Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Presidential Affairs Minister Raises Eyebrows with Ground Breaking Proposals for Ending Tribal Conflict in Gogrial in Warap State

By John A. Akec

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.


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.


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.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Quiet Monologue with SPLM Secretary General, Pagan Amum (Part 2)

For some of us, telling it as it is, is much easier than any attempts at conjuring up a pleasant but non-existent reality

John A. Akec


This is my second instalment of a series of articles in which I would like to bring up a number issues to the attention of Secretary General of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement’s (SPLM), Pagan Amum, pertaining to South Sudan.

The first article brought up to Secretary General’s attention what many of us have noted as SPLM’s double standards, even hypocrisy, when it has come out in full force to sensitise the world and mobilise aid for the citizens of Abyei who have been displaced by recent fighting between Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and Sudan Armed Forces (SAF). At the same time the party in form of government of South Sudan (GOSS) has been unable to exert even a fraction of effort, comparatively speaking, to cater for the needs of those displaced by intra tribal conflicts in Warap, Lakes, Eastern Equatoria, and Jonglei, among others.

The situation in East and West Gogrial Counties is particularly desperate where 3-year long conflict has been raging between Apuk and Aguok Dinka sections. The government of South Sudan led by SPLM has been suspected by citizens of the affected counties of official cover up, partiality, and blocking media access to the area and thus preventing the public and the world to know the statistics of those displaced and real scale of the devastation caused by this conflict that has displaced thousands of people from their homes. While the GOSS lack of enthusiasm to conflict has bordered complicity.

The effort to sensitise the world about situation in Abyei and mobilise aid though commendable and essential, it has been difficult to reconcilable with SPLM response to similar situations in Gogrial East and West Counties in Warap State and other areas in South Sudan affected by ethnic and tribal wars.

And if we correctly read the recent speech by SPLM Chairman following the signing of the Roadmap agreement on Abeyi, it suggests that SPLM can cooperate with National Congress party (NCP) to "make Abyei a model of ethnic coexistence," while the same SPLM finds it impossible to help the people of Apuk and Aguok in Warap State, for example, to live peacefully with one another.

To put it differently, SPLM will work hard to make a lamb and lion live side by side in Abyei, while it has been unable so far to help sheep and sheep share a stable in Gogrial East and West in Warap state.

And as much as I rejoice sincerely with the giant steps taken forward in Abyei by the SPLM through the recent signing of a Roadmap Agreement with NCP, I am deeply saddened and troubled by continuing backward march of the Party in many places in South Sudan, as far as security and peaceful coexistence between tribes and groups are concerned. This is a backward march that threatens to sink SPLM popularity.

In this second part of my monologue with Secretary Pagan Amum, I want to touch on issues related to spending of our financial resources on poorly conceived and badly manned institutions. I will mention some of GOSS’ commissions as exemplary cases.

I would like to assure comrade Pagan at the outset that for some of us, telling it ‘as it is’, is much easier than any attempts at conjuring up a pleasant but non-existent reality.


Commissions are very useful institutions for doing great good for the government and the citizens of a country if they are well conceived and manned with people with right skills, expertise, experience, and aptitude.

Commissions are a way to bring transparency and good practice to, and widening public participation in government. But most importantly, I think, commissions are a means for channelling knowledge, expertise advice, and feedback about the impact of policies on the public back to the executive, judiciary, and law-making bodies of a government.

In order to be effective, commissions should be ran as quasi-governmental organisations (QUANGOS) that are government-funded and accountable to the executive and legislative body yet enjoy a large degree of independence from the government. This independence allows commissions to be objective advisors to the executive and other branches of the government by telling truth even if it is painful and not what the government expects to hear. And by their very nature and mandate, commission are distant cousins of research and academic institutions, albeit much more closely grounded in policy-making and daily reality.

Commissions should be staffed with people with right expertise and rich experience in the core areas of mandate and can bring into them transferable skills and experiences. Experienced and veteran politicians with clean and good track record, ex-company executives, and "bright’ and high-flying academics make for good and successful commissioners. There is no shortage of people with such credentials in South Sudan today if any one cares enough to look for them.

Measure the above criteria against what we call GOSS commissions, and you would agree with me, Comrade Pagan, that this has been too tall an order for the SPLM party to match when it formed these commissions.

From what I know about these commissions, GOSS did not prioritise what commission to form and what to delay until later time given our limited resources and the necessity of making a maximum impact on citizens’ lives in as shortest time as possible. It would appear that the commissions were hurriedly formed with help of enthusiastic but myopic SPLM members without wider consultation with those in the know. Some commissions have been given very narrow mandate when it should have been wider. Others were ill-conceived. And yet other important commissions that should have been created have been left out.

The HIV/AID Commission, for example, should have been named and mandated as Health Commission. HIV/AID is a grave health issue among many others. But we know that malaria and water born diseases alone kill more people in a year than all other diseases combined. There are no commissions for environment, energy, communications, and transport. And yet there is a Land Commission. Again with very narrow mandate when it should be more inclusive. What is it supposed to do without putting into consideration sustainability and land use issues which are essentially environmental in nature? At this stage where we are laying foundations to national infrastructure that is very fundamental to our future economic growth and development, protecting environment by pursuit of sustainable development should be top priority at the outset. Further good communications is also essential for economic growth in our increasingly globalised world. Land Commission should have been named and mandated as Land and Environment Commission.

Then we have problem of appointing the right commissioners. Again we have seen many square pegs being placed in round holes. And would appear GOSS Commissions became the targets for employment of relatives, associates, and friends of SPLM commanders with little regard to competence, expertise, and aptitude.

And the result? Not many of these Commissions have published a single worthy report since their day of inception except the Anti-Corruption Commission which has been more visible and vocal than any of GOSS Commissions.

Top of the list of incompetence is the GOSS Human Right Commission. Three yeas after launch, the Commission recently published its first report. Unfortunately, the report said nothing new but talked about Commission mandate and urged MPs to campaign for human rights. It said that that all conflicts in Sudan have been caused by abuse of human rights. This we all know besides being too general to be of any use. That Commission has "started realisation of a long journey of human rights in Southern Sudan", without explaining how. That "The [presidential] Decree gave us [them] obligation to ensure the Establishment of Human Rights in Southern Sudan…." But what has the Commission done so far to achieve this goal is any body's guess.

In short, there was nothing to report except to say that "[the Human Rights] Commission would produce a report on human rights situation in Southern Sudan at the end of the month."
The question is: Why all this fuss when Human Rights Commission should have delivered its first report on this coming big day at the end of next month? This is nothing but self-professed incompetence and waste of public resources, typical of many GOSS Commissions and institutions of governance.

What SPLM should have done in its Second Convention was to evaluate all these Commissions after experience of three years. Here as in many areas of governance the SPLM party has so far been incapable to showcase New Sudan beginning with South Sudan.
I wonder, Camrade Pagan, how feasible it is that the SPLM will take us to New Sudan by following the same methods that created the Old Sudan.

To be continued.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Quiet Monologue with SPLM Secretary General, Pagan Amum (Part1)

"Oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them" – an old political adage.

John A. Akec


I was very fortunate to listen to a long speech by Mr. Pagan Amum, the secretary general of Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM), during a fund-raising event organised by Abyei High Council for Civil Society under his patronage on Friday 5th May 2008 at St. Matthews Catholic Church in Khartoum. The event was intended to raise funds to help the hundred thousand or so Abyei citizens who have been displaced by recent fighting between Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and Sudan Armed forces (SAF). Mr Amum explained to the gathering the suffering inflicted on the people of Abyei as a result of refusal of National Congress Party (NCP), SPLM’s coalition partner in the government of National Unity, to implement Abyei Protocol as well as rejecting the recommendations of Abyei Boundary Commission (ABC).

The event that was planned for two days running featured many poets and musicians from all over Sudan, including South Sudan’s international artist Emmanuel Kembe. At the height of celebrations, Mr Amum and his wife madam Suzan Deng Amum took to the floor carrying baskets around and asking audience to dig into their pockets to make monetary contributions (besides what the attendees might had paid at the entrance). I thought this was shrewd and cool of the couple. This fund-raising event was crowned by Mr. Amum himself making a personal contribution that was worth one-month of his salary.

In his approximately one hour speech, Pagan Amum did not mince his word but put the responsibility for the Abyei’s carnage squarely at the door of NCP and president Omer Al Bashir: "All these atrocities were committed by the so called People’s Armed Forces which never fired a single bullet against a foreign army since Sudan’s independence in 1956!….President Bashir is responsible for the death and displacement of 100 thousand Abyei citizens 100% " he told his cheering audience. I agreed with comrade Pagan 100%.

As I watched Pagan Amum and reflected on his marked departure from what older generations of South Sudanese politicians would have said given an opportunity to use the same platform I breathed a sigh of relief that perhaps my generation of politicians is doing something right by continuing to fearlessly confront the status quo. This if anything, is a taste of freedom, and a step towards the establishment of democratic culture in Sudan.

However, the purpose of my article was not confined to singing the song of praises of Pagan Amum for the good that he does to our communities (important that is occasionally) but to raise some concerns with him about where his party is faltering. I would like to do this by raising a sample of issues that SPLM as a South Sudanese ruling party and a senior coalition partner in the government of national unity should have addressed effectively but so far has not done so. Pagan Amum is a man of power and has numerous avenues to communicate with Sudanese people from all walks life (myself included), but for me I am merely a blogger. This is still good enough for us to communicate, albeit monologuely.


I went to the fund-raising event to support the people of Abyei that is undisputedly southern. Six years ago, I warned our political establishment that the region could become a Sudan Kashmir, that it is the responsibility of Southern Sudanese to return its administration to South, not that of people of Abyei. I am not so sure if my warning was heeded, but I am pleased that some attention is being paid by SPLM to the region.

However, despite my pleasure to be part of fund-raising effort, I went to the event with heavy heart. Some of my colleagues I spoke to declined my invitation not because they have anything against the people of Abyei, but because of what they perceived as SPLM leadership hypocrisy and double standards: "As the Abyei fund-raising event is being launched by SPLM secretary general, many South Sudanese citizens in Lietnhom, Alek, Gogrial, and Kuajok are hiding in the bush in fear of being attacked by their own Dinka tribesmen. Many of them have lost everything including their loved ones…., and no one in SPLM cares", one of them told me by phone. And this is a bitter truth.

Thousands in Gogrial East and West Counties in Warap State have been forced to evacuate their homes and move to neighbouring areas to avoid being further victims of 3-year old Apuk-Aguok conflict. Unlike the people of Abyei, the citizens of Warap State affected by this vicious tribal war are directly under jurisdiction of the government of South Sudan (GOSS) controlled by the SPLM. Me and many of my friends from the affected areas have been watching the situation for the last 3 years with utter dismay at the lack of will by authorities to seek a fair and speedy resolution of the conflict.

Not only that, the common man and woman caught up in the conflict are increasing loosing faith in neutrality of their government in this conflict. The ammunition stores have been broken into many times, partial disarmaments have been carried out followed by attacks on the disarmed groups by those who have not been disarmed, SPLA trucks have been suspected to have been used to facilitate transport for some groups to attack their neigbours who apparently are less favoured by the government, the intervention of security and armed forces to end the conflict has been non-existent at best and partial or selective at worst, the conflict is increasingly taking a regional nature with different neighbouring tribes taking sides morally or materially. And the response of government of South Sudan to the conflict has been ineffective.

Back to camrade Pagan Amum, despite many great speeches here and there it is great shame that people of South Sudan in general and of citizens of Gogrial East and West, can say that they are yet to see the glowing slogans turned into security, peace, justice, equality. People of East and West Gogrial who are not part of the power struggle suspected to pull the triggers of this devastating tribal war long for a taste of New Sudan and can’t find any.

It is no good for SPLM leaders, Pagan included, to feed us with smooth speeches similar to that of an opposition party (that is powerless) when the fact is that it has a piece of land with size of France and billions of dollars income and yet has been incapable for 3 years to provide security, led alone development to people under its care. As things stand, the writing on the wall is that SPLM party is letting down people of Sudan Sudan.

New Sudan should begin with Southern Sudan, else, after a while everyone will be fed up with empty slogans and speeches that are never translated into tangible actions.

Comrade Pagan Amum is reminded here that power does not last forever. It is something that can be lost. What I am seeing as a citizen of South Sudan is that SPLM power is being squandered with nothing to show for; and despite many cheers of last Friday at St. Mathews Catholic Church, I would like to remind my comrade in struggle that there are many angry and hungry people in South Sudan; that the hunger and anger of the underdogs of South Sudan will soon or later catch up with SPLM.

To be continued.