Why South Sudan’s liberation is gone awry

BY: Tongun Lo Loyuong, RSS, MAR/13/2013, SSN;

The renowned and influential non-violent philosopher and activist and the founding father of India, Mahatma Gandhi, is widely cited to have admonished that, “your task is to bring your adversary to his senses and not to his knees.” In this spirit I examine the reasons why South Sudan’s Liberation is gone awry.

But first and foremost, it is worth observing that in our time it has become a common knee jerk reaction by our “liberators” to strongly dismiss all constructive critiques, which are aimed at challenging their government to improve its policies and performance by mitigating corruption and nepotism, and increasing social service output in order to forge a prosperous and peaceful united South Sudan.

In response to all voices of change, the hawks of the failed SPLM establishment are quick to remind us that ‘Rome was not built over night’ which is true, but Rome was also plundered over night. What is more, the SPLM apologists have also been quick to tell us that South Sudan is still a baby nation that is learning to take its first baby steps to walk.

As I previously noted elsewhere, one official once put it this way: “the country is young and… if we [GoSS] were children, we will be breaking glasses all the time. Please be patient with us when we break few glasses!” Unfortunately as has become conventional wisdom, views such as this have profoundly contributed to the regression of our country since the signing of the CPA in 2005.

It seems our baby state is being made to learn how to walk backwards, and the tragedy is that the international community subscribes to the lies that are being peddled by the rogue SPLM organization.

In recent months, the guardians of the SPLM movement and government in Juba have started peddling another foolery — that of the patriotic argument. Voices of change that question the integrity of South Sudan’s liberation in view of the rotten policies pursued by the inept and rouge regime are increasingly accused of being unpatriotic and of disrespecting the fallen heroes without whose blood and selfless sacrifices, we are told, South Sudan as an independent state would not have come into being.

It is agreeable that there is moral and political value in promoting patriotism, and forging a cohesive South Sudanese unity and national identity, as well as fostering respect and appreciation of the mammoth contribution of the selfless sacrifices of fallen heroes and heroines to the independence of South Sudan.

However, the distortion by our “liberators” arises when the accusation of lack of patriotism and disrespect of the blood and sacrifice of the martyrs becomes a pretext to silence well-wishers of the Republic and to conceal institutionalized corrupt and nepotistic policies and the Arab-like marginalization and hegemonic and expansionist agenda.

Consider for instance the question: which is more unpatriotic, to loot your country, condone land grabbing and remain apathetic to current ills driving our nation on the cliff of violent inter-communal anarchy, or to speak out against these vices in order to proactively arrest the steady decent of the country to the carnage of another impending full-scale war?

Another diversion trick our “liberators” skillfully employ is to question the contribution of the voices of change to the independence of South Sudan. We are asked where were you when we [the liberators] were in the bush, cowards? We “liberated” you. What a joke?!

And, of course, there is no need to mention the constant threat of being detained, tortured, or lynched that the constructive voices of change face for free expression. Examples abound.

In response to these arrogance and ignorance — a combination that can send a rational human being to the stone-age, allow me to share the following disclaimer with my “liberators.” I am not a liberator and I was not in the bush, but I refuse to be complicit in dragging South Sudan into the unknown because of the overwhelmingly ill-conceived political decisions that are being pursued in the country.

Not speaking out against innocent suffering in South Sudan is tantamount to being complicit with the perpetrators who are inflicting this suffering. I see it as my moral duty to speak for the voiceless and suffering South Sudanese due to political malpractices, regardless of their socio-ethnic particularity and belonging.

In response to the bush question, not all South Sudanese should have been in the bush in order to have a voice. But if I must descend to that level then here is why I was not in the bush: I was not in the bush because I was unfortunate enough to be a young boy living in Juba in the early years of the struggle.

I was not in the bush because I was displaced to Khartoum with my family when both our “liberators” and the regime in Khartoum conspired to make life unlivable in Juba in the late 80s. Our “liberators” rained bombs in the town indiscriminately killing many innocent civilians, while Khartoum cut off food supply by imposing an air embargo. This in turn led to famine which was exacerbated by drought that further claimed many more innocent lives.

I was not in the bush because as a teenager living in Khartoum, the opportunity arose to join the front-line in mid-90s, but I was a coward and disobeyed direct order from Khartoum to go and fight my own brothers and sisters in the South. I was faced with two options to be forced into going to the South to kill my own brothers or be killed, or to go into exile.

I was not in the bush because I chose the second option and went into exile in Syria and Lebanon, where I lived a humiliated life as a refugee without status or rights, two years of which I spent in prison for being an illegal alien in Lebanon.

Yes, I was not in the bush because I was a coward and not a “liberator,” a coward for refusing to pick up arms against my brothers and sisters in the Southern bushes. When the opportunity arose to join the struggle during my time in Diaspora at that point the struggle was suffering from confusion and deadly schism that inflicted atrocious loss in innocent lives in support bases of the two factions.

I was not in the bush because I refused to have innocent blood on my hands, I was a coward. And in any event, I was not in the bush because the group that was explicitly fighting for South Sudan’s liberation and that I was sympathetic with had rejoined Khartoum, and likewise I refused to align myself with the criminal Islamist regime in Khartoum.

There is no need to descend to the level of pointing out the role of policy advocacy and its contribution to the independence of South Sudan, and what role many South Sudanese who were not in the bush could have played. We will maintain the moral high ground.

Now let the “liberator” tell me, how much of a coward was I?

As a starter, the Southern liberation went wrong precisely because of the arrogance and ignorance of our “liberators.” But the Southern liberation has also gone bad primarily because current policies in Juba are reminiscent of those historically pursued by successive Khartoum regimes, and for which the South chose a divorce to begin with.

Hence a liberation from what and to what end? The similarities with Khartoum are so striking that they even impose alcohol ban in certain states of South Sudan, not knowing that generations of South Sudanese were brought up with the help of income generated from alcohol production and sale.

But there is more to why the liberation of South Sudan is liberation for the benefit of the elite few. Many of the grievances that constituted the “Southern problem” and that led to the liberation struggle in its two intermittent stints remain either un-addressed or are being aggressively pursued as Khartoum did.

Let us briefly unpack these public grievances as they have been well-documented in scholarly research, and examine how Juba has handled them since the formation of an autonomous government in 2005.

The first grievance that sent South Sudanese (without me) to the bush was Khartoum’s aggressive pursuits of Arabization and Islamistization expansionist and domination policies and agenda in Sudan, the so-called national identity contestation debate.

According to these contested claims to Sudanese national identity explanation best described here as identity of domination versus identity of resistance, violent conflicts in Sudan, including the North-South civil wars, were in response to Islamic and Islamist central regimes denying the overwhelming majority of Sudanese the right to equal citizenship status, and appreciation of cultural diversity in Sudan.

In the case of South Sudan, the southern identities are not recognized and respected by Khartoum. In response, South Sudanese developed an identity of resistance that transpired in the liberation struggles that ultimately culminated in the liberation of South Sudan, which is now being hijacked by some.

A great segment of the South Sudanese society continue to suffer from the grievance of expansionism and domination as being aggressively pursued through organized settlements and land grabbing of ancestral lands by some powerful groups with guns.

Where is liberation for these communities who are expressing these legitimate grievances?

The second equally prevalent grievance being expressed by South Sudanese more than 8 years down the road of the so-called “liberation,” and which was one of the triggering factors to the liberation struggle is the economic factor. The explanation then that still applies now was that Sudanese conflicts are a result of some center-periphery dynamic, where inequitable allotment of wealth, resources, and political representation between the center and the periphery fuel conflicts in Sudan.

As Alex de Waal has argued, “the country’s wars are logical continuation of historic processes of asset stripping and proletarianisation of the rural populace which began in the nineteenth century and which has continued during war and peace alike.”

Marginalization remains alive and well in South Sudan, and is probably practiced even more openly and aggressively today than it was then. Consider for instance, the recent 2013 Equatoria conference, which has raffled many feathers of our patriots and liberators. Marginalization was one of the key grievances raised in this conference.

How can you tell me I am liberated when I remain marginalized to the core? As an example, I applied for a professional job with the government of South Sudan, and submitted a long resume with unrivaled academic credentials and experience by many. I even offered to serve under a non-paid internship capacity until the economic lot of the country improves, but I was dragged around for one month and my application was ultimately swept under the carpet.

A Kenyan secretary woman was the one who was made to break the news to me that there is no job for me, and even expelled me from the office of one my “liberators,” imagine how humiliating. Is it not telling that I can get a decent professional job with a descent salary in the West, but not in my own country? So I decided to go back to my West.

In a recent study conducted by Adam Branch and Zachariah Cherian Mampilly and entitled “Winning the War but Losing the Peace,” here is how they summed some of the grievances currently being expressed in South Sudan. They write: “many of those who belong to the smaller Equatorian ethnic groups — the Bari, Zande, Acholi, Madi, Moru, Kuku, and others — view the SPLA as a vehicle of Dinka domination and complain bitterly about their treatment at the hands of the SPLA.”

They further continued: “A Madi man returning from Uganda goes to the land he farmed before being displaced, and finds a Dinka living in his house. He demands that the Dinka return his house and land. In response, the Dinka points to a date inscribed above the doorway. ‘On this date, I liberated this house from the Arabs,’ he says. ‘Where were you?’”

Be that as it may, marginalization or nepotism is not just a phenomenon directed against the Equatorians; the whole periphery of the country is suffering from and bewailing this vice. People are still dying in multitudes of famine and curable diseases even in the areas where our “liberators” come from, while some of our “liberators” are becoming stout and wealthy overnight. Many examples of grievances could be cited in the “liberated” South Sudan, but the ones noted above should do the trick.

In short how can you tell me I am liberated when my grievance remains even after I am supposedly liberated? How did we lose our grievance that we struggled for so long and sacrificed millions of precious lives and martyrs to greed? It is time our ruling clique come to its senses before it is too little too late.

I leave you with these words from a conflict expert, Immanuel William Zartman. He notes: “Conflicts begin with grievances, in which the parties feel deprived of some good to which they feel they have a right…. It may be material access, prevented by poverty, or social access, prevented by status, or political access, prevented by restrictive rules of governance… when those who are deprived begin to feel that they are deprived because of who they are,” and when the state does not address these grievances by “normal politics,” ethnic leaders are highly likely to mobilize their communal groups to express these grievances through several transformational phases before they escalate into full-fledged organized violence, where the aim is not to win anymore, but to obliterate the enemy.”

Are we in South Sudan experiencing a phase of a full-fledged war in the making? The naïve proponent of the SPLM establishment will be quick to say that let them go to the bush, not knowing that when this country catches fire, nobody will be spared. It will be a replication of Rwanda and Somalia combined, and we do not want that to happen do we?

For questions and concerns, you know where to find me: tloloyuong@gmail.com


  1. Leader says:

    Mr. Tongun,
    I do appreciate how you raised the issues affecting the South Sudanese poor. Without any distinction everybody is a victim of the current incompetent government of president Kiir. I also appreciate how you criticize the gov’t but the tribe of the president like others do. Please keep it up.

  2. Joseph says:

    Hi Tongun,
    Personal i am tired of hearing these words like “we are starting from scrap, zero tolerance on corruption, Khartoum is the one doing this and that, taking town to the people….” please splm members need to style up some times. For how long will splm members continue parroting late. Garanag. Does it means late Dr. Garang was the only educated South Sudanese in splm party?

    i was ashamed when the so-called Dr. Itto, the deputy splm secretary, was parroting what Dr. Garang said concerning taking town to the people. She does not know that the late Garang used to spare most of his time reading books. All this theory of taking town to the people can be found in the book of geography of town planning & development and the opposite of this approach is the trickle- down effect which says “development starts in the core and will diffuse to the periphery.”

    In layman language it means development starts in town that goes to the rural. The splm did not know the disadvantages of taking town to the people theory, that is why they have failed in doing so. Every citizen is now dwelling to the town/city.

    For splm information, “A parrot can imitate its master but will remain a parrot.” splm can continue imitating Garang but none of their members will become like Garang.


  3. Joseph says:

    On the issue of equatorians demanding self-determination in the near future, it is very true. Allow me to quote the late Mahatma Ghandi who has immortalized him self through his famous quotes and wisdom. Ghandi said when you start some thing strange/new ” first they (people) laugh at you, second they will ignore you, third they will fight you and fourth you will win”. The case of the Equatorians will be the same.

    Many thanks Tongun Lo Loyuong for you good article.


  4. Alphonse Kenyi says:

    I could not agree more with what Mr Tongun Loloyuong stipulated in his well-tailored article. I have never been a tribalist nor had condoned tribalism attitudes since my college years in Egypt, in late ’80s and early ’90s living with the now called Dinka liberators. It is so sad and depressing that our supposedly own brothers calling us, Equatorians, cowards and unpatriotic. The Jalaba, who to some extent have mixed blood with Dinka, have never been so explicit in their hate to Equatorians than what Dinkas are propagating in the name of liberation.
    What liberation are they talking about? Unless these aliens are born post ’83s, their fathers and grand fathers could have told them who the real liberators are, and when, how and where our collective liberation consciousness started in the first place.
    Please don’t confuse the liberation of Sudan with the liberation of South Sudan. It was the three Equatoria States that voted above 90% for separation compared to the New Sudan project States. Please do some research before engaging yourself in backward argument.

  5. Kuot says:

    I want to advice my friends from Equatoria that do not allow any person to tell you that Equatorians are unpatriotic and not liberators. I joined the SPLM/A in 1987 as a boy. I started to fight in the battles from 1991 starting from the war between the SPLA and Oyana rebels who overthrew Mengistus. I fought until 1998 when I took the wounded from kiyla to Red Cross clinic in Lokichigio and proceeded to enrolled at Kakuma refugee camp in kenya.

    Throughout the years i spent in front-lines, I witnessed that Equatorians fought within my Task forces in Kapoeta, Torit, Kiyla, chukudum, Mountain ranges of Imatong etc. As a matter fact Equatorians contributed more and better than the Nuer. they fought the common enemy from the time they joined the movement to the CPA time. No Nuer soldiers were fighting against the Arabs from 1991 to 2005 (CPA period).

    Do not allow any person to lie to you that Equatorians are not liberators. Credits of Liberation should not be solely rewarded based on the number of soldiers who were fighting in battlefields. The number of Dinka soldiers were more in the battlefield but that does not mean the minority tribes did not contribute. Dinka contributed in large numbers because it is a big tribe. Number of MPs who are representing Dinka constituencies are more in the current National Assembly.

    To conclude it, this government is for equatorians in terms of representation. This government may not be for equatorians in terms of economic benefits. But equatorians are not the only victims who are missing economic benefits. It is all the citizens of South Sudan. Let’s advocate for change rather than calling for self-determination.

  6. Elhag Paul says:

    Dear Tongun
    Well done. Your article is an awesome piece. It is highly empowering to our oppressed people.
    It is olso timely response to our ‘liberator’ and ‘born-to-rule’ who have birdied their heads deep in sand like
    Ostriches: the likes of Buot Manyel Buot, Ateny Wek Ateny… etc. The work of consciousness raising must
    continue unabated as it is the only potent weapon at our disposal. The ‘liberator’ uses AK47 and tanks but
    we use pen and ink. Let us see who will win eventually.

    • Dear Elhag Paul,
      I totally disagreed with you. The AK 47 speaks more louder than a pen and ink. We had been using pen and ink in vain since the inception of Anyanya 1 movement in 1955. The liberators have used both pen and ink for the last 22 years. It was indeed the use of AK47, pen and ink that liberated you from the slavery. Where were you and what have you been doing or writing about before the Dinka became liberators or corrupted in Juba?

      General Salva Kiir mayardit joined Anyanya 1 when he was just 17 years old and had been fighting for the liberation of South Sudan since then. If General Kiir and his corrupted Dinka generals/politicians fought the mighty Arabs until he achieved the independence, he/liberators would ignore and resist your pen and ink online until you die of heart attack or frustration.
      Please get out of the Kitchen of President Omar Hassan El Bashir and return to Juba so that we can peacefully boot out those corrupted Dinkas from the leadership in 2015.

      • Eastern says:

        Garang, The independence of South Sudan celebrated on July 9, 2011 was not entirely achieved by the abnoxious AK47. It was clear that the war was neither swinging in favour of the Arabs in Khartoum nor SPLA led by the late Garang but the cost on the civilian population including the burden of the war on the neighbouring countries was huge. The world through TROIKA literally PUSHED SPLA/M and Al Bashir to sign a peace agreement known as the CPA with a provision for self-determination for people that led to fully-fledged independence through a referendum (implemented) and ‘popular consultation’ for the people of South Kordofan, Nuba mountains and southern parts of Blue state – NOT implemented hence the war there. I always prefer being brief. No guns alone liberated anybody in South Sudan today!!

        • Dear Eastern.
          Late Dr. John Garang once said to his soldiers that war is better than bad peace. The Self determination was not voluntarily offered to Dr. John Garang at the negotiating table by our slave masters (Arabs). He had demanded it and made it a condition for the peace agreement. Cde James Wani Igga once said during the referendum rally in Rumbek, Lakes State, that the SPLA/M had accepted the CPA because of the Self determination and that we should cast our votes wisely. Why was the world or international community silent and inactive when the South Sudanese fought and asked for self determination during the Anyanya1’s civil war? Please know that AK47 + Referendum Ballots + wise brains and resistance of the SPLA’s gallant soldiers have liberated you and Mr. Elhag Paul from slavery.
          Will you and Mr. Elhag Paul liberate Equatoria /South Sudan from Dinka and Nuer by pen and ink alone? Tough Luck with your liberation online!

  7. Dear Mr. Tongun Lo Loyoung:

    Thank you very much with your written article! Your introduction on your written article is well understood without any contradiction at all. Everything you said is true. But I do not agree with you with my two political reasons that you have shown on your articles and they are; One Arabization and Islamization by the regime in the north in the South Sudan.

    Nobody in the north will force people to become a moslem! People are doing on their own discretion!

    For you, SPLM movement was not well understood until today! It is very EXTRUSIVE AND ILLUSIVE!

    For our people Dinka, they should control their tongues on liberation matter! South Sudan was not liberated in whole during army struggle! South Sudan got independence through international community which were a TROIKA in the countries the United States government, British government and Norwegians government. They were the ones who brought the peace for President Omer El Beshir and Dr.John Garang De Mabior, which was done according onto their own agenda and interests in the west.

    Now, SPLM-N which was part of the peace CPA, they had been boxed out by SPLM in Juba. Khartoum will not accept any mediation and pressure from international community anymore like before in the year 2005 in Khartoum!

  8. Dmajak says:

    To Kenyi,
    our brothers in government especially those from equatoria are more corrupted than any of their counterparts from the other states because they become south Sudanese during the day time and at night become equatorians. they are selling the Equatorians’ land to Nuer, Dinka and Non-dinka. Online, they said that Dinka and Nuer are grabbing our land. Some of them sold it the other day in the name of chiefs, commissioners and owners of the Equatorian lands.

    To make short the story, we Dinka and Nuer have beautiful land than Equatoria because ours has more oil, wild life and other minerals. there is no one day we complain about sharing oil with you {people Equatoria} not because we do not know how to complain but we have national identity or partriotism. We are tired of people such as ElHag Paul, Jacob Lupai, kenyi and many more.

    the only solution to your problems as Equatorians is to call all your brothers or sisters who are working with Government of south Sudan to quit and form your government or rebel against the Kiir Govenrment or Dinka Government because I am tired of your complaints that are pointed toward my tribe every day. I am Dinka and I am proud of my heritage. To the enemy of Dinka and Nuer, we have beautiful land or places such Rumbek, Aweil, Bor, Nasir, Bentiu, Ayout, Akoba, Malakal, Abyei, mayom and more.

    • Aj says:

      why complain, tell your brothers and sisters to go and live in a peaceful and beautiful Rumbek, Aweil, Bor, Nasir, Bentiu, Ayout, Akobo, Malakal, Abyei, mayom and more land. Have your oil with you and don’t share with us since we never even had it from the first place. Oh! make sure you take your government with you, keep it in maximum protected suitcase so that all executives in government do not escape. Remember, you don’t look back for we declare ourselves “A NEW NATION” or country called Greater Equatoria.


    • Eastern says:

      Really Dmajak?
      I have been to every single Dinka/Nuer land and have not come across one that meets your definition of being beautiful at all!. Most, if not all Dinka/Nuer land is arid: very hot and dry for most of the year; marshland inundated and flooded for most of the rainy season, flat and not undulating hence boring.
      You are not only fleeing your homeland for Juba but crossing the international borders into Uganda and Kenya. Therein you will meet your so-called pseudo-South Sudanese you refer to as Ugandan, Kenyan or Congolese!!!

  9. rob riek says:


    It is absurd that Tongun and co. are out in full swing trying to rewrite history. While you can mention the achievement of Anyanya one that you’re so strongly proud of, the truth is it never achieved anything because majority of the supporters were the typical cowards who chickened out to Uganda. Like Anyanya one, Equatorians never achieved anything in the second liberation wars.
    Again, when South Sudan was attacked by North Sudan at Panthou (a resource-rich area to the whole country), there were virtually no Equatorian foot-soldiers. Of course, we can always pretend to gloss over the contribution of the lazy ones but it is not politically incorrect to tell off the cowards when necessary!

    • Aj says:

      Rob Riek,
      you Nuers and dinkas are big liars. Foot solders were almost equatorian led by Mamur and Victor Odongo. Get your facts right. People like you that you need to shut your mouth off. Now get this right; as we speak, do you know soldiers that were sent to catch or kill Yau Yau, 1500 are almost dead as of this morning and those who are wounded and alive are scattered in the Komkom bushes and are really suffering? So far I have relatives that are still missing. Tell me, who is your missing person?


  10. Dinka land says:

    DMajak and Riek,
    thanks to you brothers for the excellent points you put to these unpatriotic, rebel, traitiors, greedy and coward people. We Dinkas have contributed largely and mostly in liberation of South Sudan while these Equatorians ran to Uganda, Kenya, Congo and many countries of east Africa. They came to South Sudan when cpa was signed and KIIR employed them in the government without investigation. Many of them were in KHartoum forces abusing SPLA which majority were Dinkas and now enjoying what Muonyjang have done for them.

    Watch out, Equatorians, and give thanks to Dinkas otherwise the all Equatoria will collapse and end. No forgiveness again. My relatives died in Equatoria.

  11. Am really sorry, Rob Riek, to call you a fish, because your memory or brain is so tiny to the extent that you can’t remember the equatorians’ contribution in panthou battle, have you forgotten isaac mamur so quick? it’s really true that you guys don’t have any word of appreciation to whoever rescues you. am not going to write to you about the achievements of Isaac Mamur and the rest of Equatorians but fortunately enough, history is leading us to kokora period and that will determine who is a coward or brave.

  12. Rob Riak:
    There were many Equatoria soldiers in SPLA who got killed at Panthou (Heglig) when taken by SPLA. Are SPLA soldiers in the military fron tribe in the Republic? You cannot call people in Equatoria that they are cowards!

  13. Gatkuoth Lok says:

    well done.

  14. Joseph says:

    Hi dinka land, rob riek & dmajak,
    Arrogance and ignorance appeared to be best friends in your writings. This mentality scares the hell out of me!

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