By: Samuel Atabi, South Sudanese, MAY/16/2017, SSN;
The sacked Chief of Staff, Paul Malong, of the re-named tribal SPLA is a character from the ‘Lord of the Flies’, a 1954 novel published by the Nobel prize-wining English author William Golding. The book tells a story of a group of young British boys’ disastrous attempt to govern themselves on a remote and isolated island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.
The novel plots a story of power struggle between two characters, Jack and Ralph, as to who will be the leader on their new territory.
Jack, a power-hungry maniac plots to kill Ralph, a level-headed boy whose main concern is the well-being of every boy on the island.
Jack frightens the young ones with a false story of a presence of a beast on the island; this is a ruse to justify galloping ambition to be a leader in order to save the group.
In contrast, Ralph says there is no such a beast. Jack, with the help of a hatchet boy, Roger, forcibly grabs symbols of power from Ralph: these are a conch, for a democratic right to speak in a gathering and eye glasses, which is the only means of starting a fire in the wilderness of the island.
Jacks set up a shrine of a false god, actually a severed head of a wild pig mounted on a stick with swarming flies. The name of the god is the ‘Lord of the Flies’.
The struggle becomes deadly where two boys are killed, one by Roger using a boulder thrown from an elevated position, while the other is crushed by worshippers of the new god. Roger helps Jack to hunt down Ralph who has run away and hid in another part of the island.
The hunting party, armed with sticks sharpened at both ends, flashes Ralph out of his hideout by setting fire to the forest. It then pursues him for a final kill. Ralph strips and falls down prostrate, on the ground.
And at exactly that moment, an adult in the form of a naval officer appears on the scene. The officer has been alerted while on a nearby ship by the raging fire that is almost burning down the whole of the island. He helps stop the madness and Ralph is thus rescued.
Can one see a resemblance of this dangerous childhood prank to the recent happenings in South Sudan?
If one has knowledge of where the ruling clique of the burning South Sudan came from, then equating these leaders to the child-characters in the ‘Lords of the Flies’ cannot be considered as far-fetched.
The infantile manner in which they refuse to take responsibility for their genocidal action can be largely blamed on the deceased leader of the SPLA, Dr John Garang. He led the now defunct SPLA with an iron fist. It was as if he was the only adult in the liberation army.
He controlled everything, from store-keeping to training and promotion of the rank and file. He negotiated the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) by himself, because he could not trust any of his lieutenants to lead a delegation to the peace talks. The Sudan delegation was led by the deputy to Omer Beshir.
Garang sneered at formal education, (despite his PhD) and he lulled the barely educated soldiers that un-education was not necessarily a bad thing.
In any case, he predicted, those who were educating themselves away from the front lines would eventually be clerks to his victorious liberating, if functionally illiterate, soldiers.
The title ‘Dr’ was only reserved for him while those with similar qualifications and titles were forbidden from appending them to their names. He brooked no criticism and indiscipline.
And he was famously quoted as saying that “rebellion (in his army) can be forgiven but not rewarded”. Rebels such as Riek Machar, Lam Akol and Kiir himself, were forced to return to Garang’s fold without any concession to their original complaints for rebelling.
Garang was thus acting as the famous Banyan tree, under which other seedlings are smothered and cannot grow. When death took him away in the late 2005, his ‘children’ were left as orphans, bereft of any knowledge of leadership skills and statecraft; not unlike those in the ‘Lords of the Flies’.
The conclave that sat to choose a successor to Garang selected Salva Kiir, knowing very well that he was the least qualified and the least able candidate. Their choice was dictated by juvenile selfishness, thinking they would be able to manipulate him much more easily than they were able to do with the haughty Garang. They could not have predicted the disaster that Kiir would become.
On ascending the throne, Kiir quickly surrounded himself with advisors whom he chose from among his own tribe mates.
Now known as the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE), these advisors decided on one thing: that Kiir must remain in power indefinitely and for this to happen, he must become a dictator.
It was the process of turning Kiir into a dictator that precipitated the power struggle, which like the case in the ‘Lord of the Flies, has led to the conflagration that has engulfed and is consuming our country.
The leading stoker of this firestorm is Paul Malong, who until recently, the Chief of Staff of the SPLA. He mobilized and recruited Dinka youth from his home in Bahr el Ghazal region into a horde of primitive militia that has burnt homes, raped and killed their owners and sent millions into refugee and IDP camps. He was the Roger of the ‘Lord of the Flies’.
Adults in the form of UN officials, UNMISS, US, UK, and Norwegian envoys have constantly stepped on the scene to restrain Kiir and Malong and others from burning down this island known as South Sudan, but to no avail.
Of late, Kiir and the JCE have come to note that their ship named the ‘SPLA’ is listing very badly and to save their skin, they have thrown overboard the man who saved his (Kiir’s) bacon, Paul Malong.
In a swift follow-up, Kiir and his advisors have re-baptized their ship, South Sudan Defense Force, the SSDF.
All these attempts at salvage will not fool anybody. Kiir and his advisors are not seven-year old children playing with fire and petrol in South Sudan. They are conscious adults who are clearly aware of their responsibility in causing genocide in our country.
Therefore, this article, despite its use of William Golding’s book as an allegory, disavows any notion of excusing the horrendous crimes committed by Kiir and his JCE. They must be held accountable and tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague.
Samuel Atabi is a concerned South Sudanese and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org