OPEN LETTER TO JCE: YOUR SCAPEGOAT POLITICS AND TRIBAL ACTIVISM ARE DESTROYING OUR NATION
In summary of this open letter, you, the politicians who have christened yourselves ‘Jieng (Dinka) Council of Elders (JCE)’, are responsible for the reputation of the community and the safety of witnesses and critics under the ‘politics of escapism and hypocrisy’ you are fanning in South Sudan. This is evidenced in your widespread public and media campaigns, which have even spilled over to international forums.
The first thing that struck my mind the very day I saw the so-called leaked version of the AUCISS Report was: “O my God, how will the witnesses survive in the hands of this regime!” Given the reports and records we know about the reactions of the government towards dissents, and the prediction to what will happen to the people whose names have been inadvertently or intentionally exposed in that pullout version of the Obasanjo Report, the world is worried. My worry is particularly on the defenceless ones. Who are they? The civil society leaders and the individual activists whose names have appeared in the quotes therein, and who are not immune unlike other military officers or politicians.
Having already condemned the way the report was handled by CoI members, it is also my call upon the government, through the lobby groups such as the Jieng Council of Elders, who are said to be the running machine behind the president and the government, to mind about the lives of the affected people, as well as their own legacy in this war of tribal attrition. I am singling out the JCE because they have been quoted more often expressing their anger on the witnesses. For instance, the chairman of that Dinka tribal outfit of elders had his family written to the chairlady of African Union a damning letter singling out one main witness, Gen. Mac Paul. However, this open letter is not to defend anyone or talk about the leak, itself. It is a junior’s advice to the elders. And it will be in the form of a story telling or parable of many examples of scapegoat policies, which always end up in sham and shame.
Before I go into a few details of why I break my silence on this hot issue this time, the growing culture of pushing blames on other characters to relieve the main culprits, let me use short examples to paint the picture of the boomerangs associated with creating scapegoats and how it was part of our traditional culture, now ominously creeping into the political culture of the nascent republic.
Last night in my hostel at Makerere University, there was a serious scuffle. My neighbor beat his girlfriend or a course-mate, for that matter, very badly. When asked why, he told us this. “This bitch borrowed my book two months ago, and went and hid it. For this reason, I have got a retake in that subject. She must pay for it now!” And he was caught mid-air lunging for the poor screaming lady. What came on my mind is this. If this idiot were a South Sudanese, he would win for himself a position of a spokesman for the government. Qualities: he knows how to speak well, and assign blames so fast!
A second example, before I define the root of the word ‘scapegoat’ and the root causes of assigning blames to scapegoats, people who are publicly blamed for the misdoings of others, this is how a ‘scapegoating habit’ is invading our culture, which is very ‘un-Dinka’. My dear uncles of the Jieng Council of Elders, take note. I am especially addressing those who are out and about mouthing all the blames on scapegoats in blatant fallacies such as contained in the recent Bona Bang’s bashing of the G10+ and the president’s speech.
Here goes another story. My distant mother (uncle’s wife) accused a certain brown dog (Mathiang-joh) of having stolen from the hot pot meant for relations negotiators! Of course, no dog is a cook—to serve himself boiling chunks and soup of cooking meat. My mother did not buy this shit, just the way I have not given a damn about the claim for the cause of this war. She composed a song, which was so popular for a ‘Dany Dance’, a women’s jump-clap dance, in our village. The ridiculing song in defence of the dog in Dinka, goes:
“Now, we have two dogs under our ruar tree: namely ‘Ayen’ (not real name) and Mathiang-e-joh. My dear dog of Ang’er Lueth is a very unlucky animal. This Anyieth Akol’s dog has had somebody’s idiocy pushed on him to my wonderment. And the ‘wife of my own cattle’ (bride price) is having her eyes bulging with idiocy (a sense of guilt. In Dinka: Ting e hok cie acii yuur tweel nyin!)”
The main subject matter in the song here is ‘scapegoating’ and ‘idiocy’ on two main characters of the dog (the scapegoat) and the woman (the idiot and the accuser), respectively. Remember, South Sudanese politicians are guilty of this: and the tragedy of it is they used forged escapism and forced idiocy, say the JCE elders making consequential decisions and forcing people to accept the outcome. e.g. war, sanction, trusteeship, etc.
THE ORIGIN OF THE TERM ‘SCAPEGOAT’
Now what lessons have you taken from these two pieces of true stories? Let me give you the origin of a scapegoat. “He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat.[a] 10 But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.” Leviticus 16: 8, 10. As seen from The Bible, the Hebrew term for this kind of a goat is ‘Azazel’.
In simple English, it is somebody blamed for the mistakes, crimes or sins of others. And this is the origin. In the Bible, especially the Jewish tradition, a black he-goat used to be selected by throwing dice (a lot) between the two goats as seen in the Biblical verses above, presented to the community in front of the priest and had all the sins believed to be the cause of the disaster pushed on its neck: be it in form of a pestilence, pest, flood, drought, war or any other brand of death in the community. All this would be falsely framed and placed upon the innocent goat, and then dragged and released to escape into the wilderness to die alone there. That is the origin of the term ‘scapegoat’, which does not actually escape, but is used for escapism, an art of dodging problems with false accusations or lame blame (fake excuses).
Having done this, the priest assures the community that the causative agent of the disaster is now gone. The character is made and vilified, that is, made villain as the main planner remains a hero. This becomes the talk of the folks, who would unquestionably believe that the problem had been identified and disposed of. No sooner does another catastrophe strike again than another scapegoat is propped up. And the tradition continues…world without end, war without end, lies without end!
This practice was/is also with the Dinka and other tribes in South Sudan. During my childhood in the second last decade of the 20th Century, (sorry, I mean just the early 80s), a certain uncle (name withheld)—thank God, he is still alive and performing—used to perform this ‘scapegoat ritual’ (nyong roor). For example, I witnessed it on the outbreak of the crop pests (khom), which followed a drought in the spring of 1986 (Run e Yang de Apar or the Year of the Creeper).
Yes, the second time I witnessed this ritual was the corresponding decade in the 21st Century later. In December 2013, another uncle, a political one, performed this ritual of escapism. However, this time being the era of enlightenment, whereby everybody has had their eyes opened to the conditional beliefs that used to be forged and forced on the naïve natives, it has not gone without any resistance.
By historical example, the biggest and most accepted scapegoat, which originated in Israel, is Jesus Christ. Sailing through a very unfair judgment in the hand of the Sanhedrin (a prejudicial jury or court that looks different from the one composed for the G11 in Juba early 2014), Jesus has become the epitome of innocence, victimization and victory, a combination of which gave birth to the world’s leading religion of Christianity. This Sunday (March 27, 2015), Christians are commemorating his Triumphant Entry into the City of Jerusalem’, aka, Palm Sunday. With the lies and hypocrisy being forced on the citizens of South Sudan for the benefits of a few elite, let them stand warned, any Jesus can descend on them (Juba) any time!
ASSIGNING ROLES TO SCAPEGOATS
To drive the point to a nasty home again, the outdated ritual of scapegoating is still being performed in the lower world of African politics to date. For a very instant instance, we recently witnessed some ‘goats’, who have by themselves escaped to the wilderness in a reaction combination of plight and fight. In other words, the group of Dr. Riek Machar have time and again attributed their fleeing and fighting as a resistance, which later developed into a revolution (rebellion) out of anger, that has given rise to the spirit of revenge and search for power to change the root causes of this unwanted war by the citizens. To our young nation, it is a costly move, indeed!
By extension, interchangeably in the hands of the government and the rebels, the local population has also fallen prey to the ritual of scapegoating. Massacres after massacres have been recorded against the parties of the war in varying numbers but worrying methods of execution, now pending justice and accountability stages—also not without a dangerous resistance from the suspects. And this dangerous pushback is being transferred on to new scapegoats, instead of the AU Commission of Inquiry, hence, the major reason of my open letter to the government and its advisory bodies, the tribal elders and leaders. I have seen a top JCE elder warning the nation that the ‘individually targeted sanctions’ would affect the nation; therefore, the masses should prepare to fight any imposer of this punishment. There they are!
The second (can be third) group of scapegoats is the former political detainees. Having been tried and ambiguously charged and indefinitely discharged, without being punished but then banished to exile the old style of African kingship, the worlds of politics and justice are using them as case studies. This will be a historical shame to our generation from the next ones who will find the stories in their history books and classrooms. And all these examples are not by this writer but the accusers themselves, as seen in the recent speech of the ‘chief accuser, prosecutor, judge, executor and executioner combined’, according to Radio Tamazuj website, thus:
Referring to the group of dissident SPLM politicians known as the ‘Former Detainees’, whom he detained last year before sending them into exile, Kiir said: “They talked rubbish. Even the talk that the UN wants to make sanctions on South Sudan, it came out from them. Even the talk that South Sudan should be under trusteeship for the UN for ten years, this is also from them.” And, of course, the president has forgotten that monotonous chorus, “Even the failed attempted coup of December 15, it came out from them.”
As if that speech is not enough, there is another one, written by somebody who appears in his tone to be a lobbyist for a position from the president. Besides Bona Bang, a former liberation colleague to the G.10 and others, being from Warrap where the president hails from, it is a common trend that when a new reshuffle is looming in the State House, aka, J1, job beggars go crazy. They do unbelievable things that, apparently, involve even witchcraft. They pick on lesser citizens in their public speeches of letters and copy their lobbyists to reach the president.
For example, some youth leader made mention of my name in such a forum recently after our long debate on Facebook about the status of the ‘Red Army’ in this useless war. His insinuation in that statement is something akin to ‘those betraying the country’. For this matter, the Bona Bang’s article published by Radio Tamazuj website is an appeasement move to attract the president’s attention, who is widely known to be employing people through loyalty (for those far away) and royalty (nepotism) for the closer ones by relations. The two virtues, sycophantic loyalty and assumed ‘royalty’, are at least the most overriding qualifications for getting into public offices in South Sudan. And there are three
The third group of scapegoats (now fourth when the innocent civilians are categorized into) is the officials, both former and current, in the government, themselves. According to the leaked pages of the AUCISS Report’s draft, the leading figure that has expressed what leaders always swear for—the truth, nothing but the truth—is Gen. Mac Paul. Coupled with his life-saving court testimony on his liberation colleagues in April 2014, Gen. Mac, former Director of Military Intelligence, is now the top villain according to Juba regime but the top hero within our communities and around the world of truths, especially in the case of our post-independence war of egos. How and why the general is seen as a villain (I use the word victim) is the subject matter of this piece of mine: hypocrisy and escapism, which are being enshrined in the national character of a people of South Sudan. This ideological crime is being perpetuated by those in power, both political and traditional power, at the moment…the targets of this letter.
Look at this quote on Mac from a disgruntled family member of a tribal group leader that is adversely exposed by the Leak in a statement attributed to Gen. Mac Paul. The letter, quoted in part, which this writer saw the same day it was sent to the Chairperson of African Union, reads, with self-contradictions on the roles of Gen. Mac and the accused, like this:
“This, Madam Chair, is pure character assassination of a Shakespearean pedigree and a fake testimony of an illicit nature by Mac Paul who knows exactly how the gates of hell were opened loose against the innocent people of South Sudan in general and the Nuer brothers and sisters in particular. Madam Chair, though we do not know the person of Mac Paul, however we do recall his name mentioned twice in connection with alleged two failed coup attempts in the nascent state of South Sudan. In contrast to Justice Ambrose Riny Thiik, Mac Paul has no clear track of contribution to the well being of this nation and its future.”
THE FOUNDING AND OBJECTIVES OF ‘JIENG COUNCIL OF ELDERS’
Without wasting time on that long letter aimed at creating a scapegoat, I have got what I wanted already in that opening paragraph. Hypocrisy, escapism and threat against the people who tell the truth in South Sudan. Unfortunately, most of such things are done in the collective name of the largest ethnic group in South Sudan by a minority of recyclable politicians who use their innocent communities as pawns in the war of political power maintenance. The most unfortunate part of this story is the way straight talkers like Mac Paul Kuol Awar are being fronted to the community as the villains of the war. Just by telling the truth, which is sworn in an oath before a witness speaks, a certain group that calls itself the name of the whole tribe is misleading the communities to shift from the culprits of the war to the scapegoats like Mac (pronounced ‘mach’) and those named in the report. The method of coercion of support is threefold, as done through allegiance to tribe as seen in Agel Machar’s reason of defection here, bribe, which is offered in terms of cash money, job or other favours, and threats. Threat of use of force is always the last resort as in Agel Machar’s picture here, again.
Just to contrast that letter on the role of Mr. Ambrose Riiny, fair listeners of SBS Dinka interview with Ambrose Riiny Thiik began to question why a man who onced headed the Judiciary of South Sudan has gone so low so as to speak for a tribe in this manner. As seen from many media hate messages author by this ruling council of elders, this is how Ambrose answered a question, which was geared towards understanding if the role of ‘tribal council of elders’ (not council of States) is national.
“Daniel: Do you meet with Council of elders from other tribes like Equatoria to iron out existing problems?
Justice Riiny: Yes; the proposal made by IGAD to reinstate Dr Riek Machar as the first Vice President was hated by all of us. We hated it on Jieng Council of Elders and we sent our position paper to Addis Ababa. We hate it and our people in Rumbek went out for strike and our people in Northern Bhar el Gazal. We hate it because it is not true. Why do you solve the problem of Riek Machar and create another problem with Wani Iga who is a liberator?” SBS Dinka (online radio).
Chairman explains the origin of the Jieng Council of Elders:
“Daniel: How was Jieng Council Elders founded, when and by who?
Justice Riiny: Jiɛ̈ŋ Council of elders was formed in mid-2013. It was started after Riek Machar announced his candidacy for President and said “It is turn for the Nuer either by Vote and if not he will take it by bullet.” When he was relieved in July 2013; the campaign intensified and that send signals to all Jieng communities in Upper Nile, Unity, Bor and the greater Bhar el Gazal. This also reminded people on what happened in 1991 when some Dinka were massacre in Bor and areas of Bentiu even SPLA officer who were in the areas of Riek Machar.”
In conclusion, I am appealing to the elders of Dinka to stop dragging the name of the innocent community into shame. Going round the world, lobbying for impunity by immunity in the name of the community, is an abomination; a crime against that particular tribe! As this is Easter period, it is time one carried their own cross.
Our elders should learn from a story of a Dinka father whose son asked to shield him from a shameful mistake he made (defecating accidentally in public). The wise father told off the son, “Wendie, I have never done this in my youth, so clean your own mess and don’t drag my name into it!” Therefore, can the culpable Dinkas clean their own mess without dragging the whole Dinka nation into it?
Not forgetting, should any innocent South Sudanese citizen of the category mentioned above (now being targeted) lose their lives in any mysterious manner, the fingers have already been pointed and history is the chief judge!
Wishing you Safer Easter!
Jon Pen de Ngong, an Activist and a Blogger publishing on: http://www.weakleak.wordpress.com