. Scripture told us Judas turned against Jesus because he had a great interest in money John 13: 29. This is the kind of interest that took Taban Deng away from Riek Machar. Taban defected from Riek because he did not the secure ministry of petroleum. Instead for him to think about the life of vulnerable South Sudanese, he plans a secret deal with Salva Kiir and Paul Malong Awan in Crown Hotel aiming to assassinate Dr. Riek Machar and take his position once the latter is pronounced dead. Taban is a junior to Alfred Lado Gore according to SPLM/A-IO hierarchy. If there is any change of the leadership of the organization, the second person in command would be the successor. Such a structure would not work, for two simple reasons. First, Juba regime wanted to divide the Nuer so that they fight against one another. Second, Taban’s thirst for the leadership. He is now the Vice President whose aim is to control Nuer by force. He is serving under Salva Kiir who he said lack leadership quality in a meeting he held with North-American South Sudanese in March 2014 through phone conference.

Taban damage Riek Machar multiple times, one even fail to understand when Riek Machar was asked by a journalist while in South Africa last year, whether he hold grudges toward Taban and respond that he doesn’t hold any grudges given numerous misdeeds Taban had committed against him. How many times can someone set you up and let him play for your mind?

J1 betrayal is not the only evildoer act Taban have committed against Riek Machar and Nuer Community in general. He has committed numerous misdeeds before the pressing destruction war in Nuer land. Oftentimes, Taban is being referred to as Riek Machar brother in law. The reason is that, during his boyhood, Taban was schooled by the father of Angelina Jany Thomas Kume khan the father in law of Dr. Riek Machar. He is not a biological son to Kume. However, it is a close bound a person with a dignified heart could not spoiled for personal enrichment. When Taban was appointed Itang Refugee camp’s chairman in 1989, he mistreated Nuer in all costs ranging from burying dead bodies, conscripting young boys to army, divert ration and sell it to Ethiopia local traders leaving refugee to collect only leftover dura and sorghum on the floor from those he favored and bought vehicles with the rest of the money he had collected for his own enrichment.

In 2002, he and the rest of Nuer disgraceful individuals were delegated to negotiate a merger between Garang and Riek factions, him and company end up defecting to Garang faction. The goodness of their submission was that no soldier went along with them. When the government of South Sudan was established in 2005, Taban was made Governor of Unity State, during his gubernatorial period, Taban did not deliver. He only missed 2% oil share money Unity State was getting because of its oil reserve. In 2007, a conference was called in Bentiu and Riek Machar was among the attendees, while Riek turn has come to speak, Taban disconnects the mic so that Riek’s message must go unheard. A few days later, he wrote a message, accusing Riek that, Riek is not a member of the SPLM-party only he is the authentic member.

On October 2, 2009, Taban, Salva Kiir and James Gathoth Mai, coordinated an attack to crash down Paulino Matip Nhial residency in Unity State. Military tanks were used and that attack results in 16 casualties 15 in Matip home including one woman, a child and major. Taban, Salva and Gathoth forces lost only one soldier. Before the attack, these mentioned individuals engaged in bribery plot to Matip bodyguards using Taban as the main plotter. They want the guards to desert Paulino Matip. When Salva Kiir was asked to comment on the incidence, he just said, “Some people wanted to keep private army” at that particular period, he was also training secret militias in Northern Barh el Ghazal using Paul Malong Awan. Those militias were the ones who killed Nuer later in Juba in 2013.

During 2010 election, Taban was nominated by the SPLM party and challenged by an independent candidate Angelina Jany Teny. After a vigorous campaign, the election was rigged and Angelina failed the election. In that regard, Gatluak Gai, Mabor Dhol, and their followers defected after Angelina Teny lost the election. What was the truth about Unity State gubernatorial race? The following explanation will give the reader clear picture of what had taken place. The result of Unity State election had announced before national election commission, something was fishy in that regard, which made the challenge of the incumbent governor, cast doubts.  In expressing her reaction to the outcome of the election, Angelina Teny, says “she vehemently rejected the results of the elections in Unity state.” Her reaction might be right. Taban declared on the state’s local radio station that he was the winner. The announcement was not made through the National Elections Commission but through one of the radio announcers. He declared that Taban won the elections and said that the announcement was coming from the NEC.

Following that announcement, people went to the street collectively and spontaneously in a non-violent manner, because nobody told the people of Unity state that there was going to be any announcement of the results. They went out spontaneously and found themselves together going to the radio station to inquire about the source of the news. Soldiers from Sudan People’s Liberation Army who fired live bullets randomly at the moving crowd instantly shot two people aimlessly. Their names are Choul Ruai from Koch County and the other is called Gatwech. Four other people were hospitalized and there were other people who sustained minor injuries. People of Unity State after that announcement said they would never accept Taban Deng as a governor. “We are seeing that it is impossible as we are going towards the year 2011 that Taban will be the governor of Unity State. Nobody in Unity State has this in mind and nobody will accept it, but this issue will not end in one day. No citizen would be able to vote for Taban. Those who voted for him are those working in the government: ministers, wives of the ministers and those in the assembly who are with him, in addition to the votes that were rigged. No ordinary citizen will ever accept that Taban should continue in power. This is not the end of it; let’s not think that this is the end of everything and that the results have been announced, no. we don’t believe in these results because they are neither “free nor fair” and we are waiting for what will come out from Juba – not from Bentiu.” Those are the words of Unity State voters.  One supporter of Angelina claimed that according to the statistics he had received from various constituencies, “Angelina Teny won 68,000 votes while Taban Deng won 44,000 votes.” This was an obvious win for Angelina but, the fact that fairness does not matter, Taban remain governor of Unity State with fewer votes. He even earns support from the top. He was only removed by Salva Kiir after he sided with Riek in the quest for reform in the SPLM Party.

If you read this article entirely, you must realize that Nuer are the problem of their own. Oftentimes, what is originally started as a national South Sudanese problem, is being personalized and transformed by Nuer politicians and military commanders to be a Nuer personal problem. Instead of differentiating public political competition among South Sudanese and perceive it as a national issue, Nuer politicians and military officers, end up transporting such public issues to the Nuer community and Nuer must aimlessly kill each other in that regard.

Since the inception of South Sudan three movements, those who called themselves Nuer politicians and military commanders, transform national problems and reduced Nuer land to be killing fields. Somehow, it seems like Nuer are confused. Every Nuer want to be a leader, something unusual to the Nuer society. Whenever you hear Nuer people conversing, you could not miss hearing phrases like so and so are not born leaders and so and so are born leaders. They do not know leadership is being gained through practices and personal experiences. The only person this author ever heard was born a leader was Jesus Christ, given that, during his birth, people start yelling, “Today, we are born a leader in Judea!” In modern times, given medical advancement, no doctor ever says “this child born today will be a leader one day.” This shows that leadership is learned through experiences as mentioned above and not inherited at birth.

Is there any quick fix to Nuer internal fragmentation especially among politicians and military officers?

As far as this author is a concern, the answer is no. There is no quick solution to peril destruction, tribulations, injustices and unmeasurable pain Nuer are inflicting on themselves. The Nuer community has a long way to go in order for it to reach its true designation. Current war started as a power struggle within the SPLM party between Dr. Riek Machar and Salva Kiir Mayardit. Today, it turned out to be a power struggle for the Vice Presidency position between Riek Machar and Taban Deng.Why do Nuer always turn South Sudan National issues and make them bitter struggle between themselves? Is there any justification Nuer politicians, military officers, and urbanized Nuer folks aim to divert national controversy and personalized them as their private matters?

It seems to this author that the challenges facing the Nuer community at the moment are greater than ever before. If so-called Nuer politicians, military commanders or any of those in urban cities do not change their way of thinking and focus more on what should be done to rehabilitate the destruction, injustices and enormous pain Nuer are inflicting on themselves. The Nuer population will be reduced to 70 or 60 percent by 2030. We need to change the course of our actions given that one way or another each and every one of us may have contributed to the cause of these tribulations in our community especially the leaders. Is there any Nuer politician and military officer who are clean and blameless or all of them are trapped and should be blamed and held responsible for the chaos the Nuer land have been witnessing since the early 1980s? Will the Nuer ever learned from the intra-Nuer fighting, divide and rule tactics which the SPLM/An employed since the disagreement of the leadership in Ethiopia in1980s, the 1990s, 2013 and present?

This war has affected the Nuer entirely. It has never been before Nuer can live in concentration camps where life threatening conditions are beyond the description. As we speak, Nuer are under seize in UN Camps in Juba, Bor, Bentiu, Malakal, Waat, Nasir, Maiwut and Pagak on the farther east of the country. Many Nuer children have died and continue dying for diseases such as malnutrition, cholera, malaria, hepatitis and other curable diseases. Others who are living outside of the country are dependents on relief assistance and on the financial handouts from their relatives who are living overseas. Insecurity in Nuer land has reached its highest and unacceptable stage given that Salva Kiir government has armed Nuer to the teeth to finish each other. These are serious problems Nuer leaders should avoid fighting among themselves for.

The priority for any Nuer Politician and military commanders should be to think about the extermination of the Nuer society. They should understand that their fragmentation will always bring destruction and injustices rather than well-being to the Nuer community. The fragmentation among Nuer political and military leaders that led to military confrontations that result in the loss of innocent lives repeatedly occurs. One of the reasons why this war has had a greater effect in Bentiu was a hatred that developed between political rivalries. Since the war started, It has been circulated that Gaat-Minytuil chooses to remain with Salva Kiir tyranny regime because they hold grudges against Taban and those grudges could prevent them from serving the same master. Why are they serving the same master this time around if that was the case? Isn’t it true that we are easily setup against one another and that became a heck of a bigger deal?

From the inception of the SPLM/A onward, our important leaders, Gai Tut Yang, William Nyuon Bany, William Chuol Deng, Baling Kaway, John Bang Gatbel, Manyal Kueth, Panon Banypiny, Pathot Dup, Tuach Lual, Kach Nyang Kier, Gatluak Gach, and many highly trained, experienced, unnamed senior military officers, private soldiers and innocent Nuer civilians were and are still being killed as a result of Nuer disunity. We look at each other as pure enemy leaving our cousins laughing at us daily.Are Nuer really thinking?

Someone may argue lack of education is a factor that contributes to the mess Nuer society is facing. Why is it always hard for Nuer to compromise their differences? No matter where we live, whenever we disagree, it is easy to divide ourselves rather than working hard to find a solution that will keep us undivided. Such division has been a trend among our politicians, military commanders, sectional communities, clan communities, Nuer community and even our churches are always fail to find common ground disagreeable issues.

For the Nuer community to change in good direction, all Nuer leaders particularly those who called themselves politicians and military commanders need to reevaluate their way of doing things past and present that brought unmeasurable suffering to the Nuer society, learn from such events and approach national politics differently. They need to sit down and adopt political compromise strategy, which means they need to learn how to forgive one another for whatever mistake they have committed against each other. They should accept collective responsibility for whatever disasters and catastrophes they had created in the Nuer land since the beginning of the 1980s. They can apologize to Nuer civil populations for all injustices, peril destruction and unmeasurable pain they had inflicted on the Nuer society for decades. I hope we have ears to hear otherwise, we are doom!!!

The author is a political commentator who follows South Sudan political events closely. He can be reached at[email protected] or [email protected].

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • Taban Joseph bright
    August 15, 2017 1:15 pm

    Why is the argument on Nuer alone? are they the one behaving with on fighting? correct yourself plz. both of them they behave cows mind. no human mind.


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