BY: Justin Kwaje, SOUTH SUDAN, JUN/23/2014, SSN;
The untold story of this uncalled for war among brothers in South Sudan is that of the soldiers themselves, our young and others the fully-grown men who are fighting in the frontline, killing and being killed, injuring and being maimed, for the survival of Kiir’s presidency. What about the stories of the widows and children they leave behind? These are the forgotten of this war. Who will tell their stories?
I had emotional breakdown at the same time as I counted myself very privileged to have visited the wounded Kiir’s soldiers fighting in frontline since December 2013, after the breakout of fighting between the SPLA army loyal to Kiir against those who have deserted and led the resistance against Kiir.
I was paralyzed by the thought that these men I am standing in front of are perhaps the best of our nation, unselfish and marching willingly to the front line to give the ultimate sacrifices to kill and be killed by none other than their fellow countrymen!
Not long ago these very gallant men who now hunt each other to death were comrades, rode in the same military vehicles and together watched over the nation against the “Great Satan” the Jalaba!
Alas, on the basis of lies, as we now all well know, these same men now bring death on each other with effectiveness and fury the Great Satan could only dream about but worse is the devastation they brought on the civilians they’re sworn to protect!
What a horror. They have achieved what the Great Satan could not in 50 years!!
Some of these men have five or more children, two or more wives! Once injured and maimed, who cares for their widows left behind in the very harsh living situations in Juba and around South Sudan? What will be of their fatherless children left behind? All this on the basis of lies and for what purpose?
What do these soldiers get out of this? Is it not true, while a soldier signs his absolute loyalties to the commander in Chief, Should the commander in Chief not also sign his loyalties to his soldiers and protect his men and their families at all costs?
In case of South Sudan, does Kiir really have loyalties to his soldiers? Are the soldiers to Kiir not like the cheap bullets…. disposable?
Does he watch after the widows left behind? Didn’t we know the soldiers alive and who are living have to wait in agony for their salaries and those killed, the salary immediately cut off?
How about those killed in the frontline, their bodies never arrive for burials, leave alone the government accounting for them and informing the mothers and widows accordingly?
How about those who cheated death in the frontline, I am referring to the lucky wounded soldiers. In what condition are they, how is Kiir caring for them? Are they better off alive than dead?
With these tormenting unanswered questions in mind, I visited the Soldiers at Juba teaching hospital and was moved by what I saw, most of the soldiers staying in Juba teaching hospital in the name of getting treatment are young and they all look exhausted and traumatized.
Based on my assessment of their physical and psychological injuries, majority of them need major medical care, physical therapy, psychiatrists services, or rehabilitation physicians, commonly known as Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), most if not all are unavailable in the poorly equipped government owned Juba teaching and military hospitals.
These hospitals in Juba generally lack drugs, more importantly, painkillers and antibiotics! The able and financial sound patients end up buying their own drugs and other medicines from private clinics and bringing them to the hospital to be administered by the doctors, something the majority of these wounded soldiers cannot afford!
One soldier complained that those from the president’s ethnic group gets the best of care and it is they who have the money to get the needed supplies from the private clinics and Pharmacies, after all everyone know they are the people with the nation’s stolen oil and foreign donation money in South Sudan as is can be witnessed even before this war broke out.
The needed full medical services for these wounded soldiers are available in the neighboring countries like Kenya and Uganda, where some of the president’s people end up being flown to but the poor, ordinary and unpaid or under paid soldiers from other tribes cannot afford these lifelines.
A soldier disclosed on condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisal by senior officers, that the wounded soldiers blamed the huge defection and abandonment of SPLA posts in Jonglei state recently by their comrades on the government’s inability to provide those in front lines with adequate feeding, supply of ammunition and many other needed items to keep and give the solders in frontlines to not only carry offensive but for defense and to survive the fight otherwise they are all sitting ducks and dead men all for nothing.
If still alive they are not paid or supplied, why give monetary support for the widows and children of dead soldiers?
That is how disposable and how much worthless our young men in the uniform who are fighting for Kiir feel about their commander in chief.
It will be an understatement to say the morale is zero except for those who have tribal sentiment for the war, they are not defending the nation but their tribe and tribal fortune; otherwise there is no national reason for dying and fighting this war for the president given how the soldiers are treated, their widows and children left to survive on their own without a penny from Kiir.
In Juba, the wounded after surviving the ordeal of the frontline and enduring without any support from the government, but rather, they surviving at the mercy of good Samaritans and families, have this to say: “Our medical bills are entirely being left on our already poor family members who could not afford to have two meals per day, so how can they afford to meet the demands of our medical bills?”
An an angry looking young man pointing at his medical bill next to his mat close to the entrance of the ward said: “This government has abandoned us yet the other day I heard them talking about the role of the soldiers to defend the constitution of this country and the elected leaders, yet the so called elected leaders have not given importance to the the needs of the wounded soldiers nor defended those who elected them.”
“Is the constitution not also to protect the soldiers?” asked another soldier.
“In order to survive, we were left in front line to loot the people we are supposed to protect as demanded by our constitution, to put the lives of civilians first, because it could be your father, mother and sister, but we have no choice because we can’t defend the constitution of this country when we have empty stomachs,” lamented another.
“While we protect the so called constitution who then protects us and our children if the president looks at us like flies? Does he loose any sleep because of the number of people killed and injured by the commands he gives to go to the front line? He has never even taken the time to come to visit us or give us courage in our sick beds or comfort the wives or mothers of our buddies killed in the frontline, all which tells you how much we mean to him,” despairingly stated another soldier.
“I am not going to blame the defected soldiers because we all have children to look after and how can you keep fighting for the government that doesn’t value your life, recognize your needs and that of your families? This government doesn’t care about the well beings of its men/women in uniforms who have been dying in the name of defending the constitution of this country,” he added.
“What is the use of the constitution for me if I am dead and my children are not cared for and left to die as I am, is it worth defending and dying for this so called constitution?” he continued.
Pitia, who looked exhausted and perhaps the youngest of them all has bullet wounds on his right chest and he told me he is always in constant pain because the doctors told him that the bullet has passed through his lungs, and he vomits blood daily.
Since his arrival in Juba teaching hospital, he wasn’t given antiseptic wound care nor Tetanus shots to reduce the risk of bacterial infections.
Like others, he too cited his anger with the government for failing to address the needs of those wounded and the widows of those killed in active duties, while protecting the elected government officials, to keep these big bellies officials from loosing their jobs and fortunes while living in air conditioned homes and driving luxurious V8’s, which these soldiers can only admire from outside.
The general situation the soldiers are in is a state of despair and agony forcing some into criminal activities as disclosed by yet a wounded soldier, who doesn’t want his statement to appear in any media outlet, stating they looted civilians because they needed food and Juba is not able to supply them.
Emphasizing that they are professional army that did not intend to commit crime against their own people but the situation exposed them to do it in order to survive.
“I am very unhappy because my colleagues after being killed by the rebels, their bodies are left to discompose and eaten by wild animals and birds, and some of my comrades who got shot and can’t move were left to die or ended up being killed by the rebels, and that could be tomorrow anyone of us here who are being asked to return to the frontline because of soldier shortages.”
“Before anyone decides to join the army to fight for this government, they must first understand what those of us who are already in are going through,” he added.
A soldier who gave his name as Oliver Dochun complained, “there is no dignity and honor for those of us who have risked everything, leaving our wives and children behind going to unknown places to keep one man in power, one who caused this chaos through his lies and tribalism,”
“I want to be respected as a soldier, I need my rights as a citizen to be protected by the constitution of our country, there are certain things a national army is not supposed to do. I lose my dignity because after I was wounded I was abandoned like garbage in trash bin like scrub dirty unwanted duster.”
Another soldier who gave his name as Mgbakasa, added, “It is heart breaking and shocking to see the Ugandan armies who are hired by Kiir, well fed on dry food in sealed packages, whereas the patriotic and gallant national armies have to survive on their own by going into the unknown bushes looking for anything to be cooked in hostile environments.”
A second group of those who survived the front line defeated by the rebels, upon arriving Juba are treated harshly, I spoke to a lady who confirmed to me that her younger brother serving with Kiir’s army, he and his comrades were defeated by the rebels in one of the battle front in Unity State.
After their arrival in Juba they were rounded up by the security forces, thrown and tortured in jail, accused of abandoning their posts and of conspiracy, deserting and being sympathizers of the rebels.
Based on the soldier sister’s narrative who asked for her identity not to be revealed, most of these targeted arrests are selectively against non-Dinka soldiers.
She told me that most of the soldiers accused by the government for conspiracy and rebel’s collaborators are mainly Equatorian and people from Wau, while their Dinka colleagues were let go without jailing or questionings.
She also confirmed to me that her brother is being held in jail in appalling and inhuman conditions, which he may not survive. While the Bahr El Gazal soldiers who deserted their posts in frontlines and have since then returned to their home state without been arrested for abandoning their posts.
In conclusion, my fellow countrymen and countrywomen, I felt angry and was left abhorred and dejected visiting and talking to these brave men of our nation, many who are wounded mortally. I felt compelled to bring their voices out for the nation to know, these other forgotten victims of this war, the brave men who are dying and are being wounded daily in the frontline at the command of this president.
These are our brothers; these are our fathers, some whose graves shall never be seen as they were left to rot in the bushes. While those lucky to make it to Juba but wounded may not survive long and their children left to survive in the soon coming famine! What a government!
This government lacks and has lost the ability and competency to care even for her own soldiers, nor the widows and children of these soldiers. This government cannot even return home the fallen to be buried with dignity!
Nor do they make the efforts to inform the mothers of those killed daily in the frontline.
The question is what makes this a government? If indeed it is, what do we need such a government for? Are there no better sons and daughters of our land who can lead this country better than these bunch of crooks and good-for-nothing inept big bellies? Enough I say!
A government that is incapable of serving her widows, orphans and the wounded does not deserve the invaluable sacrificial blood of our nation’s young men and women in Uniform!