By Justin Tombe Demetry, MAR/3/2016, SSN,
QUOTE: “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” Frederick Douglass;
Issues of land disputes in the past were mostly resolved at the communal level when our wise elders and community chiefs were able to contain such unnecessary problem from escalating further. Those community leaders exercised their wisdom amongst the communities in conflict without the need of any major government involvement. Such practices of land grabbing at a massive scale were not even heard of during the regional government simply because everyone knew where they are from and which land belonged to them.
It is pertinent to state that, from 2005 until date, land grabbing became prevalent in South Sudan especially in greater Equatoria where marauding armed cattle keepers, land grabbers in uniform and some members of the country’s top echelon continue to grab land with impunity. These practices have also encouraged the rest of their community members to abandon their ancestral land in pursuit of the illegal land scheme. With such barbaric and medieval practices; others still wonder why the clamor for federalism never fades away.
If such outrageous practices are not a form of hidden planned occupation, domination or subjugation of other tribes, why would the government allow other people to continue with this heinous practice from 2005 until date? Which schools of thought even instill such a dirty practice in our society? Will it even succeed or be sustained for long? These questions should help those grabbers understand or exercise reasoning in what they are up to if perception have any meaning.
Frederick Douglass, an African-American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer and statesman once said: “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
This incredibly relevant quote should be a reminder that, even if the issues of Bari land have been resolved because of its presence in the national capital; there are others out there in the three former regions that still deserve justice for their ancestral land; else, there will be no peace and stability for the Southern Sudanese to dream of.
The protest made by Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirilo Swaka should not be taken lightly or be seen as a protest for his community land alone. As a matter of fact, land were grabbed in the whole of geographical Central, Eastern and Western Equatoria combined. In addition, Greater Bahr-El-Ghazal especially the Fertit tribe; not forgetting the ‘awulad Nyikang’ in the Greater Upper Nile, and others have very serious issues of institutionalized land grabbing which also led to some previous rebellions by the Shilluk tribe, and probably others in the pipeline due to noting else but land as the main cause.
UNESESSARY CHARACTER ASSASSINATION OF LT. GEN. THOMAS CIRILO
Several news paper reports in Juba which lacks authenticity; as well as some gimmick press release in the internet world have given rise to some charlatans in their unjustifiable attempt to damage the reputation of Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirilo Swaka. According to the Down – daily Newspaper in Juba, vol. 1, issue 046, date March 29, 2016; an article written by Joseph Oduha under the following title never ceased to amazed readers and the victimized community: “I will fight along Bari Community against land grabbers – Cirilo.”
The article have stated that the top army commander, Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirilo has insisted to stay in his home village in Gwuduge arguing that, he was under directives from his community to confront land grabbers who have threatened indigenous people in the area. Pathetic indeed!
The article as if being driven by magic, also made an inexplicable switch to the recent reshuffle in the army command. Even thought the article rightfully stated that Gen. Thomas Cirilo was removed from being the army Deputy Chief of General Staff for Training, and reassigned as the head of the Directorate of Logistics in the SPLA; the article on the other hand falsely reported that, days after the reshuffle of the military high command, Gen. Thomas Cirilo had not shown up to take the new responsibility.
It also reported that, Gen. Cirilo’s absenteeism from work prompted President Kiir, V.P. Wani Igga, Gen. Paul Malong and the National Security Minister, Gen. Obutu Mamur to pay a surprise visit to Gen. Cirilo in his village of Gwuduge so as to convince him to report to work. The report went further and stated that, military sources said Gen. Cirilo insisted that, he will come to Juba
after he has silenced the land grabbers.
Contrary to this particular information on the Dawn daily newspaper, highly confirmed reports from credible sources in Juba have ruled that, this particular news as well as others in the social media are counterfactual, and are also design as an attempt to cover up or divert the focus of the land still under siege by some members of Dinka Bor and Padang.
Therefore, I do not want to refer to the associated news in both the internet as well as the Dawn newspaper as rubbish; however, those reporting need to get the facts from credible sources so as to provide authentic information to the public.
As a matter of fact, Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirilo is the second in command of the SPLA who still executes his national duty, and at the same time following up with his complain because the issues have not been fully settled yet. That is why he decided to get the security along Juba-Rajaf road beefed up with regular access – unlike the reports that claimed Juba-Rajaf road was blocked.
That being said, one is left to ask the following question: From when did an individual or any community become involved in the SPLA Command’s reassignments, or the attendance of SPLA generals in executing their national duties?
Other news outlets have also given an interesting title to Gen. Thomas Cirilo as the “Bari army commander.” Such a fallacy is devoid of logic and it is clear that, this is another attempt to provoke or aggravate the community, and at the same time implicate them unnecessarily to give a leeway for the land grabbing scheme to continue. Being in the army doesn’t mean that one cannot complain about injustice, or protect the land and its people in anyway deemed necessary.
The constitution of South Sudan clearly states that, the mission of the national armed forces, in addition to its other national duties, shall be to: “protect the people of South Sudan;” and also “be involved in addressing any emergencies, participate in reconstruction activities, and assist in disaster management and relief in accordance with the constitution and the law.” In essence, what have been addressed is an emergency; and it is for the protection of land and its people.
God forbid, if nation-wide disorder or Somalization takes its turn, there is no single community that will end up putting their lives in the line of an onslaught, be victimized, or preyed upon without fierce defense. Remember! The protection of oneself or any community per se is God’s given rights bestowed to any living thing.
SUSPECTS ARRESTED IN NESITU FOR KIDNAPPING STUDENTS
A different article also published in the same news paper under the above title. The article is regarding the case of five school students kidnapped in the same area under siege. The kidnapping of those students have led to the arrest of some Bari Community members around the church area including a catholic priest. Those arrested were later released after the investigations conducted found out that, they have nothing to do with the kidnapping or cover-ups.
Without knowing the history of kidnapping in the area, others were quick to associate the incident of the five students not only to the innocent Bari who are struggling to get their ancestral land back, but also baselessly associated such an ill-practice to the group referred to as “the Bari militia.”
For those who are not familiar with the incidence of kidnapping and the distractions of the traditional social settings in the area due to terror inflicted on the community; the Bari from the whole area of Tokiman, Koliye, Logo, Kondokoro, Bilinyang, Mogiri, et cetera have suffered under the hands of kidnappers and thugs during the war and the post-war era. That is why some of the community members during the war decided to get relocated to their traditional sanctuary places, the church area in Rajaf, the camps in Gumbo; as well as some established camps in and around Juba.
The victimized communities have not stayed where they were or where they are currently based because of their choices, but because of the suffering, loss of lives and kidnapping subjected on them. Abductors who occasionally come there especially from the Murle tribe have abducted students, and children from the area. Even the breast-feeding kids were not spared; and some including my blood relatives were abducted in 2013, and were not seen by their parents till date.
The behaviors of kidnapping or abduction are something that the Bari does not practice. Needless to say, just like the rest of the other communities, we are likewise blessed with our beautiful fertile women who are able to produce adorable kids to the community. On the other hand, the Bari have handful of immediate/extended family members and orphans from relatives and community members who have died of natural causes; as well as the children of heroes and heroines who are in need of support from the limited resources available.
That does not mean that the Bari cannot voluntary raise kids from other communities. Children in need of support from other communities were successfully raised in a lot of Bari homes, and there are a lot out there who became very successful citizens – appreciative of the support they obtained. With that being said, there is no justification whatsoever to associate the community
with kidnapping or abductions. Apart from the justification provided, as law abiding citizens, the community knows very well that, kidnapping or abduction is a serious crime punishable under the law.
On the other end of the spectrum, thugs and criminals have also disturbed the community in the area by shooting and killing pedestrians along Juba-Rajaf road; which also includes victims such as motor cycle riders so as to confiscate their motor-bikes. Some of the thugs and criminals were known to have been among the squatters who took over Rajaf-Nimule junction before it was demolished. With all those criminal activities, others still wonder why the Bari Community vehemently rejects any form of illegal settlement.
Those types of criminal activities have prompted the community to petition the Juba City Council in 2013 so that the police station can be built to help protect the community. Despite the fact that the community had raised funds and the City Council had agreed to assist in building a police post; as well as provide a police patrol, the initiative failed to materialize.
Since hope springs eternal, another chance is to similarly petition the governor of Jubek State and his lordship, the mayor, to see into it that the project is executed so that the community can be protected if there will be law and order in place. Without such a service, the community has every right to protect itself from thugs, criminals or adversaries.
LAND IN TOKIMAN EAST INCLUDING NESITU STILL UNDER SIEGE
With the details of the Gwuduge land issues surfacing out there with evidence of land grabbing where some sections of the two communities of Dinka Bor and Padang caught red-handed; they are now known beyond reasonable doubt that their settlement were not for humanitarian purposes, but for illegal land scheme. Therefore the victimized Bari community is left with nothing but to continue being vigilant until the land grabbers are fully evicted. The information in the following links outlines the genesis of this very land scheme and the rebuttal provided:
Those details seems to have assured the victims of the land grabbing as well as the concerns citizens that, the land grabbers would surrender the land taken after the arrest of their ‘ring leaders’ for not having even an iota of justification or approval for temporary settlement in the area.
Nonetheless, fresh news from the ground still indicates that, not all the land grabbers were evicted from the entire Tokiman East villages including Nesitu. The reason that the process came to a standstill is simply because some of the junior officers from the Tiger Battalion ordered to led the forces to help with the eviction of land grabbers were in fact among those who have also grabbed land in the area, and are in the process of erecting concrete structures. That is why they became reluctant to pursue the demolition; as such, a joint neutral force is expected to supervise the demolition.
The Bari is not only known as a very peaceful community; but is also known as a community that can never resort to violence unless seriously provoked. Since the issue of land grabbing in question have already been brought to the attention of President Salva Kiir Myardit and the SPLA Chief of Staff, Gen. Paul Malong Awan, there is a say in our own Bari language that, ‘kulya aje ‘durokin ko kwen I lobeke;’ which is translated as the case have reached the bird’s beak – which means, the case have reached the highest authority.
Therefore, the authority should use its ultimate wisdom to expedite the very issue of this land grabbing at the backyard of its national capital; and subsequently, address the land being grabbed from other communities in the entire country in an amicable approach. This needs to come along with strict state policy of punishment for offenders before the country ends up in the brinks of
being torn apart divisively due to land grabbing.
Justin Tombe Demetry
Justin Demetry is one of the sons of Gwuduge Village; have worked for several years in the oil and gas industry in Canada, but currently pursuing graduate studies in Mechanical Engineering, and can be reached at the following email: firstname.lastname@example.org