The skeletal structure of South Sudan’s political sway Peter Lokarlo Ngrimwa (PhD)

By: Peter Lokarlo Ngrimwa*

Date: 14 February 2021

The JCE seems to be losing momentum in its desperate and defenceless claims and maladroit contention destined to extricate itself from the political morass of its own making in South Sudan. The Council’s futile attempts lately to distance itself from both President Kiir and the intractable political turbulence it created in South Sudan may fairly amount to a sheer claptrap. The JCE can hardly deny its unpalatable role of initiating mayhem across the board in South Sudan which ultimately pushed the country to the brink of abyss. This denial definitely provides more space for raising an eyebrow as to what political manoeuvres these old men are precisely up to. All South Sudanese are cognizant that the Jieng Council of Elders, since its formal formation after the independence of the country has more often than not undermined South Sudan through the application and institutionalization of the tribally incompatible policy prescriptions that the Council had created for the Juba regime to execute, and consequently the tribal programs of the JCE did usher in the devastating ongoing civil war in the country since 2013. It is a public secret that the JCE members did manoeuvre their way to the highest echelon of the state via tribal connections with the President. These men did expediently set up an ironclad alliance with President Kiir and then stood steadfastly in supporting him to the hilt for the last ten years or so. Superficially, the JCE resides outside the official political power grid of the governmental structure of South Sudan; however, a calculated subterranean design ensured that the JCE represented the de facto Advisory Council of President Kiir and the Parliament of South Sudan. It is also a common knowledge that the JCE was setup by a handful of perhaps hidebound and opportunistically predisposed Dinka politicians with no mandate from the Dinka community. Candidly these old men are bereft of national consciousness, as they have demonstrated it on numerous occasions. They have been whipping up, fostering and inculcating tribal chauvinism and ethnocentric delusion in the Dinka young men while envisioning an eventual control of South Sudan by the Dinka ethnic communities. So, it is obvious that, either these elders do not grasp the least sense of nationalism or simply the traits of nationalism that depict a single common national identity in a defined territorial expanse do not appeal to their intrinsic psyche. As we all understand, there appears to be a significant disharmony or probably an outright split in the ranks of the JCE members. I think some of them still maintain the robust bond with President Kiir while a few of them have emerged on the political scene to denounce the policies of the government that have spawned extensive pandemonium and senseless killings in the country. In their press release, only five names were appended on the document as signatories. One wonders as to why these men have abandoned President Kiir in the midst of the turbulently degenerating political storm?

In view of the JCE’s obdurate and persistent claims of being nationalists, an inquisitive person might perhaps be tempted to pose question: what does the JCE as a political entity do to salvage South Sudan from its current relentless imbroglio and extreme violence it helped instigate? The response is not farfetched, it is effortlessly conjectured, but it would be valuable to offer a further suitable and factual definition and characterisation of the JCE. This is the self-proclaimed coterie of unfeeling and unpatriotic insular old men who finagled the decimation of thousands of Nuer ethnic community members in December 2013 in Juba. It is worth recalling that the premeditated gruesome massacre was methodically computed by the JCE and executed by the private militiamen of President Kiir known as Mathiang Anyor and Dut Kubeny (Protect the President). The African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan (AUCISS) issued its damning report on 27 October 2015. This document offers an insight into the dimensions of Human Rights Violations in South Sudan. The AUCISS report stops short of using the word ‘genocide’ for the senseless wholesale murders at industrial scale in Juba, South Sudan.

Am I being needlessly harsh on the JCE?, No, I think I am not, but the veracity is that, the more we expose the heinous practices, how acrimonious or discordant they may be, the better we are positioned to resolve the problems of the country with unanimity of consensus as people of one country. Apparently, it appears that a number of Human Rights lawyers are interested to pursue the issue further and disposed to have the perpetrators of the heinous crimes indicted and tried by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Besides, the wheel of the International justice system may be turning sluggishly at a snail’s speed, but certainly, justice would be served at the end of the day.

Startlingly, in their press release dated 27 January 2021, the signatory members of the JCE did audaciously attribute the real cause of the conflict in South Sudan to State and leadership failure, and that “the JCE is appalled by the outrageous violence happening across the country. While these statements exhibit absolute fallacy, the JCE had the temerity and self-confidence to further state the following statement without a twinge of guilt or embarrassment and I Quote: “... The problem is in front of us all. Let us face it head-on”. End of quote. Here, honesty appears to be in short supply and it must be accentuated that the seemingly dishonest and Machiavellian approach of the JCE members in casting themselves as outright nationalists while the government and other politicians as problematic is quite vituperative and ludicrous. Astonishingly, these ill-fated statements sounds downright eccentric and outlandish. One shudders to come to terms with the fact that the JCE being more than the advisors of the government of Kiir could disloyally turn around and launch an attack on the government by criticising the obnoxious policies of the government that they had earlier invented and propped up all over the years. How could these sadistic and callous tribal elders in disguise who have dished out wanton destruction and excessive degree of cruelty on South Sudanese ever get appalled by the outrageous violence happening across the country, when in real practical terms, they have helped the government create an anarchistic setting beset by rampant extrajudicial executions and murders in South Sudan? Regrettably, the JCE did inculcate and imbue an essence of intransigence in the government of president Kiir, especially in matters pertaining to negotiations, arbitration of peace arrangements and rapprochements by external parties such as the IGAD, Troika and others. These men have always advised the President against reaching any peace agreement with the assorted opposition groups opposed to the government. Undeniably, the President is more often held hostage by the Jieng tribal advisors, and these advisors did repeatedly remind President Kiir in clear terms that President Kiir would be abandoned by the entire Dinka communities if he ever failed to adhere to or promote JCE’s tribal agenda and execute its political policy prescriptions. Moreover, the President’s penchant and relish for tribal politics also takes a hefty or substantial chunk of the blame.

It is worth of note that the creation of the 28 controversial states in South Sudan in 2015 that later became 32 was practically the handiwork of the JCE. The strategy was wittingly designed to manipulate and effectively capture state power via pseudo-democratic contraptions in order to rule the country for a long time. In this respect, it seems that the realization of peace in South Sudan is unlikely, as the JCE does not possess the blueprint and what it takes to end the protracted violence in the country. Furthermore, in July 2015, the JCE opposed the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS), contending that the agreement was partially imposed on the parties and did not fairly settle the conflict and further ignored the root causes of the country’s problems. However, an introspective examination of the claim quickly revealed that the JCE was inclined only to stifle or asphyxiate any peace arrangement that would potentially compromise its position and jeopardize its tribal agenda of the total domination of South Sudan. Hence, as mentioned elsewhere in this article, the JCE further prevented the President from signing the peace agreement in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. President Kiir was more often under real but veiled verbal threats not to conclude any agreement with the opposition groups for fear of undermining their tribal hegemonic ambition.

Worryingly, it is critical to state that the current peace talks between the government of South Sudan and the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) group held in Rome, Italy under the auspices of the Saint Egidio Community is hanging by a thread and likely to breakdown, courtesy of the JCE’s profound sway that the group wields over President Kiir. Saint Egidio is making an effort by primarily attempting to bridge the gap between the government of South Sudan and the opposition groups so that the conflicting parties could reach an accommodation to end the gruelling civil war in South Sudan. However, the few rounds of the talks have witnessed utter display of arrogance and non-committal on the part of the JCE-controlled government. Hence, the JCE has again rebuffed the valuable role being played by the Community of Saint Egidio.

Regrettably, the JCE is now counselling President Kiir to shirk the peace talks as it would herald or sound a death knell on the group’s grand vision of building a Dinka Nation in South Sudan in the event of any agreement being reached. While the talks were on track, the government of President Kiir consistently maintained regular breaches of ceasefire and the cessation of hostilities. This stratagem was designed by the JCE to thwart any peace emerging in South Sudan. Paradoxically, the JCE has now stepped up its call and appreciation for the adoption and implementation of the resolutions of the recent so called National Dialogue Conference in Juba. Honestly, the Conference markedly lacked both the political weight and the voice of the opposition parties or groups such that it was a unilateral attempt by the government to portray itself as the champion of peace in the country, while the JCE is probably apprehensive of a scenario of being marooned by South Sudanese who have often castigated and christened these elders the Machinery of doom for the persistent mayhem and slayings these old men have meted on the people of South Sudan.

Arguably, the premise on which the JCE group sets out its doleful and flimsy arguments is conceivably influenced by two dynamics as follows:

  1. As the goal post seems to be shifting, the opportunistic tribal men are convinced that President Kiir has reached a cul-de-sac and is neither popular nor capable of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. In view of this quandary, going down the drain together with the embittered President would be untenable and a catastrophic mistake on the part of the JCE. The sole and sensible escape route is by way of unforgivingly castigating and abjuring the government, probably in a bid to isolate the President and convince South Sudanese that this was the man responsible for all their afflictions.

  2. Apparently, being apprehensive of the political enmeshment and conceivably an unexpected regime change in Juba, some individual members of the JCE have desperately turned out to search a suitable formula to circumvent any culpability and the inescapable witch-hunt or a desire for revenge by South Sudanese that might ensue in the event of the collapse of the state. Furthermore, they are likewise worried about their despicable crimes of sanctioning disappearances of their critics and political foes over the years.

It is worth noting that the JCE working closely in tandem with the State’s so called National Security Services (NSS) have shockingly conducted numerous murders of South Sudanese.

For the benefit of the readers of this article, we the people of South Sudan would confidently vouch and attest that at this moment in time, there exist ugly tribal skirmishes in Central Equatoria State. The Mundari armed tribal militiamen have forced their way to occupy most of Pojulu territories, displacing and accomplishing scores of murders including maiming and rape spree. The JCE is squarely responsible for plotting, instigating and fanning the flames of the conflict in the area. This action is in line with the group’s grand policy and strategy of creating and maintaining ethnic cleansing program all over South Sudan in order to subjugate and dominate the rest of the remaining sixty-three tribes in the country- an uncharacteristically reckless and perilous venture. In its catalogue of mischief, the JCE fascistic tribal entity strategized and instituted its ambitious program of ethnic cleansing in the country in the recent past, setting one tribe against another. To demonstrate this assertion, the JCE- controlled government of Kiir in the recent past, did create a muddle or machinations between the Ma’di and the Kuku which was accompanied by heightened tension between the two peaceful communities, albeit they are separated by the Nile River that form a natural boundary. Furthermore, the pacific Acholi communities were set against the Ma’di who have lived peacefully together since time immemorial; the Mundari versus the Bari and now as this article goes to press, the heavily armed Jieng pastoralists, backed by the government are all over the place engaging civilians of other tribes in sporadic skirmishes and conducting massacres, displacing settled agriculturalists in the entire country. In this regard, South Sudanese of all shed of opinions and political hue have resolutely condemned the indiscriminate attacks on civilian population and the wanton destruction of their homes and livelihoods.

In conclusion, the JCE must

  1. Learn to appreciate and start to invest in the nonviolent resolution of the conflict in South Sudan which is evidently the feasible panacea and that presupposes an unmitigated collective will of all South Sudanese together with absolute adherence to what must candidly be done to instantly halt haemorrhage.

  2. Abandon the notion of tribal hegemony; stop paving the road to hell and move on to build a tranquil nation for all South Sudanese to live in. It won’t be in the interest of anyone to destabilise the country and senselessly murder innocent people spuriously trusting that they would eventually get away with it. The JCE members should understand that their chosen farcical path does much more harm to them than good and besides exposes their reputation for heartlessness.

Hence, South Sudanese would like to strongly remind the members of the JCE that albeit rotating sluggishly at a snail’s speed, the wheel of the justice system is turning at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It is important to emphasize that there may probably be some investigators already collecting incriminating materials including testimonies as evidence to use against some JCE members who have committed myriad crimes on South Sudanese and thus, they run the risk of being found guilty and consequently end up in incessant confinement for the rest of their days on earth. These men must think about it deeply and quickly call President Kiir to order today because they are all yet frolicking on the same small leaky boat which has been cast adrift on the blustery high seas of tempestuous politics.

Peter Lokarlo Ngrimwa (PhD)*

Former Lecturer,

Graduate School of Business and Law (GSBL),

RMIT University

The Emily MacPherson Building

Building 13, 379-405 Russell Street, 

Melbourne, VIC, 3000


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