By Deng Vanang
The role of history in politics and everyday life including medicine, tells us how problems start and why they continuously repeat themselves if not attended to correctly, especially in South Sudan.
Following are the reasons why history gets either messy or right all over the world because of four points as stated below:
• Problem is not always the absence of peace since conflicts do usually occur; it is what causes its absence to resolve based on well-established mechanisms, should there be any hope for a more peaceful and sustainable solution.
• In solving conflicts, some people don’t deal with root causes and instead only get naïve satisfaction in restoring their dignity they say is violated, which later makes their victorious rivals more adeptly unapologetic and stronger to lord it over them.
An idea held as opposed to the universally established norm that any country’s stability depends on how it promptly and adequately addresses causes of its an ever-erupting conflict.
• While others believe in the pursuit of their interests and rights which must either be protected or maintained in any political settlement within the conflict resolution framework, making the above-mentioned group only interested in restoring its dignity even more aggrieved and consequently its inevitable return to the vicious cycle of conflicts.
• And any country whose conflict ends in violence, takes several decades if not centuries to heal, apart from a lot more generations to lose out to foreign countries.
Reflecting on the past to predict future, here is a flashback on why conflicts do persist in S. Sudan:
Part One: The colonial legacy
After successfully quelling an aggressively sweeping Mahdi revolution up in the North in 1898, Anglo-Egyptian colonial authority climbed down hard and turned its heat on restive South for pacification.
In the whole of Sudan on the other hand, it was the end of an era lasting 78 years under Turco-Egyptian rule ever since 1820. Whose motive, through its figurehead Mohammed Ali Pasha in Egypt and his plundering agent Zubeir Pasha in Sudan, was aimed at making money through highly exhorted taxes and mindless hunt for ivory and slaves to be sold for cheaper labour in an increasingly industrializing Europe and America.
Furiously enraging British was the execution of General Charles George Gordon as Turco-Egyptian agent by Mahdi in the battle of Omdurman. He was widely regarded in the North as the saviour of the Sudanese nation. Right from the humble beginning of being son of a simple boat builder in Dongola.
The British alongside Egyptians were also buoyed by the effortless defeat of the late Mahdi’s successor Khalifa Abdullahi. The latter manifestly lacked the charisma and popular appeal of his predecessor.
While for Southerners, it was such a ferrous offensive by Anglo-Egyptian invaders including the young Winston Churchill to contain. Given the fact that Sir Herbert Kitchener’s led reinforcement force got freshly dispatched from Britain with much more superior military technology.
? Confronting an erosive advance, according to records, was one daring Rembe leading the Kakwa’s Yakanye resistance in Yei. He was soon nipped in the bud, physically overpowered, publicly tried and hanged against his attempted mass mobilization for resistance in 1917.
? The Azande kingdom under King Mbio Gbudwe tried its brutal hand too for a couple of years.
It ended when King’s voluntary individual retreat came in handy to save the fear gripped kingdom from an Anglo-Egyptian aggressive assault after he successfully rooted out the occupying forces of Belgium.
Burying his head in shame owing to humiliating defeat, Gbudwe subsequently committed suicide than to be captured alive and humiliated in 1905.
? His tragic resistance was followed by that of 30th October 1919 by Aliab Dinka men who attacked the police post at Mekamon, near Bor with hugely resultant casualties. In retaliation, the colonial authority invaded and ransacked the territory with their leader, Kon Anok being captured in the following year, 1920. He afterward self-administered the poison and died.
? Remaining on the warpath at more extremely self-inflicting human and material costs against Anglo-Egyptian condominium rule for nearly 30 years were the Nuers led by Kuel Jiek in Western Nuer, Guek Ngundeng Bong in central Lou Nuer and Mut Dung of Thiang in Baar-cieng-kaang, Eastern Jikany Nuer.
Anglo-Egyptian authority couldn’t make a cheap and lone victory against the Nuer. For the first time, it had to forge a local alliance to tame the Nuer’s stiff resistance.
Helping it to tackle the Nuer were the Dinka cousins and neighbours. Among them Athorbei, an interpreter of the murdered white medical doctor, Ferguson by Nyuong Nuer in Bentiu.
Dinka generally felt aggrieved by Nuer marauding cattle raids and more ambitious territorial expansions in the wake of Nuer conquest back in 16th century by Lajor Dingyen. The pacification of the Nuer land successfully came into conclusion with respective hanging and killing of Kuel Jiek and Guek Ngundeng 8th February 1928 at Ngundeng’s Mound in Wechdeang by Lou Nuer district Commissioner, Percy Coriat.
While Mut Dung got a reprieve, thanks to his victorious campaigns against an Anglo-Egyptian authority. His military prowess earned him a courageous and mocking nickname, good Captain of the war, but primitive he downed a warplane with a club.
It is the military prowess first of its kind in history against the most powerful British colonial empire by a backward African tribe.
? However, what is worth noting, Latjor left the ancestral home in Bentiu, Unity State as the result of power struggle between him and his Bul cousin by the name Chiol Ghea who assumed ruthless and undemocratic use of power. His successful debut to craft his own power at home and away from home during the pre-history period had their excruciating knock-on effects on the lives of neighbouring tribes as none other than the Dinka, Anyuak, Burun and Oromo of Southwest Ethiopia.
Consequently, the 16th-century Nuer conquest and bad colonial legacy ever since 1898 left an indelible mark continuously denting the Nuer – Dinka power relations socially, economically and politically down from rural settings right up to urban centres till this day far from being the case between other South Sudanese communities. And in fact, the callously hidden motives behind Machar’s 21 and Kiir’s 32 current controversial States could be traced way back to Major’s factor, which is therefore incumbent upon scholars, political leaders, traditional leaders and elders of the two feuding communities on how to go about ending the enduring centuries of dilapidating unease.
Part Two: The departure of the Anglo-Egyptian authority
? Upon the departure of an Anglo-Egyptian colonial government from Sudan to pave way for independence, British helped Southerners form the first ever political party in 1951, the Liberal Party Both Diu Thong led into the first-ever parliamentary election in 1953 before the slated independence in January 1956. The party won 9 Parliamentary seats. An eloquent Both was formerly the Spokesman for the South at Juba Conference in 1947 and only Southern representative in Constitutional Amendment Commission, CAC on March 26, 1951. But Bullen Alier in Bor and Santino Deng Teng in Northern Bahr el Ghazel as the independent candidates turned down to contest on Liberal party’s tickets and after their successful election, joined as Ministers Prime Minister Ismail al-Azhari government. Influencing Alier and Deng was Ali Abdullatif’s 1924 nationalist ideology of united Sudanese tribes against the Anglo-Egyptian colonial rule. Ali was a son of a Nubian father and a Dinka mother, both of whom were freed, slaves. He died in Cairo under custody in the early 1940s.
? It was the 2nd crack in South Sudanese unity after that of Juba conference in 1947 when James Tombura and Clement Mboro among some other chiefs, particularly in Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazel, were influenced by Mohammed Shiringiti. He was a Sudanese Arab Judge, politician and leader of the Northern delegation.By influencing Southerners, he told them overnight to remain united with Arab Sudanese against Southern self-rule as secretly propagated by James Robertson, the lead facilitator and departing the Anglo-Egyptian colonial agent.
Agenda of the conference was to prepare the backward South for the imminent departure of an Anglo-Egyptian authority and independence due to take place in 1956.
Part Three: Anya-Nya One’s internal revulsions
? Fallout in SANU in Kampala, Uganda in September 1963 over a power struggle between Aggrey Jaden and Philip Pidak Lieth on the one hand and William Deng Nhial on the other. Coming into play were the echoes of Ali Abdullatif’s united Sudan ideology William Deng vehemently supported and later rejoined government against 1947 Juba conference that pursued the right to self-determination Jaden and Pidak strongly supported for the marginalized Southern region.
? The same disunity recurred in 1965 Juba round table conference under Sirr-al-Khatim al-Khalifa as the Prime Minister following General Ibrahim Abboud’s ouster in 1964 popular uprising.
Aggrey Jaden’s SANU-outside was for the right to self-determination, a forecaster to complete independence. Both Diu’s Liberal Party and Clement Mboro’s Southern Front wanted a sort of autonomy first for the Southern region to later mature into an outright independence. While William Deng’s SANU-inside jostled for democratic reforms equalizing all Sudanese within a united secular Sudanese State. He was killed for his own views by Arabs in 1968. Popular clamour for an autonomy in the end inconclusively triumphed. But due to government’s lack of political will, it came into effect in March, 1972 after Jaafar Mohammed Nimieri took over power in May, 1969.
? Reluctant execution by Jaafar Mohamed Nimeiri of Joseph Garang Ukel, a Jurcol and Minister for Southern Affairs on the alleged approval from Abel Alier who was by then a Cabinet Minister in order to inherit Ukel’s powerful position.
Ukel was executed due to Major Hashem el Atta’s led communist coup of July 1971 in which he involved as the only Southerner among Arab communist politicians and renegade military officers.
? Rushed signing of Addis Ababa agreement in March 1972 as the result of power struggle among other reasons in Anya-Nya’s leadership under Col. Joseph Lagu Yanga. The majority Dinka tribe which joined the movement in large number then wanted to snatch leadership from Lagu from a minority Madi tribe. But in signing the agreement in an attempt to run away with leadership from Gordon Mourtat, Lagu ran into the hands of Abel Alier who took the Presidency of an autonomous region he Lagu painstakingly fought for.
Part Four: Southern Sudan regional autonomy
? Deployment of Colonel Abel Chol to Akobo in order to put down the Anya-Nya one former officers’ refusal to be relocated to the North resulted in Akobo mutiny in March, 1975 led by 2nd Lt. Colonel Vincent Kuany Latjor and Corporal James Bol Kur who ultimately paid for the death of Abel Chol in Itang refugee camp, Ethiopia in 1987.
? In 1978 Lagu as leader of ‘’change one’’ removed Abel Alier due to latter’s alleged tribal tendencies. But Abel ousted Lagu in 1980 because of corruption labelled against his Vice President, Samuel Aru Bol who was removed and replaced with Peter Gatkuoth Gwal as Vice President.
Gatkuoth went on as acting President when Lagu was removed until the re-election of Abel for a third and final term in 1981.
? In the end of 1981 was the orchestrated removable of Alier from power by ‘’change Two group’’ on account of his alleged tribalism as championed by Equatorians led by Lagu.
Delivering a fatal and final body blow on Abel was the resignation over his unlawful suspension of Mayuit Yar as Director-General in the Ministry of Wild Services by Nuer Ministers.
These Ministers were Joshua Dei Wal, Thomas Kume Khan and Stephen Gatwech Khan led by former Vice President Gatkuoth Gwal.
Their abrupt resignation principally forced Nimeiri’s hands to remove Abel from power and never to return to government.
Abel’s ouster led to widespread indignation in his native community, leading to his fellow tribesman Dr Yac Arop in stating in Juba’s regional Parliament that despite their unceremonious ouster from power they are anyway born to rule and will continue to do so in the next 50 years.
Leading the ideological indoctrination of born to rule and not to be ruled is long time Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Mr Enock Mading de Garang.
? After the cloud of stirred dust settled, immediately put in place was Gismalla Abdullah Rassas’ military provisional government that came to an end with 1982 election. Winning the bitterly and acrimoniously contested election was Joseph James Tombura on the platform of Kokora or division of the South into three Greater regions of Equatoria, Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazal.
Which came into effect under Tombura himself, Daniel Koat Mathews and Dr Lawrence Wol Wol respectively as Governors of those above-mentioned regions.
With Joseph Lagu representing the Southern region as 2nd Republican Vice President in Khartoum.
Earlier in the Presidential election, Dinka politicians openly refused to back the candidature of Gatkuoth Gwal.
Especially when one Bona Malwal or Ambrose Riny Thiik openly stated in a meeting with Nuer group that they the Dinka sworn in oath to remain united behind their own indefinite leadership in the South and would not back any other South Sudanese for the same.
In May, 19983 under the alleged influence of the Sudan Communist Party’s Secretary-General, Ibrahim Niguud and Abel Alier to retain power through the back door, Dr John Garang the army Colonel defected from the army to bush and re-activated a nationalist parallel movement, SPLM/A. The SPLM/A Sadig al-Mahdi founded and left rusting in dusty shelves in the Ethiopian archives in Addis Ababa after ceasing military hostilities against Nimeiri’s government.
Garang’s aim was to realize such ethno-ideological dream as previously propagated by Yac Arop, Enock Mading de Garang and Bona Malwal or Ambrose Riny Thiik. That is besides being inspired by Ali Abdullatif’s ideology of united Sudan.
Instead of him Garang joining an already established A2 at Bilpam and later led by Samuel Gai Tut.
Worst still, Yusuf Kier Tang who visited Bilpam and returned to Itang where Bor, Ayod and Pochala’s mutineers settled, was penalized and publicly executed.
While the public execution of South Sudan Liberation Front’s leader, Lokurnyang Lado and later A2’s Samuel Gai Tut all in 1984 was meant to crash any potentially threatening alternative centre of power to the Dinka ruling SPLM/A in the bush.
Part Five: SPLM/A’s first split
? The Nasir declaration of 1991Dr Dr. Riek MachDr Dr Lam Akol and Commander Gordon Koang Chol was primarily aimed at toppling a despotic Dr. John Garang and secondarily reviving the failed Juba 1947 conference and Anya-Nyas’ popular quest for self-determination he had abandoned.
? The alleged 39 laws in 2003 drafted and circulated in the SPLM/A’s rebel held town of Yei and beyond by some Dinka tribal elements and their tiny unscrupulous Equatorian allies against the Nuers getting strategic political, economic and military positions in the soon to be formed transitional government in 2005 in the event of yet to be signed CPA in the same year.
? All issues stated in the draconian document akin to former South Africa’s white apartheid and Nazist Germany’s anti- Jews racist proclamations were reflected in how an autonomous Southern region and later independent sovereign state is badly governed, leading to 2013 Juba massacre.
Which was an equivalent to Dinka community’s defence for its leadership and revenge for Bor massacre of 1991 made possible by SPLM/A Nasir splinter faction’s Nuer military officers?
The officers’ rampaging move was in retaliation to John Garang’s persecution of the Nuer civilians and particularly mass killings of Gajaaks in the 1980s.
? In the run-up to Juba Nuer massacre, Kiir stated openly in Nyakuron cultural centre during SPLM/A National Liberation Council meeting on the 15th December of the same year that Bor massacre will never be repeated under his watch.
Ten point-reason why current conflict won’t be resolved peacefully in reflection to the above mentioned chronological events:
? Success of the government in revitalizing its faltering economy following recent oil resumption and turning its previous obstacle, al-Bashir into an ally. All the two reasons put it under no any obligation to urgently seek peace.
? Closemindedness of tribally inspired government against opening up to change as seen in the more encouraging and historical experience of one side always getting surrender after rebelling:
A-SPLM/A- A2 merger agreement of 1988 in Kuanylou
B-SPLM/A—SPDF merger agreement of 2002 in Nairobi.
C-Taban Deng Gai ’s defection in 2016 which strengthened government resolve for opposition possible and total surrender.
? Bias regional peace mediators in favor of the incumbent Kiir, making the latter unrelenting. The supposed question to ask the ever complaining opposition, is why accepting IGAD as a mediator known to be an interested party in the conflict and expecting to win politically and diplomatically?
? Weak agreement which fails to address causes of conflict towards undoing the wrongs of the past such as:
Integration of forces under the unwilling incumbent Kiir while federalism and reforms agenda based on democratic checks and balances are ruled out within the conflict resolution framework.
? New intractable element in the conflict through 32 states which annexed others’ ancestral lands to others. Quite inconceivably foolhardy to secure a sustainable peace laid siege by flaring countrywide communal conflicts.
? Lack of punitive transitional justice system in the conflict resolution in favor of a mere superficial dialogue and social healing.
? Continuous deficit in investor’s confidence and foreign donors’ trust in the process from the major financial donors like TROIKA supposing to fund repatriation, reconstruction and compensation, with likely economic disparity to continue threatening what shall be a shaky stability.
? Neighbouring states trust and dependency on the incumbent Kiir for resources and employment shall work to consolidate him in power against reforms threatening their interests.
? Opposition lack of foreign allies politically and militarily only emboldens the regime not to implement in good faith whatever will be signed agreement.
? Mistrust, division and infiltration into the opposition by the government only work to bolster the latter’s position now and in future.
Three conflict resolution elements for the entire guerilla opposition:
? Unity of purpose needed within the guerrilla opposition and its peace delegation teams on all aspects of reforms that are so common and closer to their hearts while taking part in any peaceful settlement of the conflict. After all, it is only safer and beneficial for all opposition factions to remain solidly united in peace and in war than in disunity.
? Establish a joint roaming diplomatic mission composed of prominent politicians, world’s renowned academics and experienced career diplomats to quietly engage TROIKA and other possible foreign allies. Against wasting invaluable time preaching peace agreement to rigidly skeptical masses and the world more knowledgeable than us about our own insatiable materialistic tendencies and pathological ignorance.
? In security agreement, if the likely violent backlash of peace agreement is to be mitigated, there should be a Joint Military Command Council of five members which reaches its decisions by consensus outside political influence.
That is 3 from the government and 2 from the opposition while the Head should be a foreign Chief of General Staff from a neutral and independent country outside the East African region. The same to be replicated in South Sudan Police Services and National Security Services, NSS.
Deng Vanang is the freelance Researcher and Author as well as Spokesman for FDP/SSAF, cordially reachable at:email@example.com