BY: Dr. James Kwajok, NOV/11/2015, SSN;
At the end of last month, South Sudan witnessed the emergence of a new rebel group called Tiger Faction New Forces (TFNF). It was the breakaway of SPLA units stationed in Manyo County in northern Upper Nile State. The faction is led by General Yoanes Okij with specific demands to be met by the government before the rebellion could end. It has already engaged the SPLA in combat. The faction is composed exclusively of members from the Chollo tribe and its demands are:
1- Immediate revocation of the unconstitutional presidential establishment order 36/2015 for creation of 28 new states instead of the current 10 states.
2- Establishment of a federal system of governance.
However the main reason for this unprecedented development is the division of the Chollo Kingdom into two parts with annexation of the part on the eastern bank of the Nile including Malakal to the newly established Dinka states.
It is the first time in the history of South Sudan that a movement was born solely to defend the land and interests of a single tribe. All the rebel movements that fought the government in Juba starting from George Athor group through Gatluak Gai group and ending with Aguelek which is a Chollo movement under General Johnson Olony, have national agendas and political opposition to the government.
Even the Cobra faction which is a Murle movement under David Yau Yau was the result of grievances about a rigged election.
With the rise up of the TFNF, South Sudan has entered uncharted and dangerous waters. It is even more likely that the other tribes whose lands have been snatched from them would follow suit.
The presidential decree seems to have stirred a hornet’s nest and the consequences are dire and unpredictable. Anyone who had the opportunity of visiting or living in Malakal would be very amazed to hear any tribe other than the Chollo claiming its ownership.
I have travelled by steamers and by land back and forth from Malakal to Juba and from Malakal to Kosti. The Chollo people are present on both banks of the Nile and this has been the case since time immemorial.
These are indisputable facts that could be substantiated by reading history books regarding the Chollo Kingdom.
The establishment order for the creation of 28 new states was an unwelcome surprise to the majority of the citizens and to observers of South Sudanese affairs regionally and internationally.
At the time when all attention was on the need to expedite the implementation of the compromise peace agreement within its specified time frame, president Kiir chose to undermine the peace accord by announcing his unconstitutional decree.
Any reasonable person would have thought that president Kiir at this particular time and following the signing of the peace accord, would focus more on promoting unity among the people and avoiding anything that would impede peaceful coexistence.
He did the opposite and the timing was even indicative of an attempt to derail the compromise peace agreement.
So, what was the rationale behind this big decision which could be detrimental to the very existence of South Sudan as one entity?
The government propaganda machine and officials are saying this is what the people want and they have answered their demand. But is it really what the overwhelming majority of the people want?
The decree is nothing but the creation of the new states while the same system of governance remains in place with president Kiir retaining his current powers.
What our people want is real federalism that entails sharing sovereignty between the federal government and the states, separation of powers between executive and the legislative institutions and independence of the judiciary.
In brief, it is a system where the president or prime minister can not remove an elected governor or indeed any elected official without due process.
Moreover the president or prime minister will have no powers to appoint members of the parliament. The judiciary will be empowered to ensure upholding of the rule of law.
President Kiir has been all along against federalism and his establishment order can only fool those who lack knowledge about it. Even his government track record exposes the fallacy of their claim of giving the people what they asked for.
People still recall the time when the government imposed a gag on government officials not to talk about federalism. The government was so sensitive and antagonistic to the extent of exerting pressure on the press to stop the debate on the matter.
A poor citizen was shot dead in Maridi by a member of the security forces, simply for voicing out his support for federalism. It amounted to a political assassination which should have drawn the attention of the top government officials including the president.
President Kiir neither condemned the incident nor gave directives to ensure justice for the victim and his family. As far as we know the killer is still at large.
The recent peace negotiations in Addis Ababa gave further evidence that the regime is anti federalism because they rejected it when tabled for discussion by SPLM/A-IO.
Creating more states would be acceptable to everyone should it be the will of the people and devoid of taking a piece of land from one tribe and giving it to the other.
Paul Malong, the SPLA Chief of Staff, could have his village made a state capital as he wished provided the decision comes through the proper channels, namely the national legislative assembly (NLA)and the Council of States (COS).
My personal opinion is that there is more to lose than to gain by increasing the number of states at this point in time. It will increase the number of the unproductive workforce, thieves and looters with little benefit to the public.
The government coffers has been losing millions of South Sudanese Pounds to bogus pay-sheets and ghost employees. This situation can only get worse with the creation of the new states.
Just look at the case of the previous acting caretaker governor of Northern Bahr El Gazal State, Salva Chol Ayat. He was hardly one month in office when accusation of embezzlement of millions of South Sudanese Pounds emerged.
His successor, the current caretaker governor Akot Deng Akot who is just over 2 months in office, has already been accused of embezzlement of SSP 3.29 millions to settle personal debts.
There is a wealth of evidence that embezzlement, theft, looting and corruption are commonplace in Northern Bahr El Ghazal state.
As the situation unfolds, it became clear that the president is executing a purely tribal agenda aimed at expanding his tribe’s territories and giving it dominance over other tribes.
By doing so, he has removed himself completely from impartiality and has become a tool for enacting a tribal policy dictated by the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) rather than a national policy for the benefit of all the people of South Sudan.
What baffles many of us is – does the president and his henchmen really think they could annex lands from other tribes and still expect South Sudan to remain the same?
When the government talks about our occupied lands in Abyei, Panthou (Higlig) and some parts of Northern Bahr El Gazal state and Northern Upper Nile state, it gets support from all South Sudanese.
These lands would ultimately be recovered by peaceful means or in the worse case scenario by going to war with the Sudan.
If indeed it comes down to war then all South Sudanese would participate in it including members from the tribes that have lost lands through annexation.
Would these people really be motivated to fight for liberation of those lands (which are by the way Jieng lands) when at the same time they feel threatened at home with their lands being taken away and given to the Jieng tribe?
There is no way that you can take the land of one citizen and give it to the other and expect both to remain citizens of the same country.
That can not happen in the real world and is all about Kiir and his cohorts living in fantasy.
Land ownership belongs to the communities as clearly enshrined in the constitution. No president should ever tamper with that as it would damage the unity of the people and unleash all sorts of problems for the country.
But what can we say to a president who has been blinded by tribal politics to the extent that he cannot see the obvious!
The Chollo are peace-loving people and very welcoming to members of other communities who are living, working and doing business in their land.
In the few clashes that we know with other tribes, the Chollo were never the aggressors but were always fighting in self-defence and in response to encroachments on their territory.
The immediate and overwhelming support for the new rebel group from the Chollo community points in the direction of a tribe that has been pushed to the limits with only one option left for it to take, which is rebellion.
General Yoanes Okij and his group are regarded as heroes in the Chollo Kingdom and I would bet my bottom pound that the Chollo members of Kiir’s government are supporting the group if asked privately.
It is a situation of determination and resolve by the whole tribe to face Kiir’s decree head-on no matter what sacrifices the community would have to make.
As we all know the Chollo tribe is not the only one affected by the presidential decree 36/2015.
The Fertit group of tribes is facing a similar situation where a large chunk of their land is carved and incorporated into the newly created states.
There is a growing opposition to the presidential establishment order among the Western Bahr Gazalians and the dissent could turn nasty if not already.
Even Governor Rizig Zakaria, who is a staunch supporter of president Kiir, expressed some reservations and asked for an additional 29th state to avoid parts of Raja county being annexed to the Dinka dominated Northern Bahr El Gazal state.
There is a consensus among the Equatorians from day one that rejects the presidential decree. This opinion is shared by those inside the country and the diaspora population.
Again there is dissent even among government supporters – for example the section of Bul Nuer that supports the government is against annexation of parts of their land to the new states.
The Murle and the people of Mabaan have shown opposition to the presidential decree despite the misleading propaganda from the government.
In conclusion, the presidential decree 36/2015 appears to have angered all South Sudanese communities except the president’s Jieng community. They have celebrated and even nominated governors for the newly created states.
It’s quite understandable as they are the only beneficiaries through the expansion of their land ownership and augmentation of their political influence.
When president Kiir took the oath as the first president of South Sudan, among his duties is promotion of unity among the people. Well, what we have seen so far is a relentless divisive policy that has pushed the country to the brink of disaster.
Dr Lako Jada Kwajok