Atok Dan Baguoot
April, 2010: It would sound naïve and surprising for somebody to start asserting across political predictions of a certain organized ethnic community based on their historical and political adherence to an ideology that they perceived rewarding but ended up disgracing their contributions as things are awarded on how noisy and chaotic one is instead of loyalty.
Panaruu-Dinka is one of the Dinka clans situated in oil rich Unity state dominated by the Nuer ethnic and it shares some cultural ties and believes with other Dinkas across Southern Sudan. It is a section under greater Padang Dinka historically described as the North Eastern frontier Dinka of Abyei, Alor commonly known as Ruweng in Unity state, Paweny of Atar, Luach, Rut, Thoi, in Jongeli state and other groups of Eastern Ngok of Baliet, Dongjol, Abialiang, Nyiel and Ageer in Upper Nile state. In the context, Panaruu shares common features with other Dinkas more likely with those Dinkas in greater Bor, Lakes and Warrap and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states apart from the groups in description.
The kind of Dinka dialect spoken in Panaruu phonetically sounds like that of Twic East and West though they share some noun similarities with the Agar Dinka of lakes, however, pronunciation differentiates their accent in one way or the other. Panaruu hardly pronounce “R” at the end of a word like in Koor (lion), they say koo which distinguishes them from the rest of the Dinkas even their Padang class.
Their historical disadvantage of being less educated came about during the colonial era when the British government declared all the Nuer lands and areas adjacent to them ungovernable and up to now level of formal education still less among these Padang communities in Greater Upper Nile minus Padang section of Abyei whose Southern Kordofan administration had an influence over their political status. As now, getting educated old men in 70s in Panaruu community is uncommon thing to talk about.
Back to their political and social organisation where the emphasis is, their historical contributions in the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army SPLM/A dated back to earlier hours of the inception of the Movement in 1983 when thousands of young men from the community flocked to Ethiopia after armed Murahaleen (Misseriya) raided the Panaruu-Dinka homestead and went away with millions head of cattle living around thousand people dead in defense of their cattle, a economic and cultural prestige of the Dinka people.
The first wave of the Movement they attended in large numbers was Koryom Division followed by other subsequent divisions and battalions. Thousands of them fall in Jekou around Gatjaak territories when SPLA launched offensive attacks on areas controlled by the Sudan Armed Forces SAF to open up routes to Bilpam for new recruits from all over the South and other marginalised areas of Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. Their food stuffs were not spared as it was the daily ration to SPLA new recruits and foot soldiers to Greater Barh el Ghazal, Bentiu areas and Nuba Mountains.
Where their historical political naivety makes sense came in 1991 during the political split of the Movement along the Nasir group and the mainstream headed by late, Dr. John Garang De Mabior. Panaruu as an area bordering Misseriya northwest and the Nuer whose aggregates formed the Nasir faction in southern part, waged series of attacks and raids on Panaruu after they showed adherence to the SPLM/A. As the word naïve implies, their stance was not a political motivated move but on the fact that they are Dinkas hence, identifying themselves as Dinkas and objected what the Nuer whom they inhabited the state proposed. Since they were encircled in, they became bullets porters from Greater Barh el Ghazal to reinforce the area up to late 1990s.
In defense of the SPLM/A political ideology, they area suffered a great deal of war consequences from their neighbors of the Nuer and Shilluk whereas; Misseriya on the other hand got something to revenge. In the Dinka power class, they had no representation at the highest organ of the Movement to make them feel a direct stakeholder of the concept up to the current GoSS not even a senior director heading the department is from this political naive community.
This is where the equation and question of political naivety works because you cannot be a diehard of a system that does not recognize your contributions yet basis of rewarding benefits is on the basis of what one did even former detractors of the Movement got their shares unopposed. Sometimes people say that they who opposed the system were the one awarded much more than those who defended the system.
In the same context of political naivety, Panaruu still defended the SPLM/A to the amalgamation of different militia forces after the signing of comprehensive peace accord in 2005. When forces were joined and GoSS was to be formed, they stood with one of the commanders to become the first governor of oil rich state of Unity, comrade Taban Deng Gai as SPLM proposed governor and Gai succeeded and eventually formed the government.
In the first Gai’s government where he was the chairman of the SPLM and other Nuer tribesmen as deputy and secretary of the party in the state, Panaruu felt marginalised in the party they protected in absentia of the group which they saw to have hijacked the system. State government was also formed in the same nature without putting into consideration the mathematical proposal brought about by the CPA of ethnicity, region and geographical representation.
In that state, nutritional positions in the government were awarded to Taban loyalists whom they saw as Nuer kin. But until in 2008 when the SPLM launched grassroots’ primaries, Governor Gai made a political about turn to seek support from this political unfortunate community which indeed supported him to teeth though he lost the chairmanship of the party to current GoSS Caretaker Minister of Health, Dr. Joseph Monytuil.
On the eve of those grassroots elections, a lucrative border check point town of Karsana in Panaruu territory in northern frontier was annexed to Southern Kordofan under an agreement signed by Mr. Gai which almost detracted most of Panaruu intellectuals from supporting him, however, they connived and voted for him. Subsequently, most of Panaruu deemed it that another reason of not supporting governor Deng was his encroachment into Panaruu territory of Mango, another busy inland port without their prior consent and up to now it is being inhabited by Mr. Deng.
In the same name of the SPLM and in regard to their political marginalisation both within the state and at Southern level, Panaruu still registered their adherence to the SPLM unknowingly that whatever one does in politics, rewards politically, economically and prestigiously. Have they benefitted no why because of their political naivety?
As it wasn’t enough, the same political adherence was transcended to recent concluded elections in which they supported the SPLM nominated candidate for the post of governor, Mr. Taban Deng Gai. 74,000 was alleged to have voted for Mr. Taban, a vote that springboard him back to post which he almost lost to his immediate rival Independent candidate, Mrs. Angelina Jany Teny, wife of GoSS Vice president and deputy chairperson of the SPLM, Dr. Riek Machar Teny. Area of contention was on the fact that Parieng County had more than 82,000 as a population recorded in the Sudan Fifth Household Population Census an exercise which was later disputed by the SPLM. Southern Sudan went to elections without knowing the exactly numbers in constituencies.
The area recorded 89,000 in voters’ registration, something that dismayed NEC officials in Khartoum. Demographic statisticians estimated the area population to be around 100,000 which probably places the suffrage age to 45,000 if correctly asserted because there is no logical viewpoint where registered voters can exceed the population how much that fact is distorted. However, supporting evidence was there that 89,000 voters were recorded and that also justifies the means although logic remains in dispute with that timely fact and falsehood based on the outcome from the court. There are strong evidences versus weak evidences in all directions. Parieng County emerged to be the only county out of 79 counties in Southern Sudan whose elections results were negatively questioned.
Allegations were aired on media that Panaruu/Parieng county voting was flawed as agents belonged to other political parties were intimidated and dismissed from polls. National Elections Commission NEC suspended Parieng votes temporarily but later revoked and Taban Deng was declared as a winner of that highly contested post. If there was anyone with justifiable reason of not voting for Brig. Taban Deng as a candidate of the SPLM, it was a Panaruu-Dinka whom he marginalised in both the party and in the state government and if there could be also reason for rejecting an SPLM proposed candidate then Panaruu would have had a reason.
Their political leniency towards the SPLM and naivety come when one questions why do this community always opted in support of the SPLM yet they don’t formed the nucleus of the party neither are they found in any set of the SPLM nor government of Southern Sudan to show that they are protecting an interest in return. This community is doing empty political work.
As they are they always proud to be Padang Dinka or Dinka for that matter, another political calculation is that states political structure system outweighed either tribal or cultural ties which they always wish to rely on as an alternative if things become tough as Southern politics still an ethnical tribal showcase. Because they are really political neophytes in the electoral systems, the extemporized elections results extrapolated the political survival of this community as extinct among their Nuer community whom they have shown immature political mobility by supporting one candidate without calculating future political repercussions if any of them wish to stand as a governor later let alone other highly contested seat where one would wish to resort home first.
It is a weak move because their neighboring Dinkas will never come and support them in their political bid despite the fact that Dinka formed the lion share of the Southern population. You have to try it first in the house before reaching out as English old adage says, “Charity begins at home and it ends where it started”. Identifying themselves more loyal citizens of state than branding themselves as tribal political instruments of pleasing far Dinka never have been a preferred option as most Nuers do see Mr. Taban Deng as Dinka candidate imposed on them.
Frankly speaking, the recent voting initiative taken by Panaruu if indeed they voted that way, would have long negative political effect on them as their Nuer state mates are never happy with the way they portrayed themselves yet they are minority in the state. A political move and survival of a minority in a democratic society should not always be seen as spearheading or overriding the majority because you might never know what that strong muscle political class would think about you. It is it to determine your political happiness. Mark the word happiness.
Their political submissiveness and docility led to that rigid one way choice without proper evaluation on political seasonality and objectivity, thus resulted into that questionable behavior, however, as new wave of generation is emerging, that political tooled community would either choose to cease from being used as political propellers or remain quake to foreign ideas without defining their destiny.
The issue is not the SPLM but to have a cordial political relationship with your elder brother so that next time he feels lenient on you like the way they liaise with the seasonal political parties. Political parties go but communities remain as what God molded them so it is upon you to determine the kind of relationship you wish to have with your neighbours and this is where political philosophies meander around. It is none other than game of preserved interest.
This is actually what kills tribal politics in any given society. People don’t strive to kill tribal politics but associations in realization of who your next voter does it automatically. Any political miscalculation normally results into political miscarriage, thus creating euphoria of envy along tribal lines without giving notice to why it happened and this is where politicians fail to define the root cause of a situation.
When the current GoSS president elect, H.E. General Salva Kiir Mayardit visited Parieng County the home county of Panaruu for the first time, he made some promises after personally accessing the deplorable conditions in which that isolated Dinka community was in and none of the pledges materialized but persistently they continue voting for the SPLM without questioning the authenticity of messages given to them knowing very well that heavy pregnant promises could still be ahead especially when one talks of referendum. Hope H.E. president Kiir will remember his long awaited promises.
Lastly, in any political makeup, there is always an interest which defines why somebody or certain element supports an ideology to either death or live depending on the chance or possibility but if it is somewhere violated by one of the partners, this is where you see political divorce taking place in regard to its doctrines of allegiance. It is only he/she who is politically immature that paid a blind allegiance to a political system without defining what belongs to him and the other party.
This was where Southern Sudanese and the rest of oppressed Sudanese felt cheated by their northern brothers on an account that they fought colonial government together and after half independence was granted to all, Arabs came and started grinding an ax on Africans to further neo-colonialism. That was due to lack of fulfillment of political allegiance which I think is probably happening in unity state as soon as the well-informed Panaruu group is assuming political head way of the community.
This long historical political naivety towards the SPLM is being forged by a certain class of people in the community to foster their self ambitions without rewarding the community for their tough stand in protecting their interest. It would be upon this community to rise against this ill inculcated selfish messages by telling themselves enough is enough as their deeds tend to defame the cultural integrity without a return benefit.
Atok Dan is a member of the community in description and a journalist working for Southern Sudan radio & TV and can be reached at email@example.com, 0917221411/0955410005.