Tribalism ignites the current & previous conflicts in South Sudan

By: Daniel Wuor Joak, RSS, APR/21/2014, SSN;

Several nationals and foreign writers have been addressing this concern for a number of years and extensively made researches on it where they thoroughly figured out that “Tribalism” is the main obstacle to future peace and harmony to communities living in South Sudan. Both British colonial power and successive Sudanese regimes in Khartoum had voiced the same concern where they rightly predicted that South Sudanese people would not afford to rule themselves peacefully if granted a state of their own.

The present situation can prove without any doubt to all of us as testimony. As South Sudanese who was born and grew up during the first Anya-Nya war and later participated intensively during the second war of struggle from January 1984, my experiences proved that something wrong is lingering in our minds that need to be readjusted in order for Republic of South Sudan to survive and be governed peacefully and transparently.

Let us not pretend that everything is alright within our setups being on the government or in the opposition sides. Our society in general, unfortunately, is very much decay from top to bottom unless is drastically rescue from eminent demise through cooperation and understanding.

All the sixty-four tribes, which inhabited the Republic of South Sudan, are very peaceful and loving people but inherited only by wrong leaders who have been blindly followed by their subjects without questioning their integrity and commitments to their well being.

Education and exposures to other world civilizations has nothing in our applied knowledge. Some of our most learned South Sudanese leaders who are supposed to be the best exemplary behaves as if they had never gone to classrooms. They always incite their tribal groups once they run short of ideas to convince their political opponents at national level.

The December 15, 2013’s saga had nothing to do with either Nuer or Dinka for that matter. It was squarely an SPLM internal matter that would have been resolved by its members from within.

The massacre and wanton killings perpetrated against over ten thousand Nuer civilians which was deliberately carried out by the so-called Presidential Guards and their colleagues from other organized forces from Dinka in Juba town for three days was an act of a defeated leader at national level.

Those leaders who challenged President Salva Kiir Mayardit from SPLM Party including Dr. Riek Machar, Mamma Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior, Deng Alor Kuol, John Luk Jok, Kosti Manibe, Alfred Ladu Gore, Dr. Cirino Eteng, Madut Biar Yel, Pagan Amum, Oyai Deng Ajak, Chol Tong Mayay, Taban Deng Gai, Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba, Majak de’ Agot and Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth etc.

Those who know the South Sudanese names very well can easily identify how many Nuer are on the list. They are only four in number among the fourteen SPLM leaders who advocated for change of leadership.

The higher figures from the group who opposed Kiir’s leadership were from Dinka. They had five and the rest were from different communities from Equatoria states. The Nuer community for that matter was victims of political conspiracy intentionally hatched by President Salva Kiir Mayardit to eliminate them from South Sudan’s politics.

The fabricated coup attempt, which was later, publicized by President Salva Kiir himself and his errand boys all over the world against his former Vice President Dr. Riek Machar, was a ploy to distort and detract the attentions of South Sudanese and their well wishers worldwide who were terribly shocked and saddened with great disbelieves about the awful massacres of the Nuer community which were systematically carried out by government supporters in Juba, Malakal, Bor, Leer and Bentiu.

With this kind of systematic killings against the Nuer, the White Army and defected SPLA soldiers from Nuer in Juba, Bor, Bentiu and Malakal fought back against the government loyalists until they bravely overran the towns of Bor, Bentiu and Malakal as well as most of the counties in the three states of Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei respectively and this was the beginning of the rebellion in the South Sudan.

President Salva Kiir had in the past been mastering the same tricks against different communities throughout the country where he fomented tribal feuds amongst the Dinka themselves, Nuer v Murle, Murle v SPLA, Nuer v SPLA, Mundari v Bari, Achol v Madi, Acholi v Bari, Dinka v Fertit, Shilluk v Dinka, SPLA v SPLA etc.

Such feuds were more less land disputes or indiscriminate disarmament where he always favoured one group against another bias. It resulted to numerous rebellion movements.

With the current conflict, some selfish politicians who do not want their individual interests to be jeopardized have dragged in some communities into this war unnecessarily.

For example, the Dinka Ngok of Baliet in Upper Nile State were not at all part of this wrangling but they were rather dragged in by none others than the State Governor of Upper Nile Simon Kun Puoch and his County Commissioner of Baliet Rev. James Tor Monybony.

Before the fighting took place in Malakal town on the 3rd week of December 2013, a group of state lawmakers, state ministers, other organized forces officers and senior state officials from the counties of Ulang and Nasir, after they completely disagreed with the state governor over the killings of Nuer civilians in Juba whereas the governor himself with on denial that the government in Juba did not order the massacres of Nuer civilians.

They were rather killed by individual criminals as his unwavering support presently with the government in Juba confirmed. After the group decided to travel to Nasir area without official approval from the state governor, their convoy of twelve cars was intercepted at Baliet Count by a force being organized by Baliet County Commissioner under specific order from the state governor Simon Kun Puoch where he instructed him not to allow the convoy to proceed to the last destination as planned.

Instead the group were told to return back to Malakal or else be dealt with accordingly. While the were in state of discussions, the organised soldiers from Baliet opened fire indiscriminately killing: 1. Hon. Nhial Lual Wuol, SPLM Chief Wipe Upper State Legislative Assembly, 2. Hon. Bang Duop Lam, Chairperson of Justice Committee, Hon. 3. Thuok Puok Goot, Secertary General State Secretariat, 4. One Colonel from Police, 5. Two Majors from Police, 6. Two Captains from Police and several officials. The total of those killed that day of 20/12/2013, were 17 persons.

When the news of their killing reached Nasir and Ulang, the communities of these two counties were extremely alarmed and the White Army decided to go and search for the survivors in Baliet County.

The number of passengers in the convoy was over sixty persons who were dispersed by their attackers to wilderness. Most of them died of thrust and hunger in the forest. Instead of the people of Baliet County to apologize for the killings, the While Army from Ulang and Nasir found them prepared for war against them.

This was the root cause of the first fighting in Baliet County. It was Governor Simon Kun Puoch and Rev. James Tor Monybony who should be held responsible for the death of innocent Dinka civilians from Baliet County and Nuer of Ulang and Nasir Counties respectively.

It was not their wish to kill themselves but the war was rather imposed on them by these two greedy politicians. This is a known fact and nobody will ever deny that as long as evidences are concerned.

The same thing with the prevailing human tragedy befallen in Shilluk Kingdom where former militias recently absorbed by government of South Sudan under commands of Major General Johnson Oluony and Brig. General Ayuok Ogat and under overall influence of their mentor Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin have been badly used by government in Juba to wage war against the SPLM/A-In Opposition forces in Upper Nile State.

This exposes the Shilluk community into danger because most of their recruits hail from Shilluk tribe and the fighting is concentrating in Shilluk area whereas thousands of Shilluk have been displaced from their ancestral lands either to UNMISS camp in Malakal town or into neighbouring country of Sudan.

The blame still goes to Dr. Lam Akol who encourages the Shilluk militias to fight alongside that despotic regime in Juba for his selfish gains. He had been in opposition all these years until when he learnt that his erstwhile political rivals Dr. Riek Machar and Pagan Amum went on loggerheads with President Salva Kiir Mayardit.

He hastily came back from his self-exile in Cairo and took this opportunity to mend his relations with President Kiir in order to side-line the other two SPLM opposing leaders in his favour.

The Shilluk as community has no reason to fight the White Army or the SPLM/A – In Opposition for that matter because the two communities have a lot in common and very much integrated culturally through inter-marriages assimilation.

Because of misuse of Shilluk sons being conscripted into militia’s ranks and fight alongside the SPLA, Brig. Ayuok Ogat, one of the factional militia commanders decided to defect to the rebel ranks. His forces and that of SPM/A – In Opposition recently captured the town of Kaka El Tigariah from the government forces.

This marked the beginning of Shilluk community to disassociate themselves from Salva Kiir and Lam Akol’s bandwagon. Their marriage of convenience will soon disintegrate as already the Chollo community realised the truth.

The same scenario has also been happening in Mayom County in Unity State where the sons of Monytuil Ojang, Dr. Nguen who is the Unity State Governor and General Bapiny have been organizing a militia band under command of Major General Matthew Puol Jang.

The militia who hails from Bul Nuer clan has been fighting alongside the government against the SPLM/A – In Opposition forces all this time without being integrated into SPLA ranks like Shilluk Militia.

Sadly, they are not in payroll but miserably used to fight for the interests of their godfathers in Juba. Until the day of yesterday on 15 April, when the Bul militia fighting force realized that they have badly been misused by the sons of Monytuil Ojang in Juba by killing their own Nuer people and destroying their properties jointly with SPLA of Dinka elements, SPLM-N, JEM and UPDF forces against the SPLM/A-In Opposition in Unity State.

Over 600 of them under command of Major General Karlo Kuol Ruai have defected to the rebel’s rank and this made the capture of Bentiu very quick and easy.

Once again, the same tools also used by some politicians from Dinka Bor in Jonglei State where they deliberately dragged in their community into war unnecessarily.

For example, the people of Pigi, Duk and Twic East Counties who are all from Dinka origins had never been part of current war because the SPLM/A – In Opposition or the White Army always consider them neutral.

They did not participate in the massacres of Nuer in Juba and other towns in Greater Upper Nile as this was done only by some Dinka elements from Greater Bahr El Gazal.

Therefore, they were not attacked during the first and second capturing of Bor town by SPLM/A –In Opposition in December 2013, and January 2014, simultaneously.

Unfortunately, the people of Duk were encouraged by their politician Hon. Philip Thon Leek to form their own militia group and fight alongside the SPLA and UPDF forces in the area. Following the recent fighting between the government and rebels forces, Duk County became a contesting zone and that was the reason why some of the structures including the lost boys clinic was destroyed during the fighting.

Hon. Philip Thon Leek should not escape from being blamed for having encouraged the Dinka youth in Duk County to fight alongside the government and their Uganda ally forces against the SPLM/A-In Opposition forces.

The Counties of Pegi and Twic East are free from attack up to this time from the SPLM/A-In Opposition and the White Army because they have shown their neutrality openly.

Frankly speaking, the government of President Salva Kiir Mayaridit in Juba has completely lost its full support and confidence of the Nuer people throughout the Nuerland in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile States because of the wanton killing and awful massacres its committed against the innocents Nuer in Juba and other towns in Greater Upper Nile states.

It is now resorting on support of individual’s personalities like Major General James Hoth Mai, Dr. Riek Gai Kok, General Charles Lam Chol, General Yohannes Yoal Bath, Simon Kun Puoch, James Kok Ruai, John Kong Nyuon, Dr. John Gai Yoah, General Johnson Gony Billieu, Major General Bol Kong, Nyang Chuol Dhuor, Hon. Timothy Taban Juoch, Justice John Gatwech Lul, Hon. Manasah Magok Rundial, Dr. Joseph Nguen Monytuil, Kuong Danhier Gatluak, General Bapiny Monytuil etc.

They have no grass-root supports and at the same time being labelled by Nuer in general as sell-outs who compromised the death of their own fellows for material gains and positions.

Whether President Salva Kiir has them in his camp, the grass-roots Nuer consider them like those perished in Juba during the aftermath of fighting. Their contributions are not valued very much at this time.

That is why some of them resort on sending people with money to bribe the Nuer White Army in Eastern Upper Nile and Eastern Jonglei States.

If they want Nuer to support their cause, why they do not approach the ones residing at UNMISS camps in Juba, Bor and Malakal instead of looking for people who have already escaped the government’s onslaughts.

Unfortunately, their cheap dealings are rejected completely throughout the Nuerland. Some of their agents went recently through Ethiopia carrying with them several hundreds thousands of US dollars to bribe the White Army and some field commanders associated with Dr. Riek Machar to return to the government circle.

But this mission ended up in fiasco where many of them have been arrested in Gambella region by the Ethiopian security or sent back to Juba unceremoniously. This is always the work of failed leaders who are virtually disowned by their own communities.

Whether they like it or not, South Sudan is in turmoil and there will be no reverse at all. Therefore President Salva Kiir and his cronies must go by all means sooner than later or otherwise, Moamar Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein’s sagas will fall on them squarely.

The Author was former MP & Minister of Education, Science & Technology (UNS) and now Executive Director of African Centre for Human Advocacy (ACHA), which advocates for human rights and good governance throughout the Africa Continent.


  1. Leader says:

    Wuor Jok

    You people are losers and will continue to be ones for sometimes. Do you think you will overthrow the govt through revenge killings and victimising some communities because some of their politicians support Kiir. Don’t you think that those communities may have other politicians who may support your cause or even the community may differ with their politicians and go for change. Other people are more enlightened unlike your Nuer fools who blindly support their politicians.
    Why do you always talk on massacres in juba and forget about the ones you carried out in Bor, Malakal, Baliet and Bentiu
    Your belief in overthrowing pres kiir by force and installing your Nuer-prophet Dr. Riek will not come to fruition.

  2. Eli says:

    Congratulations to our freedom fighters for liberating Bentiu and many of the other government strongholds. This is pivotal moment in the history of South Sudan, I also applaud the outcome of the conference held in Nasir South Sudan. Here is how it reads as seen on Sudan Tribune website:

    Thank God that there is still hope for our people, we have been asking for federal system for years and now our call is been heeded by our new chairman and C-in-C freedom fighter Dr. Riek Machar. We pray for the protection and victory of our freedom fighters and the Almighty’s blessings and moral guidance. May God bless our nation RoSS.
    Elia Wani S.S

    • Beek says:

      @Eli.Please your Freedom fighters from whom! Your so called freedumb are now jobless. They will not be integrated into the South National Army anymore.

  3. Leader says:

    I think it is time the Dinka understood that the Nuer actually means war against them. Some Dinka sections especially from Bhar El Ghazal do not understand the brutality and intention of Nuer and hence they do not take the war seriously.
    Salva Kiir is a weak ‘leader who should have been overthrown had it not for Nuer stupidity that took the war against the Dinka instead of Kiir and his Govt.
    It is time the Dinka realised that they face a serious danger and therefore they should rise up, mobilise wherever they are and face the Nuer and their allies with full force. If Salva Kiir, as we all know is too weak to face the murderous Riek, he should be deposed and another capable war leader install to fight the war.

  4. Rumunu says:

    Dear Daniel Wuor Joak, congratulations my dear for your well articulated points in your article. Exactly what you have mentioned is really the reality on the ground, no doubt about it. Those leaders who are not popular with their people tend to buy favor from the leadership to maintain their status quo in the Government because they are taken up by material things at the expense of their poor people, these leaders have lost credibility and they have sacrificed their dignity and integrity for food. But even today, Salva Kiir has taken away Gen. James Hoth Mai and replaced by Governor Paul Malong Awan, Mac Paul of Military Intelligent replaced by Major Gen Marial who murdered the Engineer from Lokoya. You can see for your self, the Government Salva Kiir rewards those who have done disservice to the nation by corruption and murdering people innocently are being rewarded by big positions. Why do I say this, because you can imagine for your selves, Malong Awan was behind the massacres of innocent Nuer in Juba during the crisis of Dec 15,16, 17 & 18, the Maj Gen killed an Engineer still considered to be worthy for service, Maj. Gen Johnson Juma Okot, did the same disservice in Torit when he was put as care taker by declaring Iwire Payam without warrant of Establishment and caused more problems which was witnessed by killing innocently Ma’di people in Magwi and ambushes on the road for Ma’di people. With all these happenings President Kiir promoted him to the rank of Maj. Gen and I know by now he should be eying for the rank of Lt. Gen in Kiir’s Government. So, in Kiir’s Government if you really wanted position or promotion, you must be doing disservice to the nation and you will get the reward. The list is so long you will see tomorrow among the list either the corrupt or murderers will be get thepositon in this recent military reshuffle. By vague this was supposed to be Lt. Gen Thomas Cirilo’s time because after Gen. James Hoth Mai, Gen Thomas is the most senior General among the active military ranks and file. It is the same thing Salva Kiir did for General Isaac Mamur by retiring him not to take position of General Chief of Staff of SPLA. Equatorians are seriously cheated in the Government of Salva Kiir as far as army is concerned. I really agree with Dr. Majak De’Agot during his testimony in the special court that the Government of Salva Kiir is being ruled by impunity.


  5. I really wonder for the likes of Daniel Wour Joak, it is not helpful to incite tribal hate against the whole Dinka, I thought Dr. Riek was championing for democracy, rule of law among other ideals he so mentioned to justify his rebellion, the numbers you have mentioned to have been killed in Juba from the Nuer community are quite exaggerative. I think what we should concentrate on is how we could restore peace and harmony in our Country, Nuer as a tribe can never rule a Country of its own without the other 63 ethnicities regardless how furious they could fight the war, Dr. Riek leadership is stained with blood of innocent civilians and is completely tarnished after he was given the chance again to reign in the ranks and files of the SPLM and the government of South Sudan. Countries are ruled through political Parties but not through tribes.

  6. Wutjikol says:

    Dear Leader, Akec and the likes,

    You may disagree with Daniel Wuor Joak’s article but this is the hard fact. He is not inciting or fomenting tribal hatred against the Dinka but he is absolutely correct. The country is in turmoil under weak and wicked leadership of Salva Kiir Mayardit. He has now proved beyond and reasonable doubt that he is truly a defeated leader who resorted on his own tribe “Dinka” for protection. President Kiir is no longer worthy to claim the South Sudanese leadership of the country. If all the key strategic positions are held by Dinka including the President, defence minister, SPLA general chief of staff, head of MI, National security, presidential legal advisor, SPLA spokesperson, presidential spokesman etc. what do you expect from other South Sudanese to say about your fake government. It does not reflect their aspirations and therefore this government must be overthrown and replace by a government of national unity which will respect the rule of law, good governance, accountability, human rights, development etc. For your information, Dinka has failed South Sudan completely and the whole world is very much aware of that because you think you are very intelligent indeed who have every right to rule this country rightly or wrongly without being questioned. The Nuer is challenging your misrule and I believe the rest of the South Sudanese people will soon join them to liberate themselves from your despotic and oppressive rule. Never take this war lightly as Nuer war against the Dinka but you will soon realise that your Kingdom is ultimately on the verge to collapse.

  7. Dear Mr.Rumunu:

    I like your comment to the writer of the article Daniel Wuor Joak.What you have expressed in your comment,they are very true to the best of my understanding in my knowledge and my virtue.I add to your comment.For all the time,I do not believe what people have talked about President Salva Kirr Mayaridt in the administration in the country in the government.But-today,it has come to my clear understanding that himself President Kirr Mayardit,he is a tribalist person most.Why he fired the Chief Staff Lt.General James Moi and others without any good motives?? Why he replaced him with a civilian governor Mr.Paul Malong Awan from the state??

    Well,he thought,he brought Paul Malong Awan,he is going to make things very good to the rebels in the bush???He has a wrong thought at all most! The rebel are fighting with series determination without any shrieking from the cause! Anyway let him try! We will see who is a winner? And who is a loser???? Thank you.Back to the audience to the studio on the board discussion South Sudan Nation website forum!

  8. Thon Giei says:

    Daniel Wuor Jok:
    1- You wrongly presented the events that led to the war in Greater Upper Nile.
    2- You started your article with reasonable assertions but carried away by emotions and your position in the war.
    3- Shamelessly, you concluded that you head the African Centre for Human Advocay, institution for human rights. You need to present a balance view on both sides. But you presented a biased opinion praising the killers of the White Army.
    4- If time allows, I will response to the events that you intentionally and wrongly characterized.

  9. Toney Toney Matot says:

    hey Guys read below let us know is this the democracy you claiming to be fighting for???
    Riek Machar rebel movement organized a four-day conference in Nassir from 15th to 18th April 2014 to decide leadership and direction of the movement that started on December 15 2013 in Juba. The following is the address by Riek, the Movement’s Chairman.

    I warmly welcome all of you to Nassir 2014 Ladies and Gentlemen,

    The year 2013 has ushered in a new revolution led by the true sons of the land in the person of the sons of Upper Nile region. Among these sons of Upper Nile is Dr. Riek Machar myself, the leader of the revolution. Others are Taban Gai, Peter Yak, James Chuol or CDR, Gatwich Dual, Gabriel Tanginye and many other great men of this region among you here. The 15th December 2013 is a great day when we nearly exterminated the enemy in Juba to free our people from the bondage of servitude.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    The great Naath nation has missed the first opportunity in 1991 in the very Nassir you’re assembled in. This was Nassir one like Anya nya one. The Nassir two of 2014 is like Anya two which is the SPLA. Therefore, our Movement is named SPLA/M in Opposition to signal the impending victory that awaits us in a few months from now. The great prophet Ngundeng foresaw this during the Anglo-Egyptian condominium rule in the 19th Century. Gua? Gua long However, we have also considered other names like SSRA/M but this may go down in to history dustbin like SSIM/A. so it was scrapped.

    Great people of Upper Nile,

    You have seen with us here many experienced military Generals as mentioned early. They are men of action as seen immediately after December 15 2013. Peter Yak overran Bor, James Chuol took Bentiu and became Governor there and Malakal exchanged hands 4 times in 4 months. The liberation speed is never seen before anywhere in the ancient world as well as now. You bear witness that the Naath nation fought the British successfully in the 19th Century under the leadership of Prophet Ngundeng Bong and did the same years later under Guek Ngundeng, the prophet’s son.

    Dear Naath nation,

    Though prophet Ngundeng is not now with us, we have other prophets who are equally determinative. Dak Kueth is on top of the list. He has been decisive in several battles against the SPLA and Murle. What more do you from any prophet?

    That is the short history about our Movement, the SPLA/M in Opposition. We tentatively chose this name because we tried other names in the past but did not succeed. SPLA Nassir Faction, SSIM, Riek Machar Action Movement (RMM) were good names used among others. We even signed Khartoum Peace Agreement (KPA) in 1997, which was later dishonoured. However, it was the precursor of CPA. Therefore, without KPA there would have no CPA. This also shows that I am not short of great ideas that help this country!

    Comrades in arms,

    Let me not bore you with every detail of history; let’s go straight to today’s business, the mission of this gathering. The agenda of this conference is to elect the chairman and commander in chief of the SPLA/M in Opposition and formation of national committees. These organs will help our great movement move forward in this critical phase of liberation. I put myself forward for the seat of the Chairman and Commander in Chief of the army. As you know, I am the most senior with the rank of a General. I have also been Vice President for eight years from 2005 to 2013. There is no one to challenge me in this post. Above all it was predicted by the Prophet and therefore, there is no need for voting, we only proceed to formation of National Committees (NCs).

    They are as follow;

    1. Justice and human rights committee
    2. Peace and national reconciliation committee
    3. Political mobilization committee
    4. Foreign affairs committee
    5. Finance and resources mobilization committee
    6. Information and public relations committee
    7. Humanitarian and social services committee
    8. Women and youth empowerment committee

    Each committee shall be headed by a chairperson followed by deputy and then secretary. All will be appointed by the Chairman, Dr. Riek Machar Teny. Therefore, there is no need for election of committee officials. This is the best democracy. Elect the chairman and the chairman elects the rest.

    Our movement calls for the following;

    Removal of Salva Kiir given his bad deeds and we urge international community to do the same.
    Withdrawal of foreign forces in form of UPDF and others form the country.
    Intensification of the war in to Bhar el Ghazal and Equatoria
    Formation of federal state in the country by restructuring of all sectors
    However, we are committed to peace processes under IGAD in Addis Ababa.
    I thank you all for your sacrifices to liberate South Sudan from Salva Kiir

    Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon
    SPLM SPLA party in Opposition
    Nassir, South Sudan

  10. John Gooch says:

    Peace and calmness to you.
    Answers from God can be found in the cells of the fruits you eat, by studying the health of the trees and the soil.
    Even in the poor country of Haiti SOIL (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods) ( is helping grow stable organisation from the need to grow fruit with biological hygiene.
    An interest in God is a salient point, in the stress management.
    Emphasizing separate places for Prayer and the ancient Seventh day the Sabbath privately, to be ready for Sunday service.
    Ways to be physically cool, with fish ponds and carefully built offices.
    Children need to learn about cells, tidiness and hygiene.
    A place for God, is a place that can protect.
    It brings people to begin effective protection.

    God bless.

    John Gooch, Electronics Engineer,
    Oxfordshire, England

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