By: Jalpan Samson
On 29 July 2020, Rev. Joshua Dau Diu published a letter in which he was responding to Dr Peter Adwok Nyaba’s article titled ''Independent Administrative Areas: A Leaf from Colonial Legacy of Divide to Rule''. The letter was rather personal and it is not the intention of this author to respond to it. I believe that Dr Peter Adwok is capable of defending himself with regards to the allegations lebelled against him by Rev. Joshua Dau. The purpose of this article is to refute the baseless claims he made about Chollo land east of the Nile and particularly that the matter of Malakal has been resolved long time ago by the colonial boundaries and borders of 1/1/1956. He went further to claim that “Historical records and documents are in plenty which even convinced African Union (AU), IGAD and Technical Boundary Committee (TBC) and Independent Boundary Commission (IBC) 2019-2020 Report in favor of Padang’s ownership of lands on the Eastern bank of the River Nile''. It is the above mentioned assertions that compelled me to put pen to paper in order to set the record straight.
To begin with, the reports of the TBC and IBC the Reverend claims to have convinced the AU and IGAD about the justice of the grab of Chollo land are public documents available to all and sundry. Nowhere in those reports is there a ruling “in favour of Padang’s ownership of lands on the Eastern bank of the River Nile”. On the contrary, the TBC report has provided on page 95 what it ruled as the map of Southern Sudan showing the boundaries as they stood on 1/1/1956. The map showed these areas as belonging to Chollo. This is an authoritative ruling. Let us not distort facts that are available to all. Incidentally, it was the African Union and IGAD as well as other concerned members of the international community that in February 2020 pressured President Kiir to heed to reason and climb down on the 32 Bantustans (in the name of States) that divided the country on ethnic and clan basis. No country can be built on ethnic chauvinism and bigotry.
Lest uninformed readers are misled by what would appear as pronouncements of a priest backed by ecclesiastical morality, one needs to point out the following facts:
First, the two communities (Chollo and Jieng) have been living in peace throughout the two or so centuries they were together as neighbours. It was on 14 March 1980 that John Gajang Awuol, the Court President of Atar Ardeiba Regional Court, and Michael Miakol Deng, Executive Chief, wrote to the Commissioner of Jonglei Province on the establishment of Obay-Nyitho model village by the Jonglei Development Projects. In that letter, the two chiefs claimed that: “All land east of the Nile is Dinka land though we allow some Shilluks to settle [and] graze their livestocks, collect wood and grass [and] plant their crops.” This was the first time such claims were raised. Instead of waiting for a reply to the letter they wrote to their Commissioner, the Jieng community of Thiony and their neighbours escalated the matter and Chollo was targeted leading to fighting between the two communities in which innocent lives were lost on both sides. In fact, the conflict was instigated by the Jieng elites. Indeed, that was the first schism which occurred between communities that were in peaceful co-existence for centuries.
Second, to cool down the tension, the regional government under General Rassas convened a meeting in 1982 and brought together leaders of the two communities to discuss the conflict issues at Obel School. In that meeting, Rev. Joshua Dau uttered abusive words against Reth Ayang that he is just a human being and that he can become Reth like him. Due to his disrespectful behaviour, Reth Ayang walked out of the meeting hall, and the government had to appeal to Mr. Acwil Lual to persuade Reth Ayang to come back to the meeting venue for the deliberations to continue. The outcome of the meeting did not satisfy the Jieng elite because it did not support their baseless claims.
Third, the reality on the ground is that there was no single Jieng living north of Sobat River except in Abwong area, from Banglai eastwards. Hence, the claim that Malakal town belongs to Apadang is outrageous to say the least. When the Jieng of Jonglei Province used to cross the Sobat River, they pass through the Chollo village of Pajur in Panyidwai Omodia. And on their way to Malakal town they pass through the Chollo villages of Pathworo, Palo, Owaci, Thworo, Dur, Alel, Adodo and Watajwok, leaving Anakdiar to the east. They don’t pass through a single Dinka village because there are none. This is from the southern side of Malakal town. From the northern side, the neighbouring Chollo villages are: Makal, Detang, Bukieny, Obwa, Lelo, Kwogo and Watajwok. How come, then, that Malakal town is a Dinka place when there is not a single Dinka village neighbouring it? This doesn't make sense at all.
Fourth, it follows from the above point that the claim that east of the White Nile belongs to Apadang community and that Chollo were immigrants is both ridiculous and ludicrous. To back up his claim, Joshua Dau must provide concrete reasons, if there were any, that forced the Jieng community to desert their land and leave it to “immigrants” so as to live where they are now. This is particularly so for, as mentioned before, there has never been a violent conflict between the Chollo and the Ngok Jieng of Abwong area for the two centuries or so that they have been neighbours. On the contrary, they have lived harmoniously together punctuated by intermarriages between them.
Fifth, being a Presbyterian Priest, the reverend will remember that the cradle of the Presbytery in South Sudan was Doleib Hill. The American missionaries arrived there in March 1902. It is an established fact among Chollo which is also confirmed by the records of the Church that the person who gave the land to the missionaries was Arew Kwa Jwok, the Chief of Pajur, because it fell within his territorial jurisdiction. For historical benefit of the readers, Pajur village belongs to Jur (also called Ojwok) wa Okwa, brother of Nyikango. Jur wa Okwa resided on the eastern side of White Nile and so did Gilo wa Okwa along the Sobat River on both sides.
Sixth, the false claim being spewed by the reverend and the JCE he co-chairs that Chollo chiefs and nobles, who die on the eastern side of the White Nile are taken to the western side for burial is fanciful and doesn’t hold water. For instance, Jur wa Okwa and all his descendants were buried east of the White Nile in their land, Pajur village. Prince Goldit wa Akwot was buried in Anakdiar east of the White Nile and so was Prince Laa Padiet in Wau east of the White Nile. We can go on and on ad infinitum. Reth Kwathker wa Akwot fought his biggest battle with the Ansar in 1870 east of the White Nile near Sobat. He defeated his enemy. He could not have chosen that battle ground if the people there were not his people loyal to him. Where was Jieng community at that time, and which Apadang clan was living there?
Seventh, since Rev. Joshua Dau Diu claims to have historical facts in his possession, can he tell us which Apadang Jieng lived near Tawfigia when it was established by the Truco-Egyptian government as their capital of Fashoda Province. And when the station was relocated in 1914 from Tawfigia to Mal-ba-kal, which belongs to Makal village, the homestead of Reth Dewat wa Ochollo, was his descendent who gave the land to the government a Jieng chief? And if not, who was the Apadang chief that offered that piece of land to the government to establish the station in Mal-ba-kal that later became known as Malakal.
Eighth, in the early eighties some elites among Jieng community began to agitate that the whole eastern side of the White Nile and both sides of Sobat River are Jieng territories. These elites thought that the leadership in Juba that was controlled by Dinka at that time could favour them. In order for Juba to resolve the problem, they sent the surveyors on site and the boundary was marked according to the colonial administration map, but Jieng elite were not convinced. These claims were revived in 1994 when some Jieng intellectuals wrote to General Omer al Bashir that Malakal town was a Dinka place. Their claim was turned down as the facts were clear that it belongs to Chollo. Then during Panyagor meeting in 2003, which was called by the late Dr. John Garang, some Jieng members, who attended that meeting, raised the issue again that Malakal belongs to Jieng, and they were told by Dr. John Garang that Malakal is within Chollo territory. Again it was pointed out that Malakal cannot be a Jieng town when all the villages around it, on both sides of the White Nile, are Chollo villages.
Ninth, in a marked deviation from the ruling of Dr John Garang the Chairman of the SPLM before him, President Kiir supported the destructive project of grabbing Chollo land using the state’s power. Such injustice can only be unfavourable to the Padang community in the long run, because no community will allow their ancestral land to be taken by anyone. No cause supported by just demands will ever be defeated.
Tenth, since the Parties to the Peace Agreement agreed on 17 June 2020 that SPLM-IO is to nominate the Governor for Upper Nile State, some of Apadang leaders have been issuing one statement after the other in which they threatened violence if that becomes the case. They first toyed with the idea that the Jieng be given an administrative area if the SPLM-IO were to nominate the Governor. When they realized that such a suggestion would be impractical on the ground, Joshua Dau wrote a memorandum to the President with a copy to the First Vice President on 4 July 2020 in which he called for Chollo to be given an administrative area west of the Nile. It is this memo that Dr Peter Adwok Nyaba was responding to. It boggles the mind whether Apadang is a political entity within the Peace Agreement to impose its will and threaten violence if its position is not heeded to. But more disturbing is the way Joshua Dau, from Jonglei State, pokes his nose into the affairs of Upper Nile State. How can he arrogate to himself the right to talk on behalf of Chollo asking for an administrative area on their behalf? His audacity is bwyond imagination.
The intentions of Joshua Dau are clear. The creation of the so-called Administrative Area for Chollo west of the Nile is a continuation of his diabolical scheme to grab Chollo land east of the Nile including Malakal town. The Chollo did not call for an administrative area nor will they ever will. The idea of administrative areas is tantamount to going back to the Bantustanization of South Sudan; dividing it into isolated ethnic and sectional enclaves. The Chollo believe in national unity and the resolution of all problems by peaceful means. The current elite-induced differences between Chollo and the Jieng are an aberration. We trust that the relations between them will revert to how they were in the past characterized by harmony and peaceful coexistence.
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