JUBA, South Sudan - Jonglei state is making international headlines again due to all the bad things happening there – severe flooding and deranged murderous rampage. Rivers of blood continue to flow in the country almost 10 years after the bloodiest conflict in our living history ended. Pulses of violence continue to erupt again, and again and the response of the security agencies has been extremely preferential, tardy and utterly unprofessional indeed nationwide.
The 20th of October unprovoked massacre of unarmed women, children and the elderly in Ajuong and Pakeer Payams of Twï County is profoundly sad beyond words. The casualties are staggering with 78 dead, 88 wounded with most in critical conditions, 24 children and women abducted; 25,000 heads of cattle are looted and 144 houses burnt to ashes. Yet, there has not been a single word from the Presidency, which is quiet telling. President Salva is busy preparing to welcome Bashir (the chief financier of the murders and Butcher of Khartoum) and could not spare to lift even an eyelid for the people in Twï County. Wani Igga, his wallowing Deputy, is busy celebrating “World Hands Washing Day”. Apparently, he is too busy teaching people in Juba how to wash their hands to avoid getting diarrhea. How about those who are dying and will not be able to welcome Bashir, or the dead and the dying who will not mind a bout of diarrhea in exchange for life?
Leadership is severely lacking in general but it is not the lack of leadership that innocent, unarmed people are massacred repeatedly; rather it is the wanton murderous behaviour of a group of people which must be stemmed at all cost. The army has had many things to say and done absolutely nothing except to let loose their lips. The SPLA has failed to carryout its function of protecting the citizens and their livelihoods. It categorically refused on 20th of October to airlift the wounded for medical treatment or even fly in medical aid. Its reasons being, that only two helicopters of the 10 in the fleet were airworthy, the area being under severe flooding, lack of fuel and a litany of other excuses. The citizens of Ajuong and Pakeer in Juba and diaspora contributed money and hire planes to fly the wounded to Bor and Juba and provide medical aid and supplies.
SPLA’s often cited reason of lacking resources and means of responding timely is a brazen lie and an insult because it receives more than forty (40) percent of the national budget. What do the Generals do with the money? In a self-respecting nation, the Minister of Interior and the Minister of Defence would have resigned in disgrace because they failed in their most fundamental duty, that of protecting the citizens. In this case, they must resign starting with the Minister of Defence who is continuing his legacy of “tragedy of errors” first as the Minister of Transport, then as a Governor and now as the Minister of Defence.
The peoples of Twï, Duk and Bor counties are victims of their own government. The MPs from these constituencies know this very well and continue to serve in a government that does not care, provide and or facilitate for the security of their constituents. It begs the question – whom are they serving? Are they serving themselves or the constituents who are being butchered? They too should resign their government posts in Juba and return to rebuild Jonglei State. The peoples of Twï, Duk and Bor have suffered and endured relentless unprovoked assaults on numerous times from Murle community and its affiliate militia over the last five years. This unfortunate statehood is reinforced and the disturbing amount of casualties keeps rising thanks to a preferential disarmament policy by the government in Juba.
The four counties of Jieng and Anyuak were the first to be disarmed. The communities in the other seven counties have been left with their arms and have gone on to butcher each other and the disarmed citizens of Twï, Duk, Bor, and Pochalla Counties. Ethnic strife in the country has been justified, dismissed and many excuses have been provided to explain it. Hostile tribal and clan rivalries that predate the present nation state, competition for resources, banditry, mercenary rebellions championed by Khartoum are some hypotheses put forward. The government, NGOs and many other observers can put forth all sorts of explanations but we all know it boils down to a basic point – lack of a government that is accountable. All problems of insecurity would fade away gradually if there is a strong, effective and efficient government and protective security apparatus among the people. It is as simple as that. The government must fly the flag equally in all parts of the country and provide all necessary security and administrative authority and requisite equal economic and social support in all states and not just the seat of government in Juba.
The government must also level the playing field in Jonglei, it has to either disarm those who have arms or protect those who do not have arms. If the government selectively protects its citizens, the unprotected must look at protecting themselves, it is only fair and their natural right they do that. Therefore, Twï, Duk and Bor civilians must rearm if the government is not capable of protecting them due to lack of resources.