War is better than a bad peace, writes Peter Adwok Nyaba. He is a long standing South Sudanese intellectual, former minister of Higher Education and now a collaborator of opposition leader Riëk Machar.
In this article he lashes out at the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE), a tribal organisation which hijacked the liberation struggle against Arab-dominated North Sudan, dominates the economy and the political discourse. “Most of the corrupt businesses in South Sudan belong to Dinka political and military elite close to President Salva Kiir”, he writes. “It renders impossible ‘unity in diversity,’ which we fought against the successive Arab dominated Sudanese regimes”.
“South Sudan is burning in all its different regions. The cause of this conflict is the misguided ethnic politics pushed by the JCE. The JCE has imposed its war on the people of South Sudan”, Adwok writes in his piece. But also the opposition led by Riëk Machar, to which Peter Adwok belongs, has “major political and military weaknesses”.
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By Peter Adwok Nyaba
It is a truism that ‘war is better than a bad peace’ and this is pertinent in the context of South Sudan. The ‘Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan’ (ARCISS) the Inter-Governmental Authority on Desertification (IGAD) brokered for two years, and the parties signed in August 2015, has collapsed consequent to lack of political will to implement it.
On initialing the peace agreement, President Salva Kiir registered reservations declaring that the ‘agreement will not be implemented because it was imposed from outside.’ It took the parties eight months to form the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU).
Moreover, barely two months into the formation of TGoNU in April 2016, the ARCISS collapsed plunging the country into another cycle of civil war.
The current crisis in the country trace back to the political failures of the SPLM/SPLA as the political-military force that dominated the politics of South Sudan since the war of national liberation. The ethnicization of politics shifted the focus to control of power and resources.
The Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) emerged as the strongest power broker close to President Salva Kiir, who did not blink at the political and economic empowerment of the Dinka elite. The eruption of violence in December 2013, barely two years into the independence of South Sudan, therefore became inevitable.
The agreement, therefore, was an attempt to reconcile factions of a class that made zero-sum game the power to control financial and economic resources of the country. It did not address the fundamental contradictions the SPLM led Government of South Sudan (GOSS) precipitated in nearly eleven years of misgovernment that condemned the people to extreme conditions of poverty and ignorance, making it easy for the political military elite to manipulate and fragment along ethnic and regional fault lines.
That the SPLM/A (IO) acquiesced and signed this agreement attributes to its political and military weaknesses. It prosecuted the war without clear strategic political and military objectives and did not build an army capable of confronting the government army.
This explains Salva Kiir’s reluctance to implement the agreement which makes Dr. Riek Machar the first vice president. It was therefore easy for President Salva to conspire, exploiting the differences that emerged within the SPLM/A (IO) leadership, to push Dr. Riek Machar out of TGoNU and abrogate the peace agreement.
It is possible and indeed necessary to view in that light the events of July 2016 leading to renewed conflict and subsequent withdrawal of the SPLM/A (IO) from Juba. The death of the peace agreement ensures Salva Kiir’s grip on power.
Salva Kiir’s main objectives or rather his raison d’êtré as president of the Republic of South Sudan is to entrench himself in power, and through this one-man dictatorship promote Dinka hegemony and domination over the other sixty-four non-Dinka entities in South Sudan.
The upsurge of Dinka ethnic nationalism with its ideology of superiority, because only of their demographic weight, is therefore one of the driving forces in the civil war.
Touted by the reactionary elements of the Dinka political elite, this fascist ideology represents negative ethnicity that renders explosive ethnic multiplicity that constitutes the South Sudan reality.
The objective is to define South Sudan on the parameter of Dinka-ism and state to be governed according to Dinka culture as proposed by the Jieng Council of Elders.
The outward aspect of this strategy is the political and economic empowerment of the Dinka people. In this context, the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) and the intellectual think tanks cum research centres:The Sudd Institute (supported by the Office of the President) and Ebony Centre (sourced by World Bank and IMF) have emerged as the power brokers behind Salva Kiir’s presidency.
The Dinka takeover of South Sudan from the Arab-dominated North Sudan, conceived in the context of the war of national liberation, would not be completed without the construction of a totalitarian dictatorship.
President Salva Kiir Mayardit has achieved this with the support of the National Security Service, Military Intelligence, Presidential Guards, Police, Prisons, Wildlife Forces, Civil Defence, the Judiciary and the Central Bank of South Sudan, all headed by Dinka nationals.
The control of the army and the security forces becomes important to intimidate and suppress any resistance to Dinka hegemony. President Salva Kiir in 2013 transformed into war what essentially was political contradiction in the SPLM to pre-empt Dr. Riek Machar ascendancy to the top leadership of the SPLM through a democratic process.
The targeting of ethnic Nuers in Juba was to send a clear message to the other non-Dinka entities about what would happen to them should their leaders aspire for the top job in the country.
The JCE is the policy instrument of Dinka nationalism. Comprising representatives from the Dinka sections and subsections, its mandate is to lobby for the social, economic and political interests of the Dinka.
It impresses on President Salva Kiir for Dinka control of the economy through preferential economic empowerment and sourcing of Dinka businesses by dishing out lucratively overpriced government contracts including letters of credit.
Most of the corrupt businesses in South Sudan belong to Dinka political and military elite close to President Salva Kiir.
They corrupted the business in forex through the Governor of the Central Bank of South Sudan, whereby the CBOSS gave them free access to convertible currency at the official rate of 2.9 SSP (South Sudanese pounds) to the dollar to sell at the parallel market at 18 SSP to the dollar.
They led to floating of the South Sudan Pound came against this policy with the objective to put out of business the non-Dinka businesses who had no access to foreign currency issued by the Central Bank of South Sudan. This eroded the purchasing power of the SSP, which deepened the economic crisis.
The JCE promotes, without shame, migration of Dinka en masse with their cattle to settle as communities in non-Dinka areas in Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazal to establish their own traditional administration. This raised tensions and conflicts with the Acholi, Madi, Kuku, Kakwa, Moro, Azande, Shilluk, Nuer, and the fertit.
The idea was to have Dinka representation in all the states of South Sudan especially in traditionally non-Dinka regions.
The Establishment Order 36/2015 creating twenty-eight states essentially legitimizes the encroachment on and grabbing of ancestral lands of non-Dinka entities. It awards the Dinka 42% of land area of South Sudan fulfilling their ambition to access borders of East Africa and DR Congo.
There is also another disturbing dimension to the land grabbing, and how it ties up with the emerging Dinka parasitic capitalist class in the context of commercialized agricultural production.
It is not surprising some South Sudanese (Dinka and Nuer) connected to global capital and finance institutions have mortgaged much of rich potential lands in South Sudan and deposited this money in overseas banks. This is how low these people have gone to purchase real estate in Australia, America, Arab Gulf and East Africa.
This is double insult: denying social and economic development to our people by stealing the oil money and at the same time mortgage the land in order to render landless the masses of our people.
Some of the JCE rent seekers are involved in this scheme to the risk of fomenting conflict among Jieng sections, which surfaced recently in Malek in southern Bor area where they wanted to dispossess the Muonythanh of their ancestral lands.
Against this background, I want to discuss the “JCE Master Plan: Dinka Development for 200 years” signed by four members of the JCE, namely Ambrose Riiny Thiik, Joshua Dau Diu, Aldo Ajou Deng, Maker Thiong Maal and Permena Awieral Aluong and published by SSN (this website) on 14th September. The authenticity of the document cannot be doubted, the absence of their signatures notwithstanding.
South Sudanese people have not fragmented along ethnic fault lines as they are today and one finds intellectuals of the calibres of Justice Ambrose Riiny Thiik authoring such fascist policy document; one must really forget about South Sudan we have struggled for nearly six decades to place on the world map.
I am beginning to reminisce the night in 2004 when the SPLM activists burnt the House of Nationalities t-shirts. I am also beginning to understand why the SPLM shunted political education meant to raise the level of political consciousness among the combatants and the civil population.
It now confirms in my mind that the SPLM/A was a Dinka power project.
Perhaps Salva Kiir is less sophisticated or has the time now come for what was mooted silently before during the war of national liberation to peddle openly, come what may.
The idea of one ethnic community in South Sudan, whatever their demographic weight, lording it over the sixty-four nationalities for two hundred years is something only myopic minds can conceive and put to plan. It is primitive, sadistic and fatalistic to say the least.
It smacks of the outburst of late Dr. Justin Yac Arop, which added to the flames of ‘kokora’ in early eighties.
It renders impossible ‘unity in diversity,’ which we fought against the successive Arab dominated Sudanese regimes.
This mindless arrogance has one positive consequence. It has demonstrated the political and moral bankruptcy of the JCE members on the one hand while on the other hand, it has united all the other ethnicities in the relentless struggle to overthrow this kleptocratic totalitarian regime erected and buttressed by the JCE.
While at that, I call on the progressive minded and patriotic Dinka to disown and condemn this plan, some elements of which are now being implemented, like the appointment of Hon. Lino Makana as the speaker of the National Legislative Assembly to blue print JCE policies. It is not feasible in the twenty first century.
South Sudan is burning in all its different regions. The cause of this conflict is the misguided ethnic politics pushed by the JCE.
The social and humanitarian impact of the conflict is staggering. The social capital, that bounded our people for centuries enabling them to undertake common struggle against foreign invaders, has been shattered beyond repairs. It will take political good will and patriotism to mend it.
What then should be done?
The JCE has imposed its war on the people of South Sudan. The writings are on the wall for everybody to read. Many people have already responded and have taken up arms not necessarily in the context of the SPLM/A (IO) but sui moto.
It is reminiscent of the early days of the first war in the sixties when students, youth, elderly and even women took to the bush with whatever was in their hands to fight against injustice, oppression, domination and exploitation by joining the ranks and file of the Anya-nya Land Freedom Army.
This time, it is different. The enemy is a local despot surrounded by his kin and kith purporting to represent the social, economic and political interests of the Dinka.
The war has a class character and must be fought differently using ideological and military tools. It is struggle between those who have looted the resources of the country since 2005 on the one hand and the masses of our people who have been denied social and economic development during the eleven years since the CPA.
In this context, the national democratic revolution pops up imperceptibly. A national democratic revolution with the strategic objective of constructing a national democratic state in South Sudan to accommodate all our people.
The national democratic state is to address the current social, economic and political crisis afflicting South Sudan. It should address the nationality/ethnicity question wrongly articulated by the JCE in terms of Jieng hegemony and domination over the other sixty-four nationalities that populate South Sudan.
This calls for unity of purpose of all the fighting groups around a common objective of regime change and transforming the lives of our people.
The correct definition of the problem will facilitate the charting of a minimum program for achieving the objective. It is the only way to frustrate, destroy and prevent the implementation of the “JCE Master Plan: Dinka Development Plan for 200 year”.
Long live the struggle for freedom, justice, fraternity and democracy Long live the memory of the martyrs Long live South Sudan Shame and down to the JCE Aluta continua
Photo’s referendum Petterik Wiggers. Others: Johannes Dietrich