Last week, an Equatoria girl produced a video in which she expressed her feelings against the Jieng tribe in South Sudan. The video can be accessed through: video - 2018 - 06 - 03 - 07 - 11 - 27.mp4 for those who have a video converter facility. This video coincided with an article written by Agel Machar published in Paanlwel website titled: ‘Focus on SPLM reunification: Nuer – Dinka unity is paramount to national unity and stability’ (https://paanluelwel.com/2018/06/03/splm-unification-nuer-dinka-unity-is-paramount-to-national-unity-and-stability/) This article seeks to drum up the unwritten unity of Jieng and Nuer as the basis for national peace and stability in the country. Surely unity between Jieng and Nuer can not be called a national thing as this is a project of two tribes only out of many others.
On the other hand, critics of the Equatorian girl deploy the word nationalism to dismiss her. It is important to note that the term nationalism can not be neatly applied into the context of South Sudan presently because South Sudan has several nationalities and nationality in South Sudan is fluid. For nationalism to take hold in South Sudan it needs to be consciously engineered through application of policies that build things in the country the citizens can identify with to bring them together. So in the context of South Sudan, the word patriotism fits better because it is all about love of one’s country.
The article of Agel Machar and the video of the Equatorian girl have attracted criticism across the board and rightly so. Patriots issued condemnations against these vile materials.
Machar’s article promotes upheaval and open discrimination while the Equatorian girl incites hatred. However that said, it is vital to try to understand why these materials have surfaced in the public domain. They did not come out of no where. Each perspective has a background to it and an ideology that sustains it. So, in order to dismantle what sustains them it demands careful observation and analysis of the acts and experiences of these actors (Agel Machar and the Equatorian girl). It is no good to just condemn these personalities and their work without engaging and challenging them.
Now let us look at the work of these two persons. Machar, in a nutshell believes that the unity of the Jieng and Nuer with the sole purpose to rule is important for peace and stability in South Sudan. He argues that the Jieng cannot afford to ignore the Nuer otherwise the management of the country and national affairs will continue to pose some serious challenges to the Jieng.
This view is neither new nor untested. Right from the inception of the SPLM regardless of the violent relationship between the Jieng and Nuer, the leaders of both ethnicities are agreed to rule South Sudan without the participation of the other tribes. In other words it is an agreement to marginalise the other South Sudanese tribes using force. It is an open secret that late Dr John Garang De Mabior, the then leader of SPLM and late William Nyoun and Dr Riek Machar entered into an undeclared, unwritten and unspoken contract that specifically binds them to a unity whose sole purpose is dominance of politics in South Sudan. They wrongly believed that as large tribes they can dominate South Sudan for a long time. The need for this kind of unity was born out of the events of Kokora that saw Southern Region of the Sudan divided into three regions following the reaction of Equatorians to Mr Abel Alier’s tribal misrule of the 1970s. However, what Garang, Nyoun and Machar overlooked is that numerical majority is not an automatic ticket to rule. The Jieng and Nuer must learn from the history of Sudan itself that their majority did not allow them to rule the Sudan. Further they need to draw a lesson from Rwanda where the majority Hutu with almost 90 percent of the population are ruled by a tiny minority of Tutsi who make less than 7 percent of the population.
The evidence of this Jieng and Nuer compact has since the inception of the SPLM been shown in the structures of the movement and later on in the structures of South Sudan government. For example, the leader of the SPLM has always been a Jieng deputised by a Nuer. The leadership of the army too deliberately is dominated by the two tribes with the bulk of the fighting force coming from the two tribes. When William Nyoun rebelled he was replaced by Salva Kiir and when Riek Machar returned to the fold after re-defecting from Khartoum, he took James Wani Igga’s position of the Vice Chairman in the SPLM with Igga being kicked into the long grass. After the death of Garang, Riek Machar became Vice president to a Jieng. When Riek was pushed out in December 2013, Igga was brought in temporarily to warm the seat for the return of Machar in early 2016 following the signing of ARCSS in August 2015. When Riek Machar was again pushed out in July 2016, Taban Deng Gai took over. So this undeclared, unwritten and unspoken compact is a visible reality that is observable to any keen follower of South Sudan politics.
This compact is responsible for all the chaos going on in the country simply because its intention is limited to the need o dominate and discriminate against the other tribes of South Sudan. Sadly, the downside of it has seen the Nuer, a willing partner paying heavily with destruction of its own society in all areas of life. The Nuer have become victims of ethnic cleansing. The system they supported out of this unity turned them against each other: Nuer on Nuer violence fanned continuously by the Jieng who at the same time woo them as partners in this relationship of doom. At the current rate of destruction going on in Nuer land/territories the result of this undeclared, unwritten and unspoken unity, may lead to an unfortunate reality where in the next decade the Nuer may drastically be reduced in population.
The Jieng buoyed by their persistent destruction of the Nuer have adopted this method as their modus operandi. They are now applying it throughout the country on the other ethnicities. So, Agel Machar being an educated Jieng knows the benefit of this compact to the Jieng and hence his article promoting it. It is the leaders of the Nuer including Riek Machar who for whatever reasons fail to see that this so called unity between Jieng and Nuer does not serve or benefit the Nuer. With all the evidence of the destruction of the Nuer, the Nuer leaders continue to invest in this foolery. Knowing our politics, some people are going to say ‘No! Riek Machar is not involved.’ They will claim that Riek is being victimised. To put such arguments to rest, any doubting Thomas should look at the proposal of SPLM-IO for power and wealth sharing whose principles feature in the ‘Bridging proposal’ of IGAD. Unpack this proposal and what you can find is a perspective of Jieng and Nuer unity as a source of peace in the country which the international community unfortunately has bought whole sale.
Note that the product of this unity of Jieng and Nuer is the very source of the current chaos and destruction visited on the country. I do not need to mention the horrific things taking place in the country as they are now common knowledge to every South Sudanese with the international community pretending to be blind while heavily involved in covering up the stench. The individual experience of the brutal tribal government is so hurtful as to produce people like the Equatorian girl in the video. She is articulating her pains and expressing genuine feelings born out of painful experiences. She is representing a huge section of South Sudanese who have been abused, brutalised and humiliated in various ways in their own homes for no good reasons at all. To dismiss her feelings by calling her a hate monger or so is to alienate all those who share her pain. It is here that the dictum: all politics is local and personal must be taken seriously.
Thus it is important to acknowledge her pain but then explain to her that to solve the problem is to look at the bigger picture and not to generalise, because obviously not all the Jieng are bad. She needs to be better than the tribalists. By doing this, the consciousness of aggrieved South Sudanese will be raised and it will also de-frame the ideology of supremacy and domination in a practical way which in turn will stop the need to revenge. However, to just condemn it in the name of political correctness is to sweep these painful experiences under the carpet and hope that they will go away. This misses the whole point, because the battle the people of South Sudan are engaged in is to ensure that the current system is uprooted from its roots. Political correctness can not be helpful without acknowledgement of the truth and realities the country faces.
In order to win over people, it is more productive to do it by persuasion and reason and not by sheer dismissal and condemnation. If we indulge in dismissing and condemning the victims of the current regime which include us, we do not only run the risk of being seen as connivers but the real danger of becoming oppressors of the very oppressed people we purport to fight to liberate. We want to liberate our people like the Equatorian girl in the video from the tribal system of Juba as well as from ignorance. We should educate her to know that she has a right to express her truth but she also needs to preserve her humanity and not let herself be propelled to barbarity. We should educate her that it is ideology like the one promoted by Agel Machar that are responsible for her pain and the pain of many other South Sudanese.
So if you watch carefully the video of the Equatorian girl and the article of Agel Machar is the continuation of the fight between the tribal regime and the people of South Sudan in a different form. This conflict eventually will produce a middle position which acknowledges the principle of common good for which all responsible and caring South Sudanese stand for.
In conclusion, care should be exercised when dealing with people expressing their pain. Tolerance and the raising of consciousness must be the route to bring the abused and brutalised back into the fold of humanity. Dismissal and condemnation for the sake of political correctness will not cut it. A spade must be called a spade. Equally, those promoting divisive and destructive ideologies like Agel Machar should be confronted and challenged robustly to expose their ill intentions for the country.
[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]
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