BY: Manyok Chuol, OTTAWA, CANADA, JAN/12/2013, SSN;
Elhag Paul, the prolific opinion writer and anti-Dinka activist, wrote an article which South Sudan Nation Website published on Jan/ 03/2013. Mr. Paul’s article is entitled: Is there anti-Dinka school of thought in South Sudan as claimed by Joseph Garang of New Sudan Vision? and this commentary is my respond to it. As in almost all the author’s previous articles, two key sentiments have pervaded again: anti-Dinka tirade and Dr. John Garang vis-a’-vis the question of founding father of South Sudan. The two are the only issues I’m responding to.
South Sudanese who have read most of Mr. Paul’s articles will have probably come to the same conclusion, as I have, that this writer harbors deep-seated anti-Dinka sentiments. It’s now also more apparent that Mr. Paul various attempts at denigration of Dr. John Garang and his legacy is in fact a subset of the author’s overall revulsion of the Jieng (Dinka).
I will only respond in detail to Elhag Paul’s argument against Dr. John Garang’s well-deserved and earned-most importantly, the recognition of Founding Father of South Sudan shortly. But Mr. Elhag Paul’s denunciations of the Jieng (Dinka) engender grave danger in South Sudan; I will only respond in passing because others have already advised him against his mis-characterizations and incitement against the Dinka. Unfortunately, Mr. Paul is obstinately impermeable still to their wise counsel.
Anti-Dinka diatribe versus legitimate government criticism
The Rt. Hon. James Wani Igga, Speaker of South Sudan Legislative Assembly, on 30th October 2012 cogently said, during his discussion with South Sudanese in Ottawa, Canada, that, “if we don’t bury tribalism, tribalism will bury us.”
But Elhag Paul, the inventor of the so-called Dinkocracy and associated paregmenon has consistently failed to see this abyss. He uses his right as South Sudanese to criticize the government as ruse to deplore the Jieng as he similarly incites other tribes against it.
Flaunting vanity aside, and I have no problem with it, Mr. Paul should expect South Sudanese to deserve better than the cheap but dangerous incitements he consistently propagandizes about in his articles.
If or when the other tribes rise up against the Dinka as is the goal of Elhag Paul, what is certain is that the Jieng will be forced to defend their collective right to existence and it would be utterly disastrous for our country if tribes fight each other in the way Mr. Paul envisions. By inciting tribes against a tribe, Mr. Elhag Paul should no longer claim to love South Sudan when his work can probably bring about a destruction of the country.
Let me be absolutely unequivocal and affirm that all citizens, including Elhag Paul, reserve the right to criticize the SPLM and the Government of South Sudan as national institutions. This is a right I have personally and numerously exercised. It’s unconscionable and totally unacceptable that citizens have lost their lives in exercise of this right. Isaiah Abraham killing sadly comes to mind and I fully hold the government responsible unless it comes clean but hoodwinking the public remains wholly deplorable.
Therefore, you can see this isn’t about denying Elhag Paul the exercise of such right; the issue really is the cowardly deliberate incitement of ordinary citizens against their compatriots, disguised as government criticism. All citizens reserve the right to criticize the government or the SPLM party regardless of tribe but Elhag Paul coaches his criticisms of national institutions in purely anti-Dinka rhetoric.
Such approach portends danger which Mr. Paul claims to be dispelling in the first place. There is a difference between an institution and an individual and indeed a difference exists between an individual and a tribe. Salva Kiir is an individual and also a Dinka (the tribe) in the same way that he is a South Sudanese national.
The government in Juba is for all South Sudanese. But Mr. Paul would not hold the government solely responsible as a governing national institution. Instead, he holds all Jieng guilty by association for government failures because the president is a Dinka!
But let’s also remember that President Salva Kiir is a South Sudanese national and if we are to start holding communities collectively responsible for shortcomings of individuals, Mr. Paul should use the same yardstick and hold all South Sudanese, including himself, guilty by association for their government failures as the presidency and government have a South Sudanese national association/identity.
But I say, let us not hold tribes guilty by association just because a national leader happens to be from a certain tribe. Let us therefore not hold all Jieng collectively responsible for the failures of a few. I also recognize that there may be tribalist Dinka leaders in government and such leaders should be condemned individually for abusing the public trust but it’s quite a stretch to extrapolate and suggest that all Jieng/Dinkas are tribalists for which the rest of South Sudanese must be incited against.
Let us not divide South Sudanese along tribal lines when we criticize the government. Instead, let us unite as South Sudanese in calling for reforms and an end to corruption in government as we should equally remain united in our quest for justice, equality, and prosperity – collectively as South Sudanese.
As I have stated in my opening sentences above, Elhag Paul has also on various occasions tried to put Dr. Garang’s unassailable place in our nation’s history as Founding Father of South Sudan in some kind of disrepute. Such attempts should be understood – correctly, I think, in the context of the author’s overall anti-Dinka disposition.
Dr. John Garang and the question of the founding father of South Sudan
Despite much of Mr. Paul’s objection to our nation’s recognition of Dr. John Garang as its founding father is possibly driven by his discernible abhorrence of Jieng, I continue – still – to willfully ignore all that and patiently await Mr. Paul reasons for his opposition, when he gives them.
In opposing Dr. John Garang’s being appropriately recognized as the Founding Father of South Sudan, Elhag Paul does not independently state his views or reasons in the article. He, however, chooses to grossly misrepresent the views of Dr. John Garang’s eldest son, Mabior Garang, in another interview which Mr. Paul referred to. After misrepresenting Mabior Garang’s views to affirm his biased opinions, Mr. Paul went on to forcefully claim:
“It should by now be clear [from Mabior Garang's views which by now have been mischaracterized by Elhag Paul] to Joseph Deng Garang and those people who tirelessly try to elevate the late leader of SPLM/A into father of the nation that their consistent assertions are futile… So Dr Garang is not and can not (sic) be father of the nation he did not want to be born.”
This quoted part is the central argument/response of Elhag Paul to Joseph Deng Garang, a friend and a colleague of many years, who I surely don’t agree with his characterization of Justin Ambago as anti-Dinka. I hope readers will overlook the very many incongruencies contained in the article but carefully look at the fallacy of the central claim that “Dr Garang is not and can not (sic) be father of the nation he did not want to be born.”
Such is a claim of a person who harbors an agenda and is possibly impervious to rational arguments. I still wonder, nevertheless, how any honest and serious person can make a claim so audacious that it risked becoming utterly absolutist and to the extent facts could no longer corroborate or would seem to matter!
Those who have read Mr. Paul’s article will have noticed how his central claim was made through a sheer impulsive urge rather than through a reasoned presentation.
Let’s now, therefore, ask the question who a founding father is anyway. A founding father is widely recognized as a person who has established an important organization or idea or as one Wikipedia entry broadly defines national founding fathers as:
[T]ypically those who played an influential role in setting up the systems of governance, (i.e. political system form of government, and constitution), of the country. They can also be military leaders of a war of independence that led to the existence of the country [emphasis is mine].
Therefore, let’s examine and put the founding of South Sudan into this context and we will understand why Dr. John Garang is our nation’s indestructible Founding Father.
Established an important organization and fought in the war of independence
I fully recognize the important contributions of generations of leaders throughout our history, whether of political or military leaders, or of our chiefs and indeed ordinary citizens.
I’m not here to denigrate our people’s contributions or sacrifices; instead I’m here to defend a record of a man who led our people with brilliance and extraordinary skills. This man is our late leader and hero, the indomitable Dr. John Garang de Mabior.
Dr. John Garang fought alongside his South Sudanese compatriots in Anya Nya (I) and was absorbed into the Sudanese army following the Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972. When Sudan’s President Nimeiry abrogated that agreement, John Garang with his colleagues including our current President, Salva Kiir, rebelled and formed the SPLM/A in 1983.
And because I’m not writing the biography of Dr. John Garang or indeed the SPLM/A, I only give you this brief history to show a lifelong sacrifice that Dr. Garang had lived fighting on behalf of his people and why he has been appropriately accorded his place as our nation’s founding father.
For 21 long years, the SPLM/A fought successive Khartoum-based regimes and came out victorious against many odds. In 2005, the SPLM which Elhag Paul now so derisively calls the Oyee Party negotiated a unique peace agreement. Unfortunately, Elhag Paul chooses to befuddle his followers who together now believe in imagined inevitability of South Sudan achieving independence without the contribution of the SPLM, including that of its late indefatigable leader, the shrewd and charismatic Dr. John Garang.
The CPA is an obviously historic achievement and many people including honest South Sudanese who do not belong to or support the SPLM recognize such feat. Only to Elhag Paul must this deed be ridiculed, downplayed, obscured and/or even denied.
But I remind Elhag Paul, despite suspecting that envy and loath of the Dinka are probably suffocating him, that the late SPLM leader negotiated the historic CPA, the peace agreement that virtually guaranteed the birth of a new nation in South Sudan. To claim Dr. John Garang did not want South Sudan born, a claim I have shown to be false, is a dangerous exhibition of willful ignorance or worst still a terrible case of amnesia on Mr. Paul’s part.
Not only is Elhag Paul’s claim mendacious, it may be revealing much of the unworthiness of Dr. Garang’s doubters of his founding father tribute.
Birth of a new nation in South Sudan
The nation of South Sudan gained independence through a plebiscite in exercise of the Right of Self-Determination, the overarching part of the 2005 CPA. All should be reminded, however, that the right of self-determination is not a concept original to South Sudan’s leaders contrary to the balderdash claim of the 28th August 1991 Nasir Coup leaders and their facts-free followers.
If the right of self-determination is not a creation of our leaders, then those who loudly claim they were the first to call for the right of self-determination, and without working hard for it, should recognize the achievement of those who actually fought and brought the independence of South Sudan.
Dr. John Garang and the SPLM crafted the CPA with skills and knowledge of the enemy and this unique peace agreement directly resulted in South Sudanese exercising the right of self-determination through the 9th January 2011 referendum vote in which our people so overwhelmingly voted for separation leading to the proclamation of independence on 9th July 2011.
The question, therefore, is: how can the late SPLM/A leader and the chief architect of CPA not be the founding father of South Sudan? If he cannot be, who else would as Elhag Paul is not admittedly opposed to South Sudan having a founding father?
How can resentment and jealousy so flagrantly scapegoat in such a way that would allow a person of apparent intelligence in Elhag Paul to make a decidedly bogus claim that Dr. Garang did not want South Sudan born when a schooled and objective reading of the CPA makes it abundantly clear that the SPLM and its late leader wanted South Sudan achieve independence.
It is for these reasons that Dr. John Garang is duly recognized as South Sudan founding father even as it irritates Elhag Paul.
In closing, Dr. John Garang was a visionary of immense intellect and political skills who outwitted his detractors in life. But it is astounding that the late SPLM leader continues to defeat his opponents even in death!
By: Manyok Chuol, Ottawa, Canada