Is The Ruweng State Offered as a Sacrificial Lamb to Cool the Wrath of Taban Deng Gai’s Political Maneuver, Tribal Politics and Quest for Resources?
By Daniel Juol Nhomngek, Kampala, Uganda
March 28, 2017 (SSB) — For God and My country and For Justice, liberty and prosperity! Ruweng State is one of the 33 states of South Sudan. It is located within the Greater Upper Nile region. It borders Western Nile to the east, Western Bieh to the southeast, Northern Liech to the south, Twic to the southwest, Abyei to the west, and Sudan to the north. The headquarters of Ruweng State is Panrieng.
In addition, Ruweng State covers the contested area of Panthou or Heglig in Arabic. The inhabitants of Ruweng State are Panaru and Alor people.
Administratively, Ruweng State is the only state given to the SPLM/A-IO in Juba, which is Taban’s faction. Indeed, though Ruweng State was state given to the SPLM-IO, it is lucky to get one of the best and exceptional governors in person of Hon. Governor Theji Da Adwad Deng. Theji is one of the rarest leaders in South Sudan.
Having talked highly about Governor Theji Da Adwad Deng above, I would like to beg my readers to allow me to digress a bit by supporting the reasons why I highly appraised him.
To begin with, Theji is a lawyer by profession as he is a graduate from Neelain, Khartoum Sudan. He was appointed as Magistrate, a post he held and served in various places in South Sudan until when he resigned in 2013 or so (though I do not remember well the year he resigned from being magistrate but the fact is that he resigned) due to his disagreement with Chief Justice, Chan Reech Madut. This is because Chief Justice was not doing what is expected of him as the head of judiciary.
Therefore, he submitted in his resignation letter amidst the protest of the President of South Sudan, General Salva Kiir Mayardit, who did not want him to quit the job. However, Theji gave a condition that he would only accept to remain in his post if another Chief Justice was appointed but not Chan Reech Madut. Such a condition was impossible for the president to meet and because of that he accepted Theji to go.
After resigning, he decided to join the SPLM-IO because his life was under threat as his resignation made Chief Justice uncomfortable. He stayed under the SPLM/A-IO but like our SPLM in Juba, the SPLM/A-IO in the bush could not notice him and take care of him. This is because the politics in South Sudan in general hates capable leaders but only adores sycophants, miscreants and corrupts individuals.
Fortunately enough God protects him and when the Compromised Peace Agreement (called CPA II) was signed, he came back with those of Riek Machar in 2016. However, after the fallout between the Government and the SPLM-IO under Riek Machar and Riek ran into the bush for the second time, he remained under Taban Deng Gai in Juba.
Upon the appointment of Taban Deng Gaias the First Vice President to replace Riek Machar, Taban appointed him as the Governor of Ruweng State. He accepted the appointment hoping that he would make a difference in people of Ruweng State lives if he is allowed to operate independently.
In fact within few months of his appointment, he established himself as a good administrator. He eliminated corruption in tax collection process as he comes up with strategies of saving taxes which increases the revenue of the state; he also introduces the idea of open interaction between the citizens and the government of the State.
Thus, he only goes around with one body guard, which he still has up to now; he allows citizens of the state to freely come to see him when there is a problem. He gives his telephone numbers to all state citizens who want to talk to him at any time. He also goes around from house to house visiting people and talk to them freely.
If you compare Theji with Governors of states like Gok State, Western Lakes, Jonglei State and other States which the governors are guarded as if they are among the enemies, what then comes in your mind? Apart from that question, the following questions come to our minds which are: what is the problem with the governors of the States I have just referred to?
Are people in those states criminals? What is the purpose of going to the State to become a leader if people you are going to serve under your leadership are viewed as criminals and enemies who can kill their leaders? The answer to these questions is that when leaders cheat people or corrupt system, the people feel sense of injustice and leaders begin to be suspicious and begin to fear of nothingness.
Importantly and above all, Theji has also introduced compulsory education service in which every educated person working in Ruweng State must teach in school by fixing a time at least a day to go and teach pupils and students depending on the level of education of that particular person.
He in addition, brought tractors that were hidden somewhere by the previous governors who served before him including Taban Deng Gai. People of Ruweng were surprised when they saw tractors because they had never known that Government of South Sudan gives tractors to each state. In the same way people of other states may one day be surprised if a good governor is appointed and then bring all that belong to the state without interfering with them due to corruption.
Thej’s plan for bringing tractors is to open up an agricultural project in order to increase food production so that the food insecurity and poverty are eliminated by supporting citizens in boosting food production.
In general, apart from the above activities, Theji has also planned to do many other things in the state in order to improve welfare of Ruweng State citizens in line with the policy of taking towns to the people of South Sudan. The policy of taking towns to people was originally intended as a means of bringing services closer to the people but it has now taken different meaning as it has become bringing corruption closer to the people.
How corruption is brought closer to the people by that policy, I will discuss it in my next article. However, Theji was trying to explain the real meaning of bringing towns to people in practice and it is the style of leadership he has exhibited above which makes me to praise him and accord him with greater respect than any other governor of any state in South Sudan.
Nonetheless, Taban Deng Gai and his group in the government would not allow him to serve people in good way as he has shown. Thus, on March 24, 2017, though not resigned from Governorship, Theji resigns from SPLM-IO Gai faction due to many reasons he did not like about the SPLM-IO, Juaba faction.
But the following three reasons were fundamental: the first reason was the demand of Taban that he should not mobilize people to protect themselves against the SPLM-IO under Olony who are currently occupying the Ruweng State territory and constantly disturbing the citizens of Ruweng State. The main reason Taban gave is that Olony and rebels under him are members of his group.
The question that comes in mind is if they were his group, why are they still fighting the Government yet he himself is in the government? If this discrepancy is not well explained, then Taban must have an underground plan.
The second reason is the issue of forceful occupation of a piece of Ruweng land known as Wath Daluel, which Taban renamed as Manga in 2005. Taban demanded that Theji must declare this piece of land as part of Taban’s home area. This annoyed Theji and accused the first vice-president of abusing his powers by trying to annex the land to his home state. Hence, Theji in his letter for resignation stated such an accusation clearly as I quote below—
“Cde Taban Deng Gai occupied one of the key areas of Ruweng state known as Wath Danluel (which he renamed as Manga) illegally since 2005 and continues to insist on returning to perpetuate his illegal occupation of this Ruweng land after the peace agreement”.Theji further stated in that letter that he could not allow even an inch of my communities’ land to be taken by anybody on watch.
Finally, the third reason was that Taban ordered Theji to chase away Sudanese rebels residing within the territory of Ruweng State as a part of ensuring security of the area. Thus, it appears to be a double standard on Taban Deng’s side and the question is: if Taban was interested in security of the area why does he not order all rebels including Olony to leave the territory, if Olony and his group do not want to join him in Juba.
To make matters worse, after telling Theji three demands, Taban ordered Theji to give him feedback within twenty four hours (24) or he gets fired. Nevertheless, Theji being a person who is interested in serving people not in political post, he gave Taban less than two minutes within which he must resign from the SPLM-IO and in fact resigned orally while they were still talking with Taban and after that he wrote the letter of resignation which was later received by the IO leadership.
In his resignation letter, Theji accused Gai of working against the national security policies, allegedly in Ruweng state in particular for his “self-interest”. The governor further said that the main objective of the formation of the unity government was to foster and enhances the security of the people and to reconcile them so that peace returns to the country.
As seen in the foregoing discussion, there is a clear different between Governor Theji and Taban Deng, the First Vice President of South Sudan. Whereas Theji’s interests are services to the people, Taban’s interest is to use his power to meet his own selfish means, which confirms the fact that Taban has indeed misused his powers.
Therefore, the question is: Is the Ruweng state offered as a sacrificial lamb to cool Taban Deng Gai’s political maneuver, tribal politics and quest for resources? In fact, the answer to this question is a big Yes! The truth must be told, Ruweng State is offered to Taban so that he does not cause trouble to the government. This is why Taban is misusing his powers though he denies that he never abuses his powers, this is shown by the fact that he ordered Theji to give him feedback on the above three demands as already explained without presented the issue to the ministers.
The above three demands are matter of national interest and the decision was supposed to be passed to that effect in the cabinet meeting because cabinet is a body responsible for the implementation of government policies. The proper way, therefore, should have been to put the cabinet decision into writing a letter signed by the president and his vice directed to the governor to implement such a decision but taking unilateral decision was illegal and Taban had abused his powers though he denies that fact. As I know, Taban is just playing politics of Jalaba (Arabs) hoping that by using threats based on his powers of appointment, he would scare Theji to implement his illegal demands, which I am happy that Theji did not accept.
Therefore, Taban was naive enough to understand someone like Theji who is principled and full of integrity but just thinking that Theji would be more concerned with power or position than people’s welfare, an assumption which Theji proved him wrong. For that reason, I really admire Governor Theji and I think I am not different from him. The only difference between him and me is may be age, marital status and post in the government. Otherwise, if I were in his position, I would have done as he did.
I must say that Theji is my hero because he is now voice of his people (Ruweng State People) who have been misused by the government of South Sudan. I have said that people of Ruweng State have been misused by the Government this is because the SPLM government does not care about them. For instance, since 2005 they were allowed to be mistreated by the same person, Taban Deng Gai, when he was Governor. Taban has now resumed his tribal agenda against Ruweng People even when he is in one step to the presidency.
The question is: what will happen if he becomes the president? God forbids! The leader we need in South Sudan is not like Taban or anyone in power now but a future South Sudanese leader must be someone who cares about the Welfare of the citizens and ready to sacrifice his or her personal interest to safeguard the people’s interest like what Theji did in the case of Ruweng people.
In fact, my conclusion is that Theji is a living example of who is a true leader. Briefly, the true leader has the following traits—first, he or she must be an effective person who has the resolve to see every task through to the end.
Second to it, he or she must be hardihood to take risks. As a saying goes, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”. The true leader must be able to risk in order to protect interests of the people and if need be to sacrifice for them. Hence, great achievements come to those who are willing to take risks.
As it has been pointed out a leader who continually plays it safe will never put themselves or the people they lead in a position to experience success. A typical example of the leaders we see in Juba in South Sudan.
Thirdly, the good leader must be always ready to share in rewards with subordinates. A great leader, although supremely confident, humbly acknowledges that no success, no matter how large of a role he personally played in bringing it to fruition, is a wholly solo effort.
He or she is deeply grateful for all those, even those with small roles, who played a part in the achievement. And he understands human nature. He understands that people love to be recognized for their contributions.
When a group or organization succeeds, a true leader makes it a priority to recognize both in public and private the contributions of those he led. When a person sees that a leader is humble and will share in success, they’ll be more willing to follow that person.
Fourthly, the true leader must always be ready to take the blame when things go wrong. Hence, denying the responsibility as seen in this case shows that Taban Deng is not a good leader but just playing politics at the expenses of Ruweng people and selling the Ruweng Governor to the Government of South Sudan.
Fifthly and finally, the good leader must have a nerve to survive storm and disappointment and to face each new day with the score sheet wiped clean; neither dwelling on one’s successes, nor accepting discouragement from one’s failures.
In summary, I must conclude by saying that the government should take seriously the issue of Ruweng people because they are citizens of South Sudan and the government must listen to them. Because of what Taban has done to them they have denounced the SPLM/A-IO in opposition, so the SPLM government under Kiir must accept their demand and confirm Theji as Governor of Ruweng State under the government.
The reality is that there is no SPLM/A-IO in Juba and if Taban cheats the whole South Sudanese public that he is the leader of the SPLM/A-IO then he is mistaken. Why? Because, if Taban believes that he is the leader of the SPLA-IO who are still fighting against the government then let him bring them to bring cease-fire and then peace.
In actual sense, I blame Taban for pretending that he is the leader of the SPLM-IO which made the government hide behind him and refuses to acknowledge that there is no peace. If Taban disputes this observation then let him bring SPLM/A-IO in the bush to towns or order them to observe cease-fire in order to killing to stop.
If Taban cannot bring those in the bush to towns or tells them to stop fighting but if they continue fighting and killing South Sudanese, which also gives the government pretext to kill innocent South Sudanese in the name of fighting rebels then Taban must be held personally accountable for those lives that were, are or will be lost. This is because he has held himself out as a leader of rebels he does not have control over them or he must be treated as enemy within against the SPLM government.
In short, I call upon the government must listen to the people of Ruweng must not make them as sacrificial lamb to satisfy Taban’s insatiable demand for power, wealth and tribal desires. What the government has not understood is that people of Ruweng are the most loyal people to the government and because of that the government must reward them with good governance by confirming Theji and protect them from tentacles of Taban Deng Gai who is a tribal leader clothed in national politics.
NB// the author is human rights lawyers residing and can be reached through: firstname.lastname@example.org/+256783579256
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