Riek Machar, SPLM-IO Leader (File Image)
Riek Machar, SPLM-IO Leader (File Image)

 

By: Elhag Paul

In the last couple of months, the Nuer unexpectedly started a strange flight from what has contemporarily been regarded as Nuer political vehicle in the SPLM-IO to their arch nemesis President Salva Kiir. This Nuer act stunned political observers because nobody in their wildest of dreams would have thought that the Nuer would willingly embrace the very person who premeditatedly set out to annihilate them. During the liberation war between 1983 to 2005, while president Kiir was the chief of Dr John Garang’s intelligence service he oversaw the repeated massacres of the Nuer in the 1980s and 1990s. As president of South Sudan, he continued with his evil project, this time dividing the Nuer and using one section against the other. He pulled the Bull Nuer to his side whom he used viciously to decimate the entire Nuer society. In 2013 and 2016 he ordered the ethnic cleansing of the Nuer to the extent that The African Union produced a damning report against the government of South Sudan. The report categorically stated that the mass killing of the Nuer in December 2013 was a “state policy”.

The Nuer now embracing President Kiir and appeasing him with praises of ‘a great leader’, ‘wise leader’ and so on is staggeringly shocking. However, this should not be seen as a strange phenomenon. In the literature of oppression in the works of Franz Fanon, we know that the abused usually, in the absence of good leadership among the oppressed, tend to go back and admire with awe the very people who abuse them. So, the flocking of the Nuer to President Kiir should be understood from this point. What could the Nuer be expected to do when their leaders, especially Riek Machar has in open day light capitulated to their arch enemy.

If Riek can capitulate, it is difficult to imagine the average Nuer resisting. The flight of the Nuer out of SPLM-IO and into the SPLM-IG under President Kiir has drained the former of a sizeable force leaving its fighting force almost a skeleton. As if this was not enough, the inept Riek goes on to antagonise the very Equatorians who have facilitated and sustained his military presence in Equatoria. In mid-May 2020, it turned out that Riek ordered the execution of 3 well respected and highly held Equatorian officers of SPLM-IO namely: Brig. Gen. Sammy Logeleng, Brig. Gen. Clement Samuel and Col. Wokil Peter, who helped him to escape from President Kiir’s operation against him in July 2016. As if this was not enough, now the SPLM/A-IO has followed this atrocity by frequent indiscriminate killings of civilians in Panyume, Morobo district where they have a base.

Riek’s killing of the trio and the SPLM/A-IO’s new policy of indiscriminate killing of civilians has enraged the local people to the extent that the majority of Equatoria SPLM-IO supporters are silently leaving Riek’s movement in droves. This exodus in the bushes of Equatoria may be the final straw that will break the Camel’s back. It must also be remembered that to date Riek has not accounted for the mysterious disappearance of General Martin Kenyi and his body guards in the fall of 2016. The grapevine has it that he Riek was responsible for their disappearance.

Riek Machar personally is known to dislike the Equatorians and many people put this down to the political events that led to Kokora in the early 1980s. Additionally, in 1990 when he, Dr Lam Akol and James Koang tried to overthrow Dr John Garang from the leadership of the SPLM and he failed he was reported to have commented that the Equatorians are “useless” and time would come for him to teach them a lesson. Since then, Riek has been hostile to Equatorians. For example, soon after the referendum, during the first Equatorian conference held at Nykouron in April 2011 from 14th to 16th, Riek was invited but he did not attend. This signified his disapproval of the meeting. He then despatched Telar Deng to represent him. Two days after the conference, on reading the resolutions of the conference he reacted furiously by threatening to deal with Equatorians for starting the issue of federalism. This man deeply hates Equatorians but following 2013 he was forced to accept to work with Equatorians circumstantially.

Now Equatorians who supported him have the golden opportunity to see the reality. Riek ordered the execution of the trio most likely out of fear that these officers were going to join NAS which he considers as an enemy. This is again one of the serious mistakes that Riek has committed. Instead of allying with NAS to bring down the vile regime in Juba, he comes out targeting NAS because in his twisted mind he sees the national character of NAS as the threat to his accession to leadership in South Sudan. There is no doubt that NAS is a national movement without any iota of tribalism. If one scrutinizes the power base of NAS, it is evidently clear that it represents all the people of South Sudan as it claims. For the sake of clarity, let us unpack the power base of NAS so that people are aware of its national character. Look at the structure of the military leadership. The Chief of Staff is a Fertit. The deputy Chief of Staff for training and administration is a Pojulu. The deputy Chief of logistics is a Murle. The Military Spokesman is a Nuer. The leader of NAS delegations to Peace Talks is from Wau. NAS representatives world wide come from all parts of South Sudan.

Compare this to SPLM-IO and the evidence straight away pops on to your face. The tribal nature of SPLM-IO is not something that can be disputed. Nathaniel Pierino Oyet, a senior member of the SPLM-IO himself recently wrote about the tribal make of SPLM-IO in a letter of protest to Riek Machar. Unfortunately, poor Oyet was threatened with death after he wrote that letter. Again, compare the power base of NAS with that of the South Sudan government and here it is so sad that the whole country is monopolised in all sectors of government by one tribe. Everywhere, Jieng! Jieng! Jieng! If Riek was truly about change, his movement should be reflecting the opposite of South Sudan government and not replicating it. In which case he should be embracing NAS rather than allying with his main nemesis to fight it.

Recently, President Kiir made what could be theoretically said to be an important shift from his tribal appointments by appointing an Equatorian to the post of the Chief of Staff of South Sudan army. This non Jieng sits in the middle of an entire Jieng military structure, just like with Covid-19 Task Force for the country which is completely a Jieng affair. The appointment of General Johnson Juma Okot is not for nothing. It has a strategic reason to achieve JCE’s objective of Jieng settlement in Equatoria. After that he will be discarded safely like General James Hoth Mai who was used against his own people the Nuer in December 2013. The recent mass migration of the Jieng of Bor with hundreds of thousands of heads of cattle into Madi and Acholi land by foot, river boats and trucks, is the operationalisation of one of their main policies. The JCE wants to expel all the Equatorians to the neighbouring countries on the pretext that they are not South Sudanese. Please see, Dr Carol Berger’s piece, ‘Ethnocide as a Tool of State-building: South Sudan and the Never ending War’ (http://updm-rss.org/UPDM/Ethnocide_Dinka_strategy_dominance.pdf). They tried to do this in Moru land in late 2000s, but the Moru vigorously fought back sending them packing. One of the current five Vice Presidents Rebecca Nyandeng, the widow of the former leader of the SPLM Dr John Garang had thousands of cattle in that Jieng invading group. When the courageous Moru people routed them, shamelessly Nyandeng shed tears in anticipation of sympathy from South Sudanese which she did not get.

Consequently, now the Jieng have shifted gear and moved to Madi and Acholi land. They are aware that what happened in Moru land could happen again in Madi and Acholi land. To counter such a reaction, they have now invested in getting a dubious Equatorian from the targeted area on their side by promoting him to the Chieftaincy of the Army to help them in: 1) calming and taming the local people to accept the invasion. 2) to use him to do the dirty work of oppressing his own people in order to create divisions in Equatoria. 3) for the divisions to weaken Equatoria and to consolidate the JCE’s settlement project. 4) the JCE are desperate to counter the strong presence of SPLM-IO in Eastern Equatoria and what a better way to do it than by using a ‘local boy’.

Overall, General JJ Okot is brought to oversee the settlement of Jieng in his own village and land. Is the General an effective commander who can stand his ground? Nobody knows, but all the available evidence indicate that he is an empty vessel and here is the reason. The General may be brave, experienced militarily, battle hardened but all this means nothing if he is not leading a truly disciplined national force. Unfortunately, he is leading an exclusively tribal rag tag militia who pay their allegiance to the Jieng collective, and not to all the peoples of South Sudan. This makes the General nothing in the midst of a 99 percent Jieng militia. His word of command will be subject to a tribal lens of scrutiny and can be challenged or disputed even by a mere soldier who should be polishing his boots. He can even be slapped by a mere foot soldier without any consequences to the aggressor.

These things used to happen to Equatorians during the war of liberation. Do you remember Kuol Manyang slapping Bishop Paride Taban in 1990s in Torit? What did Dr Garang do? Nothing! In fact Garang supported Manyang by trivialising the case. Do you remember the foot soldier who slapped the late Dr Samson Kwaje, the then spokesman of the movement? What happened to the aggressor? Nothing! Later it became known that the aggressor was promoted to an officer. So, Generall JJ Okot is between the rock and a hard place. How he is going to keep his credibility is the big test? He is going to have to choose between being loyal to his masters or to the people of South Sudan. If he is to pass this test, then his choice should be the latter which entails the following: 1) to stand up and defend Madi and Acholi from the ongoing invasion by the Jieng. 2) disarm the invading cattle keepers and oversee their repatriation to Jieng land. Anything short of that would be an utter disgrace and it would be an ultimate humiliation whereby he as an Equatorian becomes the main executioner of JCE plan. It is worth mentioning that General JJ Okot was previously used by the regime to create divisions between the Madi and Acholi at the initial stages of this very settlement project. With this history, JCE hopes to use JJ Okot to execute its dirty policy in Equatoria. Please see, ‘JJ Okot pledges an alliance with Dinka to end any rebellion in EES’ (https://www.southsudanliberty.com/news/index.php/latest-news/305-jj-okot-pledges-an-alliance-with-dinka-to-end-any-rebellious-in-ees).

Nevertheless, whatever General Okot did is in the past. Time has lapsed and he can redeem himself if he only can stand his ground and act according to the tenets of morality and dignity. He has a duty to protect his people and that is within his rights. Should he find this difficult because of the structure in which he serves, then may be he should be the Moses of Equatoria in the tribal militia to start the exodus to the promised land. The others in SPLM-IO have already started the exodus.

Back to the central issue, Riek’s hatred of NAS is simply because he sees NAS as an obstacle to his plan to ascent to power tribally like President Kiir did. Riek has no national agenda and he does not care about the Nuer and the other people of South Sudan exactly like his enemy President Kiir. He just wants to use the power of the Nuer to achieve his personal ambition of becoming a president which he declared in his interview with Aljazeera on 22nd December 2013, one week into the ethnic cleansing of the Nuer. Riek has no shame at all to appoint his wife as a minister of defence. This obviously was a kick in the teeth of his well trained and experienced senior security people. He openly discriminated against the other Nuer in favour of his own family.

The sad thing is that Angelina sharing the hatred of her husband, forgot about the national agenda and she embarked on a policy to smash NAS. Inept and short sighted strategically she joined forces with the JCE’s tribal army in order to destroy NAS. As a woman who spoke extensively in the West against the Juba regime’s human rights abuses she should have known that the rat tag, undisciplined and criminal minded supposed army she is sending to fight NAS in Central Equatoria would naturally commit the crimes she preached against in Europe, America and Australia in the last two years. To Angelina’s credit, she campaigned effectively against SSPDF’s abuse of human rights, especially the sodomization of the Nuer men in Blue House in Juba and gender based sexual abuse. But her hatred of NAS and the lure of power since her appointment as defence minister blinded her. Angelina needs to see the recent CTSAMM report which concluded that her own forces of Jieng and Nuer are responsible for the horrific crimes of gender based violence in Central Equatoria. As a woman and a mother, possibly grandmother, how can she come to terms with these crimes? Anyway, she should now realise that she is not any better than her allies in the JCE. She too is complicit in crimes against humanity and her own sisters, the women of South Sudan. Please see, ‘CTSAMVM REPORT 2020/01 SGBV RUBEKE 13 FEBRUARY 2020’, (http://ctsamvm.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/CTSAMVM-REPORT-202001-SGBV-RUBEKE-13-FEBRUARY-2020-.pdf)

Now the Nuer who are running to president Kiir who abused them thoroughly to the extent of sodomizing Nuer men routinely as punishment for the Nuer to acknowledge the Jieng as men, they need to rethink. This sodomization acts as a symbol of Jieng masculinity and absolute conquest of the Nuer. If not exorcised, its psychological impact will be used by the Jieng for decades to come, to silence Nuer. The Jieng children of the future will be telling their Nuer peers not talk with reminders and reference to these abuses. The average Nuer self-worth will have been eaten away by these abuses. Now it is important to point out that similar abuses are being done to all the other people groups of South Sudan which means that this is a serious problem that must be tackled nationally. It is a problem that impacts on all.

In this light, President Kiir will neither change nor forgive the Nuer. Remember, it is the same President Kiir who organised the Wunlit Peace Conference to reconcile the Nuer and the Jieng. Yet, it is the same President Kiir who referred to 1990 and ordered the massacre of the Nuer in December 2013. Even now as I write, reports are rife that President Kiir is arming the Murle against the Nuer. Do you see? Is President Kiir someone who can be relied upon? No! do not be fooled. Equatorians who are silently turning away from SPLM-IO due to its cannibalistic policy evidenced by the execution of their 3 respectable, disciplined, and conscientious officers need not go to President Kiir like their brothers and sisters the Nuer have done. This exodus should be one that leads to the promised land, through the agenda of the non signatory groups. All the disappointed Nuer, Equatorians and others need to join their brothers and sisters in the non signatory groups, to continue their commitment to the very reasons that made them join the rebellion. Why? For the following reasons.

Firstly, the country needs to be freed from the grip of the JCE. It is the policies of the JCE of tribal expansionism and domination that has ruined the country. Secondly, President Kiir and the JCE need to be put on the dock to answer for the grave crimes they have committed and continue to commit which is destroying the country. Thirdly, the rule of law needs to be instituted in the country. Fourthly, tribalism needs to be gotten rid off and binned for good! JCE’s policy of total tribal domination has turned the country into a catastrophe. Fifthly and most importantly, the unity of the abused and oppressed is a must because President Kiir and the JCE present a serious existential threat to Fertit, Chollo, Anyuak, Nuer and Equatorians as articulated by Dr Carol Berger in her piece cited above. Please acquaint yourself with this danger by reading her piece. Sixthly, the tribalism of the JCE and Jieng constitute the main root cause of the problems of South Sudan. Think about it, if the JCE did not hijack the state of South Sudan on 9th July 2011 all the current suffering and destruction would not be there. South Sudan would have been a truly peaceful country with everybody living happily together.

Therefore, given the stark dangers the non Jieng people face in South Sudan today, the desertion taking place in SPLM-IO especially of Nuer and Equatorians should at least be turned into the good for the country. Make your exodus to the promised land through the only avenue left - the non signatory groups of the fake Revitalised Agreement of Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan to realise a peaceful South Sudan ruled by law.

[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]

Elhag Paul

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