From: Amma Emmanuel
Lol state is a disaster like the rest of the country and the president says, “It is not my fault”! Who is to blame then Mr. President? The Jieng Council of Elders (JCE)!
When Decree No. 36 of 2015— mandating the creation of 28 states in the Republic of South Sudan—was issued, the entire population of the then Raga County in Western Bahr el Ghazal, led by chiefs and intellectuals, rejected the decision to carve Raga County and merge it with North and West Aweil to form the current Lol state.
They wrote one memo after another, held rallies, and sent delegations to Wau and Juba to explain why they rejected the order. They said, as stakeholders, they were not consulted in the matter so as to express their views, nor were they aware of a study conducted prior to the order to reassure them their farms would be protected from the cattle belonging to the new settlers; their voices heard; and their democratic representation preserved from the mechanical majority decisions that the new status quo would bring.
In addition, they pointed out that this order violates Article 161 of the transitional constitution and breaches the August 2015 comprehensive peace agreement, therefore, threatening the peace in Raga and the area at large.
The people of Raga are known to be diplomatic, religious and law-abiding people; they lived peacefully with their neighbors from Aweil West and North for decades. The abduction of women and children or pillaging of villages, as regularly reported in other parts of the country, was unimaginable.
Thus, they believed that Decree No. 36 of 2015 was an attempt by enemies of peace to end this amicable relationship and set the area ablaze, as had occurred in other regions of the country.
In October 2017, President Kiir issued an order to the army to ensure withdrawal of pastoralists and their cattle from the Equatoria region and resettlement in their respective states in Jonglei and Lakes. The order cited complaints from farmers and chiefs from Equatoria that cattle were destroying their crops, their main source of livelihood.
This was not the first time that such an order was issued, nor the first time that farmers complained.
President Kiir issued a previous order to relocate the pastoralists in Western Equatoria to their respective states; however, farmers in Equatoria and Western Bah el Ghazal continued to complain about cattle destroying their crops.
The strife between farmers and cattlemen transcends contemporary times, dating back to the colonial era. It was on the basis of these differences in livelihood that British colonials delineated district and state boundaries; farmers remained in Western Bahr el Ghazal and Central and Western Equatoria, while the regions north and east of these areas—up to the border with Sudan— were designated for pastoralists.
Natural features, such as rivers, functioned as borders in some areas in Upper Nile. Over time, with the exception of minor incidents of cattle-raiding that occurred over the border, this solution brought sustainable peace between the tribes, leading successive administrations to maintain it after independence in 1956.
It is due to this history that when Decree No. 36 of 2015 was issued, the people of Raga were initially in disbelief. They thought it was an error that might soon be corrected; however, it became a nightmare when days passed and reality set in.
Why merge Dinka Malwal from Aweil— who are pastoralists— and Fertit from Raga— who are farmers— in one state at a time when President Kiir was issuing orders to pastoralists in Equatoria to move to their states in Jonglei and Lakes?
If the argument is to make public services more accessible to these rural communities, why not maintain Raga as a separate state?
Why risk people’s lives and resources on an arrangement that was deemed a failure from day one?
And why are some trying to damage the harmonious relationship between the two communities of Fertit and Dinka that existed for decades?
If it is about the unwarranted fear of unfounded old claims that the people of Raga wanted to be annexed to Darfur or that Khartoum wanted to take Raga, the Jieng (Dinka) Council of Elders (JCE) needs to understand the following:
•When Khartoum claimed Abyei as a territory of Sudan, it was not because of its people or their religious affiliation, but because of the land and its resources.
•When Khartoum fought back to regain control of Panthow, it was similarly on account of the land and gas reserves.
•When they pushed the border of Darfur and Kurdufan further south to include Kafia Kenje, Hufrat el Nahas, Rodom, Abyei and other areas in Upper Nile during the Nimeri regime— continuing to occupy them up to this moment— it was because of studies that proved these areas were rich in minerals, gas, and other valuable resources.
That being said, if Khartoum one day wants to claim Raga it will be as a result of land and resources and not because of its people or their religious affiliation. The union of Raga and North and West Aweil and the formation of Lol State should not and will not be a condition for the two communities to come together and stand up against any foreign threats.
International borders are normally protected by the national government rather than the tribes or “Mathing Anyor”. A country incapable of coming to the defense of its people and borders is useless and, likewise, a government unable to defend its citizens is no government at all.
The government in Juba, carrying a guilty conscience after not being able to fulfill its responsibilities to Abyei and its people, has resorted to these divisive, destructive, and unstudied policies.
One of the most important responsibilities of a legitimate government is to protect its citizens from any internal or external threats. The constitution places that right in the hands of the national or central government with the national army and security organs positioned as tools to enforce executive and legislative decisions.
To delegate this power to any entity other than the government is inappropriate and disgraceful. Therefore, the government’s desertion of Abyei and betrayal of its people is a show of weakness and a symbol of failure.
Furthermore, the JCE’s imposition of North and West Aweil on Raga—on the premise of a false allegation of Raga wanting to be part of Darfur—is utterly a disguise for its immoral intentions.
To the unaware or absentminded, the 2010 referendum results showed that more than 97% of the people in the then Raga province voted for secession, making Raga one of the areas with the highest volume of votes in support of separation.
Furthermore, those who were displaced and resettled at the outskirts of Khartoum for years overwhelmingly voted for separation and immediately returned to their ancestors’ land and started development. Every single village in Raga country that was deserted during the liberation war has been rebuilt and normal life resumed. That is why Raga did not experience any shortage in food or hunger all this time.
Raga learned that if they wanted to keep their land from any foreign ardent desire to snatch or annex, they had to return, rebuild, develop, and rely on themselves. To them, Decree 36 and the creation of Lol state is synonymous with Khartoum’s ambition to take their land; this time, however, concealed under the façade of federalism- what they will resist teeth and nails!
People of Raga are patriotic; they value their land and honor their martyrs. Like many other people who had untold stories of patriotism during the liberation war that Khartoum deliberately distorted and/or never documented, Raga had stories of honorable youth –accused of being fifth column in the Anyanya movement—who were dragged from their homes and shot by the army in broad daylight, their bodies left on the streets.
These are the unknown soldiers who shed their blood so that Kafia Kenje and Hufrat el Nahas could be a part of Raga and the whole South.
The people of Raga will never dishonor their martyrs nor forget the sacrifices they made on behalf of liberation. They voted overwhelmingly to fulfill their dreams and to prove to their families that the bloods of their sons, daughters, husbands, brothers and sisters were not shed in vain.
Therefore, to accuse them of wanting to get Raga annexed to Darfur is smearing their struggle for the liberation of this land; it is just another imprudent attempt by the JCE to justify their unacceptable land grabbing policies.
Angelo Marak, a former speaker of the defunct Northern Baher el Ghazal legislative assembly, told Radio Tamazuj that the “two-state solution would be better option than unattractive unity between the two communities forming Lol State.”
He attributed the reason behind his suggestion to the fact that Raga community leaders completely rejected the Lol state decree due to fear of the destruction of their farms, the grabbing of their lands, and the alteration of their culture by the Dinka and their cattle.
Two separate memos, one from the intellectuals and youth from North and West Aweil in Juba and the other from the concerned citizens of the former Aweil North and West counties in the diaspora, appealed to the president for the creation of an Aweil state separate from Raga. They cited the same reasons above, stressing that both communities would live peacefully in separate states as they had done in the past.
In his article, Why Lol State should be partitioned?”, Kuac Deng stated that the creation of Lol state has put Aweil North and West in a precarious position, with rebellions and assassination attempts by the people of Raga who rejected to be part of the new state and a government in Juba with no solutions to offer.
He talked about the dire economic situation comprised of unemployment; mass out-migration due to insecurity, and lack of social services. Accordingly, he urged people of Aweil North and West to stand up for their rights and claim a separate state, stating, “Unity is a shared responsibility and cannot be forced” and a separate state will guarantee peace and harmony with itself and neighboring states.
This is the situation in Lol: rejection of Decree No. 36, rebellion, demands for two separate states, insecurity, hunger, no salaries for more than six months, corruption, lack of essential services, mass exodus to neighboring countries and more. Unfortunately, this is the situation all over the country and not in Lol alone.
The president was honest to say, “South Sudan is a disaster” as reported by the Washington Post, but whose fault is it and who should be held accountable? If the president denies responsibility, then who is responsible? The Jieng Council of Elders!
It is unthinkable for a sitting head of state to confess to the media that his country is a disaster or to exhibit indifference towards the suffering of his people. A president who refuses to bear responsibility for the mess and damage his government has created loses legitimacy and must cede power to someone who is competent, someone with a clear vision, someone willing to hold themselves and others accountable.
South Sudan deserves to be in a better position twelve years after independence, but here we are—according to many observers—a failed state littered with widespread corruption, a deficit in public services, and an indecisive governing body, among other issues.
South Sudan has become a playground for neighboring countries whose armies freely enter the region and whose aircrafts readily violate the country’s airspace. South Sudan is on the verge of collapse!
The IGAD Revitalization Forum to resuscitate the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARSC) will be held in mid-December of this year. It is the belief of the author of this article that IGAD will never bring a total, just, and lasting peace to South Sudan if Uhuru Kenyatta and Yoweri Museveni play a role in the Forum and become signatories to any agreement reached.
Museveni, whose soldiers defended Kiir, is part of the problem and Kenya is only interested in South Sudanese dollars—not its people.
A total, just, and lasting peace will come when all 64 tribes of South Sudan stand up and say enough is enough. Mounting calls for the dissolution of the JCE could be responsible for the JCE’s recent decision to rebrand itself as “The Concerned Citizens of South Sudan” and, as reported in the Sudan Tribune, the Aweil Youth have declared, “Kiir and his administration are responsible for failing the country and dragging South Sudanese to tribalism, segregation, and nepotism”.
Each day passes, South Sudanese are realizing how Kiir and his administration have failed the country and how they should come together before it is too late. These occasions are evidence of imminent change, the presence of a blurry, yet unfading, light at the end of the tunnel.
It will not be easy to effect change; it will be rough, thorny, and bloody; however, as Nelson Mandela famously stated:
“There is no easy way to freedom anywhere and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountain tops of our desires”.
Amma Emmanuel: firstname.lastname@example.org