TO PRESIDENT KIIR: Your Excellency, I am Annoyed!
The first item on this open letter, written in ‘the Morning of the Mourning’, is condolences to you for the unfortunate loss of the lives of your voters in Jonglei State and elsewhere around the country. For your information, your country is hit by a double trouble: flood and insecurity disasters! As to why I am using the term ‘your voters’ instead of ‘your people’, the difference is seen in the indifference Your Excellency and your government give to news from the people upcountry. In short, politically speaking, ‘your people’ are those you visit regularly in certain states as they contribute to your daily business, whereas ‘your voters’ are those you visit only during elections days and they contribute to your victory– whatever miracles performed. The latter are the ones on whose behalf I am writing you this letter of disappointment.
Before I delve into the few details of this letter, I would like to add to your wisdom this simple bystander’s observation. Your country, the two-year-old Republic of South Sudan, is acting a movie. Alas, it is an horror movie! Un/fortunately, its script will never be shown to you until you have retired to your ‘luak’ later. The reason is not only your season but the script writers are too scarce, and, if any, too scared of your ‘securicorats’ and too stirred up by your ‘democrats’ to release the content as early as now. Beny, you would always suppress the violent voices of the living as such but you will not manage to deaden the silent voices of the dead, and the written voices of the history books thereafter.
However, I have taken this token of courage (somebody has just told me here that this letter is ‘suicide’!) to leak some tidbits from that drama of our contemporary history. But before I mention those lines, or those ‘lies’ according to your advisers, from the script, there is a small piece of warning here, sir. The difference between the drama acted in America (by Hollywood) and that acted in Africa (by Nollywood, for example) is this. In Hollywood, the victims come back to demand their justice (revenge) through the police and courts of law mostly on movie screens, but in African movies, the victims take the law in their own hands and come in form of ghosts to demand justice face to face with you in your home’s bedroom or office’s boardroom! Beware!
Your Excellency, I am afraid, the ghosts of all the victims of neglect now dying of the man-made disasters (like flood and insecurity) will one day confront us live in Juba unless we wake up and take action in accordance with our old SPLM’s liberation scripts. And it will be worse if they are joined by the over two million souls donated for the independence of this country and freedom of its countrymen. The liberation heroes may bounce back in defence of the people they died for, especially when their widows and orphans are dying defenselessly and senselessly like this. Should it happen that Garang and his comrades get provoked enough to turn round in their graves down there, this will be too costly on us, the living, sir!
Back to the main theme of this letter, I am annoyed on my own behalf and on behalf of the thousands of our villagers who are dying of the bullets of cattle rustlers and rebels, and of starvation, water-borne diseases, mosquito bites, snake bites, and crocodiles’ teeth in the flood-marooned villages out there while your government is crying crocodile tears in Juba. Needless to explain why I term it ‘man-made disasters’ above.
In the first place, what we saw on South Sudan TV during the last two days of the Twic East County Massacre was not ‘Truly African’ in the political sense of the word and in the social scenes of this world. It was unbelievable in two ways. One, the scale of death, the misery and the helplessness of our people were not expected especially after you declared the country independent through their hard-earned and long-awaited ballots. That disaster, which caught the attention of the whole world, failed to turn your head towards the village that you visited partially recently. Since the massacres, as usual, no single utterance from your office, your deputy’s office or any other concerned ministry; not even from any of your very many commissions and departments carrying pompous titles and verbose terms like ‘Emergency or Disaster Preparedness’, as well as none of your decree writers and its SSTV readers…none took a bother to remind you in time of your roles to do the needful to your needy people. Your Excellency, I am ashamed on your behalf!
Secondly, and to repeat and rephrase that point better, nobody would believe that a nation headed by a competent president and his administration like the one in Juba could do their own thing when the rest of the country is burning. I, personally, was shocked to see you and your deputy (Vice President) busy in your usual meetings and greetings in that 11th State of South Sudan—I mean Juba, the capital city, the eventual graveyard for the people’s oil money. It was not prudent for both of you, including your ministers, to be engaged in office routine when people were crying out for rescue in the countryside. For instance, no voter with current world’s sensitization would see it fitting for a sitting president, who is promising 100 years of his party rule, to spend the whole day lecturing people how to wash hands to keep off diarrhea while the diarrhea and local wars are taking their toll on millions of innocent lives outside the city. Of course, Global Handwashing Day is the only worldwide project the UN initiated in South Sudan on October 15, 2008, with the aim of reducing death. Ironically, the UN blatantly misfired the real cause of mass death, (man-made) which is now the main source of UNMISS business in South Sudan.
It would be politically healthy for the VP, Mr. Wani Igga, to have gone to the besieged payams of Maar, Paliau, Wankulei or Bor to condole with the families who have lost their loved ones, and who are still stranded in the flood plains with dead bodies without any solid burial ground. But he chose to attend, celebrate and entertain the jubilant Jubans with his melodrama speeches in the Global Handwashing Day with UNICEF in Juba, turning the funny usual SPLM-Oyee speeches into ‘Handwashing Oyee’ slogans, on October 20, a celebration that was supposed to take place a week earlier. His hand-washing dramatic demonstration laced with good words was brought to the shocked nation 48 hours later by the state-owned media and our local media houses.
And the irony continues in the government speeches as seen in President Kiir’s things-are-now-better speech in Al Bashir’s tour on Tuesday and VP James Wani’s on Monday, two days after the massacres. No concerns were raised about the disasters in their subsequent speeches of Monday and Tuesday, respectively. Here goes the VP’s usual humour, which looks counterproductive in this week’s context, “Washing Hands Oyee……lack of good hygiene practices is one of the reasons we have a short life expectancy in South Sudan. Don’t let bad habits cut our precious children’s lives short,” the Vice President told the guests. “Wash your hands with soap regularly – it will help you to live a long life!” What a misplaced priority, that only reduces the whole South Sudan into Juba…as if there is hand-washing soap for Nyirol or Nagera’s peasants!
By the way, the theme of that international day was ‘The power is in your hands…”, meaning not the power to save people from being killed by floods and rebels but the power to wash germs away so that death is reduced in South Sudan. That is my SPLM Government in the new “South sudan: a state we aspire” to borrow from the title of Dr. Adwok Nyaba’s current book.
To make the matters even worse, South Sudanese had fixed their eyes in vain on the twitching screens of SSTV (not really ‘Truly African’ this time) for any ‘Republican Decree on Condolences’ to the aggrieved since the butchering took place that Sunday night. While the news of the massacre was relayed on SSTV, the only official voice we saw was the wailing commissioner of Twic East County in the battlefield and a war disabled MP of the county, who was busy limping up and down on one leg and a walking stick between Juba Airport and Juba Teaching Hospital, receiving and ferrying the wounded children, women and old men from Jonglei State. Until further notice, which will be triggered by citizens’ journalism of so-called media, namely: social media, local media, vocal media, ‘glocal media’ or global media’s vitriol such as this letter, no other bigger government official raised a voice to either condemn the culprits or console the aggrieved, leave alone sending any humanitarian assistance to the victims— thanks to President Bashir of Sudan for demonstrating to South Sudan government that disaster victims are not the citizens of United Nations and company. For this and other reasons, Mr. President, I almost apologize on your behalf to the people of South Sudan.
Your Excellency, it is a fact well known that you have borrowed enough leaf from your East African countries’ counterparts, but it puzzles us why you failed to borrow the recent one from President Uhuru Kenyatta in terms of response to emergency messaging, at least three hours after the incident, which can help to some extent in ‘disaster massaging’. In the September-21st terrorists attack on a shopping mall that killed less than your people massacred in Pakeer, Ajuong and Jalle payams on October 19, 2013, President Kenyatta was the first on national TV to condole with the aggrieved and assured the nation of getting the situation back to control. Though the Westgate Massacre handling did not satisfy the Kenyan people’s expectations, the Jubilee government at least performed its function to the citizens. Before the end of the four-day operation that involved a multi-security agency including from the international intervention, Deputy President William had to request permission from the ICC court in The Hague to come and attend to the wounded in the hospitals and to also attend security meetings. At least the losers were assured by the government to compensate their lost property, as well as rebuilding the mall. There was a three-day period of national mourning. None of all these has been done by our SPLM government since the attack on Sunday, my dear president!
It was very heartbreaking and disappointing to see the nation mourning and grappling with flood disaster while you were busy passing out your presidential guards army in your ranch at Luri, and a bunch of salary-guzzlers in Owiny-ki-bul. That was another irony in our national drama! To release generations after generations of soldiers into a multitude of other security battalions while a tribal rebel group is butchering women and children mercilessly at the same day is a political sin only forgivable on a ballots’ day. Rumours abound that the army headquarters even failed to avail helicopters to go and collect the wounded who were lying and dying in the flood waters, making the situation indeed very heartbreaking. The excuses were that no fuel or that the pilots were off their official duties, just as the army spokesman keeps lamenting that there are no roads for reinforcement of civilians from the national army to rescue the people from the rebels. Moreover, the locals sounded a warning and made their request for protection several weeks before, but to no avail. Since when did the SPLA forget how to use the bushes and flood roads of Jonglei State? It was just less that 10 years ago that we were using those routes the Murle rebels are now using. Imagine a recent rebel commander to tell the people he claims to have liberated that the soldiers cannot now penetrate those villages. Imagine! Mr. President, I am annoyed!
In addition to that point, needless to talk about the peace talks you witnessed being signed by all Jonglei community chiefs in Bor on May 5, 2012, the disarmament exercise you launched on March 12 the same year, the thousands of soldiers you deployed against the Yau-Yau rebels in Pibor County and the chorus of amnesty you have been singing in the ears of David Yau Yau and his lieutenants, what has happened to the other modalities of protecting the people?
For instance, having been one of the leaders of the youth and civil society group that was sensitizing and sanitizing Jonglei communities on psychological disarmament and peaceful development through the Jonglei Peace Caravan in 2011 and 2012, I was surprised to see none of the youth projects recommended during the All Jonglei Communities’ Peace Accord being implemented. On seeing you launching your own guards in Luri last weekend, just a day before the attack on Twic East County, one of my colleagues sent me a text message sarcastically reading, “John, President Kiir has hijacked our project…!” This message refers to the proposal we, the Jonglei Civil Society Group, proposed and sent to the President through Jonglei Governor Kuol Manyang, now Minister for Defence, as part of our youth roles after the peace talks in Bor in May 2012. See the link here for the full details of the proposal (Scroll down to ‘Project B’ entitled: ‘Jonglei Peace Defence Youth’ under the Jonglei Peace Caravan on the blog linked here): http://thejongleijongleur.wordpress.com/projects
Prior to David Yau Yau’s project to rearm the Murle, which was a public secret by then, our counter-project targeted the disarmed youth and other idle youth to be mobilized and trained into a home guard force or community policing force, which would be based on our five-pronked caravan system: see our website linked here for more on that and other projects. A year later, what we saw being implemented by your office and the SPLA was your own ‘Republican Guards’ in Juba instead of our public guards in Jonglei, prompting sarcastic comments on social media such as: “From Gelweng to Gelbeny instead of Gelweng to Gelbaai…!” This means the presidential guards who were trained on his ranch at Luri, the suburb of Juba, seem to have been selected from one community youth (gelweng: a Dinka word meaning cattle camp guard) and converted to guard the leader (gelbeny) instead of to guard the homes (gelbei).
Instead of the multi-ethnic youth being promoted to implement meaningful peace in the state and replicated to other states to protect local administration, villages and cattle camps, we were cracked down by unknown anti-peace forces within the system. Of course, as the only local and independent group comprising upto 50 organizations from county youth associations, CBOs, FBOs, women groups, artist associations and many others, the Jonglei Peace Caravan project under JCSG was a wonderful success but in the middle of confusion. We blamed the failure of the peace implementation in Jonglei to five major interest groups, namely: Presidential Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Tolerance under the Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul and a bunch of napping MPs, the UNMISS team of Madam Hilde Johnson, the ORP (Operation Restore Peace) in Jonglei, composed of 15,000 armed men under Gen. Kuol Dim Kuol, and, of course, the Government of Jonglei State under Gov. Kuol Manyang Juuk, the various committees of chiefs and their peace delegates from all the 6 tribes and 11 counties of Jonglei State, besides an assortment of other stakeholders like our Jonglei Civil Society Group, etc.
As a result, all these 5 categories of peace makers and peacekeepers (later turned into peace skippers) applied not only differing methods but also different interests, hence, ending up handing over our long-sought after peace to the dogs of David Yau Yau in July 2012, despite all our conflict mitigation proposals and complaints that fell on deaf ears in Juba. In short, I have lost two leaders of the JCSG project in mysterious circumstances: the chairman of the peace caravan, Karbino Kollen Zullo, and our general coordinator, Wiyual Manytap. The remaining survivors either quit for other businesses or are on asylum seeking like me and John Aborcup in exile with a handful of our former peace caravan youth from Dinka, Nuer, Murle, Anyuak, among others. For full details of the terror meted out to our groups, check the links here: http://www.thejongleijongleur.wordpress.com or http://www.weakleak.wordpress.com
“It will go down in history that now things are changing for the better.” Your Excellency, did you say this in front of the cameras just for entertaining the president of Sudan in Juba or as a confirmation of the reality on the ground? Did you say this on the third day when people of Twic East County in Jonglei State were stranded with 80 bodies killed by the Bashir-sponsored militias without any dry ground to bury them? Did you say things were already better when bodies of civilians killed by cattle rustlers are still fresh in Lakes State, when funeral rites are going on at your backyard in your Warrap State while others are still nursing reptile-inflicted wounds in Northern Bahr al Ghazal as huts are floating in Panyagoor and Bor town? Why did you make this speech? What is new with Omar al Bashir’s visit to let you forget your people, including the Abyei people who are now going on with their unilateral referendum at the risk of being attacked by Bashir’s Missireya militias upon your government and Bashir’s government betrayal and incitement? Mr. President, I am annoyed!
Surprisingly, your cordial flirtation with President Bashir is very wanton these days and also very wanting in terms of the way we understand it. So many diplomatic exchanges between Khartoum and Juba on the expenses of the tax payers and at the expense of the innocent population such as the massacres now going on at your watching, while you make the nation busy worshipping their murderer in Juba. The first blunder that shocked the nation as well as the world in your relationship with Omar al Bashir is when you replaced your national priorities with an ICC-must-go speech in the O/AU’s 50th Birthday Anniversary in Addis Ababa last May. When you incorporated Uhuru Kenyatta’s piece of speech to the uproarious applause of President Bashir and company, it was an utter disappointment to Abyei and other border states’ natives who are facing genocide from the Bashir al ‘Assad’ of Sudan’s regime, the innocent civilians whose survival relies on the International Criminal Court’s noose on the nose of Al Bashir.
And you had the guts to convey the AU’s impunity campaign slogans against the UN’s court when your country was just one and a half years of but a vulnerable age! We now know that during these times of blame game, Juba is in a love-gone-bad relationship with UN(MISS)-Hilde Johnson and Company Unlimited, but that does not call for suicide campaigns such as bundling out the UN the Bashir’s style. Should it be so, then how will you call the UN and its agencies again to send emergency relief to the flood and war victims in your outlying states? No wonder you have been quitting international forums like the UN General Assembly and AU’s emergency meeting on ICC recently, but that realization is too late, too little. The damage is done in our ‘baby nation’s foreign policy. Period!
No wonder we are not getting any quicker disaster response from friendly countries thanks again to Omar al Bashir for coming along with his biscuits, sweets, sorghum and ‘drugs’ for the victims of flood and massacres in Jonglei and other states. Though you referred to him as “an elder brother with a wide heart who left but still cares…”, Jonglei people are still wondering how fast you forget the recent claims you made that Yau-Yau is sponsored by Khartoum. With you and Bashir (a combination I hereby dub ‘The Salbashir Marriage of Inconvenience’) declaring that “all the problems are now over” just because of that flattering meeting in Juba, calls for the employment of the sixth sense of the citizens of South Sudan. Should the Ngok people and Abyei’s soil be sacrificed on the altar of oil just like that? No, sir, we are disappointed!
Lastly, your government seems to be implementing the new brand of Pan Africanism of immunity by impunity. This is a crime against humanity, but your harm-nesty or arm-nesty (amnesty) system seems to reward the culprit and punish the innocent. That is why David Yau Yau and the group are still killing to reach the numbers pardonable by your ‘Amnesty Decree’. We, by conscience and facts, are aware that Yau Yau, who left Juba through the airport early 2012 will return to Juba through the same port of departure under your another amnesty after executing what he was given permission for. The AU’s chapter of the aforementioned drama does not augur well for our next generation of African leaders. Kill the innocent people in masses and escape the law into power for immunity, a shameful legacy for our continent being implemented in Kenya as well as in Salva Kiir’s brand of peacemaking through parasitic amnesties.
Your Excellency, I cannot conclude without requesting you again to show your humane and human reactions to the situation of Jonglei and other death-trapped people of South Sudan. However, it would be politically, socially and professionally counterproductive to see your decree writers rushing in with a message of condolences days after the massacres. In our African traditional system of handling death, you would be reminding the bereaved or the aggrieved if you come wailing alone after the first funeral rite is conducted; always three days after burial. I mean it would not save any purpose to send an SSTV news anchor a half-page condolence message long after the mass funeral and individual funerals are done in Jonglei State and after you have diluted the mourning atmosphere with your Bashir’s tour, handwashing day and many other meetings for greetings in Juba at the time the nation should have been mourning for a number of days. Anyway, in Machiavellian politics, the end justifies the means, but my parting shot is: Does it justify the ruins?
PARTING SHOT: “The only defence is in offence, which means that you have to kill more women and children more quickly than the enemy if you want to save yourselves”. (Stanley Baldwin (1867 – 1947), British prime minister. Hansard, Speech.