Acquiring citizenship by Aggression in Ethiopia.
By J. Ojoch
March 19, 2006
The Nuer are not true nomads. True nomads roam for water and grazing only. The Nuer roam in the grass and water leaving so much behind but thirsty for more new lands.
The Nuer want others to endure their presence for diversity to flourish [Kong J. Toang, Sudan Tribune, March 10/2006].
For the Nuer the way to earn acceptance and recognition is to fight and then make peace. To the outsiders it is surprising. 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. Even today they remain antagonistic in the Southern Sudan and Ethiopia. They see the CPA differently. They see the Ethiopian federalism differently. The notion of and living under a government is alien to them. No wonder why the Nuer country is full of “nyagat”. They fit nowhere. The first time they saw law and order was when the British arrived. The British wanted a liaison with the Nuer society. So leaders had to be nominated to work with the British administration. But the spirit of arbitrary action never vanished. The Nuer authority rests on individuals or splinter groups who take action on their own any time. For example, we saw recently in Jonglei what happened at Yuai. A white army splinter attacked the SPLA soldiers who went to welcome them into the peace process now that Matiep joined the SPLA. The loss of life there was as a result of arbitrary action.
Contrarily the Anyuak had and still have kings and chiefs. Arbitrary action in the Anyuak society is out of question. Law and order is always in place. For this reason crime involving human life is very minimal in the Anyuak community in contrast to the Nuer community which teems with blood all the time. Diversity to the Anyuak must come as a result of peaceful interaction, not by imposition.
Migration is a thing of the past fitting that period. The world of ancient migrants has changed and is more civilized today. The Nuer are yet in the ancient world with their migration. They cherish it because it is an arbitrary process and a source of pride for them. The present migration and the present intimidation of neighbors stem out of the outrageous whims and covetous nature of the Nuer nation in groups, clans or individually. The arbitrary behavior, the migration and resultant aggression are a function of manhood and power in the Nuer culture. Historically, the Nuer migration came to a halt in all directions by 1860. But the lust, the whims and the urge to move and acquire continued to this day becoming a basis to cause war and bloodshed with the Anyuak in the Anyuak territory and in other places in the Sudan. A Nuer man is born to go out to do the unthinkable.
Often the excuse is blamed on competition for water and grazing for Nuer to wander afield across unknown territory. This trend of movement is relevant elsewhere with true nomads. The Nuer case is different. It is a show of guts and power. If it were for water and grazing for the cattle, the Nuer got enough land, water and fishing grounds already acquired over time. For example, all the rivers flowing from the Anyuak territories pour into the Nuer acquired lands and home land with all the fish in it. The flood plains of the Jikany are rich and lush grazing grounds during the dry season. Going upstream to get more water, fish, or grass for the cattle is a very meaningless and an irrelevant adventure.
With all the natural resources available to the Jikany Nuer, they are not satisfied to settle down for a meaningful life. The continuity to move east into the Anyuak zone is the quest for land and lust to impose; lust to take by force to show manhood, strength and recognition and hence to gain social acceptance. In their sense it is how diversity must come. Raiding the Anyuak and others is a sport for the young men who initiate into manhood after the initiation ordeal. The young men get out of seclusion wild and ready for recklessness. Each generation must do something extraordinary, that is, to go out to fight the Anyuak for more land and to loot cattle from others. When will the Nuer think of doing something else than antagonism, anarchy and fighting? Among the Nuer are great scholars but yet there is no change in the methods of living among themselves leave alone with others. The popular word is: If our grandfathers migrated and won, we must migrate also to win [Pal Thokbuom Deng, The Eastern Jikany Migration and the Evolution of their Political System, March 01, 2006, MGERF articles, Maiut.net].
All wars were and are always fought on Anyuak soil. The only time the Anyuak ever took the fight into the heart of Lou was in 1910-11. The Lou Nuer were chased way out to the Zaraf River. The Anyuak would have settled had not the British pre-empted them. That was to show the Nuer the misery of occupation.
With the above narration the readers understand how adventurous the Nuer are to this day. Even the elite who are expected to teach the populace encourage this trend of life style. The Nuer is a race proud of bad things. The Anyuak resist the Nuer encroachment in all its forms not because of misunderstanding the value of diversity as asserted by Kong J. Toang [Conflicts and Resource managent in the Gambella region, Sudan Tribune, March 10/2006]. Not because the Nuer are less human. It is because aggressive diversity is unacceptable. Understanding diversity is not by giving up land to please other parties. Diversity should not be enforced by intrusion and war. Peace cannot come after cheating the Anyuak. Peace cannot take place with the Nuer in the Anyuak house after pushing the Anyuak outside. Where is the civilized logic that Kong wanted the audience in Ethiopia and Sudan to hear?
Kong analysed the consequences of the Abwobo Dam as a case that caused the Cieng Nyajaani to move into the Anuak land. The readers already know that going upstream for more water is meaningless unless there is some other agenda. It is even much more troubling when the Nyajaani chose to go upstream of another river. True, the Dam reduced the water levels of Aluoro and Ciru down the course. The Pokedi villages are also below the dam. The Anyuak of Pokedi did not move anywhere. There is enough water for all purposes. Aluoro River has no connection with Makuey. Makuey is another river that falls into Sobat [Baro, Openo] at a different point. Hence no connection with Abwobo dam. Cieng Nyajaani are not affected in any way by the dam.
The Dam flooded Abwobo town too. The residents of that town were compensated for their homes and permanent farm plants. That was not enough but they did not complain and did not migrate. Abwobo people built another Abwobo nearby. But it is not a good reason to drive the Cieng Nyajaani upstream of another river to get water. There were and are short cuts to water for the Nyajaani if there was a problem at all. The Cieng Nyajaani had access to the Sobat [Baro] at Jikou and the environs if Makuey river water evaporated. Instead they went upstream to Akado, Opanya, marching towards Gambella town which Kong said was “voting by foot”. Is that the search for water? The fact is, the Cieng Nyajaani were running away from blood feud with the other clans adjacent to Makuey who are closer to the Sobat River banks. They killed a person. They had to run to escape the revenge. Now Kong is lying big on their behalf that the government in Gambella did not provide water for the Cieng Nyajaani. The Nyajaani could not be accommodated at Lare, the seat of “Nuer government”. The Opuo rejected them after a fight. Other Nuer clans could not even accommodate them. If the Nuer clans cannot live together, share together, what kind of diversity do the Anyuak expect of the Nuer?
Kong also touched severely on the Gambella administration under the Anyuak when Mengistu fell. The Anyuak fought Mengistu while the Nuer were enjoying life with Thuath Pal and Joshua De Lual at the helm of power in Gambella. When Mengistu fell they had no choice but to run home to Nuer territory taking everybody along. All Nuer fled and were booed on the way homeward by the other Nuer along the way. Those who did not run were those caught up by the wave in Addis Ababa. Yet the Anyuak accepted all of them back. It was not impossible to shut the border then. But that war was not about Nuer. It was a revolution against a brutal government. Those who did not have a purpose to die for did not go out to fight that regime but had to run for dear life when their government fell. They went home quickly traveling day and night. The assertion that the Anyuak went on rampage to kill the Nuer elite is a complete misrepresentation. If that happened, the Nuer would have totally gone away. It happened at Akobo when Sijin Banak killed the Anyuak using the Arab government apparatus. The Anyuak fled Akobo town and the surroundings. The Nuer would not have the guts that much to stay on in the face of killing of the magnitude described by Kong.
The atrocities and killing of the Anyuak by the SPLA in Piny-Udo was indeed generated by the Nasir faction who wanted to topple Garang. Thuath and Joshua were the men who used the Gambella power to advance the Nuer aspirations against Garang. These officials and the Nasir faction drew a wedge between the Anyuak and the Dinka and refugees at large with the hope that the Anyuak would form alliance with the Nuer to overthrow Garang. The whole equation was to remove Dinka from Ethiopia by using the Anyuak anger. Unfortunately the Anyuak did not lose focus to see the real killer behind the scene. The SPLA did not come to Ethiopia because the Nuer opened the way for it. The SPLA went to Ethiopia as Anya-Nya I and Anya-Nya II did. On the way to Bilpam, the Nuer killed a lot of Dinka passing through their territory. The Anyuak did not blame the Nuer [or Thuath and Joshua] for the presence of the SPLA in the region. It was the sabotage that the Nuer officials did to spill the Anyuak blood to help the Nasir faction against the Dinka. It was a dangerously calculated politics.
Gambella government politics entails different meanings to outsiders. It is not the backward development in the region nor the Anyuak jealousy for highlanders’ businesses as claimed in the article cited above that generated problems. The Anyuak did not and do not like two things to infringe on their lives. One, the Anyuak did not want the EPRDF military to dictate their affairs. Everything was imposed on Gambella government in the form of a calculated order from the capital through the EPRDF representatives and appendages. The autonomy therefore was not practically genuine. The other thing was the Nuer imposition and war attitude in quest for power coupled with the pressure of Nuer numbers roaming the region fighting with the farmers. Consequently the Anyuak requested their constitutional rights to stay alone, and the Nuer to form a local government at Lare for them to have a complete power in their hands. This would resolve the political frictions. At long last the Nuer have a government in Lare. Yet they are not content. They want more.
The Nuer have acquired Ethiopian citizenship by aggression already. The statistics of population quoted is disputable because it was cooked by Joshua, inflating it with refugees and people who never existed. The road to Sudan is opened at this time. Refugees will return home. The next census will be different.
The acceptance of the Nuer in Ethiopia by the upper government was not without reason. The rulers above in the capital wanted to keep the border people tangled in feuds to keep them away from national politics. The government found an Anyuak rival. This is true in Southern and Eastern Ethiopia. It is the same equation here in Gambella. The Anyuak therefore wanted a solution which the Nuer and the highlanders saw in a different way each looking for own advantage while on the surface siding against the Anyuak. The Highlanders saw that if the Nuer went away, the Anyuak attention will concentrate on them. The highlanders had experienced expulsion in other regions of members who did ethnically belong there. For example, the Oromo expelled the Amhara, the Tigre and vise versa. So they did not want a thing like that to happen to them in Gambella, a thing which the Anyuak did not even think about. Behind all that the highlanders did not want their power challenged.
The Nuer purpose of living on earth is to get the Anyuak land at any cost. So the Nuer saw that if they went away encroachment and migration will totally stop. Getting the Anyuak land will be difficult. Their intrusion and marauding attitude will single out. The two groups advised themselves to stay tight against the Anyuak. It is a game play that built up tension over time. This pressure was supported by the government to protect the highlanders’ interests and embracing the Nuer to maintain the border conflicts. Since the Nuer and the highlanders have interests to safeguard they did not see the Anyuak plight otherwise. There is and was, indeed, no chance the Anyuak would accept diversity that way.
Now there is a government in Lare. Are the Nuers not happy about it? Some good and sensible Nuer individuals have even confided and said openly that it was wrong for the Nuer to impose so much on the Anyuak in their towns now that the Lare administration is functional. The solution is almost near with Lare government in place. The Lare people are developing their district freely without worry of conflict with the Anyuak. They have also sifted their ranks and exposed the Nuer elite from Sudan not to compete with them for jobs. Such persons finally ran to Sudan to enjoy the CPA.
At present the Anuak are helping the Lare government with technical personnel in agriculture, education, infrastructure etc. This is the way the diversity can flourish spontaneously, not by war. The Lare government has rejected all other Nuer roaming about in their region. That is why you see the Cieng Nyajaani lurking behind the Anyuak settlements. All Nuer sections, in districts, sub-districts, must settle for development to reach them. If Lare Nuer did not sit down, development would not have reached them. At this time Lare market is booming. The Gon and the Mor must learn from Lare and settle in Lou for development to reach them. Fighting for Akobo waters is not a safe way to diversity.
The massacre of the Anyuak by the EPRDF did not occur overnight. What was seen on December 13/2003 was a conclusion of the plan. If it was not a plan a list of wanted persons could not be generated during the chaos. Time for oil drilling was near. The EPRDF saw that drilling will not be smooth if the Anyuak were not neutralized first. The highlanders also have sensed the building tension that the ambush of a car, which was not proven to be an Anyuak creation, became the perfect pretext to implement the plan. Once the Anyuak were done it was expected that the Nuer would finish them off and dominate the land and its people. That was why the EPRDF quickly announced the killing as a Nuer-Anyuak ethnic fight.
However, at the end of the massacre both the government and the Nuer were surprised by the aftermath fever. The Anyuak in Diaspora raised the massacre to international heights that put the heat on Meles Zenawi to this day. Ethiopia was accused of genocide to account for the Anyuak lives. The highlanders started moving out of the region fearing Anyuak retaliation. Some never returned back.
The Nuer surprise was that the EPRDF smeared them with the killing calling the massacre a Nuer-Anyuak conflict. This is what has been designed for border conflict excuses. Once the Nuer were implicated by the government they had no way but to keep aloof from it all. Without that smearing the Nuer could have easily devastated the Anyuak further while the Anyuak were frightened and on the run. Some wise Nuer saw the massacre as something coming for the Nuer also once the Anyuak are subdued. The smearing curtailed Nuer action. Nuer as Nuer would have filled up the vacuum. Also some Nuer anticipated highly that a Nuer would be president of the region now that the Anyuak were out of politics. The Nuer celebrated in the USA, Canada and the Sudan. It did not happen. This was another bad message for the Nuer.
The Gambella region will get peace in the future. The EPRDF will not be there forever. The first prerequisite for peace is for the Nuer to settle for development to go to them. Once the Nuer settle the government in Lare will be stronger to present claims for development to regional and national houses. While the Nuer is on the move and fighting on the road to new lands, development will not be in their favor therefore prolonging Gambella conflicts. Anyuak do not follow the Nuer. It is the Nuer that follow everywhere with the cattle, women and children. The Anyuak always tried to make gaps wider to avoid conflicts. Yet the Nuer took this as a cowardly retreat. The Nuer are insensitive to the goodwill and feelings of others.
To sum up, the case with the highlanders is politics. The ordinary highlanders are there for business. They already feel the results of their actions in concert with the government against the Anyuak. Those brought to settle do not move from where the government put them. The highlanders’ general stay may depend on how long the EPRDF will rule. Any other government may have a different approach altogether. In the meantime the trust between them and the Anyuak is limited. They do not have a backyard to hide in. So they feel the pain more than the Anyuak do. Peace will surely come as attitudes change within the highlanders’ society and the government itself. Peace will come with Nuer settlement.
The plight of Cieng Nyajaani cannot be blamed on Abwobo Dam. The Cieng Nyajaani must settle the blood feud than running from it. Only then can they be free. Miration for no relevant reasons must stop if the Nuer want to show their arrival into the civilized world. The ancestors did what they did because it fitted those conditions.
Overall, history has taken its course to bring the Nuer and the highlanders to the Anyuak land. It should not be blamed for the present problems. It is the selfishness and the tyrany of the comers to demand more of the Anyuak that is to blame.