By Elhag Paul
December 15, 2014 (SSNA) -- 15th December is here, the day evil descended on Juba last year similar to 8th July 1965. It comes with those horrific memories of the murky atmosphere devised by President Salva Kiir. A deeply sickening environment that has traumatised the residents of Juba and the entire country. 15th December 2013 will remain an indelible stain in the history of South Sudan. It is the day that saw the beginning of the spilling of blood of innocent children, youth, women, men and elderly people and with it the destruction of a new emerging South Sudanese identity.
President Salva Kiir last year around this time facing leadership challenge from Dr Riek Machar in the SPLM lost his head unleashing his tribal militia on the Nuer people. While going to attend the funeral of Nelson Mandela in South Africa he fabricated an imaginary coup and imposed a curfew to isolate the Nuer and his opponents after which his militia went door to door murdering the Nuer. ‘South Sudan: A state that fell apart in a week’ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/23/south-sudan-state-that-fell-apart-in-a-week
Within a week, the Dootku Beny militia under the command of the Jieng generals: Marial Chinoung, Marial Nour, Salva Mathok, Aleu Ayieny Aleu, Paul Malong Awan and so on massacred over 20 thousand people mostly children, women, and the elderly. This act of Jieng savagery has shocked the entire country. No South Sudanese ever expected one of its own ethnic groups to commit such a crime on another using the machinery of the state.
The contemporary history of South Sudan psychologically programmed the people to expect such acts from the Arabs of the Sudan but not from a supposed fellow South Sudanese. Back then on 8th July 1965, the Arabs under the leadership of the UMMA party committed similar massacres in Juba and other towns against South Sudanese. Please see, ‘To achieve peace in South Sudan SPLM/A must be scrapped’. http://allafrica.com/stories/201312300037.html
The mass murder of the Nuer brought those ugly memories back to the minds of the people. A good number of people have asked the question: what is the difference between the Jieng and the Arab? They say, in 1960 the Arabs massacred us en mass in Juba, Wau and Malakal regardless of tribe. Now the Jieng are doing what the Arabs did to us all. How can the Jieng ever be trusted with state power? Hold on to this question, we will come back to it down in this piece in search of answers.
The day, 15th December matters because it is important to remember the innocent lives taken by President Kiir and his militia. Those were people who had nothing to do with the power struggle going on between President Kiir and Dr Riek. They were ordinary people going about their daily business only to find themselves targeted and murdered. 15th December remains a day of pain because the murdered have not been accorded justice. Their murderers are still holding the levers of the state and this is obviously why this important date will not be honoured and remembered now inside the country in the manner it deserves.
Today is the first anniversary of his heinous crime which is still ongoing and justice appears to be like a mirage. The adage, justice delayed is justice denied may be true in this South Sudan case. So far, no reports of investigations into the ethnic cleansing by the UN and the African Union have been released. Why the silence? Where is the transparency of these organisations over a crime that every South Sudanese knows about? Why are the perpetrators of this grave crime against humanity not been brought to book? What is going on?
In the 1990s the UN failed to prevent grave crimes against humanity only to regret after a huge damage occurred. The signs are that the UN has not yet learnt anything from its experiences. The failure of the UN in Rwanda in 1994 and in Srebrenica (former Yugoslavia) the following year brought sharp reminder to the world that the brutality and savagery of yester decades and centuries have not been tamed by advance in science and culture. To the contrary advance in both fields have become the tools to perpetuate the unimaginable crimes against humanity. Modern media and broadcasting appliances were used in Rwanda in 1994 effectively to mobilise the Hutu extremists against Tutsi to a devastating effect, while in former Yugoslavia a supposed refined and civilised European country used its technologically advanced military to commit mass killing in Bosnia.
When Rwanda genocide happened in broad day light with UN watching while another war was ragging on in former Yugoslavia in which the Serbs were ethnically cleansing the Bosnians, the world leaders focused on the latter not giving the former any attention it deserved. Bill Clinton in his biography, My Life, regretted his inaction. He writes, “The failure to try to stop Rwanda’s tragedies became one of the greatest regrets of my presidency.” (Clinton 2004, p594)
Nevertheless, the USA tried to ameliorate the post genocide situation by contributing to the mechanisms of social recovery in Rwanda. On the other hand the Former Yugoslavia situation led to the UNSC Resolution 780 which provided legal base for tackling perpetrators of the future.
The sad thing is that with all the above, South Sudan, in December 2013, that is 15 years later experienced same crimes against humanity seemingly without any concern of the world shown. This suggests the journey to a more civilised world charted by the UNSC resolution 780 may not include the South Sudan case. Why is this?
The answer may be found in one short phrase: “African solutions for African problems”. This proposition obviously has an important history to it, the centuries old interaction between Europeans and Africans. The abuse and disrespect the Africans experienced in this interaction are supposed to be brought to an end by letting Africans do things in their own way. Unfortunately and painfully as it is African leaders are abusing this noble principle by dancing around it and not applying it as it should.
Although the events of December 2013 constitute an international crime as defined by UNSC Resolution 780, the powers of the world happily allowed IGAD and the AU to take lead based on the said proposition. This reduced an international crime to a continental issue removing the safeguards intended for global peace. This decision appears to reflect the coloured view of the world about Africans and the value placed on their humanity. African Union and IGAD which should have acted robustly and fairly, sadly resorted to playing politics with the problem in South Sudan.
If these crimes against humanity committed by President Kiir and his tribal militia are not accounted for fairly and the perpetrators punished like the Nazis in Nuremberg in 1940s, the Hutus in Rwanda in 1990s and the Serbs, Croats, and Bosnian in the former Yugoslavia as ongoing now, the world should know that such crimes are then likely to recur in South Sudan in future. There is no way that the people are going to forget the excesses of President Kiir and his tribal militia without justice being seen to be done. If the world fails to take the duty of collective responsibility to bring the government of President Kiir to account, they may encourage other social groups with irresponsible leaders to take matters into their own hands which in my opinion is wholly inappropriate. The UNSC has a duty to act and it should do so.
One of the major problems of South Sudan is the culture of violence and abuse of state machinery by groups in power to promote their parochial interest. This is largely the outcome of SPLM’s wrong policies under Dr John Garang. After his death, President Kiir continued with these policies to advance the interest of his ethnic group as opposed to promotion of the notion of “common good”.
The cleansing of the Nuer is supposed to protect this narrow interest. So it is not a surprise that right from 2005, the government of South Sudan failed to take the right path.
The government of South Sudan to the Jieng is a tool to be used to advance their interest. It is not about common good and the protection of all South Sudanese people. Aldo Ajo, a member of the notorious Jieng Council of Elders made this point clear in his recent interview with SSTV. The Jieng are not interested in promoting peace, reconciliation and healing in the country. Just look at their prevarication in the peace talks and everything becomes clear. President Kiir and his Jieng Council of Elders including the top military brass are engaged in total waste of time in Addis Ababa under IGAD while innocent people continue to lose their lives.
They forcefully talk of their commitment to peace, yet they obstruct every opportunity there is to bring peace. Why? The Jieng do not want to lose power and they will hang on to it until the people oust them by any available means. The Jieng leadership is despotic. Despots don’t cede power peacefully as expected. They always act selfishly. To understand the behaviour of the Jieng, here is a quote from Ryszard Kapuscinski’s ‘Shah of the Shahs’ illuminating the mind of the despot:
“The Shah’s reflex was typical of all despots: strike first and suppress, then think it over. What next? First display muscle, make a show of strength, and later perhaps demonstrate you also have a brain. Despotic authority attaches great importance to being considered strong, and much less to being admired for its wisdom. Besides what does wisdom mean to a despot? It means skill in the use of power. The wise despot knows when and how to strike. This continual display of power is necessary because, at root, any dictatorship appeals to the lowest instincts of government: fear, aggressiveness towards one’s neighbours, bootlicking. Terror most effectively excites such instincts, and fear of strength is well spring of terror.
A despot believes that man is an abject creature. Abject people fill his court and populate his environment. A terrorized society will behave like an unthinking, submissive mob for a long time. Feeding it is enough to make it obey. Provided with amusement, it’s happy. The rather small arsenal of political tricks has not changed in millennia. Thus, we have all the amateurs in politics, all the ones convinced they would know to govern if only they had the authority. Yet surprising things can also happen. Here is a well-fed and well-entertained crowd that stops obeying.
It begins to demand something more than entertainment. It wants freedom, it demands justice. The despot is stunned. He doesn’t know to see a man in all his fullness – or rather, because it is lawless and it strives for appearance of legality. On this point it is exceedingly touchy, morbidly oversensitive. Moreover, it suffers from a feeling (however deeply hidden) of inferiority. So it spares no pains to demonstrate to itself and others the popular approval it enjoys. Even if this support is a mere charade, it feels satisfying. So what if it’s only an appearance? The world of dictatorship is full of appearance” (Kapuscinski, p115 kindle version)
The appearance of Juba regime of terror is captured by their baseless famous phrase “democratically elected”. This, of-course is a lie which the regime has stuck on to sell itself and hide its crimes internationally. The fact that President Kiir engaged in ethnic cleansing, a grave crime against humanity, automatically disqualified his legitimacy as a president. He turned into a criminal and therefore whatever mandate he had before his horrific act evaporated. What does that then mean?
Technically South Sudan is ruled by people without mandate. Thus President Kiir, his cabinet and the SPLM-IG should not be making loud noise with the song of “democratically elected”. It is hollow; it is empty and a total nonsense. Somewhere above I posed the question: how can the Jieng be trusted with power? With the information given I leave you to draw your own answer.
Dr Riek Machar, the leader of the armed resistance movement of SPLM-IO should actually be making loud noise about the illegality of the regime in Juba. Unfortunately, he is not clued on. He has totally missed and failed to articulate this crucial point which should have been the centre of the talks in Addis Ababa. Pathetically he now advocates for the atrocities of President Kiir to be forgiven and forgotten for the sake of peace. In his speech in Pagak he said, “To prevent this (ethnic cleansing) from happening and in order for us to save our people and country, we must seriously look for ways to achieve peace. We must be ready to exercise magnanimity [i.e. generosity}. We must forgive atrocities committed against us and likewise ask forgiveness from those we have harmed” http://nyamile.com/2014/12/10/south-sudan-dr-riek-machars-historic-speech-at-pagak-conference/
Can South Sudan really become peaceful without accountability to the atrocities of 15th December 2013 which is still ongoing? It is vital to remember that ethnic cleansing is still going on now as we speak. So 15th December 2013 is only the start date but it has not yet ended. Members of the Nuer tribe and opponents of the government are daily being arrested and disappeared throughout the country. This dark ongoing episode is not only about the loss of Nuer and the Jieng. All the silent majority of the people of South Sudan equally suffered and continue to suffer emotionally, psychologically and mentally by witnessing these atrocities. They too are victims and have rights to demand justice. They now live with damaging internal injuries. Therefore, it is not up to Dr Riek to dismiss the grave crimes against humanity in South Sudan for his convenience to accede to power.
Peaceful South Sudan can only be realised after justice to the victims and the injured living victims is done as in the cases of Nazis in Germany, Hutu in Rwanda and Serbs in Bosnia. Therefore, it is only right that SPLM/A leaders too must be made to pay for their grave crimes in South Sudan. There should be no buts, ifs or disputes over it because in Arusha, Tanzania all of them in their supposed reconciliation and reunification meeting chaired by President of Tanzania voluntarily confessed and admitted responsibility for the crimes and destabilisation of the region.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki Mon and the Troika have repeatedly said there would be no business as usual. It is hoped that they will make these words meaningfully and weighty for the sake of justice to the victims and peace in South Sudan and the region. Human Rights Watch has already made useful suggestion on page 6 of their report ‘Ending the Era of Injustice’ http://www.hrw.org/reports/2014/12/10/ending-era-injustice
Finally, South Sudanese must not allow these grave crimes against humanity to go without accountability. Once that is done and when President Kiir and SPLM are gone it will be necessary to erect a memorial for the victims of ethnic cleansing in Gudele in Juba to remind us of the scourge of SPLM and the ideologies of ‘born to rule’ and Jieng supremacy. Such a memorial will serve as a national mourning site, educational centre for the young and act as a symbol of resistance to injustice, tribal ideologies and crimes against humanity.
[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]