Opinion by Gwado J. Ador (SS24NEWS)
Friday July 17, 2020
All options are open as long as the situation remains fluid and volatile. With President Salva Kiir still obstinate refusing to recognize the rights of others to have an equal political share or denied to exist in their ancestral lands, it is likely that they might fight to create a nation of their own.
The issue of land is central to many people who are currently fighting because it is the source of their livelihood upon which they existed for centuries. It must get justice and the attention it deserves.
The land dispute could be peacefully addressed if there is political will, but, the fear is that the current revitalized peace agreement would no longer be respected if President Kiir remains violating its covenant from its interpretation, through political appointments and ending with security arrangements. He would surely defy it and the country will go back and fight another protracted conflict.
It was evident in the power-sharing among parties that Kiir had the upper hand in deciding who should join and who shouldn’t join the government of National Unity. He seems to have free will in deciding everything singlehanded. Was that what they have agreed upon in the revitalized peace agreement?
There were still some wide gaps existing among the parties because Kiir’s side wasn’t ready or willing yet to back down on fundamental issues of political interests, especially in the question of Upper Nile State!
As a result, the SPLM-IO nominee in the person of Gen. Johnson Olony Thubo for the governorship of Upper Nile was rejected swiftly by President Kiir on the ground that Johnson Olony isn’t his ideal candidate. To him, Olony still retains army defying and fighting his government on the ground.
He insisted that if Dr Riek persists on his nominee, then Olony should first ‘report to Juba’ so that his appointment is effected or otherwise, Riek have to look for a replacement and not necessarily from ‘Agwelek forces’. He implied!
The message was clear, ‘Riek should now look for an alternative as a solution and the preferred candidate mustn’t be Olony or there will be a political vacuum in Upper Nile, period!’ This game is masterminded by Apadang following their numerous petitions regarding the ownership of Malakal rejecting Olony’s appointment as the Governor of Upper Nile State.
Apadang conditioned saying, in case if Riek insists, they would prefer if Collo could have a separate administration from the rest of Upper Nile components, which was suggested by Joshua Dau, one of the Jieng elders in his latest message to President Kiir!
However, many people of Collo community are asking genuine questions whether President Salva Kiir really represents everybody in South Sudan. Why is he always bias towards Jieng against others in everything, including the quest of land dispute across South Sudan?
Over majority is regretting Kiir’s attitude, his unjust treatment against them in all aspect of representation. In sharing political and natural resources, they believed there is no fair play on the levelled ground across South Sudan. Always his Dinka fellows take the lion share of everything leaving nothing for others.
They asked genuinely, why have they separated from the North in the first place? was it not because of unfair treatment and political subjugation?
Was it not because of such attitudes which led everybody to pull together and opt-out as one people from the North?
Why some communities in South Sudan still being oppressed and forced to fighting bitter conflicts among themselves despite the fact that we have had our own separate entity for almost a decade now?
The answer was obvious that they don’t want to be together! They were never together in the past; they had no shared values or objectives until recently when they identified themselves incidentally as people who could jointly form a nation. With that spirit in mind, they went to the referendum to attain independence which was achieved in July 2011.
The referendum was the only occasion where all the ‘64’ tribes who colluded against the ‘Arab’s North’ made themselves come voluntarily together to explore whether they could form and create a nation of their own to build future for themselves and their children.
There was no shared heritage or culture among the people of South Sudan, nor unity of purpose or even future prospects. Again, had there been any form of shared unity among them, there wouldn’t have been such unnecessary suffering and prejudices in the country. They would have strived to live in peace and harmony and to coexist as brothers and sisters.
Similarly, it wasn’t enough just to say the people of South Sudan are one people, because of their characteristics or racial features, neither the brief legacy under which these people were bound together fighting against Arabs, nor origin of shared history would qualify them to become one people as some might have suggested!
Prehistory of South Sudan, however, showed that the land currently being inhabited by the people of South Sudan was home to numerous independent wild tribes. They were scattered in large areas, including swamps. Some lived as pastoralists and others settled as agriculturalists or combined.
Some had no defined cultures and heritage or even some sort of central system, and others were having heritage and strong cultural authority inform of chieftainships or kingdoms.
They were fighting among themselves constantly over grazing rights and practising what is popularly known as ‘cattle wrestling’. Even at schools during those days they fought bitterly against one another as tribes. Dinka was fighting against Shilluk and Nuer were fighting against Dinka. Dinka students were fighting Equatorian and on and on, and in a vicious cycle. They fought in Rumbek, they fought in Juba Commercial, they fought in Malakal and they fought in Atar even in the north. There has never been peace, no rest, but relentless fighting!
Today, this has been evidently reflected at the level of government, which is being controlled by these elites and groups who were fighting among themselves in the past. You could imagine some of them are the people running the government today.
What would you expect from them, besides the same prejudices and antagonism of the past? This proves certainly what kind of a country are we having today, because of the mentality, which still persists among our elites that wallow still in the past.
Origin of the crisis inherent in their culture and the way of life!
Shilluk or ‘Luos’ had some sort of system or a kingdom that still exists until today. The Collo Kingdom headed by a king or ‘Reth’ regulates ordinary lives in the rural areas. The individual member of Collo native respects and abides by the rule of law inherent in their traditional heritage and customs.
Hence, the role of Reth is to provide good leadership and oversee the smooth running of the traditional administration in various areas which had profound roots predated to hundreds of thousands of years in the vicinity of Malakal area.
Reth is the supreme leader who is responsible for land and arbitrates in domestic issues as well as in war and peace. He has sub-chiefs and paramount chiefs representing him at the village levels. Their functions are to collect taxes and arbitrate between disputing members of the community.
Often neighbouring communities from other tribes such as ‘Padang’ seek his audience and intervention to provide justice among its members and between them and others. Hence, Justice and fair play is the rule of the land. Not anarchy, no unscrupulous persons, but all are perfect and in absolute respect of the system.
While, Dinka ‘Jieng’ on the other hand had no recognised system or traditional authority, except for the rule of paramount chiefs with the title of ‘Bany’. He is always at the centre of authority and as the family figurehead.
The chief arbitrates in minor disputes and family issues. Feuds among family members and outsiders are always caused by raids against neighbours such as between them and Murle or Nuers in greater Jonglie. Cattle wrestling which predominates their lives is still causing lives and existing until today!
Nuer ‘Naath’ on the other side, believe in political power and individual strength. ‘Wud Bume’ or ‘Kwar’ always is the man in charge, the ‘leopard chief’. There is no clear line of leadership in Nuer land. They drive their wisdom from oral stories and myths of ‘Ngundeng’ the ancestral Nuer hero in his perception about Nuer social and political destiny.
Like Jieng, Naath has no central authority but rely on ‘organised anarchy’ as described by Evan Pritchard, the anthropologist who lived among them during those days, while studying the ‘Nuer people’ of South Sudan.
Therefore, no wonder that South Sudan is living in total chaos today because it’s controlled by these major groups. The perpetual crisis is emanated from their culture and way of life.
Thus, South Sudan is fighting with itself because of the mentality of ‘No man’s’ land’ persisting in the attitude of its leaders who derived their style of leadership from their culture and primitive way of life at home.
South Sudan is controlled by people who believe in cattle wrestling, raids and above all the principle of ‘survival of the fitters.’ A thief, for example, is not a criminal or a thug who abuses the system and steal public money is his rights. He/she is always respected and regarded as a hero in their cultures.
Absolutely, people are worried because of such a system that will never reform itself based on the given facts, which we have just mentioned above. Kiir and his groups one side, and allies on the other will never reform or acknowledge others as brothers equal in duties and responsibilities. He wouldn’t guarantee and safeguard other people’s rights and interests.
Though South Sudan had the best opportunity to ‘copy and paste’ the international best practices on how to fight corruption, build a nation and live together in diversity. Still, the issue of tribalism, theft and mismanagement will continue persisting haunting our people.
Some of these groups believe that it is their rights to take for themselves as much as they can from the oil money derived from the revenues of the generous oil wealth. Some have already renamed oil fields after their own tribes and boast as theirs.
The example is the consistent drama of money disappearing from the office of the President. Some of the suspects were arrested but released immediately. Also when South Sudan legislatures awarded themselves each with $40,000 which they said ‘nothing was wrong about that’, it was pure theft and abuse of power. All is happening, when people of South Sudan are still suffering and going without food on a daily basis.
Institutions such as anti-corruption Audit Chamber General were established to fight institutional theft and abuse of power such as what is going on in South Sudan today. Both institutions were established following the independence with the help of foreign technical assistance to fight corruption practices. But, sadly enough, they were deliberately left bereft, toothless and evaded. As a result, South Sudan was thoroughly looted.
Until today thieves evade the system and escape justice. In the office of the president and in other ministries and commissions, billions and billions of US dollars from the oil revenues were looted and not recovered and these thugs are still in control of the system until today.
Quite a number among leaders of Dinka and Nuer perceive the state as an enemy only fit to plunder and loot. Unfortunately, the majority among them don’t even differentiate between what belongs to them as people of the state as public property. It is always their right to take for themselves as much as they desire without any shame or fear of accountability.
Other tribes, which belief in good governance and the rule of law will never thrive under such a system. The current set-up of the unity government in South Sudan will exhibit this and show more of this attitude and behaviour even later after everything is settled, the status quo will remain.
South Sudan will eventually disintegrate into tiny states. Every tribe or a group will become an autonomous entity with their areas being annexed by other neighbouring states as part of their spoils if the confusion still persists.
Certain parts in Equatoria have already expressed going towards Uganda which made the Ugandan local authorities develop a sharp appetite. Uganda is already active in the border areas where the refugees are settled trying to redefine border in the midst of confusion and conflict in South Sudan.
Kenya, on the other hand, looks towards areas of Turkana and other rich spots with minerals resources in the Eastern Equatoria, Nimule and Torit. While Ethiopia has already secured ‘Gambela’ which was once part of South Sudan. Gambela is largely inhibited by Anuak and Nuer tribes of South Sudan.
Most of the Nuer people are confused whether they belong to South Sudan or Ethiopia because they could freely cross and live in Ethiopia without any hurdles or restrictions. Nuer language is one of the main ‘lingua franca’ in Ethiopia. It is being spoken all over Nuer land and across the border. It is just enough to say you are from Gambella region, then you are done. No wonder, many among Nuer feel comfortable with such a status to enable them to enjoy more rights of citizenship all around, whether in Ethiopia or South Sudan.
In conclusion, I strongly believe that this is just a tip of iceberg awaiting the people of South Sudan. I believe some of us should come to understand how it felt to be betrayed by a fellow brother whom you have trusted after years of shared suffering, misfortunes and agonies.
We reject living under another political oppression and subjugation, thus we prefer separation from South Sudan if the situation persists. We can’t live under policies of hate and subjugation which we experience now.
You can’t just turn around overnight and do the same thing that has been done unto both of you and me. You can’t replicate the same attitude by confiscating others’ properties, which do not belong to you while expecting the other to live side by side with you in harmony and peace. Absolutely, it’s unthinkable!
If political exclusion and social antagonism remain the same as it’s likely so, then some communities would just opt to fight for their own freedom and independence.
They would certainly wage another protracted struggle against fascists who are clocking in the tribal clothes. They must decide their own future and destiny.
However, how long will it take and how much will the misery and pain continue, there shall never be unity akin to the unity between the ‘horse and its rider’ again!
There shall always be fighting upon fighting until the time when all of us realise and regret our actions or better still, separate as nations instead of living in perpetual bitterness and misery caused by unfounded prejudices among the people who were supposed to build one nation.
For the sake of subsequent generations, Collo Kingdom could become a separate nation. I believe, it can happen if Collo jointly strives to work for it as one people and in one spirit!