By Martin Garang Aher
It is extremely appalling to continually see the killing going on unabated in Duk Padiet for two consecutive weeks. The media puts the death toll at 89. All these deaths are due to orchestrated violence by human action. It seems there is no immediate government gangbuster amelioration in sight for the people of Dukein who have been rendered defenceless through the disarmament process that took place in the area prior to independence. One thought such a bold move by the government to dispossess ever-feuding communities of guns would be accompanied by a certain ‘decree’ or measures aimed at thwarting attacks on the people deliberately made defenceless by the state. Since disarmament was done for the sake of national security and peace, it would have been wise if security apparatus were installed prior to taking the guns away from the people.
Behold government ‘decrees’ in South Sudan apply only to some things and not others. The results are now the shocking images and figures of dead women; young children, elderly and even able bodied men who could only run around unable to ward off the catastrophe befalling their people. Where is the peace and security upon which disarmament was based upon? The roaming-and-raiding gangs of Murle are persistently and callously butchering civilians in the entire Duk counties. Where are the swarms of police of Jonglei and RSS, which we always see proudly, displayed on the SSTV?
When disarmament started in the area in 2006, nearly all the communities in Jonglei: Dinka, Murle and Nuer nagged the government over the possibility of the latter to renege on the promises of protection made to the people. They were aware that they would be left alone once they have handed in their weapons. Judging from what had happened today, they were right! The security the government promised at the time has now turned into a created disaster.
Across the country, civilians condemned disarmament and the way it was approached. The people of Cueibet complained about the repercussions but were ignored. Nearly 3700 guns were collected in Lakes state, under governorship of Daniel Awet Akot. It did not take long before we witnessed attacks by the rival communities whose disarmament process treated with caution. It did not work well too with the people of Rumbek and Yirol. In Warrap, hundreds of people were massacred after the disarmament, and unto this day, killing keeps recurring. Government responses in all these cases had never made anyone contented that state security was guaranteed for them.
But what happened in Dukein was astonishingly baffling. The government disarmed Duk first, leaving the entire community defenceless. And then later, Ayod, Twic East, Bor Nyirol and Uror were subsequently disarmed. Pibor, Pochalla, Akobo, Fangak and Pigi were left behind with these latter areas ‘presumed’ ‘less aggressive’ based on tribal attacks. This was total madness! It neither rang a bell even to Mayen Ngor, the commissioner at the time, nor has it nudged Kuol Manyang to have a second thought over it. Law abiding status had been taken as aggressiveness in the case of Duk. And if this heeding by the people of Dukein were awarded with appropriate measures of protection to the civilians, it would have sounded an authentic imperfection on the side of the government. But no protection was provided!
In 2010, a peace conference was organised by Upper Nile Youth Mobilisation for peace at Liberty Hotel. It was funded by PACT Sudan and UNMIS. In the discussions of that conference, youth leaders warned of rearmament if the government failed to provide security once they were disarmed. Of course the youth, who came from various counties including Pibor, were sceptical. Today areas that were deemed less aggressive in attacking others are the very ones massacring their neighbours, abducting children and taking livestock. The government, which thinks that South Sudan is an International Province of the West, sits and watch, sometimes shouting over the shoulder to the UN and the International Community, and in the crudest thinking of all, demands more disarmament. One couldn’t stand the Minister of Interior coming to Bor and began trumpeting about disarmament again to Kuol Manyang while the government’s past mistake still has its nasty results underway in Duk Padiet.
There is no much fortitude left for the people of Duk. The government must provide protection to the people of Duk Padiet. Though it forgot to set forth this as the precondition for disarming the county during the 2006 disarmament process, it will still be welcome. The same courage the government has in shutting down the oil pipeline is the same courage needed to provide protection to civilians. People first! The government must be a people’s government, not an oil government.
For any future disarmament to be successful, it must begin in the desert, not at home. And government must make clear to the people the measures it has taken to protect them before shifting the balance of protection. Security is exchanged with security and for the government to fear not to take head-on the marauding youth on a killing spree, what it fears for will surely come to pass.
Martin Garang Aher is a South Sudanese living in Western Australia. He can be reached at email@example.com