Response # 3
Nuer man request tribal debate between Nuers and Anuaks
By Kong J. Toang
The faith, love and respect to Anuak community could not be lost easily by individual thinking such as James Ojoch’s harsh language. Long ago Nuer of Gaat-jaak youth used to come to Anuaks nearby for cattle camping in dry season; this was the time when Anuaks were known for their good culture and heritage. After the youth come back home to Nuer land, you can see that their songs, dresses, drama, and other decorations were influenced by the Anuaks. At this time, individual like Ojoch have come to realize that their culture and heritage do not exist. Who is to blame? That is the question. It’s Ojoch and others thinking that let this important culture and heritage be destroyed as they mistakenly used the civilization. Hatred and killing came as a result; and “refugees from Sudan and my land was taken”, have become an issue and used it as a way of excuse.
The ANYUAK/NUER – Ojoch’s article, which I will discuss it later on in the article, is full of fallacies and recondite. It can hardly be understood unless more background check is done on Ojoch, which I eventually did. In today’s civilized world, which Ojoch poorly discussed in his article, does not welcome the cacophony language. The word “nyagat” doesn’t fit anywhere in the content of his article, but he used it anyway. This article shortly will elaborate on how the word “nyagat” is germane and how badly is being misused. The article assured that Ojoch was prattling and loquacious; you cannot be exonerated by censuring the facts. The true liberators and visionaries are not dogmatic, but are anti-exploitation of man by man.
Ojoch misunderstood what I meant by a wide margin
It takes a lot of gut for someone to lay down Ojoch’s hatreds of one ethnic group in such a manner and I personally thank my friend J. Ojoch, for responding to my Article (Conflict & Resource Management in Gambella, Ethiopia), although I would say he miss-understood what I meant by a wide margin. That Article was intended to contributes to the public debate of the region (Gambella) and what the present regime should do about grinding the differences of its people in that part of the country. I did not intend it to be a tribal debate between Nuers and Anuaks, for there are different ethnic groups that inhabit the region at this point in time. I am aware about the instability the region is now going through and quite frankly, the whole country of Ethiopia is going through the same thing. This is not because one ethnic group sees it differently from others as implied by Mr. Ojoch in his Article. I suggest Mr. Ojoch should read other newer Articles such as (Ethiopia- New leadership is crucial condition for political arrangement, by TDA, that appeared on March 31, 2006) to get the picture of what other Ethiopian citizens are saying. Ethno-centric shown by Mr. Ojoch is in fact what is killing the whole Continent of Africa, and indeed, the root causes of Gambella Massacre. It’s a disease that the colonial governments bestowed and bequeathed to African Continent.
Even the title of Mr. Ojoch’s Article “Acquiring citizenship by aggression in Ethiopia” shows how narrow minded and self-centered he looks at things. Mr. Ojoch’s world centered is on the Anuaks’s land and nothing else. He should be remind that Anuak ethnic group are locates in both South Sudan and Ethiopia, just like other ethnic groups whose land are cut in halves by the demarcation line, or by the colonial boundaries. Moreover, I am compels to remind Mr. Ojoch, that to think intellectually, you need to abandon that narrow thinking about claiming that Gambella and Akobo regions are belong to one ethnic group for this claim is baseless/meaningless, which will never work.
This is in fact my problem with the notion of ethnic Federalism because I do believe that it amount to dividing the country around ethnic line, which is contrary to “unite we stand” philosophy that allows different societies to appreciates their diversities. It’s as if Africans are the only people with major difference diversities. They have forgotten the fact that there are other ethnic groups in close proximity in other areas around the globe who are highly antagonistic towards each other’s. For instance, the Serb and the Croats, the Kurds and the Arabs, the Israelis and the Palestinian, although their aggressions are based more readily to religion than to tribal differences. Tribalism, on the contrast, “has a distinctly dark and nasty African connotation”, which Mr. Ojoch is even proud to preach to his listeners. This is a Continental problem that should be root out if Africa is to progress well in this Century (see: Africa: A Biography of the Continent, by John Reader). Looking at the Continent, one could find that: Massai are fighting it out with Kikuyu (Kenya), Tutsi v. Hutu (Rwanda), Zulu v. Xhosa (South Africa), Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo (Nigeria), Amhara, Oromo, Tigrey (Ethiopia), Anuak, Nuer, Dinka, Chollo, etc. These and other groups have at time seemed determined to eliminate each other simply because they claimed differences of birthright. They have forgotten that they in fact have more in common and that to live in their respective countries, they have to accept their differences.
On the issue of Nuer taking Anuak land
There is no doubt that the 19th Century Nuer’s migration had resulted in displacing and annexing lands from different ethnic groups in the South Sudan, including the Anuak’s land. However, that was then and this is now. Blaming people for what happened century ago is like turning a clock backward, which never work. Migration is a human phenomenon that has it roots in some unexplained reasons. Human being, like other living creatures are known for their migration behaviors. Some migrate because of natural causes in their original homeland, others because of feuds; yet, others migrate for curiosity to explorer’s new frontier. In a sense, all societies had migrated from their original place at one-time centuries earlier. I doubt that the Anuaks inhabited their presence land since time immemorial, if that is the case, it would be an exception then a rule. That is why we came to learn about the Oromo migration in the Ethiopian history, the Nuer migration in the Sudan and many others. At the International seen, you know very well that this country (U.S.A) you live in Mr. Ojoch was found through the same thing. Blaming Nuers for why they had migrated and telling them that they need to go back to where they came from last century would be like telling the American that they should go back to Europe, which I doubt would ever happened. The best time to tell them would have been to stop them when they first sat foot on that land century ago. I think you are now enjoying life in the West, which was founded by forced migration. So, it would be a contradiction for you to live here while at the same time claims that your land was taken forcefully. I don’t think that Nuer will leave their homeland, Gambella and Akobo, because you tell them too. If you don’t like it, oh well!
Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) is not about the land of Akobo or Gambella
The author of “ANYUAK/NUER - Acquiring citizenship by aggression in Ethiopia,” only deserve the acknowledgement for his misapprehension of internal fighting that has become aberrant and can hardly be disabuse due to bad engineering system; all of which he, Ojoch is praising. With no doubt, “my land was taken” is dominating the politics in some societies particularly in Anuak society. Ojoch inveigled the public as his time bomb is approaching to elapse. He did not peruse “The conflict & resources management in the Gambella region” (Kong J. Toang, Sudan Tribune, March 10/2006].) He failed to understand that I am innocuous; moreover, he missed the problem that I was trying to draw the public into, which concerns the sensitive issues that both countries are facing, so that the elites, who do not know their right and obligation, can pick it up from there. However, to some extent, it has become pain and disturbance to Ojoch and alike, who their ambition is to spoil neighborhood system and focus carelessly on diversity.
It’s my pleasure to eloquently express myself from culpability that was set by Ojoch, so that the innocent people like me who are always labeled as pernicious could protect from danger. It still remains obscure to me and many readers why Ojoch put me in his category; the category of tribal lines, in which my position as Chairman of SPLM Chapter have no way to practice the backwardness and heretical game. My work is guided by the SPLM’s principles that are anti-bias and tribalism; and hence, my work consists of equality, freedom, and justice.
Mr. Ojoch, let me precisely walk you through CPA, Gambella’s politics and Akobo demarcation, which you pretended to know:
1) Mr. Ojoch, stated it in his Article that “the Nuer see the CPA differently” which is also false and shows how twisted minded depressed person he is, for he should have known that CPA is not tribal agreement, but an agreement between the political parties (SPLM v. NIF). Individuals who objected the signing of the agreement or who don’t believe in the agreement have rights to do so not because they are Nuers, but because they objected on the ground of their party platforms or political ideology. There are many political parties and individuals both in the North and in the South Sudan that are not included in the agreement because they don’t believe in it. These Parties objected the agreement on their political ideology not on their ethnic affiliations. The individual Nuer, whom Mr. Ojoch came across their petition articles on the net stating that they don’t supports CPA did so on the ground of their political ideology, which every citizen is entitled to in any democratic country. Its often states that “there is always all sort of people in any big family”, some with different believes but are part of the family. This is in fact true if you consider Nuer ethnic group as one big extended family. There is no way that they can agree on one thing since they are so many. I would also believe that the notion of disagreeing on some political matter is not only confined to Nuer ethnic group alone. If you look at the Gambella massacre, majority of Anuak officials, including the then Governor Okello Akuaye of the region left the country for exile and now residing in Scandinavians countries. However, there are still other Anuak officials working in Gambella today, including the present Governor Omot Obang. Those people who are now working in Gambella have different vision of the situation and differs with those who left for exile. Are they not seeing Ethnic Federalism different if I may ask Mr. Ojoch? This is the nature of the political ideology. People don’t always agree on political beliefs, I think that answer your question as to why Nuer don’t agree on one thing. Democracy requires citizens to voices their disagreements with government policies openly, I hope Mr. Ojoch learn it in school if he ever attend school in this country (U.S.A). That is why you see demonstrations on the Televisions across the globe. Generalizing your blame on the whole ethnic group for the act of one or two people shows how narrow-minded and pathetic you are my friend Ojoch. I have to remind you that CPA came into fruition as a result of collective decision making within the SPLM, which is a Movement of all Sudanese irrespective of their ethnically background. Therefore, all our ethnic groups in South Sudan have a say in it because it’s our Movement and it represent all of us.
2)) Lets take the case of understanding of CPA as the glibly Ojoch, brought it into discussion. Based on his Nuer plight against marginalization on December 4, 2005, and his article, “ANYUAK/NUER - Acquiring citizenship by aggression in Ethiopia” he and his allies are platitude about CPA, and that the CPA implementation is convoluted and ambiguous in all directions. Base on his analysis, I have come to learned that we have two forms of CPA’s implementations to choose from: 1) implementation of CPA as it was signed, confronting the National Islamic Front (NIF) and National Congress People (NCP) or 2) take the extra effort to offer the CPA course to those like Ojoch, whose mentality is turning the CPA to what they like to hear. Do we actually have a time to teach the course before implementation? No, if they are behind in understanding the CPA, let him and his groups join later as they did in the struggle. The CPA is pride of 21 years civil war; people cannot be inured, because of glibly Ojoch’s belief that always wants to create impasse, and at the same time blaming the response of their own making. For the sake of peace and humanity in regions that those like Ojoch are living in, it is not impossible to enervate the thinking of that nebulous belief so that their vitality to hurt others is reduced. Let brother Ojoch be reminded of the late hero, Dr. John Garang de Mabior, remark on May 15, 2005 in Rumbek, South Sudan, “I and those who joined me in the bush and fought for more than twenty years, have brought to you CPA in a golden plate. Our mission is accomplished. It is now your turn, especially those who did not have a chance to experience bush life. When time comes to vote at referendum, it is your golden choice to determine your fate. Would you like to vote to be second class citizens in your own country? it is absolutely your choice". That alone has recanted the illusion that Ojoch and his allies are convoluting and definitely tangled many grievances that Ojoch is obviating.
The minor conflict between small subjection within Gaat-Jaak clan, Nyajaani, with the Anuak of Gilo, and conflict of Mor of Lou Nuer clan with the Anauk of Akobo cannot be used as base of tribalism, and it is yet too early to justify it as a war between Nuers and Anuaks. Nuers are about 2.5 to 3 millions in populations, its imbalance to team up against small tribe of Anuak which less than 100,000 in both countries. Whatever is happening in Lou and Gaat-Jaak areas with Anauks is not even known in Bentiu and Fangak. The whole Nuer community cannot hold accountable for the conflict of neighbors who have lived together for centuries. Generation will always come and go, but neighboring system will always be there.
Anyway, Ojoch went ahead and accused the entire community of being aggressive, nyagats, backwardness and uncivilized people. The same Ojoch also negatively accused SPLA/M Caucus Nuer in South Sudan Legislative Assembly for protesting against marginalization. He stated that “let them, the Nuers feel the heat marginazation since they have no mercy for minorities.” For the above reason, one has to realize that Ojoch is planning multiple engagements to other ethnics groups around Nuer. Also, he appointed himself to be a professor of a course he created, “My land was taken.” This is a tough course to take; I can hardly imagine if many people would like to take it.
3) “To justify their claim for equality and freedom they abhor the Dinka presence in the Moro and Mundari country where the Dinka are a cause for loss of life these days. It is a good point. But the Nuers are very brutal against the Anyuak, the Shilluk, the Murle, the Burun and the Dinkas in their borders. The Nuer have forcefully occupied lands of all these tribes and call it their own even during this time of peace. The Shilluk Kingdom was devastated by forces of SSDF dominated by Nuer with the Arab gun. The Nuers have built homes in Obel and Doleib Hill which are Shilluk domains” (J.Ojoch, 2005). Yes, the rebels are everywhere in South-North Sudan liberating people from NIF regime for the course of defending and sacrifices. By now the SSDF soldiers in Obel and Doleib Hill become SPLA/M soldiers according Juba declaration, however, Ojoch is calling for withdrawal of SPLM/A’s organization because they are not belonging to the area. That is a different history and it is a nascent; and may only happen with dead bodies visionary men. My friend Ojoch does not comprehend the CPA. In the CPA, there is no withdrawal of southerner troops within South Sudan. The SPLM is only to withdraw from North, and also the SAF will withdraw from South Sudan according to percentage that is set in CPA. For the above quote, I have come to know that Ojoch is planning a big wedding and want to rent the CPA for his wedding hall. Let us wait and see if the marriage will actually take place. Clearly, the hall will possibly be too expensive to rent.
4) In the CPA booklet, the Gambell/Akobo land was not written on any page. For certain, the South Sudan Assembly is entitled to deal with any fairness issues raised democratically and must also go through the process. I do not think that going to the media and accusing one another is the most helpful way. We have a problem facing us and we urgently have to deal with it, the NCP still sitting in our shoulder, let’s find a way to resolve it, instead of giving the enemy tips by setting our own house on fire.
The war between the neighboring does not justify being uncivilized, backwardness or nyagat
As for the blames put forth on Nuer by Mr. Ojoch, that “To those who know the Nuer well it is not surprising because in Nuer culture there is no system of law and order. As such violence is the motto and basis of manhood. Violence is the first choice for resolutions. They never had a governing body in their culture” These statements are simply untrue because if they were true, the question then would become, how a society with roughly two-three million people govern itself without laws for centuries? Or does Mr. Ojoch meant written and codify laws, which were lacking in many African societies (even the Anuak Kingdom) before colonial governments invented them for some African countries? That shows the uncivilized standards of Mr. Ojoch, for he should have known that every ethnic group on the planed has customs and norms, which are the building blocks of that society’s law. Mr. Ojoch, probably never heard about customary Law of Nuer, as well as of Dinka, for he should have known that although these laws were compiled and codified by the colonial governments, they are based on customary practices. The notion that “violence is the motto and basis of manhood initiation” is also false unless Mr. Ojoch, can tell us that he went through the Nuer manhood initiation practices and in fact participated in some violence form or another. Making thing up to satisfy one is depression here in the West is not a good way for one to waste his valuable time. And if that should be the case, which I don’t know off, what about “Bunam/Buur?” which is similar to Nuer/Dinka initiations.
There are many forms of laws societies govern themselves. Even the Nilotic people (The Nuer, Dinka, Anuak, Chollo, Murle etc) of Africa have diverse ways of governing systems. Some are pastoralist whose economy and livelihood centered on cattle business and some sort of farming, while others are farmers exclusively. For pastoralist societies like Nuer, Dinka, and Murle etc, whose economy centered on cattle business, there are complex laws that regulate that enterprise, which I don’t think Mr. Ojoch would understand and aware off. In the Nuer customary laws, like any other pastoralist society, there are contract laws, i.e., dealing with marriage transactions between individuals in the community, laws governing the homicide to compensate the wronged and to punish those who cause harms to society, and many others. These are some of the laws unless Mr. Ojoch, have some definition of what he meant by Nuer having no laws. Anuak on the other hand, are people whose political beliefs centered on King, that is, they have kingdom just like Chollo (Shilluk) and other ethnic groups in Africa. However, I am not in the position of criticizing which system is better, for I am not the judge of each culture. I personally believe that what each culture consider is good is probably good for that particular culture. That is why there are different forms of government in this world, some countries like British, Thailand, etc, prepares King or Queen, while other countries like U.S, South Africa prepares republican form of government. Some countries experimented with many forms of government to see which should be a better system for the country. For instance, Ethiopia was a Monarch before it became a republic. So, what I am saying here is that these forms of governing systems evolved from local culture to the point where they are today. Some societies prepare one man/woman above all, while others prepare collective decision-making process. That mean, if Nuer doesn’t want to be rule by king like Anuak, it doesn’t mean that they have no system of governing themselves. It means that they prepare collective decision instead of consolidating power to one person. That is, they want individuals to retain their independency, which is very important to individualistic societies like Nuer.
Possibly, there may be some atrocities that were/are committed by communities around South Sudan by any tribe due to absent of laws and order caused by civil war. Those are not acceptable at any level. Condemning one another of committing crime without good justification, is questioning our intellectuality. Crimes are happening everywhere on earth; however, laws intend to protect people. Civilization cannot protect people as Ojoch put it, if that is the case the Western world is a civilized nations, it would not even need the government as they are 300 years a head of us.
Here is the correct definition of the word, “nyagat,” so it can be used appropriately by those who would like to use it in their daily prayer or in grave yard speeches. The word “nyagat,” pronounced negade, originated from Amharic, which means trader but, Nilotic people pronounced it nyegat. In the early 1980s, Anyanya II from Bilpam turned the movement into collecting the wealth, instead of following the manifesto. As a result, SPLA/M was formed to redirect the system to reality. To win popularity, SPLA/M had to tell the people what Anyaanya II was doing wrong and that is to call the system as traders (nyagat) system. However, as the word spread out to people, they believed that somebody being calls nyagat is a traitor, looter, killer and so forth, but in reality it is not what the word means. Let us use the term correctly.
I am not trying to carry out a debate here, but rather inform the readers that Mr. Ojoch’s article is short of evidence and full of fallacies, and he is disgracing his intellectuality by insulting. “No wonder why the Nuer country is full of nyagat” he said. This is completely outrageous. I can hardly understand what he was trying to tell readers here; however, let me prove him wrong by shading some light on the government, which his civilized society supported and formed in 1991 after the fall of Derge regime when Gambella People Liberation Army/Movement took over Gambella state. It was the bloody government ever since, and the atrocities became a daily order. Finally the head of state, Mr. Agua Alemu, who was a true liberator, was assassinated by his own clan. Is this the civilization you are talking about, Mr. Ojoch?
I have to emphasis here that I have nothing against the Anuak Community as a whole, which is why I try in this article avoiding generalizing my statements. I am compels to respond to Mr. Ojoch’s statements to redirect his miss understanding to my article. Nuer and Anuak have lived side-by-side for centuries. Some time they fought each other’s and others times they supports themselves when in need of each other’s help. Many African traditions believe in diversity for it’s through diversity that makes some societies better and stronger. Its and ideal thing that should be value at all cost, after all, we are human family irrespective of one’s race, color, ethnic background etc, a global phenomenon kind of belief.
Certainly, if there is anyone to blame, it would be the weak government structure on both sides, not Anuaks or Nuer. Truly, there is no formal administration or control over the regulation and norms. Instability is likely to continue to spread with the absence of trusted law enforcement agents. While the integration of authority in the Gambella, Upper Nile region, and Jonglei state is being weakened along with the existence of divisions among the Anuuaks, Nuers Shulluk Murles Dinkas etc, the goal of civilized people is to sit down and find a way to resolve this, instead of insulting on the media. To help the region stabilize, public servants like Ojoch and I must work closely with local peace activists to build upon and enhance the capacities to reduce the incidents of violent conflict. The objective is to promote the opportunities and constituencies for dialogue and sustain peaceful coexistence to establish appropriate laws and agreed channels of dialogue with the Sudanese and the Ethiopian authorities to introduce the best practices of supporting conflict reduction.
Kong J. Toang: The author lives with his family in Des Moines, Iowa (USA). Mr. Kong is very active in the Sudanese politics. He can be reach at email@example.com