BY: Peter Mayom, USA, MAY/05/2014, SSN;
The incident that happened in Juba on December 15, 2013 has shaken the hopes of the South Sudanese people. A lot of commentators in South Sudan, Africa, and around the world are interpreting in different ways what took place that day. Various narratives are put forward as to why and how the fight started.
The first narrative is that there was an attempted coup by Riek Machar to overthrow a democratically elected government, whereas the second narrative, which Riek Machar supports, is that there was a misunderstanding among the Nuer and Dinka presidential guards.
As people slice and dice that event to fit their own interests, it is the people of South Sudan who bear the brunt of the war Riek Machar is fighting now.
I am with the group that says it was a failed coup attempt. But who planned the coup? In my humble opinion, it was a coup spearheaded by Machar with the knowledge of Alfred Lado Gore and Machar’s longtime sidekick Taban Deng Gai.
He has every right not to acknowledge it as a coup because it has failed. However, he is not entitled to his own facts. If the coup would have succeeded, Riek Machar would have declared himself the president of the Republic of South Sudan that day.
With the aspirations and lives of many South Sudanese hanging in the balance, there are a few people or groups to point the finger at. The prime culprit in all the problems affecting South Sudanese now is Riek Machar. To know whether he is the one behind the fight that started on December 15, 2013, we have to look at how he operates.
For those that are not old enough to remember what Machar said was the reason he rebelled against the SPLM/SPLA in 1991, it was that Dr. John Garang was a dictator. That Garang was “running the movement, SPLM/SPLA, as his personal property”.
According to Machar, there were no structures of democracy within the movement. Therefore, he decided to form a rival movement. Instead of forming his movement and fighting the common enemy, the Khartoum government, he started fighting the SPLM/SPLA.
If what Riek Machar says about the government of President Salva Kiir does not have a familiar ring to what he said in 1991 about the SPLM/SPLA that was headed by late Dr. John Garang, then we as people of South Sudan have to have our heads examined.
How come that a single man, in two centuries, is always outraged at someone above him lack of democratic tendencies to the point of making people of South Sudan kill themselves.
Is it a mere chance that people of South Sudan are dying with Riek Machar claiming that there is no democratic practices in South Sudan?
As I said before, we have to look at a person’s past history to know his future mode of operation. Riek Machar has twice carried out a war against the people of South Sudan for what he alleged as lack of democratic practices.
To me, it is either he devoted most of his time to studying his engineering degree and never took a single government class to learn what democracy means or he is hiding his true intentions behind this cliche term called democracy.
For the last eight years, Riek Machar has been acting as if he is the lone voice in South Sudan that wants freedom of expression, good governance, equitable distribution of resources, development, corruption-free country and, his favorite lexicon, democracy.
When it comes to all the preceding words, Riek Machar is the wrong moral compass in South Sudan. He is a pseudo-democrat, a fraud, an opportunist, a mass murderer and a hypocrite.
When he broke away from the SPLM/SPLA and formed his utopian movement, he did what any one longing for democracy would not do.
He mobilized and sent his tribesmen, the Nuers, to the birth place of the SPLM/SPLA leader Dr. John Garang. What ensued was the mass killing of the Dinka Bor. The Nuers he rallied in the name of democracy were not democratic in any way shape or form.
They killed and maimed thousands of the Dinka Bor for no reason other than the fact that they were Dinkas and the leader of the SPLM/SPLA was a Dinka Bor. Those who survived the 1991 Bor Massacre died of hunger after their means of survival, cattle, were driven to Nuerland.
Riek Machar’s soldiers and militias who massacred the people of Bor were not just bunch of criminals that did not follow the orders and ran amok. They were instructed to kill Garang’s people and bring him to his knees.
He even said in one interview that Garang’s army was cleared and nowhere to be found. He meant that he cleared Garang’s homeland of all its inhabitants or civilians.
When asked by some journalists about human rights violations that took place in Bor, he said it was a propaganda campaign to tarnish his image or SPLM-Nasir. Why would he deny something like that if he did not approve of what his tribesmen did?
The Nuers were told to go and kill the people whose son was leading the movement. By doing so, he would weaken the SPLA. And he succeeded in doing exactly that. The Khartoum’s government took advantage of the situation and made major assaults on SPLA liberated towns.
In addition, SPLA soldiers and commanders who were around Juba whose relatives were killed by Machar’s army were demoralized and did not want to fight in Juba while their loved ones were being killed back home.
In addition to the killing which took place in Bor, Riek Machar killed most of the Dinkas who were under his command after he rebelled against the SPLM/SPLA. However, under late Dr. John Garang whose lack of democratic practices Machar decried, we have James Hoth Mai, the current general chief of staff of the SPLA, as a testament to the fact that Garang was a better democrat than Machar was.
Besides, Hundreds of Nuer’s Red Army, many of whom are in the United States today, were not killed although innocent civilians were being murdered in Bor.
In 1994, Riek revealed that he was not after all for democracy. He dismissed Dr. Lam Akol, who was his deputy, in February 1994 from SPLM-United because they had disagreements. Arok Thon Arok resigned because of what he called Riek’s “dictatorial tendencies”.
In the same year, even his fellow Nuers saw his dictatorial inclinations, John Luk, who was SPLM-United spokesman, was arrested and accused of siding with Lam Akol. Gordon Kong was also detained on the orders from Riek. As shown by the above mentioned practices, Riek Machar did not tolerate dissent. And I am afraid he has not changed.
What Riek Machar is doing right now in South Sudan is a mirror image of 1990s situation. In the 1990s, the government of Sudan was confined to three towns, Juba, Wau, and Malakal, in South Sudan and the SPLA was taking the fight to North Sudan. But his rebellion stymied the siege on Juba and the Khartoum scored several victories afterward.
As ordinary people were going about their business of raising and providing for their families, Riek Machar has once again killed and maimed thousands of Dinka Bor and disrupted development in South Sudan in the name of lack of democracy; although this time it is unclear why he killed the people of Bor when they do not have the leadership.
Killings of Nuer civilians in Juba did not warrant killings of civilians in Bor or other areas, because two wrongs do not make it right.
Riek Machar says that the war taking place in South Sudan was forced on him by President Salva Kiir. If President Kiir was the one who laid eggs, i.e. started the war, as Machar alleges, why is he hatching Kiir’s eggs?
We will be naïve to believe that Machar does not want to be president by hook or by crook. There are people out there who blame Kiir for bringing up in his speech during a conference what Riek Machar did in 1991.
That what happened in 1991 would not happen again in his watch or that he has never betrayed his people since he took up arm during Anya-Nya I.
Well, Kiir had every right to remind people of what Riek did because one’s failures and successes defines your true leadership.
Kiir stood with John Garang through thick and thin. Therefore, he had the right to tout his loyalty to the people of South Sudan. Riek Machar should have known that democracy is a double-edged sword. That feelings and prides are bruised when democracy is at play. However, people do not resort to violence.
In a democratic society, individuals can express themselves freely. Is it not what he says he wants to champion?
About corruption, Riek Machar all of a sudden found out that President Salva Kiir’s government was corrupt after losing his post as vice president. The guy was vice president for eight years. So, he was what stunk with the government of South Sudan because he was the government.
Before South Sudan became independent, Riek Machar’s wife, Angelina, was minister of Energy and Mining in the Government of National Unity.
What were the chances that Angelina Teny would have been the minister of Energy and Mining in the GoNU if she were not married to Riek Machar? There are a lot of educated women in South Sudan who could have been given that position.
Since Riek Machar does not settle for less, he most likely lobbied for his wife’s appointment to the position. If what I just mentioned was not a corruption, then there is nothing called corruption.
Moreover, Machar was among the 75 leaders, whose names were circulated in 2012, who were accused of corruption. To show himself that he was not a corrupt individual, he went ahead with his phony transparency campaign by declaring his total assets.
What assets did Machar have before Comprehensive Peace Agreement? What a con-artist!
Machar accuses Kiir of tribalism while almost if not all of his staff was Nuers.
He is a tribalist because every time he visited the United of States of America while he was the vice president of the Republic of South Sudan, he would go to Nuers’ saturated cities or states such as Omaha, Nebraska and Minnesota.
What is not tribal about a man who exploits his tribal affiliations to create problems among our people? He did it in 1991 and again in 2013.
If he were not a tribalist, why is so-called SPLM-in-Opposition predominantly Nuer? As former president Bill Clinton once said, “It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did”.
Machar can talk all he wants about fighting for democracy and getting rid of corruption etc, but we all know it is just baloney.
Apology given and apology accepted! There have been a lot of hearsay that Riek Machar has given an apology to the Dinka Bor. I was not there when he gave his “apology” at late John Garang’s house in Juba.
Even though I was not there when he gave his apology, I would have taken it as an apology given to me in person if it were a sincere one. All it took for the people of Bor to accept his apology at face value was alleged shedding of tears. I believe they were crocodile tears.
When he first went to Bor with John Garang after rejoining the movement, Riek Machar did not apologize. The reason why Dr. Garang took him to Bor with him was to see if he would apologize to the people of Bor. Why didn’t he do it then?
Why did it take that long for Riek Machar to offer his apology? Why didn’t Riek Machar go to the land of the Dinka Bor to give his apology? I do not think those who were residing in Juba were the ones who deserve his apology.
He is a calculating man who without a doubt preempted the people of Bor from asking him anything about the 1991 Bor Massacre. He also knew that those in Juba were influential and could be his disciples.
Also, there were other individuals, with their own interests, in the community who persuaded him to give an apology; so when they are questioned as to why they are supporting him, they would say he has apologized and we have forgiven him.
For that matter, the people of Bor who have been victims of this man’s quest for power twice carry some blame in this second one. I am not for blaming the victim strategy.
However, before Riek Machar did his second Bor massacre, there were some people going around in the Bor community saying that Riek Machar deserves to be president of South Sudan.
These individuals believed then, I do not know now, that Riek Machar would reward the people of Bor because of what he did in 1991. They wish they would rather have him as president than Salva Kiir. That is a self-defeating idea.
Salva Kiir never marched an army to kill people, destroy properties, and or take resources in Bor. But Machar did it. He brought great humiliation to the people of Bor. He has altered their history.
A lot of people from Bor got mistreated in various parts of South Sudan even though they were leading the SPLM/SPLA.
One time inside South Sudan, a man asked me where I was from and I said I was from Bor. He looked at me with disdain and said, “you people from Bor are cowards”. Why did you let Nuers overrun your homeland?
I cursed him out and got into a physical fight with the guy. If it were not because of what Riek Machar did in 1991, that man would not have said something like that.
If the people of Bor were cowards, the SPLM/SPLA would have banished from its inception. Most of the soldiers in Koryom were predominantly Dinka Bor. Those men destroyed Khartoum’s government ten-thousand strong men who were dispatched to dislodge the SPLM/SPLA from the whole Upper Nile region in the mid 1980s.
That action still did not convince others from calling them cowards. However, there were voices in South Sudan or in the Movement who knew their contribution and that people of Bor were not cowards.
One of those voices was Korubino Kuanyin Bol. In 1998 after he returned from Khartoum to the SPLM/SPLA, he held a rally, which I attended, in New Cush in present day Eastern Equatoria State, there he told the rally that after he returned from Khartoum, people came to him and told him that people from Bor were cowards and have left the war and were doing business.
He said “the people from Bor and I were the first to sip the hot water”. Of course that is a verbatim translation from Dinka language. He implied that he and the Dinka Bor were the first to experience the wrath of the government in Khartoum.
Korubino Kuanyin Bol was not a stupid man to start a war in a place that he knew he was not going to be protected.
There is no reason why the people of Bor community would support a person who has distorted their history and who was not sincere in his apology to them.
How do I know his apology was not sincere?
According to Beverly Engel, an author of The Power of Apology and a psychotherapist, a meaningful apology should entail regret, responsibility, and remedy. Anything short of those three is not a sincere apology.
Riek probably regretted what happened in Bor in 1991. But does he take responsibility for what had happened? If he takes responsibility, why did he repeat the same mistake again in 2013?
Any remorseful individual cannot repeat the same mistake unless he is deranged and psychotic and, therefore, does not have control over his thoughts and actions.
Also, I did not see any remedy when he was vice president for eight years other than helping one or two individuals who might have buried the hatchets and went to his office in Juba.
Again, how do I also know his apology was not sincere?
Behind closed doors amongst the Nuers, when asked whether he has apologized to the people of Bor, he says the Dinkas have not brought back the Nuers they killed during the civil war. Therefore, they do not deserve his apology.
People within Bor community who supported Riek’s candidacy for SPLM chairmanship and, eventually, president of South Sudan had based their hope on false premise.
It is a premise that says, since Riek had our people killed and properties looted in 1991, he is going to favor or reward us in his administration. That premise was disproved in December 2013.
What is most disturbing is the thought of leaving ourselves at the mercy of a man who has eliminated some lineages in the Bor community. My grandmother, aunt, sister, cousin, and many of my clan members who lost their lives in the hands of Riek Machar would be turning in their graves, if I stand with this man!
President Salva Kiir has to be blamed also for what is taking place in South Sudan. Nevertheless, he is a good man whose good heart and calm demeanor has been taken for weakness.
During the war of liberation, Kiir neither had any major wrangle with people who were his seniors nor people who were his juniors, even though it was a commonplace within the SPLM/SPLA rank-and-file.
Why do I blame President Kiir?
First, he sidelined comrades in arms who were with him during more than two decades of Sudan’s civil war. Instead, he brought closer to him those who hijacked the SPLM. These individuals want to rewrite the SPLM/SPLA history by making us think that South Sudan’s independence was achieved through the ballot box alone.
Omar Bashir would have not come to the negotiating table if it was not because of the SPLM/SPLA. However, we cannot minimize the contribution of anyone in South Sudan who either voted or fought. Credit should be given where credit is due.
Kiir has also ignored the contributions of friends of South Sudan, for example America, which pushed for peace in Sudan. Not only has he failed to recognize their contributions, he has turned a little against the West.
He even thinks that any South Sudanese coming from the West and holding Western countries passport has malicious intentions. Majority of the people in America, Europe and, or Australia participated in the war.
Some still carry lead in their bodies right now. Others spent time demonstrating and lobbying Bush’s administration to make bringing peace to Sudan a priority. All the things I have mentioned above are what Riek Machar exploited. He probably tells the Americans he would have them drill oil if he becomes president of South Sudan or that he would build a close relationship with the United States.
About those who planned the coup, I do not think the SPLM leaders, such as Pagan Amum, Majak Agoot, Gier Chuang, Oyai Deng, Chol Tong mayay, Deng Alor, and Madut Biar, who held conference with Riek Machar in December 2013, would plot coup against the president.
The ones who knew about the plan were those who ran away. These individuals who did not run away from Juba definitely had some disagreements with the president. And Riek as an opportunist, tapped into the disagreements the president had with these leaders and anxiety among South Sudanese over lack of tangible peace dividends.
It’s also the president’s faults that some security personnel killed those who criticize the government. Even if what they do is not authorized by the president, it reflects badly on him. President Kiir has to know that these individuals are shredding his legacy in a broad daylight.
Last but least, the president has listened to some people around him who would want to settle some political scores. Those are people who fed him false information that Bor community was trying to take leadership away from him.
Those are voices that stooped so low to the point of getting angered by Songs Bor Women sing. He succumbed to those voices and retired a lot of generals from Bor and took away key governmental positions from its community.
When disarmament started in Jonglei in 2012, it was started in Bor. We know too well that Bor community was the one being attacked by the Murle. After mass disarmament of Bor civilians, the community was left vulnerable.
And it was the reason why there was no much resistance when Peter Gatdet overran Bortown.
By not paying attention to what Riek Machar was doing with his affiliated militias that joined the SPLA and being preoccupied with wrong people trying to take his leadership, President Kiir has contributed to what is taking place now in the country.
Militias were given high positions at the expense of those who fought against Khartoum’s regime. And we saw in Bortown the result of trusting the militias with civilians’ lives.
Blaming the West for ills in Africa is a norm in Africa. However, not all ills come from the West.
For eight years Riek Machar was vice president, he had a lot of visits and talks with Western diplomats about democracy, good governance, fighting corruption, and development in South Sudan. He presented himself as the adult in South Sudan’s political arena and as the one who wanted to heal the country.
I would not be surprised if the West is rooting for him to be the president of South Sudan. But why would the West, not every Western country of course, be excited about the guy? It is because he speaks the language; democracy.
But is he a democrat or a wolf in sheep’s clothing? The latter is true. Late Dr. John Garang once said, “Democracy has been beaten up nowadays even a devil can come and say he is a democrat and people will listen to him”.
In my opinion, President Kiir always seems to be aloof when it comes to interacting with the West but Machar enjoys it. Another reason why the West would be rooting for Machar.
He is a western-educated man and, therefore, considered docile relative to Kiir who spent most of his life in the military and did not receive any western education.
Machar is also a charming guy who once charmed a UN aid worker into his arms. But with the charm and smile, is the West gullible to sacrifice the lives of South Sudanese for blind optimism that this guy is going to be more democratic than Kiir?
Now, how do we get out of this quagmire? To prevent another problem such as this from happening in the future, which I believe could be started again in the future by Nuers, Nuers have to get it out of their heads the illusion of bravery.
Every tribe in South Sudan is brave and cannot be forced into submission. They also have to know that Dinka and Nuer never fought a full-scale war in which the Nuer defeated the Dinka.
Although we know Khartoum fought a proxy war in the 1990s against the Dinka using Nuer, Nuer did not defeat the Dinka. I believe this is not the era to test this stupid illusion of bravery.
As a country there shouldn’t be a pecking order in a democracy. That is to say bigger tribes rule and smaller tribes follow. It is along this line of thinking why Riek Machar believes he deserves to be president.
That Nuer is the second largest tribe after Dinka. Therefore, it is their turn. During the war, individuals from certain tribes or geographical locations were accorded some privileges and meteorically rose in rank because of recruitment purposes.
With South Sudan now a country, we have to relinquish expecting reverence based on tribal size.
There has to be immediate cessation of hostility and subsequent signing of permanent peace agreement. To bring back peace to South Sudan, several things have to be stipulated in the peace negotiations.
First, President Kiir and Riek Machar have to be excluded from any subsequent governments in South Sudan; I know it is a bitter pill to swallow. But they have both contributed to bloodshed in the country.
Though he did not ok what took place in Juba, Nuers civilians got killed in Juba with Kiir as president. As former US president, Harry Truman, used to say “the buck stops here”, President Kiir, therefore, can be blamed for the loss of innocent lives in Juba.
Machar’s followers murdered non-Nuer civilians in Bor, Malakal, and other Nuer’s territories. Therefore, none of them should be let off the rook.
Second, SPLM-In-Opposition has to declare whether it would be a party, and if so it can choose who its candidate for president would be in 2015. If it, SPLM-In-Opposition, does not want to be a separate party from the SPLM, reintegration of those who defected from the SPLM party should take place. From there the SPLM convention can be held and a chairman can be nominated to run for president.
Third, President Kiir should be allowed to finish his term with the assurance that he is no longer going to contest the presidency.
Fourth, individuals on both sides of the war, Government and Rebels/SPLM-In-Opposition, who participated in or ordered the killings of civilians should be prosecuted to set a precedent.
To do that a Special Tribunal comprising of South Sudanese should be formed. Should impartiality of the Special Tribunal be compromised, then this Special Tribunal can be made of competent individuals from the IGAD’s countries.
Fifth and the last, peace and reconciliation among the aggrieved communities and in the country as a whole should take place.
In conclusion, for South Sudan to survive as a country, South Sudanese have to let go tribal allegiances and work for the common good of the country. And to prove wrong those who declared South Sudan in its infancy as another Somalia in the making, South Sudan must not allow such an incident to happen again. END