David (Boswell) versus Dr. Goliath (Benjamin): A valuable Lesson

By Fanwell L. Edward, GHANA

AUG. 23/2012, SSN; I have believed all along that it was only a matter of time before the phrases which our politicians throw around recklessly with or without occasion would sooner or later blow up in the faces of these politicians.

We and the international community have been mercilessly bombarded with phrases such as ‘we want this and that to be done according to international standards’; ‘we are a sovereign country and as such cannot be treat this way or that way;’ ‘South Sudan is a democracy;’ ‘we have liberated this country;’ ‘agents of Khartoum;’ and ‘we are starting from scratch’ and therefore by implication we demand to be treated with deference and patience despite our unbecoming arrogance and uncouth ways.

These disingenuous phrases have been accompanied by brutal force and acts of intimidation against the civil population, resulting in unnecessary deaths and torture of leaders of the civil community. While it seems that our government’s bullying and intimidation have to a great extent managed to cow a large section of our population into silence, especially the elite, the international community remains both unimpressed and unmoved.

In fact, the response of the international community, including the so-called our friends, to our brief presence in Panthou last May and the pressures the same ‘friends’ put recently on our negotiating team in Addis Ababa should put end to any illusions that our leaders can extend their bullying and blackmail tactics to any member of the international community who dares to gather the temerity to point out the glaring malfeasance that seems to have become the hallmark of the world’s newest country.

Mercifully, one of the shallow phrases, ‘agent of Khartoum,’ exploded recently in the face of the spokesperson of the government of South Sudan, Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, after he called a routine press conference during which he conducted his usual verbal gymnastics of dishing out accusations left and right, without a shred of evidence, including accusing critics of government’s malpractices an ‘spies in the pay of Khartoum.’

This time round, though, he walked with his eyes shut into an arena where the high business of incriminating others is conducted in accordance with‘international standards.’  He accused a khawaja, Alan Boswell, of being a ‘spy paid by Khartoum to destroy the image of South Sudan.’

Mr. Boswell, Africa Correspondent for one the largest US media giants, ‘earned’ the wrath of Dr. Benjamin for writing, among other things, an article in which he disclosed that President Salva Kiir had, according to a US official, sent ‘an apology letter’ to President Obama for twice lying to the US president about South Sudan’s support to rebel groups from Sudan’s Darfur and Blue Nile regions.

The Khawaja refused to be bullied or intimidated the way Junubien have been bullied by their own government. Mr. Boswell and his employer, McClatchy, promptly and firmly demanded in writing (according to international standards) that Dr. Benjamin should (according to international standards) either produce evidence to support his wild claim or he should (according to international standards) immediately retract his statement.

In other words, bring forth your evidence or cease and desist and forever hold your loose tongue!

The good doctor, whom many have unkindly taken to likening him to Sadam Hussein’s clownish spokesperson Alsahaf, tried to play hard ball for a couple of days.  He twisted, turned and somersaulted.  In other words, and in our South Sudanese jargon, he mungmunged.

However, he finally saw the light of the train at the end of the short narrow tunnel.  The doctor suddenly retracted and swallowed his cheap words.

While we are at it, one wishes that the spokesperson could do the honorable thing namely to retract (according to international standards) all the baseless accusations the ruling party has baselessly heaped upon leaders of South Sudanese opposition parties whom it has on numerous occasions labeled as ‘spies of Khartoum.’

It goes without saying such baseless accusations have caused insecurity to political leaders some of whom are in prison without trial while others live outside the young country because their physical security is threatened as a result of reckless accusations such as the one Dr. Benjamin has made against Mr.  Boswell.

Of course, there is nothing either in Dr. Benjamin’s long experience as a mouth piece of the SPLM before and after the independence or in the history of the SPLM before and after the independence that would cause either the good doctor or the SPLM-government to undertake the noble gesture of retracting baseless accusations leveled against fellow South Sudanese.

Due to empty arrogance and shortsightedness, such retractions will not be forthcoming even if they were to bring with them peace and stability to the country. Such retractions and international standards are reserved only for members of the mighty international community.

What really matters at this moment is that no matter how vigorous our very own Alsahaf continues to deny the existence of President Kiir’s letter of apology to President Obama for lying, Dr. Benjamin cannot deny his own lie against Allan Boswell.

Yet, the good doctor tried to lessen the embarrassment of being caught in a lie meant to intimidate the journalist by stating in his apology that his words against Mr. Boswell were meant to be ‘figurative’ and were not meant to be ‘inflammatory.’

This kind of perverse spin both insults our collective intelligence and also seriously disfigures the English language in the process.

Without the need to rush to the library, it is useful to jolt our semi-comatose memory of basic elements of the English language by observing that ‘you are a spy’ is a simple sentence that means exactly what it means, namely ‘you are a James Bond.’

Consequently, if you are a spy and a South Sudanese, you are a disgrace to your country and you deserve the noose around your miserable neck, and if you are a spy and a Khawaja, you are a disgrace to your race, and shame and jail to you.

But if we merely opined in admiration or disgust and told someone directly ‘you acted like a spy,’ we would be figuratively suggesting that the manner of one’s action resembles that of a spy’s, therefore we are telling that person not to quit their day-time job because, while they may act like Inspector Jacques Clouseau of the Pink Panther film series, they definitely are not the real McCoy.

Finally in this vein, the good doctor’s use of the word ‘inflammatory’ is grossly disingenuous because this word is not even remotely a homophone of the word at the centre of Mr. Boswell’s objection.  The spokesperson may very well want to be as inflammatory as Lord Neil Kinnock as he wishes, and that is his prerogative, but to accuse someone of being a spy without evidence goes beyond inflammatory rhetoric.

This kind of utterance is defamatory, in plain English.  Therefore, Dr. Benjamin retracted his accusation not because it was ‘inflammatory’ rather because it was ‘defamatory’ according to international standards.

Having lived in the United Kingdom for a mighty long time, the good doctor should have by now learned to mind the gap—the language gap, that is.

Now that Dr. Goliath has been beaten like a drum in his duel with an ordinaryKhawaja, one hopes that H.E the official agamlong (Dinka word for interpreter/herald) and all other official and unofficial spokespersons, including the two colonels, who seem to thrive in a state of perpetual denial, will for their own sake and the sake of the country, cast arrogance and deceit aside and seriously heed the wisdom of the following saying:  He who spits against the wind, spits in his own face.

Fanwell L. Edwards;

Accra, Ghana

Note: I have been away from this valuable site during the past year or so due to the process of relocating my family to Ghana where I currently teach and live.  It is too bad that we are still nomads because some powerful people have turned our newly-independent country into a fiefdom and a killing field for our people and our neighbors as well.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author(s) and do not represent those of the website.

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