Presidential Affairs Minister Raises Eyebrows with Ground Breaking Proposals for Ending Tribal Conflict in Gogrial in Warap State
What has been raised in public must continue to be discussed in public. This personal mantra applies specifically to statements and speeches by people holding responsible positions in government on issues of sensitive nature.
In that spirit, I would like to comment publicly on some of remarks made by Mr. Lual Achuil Lual, the state minister for presidential affairs in the government of national unity at a memorial service that took place on Friday 21st June 2008.
The memorial occasion which was comprised of prayers, traditional songs and dances, tributes, and speeches was organised by Twic Community in Khartoum to commemorate the 40th day anniversary for the victims of South Sudan Connect’s Beech 1900 plane that crashed near Rumbek in South Sudan on May 2nd 2008. On that very sad morning, 23 passengers including the minister for SPLA affairs in the government of South Sudan (GOSS), Dominic Dim Deng; GOSS presidential advisor for decentralisation, Dr. Justin Yac Arop; and retired army Brigadier, Donato Daw Manyang, among others. Brigadier Donato Daw, from Gogrial East (Apuk), is one of few crash victims who did not originate directly from Twic County.
COMMENTS ON BONA MALWAL SPEECH
Before delving into the eyebrows-raising, if ground-chattering statements by minister Lual Achuil, I would like to say that the service was well organised and well attended. The many tributes paid to the crash victims reflected the worthy contributions made by the deceased to the cause of liberation struggle and South Sudanese life in general. In fact, Twic community throughout the history of the South had and continue to give to the South more than it has managed to take out from it.
The presidential advisor, leader of Twich Community, and Greater Gogrial elder, Bona Malual Madut spoke well and appealed to Twic Community to unite. He also advised sons of Abyei to work for sustainable peace in Abyei by allowing Arab Massieria to be part of Abyei Transitional Administration. "Any administration that does not include Massieria in it, will not bring about sustainable peace, and it is Twich Community that will sustain the backlash", warned Mr Bona Malwal.
Elder Malwal Madut Ring, however, did not comment on the ongoing conflict between Apuk and Aguok clans in Gogrial East and West counties, respectively. That silence left many question marks in the air as to where the Twic Community leader stands. In another memorial service organised by the family of Donato Daw to commemorate his passing on 22nd June 2008 in Kalakal Khartoum, Mr Bona Malwal said he felt it was not appropriate for him to address Apuk-Aguok conflict at a memorial service organised by Twic community. That as far as his comment went without explaining why it would be inappropriate.
Without being too judgemental of Elder Bona Malwal, I would like to say that he has missed a great opportunity to appeal to the Apuk, Aguok, and Kuac communities whose members were present at that memorial service so that they can try harder to end the conflict. Furthermore, his silence would give an impression that elder Malwal Madut was overpowered by his community loss and just couldn’t be bothered about what was happening in Gogrial East and West counties.
In Twic Community’s hour of grief, I will be more inclined to be more forgiving and less judgmental, and to stress to elder Bona Malwal Madut that we, from other Greater Gogrial share his grief. That Twic’s loss is also Greater Gogrial’s loss as much as it is South Sudan’s loss.
COMMENTS ON SPEECH BY THE REPRESENTATIVE OF GOSS PRESIDENT
Enter the speech of Presidential Affairs State Minister. H.E. Lual Achuil, who was representing the First Vice President and president of the government of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, said many good things and also many ground shaking, if puzzling things.
The good things included calling for unity amongst Twic community, and condemning the on going "conflict between Aguok and Kuac on one hand, and Apuk on the other" as evil that must stop. It was very honest of him to publicly acknowledge for the first time the involvement of his community, Kuac, in the Apuk-Aguok conflict. Would it not be nice if leaders of any neighbouring communities whose communities are involved directly or indirectly in fuelling the Apuk-Aguok conflict to go public in the way the Kuac Elder, Lual Achuil did? Thank you elder Lual Achuil for setting the precedence. Let us hope that others, if any, will follow suite. This if anything, is a step forward to ending the conflict by placing on the map those involved in the conflict as well as those who are neutral. Part of the solution is for neighbouring communities to stop getting involved in this conflict and instead be a force for peace and reconciliation.
Minister Lual Achul also announced that he and Mr. Mayen Wol Jongkoor, the director of the office of the First Vice President of Sudan in Khartoum, have worked hard so that:
"Anyone who wants to see president Salva Kiir in Khartoum can now see him easily…" and adding: "but I don’t know about the situation in Juba…"
Mr Lual Achuil also paid moving tributes to the victims of plane crash. "It would be hard to replace them," he said. Subtle still, the minister added: "some people must have laughed when they heard that these people died!" without elaborating on who would be rejoicing at the death of so many innocent and important people in a plane crash. Whether this was a wise remark to say at such an occasion is left to individual’s judgement. Yet this was not the end of controversy, but just the beginning.
The call by the minister for presidential affairs and representative of First Vice President and President of South Sudan for unity amongst Twic community took a bit of a twist when elder Laul Achuil pleaded:
"The Twic community should unite first, then unite with Awan community, then Aguok community, followed by unity with Kuac. Then, together, we will go and ask Apuk community ‘what is the matter’?"
By phrasing his appeal for unity in this manner, the minister has made himself vulnerable to criticism. The statement could be interpreted as a call for a broad alliance between Twic, Aguok, Awan, and Kuac against Apuk. The statement also seems to implicitly brand the Apuk community as the warmonger of the pack, without providing evidence to back such a claim. It is extremely unfortunate and unhelpful statement by elder Lual Achuil as it forfeits his earlier statement that described the war between Apuk, Aguok and Kuac as evil. It also portrays him as a warlord in the making. What a message from the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit from his envoy to the people of Warap who are affected by Apuk-Aguok conflict? One Apuk elder called the statement by minister Lual Achuil "a declaration of war on Apuk Community!"
As if this was not enough, minister Lual Achuil surprised his audience by saying that:
"Those who have a hand in this [Apuk versus Aguok and Kuac] conflict will not live with us to taste the first harvest, the maize, this year. I am not a spearman (that is, Dinka equivalent of magic spell caster or Fatwa maker), but I descend from three families with strong spiritual inheritance."
In other words, anyone behind this conflict will die before August, which is the time when the first harvest in South Sudan appears. The minister licked his forefinger and touched his throat with it, a typical Dinka swearing sign.
Interestingly enough, many people in the affected areas have not had any opportunity to cultivate this year, let alone harvesting anything. But the most controversial part of it is that the elder of Kuac is taking us into murky waters of spiritualism, superstition, astrology, and witchcraft.
If not, how are we going to know that those behind this war are dead and buried? Where will they die, and of what causes? What are their names? Will their predicted death be natural or man-made? Can we be sure the right person has been sentenced to death by his gods? Will his ancestral gods be impartial and just to the affected or will they take side with his Kuac community? Would it not be better for our government to pursue well tried traditional and old fashioned, if less controversial criminal investigation methods to determine with ample evidence those feeding the fire of tribal conflict? Is it not better to first bring to books those who abduct innocent people in the area including pregnant women and cut their heads and mutilate their bodies in cold blood as a matter of priority before we can pursue those who encourage them to commit such heinous crimes? Has the well-known justice system and rule rule-of-law collapsed to the extent that we are now invited to resort to dodgy justice system in this day and age?
The remarks by minister Lual Achuil on behalf of President of South Sudan tells a sad tale about some of those entrusted to take the helm of leading our country into a peaceful and prosperous future.
Such utterances by people holding responsible government positions will not strengthen our diminishing trust in our government to live up to our high expectations.
It is a good thing that the conflict in Warap State between Apuk and Aguok clans is being discussed in public more openly. Such a debate will also reveal attitudes that are unhelpful to ending of the conflict and bringing unity amongst the people of Greater Gogrial that need to be gotten rid of. In my opinion, Greater Gogrial has a great potential to contribute more effectively in the development and peace building of South Sudan and Sudan in general.
I recall a time when three elders from Twic were nominated to compete for one position in National Assembly in early 80s, just after the re-division of South Sudan. They were: Bona Malwal Madut, Justin Yac Arop, and Elia Duang Arop. Eventually the Greater Gogrial elders, intellectuals, and politicians elected by consensus after heated debate the veteran SANU politician, the late Elia Duang Arop.
Those were good days of true unity and unselfish patriotism. Could we today nominate three leaders from one community to one position based on their competence and not their clan? I doubt it although Greater Gogrial today has many more intellectuals and much greater potential. This is because Greater Gogrial communities now live more in clusters of isolated islands than they once were. These communities have also grown too competitive for their own good. To unpack my statement would need another article and hence would like to leave it to another occasion.
To conclude, the sons of Greater Gogrial (Gogrial East and West, and Twic) and Warap State in general need to look back into their glorious past, learn from what was good in it, as they chart their way forward into brighter future in a peaceful, free, united, and prosperous South Sudan within the nation called Sudan.
May God the Almighty be our guide, help, and wisdom in our hour of need.