The culmination of events signified by the diverse resignations of military officers, collapse of the economy, raging famine, and an intensifying resistance to President Salva Kiir’s regime of terror, will spell the end of President Kiir’s and the JCE’s rule in South Sudan. This development is forcing the Jieng to close ranks as it is becoming a case of survival resulting from fear of reprisal for the terrible things that this regime has done to the people of South Sudan. Fear is a bad thing. It disables and/or paralyses at crucial moments of expected change.
For those innocent Jieng and those who have not benefitted a thing from Kiir’s regime may think that they have no option but to unite under President Kiir’s tribal regime, and fight to the death. Fear, especially the one emanating from guilt, unfortunately pushes humans to think along those lines and the Jieng are not any different. Right now, the average Jieng is either delusional believing themselves to be invincible or death stricken by fear of what is awaiting them when the SPLM/A and its leader are swept aside. However, it should not be like that. Choosing a suicidal option simply because few people (President Kiir, the JCE and General Paul Malong Awan) in your community have committed ethnic cleansing and grave crimes against humanity in your tribe’s name, does not imply you should buy-in into their foolish choice of fighting to the end.
The innocent Jieng have the option to rescue their wider community by joining their fellow country men from the other tribes and ensure that President Kiir, the JCE etc are removed from power swiftly and arraigned before the people to face justice while the Jieng community is saved from a brutal violent war. It is important to emphasise here that the participation of the Jieng in the expected change is not in any way a crucial factor in tilting the balance of power. With or without the Jieng, the other tribes of the South Sudan combined are in the process of reclaiming their country and they will certainly get it.
Nevertheless, the imperative for innocent Jieng to join their fellow country men is for two reasons.
First, it is for them to reclaim their morality and humanity damaged by the tribal regime. They need to distance themselves from the heinous killings and various types of rape involving, women, children and men. In Equatoria, the Jieng specifically practised what they call double deck rape and the rape of married mothers. In the former, the man is forced under gun point to have sex with his wife and then a Jieng soldier sodomize the man at the same time. In the latter, a troop of Jieng soldiers break into a family home then they rape the wife/mother in the presence of all the family members. These terrible things including constant killing of Equatorian leaders are done to Equatorians to break them down psychologically which has huge implications on the culture of Equatorians.
The prime objective is to destroy Equatorian leadership and instil helplessness leading into total subjugation for the Jieng to dominate and take over Equatoria. These horrible techniques of domination are copied from the literature of slavery in America by the American educated leaders of SPLM/A. In order to understand what I am talking about here, please watch ‘Buck breaking – hidden, untold, history’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mg_13WJ4gDo).
Secondly, the innocent Jieng need to affirm their genuine and sincere belief in the state of South Sudan as a place where every South Sudanese regardless of tribe, creed, and gender are treated equally and protected by law and the state. Thus they need to condemn Dinkocracy wholesale.
The questions the Jieng people must ask themselves are: which is better, to fight and die to protect criminals like President Kiir, the JCE, and General Paul Malong Awan etc? Or, is it better to be ethical and patriotic by shunning these useless and hopeless criminals and save the Jieng people from losing many of their own in these useless wars? There is no way of dismissing these questions, a choice must be made. The Jieng community either shun and hand in these criminals for a better future in South Sudan, or continue with the criminals to face an uncertain future. The choice is theirs.
If the innocent Jieng make a sensible decision, then they will have truly started the process of reconciliation and healing that everybody is yearning for in the country. Joining hands with fellow country men will show the others that not all the Jieng support the tyrannical regime in Juba. It will let the people of other tribes judge the Jieng individually rather than from a collective point of view, and that is how it should be. But this requires the innocent Jieng to be brutally honest by pointing fingers at those in their community committing the crimes and condemning them unreservedly, as should all South Sudanese regardless of their tribe.
With this said, there is still room for the peace loving Jieng to redeem themselves. President Kiir and the JCE have reduced the Jieng to become subjects of hate and ridicule. Lt. General Thomas Cirilo Swaka captures this feeling vividly in his resignation letter by saying: “The policy of ethnic domination and subjugation being pursued openly by the President and his close associates has made Dinkas [Jieng] to be painted with the same brush by other communities/nationalities, (without making distinction between the good Dinkas and the bad ones). As a result, the Dinka community has come to be hated by their own brothers and sisters from other communities. Pursuit of this wrong-headed policy has also destroyed the fabric of South Sudan society.”
Expressions of hate against the Jieng are taking root in everyday language in the country and also in the social media. Daily horrible stories coming in of the Jieng militia committing unimaginable grave crimes against humanity in many parts of the country reinforces such hate. For example, commenting in support of a Gatdarwich in the article, ‘Lt. General Thomas Cirillo’s Resignation Exposes The Tribal Regime Of President Kiir’ published by South Sudan Nation on 19th February 2017, Steve John had this to say: “I like your analogy very much. Even our peasant farmers know that you can put off grassland/bushfires with fire, what we in Arabi Juba call “gata nar”. Only when all peoples of South Sudan arm themselves and be prepared to unleash revenge on the murderous jaangs can there be any meaningful discourse and reconciliation. Peace is only possible under equals and anything short of that is subjugation and surrender. Meaning, you can choose to have Detente like what Reagen did with Gorbachov in the 80s, it worked very well during the arms race and neither (USA-USSR) of them ever thought of starting a nuclear war. If however, either of them were weak like Iraq of Sadam for that matter, this would only encourage bullying of the weaker by the stronger one. As long as Kiir and his tribal militia procure weapons from third parties, they will opt for a military solution. The rebels or any non-jaang communities must as a matter of security, arm themselves. It is only then that the jaang be ready to talk. Afterall, they act and dont sentimentalize issues. Anything short of this is simply foolish academic discourse that serves no purpose.”
Revenge, obviously, is undesirable and likely unlawful. People should not take the law into their own hands. The state is there to ensure that citizens get justice through the court system. Unfortunately, the law and the courts in South Sudan are hostile toward non-Jieng’s and blind to Jieng crimes. This makes it difficult to stem off the feelings of revenge in people. Hence, the feelings expressed above by Steve John.
Hannah Osborne in her article, ‘Obsession or justice… Why are we fascinated with revenge?’ points out that in “explaining revenge, Ann Macaskill, professor of health psychology at Sheffield Hallam University [UK], said: ‘When individuals are attacked in some way that feels unjust, they go through three psychological stages: a shock phase, an adjustment phase and a reaction phase.” (http://metro.co.uk/2013/07/05/obsession-or-justice-why-are-we-fascinated-with-revenge-3865404/)
Hannah has opted not to write anything on the first two phases, namely the shock phase and an adjustment phase. For the purpose of this piece it is important that something is said about the feelings covered in these crucial steps of the theory to show how such feelings have affected the people of South Sudan.
For a period of precisely three decades, that is from 1983 to 2013, the Jieng people through the SPLM/A have inflicted an unimaginable amount of cruelty on the people of South Sudan in their quest to assert themselves as the elites in the country. This shocked the people and paralyzed them for a long time. The inaction of Equatoria to the poor governance of the country which the Jieng conveniently termed cowardice in reality is a result of shock. The Equatorians could not really understand and believe that they are witnessing the unbelievable. For example, the killings of their leaders openly without accountability like the police officers in Yambio, the shooting of a doctor in Yei, the disappearance of Justice Peter Abdulrahman Sule etc; the horrible normalised rape of their women; the dispossession of their land and the killing of Equatoria’s people of all age groups including chopping up of babies in Yei as reported in The New York Times article, ‘War Consumes South Sudan, a Young Nation Cracking apart’ by Jeffrey Gettleman on 4th March 2017. (https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/03/04/world/africa/war-south-sudan.html?_r=0&referer=)
The shock phase in Equatoria has taken decades, paralysing an entire society and almost breaking up the fibres of its historic organic formation, but also at the same time people have been reflecting and slowly rationalising the brutality they have been receiving and facing. While doing this, they slid into the adjustment phase. Now they have adjusted and they clearly know who is responsible for their suffering and what they need to do to free themselves. Is there any wonder why the resistance in Equatoria is spreading like wild fire? The crucial question then is: will Equatorians forgive the Jieng for treating them worse than the Arabs did? In fact what the Arabs did is about five percent of what the Jieng has done and keep doing as I write.
According to Professor Macaskill, “In the reaction phase they (aggrieved) will either decide to forgive, hold a grudge but do nothing – or take or plot revenge. Vengefulness is quite normal in many circumstances and evolutionary psychologists suggest that the ability to take revenge is part of human nature – it is hardwired into us.” “Most of us were socially conditioned by our parents and so on to believe that the world should be fair. Revenge is one way of trying to get justice.” The challenge to South Sudanese as Professor Macaskill correctly highlights is: how can forgiveness be achieved in the face of the ongoing brutal Jieng aggression? Preaching forgiveness now could even be dangerous to the preacher, but it needs to be dealt with in a sensitive way. Therefore, forgiveness should only be given on a case by case basis.
Without any doubt, those currently running the tyrannical regime in Juba collectively have a case to answer. They are then followed by the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) and a good number of the SPLA officers. These groups must be made to account for plunging the country into turmoil and destruction of huge numbers of innocent civilian lives for no reason. It is not going to be easy to make these people to account because of the hold they have on the reins of power. They will go to any length to escape court. The simple example is the audacity with which they ignited an unnecessary war in July 2016 to turn the Agreement on Conflict in South Sudan of August 2015 into a useless document. All the people who lost their lives in that needless act, to President Kiir and the JCE are a price worth paying to save their skins from the proposed Hybrid Court in the agreement.
Nobody should therefore underestimate the mindset of the Jieng leadership. Pathologically impaired, their world view is framed along beliefs of supremacy, greatness and invincibility. They do not imagine themselves being out of power and it is here where the real problem lies. The probability that they will cede power peacefully is very slim. They are happy with the status quo even when their own tribes mate in Warrap and Northern Bahre El Ghazal are collapsing on the streets due to hunger from famine.
President Kiir and the JCE are likely to cling to power until they are confronted and defeated. SPLM-IO had the chance to break the back of President Kiir’s regime but they failed. The simplest trick they should have adopted was to tactically shift the theatre of operation to Bahre El Ghazal, especially Warrap and Aweil. That in itself would have deprived General Paul Malong Awan of a safe recruiting ground and there would have been no way for President Kiir to receive continuous replacement of Mathiang Anyoor from that area. Without the ability to replenish the tribal militia whose losses on the ground are concerning, President Kiir and the JCE would have bowed to peace and things would have been different.
Now, the storm of change is slowly gathering pace. The daily resignations of military officers, the economic collapse, the raging famine, and the fierce resistance have converged to create the only missing link in the change equation: unity of the oppressed. At long last, the people of South Sudan are coming together to truly determine their destiny. Will the Jieng regime cede power peacefully or it will be swept away by the coming storm?
[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]
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