BY: Mayak Deng Aruei, Doctoral student, USA, MAY/03/2015, SSN;
The Chollo/Shilluks who are going through many horrors of our time must know that their own sons have opened a death corridor, and which passes through their homeland. There can be no meaningful peace in the Kingdom of Shilluk if their sons don’t stop being too ambitious to lead, too vocal in South Sudan’s affairs and too easy to catch political fires. The fact that certain people want to lead, be seen as leaders and want to make profound impacts on political grounds, their people will be forced to take part in the madness fueled by tribal sentiments.
So long as Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin, Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba, Gen. Pagan Amum Okeich, Gen. Oyai Deng Ajak and Gen. Johnson Olony/Oliny or whatever the correct spelling is, and if they continue to aim high for military and political influences, Shilluk Kingdom would not be peaceful.
For unknown reasons, people are mixing national affairs with local’s land disputes. That is not only in Shilluk Kingdom, but across South Sudan where people are so confused, and cannot differentiate between national issues and local issues. Please go down the river of life and follow the trail.
First, let’s look at what the Shilluk Kingdom really means to South Sudan as a sovereign State. We know for a fact that Chollo/Shilluks have been ruled by Kings for centuries, and they are still under Monarch with some influential Chiefs leading the way in the affairs of their Society and the Nation as a whole.
Are we supposed to be discussing tribes when talking about crises in the Republic of South Sudan? Hell yeah, why not? The raging fire in South Sudan was fueled by tribal hatreds, and Shilluks have their part in the crisis. For that reason, reaching to the bottom of our problems is the way to prepare for better future, absence the tribal mindsets.
There is something very unique about the Shilluks, they have been very active in Sudan’s politics, played crucial roles in the liberation struggles, took part in the split of the SPLM/SPLA in 1991, famously engaged the Government of Southern Sudan on many avenues, and continued to do so after the independence of South Sudan. But why are Shilluks seen everywhere while their numbers are very few?
For God knows, Shilluks are too ambitious to lead and fragmented to hang on to their cause. Well, that is a too simplistic way to describe a tribe.
As a matter of fact, Shilluks are not alone in that quest, some small sub-tribes of Jieeng/Dinka (Chiefdoms), well known for shaping young boys into effective leaders have built enemies over time, out of nowhere, and have had their villages overrun several times, and by those who charge them with being too eager to lead, along with coined/made up terms, “born to rule.”
Without exaggerating what this community (Shilluk) really means to South Sudanese, we must give credits to those who have sacrificed their energies and times for the good cause of South Sudanese. For one thing, politics is not for everyone, but those who aspires to be politicians know or should know the risks associated with leading in a multiethnic nation like the Republic of South Sudan.
In the fresh politics of South Sudan, some of Shilluks, politicians and army officers are household names, for good or bad. We know that people like Gen. Oyai Deng Ajak, a courageous SPLA commander, the first Army Chief of SPLA General Staff in the Autonomous Government of Southern Sudan, former minister for Regional Cooperation, and lastly served as minister for Security in the Office of the President was a well respected Officer during the liberation struggle.
Along the same line, Gen. Pagan Amum Okeich was one of the high ranking members of the SPLM/SPLA (after the SPLM/SPLA-High Command became defunct), one of the key players in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), SPLM Secretary General between 2005-2013, and who campaigned pretty hard for the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
And of course, we know the two vocal doctors: Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin and Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba. As many people may remember, Dr. Lam Akol was alleged to have been the main Architect of the 1991 SPLM/SPLA’s split, a political Monster in both the Sudanese and South Sudanese politics, an academician whose education never become obsolete and the most feared opposition leader by the South Sudanese Government in Juba.
For the record, Dr. Lam Akol has written about the tragic event of 1991, presented a very detailed account of the event, and those who read for future generations can infer that he has admitted his roles, and blamed some acute fouls (killing of Dinka’s officers) on his boss, Dr. Riek Machar.
Before heading to the warlords, Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba is another controversial political figure who switches sides whenever his political views are threatened, and never keeps quiet regardless of mounting pressures on his life. Let’s also give him credit for he sacrificed his leg for the good cause of South Sudanese.
Down the line, we know those of Colonel Robert Gwang (may be a General now in the Government of take-whatever-you-like/want), the then leader of the SSDM/A-Upper Nile Faction. In that same death squad, the now Gen. Johnson Olony was one of Robert Gwang’s deputies. The two warlords had a heated showdown before Robert Gwang signed his own peace deal with the Government of South Sudan, leaving Johnson Olony to sacrifice few brainless boys for his own political good.
These dudes, Gwang and Olony are criminals, they ought to be charged, tried for using children to fight senseless wars, abusing their youthful time and diminishing their opportunities to succeed in life.
The warlords (Robert Gwang and Johnson Olony), with the help of the Sudanese Government in Khartoum engaged the Autonomous Government of Southern Sudan before the historic Referendum. If there is any particular tribe that South Sudanese should fear, then it is not the Jieeng/Dinka or Nuer/Naath, but the Shilluks in the Shilluk Kingdom.
Given their acquaintance with Arab civilization, the Shilluks are relentless, and they forge political Alliances in any community. Let’s analyze the grand picture, especially their quest for power and recognition in all walks of life.
Let’s take a deep breath, and focus on political venom that they inject in any political wrangling. Well, that is not all fatal, and can be utilized for the good of South Sudan. It is of a prime importance that we (South Sudanese) reexamine who we are, and move forward with a full understanding of ourselves.
While they have been known as trouble makers, we should consider that particular community as a model for coexistence. Over the years, Shilluks have been very influential in all corners of politics in the Sudan and South Sudan, and if they have managed to play such roles, overcame being too few, in the middle of populous tribes (Dinka & Nuer), then who cannot wow his/her supposedly hardcore political rivals?
Not yet finished with the narrative story of the century. The Shilluks are well known for befriending all kinds of people, and they entertains political marriages throughout South Sudan. Take for instances the many Shilluk Kingdom’s daughters that are married, have established their families in Dinka’s prominent families: Paramount Chief Deng Malual Aleer of Nyarweng and other families across South Sudan.
As recent as the 1980s, Cdr. Nyachigak Nyachiluk, one of the first SPLM/SPLA fearless field commanders, and a prominent Murle, got married to a daughter of the Shilluk’s Paramount Chief, Amum Okeich, sister to Pagan Amum and he has been all at odd with the Government of South Sudan.
And the other being the then Cdr. Oyai Deng Ajak, who got married to a Dinka girl (name withheld for the obvious reasons), a marriage suspected by many to have earned him the greatest trust among Jieeng. All of these events make Shilluks rather very unique people one can work with, and people who have crossed tribal boundaries.
While Shilluks are easy going, they are also very sticky, and cling to their ambitions at the expense of their kinfolks.
Despite all the shortcomings, Shilluks Kingdom is very crucial and a place where people should look for coexistence rather than killing their ambitious effort to lead others.
If Dr. Lam Akol fearlessly contested against President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar, the Tribalists of our time, lost the election and still kept his ambition high enough, and engaged the Government of South Sudan and lived through State directed wraths, what else is the effective leadership?
If the then Cdr. Oyai Deng Ajak successfully led predominantly Dinka soldiers, and succeeded in getting the Movement to where it should have been, what else is the effective leadership?
If Pagan Amum has won the hearts of Dinkas & Nuers, pushed the Sudanese Government in Khartoum to sign the Referendum bill, what else is the effective leadership?
If col. Johnson Olony fought a meaningless war against the Government of South Sudan, signed the peace with the Government and was trusted again to deputize Gen. Johnson Gony Biliu, what else is the effective leadership?
Just a side note: not everyone who is too ambitious become a leader? Greed and dishonesty brings people down. Oops, I don’t know about the 75 blacklisted corrupt officials in the Government of South Sudan? The President of the Republic reserved the right to retract the charge he made, withdrew the case and we don’t know what happened since then?
With all the back and forth gear shifting, there is a huge price attached to being too ambitious. We know for a coin that Government of South Sudan tried several times to connect Dr. Lam Akol with armed militias in Shilluk Kingdom, charges he denied categorically, and was exiled for two years.
In all of these messes, a reality check will surely guide us through the moment of confusion. How many innocents have been lost or have lost their lives in those wars fought by those officers against the SPLA-Government, whether they have some links with Dr. Lam Akol or pure loyalists of Gen. Johnson Olony?
As recent as April 2015, Dr. Lam Akol’s house was allegedly surrounded by security elements/national security agents, and it happened immediately after fighting broke out between Gen. Johnson Olony’s Government allied militias and armed guards of Governor Kun Puoch. Who is losing in all these maniacs?
The last statement made by Gen. Olony claimed that he is still with the Government. What? So, killing in South Sudan is an entertainment? Where in the world can active army General stage a coup against state’s government, and still be considered as being loyal to the central Government?
Won’t it be nice to connect all the dots? During the second South Sudanese liberation struggle, there was a Dinka’s Band known as “Akut ë Kuëi.” and they composed songs that warned Jieeng/Dinkas (Junubiin in general) against taking part in many meaningless wars. They had this to say: ”…Muɔnyjäŋ wek bë thöök ë tëreek, wek Jiëëŋda bë thöök ë tëreek ( Jieeng you will be finished by wars…).”
As we speak, Dinkas, Nuers and Shilluks are finishing themselves for no good reason, and the same song can be applied to the three tribes that dominate South Sudanese politics. It was not long ago that Gen. Johnson Olony was a notorious Rebel commander, allied with the Government, fought against rebelling SPLA’s forces around Malakal, was seriously wounded, and has now started another war with the Government and under the pretext of not wanting the Governor of Upper Nile state.
What do we make of all those scenarios? Well, you can make your own judgments, generate your own opinions, but I will tell you one thing. Leadership is not all about doing good things all the times, it is about mobilizing, energizing and keeping followers closer to the visions. Good leadership delivers on promises, and leaders in that path try to strategize on the best course to serve the people.
The other day, Dr. Lam Akol was asked by the SBS Radio’s Host, and about his former political rival, Dr. John Garang de Mabior, and he had this to say: “Dr. John Garang always knows what he is doing, how he is doing it, and you can only disagree with him because you don’t like what he is doing.”
That is statement tells us something very important, and all the aspiring politicians should take note: honesty in politics is a path to success, and provides a road map to all sorts of shortcomings. For those who only hate their opponents, dismiss what they are doing and fail to avail their own visions, they run the risk of being seen/viewed as incompetent leaders.
As the freedom fighters get weaker and weaker every single day, former child soldiers, the Red Army/Jesh Al-Mer are filling in the gaps (few are towns’ mayors, counties commissioners, military officers and others are states ministers).
The displacements and replacements of the warlords is not going to be done in a single day, a month or a year, it will be a gradual change that the society as a whole must envision. We know for one that humans do not live forever, and the mentality of leaders’ children taking over without proper training is just too unrealistic. We can tells from the files and ranks of the SPLM/SPLA, and the kinds of people who made names during the liberation struggle.
The Shilluks case was presented as a way to reexamine who we are as South Sudanese, and why certain people are dominant and visible in politics, and all other areas of life. People don’t wake up on a given morning and become Army Generals, the same thing applies to competent leaders/politicians.
If South Sudanese really want to achieve beyond extraordinary, then they should stop fighting senselessly, invest in education and start the reconstruction of their COUNTRY immediately. What? Can South Sudanese really strategize on the best course to run the country?
Yes we can, but only if competent leaders are put in charge of public programs, and not those who cannot even prepare a simple speech for a symbolic commencement since independence. We have learned that political wrangles, aided by illiterates are very catastrophic, and should cease if South Sudan is going to be a nation where citizens move freely.
The fruits of our independence have been enjoyed by few, and that is why South Sudan has been burning all these years.
A while back, somebody familiar with the refugees’ lives had this to say: “A hungry refugee is an angry refugee.” In our case, poor freedom fighters can plunge the country into meaningless wars, and they are likely to revisit what they are good at, killing self-made enemies and political opponents to get by.
Take for instance the bunch of semi-literates and illiterates in the Tiger Battalion (Presidential/Republican Guards), loyal to individuals rather than the country and the White Army from the let’s go, and who plunged South Sudan into the ongoing war. Those who read should feed their brains with things that make sense, and those who hear should feed their hearts with courageous songs that encourages people to live side by side.
In concluding this piece, Shilluk Kingdom is in peril because its own sons are too ambitious to lead, and they have done that for decades. That is not a bad thing, but in a NATION where tribes rule, a Kingdom like Shilluk, and in the middle of war-liking Nilotics is likely to be burning every year.
As a refreshment, Shilluks fought in all wars: alongside the Khartoum based regimes, in the SPLM/SPLA Main Stream, split along with Dr. Riek Machar in 1991, defected with William Nyuon Bany in 1992, defected back/returned to the SPLM/SPLA in 1992, fought successful battles in the Bright Star Campaign, implicated in the 2013 coined up “attempted coup”, are part of the G-10 and some are active players in the SPLM-in-Opposition’s political drama.
We are quick to judge what Shilluks are all about, but they are nationalists, key players in South Sudan’s politics, and they would be like that until Dinkas & Nuers start investing in education rather than fighting senseless wars, and over the chairmanship of the derailed ruling Party.
The terms ‘Belittled and Betrayed’ opened up a pandora box for discussion, and may or may not mean much when it comes to political aspirants across the board. The Siege and the Surge continue, Junubiin!
The author here is Mayak Deng Aruei, a doctoral student in Organizational Leadership: Organizational Development. He is also the author of ‘Struggle Between Despair and Life: From Sudan’s Marshland Village, Child Soldiering, Refugee Camp and America.’ He can be reached at Kongor.firstname.lastname@example.org