BY: Simon M. Deng, JUBA, South Sudan, AUG/29/2013, SSN;
Exactly 22 years today, Nasir residents of Upper Nile State in South Sudan experienced this August 28th with mixed feelings. Civilians did not know what the split would bring to them. The town was buddy with rains that crowded roads with dulled water and mixed muds which lasted for days. UN agencies stopped dropping rations due to heavy rains. There was no enough food because most people did not harvest that year since they just returned from refugee camps in Ethiopia after the change of Ethiopia regime. The magnitude of the event itself was overwhelming in the town.
Though no cellphones and Internet for anyone in the town and the surroundings to inform relatives and friends about the episode, everyone appeared to have a way to convey the message across the controlled areas.
I just arrived few weeks before Nasir went through this change. The rebel movement that we knew, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), had split into two factions, the Nasir faction and Torit faction. The message that came from Keat Beek, the headquarters of the Nasir faction to town and other areas varied.
Everyone did not know what the change in the movement meant. There were fears of a war in town between rebel factions. Tensions were high and no one knew where else to go if war really broke out. But leadership in Keat Beek said no wars in town and people should mind their business which was great news, but it was unpredictable.
It is important to note the movement 22 years ago split because of differing principles and not on a tribal context. The Nasir faction supported self-determination for the people of the South Sudan. The self-determination included democracy and provisions for human rights.
The Torit faction, on the other hand, supported a unified, secular, democratic Sudan and wanted to end discrimination of its citizens based on religion or other natures.
Dr. Riek Machar Teny, Dr. Lam Akol, and Commander Gordon Koang Chuol led the Nasir faction while Dr. John Garang de Mabior and other comrades, including the present-day South Sudanese’s President, Lieutenant General Kiir Mayardit, remained in the Torit faction. The split had caused significant confusion and panic and galvanized civilians and soldiers on tribal bases, which was were not the intentions of the leaders as I stated above.
The right of self-determination for people of the South Sudan had brought Independent South Sudan on July 9, 2011 even though it did not come without a prize. The movement still has uncompleted works in order for the people of South Sudan to safeguard their long waiting freedom and development if we are going to have a “Democratic South Sudan.” This is if.
Some of these challenges are confirmed and enumerated by Dr. Riek Machar as six key contests during a meeting with members of the politburo on 5 March, 2013. These comprised of “rampant corruption, tribalism, economic problems, insecurity, poor international relations and the party’s loss of vision and direction,” (Sudantribune.com).
Few months after the Split, I left Nasir to another nearby village and talked to an old man about the situation in Nasir since the split in the rebel movement. The old man explained that a Nuer prophet, Ngudeng Bong, had predicted many decades ago that this division would occur and that people of [South Sudan] would have their own government.
The old man continued and said the “prophet mentioned in his message that Dr. Riek Machar Teny would operate a nation under a tree and would be heard around the world.”
The prophet stated that Dr. Riek Machar Teny would hold up the flag of the South Sudan in front of the nations of the world, and I believe this indeed came true in 2011 when South Sudan President, Lieutenant General Salva Kiir Mayardit delegated Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny to present South Sudan as a new nation at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York.
What’s interesting enough is that the old man did not mention anything about South Sudan after the independence. The Nuer prophet, Ngudeng, probably did not prophesize whether South Sudan would be a democratic nation which respects democratic principles such as freedom of speech and human rights, as well as a prosperous nascent, or an autocratic nation, which is ruled by dictators under hostile laws that do not respect un-yes men opinions.
Good example is the selection of the current South Sudan Vice President, Mr. Wani Igga, a follower friend with less to offer effective leader. President Kirr wants another follower friend as a new speaker of the parliament which has failed to enact any significant laws to govern the country since 2005 under the former speaker.
According to Richard K. Mulla, an MP representing Mundri West county in Western Equatoria State, “the violation of the conduct of business, saying he suspected the executive leadership of interfering in the affairs of the assembly with the aim to impose a hand-picked speaker,” Sudantribune.com. “A hand-picked speaker”!
Good leader does not intermediate his people but encourages them to follow his vision. It is important for South Sudan to have a visionary leader, otherwise, it would always be painful to live and remember South Sudan’s pasts when leaders are guided with emotions and tribal politics.
“The president came in with a bad mood and introduced to us Cde James Wani Igga for his nomination as the new Vice President. Then he started to threaten us with dissolutions and dismissals. After he finished with his threats nobody spoke and the meeting ended like that. We will now sit today as parliament to see what to do” Sudantribune.com.
It is a shame for trusted MPs to fall short of their responsibility without showing leadership. Daniel Awet, the deputy speaker of the National Legislative Assembly, backed Kiir’s actions in an exclusive interview with Sudan Tribune on Tuesday. Sudantribune.com. This is worse than enough for someone in this position to fail miserably just to score some tribal political points.
In conclusion, August 28th, 1991 is a day in South Sudanese history that would not be avoided since number one of the overarching goals is South Sudan Self-Determination which brought us South Sudan in July 9, 2011.
The principles for democracy, human right issues, fair government that treats citizens equal despites their tribal or religious contexts are daunting works for self-determinate South Sudanese to ensure the event August 28th 1991 did not happen in vain.
Simon M. Deng lives in Juba South Sudan. He can be reached: firstname.lastname@example.org