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Re-response to Dancing with a Wolf: A Reflection on Gambella Politics

By: Chuol R. Kompuok, PhD

December 14, 2014 (SSNA) -- On behalf of the Nuer of Gambella and on behalf of myself, I would like to take this golden opportunity to congratulate Mr. Ojulu Cham Ogola nicknamed Gamjot on the task he took upon himself in response to my article titled “Dancing with a Wolf: A Reflection on Gambella Politics.” Mr. Ojulu Cham with his excellent analysis as educated Anywaa tried to appreciate the contribution I have made, however, the inner ego of him being an Anywaa overshadowed the unearth truth to the extent of not seeing some of the clear statements even the blind person (s) can see.

In my understanding I thought I have addressed with fairness the problems of Gambella people and indicated plainly in the document the perpetrators who under normal circumstance could been held responsible but most of them went unpunished. In his response, he said to have found some fallacies, here I quote “However, I found some fallacies in his article which made me to respond to his piece of writing. He failed to address some issues fairly which I think he needs to reconsider his view on Gambella politics as an elite.” Here is another quote, “He attempted to re-write existing history dating back the arrival of Nuers’ in Gambella to 17th and 19th century. I think it would have been better for him to put the word…respectively.” In his first attempt to challenge my contribution with respect to the “Migration to Gambella from South Sudan”, there is no where I left out, “respectively” unless Mr. Ojulu Cham was reading between the lines and may be obsessed with hatred of thinking the Anywaa land was taken by Nuer, which was not the case, “the Gambella land is ancestral land for all the Gambella people (Majengir, Komo, Anywaa, Nuer and Opo) period! The highlanders are also part of Gambella people since the Federal Constitution of Ethiopia stipulated loud and clear the rights of every citizen to live anywhere in Ethiopia provided it’s within the Ethiopian sovereign land.

Here is what I said in the original article second paragraph line two (2), “History tells us both ethnic groups migrated from the original homeland, South Sudan eastward to the present day Gambella, Southwest Ethiopia in 17th and 19th century respectively.” To be more precise in term of migration/expansion, Nuer went as far as further north of Ethiopia Gojjam Administrative region of Amhara region, let a lone Bure and Shebel, which I indicated in the original document. The expedition was led by the following people and their names are as follow: Meen Diew, Jonyaang Thiwat, Maybai, Reath Yach, Thon Meat, Mut Dung, Jiokthiang Kir, Jock Wie (grand father to Ato Mark Chol Jock), and Yioy Binik. The expedition dated back between 16th century and early 17th century and the U—turn was taken as the condition in the highland areas of Ethiopia became unfavorable for cattle and human beings; tseseflies ticks and smallpox known in Latin word as “variola” were the main problems that halted the migration/expansion. If Mr. Ojulu Cham considered migration as setting bad precedent, he had migrated to the western world where nobody including the “Aboriginal Australians” complained of him being in Australia so to speak. If need be he would have remained in Gambella and carried the cross of eviction from the job as he was opposed to the GPLM policy. Therefore, Mr. Ojulu Cham should learn from vast experience as migrant and stop complaining about Nuer migration since he is also part of the “movement of migrants to the western world for a greener pasture.”

Mr. Ojulu Cham went on to agree with the first (1) charge and disagree with the second (2) charge against former president Omot Obang by Gambella people;

(1)    Masterminded the killing of innocent Nuer in 2002, 2003 and 2004 in Ochom along Baro River when he was head of Police Commission,

(2)    Participate directly in repatriation of Nuer who resided in Ochom village and other parts of Gambella areas for more than 15 years back to Jiokow and Akobo districts, a violation of the constitutional rights of Ethiopia citizens.

Mr. Ojulu Cham agreed with me in the first charge but seemed to have contradicted himself by adding that Anywaa were also killed in retaliation, which watered down the sense of humor and the consent he had shown in condemning the killings of the poor Nuer in the first place vindicating the former president Omot Obang and the Anywaa. However, such a war of mind will be left to him to put it to an end.

The second charges Mr. Ojulu Cham appeared to disagree with me is the core of the problem according to him but this shouldn’t be the core of the problem because Anywaa took over the ancestral land of some other ethnic groups in Gambella. If the Anywaa thought that Nuer took over their ancestral land and implemented the policy of assimilation, Majengir of Gog and Abobo districts pushed further to Godere of today’s Majengir Zone (County) who got assimilated, would have launched a rightful claims and made Anywaa resettled back to Jor district, Gambella town and Itang district shared with the Nuer. The inhabitants of Gambella town originally were (are) the Komo assimilated by the Anywaa and those who resented were pushed further north of Gambella along the Baro River and along the road connecting Gambella and Dembidolo of Oromia region are very much marginalized. Therefore, the Anywaa dispute of Nuer policy of assimilation is null and void for Anywaa are the actors and should have righted the wrong to Majengir and Komo of Gambella.

Mr. Ojulu Cham goes on by citing the Ochom case and here I quoted, “Therefore, what happened in Ochom, really, was wrong. It reached to point where the Nuers’ culprits would go out not stealing, but took Anywaa mangoes by force.” He goes on by saying, “Nuer craved their names on Mangoes trees as if there is no one who had planted them.” However, Nuer who had lived in Ocham for more than 15 years lived through the invitation of Anywaa chiefs and those whom they married to. Though they were invited, the Ethiopia Federal Constitution has actually stipulated it very clear that any Ethiopia citizens irrespective of race, color or creed, has all the rights to live wherever he/she wanted to live without prejudice. Does this mean that Mr. Ojulu Cham did not read the Ethiopia Federal Constitution or just wanted to bypass it for his self-interest? Nuer are mature enough not to crave their names on the mangoes trees to have the ownership of the land as was claimed by Ojulu Cham. It’s to be noted that the Nuer relationship with the Anywaa in the villages not limited to Ochom was so cordial and the process of assimilating Anywaa if it existed was peaceful unlike the case of Anywaa assimilating the Majengir and the Komo.

When the Nuer lived in Ocham, they suffered social cost—cost of their children not going to schools and lack of medical services while paying double taxes; one to the government of Gambella district and another one to Anywaa chiefs in the Ochom village with no meaningful returns. Despite all the due respect Nuer paid to the Anywaa as the host community, the Anywaa without shame would still go out to steal Nuer’s cows. If Nuer were bad guys as the way Anywaa perceived them, the December 13, 2003 Anywaa massacre would have created wrong precedent and Nuer would have not been used as human shield to protect their own brothers, the Anywaa from the tyrant government of EPRDF. Anywaa ran to Newland of Gambella town inhabited purely by the Nuer and Ochom village along Baro River and all were protected given all the bad things they did against the Nuer in the past. If Nuer had not pardoned the Anywaa bad deeds in the event of December 13, 2003, they would have revenged all the human losses incurred when Gambella was manned by the ruthless GPLM.

Therefore, the action taken by the former president Omot Obang to repatriate Nuer to their respective districts was wrong act condemned in a strongest terms possible and Ojulu Cham as educated Anywaa would have not supported the action of the most wanted criminal Mr. Omot Obang, the former president of Gambella. Nuer for very long time have been deprived of the regional resources by the GPLM leadership and access to social services was equal to none in the Nuer administrative areas in the region prompted the move toward where access to resources is possible; thus settlement in Ochom village should not be blamed on the Nuer. Ostensibly, the distribution of the regional resources meant for socio-economic development appear not to be fair with the application of model that favored six (6) Anywaa districts against two (2) Nuer districts plus one (1) special district of Majengir. Therefore, the Nuer inaccessibility of the resources from the center served as the pull factors toward Gambella and Anywaa would have contained the movement of Nuer by providing them equal access to all social services.

With respect to “liberty” Mr. Ojulu Cham challenged the liberty of Nuer from the bondage of the GPLM led party in Gambella. According to Ojulu Cham, GPLM liberated all the tribes in the Gambella region.” However, the claim Mr. Ojulu Cham put forward was not a legitimate claim since all the other four ethnic groups have rather suffered a great deal during the reign of GPLM. The liberation the inept GPLM party claimed to have brought to the Gambella people was only bloodshed and grieves. To put the record straight, the disgruntled Anywaa teachers with their ringleader Ojulu Ogala who was by then teaching in Akado village of Itang district ransacked and Killed teachers who came from highland area of Ethiopia in Chotgur village of Jiokow district. The killing of teachers in Chotgur village took place in 1978, four (4) years after the Ethiopia Revolution of the Junta regime of Col. Mengistu Hailemariam. Therefore, GPLM as a party did not liberate anyone from Gambella but the party is remembered for the worst human rights abuse and extra judicial killings of Nuer most of whom were educated including the helpless refugees resettled in Itang district summer of 1992 after the fall of the Derg regime. The barbaric act of the GPLM military wing towards the Nuer refugees in Itang district and around Gambella prompted the UNHCR to relocate the refugees to Dimma district for their safety. Nonetheless, the refugees in Dimma refugee camp after relocation were attacked by the GPLM military wing that cost lives of many Nuer, culminated the clashes between the EPRDF and GPLM military wing. If one would ask a simple question, why would Anywaa resorted to killing helpless South Sudanese refugees when they have nothing to do with land encroachment and Ethiopia politics? I would leave this question for Mr. Ojulu Cham and other readers to judge…

Bragging about Nuer supremacy: Mr. Ojulu Cham opposed to the statement I made as the worst fallacy, here I quoted, “The worst fallacy in this article is the statement, …… “Should the Nuer of today forget the rich history embedded in the struggle for the change in Gambella politics, it will be a systematic mistake in exchange for seat; a seat that will not recover the losses Nuer incurred in the process of climbing the top leadership in Gambella history and name recognition.” There was nothing wrong in telling the truth about the Nuer suffering in Gambella when GPLM took charge of Gambella affairs. It’s this rich history that would cement the unity of Nuer not to be divided no more as what former president of Gambella Omot Obang used to do for a cheap seat, which lasted only for a month or six months at max. Omot Obang was the worst president ever corrupt to the core in Gambella history coupled with the bad record of human rights abuse almost synonymous with the GPLM, a party, which did not control or capture any town let alone the village around Gambella and beyond during the liberation struggle of the EPRDF. The GPLM as a party after the EPRDF controlled all parts of Ethiopia was groomed and charged with the task of administering Gambella as sympathizer not as liberator and this is the strong message Gambella people should now know from today onward.

In conclusion, acknowledging the past mistakes and advancing the knowledge of the traditional methods of conflict resolutions would always serve as strong springboard binding the region together to move forward. Mr. Ojulu Cham as educated and well versed with the lives of both the Nuer and Anywaa plus the rich customary laws should have acknowledged the past mistake committed against the Nuer and condemned the GPLM in the strongest term possible instead of branding the GPLM as the liberator. The ordinary Anywaa and some elites suffered a great deal in the hand of GPLM but the degree of damage impacted negatively on the Nuer exceeding that of the Anywaa. For unity of Gambella people to be more attractive, Anywaa should drop the idea of them being called the “bona fide” Gambella inhabitants and….“we are more equal than the others.” Mr. Ojulu Cham for the Nuer and Anywaa to come to term as one family and fight the common enemy from the center, the Anywaa elites should stop praising GPLM as the liberator, thus condemn the GPLM for the worst atrocities committed against the Nuer and other ethnic groups in Gambella and beyond in the first place. In this line of argument, any qualify person (s) be it Komo, Opo or Majengir has all the rights to lead Gambella to the promise land, a land free of poverty with strong human security and peace. Land with no people is no man’s land. Therefore, people of Gambella should rethink their positions in term of looking at each other as enemies for the land of Gambella almost remains empty and the migrants from other parts of Ethiopia take advantage of indigenous conflict exacting the rights of land ownership.

Dr. Chuol R. Kompuok holds a PhD (Economics) from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and he can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

A response to Dinka Council of Elder’s unfortunate Position on the Peace Process

By Dr. Hoth Giw Chan

December 12, 2014 (SSNA) -- There are several letters circulating on the net these days written by the so called “Dinka Council of Elders”. In one of the letter (A letter dated October 30th, 2014); a good number of elders from Dinka Community signed the said letter. The content of the letter, especially the language of it seems not to match with the titles of those who appended their names on that letter. This is because; one would not expect members of National Legislative Assembly (MP) and the former Chief Justice, whose names appears on the list, to uses the word “terrorist Nuer” in a letter that is intended to launch a complaint of a national nature to an International or Regional Body tasked to mediate peace between the nationals of one country, especially, when there are a good number of Nuer on their side/Government. Not to mention the fact that members of the Nuer ethnic group were the ones slaughter in masses in Juba, by the very people who are calling them “terrorist” because their clan men responded to the genocidal acts ordered by Kiir—and now maybe with the advises from the “Dinka Council of elders”.

Historically, Elders have vital role in traditional Africa. Elders are the custodians of norms, culture, customary laws and peacemaking in most African countries. Their role is always respected as they are the social fabric that binds most African societies together because of their wisdoms and farsightness. The African old age institution is an institution that is respected across the board, and for that matter, eldership is always equated with wisdom, peace, and stability in most African societies, South Sudan included.

What has been revealed by “Dinka Council of elder” is something new, and a new low in South Sudan Politics. This is in fact a sign of a decaying role of elders in the Dinka Community, unless the smart ones are in the villages. Instead of putting the national interest first by encouraging intra- ethnic dialogue between the elders of both Communities, the Dinka Council of elder veered off and went astray by condemning the very community that has been wronged by the regime that massacred over twenty thousand (20,000) in four days and whose members are living in a concentration camps like in the National Capital, Juba, Malakal, and Bentiu, because of the fear of extermination by the members of Kiir’s ethnic group as represented by the so called “Dinka Council of elders”.

How would the Dinka Council of Elders expect the Nuer Community members to view the following statements from their complaints letter?

We, Jieng (Dinka) Elders are extremely saddened by this impression and precedence. Firstly, the mediators are busy visiting the capitals of Addis Ababa, Kampala, Nairobi, Washington and Juba organizing reconciliatory meetings between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and the Nuer rebel leader Riek Machar Teny.

Without a shame and slice respect to the Nuer Community, the Dinka Council of elders are referring to the leader of the Opposition/SPLM/A Dr, Riek Machar, as Nuer Rebel Leader, and to Salva Kiir, as the President. I believe all those who are calling themselves member of “Dinka Council of elders” knows very well that Dr. Riek Machar, is a national leader like Salva Kiir, whether in his previous role as Vice President, Deputy SPLM Chairman, or his current position as leader of the Opposition. The Opposition is not a Nuer Opposition, though Nuer might be a majority. Respect begin with respecting oneself and referring to an Opposition leader according to his ethnicity is disrespectful, hardly to achieves the reconciliation you are yearning for. Why are you signing using your titles (honorable) on the letter if that does not matter?

“Furthermore, the mediators are equating that rebel leader with the legitimate Government of South Sudan and the elected President, General Salva Kiir Mayardit. Will this not set precedence for a disgruntled individual or any South Sudanese ambitious power hungry armed group to stage a violent take-over of power from legitimate Government of South Sudan?”

When a group of people who considered themselves to be the top in their communityfail to understand the reasoning why the mediators recognizes the warring parties to betreated on equal footings, one question the knowledge an experiences of such a Pack.

Just to refresh your thinking a little bit, how did the Mediators who were mediating Government of Sudan and the SPLM/A during the CPA negotiation referred to Dr. Garang then? Was Dr. Garang, not referred to as the Chairman of the SPLM/A or just the Dinka Rebel Leader at the time? If the Parties are not going to be treated on equal footing, then why do they negotiate or what would be the point for negotiation?

“On our part it appears as a deliberate undermining of the mandate of the people of South Sudan, at the time when the end of the mandate of the legitimate Government of Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit, is only less than one year”.

Legitimacy is usually given to the Government by its people when the Government protects lives and properties of its citizens as well as respecting their freedom of all kinds. A Government that has just massacred its own people based on their ethnicity has no such legitimacy to begin with in the first place. As for the mandate to end “only less than one year (2015” it is true, but that is what begin the SPLM conflict because of Kiir’s refusal to organized a meeting for Political Bureau members to decide for the Candidate who would have contested the national election. Because he knew all along that he would not be a Flag bearer, your tribe man in the name of Kiir, resorted to the best things all African Dictators knows—creating an unnecessary ethnic conflict so people or Group like Dinka Council of Elders would jump to ride the tribal Camel. Is it not what you are doing currently—depending the Dinka Chief from the mess he created due to his lack of vision and poor leadership.

“Yes, it is absolutely true that Riek Machar Teny and his tribes’ terrorist Nuer white army succeeded to massacre countless number of innocent Jieng people in 1991 and many more after December 15th 2013”.

This seems to be an admission of quilt from those who knows that a crime (crime against humanity) has been committed by members of their community and would like to protect the said members. Connecting 1991 incident with the current massacres on Nuer by Salva Kiir, will not do. Did the Dinka Council of Elders advised Salva Kiir, to use the 1991 Bor incident as a pretext to massacre Nuer in Juba, and other places? Its important that group like Dinka Council of elders are admitting and taking responsibility for what had happened in Juba (Juba Massacre). This is what the Nuer Community and the SPLM/A has been trying to tell to the International Community that Juba Massacre was intentional with preplanning by Salva Kiir and his associates, which now includes the Dinka Council of elders. The justification as stated by the Dinka Council of elders in the above letter is to use the 1991 Bor incident to massacre Nuer in their thousands, and yet, the Dinka Council of elders considered their stand to be one way of bringing peace in the country. This is a self-contradictory position as you cannot admit massacring Nuer and want reconciliation at the same time.

“Fourthly, we know the value of national reconciliation and we have done it before! Rebel leader Riek Machar Teny even after massacring over five thousand in Jonglei and Upper Nile states in 1991, was granted amnesty in 2002; Paulino Matip with all other armed militia groups who fought for decades against the SPLA since 1983 were granted amnesty and were absorbed into SPLA in 2005 and thereafter”.

For the Dinka Council of elders to stated it in their letter that they are the one who granted Dr. Riek Machar, an “amnesty in 2002” back to the SPLM/A is bizarre and ridiculous. The SPLM/A internal issues since its establishment in 1983 and which eventually erupted into a full scale factional war in the 1990s had their origins in the formation of the movement, its management, and vision. There a lot of literatures written about that. These differences were settled peacefully again in 2001 by the main contenders of Dr. Riek Machar, and late Dr. John Garang. They resorted to work together for the national interest of South Sudanese. This was not done by the Dinka Council of elders as I remember vividly. It was an internal conflict that divided the Movement not along the ethnic line as there were Nuer and Dinka on both factions.

Now you are lying to the World that Dinka Council of Elder was responsible for unification of the SPLM back then in 2001--- that is pathetic. As for the Former Deputy Commander-in-Chief, General Paulino Matip, I remember that it was a Clause in the CPA that requires Other Arm Group to join the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) or the Government of Sudan (GoS). General Paulino, happened to be the leader of the SSDF (South Sudan Defense Force) which combined different Organizations in the Region. The Agreement was reached between the then Government of Southern Sudan and the SSDF. Government of Southern Sudan, was not a Dinka Council of elders Organization and one wonder why the Dinka Council of elders lies to the world that it’s had granted an amnesty to “armed militia groups”? Remember the Vice President of the Government at the time was Dr. Riek Machar—just in case it slipped away from your thinking.

“Finally, In the name of Jieng people of the Republic of South Sudan, we Jieng Elders want to surely inform the regional and International Community that Riek Machar Teny and his “terrorist Nuer white army” cannot and should not be rewarded with power to execute his “ELIMINATIONIST” Policy.

Now, you read the above statement and try to put in a way that we consider the role of elders in the African context. Imagine a club of elders whose members are currently Parliamentarians (MPs in the current Legislative Assembly) and one of them a Former Chief Justice of the country decides to write such a low letter that does not meet the standard of what a thoughtful, convincing, and well articulate letter should be. South Sudan is a country inhibited by roughly 64-more ethnic groups of which Nuer and Dinka are the major ones. These ethnic groups have lived peacefully over thousands of years in the present territory we called South Sudan. They lived peacefully because traditional methods of settling disputes between different ethnic groups were always employed by the elders of those communities. The elders in African context as I stated somewhere above have wisdoms of running the affairs of their people. In some instances, they go to an extreme of giving up one of their sons for the sake of peaceful co-existence between and among different ethnic groups.

The mentality of “it’s our turn to eat” must be led go and resort to the truthfulness of calling a spade a spade. Who in his right mind can deny the massacre of Nuer in Juba, when other South Sudanese and Foreigners were watching Nuer being slaughters in their hundreds? Did the so called “Dinka Council of elders” have a gut to even condemn what was done by your Dinka Chief, Kiir, when he ordered the massacred of over 20,000 in over four days period? Who is on the negotiating table on the side of the Government, Dinka Council of elder members or representative of Government? May be there is no different between the two after all?

Nobody is rewarding anybody with power because we are all feeling the pain of bleeding South Sudan. This unnecessary cost of human lives has been imposed on people of South Sudan because of a failure of a one man (Dinka Chief) who has ran out of ideas and only came up with a magic solution of killing his own people. Imagine a leader who has a gut to tell his people point blank that “nobody is going to come to rescue you because Riek Machar is not going to come to Juba, when his people are being protected by the UNMISS from him as he wants to exterminate them”? This is the person the Dinka Council of elders consider to be the best in the country. Those whose goals are to support and kneel down to the leader instead of the country because of the love of money, will find it sooner than later that, greed has no ceiling, and that the country is bigger than our collective greed for one single ethnic group to get rich in the expenses of other groups.

We all should know that the current madness imposed on people by Salva Kiir, will one day come to an end. There will also be a time for all of us to live in a peacefully and prosperous South Sudan. The current situation will certainly be corrected when the time is right and those who committed crimes against humanity by massacring their own people will be put where they belong in order to service justice.

Dr. Hoth Giw Chan is a co-author of the book entitled “South Sudan: A legitimate Struggle”. He can be reach at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it m.

Dancing with a Wolf: A Reflection on Gambella Politics

By: Chuol R. Kompuok, PhD

December 5, 2014 (SSNA) -- This article tries to shed lights on historical perspective of the two ethnic groups relationship and their landholdings (the Nuer vis-à-vis the Anywaa). The paper also goes on to addresses factors contributing to the deep abyss between different ethnic groups in Gambella. It goes beyond reasonable doubt to examining the contributions of Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the ruling party toward fueling problems in the region. It is importance to revisit the dynamics in the Nuer political discourse. The readers of this article will be able to understand how such problems came into being. From there, individual readers will have sufficient information to judge who should take the lion share of blame. Since time immemorial, Nuer and Anywaa live a long history of co-existence and will continue living together for the rest of their life. History tells us both ethnic groups migrated from the original homeland, South Sudan eastward to the present day Gambella, Southwest Ethiopia in 17th and 19th century respectively. The expansion of the ethnic group was fairly peaceful cum minor clashes but suddenly came to abrupt halt, as the conditions were unfavorable in the highlands of Bure part of Illubabur Administrative region and Shebel part of Wolega Administrative region. It is very clear that the two ethnic groups took a U turn to Gambella Administrative region, the lowland area of Ethiopia, which by then was under administration of Upper Nile Province. But not all the explorers came back; some insisted and are now descendants of Oromo people until of recent.

These communities appear not to have economic importance in the eyes of Ethiopian Kings and Arabs of the northern Sudan not until King Haile Selassie realized their strategic importance toward the end of 19th century. Considering the strategic economic significant importance, and resilient manpower, Emperor Haile Selassie involved them into the affairs of the Ethiopians before Arabs could grab them for slavery purposes. By that time preparations were underway as Italia champions to overrun Ethiopian territory before other European countries took over. Not very long enough, King Haile Selassie felt the heat and demand for manpower was on the top list of the agendas. The move made by the emperor put him in strategic position to fight back the Italian invaders with the gallant forces from the lowland areas of Gambella. Italia was by then so anxious to have roots in Ethiopia and declare war against Ethiopian territory from 1935—1936. After the defeat of the Italian invaders, chiefs from Gambella were nominated as tax collectors and recruiters in case the Italian invaders crops up. The emperor administers Gambella in a remote and no such interference into the affairs of Gambellians as of current.

Though provision of social services almost equal to nothing during the reign of the emperor Haile Selassie, peace prevalent has shown tremendous effect that continued until the downfall of the Derg regime. An acknowledgement was made as a result of dear leadership qualities of the emperor by cementing the ties between the Nuer, the Anywaa and other minorities (Majengir, Opo and Komo).

The continuation of unprecedented peace among different ethnic groups in Gambella during and after the reign of the emperor perhaps until the defunct regime was due to undisturbed systems of the governance. None interfered with the affairs of each ethnic group. For instance, in case of Gambella during the era of emperor land belongs to Anywaa Kings according to their setting. Distribution and redistribution of lands to communities vested into kings’ authorities. Nuer in other words, owns land communally but in the event disputes of the lands arise are presiding over by Kuar Kuach (Chief of Leopard Skin). Such arrangements made the relationship between the Nuer on both sides (Ethiopia and South Sudan) and Anywaa on both sides (Ethiopia and South Sudan) unquestionable. The customary laws rank number one in both the Anywaaland and Nuerland.

However, the Mengistu regime came up with its own arrangements after the overthrown of the imperial government of which the kingdoms were abolished. It came to be known that administrative states were established where Gambella became one of them. Within Gambella Administrative state, six administrative districts (Gog & Jor, Abobo, Gambella, Itang, Jiokow and Akobo) were established. As a matter of fact, some cultural barriers to development were discouraged. Social services were made available and living conditions improved. The main departure of Mengistu regime from the emperor Haile Selassie government was that holding of land by the landlords was abandoned. Thus, land belongs to the tillers became the slogan of the defunct regime.

The 1975 Ethiopian Constitution states that land belongs to public and no pieces or parts of it shall be use for commercial purposes. The socialist Derg regime that had overthrown the imperial regime of Haile Selassie profoundly altered the agrarian structure and the mechanism of access to land. The “Public Ownership of Rural Land Proclamation” nationalized all rural land and set out to redistribute it to its tillers and to organize farmers in cooperatives, thereby abolishing exploitative landlord-tenant relations so pertinent under the imperial regime. Even though, with the defeat of the military socialist Derg regime of Mengistu in 1991, the dissolution of farm collectives took place rapidly, there was limited change with regard to property rights to land – to the disappointment of many international donor agencies. In principle, the Transitional Government of Ethiopia did not question state ownership of land. All political regimes in Ethiopia, from imperial, Derg to EPRDF, are ‘control freak’. Perhaps where they differ is in the degree of success in their projects of total control over society (Dereje, 2006).

The clock turned around when the EPRDF took over Addis Ababa and other parts of Ethiopia in May 1991. Ethnic tension grew to its peak and quest for self-rule became inevitable. Different nations and nationalities were said to have democratic rights as stipulated in the Transitional Constitutions; describing the rights to self-determination (Article 39). Article 39 happen to be more contentious ever as EPRDF reneged on its promises and continue to rule by proxies; the establishment of the Federal Affairs Ministry that sends its cadres to the less developed regions (Gambella, Benishangul Gumuz, Somalia and Afar) is a good indication of dancing with the Wolf. The cadres at their own will given the extra-powers vested in them removed and/or reinstated regional presidents up to the lowest echelon of constitutional post holders. Such practice has been there since 1991 when ERDF took over power from the defunct regime until of recent. The credibility of EPRDF in terms of wining the support of the majority as ways of promoting the democratic rights appears to be dwindling. The political rights of the Gambellians in exercising their powers embedded in the national constitution appears to have been grabbed by the federal government; a legitimate claims which had already put to test the credibility of late PM Meles Zenawi’s government policy.

The question one may ask is, where is the democracy in this situation? The presidents and other members of parliament elected through ballot box only to be removed by mere cadres without prior knowledge of the voters or constituencies. If such conditions happened to H.E. the late PM (Meles Zenawi) or his successor PM H/Mariam Desalegn, it would be an act of treasons tantamount to prison to the individual cadres. The below questions remained to be answered by the cadres or other readers around the globe. Did the democracy PM preach about meant giving powers to highland cadres to remove the elected leaders from the lowland area of Ethiopia? Did Meles Zenawi, the PM knew for sure the damage his men inflicted on the masses by removing their leaders without consensus? How sure could he (the PM) be whether his men were (not) bribed for one to retain his/her position as the case of Gambella?

The 2012 evaluation and its subsequent follow up evaluation in Gambella appear to have so many flaws. The corrupt elements in the regional government went unpunished with the tangible evidence. This is an indication that the trusted cadres appear to have received chunk of money either from the Ethiopian highlanders or the then president of Gambella Omod Obang Olom as a way of removing charges labeled against him. Omod Obang in collaboration cum highlanders from the federal government would have remained credible threats to the political development and social liberty in Gambella if he had not exited from the country into exile. The paradigm shifts in Gambella politics embedded in it more economic interest. Experience teaches us that the like of Abay Tsay, the ex-minister of Federal Affairs Ministry and Girma Tsion in the EPRDF head office had done enough damage with the far-reaching implications in the Gambella politics. The two men ripped off Gambella naked without resources left to cater for its poor citizens in the name of advisory group while contributing nothing in efforts to develop the economic ravaged region. Given hard lesson learnt, a fair judgment on how affairs of the region were (are) run, be domestic driven solution rather than federal deal with full packages.  

Such damage never stops at one point. The claims highlanders and Omod Obang fabricated may seemed realistic to an outsiders but the argument does not hold any water at all. The presence of highlanders could be traced back to the time immemorial when Omod Obang was not born or God did not think of creating him either. Ostensibly, highlanders lived and will continue to live in Gambella in the absence of Omod Obang, who is considered the only savior to the highlanders. Believing me or not, Ethiopians from the highland areas are now residing in Gambella with no fear of anything in the absence of him, the former president of Gambella. The truth will still remain the same without fading. Evidently, Seid Negash, who was by then the lead mobilizer and fundraiser among business community made a lot of contribution in maintaining Omod Obang in power during evaluation period credible source revealed. The businessman took lead in convincing the then chief of evaluation team Mr. Alebachew not to remove him and a go home to Addis Ababa with fat pocket of taxpayers’ money became appropriate than exposing the real danger.

Genuinely enough though I am not sure of the necessary and sufficient conditions at which someone could be removed from the office or maintained in power; the corruption charges labeled against Omod Obang qualified him to be out of the office and file case against him to lay ground for his arrest. The following charges labeled against the then president Omod Olom were as follows:

1. Embezzlement of the government funds for his own gains,
2. One-month salaries for all the civil servants in Gambella went missing prior to 2012 evaluation by then,
3. The fertile land of Gambella was sold to briefcase investors from highland areas of Ethiopia and individuals from Saudi Arabia and far East Asia,
4. Always plays double standard between the locals and the highlanders,
5. Deployed and dismissed civil servants without the knowledge of Commission of Public Authority (CPA), which has the mandate of deploying, demoting and dismissing civil servants as their performance require,
6. Instigate inter and intra tribal conflict among different ethnic group inhabiting Gambella and beyond,
7. Master minded the killing of innocent Nuer in 2002, 2003 and 2004 in Ochom along the Baro River when he was head of Police Commission,
8. Participate directly in repatriation of Nuer who resided in Ochom village and other parts of Gambella areas for more than 15 years back to Jiokow and Akobo districts, a violation of the constitutional rights of Ethiopia citizens
9. Constructed villas in Addis Ababa and Gambella with public resources,
10. Initiated the conflict between highlanders and Majengir by giving out the Majengir lands to highlanders (light skin Ethiopians), the only assets Majengir own besides honey production; one of the conditions that force Majengir to write to the Federation Council opting to join Southern Nation and Nationalities rather than Gambella region.
11. The clearing of forest for timbers trade in Majengir land by the highlanders appeared to have a lion share in it.
12.   Participated and collaborated with EPRDF forces in 2003 Massacre of nywaa people in Gambella state.

If the above mentioned corruption charges appears to have been committed by the then president Omod Obang Olom and no proper action was taken against him, then evaluation bound to have lost its authentic meaning in the long-run and others will follow suit. Where is the democracy the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi used to preach about in any international or domestic forum for the last 20 years or so? A sound minded person would judge me right to have Omod Obang, the former president of Gambella removed and locked up for the rest of his life. But instead Omod Obang was rewarded with the position of state minister for Religious Affairs in the Federal Ministry; a position that would have been given to the trustworthy sons and daughters of Gambella. However, the position was used as exit root to Asian countries; a circumstance that surprised many Ethiopian people but not citizens of Gambella. If former president of Gambella region exited without being tried, then the essence of evaluation rendered no meaningful status. The only convincing reasons why EPRDF kept Omod Obang in power and made him to leave the country after the fall out without being arrested was due to the fact that Omod Obang collaborated with the EPRDF on the December 13, 2003 massacre of four hundred and twenty six (426) Anywaa most of whom were educated. Anywaa got butchered in a broad daylight by the highlanders both in uniform and civilian clothes in Gambella town and elsewhere in the region. Omod Obang who by then the Chief Security denied the incident flatly and account only for less than 10 people. The predecessor former president of Gambella Okello Akway who stood tall in defense of the massacre coupled with the lack of political maturity was almost netted out and narrowly escaped into exile. His vice president, Mr. Keat Tuach who tried to moderate between the warring parties was eventually dismissed toward the end of the fiasco. Indeed, Omod Obang shoots up the ladder to the top seat in the region as the president in return. In this scenario EPRDF as the ruling party did not do its homework to settle issues of concern instead fomenting crisis as a way of forging ahead in its poor governance of divide and rule.

Given all the concessions EPRDF received from Omod Obang to continue maintaining the power of the state, nonetheless the EPRDF realized the danger of maintaining him in Gambella rather he was brought to the federal government for close monitoring. Not too long enough Tesfaye Eresso the former minister of Finance and Economic Planning of Gambella state who was by then a strong ally of Omod Obang was brought aboard by the EPRDF cadres, a move that angered Omod Obang and subsequently cost Tesfaye Eresso his dear life. The intention was to get all the necessary information with regards to corruption charges against Omod Obang and by then the mandate was given to the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (FEACC) of Ethiopia to follow up the case. Surprisingly enough the custodian of the charges labeled against Omod Obang in the person of Tesfaye Eresso who came to Addis Ababa to submit the documents to FEACC mysteriously died in June 2013 in Addis Ababa—the Ethiopian capital city. A day later, his body was taken to Gambella for burial without collecting any forensic evidence surrounding his death. Omod Obang allegedly believed to have a bigger hand in his death to destroy the evidence.

After a long nasty evaluation where good ground for level-playing field is non-existence, the only victims of unorganized January 2012 evaluation happened to be the ex-vice president Goaner Yer, who would always stand tall in favor of maintaining laws and orders. Goaner Yer made a peaceful transfer of power to his successor Gatluak Tut Koat as the vice president who later on succeeded Omod Obang in April 2013 as the current president of Gambella in an extraordinary session held. Goaner Yer had left his office as state manhood for there was no any claim of misappropriation of government funds while in the office for the last six years or so. EPRDF cadres came in heavy-handedly and removed him without proper charges but only overwhelmed by the bribes. I would differ with individual commentators suggesting the VP removal came as a result of lack of political commitment. The political discourse in Gambella has no defined equation where one could be judged to have failed unless one liaises with political Godfather in the federal government. If one is moved by the waves of propagandas of unprofessional cadres from the federal government and some helpless cadres in Gambella, then the credibility of a leader in the eyes of the voters would not stand the test of the day and immediately proven invalid.

The dynamic in Nuer politics lost its authentication as citizens who at one point in time emancipated the large innocent Nuer from the bewildered Gambella People’s Liberation Movement (GPLM) administration breast and groomed by EPRDF. The cheap politics of one driving a vehicle of a class increases the vulnerability of the Nuer politicians. But this should not have been the main goal, selling the interest of the people voted you into the office to deliver the most needed services: the health, education and economic empowerment in exchange of a seat one will never enjoys until the master takes it away is the cheap politics of going into bed with a wolf. EPRDF and its cadres maintained the post of the vice president for the Nuer and the president for the Anywaa to widen the gap and planted the seeds of hatred between the Nuer and the Anywaa, a scenario reversed of recent. Previous trends of monopoly of power by the Anywaa in the region for the last 22 years during the reign of late PM Meles Zenawi one would tended to believe that EPRDF had a secret pact with the GPLM while in the bush not to let Nuer into the presidency. If at all there were anything given to Nuer would be the lower position. Such a mathematical equation set by the EPRDF and the GPLM while in the bush would have been easily reversed not until of recent past. The numerical size of the Nuer as compare to Anywaa in the regional parliament on average account for 60 percent and 45 percent, respectively. Indeed, it was a possible chance for exploitations but the way the current president run the affairs of the state would possibly revert back the seat to the Anywaa and Anywaa will never be blame no more.

If we are to go back a little bit further in the history of EPRDF cum GPLM shortly after the downfall of the Derg regime in May 1991, it came to lights that Agwaa Alemu, an Anywaa, became the chief administrator for Gambella until his demise. The few Nuer whom you can count on were those who positioned themselves in the military wings of GPLM; the like of late Pvt. Thuok Lare, Pvt. Puol Ruach, etc…, but have no say in any action taken against their fellow Nuer along the Baro river by the GPLM. Most of the military wings stationed in Abol village, now the current headquarters of Gambella district. Such arrangements never lasted long; a cruel assassination of Agwaa Alemu with his family took place in Gambella town in a broad daylight. Afterward, formation of the new government in Gambella was inevitable and the following posts were allotted exclusively for Anywaa; the president, the vice president and the general secretary were as follows: Okello Oman, Ojulu Akwer and Oguta Adiw, respectively presiding over Gambella affairs without involvement of Nuer and other ethnic minorities. Nuer in this case appear to be at the periphery of the Gambella administration, but were required to pay taxes to GPLM government while in destitution without social services. On the contrary, the GPLM military wing is determined to eliminate Nuer in the entire Gambella by iron fist, an attempt badly contested by the Nuer though most of the Nuer elites lost their dear lives in the process.

As the GPLM nurtured the culture of cold blood murder and killing of the innocent educated Nuer in Gambella through red army stationed around Gambella town and Abol village along Baro river up to Itang district, a radical party called Gambella Peoples Democratic Unity Party (GPDUP) led by Chuol Khor Dak as the chairperson and late Gatkuoth Diw Nguntap as the Secretary emerged. This party was formed in Addis Ababa after EPRDF took control over Addis Ababa and other parts of Ethiopia with the sole objective of defending and protecting the lives of Nuer from mercenary GPLM cadres. In light of this a wind of change blew through Gambella and the post of the vice president was given to late Chuol Pech Bol, the Nuer. Subsequently, the regional secretary general was given to Majengir, the third largest ethnic group next to Anywaa. The post of the vice president and the regional secretary general Anywaa relinquished to Nuer and Majengir was not on a golden plate but through struggle and sacrifices. Should the Nuer of today forget the rich history embedded in the struggle for the change in Gambella politics, it will be a systematic mistake in exchange of seat; a seat that will not recover the losses Nuer incurred in the process of climbing the top leadership in Gambella history and name recognition.

The series of changes in 2001, 2002 and 2003 for the equitable distribution of Gambella resources did not come about without heavy payment in terms of human and material losses. Nuer have made a profound contribution in terms of achieving peace in Gambella and this was extended to the minority groups (Majengir, Opo and Komo). The struggle of Nuer in shaping the Gambella political landscape sprang up inclusions of minority groups into the top leadership of Gambella. While the Nuer maintaining the post of the vice president, the following cabinet bureaus fell under their leadership: the Chief Security, the Bureau of Finance and Economic Development, the Water Resource, Mining and Energy Bureau, the Police Commission, deputy Bureau of Agriculture just to mention a few for the first time. The wind of aspiring for the top seat in the region began to blow throughout Gambella region and moderate Anywaa who saw GPLM as tool of intimidation supported the idea, should the Nuer prepare for it.

However, the political prostitution in Gambella among the self-claims few elites Nuer more or less depends on some keys fundamental principles. The first principle on one hand is going to bed with the former president Omod Obang and EPRDF cadres for one to be given lucrative job on condition of economic security and driving a vehicle of a class. The second principle on the other hand is to form strong ally with the Nuer with no backing from the center but mainly supported by the Nuer majority. The first principle took chunks of them.  The cliques according to different sources, their records indicated that they have gone with resources or their hands full of blood of the innocent Nuer. Most of them deserved to remain behind bars although appeared to be on the short-lived wining side. Those who pay allegiance to Nuer causes apparently are the victims of circumstances but can still move with their head upright straight unlike the traitors.

Political history in modern times can be characterized essentially as the struggle for freedom. Yet it is evident that different thinkers and writers have conceived of such freedom from very different theoretical positions, and have ascribed to freedom some quite different meanings. In this article, I approach the concept of Nuer freedom in Gambella from the perspective of liberalism, the political philosophy, which interprets freedom fundamentally, as individual and societal liberty. In liberalism, human beings are regarded as rational, autonomous agents who are able to decide for themselves what constitutes the good life, and who therefore ought to be granted the maximum freedom possible to pursue their own particular conceptions of the good, subject only to the equal freedom of other ethnic groups in Gambella. It is this understanding of the primacy of Nuer liberty in Gambella region EPRDF violated that forms the basis for universal human rights; for the rule of law and equality before the law; and for the establishment of the institutions of democratic society.

In conclusion, EPRDF as the ruling party in Ethiopia would have sorted out problems befalling Gambella amicably in a manner indiscriminating anyone by creed, race, color or sex. Hopefully the current PM H/Mariam Desalegn would do more to make it a reality. The dynamic in the political discourse in Gambella plunged so many people into ad hoc with the self-claim Godfather, the EPRDF that appears to have lost the direction. The political deadlock in Gambella more or less emanate from exogenous factors. Without exogenous involvement, Gambella has potential leaders to resolves their differences in a fair while maintaining everlasting peace. The traditional methods of problem solving in the past can still be revitalized, appreciated and applied without questions by the Gambella people. Should EPRDF cadres distance themselves from interfering with the Gambella affairs, Gambella would be one of the safest place ever on Ethiopia land for one to live without prejudices of any kind. The presence of highlanders in the affairs of Gambella people will not solve any problem rather widen the gap and fuel more mistrust among leaders of Gambella thereby opening a window of hatred to develop to the fullest capacity. A fair reading of the national constitution is of paramount importance on the eyes of the federal government, which claims to have all the rights to man the region belongs to other ethnic group. Federalism in the eyes of Gambellians bound to have lost its meaning and far from remote. Federal advisors with no domestic background would rather foment the hostilities than narrow down the gap the EPRDF government created after it took over power. Gambella people are equally endowed with traditional methods of problem solving which would be the only way forwards to set in motion everlasting solution with out external forces in question. The gods of Gambella and its ancestors will spearhead the mission of inculcating the wisdom of fixing rift created within the region by the enemy of peace through peaceful coexistence and move the region forwards to the promise land; a land of peace, freedom, equality, liberty and prosperity in cognizant of undisputed harmony bestowed to its offspring to manage its affairs without fears of any kind. Finally, Gambella people applauded the current PM H/Mariam Desalegn for his relentless effort to set his feet into Gambella soil in May 2014 for the first time that culminated into the opening of the long awaited University of Gambella.

Dr. Chuol R. Kompuok holds a PhD (Economics) from the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Tanzania, and can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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