BY: E.E. Dantes*, Australia
Firstly, if one cannot stand up by putting a face or their name to a statement they believe in, maybe they should not state or write it at all. That said, I would like to respond to some things raised by the unnamed author of “South Sudan: In Jonglei, David Yau Yau is not the Problem.”
(1) The author wrote, “In post-independence South Sudan the majority of rebel leaders have been Nuer and there have been no, insignificant (sic), Dinka rebel leaders; the biggest tribal group in South Sudan, occupying both presidential posts to date. Why should they rebel?”
This is a laughably sad condescending statement. For the record, (a) In post-independent South Sudan, there has been only one president, so the “both” the author is referring to does not make sense. (b) Equating a presidential post to be a satisfactory factor of not having a grievance is as an absurd statement as saying that Africa-Americans have no grievances because Obama is the president. It is plain silly to say that Jieng (aka Dinka) have no reasons to rebel because the president is a Jieng. This statement infers that Jieng are the SOLE beneficiaries of the presidency, this is a falsehood something many NGOs working in Jieng homeland can corroborate. (c) I do not know how one determines significance of rebel leaders but I think there was a certain George Athor not so long ago whose personal grievances where not amalgamated to mean a greater cause of Pigi his home county.
(2) …“but at a much lower scale the motivation of the Murle is the same as Palestinians, who want their own state within South Sudan. The Murle and DYY are also not the only ones in todays South Sudan who are campaigning for greater self-determination – just take a look at the ongoing low-level shilluk rebellion against the Dinka in Upper Nile State.”
Wow! Really? (a) There is an ocean between Palestinian issues and Murle – they cannot be compared whatsoever even in a context of this supposed notion of self-determination by the Murle people. The two causes are incomparable – even the ideological definition of self-determination is different among the Palestinians and the Murle (on a personal note, I think it is an insult to the Palestinian cause). (b) In addition, the supposed rebellion against Jieng for self-determination in Upper Nile is just a palpable fib. This is perpetuating falsehood of big bad Jieng, hell bent on destroying and colonizing the minority. Firstly, the Upper Nile State is a home to three peoples, Collo (aka Shilluk) Kingdom, Jieng and Naath (aka Nuer). The Collo Kingdom is the home to some of the most influential people in the history of Sudan namely: Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba, Pagan Amum, Gen. Oyai Deng Ajak, Dr. Lam Akol (leader of SPLM-DC) and Baguot Amum (Pagan’s sister and wife of late Nyancigak, SPLA Commander from Murle). Secondly, historically the Collo lived on the west bank of the river Nile during the British colonial times while Jieng and Naath lived on the eastern bank. However, during the wars, people were continually displaced and subsequently Collo settled along the eastern bank resulting in frictions with Jieng around the areas of Lul and Anakdiaar. Thirdly, in relation to various rebellions in Upper Nile, namely that of Gabriel Tanginya and Johnson Oliny, these were not specifically against Jieng or Nuer but against the government in Juba. Tanginya was unhappy with the terms and rewards of incorporation into the SPLA. Oliny on the other hand was unhappy how his ancestral community was treated. Oliny’s community straddles the Sobat River, which marks the southern border of Upper Nile State and northern border of Jonglei State. During rainy season, the people migrate from one side of the river to the other, essentially crossing state borders. The community therefore fell through the bureaucracy as the two state governments passed them back and forth and not accepting them into one state. This was not the fault of Jieng or Nuer community but that of the government. Fourthly, no Jieng has ever been a governor in Upper Nile in post-independent South Sudan. Therefore using Upper Nile State as an example shows how the author has no understand of the issues in South Sudan.
(3) “I have no sympathy for DYY I don’t know how many crimes he has committed and few people do……….. Very few Murle people actually subscribe to DYY’s political agenda, if such a thing can be said to exist, but he has become a last resort for community protection among the Murle.”
This is a glaringly contradictory statement from the author who equated Murle’s grievances with Palestine’s cause and Yauyau’s stated political agenda as similar. The author stated that Murle wanted a state of their own in South Sudan something, which Yauyau actually said was an objective of his rebellion. Therefore, how can the author back away and say that Murle do not subscribe to Yauyau’s political agenda? The author also says, Yauyau has become a resort for community protection, against whom?
(4) …“the forced disarmament campaign exacerbated the tensions targeting the minority group, the Murle.”
This is an astonishingly dishonest statement from the author. I do not know whether the author is aware that Anyuak, Jieng, and Lou were the first to be disarmed in 2006 in Jonglei and Murle were not. Small Arms Survey reports are quite insightful.
Just to give a bit of context, in 2005 Lou Nuer and Jieng of Duk clashed for the first since peace was agreed between Jieng and Nuer. The government for whatever reasons decided between January and March in 2006 to forcibly disarm people. It conducted a preferential disarmament campaign targeting in Jonglei, Nuer, Jieng and Anyuak. Jieng and Anyuak handed their weapons in peacefully although woman, girls and children suffered abuses in the rural areas and were promised compensation by then Governor Philip Thon Leek. That promise was not kept.
Nuer on the other hand refused citing the fact that Murle and Jikany Nuer of Upper Nile still had arms. This led to a confrontation in May in which 400 SPLA and 1,200 Lou Nuer were killed.
SPLA committed many atrocities as a result while the UN, many NGOs and commentators turned a blind eye. Nuer blamed Jieng and the government because the General, Kuol Dim, who was in charge of disarmament in Jonglei was Jieng.
Thereafter, Lou repeatedly harassed Duk County until in May 2007 Jieng of Duk ë Padiet retaliated and looted 20,000 heads of cattle and killed unknown number of people. Here is a summary (Most of it from Small Arms survey, News Reports, IRIN Website, International Crisis Group and academic journal articles):
Jan – May 2006:
SPLA disarms Jieng and Anyuak peacefully, Lou resists, and 1,200 are killed. Lou Nuer rearms within 18 months (ICG).
Duk ë Padiet clash with Lou over grazing rights resulting in Jieng looting 20,000 heads of cattle.
Murle attack Akobo. Hundreds are killed (no concrete figure is given).
Murle abducts two children from Bor County.
Murle kills 8 and steals, 7,000 heads of cattle in Padak in Bor County. The Murle raiders are pursued but they ambushed the pursuers and kill 21 Jieng while they lose only six.
Murle attack Anyuak in Pochalla County, kills 26, and takes 105 cattle.
Then due to census and other things 2008 threats by Jieng of Bor County to raid Murle things quiet down.
Murle attacks Lou in Akobo kills 300.
Murle attacks Wuror and kills 600-750
Lou attack Murle in Lokuangole and kills 450
Murle attacks Lou in Akobo and kills 250
Lou attacks Jikany in Upper Nile and kills 71 (Nuer against Nuer).
(a) Lou attacks Jieng in Wernyol in Twic East County twice killing 11 and 47 on each occasion.
(b) Murle attacks Lou in Mareng killing 185.
Lou attacks Duk ë Padiet killing 167.
Then everything goes relatively quiet because of referendum and the elections and 2010 passes without major incidents in Jonglei.
Murle attacks Wuror County and kills eight.
Lou Nuer attack Lokuangole, in Pibor County kills 200 Murle.
Lou Nuer attacks Gumuruk and Lokuangole, in Pibor County, 400 Murle and 398,000 heads of cattle looted. Nuer Youth also reports on the Internet that Jieng has joined them.
Murle attacks Wuror County and kill 750 Lou Nuer.
Murle attacks Jalle in Bor County and kills 42
(a) Lou Nuer attacks Lokuangole and Pibor and kills between 1,000 – 3,000 Murle.
(b) Murle attacks Duk county and kill 47 people while they are under attack! One thought they would be busy defending themselves!
Murle attacks Anyidi in Bor County and kills nine Jieng and in retaliation, Jieng in Bor Town kills seven.
Murle attacks Nyirol County and kills 30 Lou Nuer
Murle attacks and kills 225 in Ethiopia and within Jonglei.
If one does the math, it is quickly apparent that the Murle are not a targeted victim minority that the author makes them out to be. It is quiet clear that they are very aggressive and have been the primary source of instability in Jonglei at least since the signing of CPA in 2005.
Jonglei State has many problems stemming from weak governance at both state and national level. Certainly, taking sides and misinforming the world will not help the local people whether they are Jieng, Naath or Murle.
The fundamental problem in Jonglei lies in the fact that the state is vast with no strong civil administrative institutions.
(1) All of South Sudan is aggrieved, from a bad government.
(2) Ethnicity is used as an excuse for impunity. When Abel Alier was the Head of HEC in 70s following Addis Ababa Peace Agreement, the Equatorians cried “Dinka! Dinka! We want Kokora (re-division of Southern Sudan).” When Joseph Lagu headed HEC everyone cried, “Madi! Madi! How many are there? (Madi being a minority group).” Since 70s, South Sudan is being slowly Balkanized.
(3) Nobody knows why Murle is fighting unarmed Jieng civilians. When Athor went to the Bush, he had personal grievances and the whole of Atar (his home constituent) did not follow him because their issues are not personified in Athor. However, Yauyau has been used to excuse Murle’s atrocities against other civilians.
People say Yauyau has a grievance (what is it? And against whom?), and then they add that he is standing up for his community (really? What if those in Pigi, Duk, Twï, Bor, Wuror, Nyirol, Pochalla and Akobo – frequent victims of Murle start standing up for themselves, what happens?).
(4). All guns must be laid down at all cost either voluntarily or forcefully and people have to talk or else everyone should be left to their own devices the latter being Somalianisation of Jonglei.
(5) David Yauyau is a problem in Jonglei State if not the major problem in Jonglei State primarily because of his sponsors in Khartoum (see Eric Reeves blog from comprehensive analysis). He is exacerbating pre-existing tribal tensions into something much bigger by politicizing it with illogical demands of separate statehood for the Murle.
If the UN and NGOs want impunity to end in South Sudan and all rebellions to die out like the M23 in D.R. Congo, then they must do to Khartoum what UN did to Rwanda. The West must impose embargos and sanctions to deny people like Yauyau supplies and sources to continuously fuel the rebellion.
The UN and NGOs must stop the glaring biased approach with they have adopted in South Sudan and must stop undermining the South Sudanese government in the name of selective human rights protection.
*e.e. dantes is an Australian academic with keen interest in South Sudan’s political affairs. The views expressed here are his only, and do not represent that of the institution which he works for.