By : Elhag Paul
On 25th July 2015 Equatoria was gravely stabbed in the back by one of its wayward sons. On Friday 25th July 2020 it will be five years since this fatal stabbing took place. What is this stabbing? Well, this is the sad story of the murder of Justice Peter Abdelrahman Sule. This article is to mark the fifth anniversary of his murder in Nimule by the brutal regime of President Salva Kiir Mayardit.
Justice Sule, a lawyer, freedom fighter, leader of United Democratic Front and a family man hails from a well-known and a highly respected Bari family of Central Equatoria. His father resisted British and Arab colonialism. For a glimpse into his father’s life story please see, ‘The Three Godfathers of South Sudan’ (https://ssnewsnow.com/the-three-godfathers-of-south-sudan/). Justice Sule being a brave and courageous person, took in the footsteps of his father. He resisted Jieng oppression in late 1970 and early 1980s perpetrated by Mr Abel Alier, the then president of High Executive Council of autonomous Southern Sudan and the architect of Jieng ideology of ‘Born to rule’ while at the same time fighting the Khartoum government for separation of South Sudan. The values that Justice Sule held made him a man of resistance against evil.
His struggle was a reflection of the moral force of righteousness. It was about the preservation of the myriads of identities of the people of South Sudan as it had been at the independence of the Sudan in 1956. It was no surprise that he would vehemently oppose the Jieng tribal regime of President Kiir whose sole interest is to shape South Sudan in Jieng image as an ethnic state. As said above, Justice Sule valiantly fought the abusive rule of Abel Alier and it was from that time that the Jieng had marked him as someone who must be removed if they are to succeed with their plan to push Equatorians out of South Sudan into the neighbouring countries permanently. Justice Sule was far sighted and he foresaw what is happening to Equatorians now and in his struggle to stop it sadly he paid with his life. It is important to set the record straight here. Justice Sule knew the risks entailed and he preferred to pay the cost for freedom of his people.
Although the hatred of President Kiir and the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) towards Justice Sule was based on the fact that he was an Equatorian and an obstacle to their project of state ethnicization, they failed to acknowledge Justice Sule as a national leader who provided a mirror to them with an alternative of a better society for all. The issues Justice Sule raised and opposed runs across the board in South Sudan. Thus, he was speaking the voice of South Sudanese from Raga in the west to Akobo in the east and from Jebellen in the north to Nimule in the south. In this he also spoke for the majority Jieng whose name has been tarnished for no good reason other than the personal interest of the opportunistic JCE. It is important to acknowledge that the majority of the Jieng have been manipulated for decades by the JCE from 1960s to date. Their minds have been poisoned and they have been dehumanised and abused only to serve the interest of few at the top. The dystopia they created is now eating them up. Look at the suicide rates, clan wars and the extreme poverty in Jieng lands, it tells of a society whose social fabric has been torn asunder with tribesmen left on their own without any direction and support.
The JCE through its extreme violence such as in the murder of Justice Sule has managed to turn the people of South Sudan against the Jieng. Dr Luka Biong captures this point succinctly in his conversation with Jongkoor, host of a South Sudanese show in 2018 when he said that the Jieng are the most hated people in South Sudan and unless they change their behaviour they are done. This collective hatred towards the Jieng people has psychological consequences. This is beginning to be felt and that is why Luka Biong is speaking out. It is hoped that Luka’s advice would be taken seriously as it is worth listening to.
Unfortunately, when a group is intoxicated with power like President Kiir and the JCE are, they live in a world of delusions of grandeur believing that they are invincible. They do all the wrong things that hurtles them to doom. This is not new. It has been repeated in this world millions of times since time immemorial. For President Kiir and the JCE to think that they can push Equatorians out of their land with extreme violence is such a brazen act. Carol Berger in ‘Ethnocide as a Tool of State-Building: South Sudan and the never-ending war’ lays this ideology bare on page 2. Berger, “speaks of the rise of ethnic nationalism among South Sudanese from the majority Dinka (Jieng) ethnic group/ For almost five years, the country’s Dinka-led government and national army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), have engaged in a brutal war against non-Dinka civilians populations and armed groups”. Berger continues, “Within this state of ‘never-ending war’ and the consequent humanitarian crisis, the international humanitarian community has shifted its policies towards two priorities: “peace building” and the “normalisation” of ethnically cleansed towns and territories now occupied by the Dinka-led state or its aligned forces.”
The injustice being wrought on the people of South Sudan exposed to the international community by Carol Berger is what Justice Sule had fought for the larger part of his life. In his hay days he fought the Khartoum regime for secession when President Kiir was serving it. At the same time, he fought the Jieng ideology of ‘Born to rule’ which made him a target of the JCE since 1970s. On 25th July 2015 they succeeded to remove him from the political space of South Sudan using the Arab policy of hit a slave with a slave ‘Adrub al abid bel abid’. A policy that the Arabs used effectively to slow the secession of South Sudan. To remove Justice Sule, President Kiir and the JCE engaged an Equatorian opportunist who comes from a humble background with a low self-esteem to do the dirty job for them. However, this tribal cabal ruling South Sudan needs to know that the removal of Justice Sule is not the end of the story. Their destructive plans will not come to fruition for one simple reason – Equatorians know who they are. Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist illustrates this point clearly when she said, “You can not enslave a mind that knows itself. That values itself. That understands itself.”
Initially the disappearance of Sule was a mystery but information started trickling in from the talks on South Sudan in Addis Ababa at the time. It was rumoured that a president of neighbouring country revealed that Justice Sule was no longer alive during the talks. Justice Sule prior to these talks was in communication with the Executive Secretary of IGAD in relation to his attendance. President Kiir right from the beginning of these talks was against Justice Sule attending the peace talks. It was obvious the regime did not want his presence because he would eloquently articulate the real problem of South Sudan which has always been Jieng supremacist agenda. Those who follow the politics of South Sudan are well aware how Justice Sule on numerous occasions was stopped from boarding Ethiopian airways at Juba airport depriving him from attending these talks. This was a blatant abuse of his rights to travel and to speak freely.
So, Justice Sule’s disappearance was not only a coincidence with the personal ambitions of his murderer: Col. Mande Gedima, but it was also timed with the peace talks in Addis Ababa. The regime was scared that Sule being outside the country and without it being able to control his movements, he was going to be free to attend the talks and that would not be in the interest of the regime. It is here that one can see the collaboration of foreign powers with interest in South Sudan and the regime in Juba wanting Justice Sule out of the way.
The details of Justice Sule’s disappearance which had left his relatives, friends, party members and supporters deeply injured and confused came to light a year later in a book written by Tim Edwards titled ‘A Bloody Nile: How South Sudan Imploded Just Two Years After Independence’. In his book Edwards appears to attribute the murder of Justice Sule on individuals desperate to proof their loyalty to President kiir in a toxic environment. Here is an excerpt from the ebook explaining the murder of Justice Sule.
“As it later turned out, Col. Mande Gedima (former governor of defunct Maridi state) planned and executed the plan to kidnap and kill Peter Abdelrahman Sule, Gen. Elias Lino Jada and the associates they were travelling with. Col. Mande Gedima in collaboration with rogue Ugandan security operatives and unscrupulous Ugandan businessmen who had interests in South Sudan planned to have Abdelrahman Sule and Elias Lino Jada smuggled to South Sudan for execution. They were picked up in the dead of the night from a hotel in Adjumani by security operatives, driven to the border and handed over to South Sudan Military Intelligence operatives under the command of Col. Mande Gedima. The deadly SPLA Director of Military Intelligence, Gen. Marial Noor concurred with Col. Mande’s suggestion that the prisoners be killed instantaneously so as to avoid a situation where they could later win their freedom and talk. There was also the potentially embarrassing issue of kidnapping a registered refugee from a friendly country where he had sought safety. They were summarily executed on the night of 25th July 2015. Their bodies were dumped in a bush near a road in Nimule town, perhaps to serve as an example to potential dissenters or so that their families could bury them. They were not the last to be assassinated in the quest to propagate President Salva Kiir’s reign. Col. Gedima had now firmly established himself as the de facto chief planner of the SPLA.” (Edwards 2016, PP 102 – 103 ebook)
In the South Sudanese community, Col. Gedima is known to be a person who hails from a humble beginning without any self-worth. He is said to be a self-loathing person who seeks affirmation from the highest of the high in government institutions. It is a known fact that people with self-esteem issues are easily manipulatable and convertible into monsters. To endear himself to the regime, Col. Gedima in a cold-blooded act participated in the destruction of his own people and his region. Killing Justice Sule is not just getting rid of Sule as a person. It is bigger than that. Col. Gedima killed the collective inner being of Equatoria. The killing has deprived Equatoria of a leader and retarded the resistance of Equatoria to Jieng expansionist project of which we see in Madi land, Acholi land, Bari land and elsewhere. On the other hand, this cowardly and illegal act strengthened and enabled President Kiir and the JCE to advance their oppressive domination of Equatoria. So, Justice Sule’s unlawful killing symbolises the rulers’ intent to destroy Equatoria and it amounts to decapitation.
SPLM/A and its off shots has always ensured that Equatorian leaders are removed to leave it leaderless for them to implement their plan of pushing Equatorians out into the neighbouring countries for good. Those it appoints in the movement as well as government are carefully chosen to promote the JCE interest and to cause more schisms within Equatoria. The killing of Equatorian leaders started with the inception of SPLM/A itself. It must be remembered that SPLM/A was created in reaction to Kokora which itself was triggered by Abel Alier’s abusive rule in Equatoria. Here are names of prominent Equatorians killed by the SPLM/A: Joseph Oduho, Justin Keri, Joseph Kabulu, Peter kidi, Luka Pakasiro, Martin Kejivura, John Nambu, Lodovic Roko, Hitler Elhag, Taban Lo Noah, Dr Wani Tombe, General Martin Kenyi, Dr Leonzio Onek, General Elias Lino Jada, all the martyrs of 7th July 1992 and many others.
On the other side of the political spectrum of SPLM, Dr Riek Machar and his SPLM-IO also indulge in killing Equatorian leaders at will. In May of this year, Dr Machar ‘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 out of paranoia that they would desert him. The executioner here again like in the case of Justice Sule is another Equatorian called Brigadier Moses Lokujo with damaged self-esteem who acted to endear himself to Dr Machar. What is sad is that the deputy leader of SPLM-IO Mr Henry Odwar has been unable to explain these atrocities to the Equatorian people. He promised in some Equatorian social media forum that he would consult with Dr Machar to get the truth about these stories to feedback. Lo and behold, nothing happened to date and he has gone silent. This only suggests that he now knows the truth but he has not got the guts to tell the Equatorian people the truth.
The elimination of Equatoria leaders without any accountability which is now a norm in South Sudan, simply put, weakens and subjugates Equatoria to not aspire, call or demand for its rights. It turns Equatorians into no hopers creating a state of hopelessness. Therefore, there must be legal consequences for acts that diminish the people. For if Equatorians can not protect its leaders, why should anybody want to be its leader putting his/her neck in harm’s way for its defence. The people of Equatoria need to think about this seriously.
Justice Sule willingly and courageously took on the rogue ethnic regime in Juba to defend the rights of the people of South Sudan for a better life. In doing this he fell while struggling for the rights of the people. Who can deny his sacrifice for the forces of good? Here we have a true hero who laid down his life for good to come to the country. Though Justice Sule is no longer with us, he lives on for he has laid a marker through the many good things that he has done in this world. His murderers who soiled themselves and drenched themselves in blood money should know that they have not removed Justice Sule for good. He remains for ever in our history and his name will ring bells when the ethnic regime of President Kiir is gone as it must go.
The ideals and the causes Justice Sule stood for, struggled for, got murdered for, remain and we picked them up when he fell. So, the struggle continues till victory is achieved for the heroes to come back to life in a different form.
Justice Sule rest in peace.
[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]
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