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Humanitarian Organizations Working in Darfur Continue to be Targeted for Expulsion

By Eric Reeves

April 20, 2014 (SSNA) -- On Friday, April 18 Radio Dabanga reported that Khartoum had expelled yet another critical humanitarian organization working in Darfur, this time Merlin (UK).   The reason?  Because Merlin had merged with Save the Children, which Khartoum had earlier expelled from Darfur on absurdly contrived grounds (March 2009).  For according to Khartoum's Humanitarian Aid Commission, this merger violated "Sudanese law." Merlin—active in Sudan since 1997—has been providing medical assistance to some 600,000 people, including running 28 permanent health facilities.

At the end of January of this year, Khartoum announced that it was suspending the activities of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the very embodiment of international neutrality and humanitarian assistance.  The reason?  The ICRC refused to accommodate Khartoum's extortionate demand that funds and resources be transferred to the Sudan Red Crescent.  For a range of principled, as well as practical, reasons the ICRC declined to be a victim of Khartoum's extortion and its immensely important and wide-ranging work was halted.

On March 19, 2014 Radio Dabanga reported that the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime was expelling the French organization Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development  (ACTED) from Darfur:

ACTED provides support to the displaced people in Zalingei, including water and sanitation for the camps and the surrounding villages before the rain season starts. “At least 50 members of the national staff are employed in the Central Darfur office,” a local staff member said. According to its website, the programme has 83 national staff and 3 internationals working in Sudan. “The action against ACTED comes at a critical time,” the [ACTED] staff member told Radio Dabanga.

These and other expulsions, as well as the creation of impossible working conditions, follow the massive March 2009 expulsion of thirteen distinguished international relief organizations, including two sections of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Rescue Committee, Oxfam/Great Britain, Save the Children/US, and a number of others.  Several Sudanese humanitarian organizations were also shut down.

At the time, according to a highly knowledgeable UN official, this represented roughly half the humanitarian capacity in Darfur, and left many areas and humanitarian sectors without effective management or oversight; a great deal of local knowledge and institutional memory was lost.  The international community tried to find its voice in demanding that the decision be revoked.  But this soon came to nothing in the face of Khartoum's obduracy, and the huffing and puffing died down quickly, to be replaced in the case of the U.S. with a policy of expedient accommodation. Then-Senator John Kerry, representing the Obama administration as well as the Senate, mendaciously declared on April 17, 2009 that full restoration of humanitarian capacity would be a matter of weeks:  "We have agreement [with Khartoum] that in the next weeks we will be back to 100 percent capacity."  This capacity was in fact never recovered, and is now even less than it was at the time of the expulsions.  And Kerry went further, holding out the promise of rewards for a regime that had just grossly violated international humanitarian law on innumerable counts:

Kerry, who says a new dialogue has been brought about by Obama's special Sudan envoy Scott Gration, suggested diplomacy could eventually result in a lifting of sanctions against Sudan and its removal from a US list of state sponsors of terrorism. 'Absolutely. That is entirely on the table. I can't tell you when, that’s a decision President Obama makes," said Kerry. (Reuters [el-Fasher], April 17, 2009)

Moreover, with the expulsion of relief organizations and the consequent denial of humanitarian assistance to desperately needy civilians, the regime was perpetrating what amounted to "crimes against humanity" (see "On the Obstruction of Humanitarian Aid" in African Studies Review).  Such unseemly haste to make a deal with the very men who had orchestrated this massively consequential humanitarian expulsion defines both Kerry and the Obama administration's Sudan policy.

Subsequently there would be other expulsions: Médecins du Monde, for example, the only medical NGO serving the people of Jebel Marra, was expelled in early 2010.  And in May of 2012 the regime expelled, again without meaningful explanation, seven international humanitarian organizations working in eastern Sudan, one of the poorest and most severely marginalized of all the regions in Sudan.  Sudan Tribune reported at the time:

Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) [Suleiman Abdel Rahman] has ordered seven foreign aid groups to suspend their humanitarian activities in eastern Sudan following the findings of an assessment study reporting infractions they allegedly committed. [The decision ended] the humanitarian activities of the seven aid groups in the three states of Eastern Sudan region: Kassala; Red Sea and Gadaref states.  [The seven organizations are] Accord, Goal, Triangle, Save the Children, Plan Sudan, Malo, a British demining group, and a Japanese aid group.  [The charge was that] the groups exceeded their license and roles.

We get a chilling sense of Khartoum's attitude toward foreign humanitarian assistance from words of Nafie Ali Nafie earlier that month, also from Sudan Tribune:

Earlier in May, addressing a rally organised in Port Sudan to provide support to the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) Sudanese presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie denounced calls for the return of NGOs to South Kordofan and described them [as] "trumpeters of conspiracy." "Those who covet that foreign aid groups [secure] a foothold in the East (Sudan) … should know there is no place for them," he further said.

This absurd propaganda—part of a long-term campaign to demonize international aid organizations as fronts for spies, Zionist infiltrators, and self-enriching opportunists—was designed to cover the regime's real motives, which include a primary desire that there be as few foreign eyes on the ground in Sudan as possible bearing witness to gross negligence and the most egregious violations of international law.  There was also a desire to punish and weaken the people of eastern Sudan for their support of the South during the long civil war.   This is what lies behind a more recent suspension of humanitarian activities in eastern Sudan, in this case a UN jobs and assistance project ("UN aid programmes suspended in east Sudan," Agence France-Presse [Khartoum], March 26, 2014):

The programme's beneficiaries are among 6.1 million people – 18% of the population – needing humanitarian assistance in Sudan.

Yet again, no reasonable explanation was offered.  There is a supreme viciousness in using lies and propaganda in an effort to justify starving civilians to death; for eastern Sudan has long had some of the worst malnutrition indicators anywhere in Sudan.

Even before the mass expulsions of March 2009, organizations had been compelled to depart Darfur, forced by the threat of armed violence, or by working conditions that Khartoum deliberately made intolerable.  And the threats of expulsion hang constantly in the air, along with more brutally physical threats.  An earlier and shocking event tells all too much about the attitude of the regime—and the license it has given police and security forces of all kinds:

Aid workers have described how they watched helplessly as Sudanese police officers dragged a female United Nations worker from an aid agency compound in Darfur and subjected her to a vicious sexual attack. Staff say they feared for their lives when armed police raided their compound in Nyala, dragging one European woman out into the street by her hair and savagely beating several other international staff before arresting a total of 20 UN, aid agency, and African Union staff. [ ]

A UN official in Darfur said: "If the people responsible for beating and molesting the aid workers and UN staff are not punished, others will think they can get away with such crimes and it will happen again. Should the security situation for international aid workers not improve and the overall safety of our staff be assured, we will be forced to withdraw from Darfur.” (The Telegraph [UK] [Nyala, Darfur], January 28, 2007)

The "people responsible" were of course not punished; and while most organizations did not withdraw, their numbers of expatriate workers have plummeted in subsequent years.  Normally about ten percent of a major international humanitarian operation, expatriate aid workers in Darfur now make up only about three percent of the personnel.  Khartoum has created a set of conditions in Darfur—including engineering a lack of relief capacity—that keeps foreign eyes and observation out even as it punishes a large majority of Darfuris.  And by design, this is felt with particular force by the non-Arab/African populations in displaced persons camps as well as in rural and urban areas throughout Darfur.  We know, we may be certain from the previous ten years of grim experience in Darfur, that Khartoum has decided upon a strategy of disrupting and compromising humanitarian work as part of its broader counter-insurgency campaign, taking the form of supply delays, visa and travel permit issues (including denial), confiscations, extortion, physical violence—and expulsion whenever it is thought to be "needed."

Past inaction—along with the duplicity of actors such as current U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the fecklessness of most European countries—has only encouraged more of the same on Khartoum's part.  The fact that violence in Darfur is more complex, and that there is more often very serious inter-Arab tribal fighting, doesn't obscure the regime's clear strategy of denying adequate humanitarian capacity as an indirect means of weakening rebel forces.  And this will continue until it is stopped.

The World Accommodates Khartoum's Savagery, Political Repression, and Economic Mismanagement: Why?

Why, then, can't the international community muster the courage to halt these expulsions?  Why haven't there been threats of clear and punishing economic sanctions, directed against all that supports the regime in this ghastly genocide by attrition?  Such a strengthened sanctions regime would take the primary form of European countries declaring that they will suspend all commercial, business, and construction projects in Sudan until the war on humanitarian relief has clearly and decisively ended.  The Europeans should also follow the U.S. in making use of the European banking system, and the Euro in particular—this in order to make Khartoum's monetary and economic transactions as difficult in Euros as they now are in dollars.  At the very least, all talk of debt relief for this most profligate of regimes must end, an issue on which several European countries have spoken with an obscene callousness.  By far the largest portion of external debt, now some US$45 billion, has been accrued over the past 25 years while the regime indulged in hugely expensive wars against its own people, in profligate weapons acquisitions (including some two dozen advanced Russian MiG-29s), heavy investment in a domestic arms industry, and in self-enrichment schemes and pay-offs to political supporters.

Every care should be taken that those most economically weak in Sudan be protected from the effect of sanctions, were they to be imposed.  Members of the regime and their political supporters should be the targets, and hit as precisely as possible.  But it should be clear to all that the regime is presiding over an imploding economy, and that it has contributed pitifully little to the welfare of the marginalized populations of Sudan over so many years of brutal, self-enriching, and tyrannical rule—especially in Darfur and eastern Sudan (as well as the humanitarian embargo imposed on large areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile that remain under control of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army-North).  The regime has crippled the agricultural sector during its years in power, and instead of having vast tracts of land that might serve as Africa's breadbasket, Sudan now must import food, in particular wheat for baking bread (a food staple in the lives of many poorer Sudanese).  Recent bread lines and bread shortages were caused by a lack of foreign exchange currency (Forex) with which to purchase wheat abroad.  And this shortage of Forex is only one symptom of the catastrophic state of the economy that is the inevitable outcome of regime corruption and misrule:

•  Real inflation is running at well over 50 percent, and likely closer to 70 percent in the view of many economists who have actually looked seriously at the Sudanese economy.  Coupled with the plunging value of the Sudanese Pound, imports of goods and services will only become more expensive—when they are obtainable.  Hyperinflation continues to be a distinct possibility.

•  Unemployment and under-employment is very high, especially among the educated young. Sudan's demographics are those of Arab Spring countries; and given the desperate economic plight of the country, this is a formula for the kind of dissatisfaction the led to the September/October 2013 popular uprisings.  These uprisings, in a number of cities and towns, were crushed only because the regime gave the military, security, and police forces "shoot to kill" orders from the very first (Amnesty International, September 26, 2013).  Making protests so dangerous may have halted them for now; but anger only grows on the part of Sudanese waiting for the opportunity to bring down the regime, their explicitly stated goal.

•  The regime is engaged in costly military conflicts in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan, Blue Nile—and may soon feel itself obliged to take sides in deciding militarily who will control the Melut/Paloich oil fields of Upper Nile (South Sudan).  If production is halted in this, the only currently producing region in South, then Khartoum will lose the hefty transit fees (in hard currency) from oil transported to Port Sudan.  Production is now officially at 165,000 bpd, though Luke Patey, author of The New Kings of Crude, believes the real figure to be closer to 135,000 bpd.  But even at this reduced production rate, on an annual basis Khartoum stands to lose huge amounts in hard currency if the revenue stream dries up.

•  Various international banks, airlines, and other commercial operations have ceased doing business with Sudanese banks and the Central Bank of Sudan (including the central bank of Egypt, banks in Saudi Arabia, and some European banks) and will extend the regime no credit for purchases.  This is not done out of moral conviction but the simple fact that Sudan can't pay its bills in hard currency; and as all are aware, the Sudanese Pound may soon be of exceedingly little value, indeed utterly without value if hyper-inflation begins.

•  Although Khartoum claims that Qatar has deposited $1 billion into Sudan's Central Bank some weeks ago, there are reasons for skepticism, especially given Khartoum's disposition to lie and past Qatari reneging on such commitments.  The announcement itself, of course, cost nothing (although no doubt rankled Egypt) and yet had the potential to ease pressure on the Sudanese Pound.  But clearly the black market in currency isn't convinced: the Pound sank last week to an all-time low of 8.85 to the dollar in Khartoum trading.

•  Sudan is widely perceived to be an extremely corrupt country, most conspicuously within the ranks of regime officials.  Transparency International/The Global Coalition Against Corruption ranked Sudan at the bottom of its 2013 list: 174th on a list where last place was 175.  This is immensely discouraging to economic development, especially in the total absence of Forex.

•  Sudan is also widely known for its extreme repression of media freedoms and freedom of expression.  Reporters Without Borders ranked press freedom in Sudan extremely low: 170th of 179 countries (2013 World Press Freedom Index).  This is hardly a surprise, since the Khartoum regime's survival strategy entails shutting down all meaningful political opposition and the expression of opposition views.

The people of Sudan have received—and can expect—very, very little help from Khartoum, whether or not economic sanctions are imposed.  Those who have benefited from the boom years of oil exports—in the regime itself, within the various security services and bureaucracies, and among those who have been politically loyal cronies—long ago made clear that they would pass on none of these benefits to the vast majority of Sudanese who typically live impoverished and very often malnourished lives.  Figures and statistics that should be the shame of any government, and of a world that continues to allow the terrible human suffering reflected in these numbers, include:

•  Malnutrition: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports in its most recent issue of Humanitarian Bulletin/Sudan (April 13, 2014):

On 10 April 2014, the United Nations Food and Agriculture (FAO) said that some 3.3 million Sudanese are currently suffering from food insecurity, with numbers likely to rise to 4 million in the coming months. This is due to a combination of increased conflict and displacement in Darfur, refugee movement from neighbouring South Sudan, poor harvests and spiraling food prices. This means one out of every nine Sudanese will be food insecure. In some areas of Sudan, existing crisis levels of food insecurity are expected to deteriorate to emergency levels in the coming few weeks, bringing an even higher degree of acute malnutrition with devastating consequences for vulnerable groups, FAO said.

•  Rapid inflation in food and fuel prices falls, as always, disproportionately on the poor.  Bread shortages are a sign of what is to come, and occurs among those who will suffer most.

•  A recent study by UNICEF found that:

…survey results show a mix of very different realities across the country with high levels of stunting (chronic malnutrition) and low levels of coverage for safe water and sanitation in some areas. Poor child feeding practices are a problem across the country, with localities in Kassala and Gedaref states among the most critical. The Eastern region and the three Kordofan states have the lowest coverage of safe drinking water and improved latrine facilities, while the Red Sea, Blue Nile and the Darfur region show the highest prevalence of diarrhoea.

UNICEF also reports in the study that it expects more than 200,000 cases of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in Sudan for the present year.  SAM among children under five is typically fatal if not treated with emergency nutritional measures (UNICEF, April 3, 2014).

A recent UN World Health Organization ("Sudan Health Sector Fact Sheet"/2014) found that: "5.75 million people in Sudan are in need of basic health services. The number of health personnel in Darfur is five times lower than the WHO benchmark."  These people live overwhelmingly in the marginalized regions of Sudan.

Last year Sudan Tribune reported that "Sudan languished at the lower end of the latest Human Development Index (HDI) published recently by the United Nations, ranking 171 out of 187 countries included world-wide" (March 18, 2013).

And most fundamentally: the number of displaced persons (including Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile) is now well over 3 million human beings.

Khartoum has simply made no effort to improve the lives of those living in marginalized regions.  Instead, it continues to deplete agricultural resources by selling or renting land to Arab and Asian countries looking to establish their own food security.  Radio Dabanga reports (March 30, 2014) that the regime recently sold 100,000 acres of farmland to Bahrain, only the most recent of a great many sales and "agreements," over many years, transactions that mortgage Sudan's agricultural future even further.

And this is the regime that the world community allows to harass, attack, obstruct, and expel those working courageously in international humanitarian aid operations, attempting to do for the people of Sudan what the regime simply refuses to do itself.

Darfur in extremis

But it is the looming humanitarian crisis in Darfur that must command our most immediate attention: if UNAMID continues to perform as poorly as it has to date, and if the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations does decide to begin down-sizing this protection force (as has again been recently suggested), this may well be the final signal to humanitarian organizations that it is time to withdraw.  Although 97 percent of the staff of these organizations are Sudanese nationals, and these people will struggle to sustain what they can, withdrawal of international organizations means withdrawal of their resources and oversight.  It will be a catastrophe.  Indeed, the consequences of more than a decade of ethnically-targeted destruction are already catastrophic.  This is why we saw more than 400,000 people newly displaced in 2013, and an additional 250,000 people as of April 2014, according to OCHA.  Altogether, far more than 2 million people have been newly displaced, many for the second or third time, in the six years since the deployment of a tragically incompetent UNAMID.  Displacement and violence have always correlated extremely highly in Darfur, and we must accept that these displacement figures are our best indication of levels of violence, despite the self-serving lies by various officials of UNAMID.

UNICEF Representative in Sudan Geert Cappelaere declared in a press conference (February 3, 2014):

Half of the children in Darfur are out of school, and 40 percent of them suffer from chronic malnutrition, the Representative of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Sudan revealed on Monday [February 3]. UNICEF Representative Geert Cappelaere on Monday briefed the press about the conclusions of a study carried by UN agencies in Sudan. He stated that minors constitute 65 percent of the population in Darfur. Most of them are living in camps for the displaced. A total of 1.2 million children in Sudan’s western region do not have access to basic services. Only six women out of 100 give birth in health centres. 300 out of 100,000 women die in childbirth.

Forty percent of children in Darfur are suffering from chronic malnutrition.  And yet the UN refuses to release data about the more serious Global Acute Malnutrition rates, a sign that Khartoum has made very clear that it does not wish the world to know the extent of extreme food insecurity in Darfur.  This is a catastrophe, and the world needs to take seriously the possibility that hundreds of thousands of additional deaths in Darfur will begin to occur during the coming rainy season and the latter part of the "hunger gap," which will end only with a successful autumn harvest, something that appears increasingly unlikely.  The world must take this possibility seriously, as well as the desperate plight of many hundreds of thousands in Blue Nile and South Kordofan who continue—now for almost three years—to be denied all humanitarian access by Khartoum's génocidaires.

How can such barbarism be tolerated?  Why are there so few voices speaking specifically to Khartoum's devastating war of attrition against humanitarian relief in Darfur?  Why do international actors of consequence—including the U.S., the EU, and most dismayingly the UN and the AU—refuse to acknowledge how deep the current crisis is?  and how devastating a continuation of Khartoum's assault on relief assistance will be?

I hear no answers, nor do the people of Darfur—merely the unctuous reiterations of past platitudes about a "deep concern" that takes no meaningful form.  Again and again and again, in most of their dispatches, Radio Dabanga publishes desperate pleas from Darfuris on the ground—desperate for protection, food, medical care, and clean water.  They are anguished pleas, and they are rightly uncomprehending of why their voices are not heard. Why are they not?

The world will not outlive this shame.  Far too much has been recorded not to shock those who in the future look back on this time and wonder how we could possibly have allowed such terrible human destruction and suffering to continue before our very eyes for more than a decade.

Eric Reeves' new book-length study of greater Sudan (Compromising With Evil: An archival history of greater Sudan, 2007 - 2012; www.CompromisingWithEvil.org).

Straightening the crooks in a volatile history

By Deng Vanang

April 17, 2014 (SSNA) -- Those who ignore or falsify history do so at their own peril. History repeats itself, quips the adage. While Greek ancient philosopher put it precisely: we see the future through the light of the past.  If we ignore history the nasty events of the past, that should have been avoided, must keep hitting back with the ugliest vengeance. This explains why leaders with a good grasp of history favorably manipulate challenges around them to prolong their stay in power. Failure, in addition, to give the devil his due when history is being written in spirit and letter begets tragedy historians always regard as revisionism, which is an adept refusal to recognize others’ contributions or attributing them to the rest who don’t deserve. And in as much as human beings need food, shelter and clothing so is the undeniable and insatiable human crave for recognition. Most bloodiest revolutions in world history in pursuit to put records right arose from this social prejudice in which past Sudan and on-going South Sudan civil wars are not the exception.

This brings us to the memory of gentlemanly column written by Citizen News paper columnist, Ateny Wek Ateny, now the Presidential spokesman, on Tuesday, 14th of August 2012 in response to the one entitled A leader dealing in hope and so was Dr. John, authored around the same week by Mr. Mading de Yak Choldit in The New Times weekly newspaper. The young author suggested to Ateny why he should be celebrating the lives of other heroes/heroines instead of John Garang. A determined Mading tersely dedicated a lengthy opinion piece to Dr. John Garang following the martyrs’ day, of 30th July 2012 and whose copy  he e-mailed to Ateny, further reminding him rather tacitly of how gravely wrong he was by not dedicating his martyrs’ day column to Dr. John. Martyrs day was initially mooted and committed to Garang’s life and his struggles in early stage of Comprehensive Peace Agreement {CPA}.

But sometimes along the way government thought it wise the day should instead be dedicated to all martyrs of almost two – century struggle of South Sudanese for statehood from 1820 to 2011, a dilution which might have rattled the widow, Mama Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior and greater Bor community. The perceived dilution may be the reason why they initially acted in resistance to that Presidential decree by only showcasing their heroes. And I’m afraid how negatively they will react when the anti-Garang’s forces inside or outside the government take over the reins of power and subsequently decide he is no longer the chief of martyrs. What is obviously unchanged till now in their favor, nevertheless, is Dr. Garang being regarded as chief of all martyrs in government official protocol and correspondence.

However, the focus of my article is on one of the last paragraphs of Mr. Ateny Wek Ateny’s column of the same day and I didn’t bother to follow up its possible continuation the next day at the time, that was Wednesday, August 15th 2012 and I quote: Mading is not alone in this. I knew a number of our brothers/sisters within Bor community where Mading also comes, who often get irritated if a hero other than John Garang is mentioned and even more irritated enough if anything is dedicated to other heroes/heroines however trivial. End of quote.

Of great concern here is how bias martyrs’ day has become and made a day of agony rather than that of joy for several South Sudanese ethnic communities who fell have been undeservedly wiped out of annals of history although many of their sons and daughters sacrificially lost both lives and limbs in the course of struggle. Apart from localizing and exploiting the persona of John Garang by some Bor community members, Martyrs’ day is increasingly becoming a day that is used to humiliate others as well as it is becoming a source of disunity rather than a day to remember our past struggle in togetherness and love, both of which helped us gain our hard won freedom. A day in which others are told openly they contributed nothing in the past struggle by displaying almost only portraits of Bor community and other Dinka clans alleged heroes or heroines in all strategic city high ways and corners.

Especially when clans, in particular Bor community takes charge of Martyrs’ day celebration committee as it does every year. Denying somebody’s contribution normally puts a sharp strain on the national unity and social relations between communities that compete for genuine citizenship rights in a given country. Since rights depend on duties {responsibilities}, those who are told they didn’t participate in the slaughter of the elephant, could not even think of having right to claim any piece of the meat. And if any, they are only doled out of sympathy. It also creates inferiority complex in those said to be good for nothing since they didn’t participate in the national call to duty - the liberation of South Sudan. That bias notion if heeded effectively hands on silver platter the country, resources and leadership to liberating tribes and clans. If Martyrs’ day is defined in such narrow assumptions, then it cannot be regarded as a national day by any standard. For what is national is inclusive of all ethnic groups and clans. That again reminds me of my past casual movements around the city, Juba which make me feel much more annoyed about how some groups and individuals in South Sudan have been working around the clock to underrate others, destroy the relative peace and freedom we painstakingly achieved, especially through their own alienating words, perceptions and actions. These illicit behaviors have come to explain that some South Sudanese didn’t know what they were fighting to achieve in the first place and why unity, which is perquisite to stability and development, is important.  By regarding others as worthless creatures is not only a moral attack on their integrity but also the highest order of ignorance for nobody God created is useless, whether blind, crippled or maimed.

As it is said in English every dog has its day to celebrate, there is always a time when any of those physically challenged can help us out of desperate situation, for example blind and crippled are naturally endowed with unsurpassed intelligence as is the deaf with physical strength. To be individually selective on who is hero or not at random as demonstrated in the martyrs’ day every year, particularly when showcasing Kerubino Kuanyin Bol and Arok Thon Arok’s portraits among heroes while John Kulang Puot remains a condemned criminal although both defected from SPLM/A and died behind government battle lines is quite prejudicial. The same can be said of Akuot Atem’s picture which was displayed from obscurity for the first time in 2012 Martyrs’ day leaving out the picture of his friend and comrade - in - arms; Samuel Gai Tut is rather more ridiculous. What differentiates Akuot from Gai when they both rejected Garang’s leadership and went in a separate way together to challenge Garang? And what could make Gai a traitor and Akuot a hero if it is not pure bias?  Or is the killing of Akuot by William Abdullah Chuol on charges of being Garang’s mole within Anya-Nya Two can now be ascertained as a foolproof? Too, people need to be reminded none can be a hero unless supported by other. This is enough to say if somebody has helped the other to become a hero he is as well a hero too. Also labeling other South Sudanese as non-producers of heroes against what is obvious save for some clans or tribe is flagrant moral down grading that will never allow peace to reign in our land.

The bug of blame doesn’t stop with the stated groups who think it is their legitimate right to lord it over others with crude impunity. The government partly abets this prejudice as well for failure to gazette the heroes/heroines whose lives deserve to be commemorated at national, state, County, Payam and Boma levels during the martyrs’ day depending on the strength of each one’s contribution in the liberation struggle. Its laxity is taken advantage of by those who are busy sowing and watering seeds of ethnic sentiments as is the case now in South Sudanese society when some people are forced to celebrate the lives of certain individuals as heroes who during their life time robbed them of their women, parcels of land and even chickens. It is quite harsh! Yet again village heroes shouldn’t have been allowed to grace the national day in the first place in capital city Juba. By allowing such vice, government is not merely abetting injustice, but also desecrating what is sacred, the martyrs’ day. Not only the government to take the blame, too, the media have to take some beatings since they are the memory centre of the nation from which the country’s history is written and should assert their an alienable editorial right in guiding those writers and reporters who either unintentionally or deliberately try to falsify history in favor of some and at grimmest expense of others.  Personally I’m not against John Garang as somebody I highly respect for being one of great South Sudanese who are no body’s fools with self-confidence in their own leaderships and with audaciously enigmatic zeal to fight for their rights and rights of others. But to eulogize Garang as unblemished may not be sincere as some are more often than not trying to portray. Garang was like any other mortals who by very nature of their creation have beatitudes as well as faults in them. He was no god. To his credit, Dr. John as known to many was undoubtedly charismatic and equally accredited with success of our struggle due to the above mentioned attributes. But even still he can be blamed for not taking us straight to the Promised Land in which we are today. Instead, he alike Moses led us meandering around Egypt we wanted to leave as quickly as possible through his impractical new Sudan theory which caused deadly divisions in Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement/Army.

The same internal conflicts went along way to prolong the war with Khartoum Arab based-successive regimes. His gifted charisma also deceived him he could flash his weird concept he ever conceived of down our throats. His routine rituals of sacrificing innocent lives of dear comrades in struggle for graduating battalions in Bonga and Bilpam cannot go unchallenged. Although those who were closest to him regard Garang as very generous person and merely blame his wife Madam Rebecca Nyandeng for corrupting him, he can be partly faulted for current corruption unknown in pre- civil war South Sudanese traditions that has plagued our society and flunked our otherwise filthy rich country, South Sudan, into an abysmal poverty and protracted inter-ethnic feuds. The genesis of current endemic corruption and hatred can be traced to the way Garang ruled SPLM/A as personal property whereby he with his wife Madam Nyandeng and trusted aides could globe - trot in soliciting funds for arms without revealing sources of funding and neither could he provide transparency and accountability to his senior commanders in the field. This lone ranger behavior prompted Uncle Lwal Diing Wol in late 1980s by asking Garang this question: who should manage to retrace sources of SPLM/A arms supplies and funding if he suddenly died on the plane? Fortunately Garang died after accomplishing his mission of liberation.

This allegation became a rallying call in a dossier bombastically entitled ‘’why Garang must go now’’ as authored by SPLM/A Nasir splinter group in 1991 when it quipped: Garang believes he is the movement and the movement is him. Similar scathing attack on Garang’s autocratic style of leadership was repeated by the then second deputy Chairman and Chief of general staff of SPLM/A, Salva Kiir Mayardit in a bitter showdown after his near fallout with Garang in November 2004 in Rumbek. Kiir emphatically said in a packed hall of bewildering audience that Garang always carried the movement in a briefcase with him on his foreign trips and as deputy he never used to leave him in charge and neither anybody else he {Kiir} might have known of. He could even secretly leave for overseas without informing his field commanders and some close aides, several people alleged. And one more mind boggling question that sent everybody reeling with a rib cracking laughter was eloquently posed to eye-popping Chairman Moa by one no nonsense commoner. Boldly driven home to him still to be identified guy irritated by ever fattening animal called corruption in yei around 2003 in a heated public debate as to why everyone who went outside South Sudan liberated areas returned with a big pot belly in the midst of other bonny individual members of the movement? He said it is up to those with pot bellies to answer where they got theirs from, but for his he had to explain the source. Garang said he got his big belly from a string of foreign dignitaries who played him host as a quest while mobilizing support for the guerrilla movement. He then threw the ball back to those with big bellies around him to explain where they got their ill-gotten pots from. He was a role model to millions and even more to those closest to him. Like a tree planted in fertile soil and favorable weather, he produced numerous fruits and no any sane person according to the law of nature can imagine a tree producing fruits different from its own kind. That is today corruption has its origin in the way Garang ran SPLM/A which he generously bequeathed to his surviving good boys and girls. And should anybody erroneously think Salva Kiir is the only problem is dead wrong, although of course he has elevated the endemic financial and political corruption a notch higher. His guilty is his cross to carry alone and shouldn’t be used to shield in any way people who have been deemed to have long term opportunity in becoming governors, Ministers, County Commissioners and Parliamentarians with a free hand over immense resources in their respective constituencies, but only succeeded to enrich themselves, families and close associates.

As a further proof everybody is significant, Madam Rebecca has a very good side she deserves being credited for. For ever since 2006 she saw a developing monster in Kiir others closest to him never did. While most of us have been praising Kiir, winning and dinning with him, Mama Nyandeng has been crisscrossing the width and breadth of South Sudan warning us of impending danger we chose to ignore at our own peril. But of great importance here is the urging desire for us to understand history as a continuum that repeats itself and the ongoing rebellion against Kiir and his government as the golden opportunity to right the wrongs once and for all in order to stop cycle of violence from recurring every ten or so years later. That is through the proclamation of a viable constitution with the entrenched checks and balances while independent institutional watch dogs are instituted to safeguard against executive excesses.

Deng Vanang is a freelance journalist. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Tribalism Ignites the Current and Previous Conflicts in South Sudan

By: Daniel Wuor Joak

April 16, 2014 (SSNA) -- Several nationals and foreign writers have been addressing this concern for a number of years and extensively made researches on it where they thoroughly figured out that “Tribalism” is the main obstacle to future peace and harmony to communities living in South Sudan. Both British colonial power and successive Sudanese regimes in Khartoum had voiced the same concern where they rightly predicted that South Sudanese people would not afford to rule themselves peacefully if granted a state of their own. The present situation can prove without any doubt to all of us as testimony. As South Sudanese who was born and grew up during the first Anya-Nya war and later participated intensively during the second war of struggle from January 1984, my experiences proved that something wrong is lingering in our minds that need to be readjusted in order for Republic of South Sudan to survive and be governed peacefully and transparently. Let us not pretend that everything is alright within our setups being on the government or in the opposition sides. Our society in general, unfortunately, is very much decay from top to bottom unless is drastically rescue from eminent demise through cooperation and understanding.

All the sixty-four tribes, which inhabited the Republic of South Sudan, are very peaceful and loving people but inherited only by wrong leaders who have been blindly followed by their subjects without questioning their integrities and commitments to their wellbeing. Education and exposures to other world civilizations has nothing in our applied knowledge. Some of our most learned South Sudanese leaders who are supposed to be the best exemplary behaves as if they had never gone to classrooms. They always incite their tribal groups once they run short of ideas to convince their political opponents at national level.

The December 15, 2013’s saga had nothing to do with either Nuer or Dinka for that matter. It was squarely an SPLM internal matter that would have been resolved by its members from within. The massacre and wanton killings perpetrated against over ten thousand Nuer civilians which was deliberately carried out by the so-called Presidential Guards and their colleagues from other organized forces from Dinka in Juba town for three days was an act of a defeated leader at national level. Those leaders who challenged President Salva Kiir Mayardit from SPLM Party including Dr. Riek Machar, Mamma Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior, Deng Alor Kuol, John Luk Jok, Kosti Manibe, Alfred Ladu Gore, Dr. Cirino Eteng, Madut Biar Yel, Pagan Amum, Oyai Deng Ajak, Chol Tong Mayay, Taban Deng Gai, Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba, Majak de’ Agot and Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth etc. Those who know the South Sudanese names very well can easily identify how many Nuer are on the list. They are only four in number among the fourteen SPLM leaders who advocated for change of leadership. The higher figures from the group who opposed Kiir’s leadership were from Dinka. They had five and the rest were from different communities from Equatoria states. The Nuer community for that matter was victims of political conspiracy intentionally hatched by President Salva Kiir Mayardit to eliminate them from South Sudan’s politics. The fabricated coup attempt, which was later, publicized by President Salva Kiir himself and his errand boys all over the world against his former Vice President Dr. Riek Machar, was a ploy to distort and detract the attentions of South Sudanese and their well wishers worldwide who were terribly shocked and saddened with great disbelieves about the awful massacres of the Nuer community which were systematically carried out by government supporters in Juba, Malakal, Bor, Leer and Bentiu. With this kind of systematic killings against the Nuer, the White Army and defected SPLA soldiers from Nuer in Juba, Bor, Bentiu and Malakal fought back against the government loyalists until they bravely overran the towns of Bor, Bentiu and Malakal as well as most of the counties in the three states of Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei respectively and this was the beginning of the rebellion in the South Sudan.

President Salva Kiir had in the past been mastering the same tricks against different communities throughout the country where he fomented tribal feuds amongst the Dinka themselves, Nuer v Murle, Murle v SPLA, Nuer v SPLA, Mundari v Bari, Achol v Madi, Acholi v Bari, Dinka v Fertit, Shilluk v Dinka, SPLA v SPLA etc. Such feuds were more less land disputes or indiscriminate disarmaments where he always favoured one group against another biasedly. It resulted to numerous rebellion movements.

With the current conflict, some selfish politicians who do not want their individual interests to be jeopardized have dragged in some communities into this war unnecessarily. For example, the Dinka Ngok of Baliet in Upper Nile State were not at all part of this wrangling but they were rather dragged in by none others than the State Governor of Upper Nile Simon Kun Puoch and his County Commissioner of Baliet Rev. James Tor Monybony. Before the fighting took place in Malakal town on the 3rd week of December 2013, a group of state lawmakers, state ministers, other organized forces officers and senior state officials from the counties of Ulang and Nasir, after they completely disagreed with the state governor over the killings of Nuer civilians in Juba whereas the governor himself with on denial that the government in Juba did not order the massacres of Nuer civilians. They were rather killed by individual criminals as his unwavering support presently with the government in Juba confirmed. After the group decided to travel to Nasir area without official approval from the state governor, their convoy of twelve cars was intercepted at Baliet Count by a force being organized by Baliet County Commissioner under specific order from the state governor Simon Kun Puoch where he instructed him not to allow the convoy to proceed to the last destination as planned. Instead the group were told to return back to Malakal or else be dealt with accordingly. While the were in state of discussions, the organised soldiers from Baliet opened fire indiscriminately killing: 1. Hon. Nhial Lual Wuol, SPLM Chief Wipe Upper State Legislative Assembly, 2. Hon. Bang Duop Lam, Chairperson of Justice Committee, Hon. 3. Thuok Puok Goot, Secertary General State Secretariat, 4. One Colonel from Police, 5. Two Major from Police, 6. Two Captains from Police and several officials. The total of those killed that day of 20/12/2013, were 17 persons.

When the news of their killing reached Nasir and Ulang, the communities of these two counties were extremely alarmed and the White Army decided to go and search for the survivals in Baliet County. The number of passengers in the convoy was over sixty persons who were dispersed by their attackers to wilderness. Most of them died of thrust and hunger in the forest. Instead of the people of Baliet County to apologize for the killings, the While Army from Ulang and Nasir found them prepared for war against them. This was the root cause of the first fighting in Baliet County. It was Governor Simon Kun Puoch and Rev. James Tor Monybony who should be held responsible for the death of innocent Dinka civilians from Baliet County and Nuer of Ulang and Nasir Counties respectively. It was not their wishes to kill themselves but the war was rather imposed on them by these two greedy politicians. This is a known fact and nobody will ever deny that as long as evidences are concerned.

The same thing with the prevailing human tragic befallen in Shilluk Kingdom where former militias recently absorbed by government of South Sudan under commands of Major General Johnson Oluony and Brig. General Ayuok Ogat and under overall influence of their mentor Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin have been badly used by government in Juba to wage war against the SPLM/A-In Opposition forces in Upper Nile State. This exposes the Shilluk community into danger because most of their recruits hail from Shilluk tribe and the fighting is concentrating in Shilluk area whereas thousands of Shilluk have been displaced from their ancestral lands either to UNMISS camp in Malakal town or into neighbouring country of Sudan. The blame still goes to Dr. Lam Akol who encourages the Shilluk militias to fight alongside that despotic regime in Juba for his selfish gains. He had been in opposition all these years until when he learnt that his erstwhile political rivals Dr. Riek Machar and Pagan Amum went on loggerheads with President Salva Kiir Mayardit. He hastily came back from his self-exiled in Cairo and took this opportunity to mend his relations with President Kiir in order to side-line the other two SPLM opposing leaders in his favour. The Shilluk as community has no reason to fight the White Army or the SPLM/A – In Opposition for that matter because the two communities have a lot in common and very much integrated culturally through inter-marriages assimilations. Because of misuse of Shilluk sons being conscripted into militia’s rank and fight alongside the SPLA, Brig. Ayuok Ogat, one of the factional militia commanders decided to defect to the rebel ranks. His forces and that of SPM/A – In Opposition recently captured the town of Kaka El Tigariah from the government forces. This marked the beginning of Shilluk community to disassociate themselves from Salva Kiir and Lam Akol’s ban-wagon. Their marriage of convenience will soon disintegrate as already the Chollo community realises the truth.

The same scenario has also been happening in Mayom County in Unity State where the sons of Monytuil Ojang, Dr. Nguen who is the Unity State Governor and General Bapiny have been organizing a militia band under command of Major General Matthew Puol Jang. The militia who hails from Bul Nuer clan has been fighting alongside the government against the SPLM/A – In Opposition forces all this time without being integrated into SPLA ranks like Shilluk Militia. Sadly, they are not in payroll but miserably used to fight for the interests of their godfathers in Juba. Until the day of yesterday on 15 April, when the Bul militia fighting force realized that they have badly been misused by the sons of Monytuil Ojang in Juba by killing their own Nuer people and destroying their properties jointly with SPLA of Dinka elements, SPLM-N, JEM and UPDF forces against the SPLM/A-In Opposition in Unity State. Over 600 of them under command of Major General Karlo Kuol Ruai have defected to the rebel’s rank and this made the capture of Bentiu very quick and easy.

Once again, the same tools also used by some politicians from Dinka Bor in Jonglei State where they deliberately dragged in their community into war unnecessarily. For example, the people of Pegi, Duk and Twic East Counties who are all from Dinka origins had never been part of current war because the SPLM/A – In Opposition or the White Army always consider them neutral. They did not participated in the massacres of Nuer in Juba and other towns in Greater Upper Nile as this was done only by some Dinka elements from Greater Bahr El Gazal. Therefore, they were not attacked during the first and second capturing of Bor town by SPLM/A –In Opposition in December 2013, and January 2014, simultaneously.

Unfortunately, the people of Duk were encouraged by their politician Hon. Philip Thon Leek to form their own militia group and fight alongside the SPLA and UPDF forces in the area. Following the recent fighting between the government and rebels forces, Duk County became a contesting zone and that was the reason why some of the structures including the lost boys clinic was destroyed during the fighting. Hon. Philip Thon Leek should not escape from being blamed for having encouraged the Dinka youth in Duk County to fight alongside the government and their Uganda ally forces against the SPLM/A-In Opposition forces. The Counties of Pegi and Twic East are free from attack up to this time from the SPLM/A-In Opposition and the White Army because they have shown their neutrality openly.

Frankly speaking, the government of President Salva Kiir Mayaridit in Juba has completely lost it full supports and confident of the Nuer people throughout the Nuerland in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile States because of the wanton killing and awful massacres its committed against the innocents Nuer in Juba and other towns in Greater Upper Nile states. It is now resorting on supports of individual’s personalities like Major General James Hoth Mai, Dr. Riek Gai Kok, General Charles Lam Chol, General Yohannes Yoal Bath, Simon Kun Puoch, James Kok Ruai, John Kong Nyuon, Dr. John Gai Yoah, General Johnson Gony Billieu, Major General Bol Kong, Nyang Chuol Dhuor, Hon. Timothy Taban Juoch, Justice John Gatwech Lul, Hon. Manasah Magok Rundial, Dr. Joseph Nguen Monytuil, Kuong Danhier Gatluak, General Bapiny Monytuil ect. who have no grass-root supports and at the same time being labelled by Nuer in general as sell-outs who compromised the death of their own fellows for material gains and positions. Whether President Salva Kiir have them in his camp, the grass-roots Nuer considers them like those perished in Juba during the aftermath of fighting. Their contributions are not valued very much at this time. That is why some of them resort on sending people with money to bribe the Nuer White Army in Eastern Upper Nile and Eastern Jonglei States. If they want Nuer to support their cause, why they do not approach the ones residing at UNMISS camps in Juba, Bor and Malakal instead of looking for people who have already escaped the government’s onslaughts. Unfortunately, their cheap dealings are rejected completely throughout the Nuerland. Some of their agents went recently through Ethiopia carrying with them several hundreds thousands of US dollars to bribe the White Army and some field commanders associated with Dr. Riek Machar to return to the government circle. But this mission ended up in fiasco where many of them have been arrested in Gambella region by the Ethiopian security or sent back to Juba unceremoniously. This is always the work of failed leaders who are virtually disowned by their own communities. Whether they like it or not the South Sudan is in turmoil and there will be no reverse at all. Therefore President Salva Kiir and his cronies must go by all means sooner than later or otherwise, Moamar Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein’s sagas will fall on them squarely.

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

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