If there is any person who has caused monumental damage to the society of South Sudan other than President Salva Kiir, it is General Paul Malong Awan Anei. This person is responsible for aiding and abating the ethnic cleansing of the Nuer in December 2013 and in executing the Jieng master plan of making South Sudan an exclusively Jieng land. His affinity to President Kiir is rooted in their military career, ethnicity and shared believe in Jieng supremacy in South Sudan.
Nobody would have thought that any of the two would fall out with the other. Such a thought, though unrealistic because in life some of the mechanisms and rules governing social interaction are not only dualistic in nature but also mediated by power dynamics. What this means is that when friends bound by politics and power begin to vie for power, enmity kicks in between them and the atmosphere can be really ugly. This is exactly what is happening between President Kiir and Gen. Paul Malong and it does not end with them within the Jieng community. Divisions also are rife within the Nuer and Equatorian communities on the same issue of power which makes the South Sudan problem complex but not unsolvable. This piece will look at these divisions separately with the aim of providing the reader with what is going on in the country and the way forward.
The distrust and enmity between President Kiir and General Paul Malong must have started last year with the undisguised activities of the latter promoting himself as a president in waiting. Please see, ‘The coin of power: Gen. Paul Malong aspires for president!!’ (http://www.southsudannation.com/the-coin-of-power-gen-paul-malong-aspires-for-president/). His dismissal in May 2017 by the president became the spark of their current ongoing conflict. General Paul Malong did not take his removal from the post of the Chief of Staff of SPLA with dignity and obedience expected of an army man. Unlike others before him such as General James Hoth Mai who gracefully vacated the post without any drama, General Paul Malong reacted to his removal by leaving Juba in a company of heavily mechanised troops. He was intercepted in Yirol and for a couple of days he had to be persuaded to return to Juba. When he was flown back to Juba from Yirol, unbelievably he was received at the airport by thousands of Jieng men, women and children with ululations and chants of ‘King Paul’ etc. That particular welcome of General Paul Malong by his tribesmen posed a serious challenge to the presidency of Kiir.
This act by General Paul Malong in itself constituted disobedience, insubordination and rebellion. In any normal army, the General would have faced Court Marshall. But SPLA is not an army in the true sense. It has ever since been a Jieng militia managed through Jieng kraal rules and Jieng language. Please see, ‘The Mighty SPLA, (Tiger Division)’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSQDSn3eaBo) The behaviour of the General is not for nothing. President Kiir owes him a lot. First, in 2004, prior to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, Kiir then a deputy to late Dr John Garang, the leader of the SPLM/A had fallen out of favour with his boss prompting him to rebel. Kiir hid in Yei and resisted meeting Dr Garang on his own in fear for his life. Emissaries after emissaries including Nhial Deng Nhial and Deng Alor were sent to him to no avail. Finally, after assurance by Paul Malong, Kiir accepted to attend a meeting in Rumbek in November 2004 which led to his reconciliation with Dr Garang. That meeting revealed the shoddy nature of the SPLM. Please see the Rumbek Minutes of 2004 (http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article26320).
Secondly in September 2013 while President Kiir was on a visit to Akon, his home town he sought military assistance from General Paul Malong who by then was the governor of Northern Bahr El Ghazal in order to contain Riek Machar and his group comprising Pagan Amum, Deng Alor, Alfred Lado Gore, Rebecca Nyandeng, Oyay Deng Ajak, Majak D’Agoot and many others.
This group since May of that year confronted President Kiir seeking to remove him peacefully through SPLM rules and structures. According to Peter Adwok Nyaba in his article titled ‘It wasn’t a coup – Salva Kiir shot himself in the foot.’ (http://www.southsudannation.com/it-wasnt-a-coup-salva-kiir-shot-himself-in-the-foot/), President Kiir “in Akon his home town, speaking to Dinka (Jieng), which SSTV aired, Salva had this to say ‘………….look this power which I have belongs to you. You fought and died for it ……….. Now some people want to snatch it from me ……….. we (will) you accept it?
“Aci bag am” meaning we will not accept, shouted the people back. It was in this context of retaining power that he ordered Paul Malong Awan to recruit and bring to Juba three thousand young men which now constitute his presidential guards.’" This very militia became the force responsible for chasing Riek Machar out of Juba and cleansing of the Nuer in Juba.
Thirdly, in July 2016, General Paul Malong destroyed ‘The Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan’ (ARCSS) to save President Kiir, JCE and the implicated Jieng militia officers from having to face court for the ethnic cleansing of the Nuer in Juba in 2013 by audaciously attacking Dr Riek Machar’s SPLM/A-IO in Juba using land and air forces. General Paul Malong pursued Dr Riek Machar up to the border of Democratic Republic of Congo.
So because of the above, General Paul Malong has a hold on the president giving him confidence to misbehave. Being a Jieng, rather than being held to account, he was placed under house arrest since his return from Yirol. When his daughter Alakiir Malong sadly died in a fire accident in Kenya in September 2017, President Kiir refused to allow the General to go and identify the body of his daughter in Nairobi as well as to attend the burial and funeral in Aweil.
At the end of October, President Kiir upped the ante by issuing a presidential decree officially placing the General on detention without the right of visitation by his family members. Troops were deployed around his house with orders to disarm him which ended in a standoff. Juba suddenly turned into a front line between President Kiir and General Paul Malong in a game of power. Alarmed and scarred of the real possibility of a show down between the president and his former Chief of the Army, the JCE, the architect of Jieng hegemony in South Sudan sought to broker peace. Their main interest as expected is the maintenance of Jieng unity against all other South Sudanese. Ambassador Telar Deng emphasised this point sometimes back by saying, “Our (Jieng) internal front should remain united. This is the only way to defeat our enemies [South Sudanese].” (http://newsafricanow.com/2015/10/s-sudanese-envoy-says-creation-of-new-states-administrative/)
The JCE having failed to reconcile the President and his former Chief of the Army brought one of their renowned son, Dr Francis Mading Deng to lead a new group they cobbled together to save the situation. This group called Concerned Citizen’s Committee for Peace which is answerable to the chairman of the JCE comprises: General Albino Akol Akol, chairman, Dr Francis Mading Deng, deputy chairman, General Andrew Makur Thou, Hon. Joshua Dau Diu, Hon. Maker Thiong, Amb. Bol Wek Agoth, General Lual Wek Guen, Hon. Oliver Majok Aleu. Unsurprisingly, even though the name of the group may suggest or give an impression that the group represents the people of South Sudan, the hard reality remains all the group members are ethnically Jieng and hence they only represent Jieng views and Jieng interest. It has nothing to do with the general view and interests of South Sudan.
This new Jieng group fraudulently called Concerned Citizen’s Committee for peace managed to superficially reconcile the president and his former Chief of Army on 14/11/2017. As a result, the President has allowed General Paul Malong to travel to Kenya for medical treatment. The most interesting thing is that in this struggle for power between the two, General Paul Malong appears to have emerged victorious and stronger if only because he has made President Kiir to eat his Republican Order number 26/2017 for the issuance of Orders to the Chief of Defence Forces of the SPLA dated 30th October 2017. It is unheard of in this world that a Republican Order signed by president can be challenged by an army man. This is a clear case of disobedience and insubordination. This is even made worse by the fact that the entire members of JCE and the supposed Concerned Citizen’s Committee for Peace joined General Paul Malong supporters and his family in giving him a dignified send off to Kenya at Juba airport. The General acting presidential “told elders and support[er]s at Juba airport that he would work with them and other stakeholders in and outside the country to ensure peace, reconciliation, unity and forgiveness are consolidated to bring back peace and stability to the country.” Please see ‘South Sudan ex-army chief cedes home trip, leaves to Kenya’ (http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article64043) Observers at the airport were in awe to see the members of Jieng cabal listening attentively while nodding in affirmation.
Take the scenes described earlier of the General arriving Juba from Yirol with chants of ‘King Paul’ and add to it this scene from Juba airport, it becomes clear that he has substantial support among the Jieng people. The bad news for President Kiir is that the JCE is clearly leaning toward supporting the General and he also has been weakened by his inability to enforce his republican decree in respect of the General. Internationally, President Kiir has lost face. Interesting times ahead!
The brokering of the peace between the President and the former Chief of the army has exposed Dr Francis Mading Deng who now cannot escape being under intense scrutiny. As someone who coined and spearheaded the concept of Responsibility to Protect ‘R2P’ as UN Under Secretary for Prevention of Genocide, articulating rightly that sovereignty can not be the bases to commit crimes against humanity, Dr Deng unfortunately and ironically became an ambassador for one of the worst regimes that has ever existed on earth. A regime that committed grave crimes against its own people. To some of us this was not surprising because as a staunch unionist Dr Deng opposed the separation of South Sudan from the Sudan but quickly jumped into the new independent country to reap the fruits. This is an opportunist who shamelessly defended an obnoxious regime which as a UN Under Secretary he would have opposed vehemently. In mediating between President Kiir and the General, he proved beyond doubt that he is comfortable mingling with the worst criminals known globally.
It is possible that Dr Deng may well not believe or respect the duo. In such a situation he would have been acting in the interest of averting war among Jieng. However, the question would be, why associate with such vile men? Only opportunists do that. If he is one as suggested by his leadership of a tentacle of JCE called Concerned Citizen’s Committee for Peace it might well be that he could be vying for a ministerial position in the tribal regime of terror.
The government of South Sudan is packed full of people from Abyei and the Jieng acknowledge that technically the Abyei people are not South Sudanese. Bona Malwal in his book, ‘Sudan’s latest peace Agreement’ said, “I also recognise that they [Abyei, the Nuba Mountains and the Ingassina hills’] are part of Northern Sudan.”
If the Abyei people cannot join the rest of South Sudanese in their struggle against the tribal regime now in Juba for fair, just and inclusive society in order for them to proof their true patriotism, then they should better be in their homeland in the Sudan. They should remain with Khartoum. South Sudan has had enough from the JCE and it does not need another tentacle of the JCE led by Dr Deng, an Abyei opportunist of the Sudan.
The deal brokered by Dr Deng is supposed to have restored the unity of the Jieng. Unfortunately this very deal is very misleading. Jieng unity seems to have long gone. The Jieng are butchering themselves in their villages. It is just a matter of time before they import the differences from their villages into Juba, the seat of power. As the group dominating state power, the likelihood is that their bitter differences and the battles that follow from that will usher in a new era in the country.
Turning to SPLM-IO, the divisions plaguing this organisation is not an enigma. The leader of SPLM/A-IO has demonstrated practically that he has no leadership skills at all. All the organisations he has led experienced splits within a considerable short period of time, and sadly they have not achieved any of their aims and objectives. In 1991, Dr Riek Machar sought and committed himself to oust Dr John Garang. He failed and eventually in 2002 he returned to Dr Garang with his tail coiled between his legs. In December 2013 following the cleansing of the Nuer in Juba, he again rebelled with the objective of ousting President Kiir. He failed and returned to a shaky Transitional government of National Unity as deputy to the very person he promised to remove. This imploded in July 2016 and he ended up exiled and detained in South Africa. Please see, ‘President Kiir’s Machiavellian tricks: Machar be forewarned’ (https://pachodo.org/latest-news-articles/pachodo-english-articles/11334-president-kiir%E2%80%99s-machiavellian-tricks-machar-be-forwarned)
The divisions among the Nuer right from the days of struggle against Khartoum are caused by dynamics of power exactly as in the Equatoria case now in South Sudan. The difference between the Nuer and Equatorians is that the Nuer got themselves armed at an earlier stage and so they are able to resist and assert themselves.
While talking about divisions in the SPLM/A, it would be unhelpful if remarks are not made about the SPLM former detainees. This group did not emerge out of natural wishes of South Sudanese or genuine dynamics of South Sudanese political struggle. It is a making of the international community and the name itself was coined by the international community. To be specific Kenya played a big role in the creation of this group. Some of them like Deng Alor and John Luke are in the regime of terror and others are in the opposition. What does this tell you about members of this group? I leave that for you to work out. If anything, in a nutshell one could say the international community created this group to distort the political problem of South Sudan.
Now let us move on to Equatoria. The divisions in Equatoria, as hinted above, is simply an issue of power. The malaise afflicting Equatoria is a result of a long sustained oppression on Equatoria designed by the JCE to destroy Equatoria. Jieng hatred towards Equatoria is contained in Bona Malwal’s book, ‘Sudan and South Sudan: from one to two’. On page 207, Malwal points out 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. There is a clear Dinka [Jieng] hate campaign now on in South Sudan. Even the elected governors of Equatoria have sent a delegation to Ethiopia to plead for IGAD mediators to decree a new federal arrangement for South Sudan – Equatoria’s new way of hoping to get rid of the Dinka [Jieng] from Juba, the land of Equatoria which happens to be also the capital of South Sudan from which no South Sudanese ethnic community can be excluded. This is now a hate campaign which will make it very difficult, if not impossible to find a solution to the current problem, the failed attempt to overthrow the legitimate system of South Sudan. The Dinka [Jieng] have land and space from which to seek to survive and should not be expected to give away power to those who hate the Dinka [Jieng]! One gives away power to someone or those one does not think hate one. The Dinka [Jieng] have been described, or indeed insulted as foolish majority. But even a fool recognises death when they see it. Will the Dinka [Jieng] be so foolish to cede power to those they know hate the name Dinka [Jieng[? Can the Dinka [Jieng] be so foolish to offer their lives as a solution, in order to provide a second Rwanda of Africa?” It is unfortunate that Bona Malwal has expressed such a destructive view which in reality can not stand the test of scrutiny.
The impact of oppression on Equatorians is clearly displayed in the ongoing divisions among them in SPLM-IO and NAS. They are decimating themselves in Kajo-keji for no reason at all other than to please their oppressors – the Jieng and the Nuer. Equtorians in SPLM-IO who oppose the emergence of NAS argue that “Thomas Cirillo is a good man who fell into the hands of ethnic and regional fanatics.”
The NAS leader is accused of calling Equatorians with SPLM/A-IO as “blind supporters and/or ‘followers of Nuer’ while shouting with the lobe-side of their [his] months that NAS is a national movement.”
It is only fair that judgement of an individual is done through provision of evidence. In the case of the leader of NAS such a measuring yard stick is absent. Unsubstantiated damaging statements are made against him without any proof. For example, Thomas Cirillo is alleged to have made speeches during his visit to the USA that fell short of a leader’s standard. These negative criticisms mostly come from the supporters of SPLM-IO. Checks done with other neutral South Sudanese reveal the opposite. Thomas Cirillo comes out as highly regarded, respected and competent leader with a very good sense of judgement. Remarkably, international media more or less substantiates the favourable views held by majority of South Sudanese. The critics of Thomas Cirillo who mostly are pro Riek Machar always try to play down the truth about their preferred leader. For South Sudanese to make an informed assessment it becomes important that contrast should be made.
For most of Thomas Cirillo’s life he remained in the army. He resigned from the SPLA army in March this year. So, he has been in the open political arena of South Sudan for 8 month. During this period he has engaged the nation through speeches to the country explaining his position and offering to liberate the people of South Sudan. Those speeches were received favourably by the country and there were no criticism from the SPLM-IO supporters. In fact they welcomed him. With hindsight, it is clear now that this group was expecting Thomas Cirillo to rally behind Riek Machar. Since this did not happen, they set out to demonise him as “good” but “falls” short of a leader. Unexpectedly, but in line with their value of violence, SPLM-IO switched into military mode and attacked NAS positions in Equatoria to destroy any hope for the emergence of an Equatorian led movement as a credible option for the South Sudanese people.
In short the 8 months of Thomas Cirillo in political arena have proven beyond doubt that he is an excellent leader. All the military commanders with their foot soldiers who joined NAS refer to his wise leadership in comparison to the organisations they left and a good number of them are from the SPLM-IO. This is an important point that can not just be dismissed or brushed under the carpet.
On the other hand Riek Machar who has been in politics/military leadership for 33 years that is from 1984 to date has not demonstrated any leadership. In all the organisations he formed and led, splits have been the order of the day. Although Riek Machar’s supporters try to portray him as a capable leader, they seem to have forgotten that during these three decades Riek Machar has not delivered any visionary speech that he can be remembered for as a rousing or an explosive one, while under Dr John Garang or as a leader of his numerous failed groups from 1991: SPLM/A United, SPDF, SSIM, and SPLM/A-IO. Those who are criticising Thomas Cirillo in this area conveniently ignore the failures of their supposed iconic leader while downplaying the success of the former in his very short period as a patriotic leader.
To date Riek Machar has not adequately explained why he is fighting the Juba regime. He has not addressed the nation to explain himself since December 2013. The saddest of all is that he has failed flatly to articulate the case of the ethnic cleansing of the Nuer. Had Riek Machar done that as a concerned citizen and emphasised that he would do the same if it happened to any tribe in South Sudan he would have garnered support and sympathy of most South Sudanese and the world. One of the reasons why the ethnic cleansing of the Nuer was/is muted completely is due to this failure to articulate what happened to the Nuer people in Juba in December 2013; a failure whose cost has been huge in the struggle to oust the JCE regime.
Right from the onset of the conflict, Riek Machar’s supposed major speeches, if at all they are, carried one theme. According to him, he was inspired and motivated by the SPLM/A report of March 2013 that identified among other things SPLM/A’s loss of vision and direction. This as understood is the one thing driving Riek Machar to challenge President Kiir. Hold on a moment!! How did SPLM/A lose vision and direction? Who were the drivers of the SPLM/A vehicle? Was it not President Kiir and Riek Machar as partners since Dr John Garang died? If so, how can Riek Machar exonerate himself from the loss of vision and direction? What was he doing in that whole period when the vehicle was getting lost without destination? This argument pursued by Riek Machar must be a joke. So the duo plunged the country into chaos only over their party loss of vision and direction? Just think about this warped rational. He uses his own failures in the SPLM/A as Vice President and turns round to justify it as a reason to ousting President Kiir.
In effect it follows from Riek Machar’s argument that all those who are supporting SPLM/A-IO are disgruntled members of the organisation who want to restore it to its glory of “New Sudan” days. However how could the vision of New Sudan be achieved since the country is already split into two? But even then, SPLM/A from day one has been a criminal organisation which does not regard the interests of the people.
Now compare and contrast Riek Machar’s rational to try to oust President Kiir to the well articulated reasons provided by Thomas Cirillo. Unlike Riek Machar, Thomas Cirillo zoomed straight to the point and articulated the real core problems for a struggle to oust the regime. These are identity politics, grave crimes against humanity, absence of law and order, lack of national army and security systems, economic destruction with grand corruption, and SPLM/A itself. To this skeleton of problems he added sufficient flesh as he voiced in his speeches from March 2017 to date.
If one analysis the divisions in Equatoria it is different from the divisions among the Jieng. President Kiir and Paul Malong are fighting for real power base in South Sudan, whereas the Equatorians are fighting the impact of oppression on them. Because Equatorians have been oppressed by the SPLM/A since its inception from 1983, they have lost self worth and confidence in themselves. They do not believe that one of their own can actually liberate the country. They would prefer to be led by others who project power. Riek Machar projects that power and so it is safer to stick with the powerful even when that supposed powerful being has no real potential. The literature of liberation explains such situation in terms of power. A simple example is the battered woman syndrome whereby an abusive husband/partner would batter his wife/girlfriend, yet the victim would do everything to remain in the abusive relationship against all wise rational advice.
In political terms such play of power in societies since we are talking about Equatorian society is well articulated by Franz Fanon in his book ‘The Wretched of the earth’. So the infighting of Equatorians is the impact of the Jieng/Nuer power over them. Alternatively, it could be looked at from a religious point of view in similar terms like what happened to Jesus. Although outsiders could see the importance and spiritual power of Jesus, the Jews despised him. So while others can see the formidable leadership Thomas Cirillo is offering the people of South Sudan, some of his own people despise him. What a paradox?
In the western world, the same phenomenon happens in a slightly different way. Because the powerful political groups use power of persuasion: winning minds and hearts, the less powerful groups vote against their own interest. The recent example is the election of President Trump instead of Hilary Clinton. Basically the majority of the American people voted not to improve their lot.
Having looked at the divisions within the various SPM/A factions, the fight for power between the President and his Chief of the Army is a fight for real base of power among the Jieng who have usurped state power and it can be likened to fight of the Ferrets in a sack. This fight is just beginning to take root and it will end with the Jieng losing power no matter what they do. As for the Nuer, their fight for power in South Sudan is characterised by the Nuer decimating themselves to sustain Jieng in power. Without the substantial support of the Matips, the Monytuils, the Buays, the Ruais, the Lukes, the Rieks, the Gathoths and the Tabans, Dinkocracy would not have been possible in South Sudan. This calls for an awakening in the Nuer people to unite under another leader one who is concerned about their wellbeing and not one that exploits them. That way the wrongs committed against the Nuer can be addressed and accounted for. As for the Equatorians, their lack of self worth and self confidence is gradually being remedied by the mushrooming of rebellions in Equatoria suggesting they are unshackling themselves from the chains of oppression. Thus their divisions are momentarily. They will soon understand their predicament and inevitably they will unite under the credible South Sudanese leader General Thomas Cirillo who will lead all South Sudanese into freedom.
[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]
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