The gov­ern­ment of South Su­dan, in this re­sponse to Diplo­mat East Africa’s re­port­ing on the cri­sis fac­ing it, ex­er­cises its Au­to­matic Right of Re­ply. It ac­cuses the me­dia of writ­ing ‘Un-re­searched Re­port­ing and Per­sonal Bi­ases that Can Com­pli­cate a Coun­try

Diplomat East Africa - - Front Page -

In an ar­ti­cle ti­tled “Things Fall Apart”, car­ried in your Fe­bru­ary 2014 is­sue (Diplo­mat East Africa, Vol­ume No-043), the Ed­i­tor con­firms a disturbing ig­no­rance of the po­lit­i­cal his­tory of South Su­dan; in­clud­ing its lib­er­a­tion strug­gles that cul­mi­nated in in­de­pen­dence in 2011.

But one has also noted the trend of equally disturbing re­port­ing of the twists and turns of South Su­dan dur­ing the last very sen­si­tive nine months; some of which have again fil­tered in the Septem­ber is­sue (specif­i­cally, the leader head­lined, ‘ End the Cha­rade: Save South Su­dan’).

To knowl­edge­able stu­dents of South Su­dan’s pol­i­tics and his­tory, th­ese are ex­am­ples of typ­i­cally un­re­searched and bi­ased ar­ti­cles that rou­tinely ap­pear in sec­tions of the re­gional Me­dia and be­tray­ing a sor­row­ful com­bi­na­tion of in­tel­lec­tu­ally man­u­fac­tured half-truths as well as bla­tant lies. It is for such rea­sons that one feels some facts ought to be prop­erly clar­i­fied.

To be­gin with, it is most con- de­scend­ing to de­clare as in the Fe­bru­ary ar­ti­cle, that, “Kiir was po­lit­i­cally wounded, per­haps fa­tally, as his coun­try heads for gen­eral elec­tions next year. In­deed, his decision to force his way into a sec­ond term was at the heart of his dra­matic fall­out with his erst­while deputy.” This state­ment, along with the one soon after; viz: (‘Just three years into his term, south Su­dan im­ploded into a bit­ter and di­vi­sive eth­nic re­bel­lion pit­ting his majority Dinka tribe against the Nuer com­mu­nity of his for­mer deputy, the charis­matic Machar’), all con­firm the lit­tle knowl­edge about the com­plex­i­ties and nu­ances cur­rently pre­vail­ing in South Su­dan.

An Eth­nic Re­bel­lion?

Not Re­ally!

First, I would wish to dis­pose of the rather sim­plis­tic and con­ve­nient nar­ra­tive (pre­ferred a lot in the Western Me­dia), that rou­tinely claims that what is go­ing on in South Su­dan is an all eth­nic re­bel­lion sup­pos­edly pit­ting the Dinka against the Nuer. As you may wish to as­cer­tain, noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. In­deed, even the quick­est look into the his­tory of the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween th­ese two com­mu­ni­ties would re­veal some in­dis­putable truths that many in the Me­dia just gloss over. For in­stance, the Dinka-Nuer po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions are age-old and, in fact, goes back to as early as the 1924 armed con­flict against the Bri­tish colo­nial power. It was Ali Ab­dalatif and Ab­dal­fad­heel El Maz (Dinka and Nuer re­spec­tively) who or­gan­ised a re­bel­lion against the Bri­tish. The same col­lab­o­ra­tion ex­isted be­tween Keru­bino Kuanyin, (a Dinka) and Wil­liam Nyuon (a Nuer) in the 1983 mutiny in Bor and Ayod which, in fact, is what in­spired the for­ma­tion of the SPLM/A.

It should be pointed out fur­ther, that in 2005, Dr John Garang (a Dinka) and Dr Riek Machar ( a Nuer), re­united to sign the now – fa­mous CPA which pro­vided lead­er­ship for the tran­si­tional Gov­ern­ment of the semi-au­ton­o­mous ter­ri­tory un­til the abrupt demise of Garang later that year. In­struc­tively, even after the death of Garang, both the Nuer and Dinka have worked closely to­gether, with Salva Kiir (a Dinka) as Pres­i­dent and Machar (Nuer) as Vice un­til the end of the tran­si­tional gov­ern­ment’s ten­ure in 2010. There­after, it was Kiir who chose Machar as his run­ning mate and to­gether, they won the elec­tions and led the coun­try into vot­ing for the se­ces­sion in 2011.

To be fair, his­tory also tells us that the two com­mu­ni­ties may have teamed up to­gether even for what some fu­ture re­searchers may well read as, “the wrong rea­sons.” For in­stance, after “the gang of two Doc­tors” (Machar and Lam Akol), at­tempted, but failed, to over­throw Garang from the lead­er­ship of SPLM/A in 1991, they were, joined by Keru­bino Kuanyin and Faustino Atem Gualdit, who were both Dinka in 1993. The team then turned against Garang and the

SPLM/A. In this anal­y­sis, it is this trend that may have tried to re­play it­self in 2013, when a sec­tion of lead­ers re­belled against Pres­i­dent Kiir. The group led by Pa­gan Amun and Re­becca Garang (mostly Dinka) have for now joined the Machar led rebel group who are pre­dom­i­nantly Nuer! In short: th­ese ex­am­ples would con­firm to any­one who cared to dig deeper that th­ese types of in­ter­ac­tions are any­thing else; but cer­tainly, not eth­ni­cally driven.

Or maybe we should elu­ci­date it fur­ther: How can it be pos­si­ble that a “Dinka-dom­i­nated” gov­ern­ment can be con­duct­ing state spon­sored ex­ter­mi­na­tion cam­paign against the Nuer when -as a mat­ter of fact- the Nuer oc­cupy some of the most crit­i­cal and key gov­ern­ment po­si­tions in the cur­rent Salva Kiir ad­min­is­tra­tion? The facts are as fol­lows: Gover­nors John K. Nyuon ( Jon­glei State), Si­mon Kun Puoch (Up­per Nile State) and Dr. Joseph Nguen Mony­tuil (Unity state), James Hoth Mai, (Chief of the Gen­eral Staff) and Magok Run­dial (Speaker of Na­tional Assem­bly) are all Nuer; and mark you, they are in full support of the Gov­ern­ment. The same is ev­i­dently true of sev­eral aca­demics and Army of­fi­cers from the Nuer eth­nic group. Ac­cord­ingly, a reck­less re­porter would be sug­gest­ing that th­ese re­spectable lead­ers have thus con­spired with the Gov­ern­ment to kill their own peo­ple! But would this make any sense?

In­vec­tives and Per­sonal Judge­men­tals

The other mat­ter that con­cerns me is the Ed­i­tor’s in­cli­na­tion to pass ab­so­lute value judg­ments based purely on per­sonal pro­jec­tions. Whereas it is a fact that South Su­dan’s gen­eral elec­tions are due in May 2015, would it make any an­a­lyt­i­cal sense to pre­empt the out­come with­out tabling any se­ri­ous ev­i­dence? Why claim the pos­si­bil­ity of a force­ful re­ten­tion of power by the in­cum­bent? Quite clearly, such as­ser­tions are not only in­flam­ma­tory but they do bor­der on in­cite­ment that can trig­ger un­nec­es­sary squab­bles and con­flict.

But we are as con­cerned about the sus­tained mock­ery and vil­i­fi­ca­tion of the sit­ting Pres­i­dent. The state­ment that “Garang held the SPLA to­gether by his sheer per­son­al­ity and charisma; Kiir suf­fers a sharp deficit of both” as well as “… Kiir was never a leader in the mold of Garang or even Machar, he will there­fore, avers Colonel Abdi Farah, have to adopt a more in­clu­sive and bal­anced lead­er­ship...” are not only mis­lead­ing, but a com­plete ex­pres­sion of a most par­ti­san in­tel­lec­tual ap­proach. Any in­ter­ested party would thus pause here and ask how the over-mis­rep­re­sented idio­syn­cratic val­ues of Pres­i­dent Kiir, can be used to cre­ate rea­sons and ex­cuses for re­bel­lion; sus­pend the Con­sti­tu­tion of South Su­dan which pro­tects the in­sti­tu­tion of the Pres­i­dency and out­lines very clearly, the pro­ce­dure for ac­ced­ing to the of­fice of Pres­i­dent.

But lest one di­gresses and be­gins to wade through the same mud of emo­tional ex­pres­sion, let’s just re­strict our­selves to clar­ify the facts as they truly are. On the ridicu­lous ar­gu­ment about charisma, we as­sert au­thor­i­ta­tively that only an un­in­formed per­son can claim that a Pres­i­dent, who cam­paigned and won elec­tions in a demo­cratic process, is de­fi­cient of charisma. Lex­i­cally, the term charisma is used to de­scribe the abil­ity to in­flu­ence and in­spire peo­ple by one’s own per­sonal qual­i­ties. Now, which other way would show a charis­matic per­son bet­ter than win­ning a spirit­edly con­tested pres­i­den­tial elec­tion with a land­slide vic­tory of 93 per cent of the to­tal votes cast?

Equally, one can­not stop sneer­ing at the com­par­i­son be­ing made be­tween the Pres­i­dent and the rebel leader. It is a fact that the lat­ter (Machar) has nei­ther con­tested nor won any elec­tions. Rather, the record of re­bel­lion and be­trayal seems to speak vol­umes. For in­stance, almost ev­ery South Su­danese knows about the 1991 be­tray­als and even the at­tempted de­throne­ment we have al­ready re­ferred to. Or need we re­mind the world to find out ex­actly who per­pe­trated “the Bor Mas­sacre” in 1991 in which 2000 Dinkas were killed? Who dis­missed Dr. Lam Akol from SPLA-United? In 2001, who walked out of Bashir after a “peace agree­ment” had sup­pos­edly been signed in 1997? Why- if one may ask-would it come as a sur­prise that in 2013 such a streak of re­bel­lion and be­trayal re­peats it­self?

In Con­clu­sion, we can only state that Pres­i­dent Kiir might not be the dar­ling of ev­ery­one in South Su­dan, but a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity and fair­ness is re­quired in the way we re­port the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, lest we in­flame pas­sions fur­ther through bi­ased, sim­plis­tic and clearly, an un-re­searched un­der­stand­ing of an al­ready very del­i­cate sit­u­a­tion

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