By Samuel Reech Mayen, Juba, South Sudan
April 27, 2015 (SSB) —- Dr. Riek Machar, one of the lucky South Sudanese with high academic qualifications from the United Kingdom (UK) and a former SPLA high commander climbed a shaking political ladder he created. Having gone to study in the Western world, prior to the SPLA mutiny of 1983, Dr. Riek came back in mid 80’s when the sound of the drum of revolution was at its peak.
As he arrived with the rare qualification, he went for military cadet and in a short while promoted to the rank of the high command, becoming the 8th in the SPLA military hierarchy. He served as Commander for the Wolf Division. With much of his time in the Western Upper Nile, Dr Riek served diligently.
However, in 1991, the failure of the promising army commander Dr. Riek Machar began. Dr Riek in coalition with other SPLA officers, NCOs, constables and conspiracy with Sudan Government decided to stage coup against the Chairman of the SPLM/A Dr. John Garang. This move saw the SPLA splitting with the majority of Cdr. Riek’s ethnic community of Nuer joining his movement.
Dr. Riek based his argument on the idea of separation of Southern Sudan from the Sudan against the idea of New Sudan. He claimed that the SPLM/A was being ran dictatorially by the leadership. He argued about Human rights abuses by the Movement that his new faction would correct.
The majority of the marginalized citizens of Southern Sudan thought that the newly formed faction of Dr. Riek was going to fight Khartoum government, the prime enemy of the South. Yet, in a short while, the rebellion that had its headquarters in Nasir, close to the Ethiopian border turned out to be aiming at annihilating the SPLM/A mainstream and the civil population that provided support to the Movement.
The forces that included civilians (Branded in the name of Jesh Mabor the popular white army) were armed with the support of Khartoum government. With these untrained, countless and indiscipline Jesh Mabor, the leadership of the rebel faction found a quick mean of destruction. The land of Bor was invaded furiously by the Jesh Mabor. The elderly people, women, the sick and children were killed in large numbers. In these areas of Hol, Nyarweng, Twic, Athoch and Gok that make up greater Bor, cattle which are the main source of life for the people were raided. Local buildings of byres and huts were burnt to ashes. The same kind of destruction took place in Bailiet and Khorfulus, the Dinka areas at the mid of Nuer communities.
Some elements amongst Dr. Riek forces also found it a cheap mean to acquire wives; girls and women of bearing ages were abducted. When dispute arose over who should own which beautiful woman or a girl, the final un-procedural judgment was to kill that lady who is the subject of conflict. The execution of the victims of beauty was implemented by shooting a lady at the head with a bullet to bring an end to the dispute amongst the comrades.
This period coincided with the time in which Major Jok Reng conscripted all the youths, middle aged and the young adults who could carry guns and took them to the military training in eastern equatorial region to prepare them for the offensive war of Juba. In the land of Bor, only children, women and the elderly lived in the villages at the time Dr. Riek forces attacked.
After clearing the villages, some survivors escaped to equatorial region on foot, others hided in the swampy small highlands along the River Nile (toch) and some crossed the Nile to Bhar el Ghazal. Dr. Riek settled in Panyagor in Twic and made it his second base that provides safe passage for Sudan Armed Forces (SAF). Needless to say, Dr. Riek at the time married a white lady, the foreign aid worker whom most civilians construed as the source of the confusion. Emma, Dr. Riek second wife after Angelina Teny stayed with him in frontline to keep Cdr. Riek Machar warm at the mid of directing unprecedented destruction in the area.
The SPLA-mainstream that was reduced by huge defection that almost brought it to its knees was thrown in Dilemma on whether to continue fighting with Khartoum government, the chief enemy or to counteract Dr. Riek forces, the agents of the Sudan government. The Movement was terribly weakened and frustrated by Dr. Riek and his allies’ defection.
As a result of defection and damage inflicted on the Movement by Dr. Riek’s forces, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) re-took all the towns that the SPLA had liberated. These include Torit, Kapoeta, Magwi, Polataka and many other towns in Eastern Equatoria. In Central equatorial region, Morobo, bazi and Kaya were retaken by the (SAF). The whole of greater Upper Nile was being controlled by the government and Dr. Riek forces including Bor town. SPLA could not advance any more but only retreating. In summary, it was a small fraction of Southern Sudan that was still in the SPLA main-stream control.
In his camp, Dr Riek the politician whom many people expected change, ordered for the killing of Dinka officers and outspoken civilians on ethnic basis. Most of these people were first arrested, detained, pulled out of detention at night and killed. The continuous disappearance in the military custodies of Dinka officers and Civilians led to the defection of some of Dr. Riek’s allies who claimed the war had taken different dimension.
The other vulnerable groups in captivity of Dr. Riek forces were at the time being tortured, raped and exposed to many inhuman treatments. In one account narrated by an old woman who escaped from captivity, there was an incidence (or rather a practice), in which an abducted Dinka girl of about eleven-years was raped by a fully mature man. As the girl wept of pain, the rapist later shouted at a girl to stop crying or else he would shoot her. He warned the tender-aged girl that he had done her enough fovour for keeping her alive. The rapist added that he raped her not because he was sexually starved but a message to the Dinka female captives that the men in their community had no strength to protect them against external threat.
The other worst consequences that also came as result of the defection is that, in all the areas where Dinka and Nuer share common borders, hatred intensified, and the war broke out along those borders which had been in peace for the previous centuries. These wars melted into continuous cattle rustling even after Dr. Riek signed peace with the SPLA. These behaviors remained a permanent practice along the areas where Dinka and the Nuer share borders.
In the areas of the current Lakes state notably Rumbek East, Rumbek North, and Cueibet Counties which border Bentiu at the south, raiding that started as a result of the rebellion of Dr. Riek in 1991 did not stop. The same applied to the Counties of Warrap bordering Bentiu at the west; Gogrial East, Tonj North and Tonj East have never rested from frequent attack on the cattle camps and villages.
At the sides of Dr. Riek’s faction in the eastern Upper Nile, the war was dragged to the Gawaar, Lou, Lak and Jikany (Jikany door) lands that hosted Dr. Riek’s forces. These communities of Nuer were affected by the war since much of the 1991 White Army that fought for Dr. Riek came from them. The innocent civil population was displaced by the war and most of the Nuer in the areas fled to Ethiopia to seek refuge.
As a reward for the big blow Dr Riek had inflicted on the SPLA main-stream, the Government of Khartoum that had been supplying Dr. Riek forces with ammunitions integrated Riek’s forces into the government forces. Dr Riek and his huge forces were incorporated into the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) with the aim of wiping out the SPLA main-stream, a mission that they exerted all their efforts. As part of the rough agreement between Khartoum government and Dr. Riek, the position of High Executive Council of Southern Sudan was also given to Dr. Riek to maintain and silent him in the process of fighting his fellow Southern Sudanese.
Hon. Dr. Riek Machar returned back to the SPLM/A in 2002 as a result of peace mediated between him and the leader of the SPLM/A Dr. John Garang by the USA. On reaching agreement, Dr. Riek made two noticeable mistakes;
First, he left out all his forces still fighting the SPLA under the influence of Khartoum and came back alone. These forces later joined the SPLA in what is popularly known as Juba Declaration in 2006 with almost everyone a commissioned officer including pure civilians who joined the army for two main reasons, one, to receive salaries and two, for the furtherance of Dr. Riek ideology of must rule on whatever cost.
The second mistake Dr. Riek made was that, after signing peace with Dr. John Garang, he didn’t move to his previous controlled areas to inform the heavily armed civilians that supported him in different villages. Dr. Riek did not consult the civilians prior to signing peace with the Chairman of the SPLM/A. Throughout the interim period, these ignorant civilians still belief that the ethnic war between Dinka and the Nuer that Riek had declared was an endless exercise.
This was the main basis for continued cattle raiding and unjustified attacks between the Nuer and Dinka communities as seen in the cases of Duk and Warnyol in Jonglei State in which many innocent lives were lost.
The interim period was the most worrying time as many allegation plus the well-known Riek’s characters of his usual lust for supreme office could be in the expenses of CPA which provided the right for self-determination. People thought that he would seize power and turned to Khartoum government in case of failure. However, Dr. Riek at this very period controlled his weaknesses, and contributed positively for the accomplishment of the citizens expectations of secession.
Two years after the independence of South Sudan, when Dr. Riek was dropped from the second supreme office as a result of conspiracy against the president, no doubt anyone who knows him well knew what was loosely hanging over the nation. When the crisis erupted, before the news was confirm about the cause of the war, the prime suspect at every man’s lips was Hon. Riek Machar. Riek later confirmed this suspicion by coming out and declared the illegitimacy of president, a statement he said about Dr. John Garang over two decades ago.
Worst of all, Dr. Riek returned to the same areas of 1991, with the propaganda of huge numbers of Nuer killed and remobilized the innocent children whose fathers fought for him couple of decades ago. The innocent youths of Gawaar, Jikany, Lak and Lou Nuer were again groomed as fearless fighters and re-branded as Jesh Mabor (White army). Without any short training required for military service, the groups of children, young adults and youths who are potential heirs of the rich nation were armed and sent out by one of the most educated politicians to destroy and be destroyed.
As a result of the war caused by Hon. Dr. Riek’s second rebellion, many lives have been lost and continued to be lost; these includes civilians, in Juba war broke out at the mid of civilians and innocent lives were lost; in Bentiu masses of innocent civilians were shot indiscriminately in the mosque; in Bor, sick people were killed in the hospital and elderly people who could not run were also killed on their beds; mentally ill people who could not comprehend what was happening were shot mercilessly in the name of baseless retaliation; Many civilians drowned in the River Nile as the fled from Machar’s forces.
In Akobo, government officials, NGOs workers and Business people were attacked and sprayed with bullets in the UNMISS compound igniting act of the same nature in Bor; In Malakal, hundreds of children and women sunk with the boat as they fled the town. Physical Infrastructures have been destroyed in the three States of Greater Upper Nile. All these atrocities have been committed by the rebels in the full watch of Dr. Riek.
In the armed forces at both sides of the conflict, many youths who could serve this nation in one way or another have died in the frontline fighting one of the most senseless wars. Their bloods have been shed unreasonably; Ethnic hatred planted by the 1991 atrocities that was slowly healing has been re-ignited by the same person in the name of either ruling or killing people. The nation is now boiling with hatred, ethnics’ threats and envious political policies. Besides these, the image of South Sudan has been stained in the face of the world.
Dr. Riek Machar argued to have done all these in pursuit of principles of Democracy and human rights. Nevertheless, in the course of his struggle for power, he has done more than enough destruction that cannot allow him to rule this nation. The issue is not just Dr. Riek versus his political rivals but rather victims of his inexperienced politics against him. On the Basis of the devastation committed, Hon. Riek should independently evaluate whether his potential voters can install him into the supreme office of the nation.
Lastly, Nuer and the Dinka are amazingly reconcilable communities. This common trait should be exploited to bring permanent peace. South Sudan as a whole needs to appreciate the important of diversity and promote peaceful co-existent amongst her communities. With the experiences of wars, it’s time for the citizens to stop being used as climbing ladders by the politicians who at the end forget them.
Citizens need to understand the values of lives and property. Through the wars, nothing is achievable but deaths, destruction of property and cycles of ethnics’ hatred. Citizens need to distant themselves from these messes and unite as historical people of a free society with clear principles of building the new nation.
The author can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0955 079 266