By Jesus Panther Deng
Dear Mr President,
Greetings, Your Excellency! First, congratulations on your new political relationship with opposition leader, H.E Dr Riek Machar Teny which brought us a much needed political stability in the entire nation.
Your Excellency, as you are celebrating political stability in Juba, the blood of innocent people of Jonglei state is continuing dripping day and night due to increasing cattle rustling occasioned and fanned by the proliferation of illegal arms, lawlessness and poverty.
The purpose of this letter is to let you and your government know the massacres going on in Jonglei state, to point out your government failures in addressing the deteriorating situation and possible future solutions.
To begin Your Excellency, on 31st October 2018 as the nation celebrates your new profound political relationship with Dr Riek Machar Teny and other opposition leaders which yielded us a political peace, the people of Jonglei state your excellency, instead of celebrating with the fellow south Sudanese, they went on with their usual business of wailing, burying, nursing, mourning and organizing of funerals which has been going on now for decades if not centuries.
On Tuesday 30th October 2018 when the nation was at euphoria on the eve of peace celebration, your Excellency, the entire state of Jonglei came under heavy attacks in different locations just hours to the day of celebration.
In Duk Payuel County at the far north of the state, the bunch of bandits believed to be from neighboring Buma state, Murle’s criminals in particular carried a heavy attack on innocent people which left number of precious lives lost and many scores injuries. This happened on Tuesday just some hours to a scheduled peace celebration day on Wednesday. Similarly, the same place was attacked back in November 2017 where over 40 people lost their lives and more than 50 children abducted plus herds of cattle drove away by the same bandits from Murle community.
Again On 31st October 2018, your Excellency, gangs of gun-sling raiders’ storm Akot village in unarmed cattle camp in Jalle Payam at night, shooting innocent people on sight before drove away the entire herds of cattle leaving the entire village devastated and in dismal. The situation turned more havoc as the entire cattle camp and surrounding villages were attacked at exactly mid night when the entire camp was at deep sleeping. The bandits started shooting at all the directions at anything which caused anarchy and more chaotic.
In that very attack in Jalle Payam, at least 9 helpless, armless innocent children, young, old men and women are confirmed to have been massacred by the attackers and scores with serious injuries. The armed criminals raided and went away with everything mostly cattle. The survivors mostly women, children and the old have deserted their villages for safety in the swamp areas mostly.
In contemporary, Duk Payuel County and Kolnyang Payam plus others within the state were/are in constant counter attacks resisting the bunch of bandits from the same community.
As all these attacks, killings, anarchy, wailing of innocent people for rescue and displacements are happening in your watch and responsibility Your Excellency, neither you as a head of the entire nation nor your government representatives issued a statement condemning the attacks, rescuing lives and properties or simply giving words of comfort to the victims at that trying moment. I don’t know whether you or your government were/ are aware about the tragic incidents that happened or happening in Jonglei or your government simply ignored as usual.
Your government as usual, never felt like tragedy has happened to part of its population and thoughts to procrastinate the event (celebration) and rescue the people and their properties, instead your government went on with preparations of scheduled peace celebration when one part of the country was seriously bleeding and decreasing. This throws the primary responsibility of your government into serious questioning your Excellency.
This is not the first time these two places are not at ease or entire Greater Bor together with its peaceful neighbors came under such a heavy attack, it is something that has been going on for decades. All other successive military and civil regimes that ruled our country Sudan before experienced the same frustration of warning after warning and round of loosely disarmament after another, but with no any tangible success.
Your Excellency, since you took over the administration of southern Sudan in 2005 to South Sudan independence in 2011, Jonglei state insecurity has gone worst and is getting worse than ever under your watch and responsibility. This has slowly vanished the previous hopes, subjective or slogans that when we get our own administration (independence), things will turn better especially the state security.
Mr President, due to long oppression, neglect, increasing insecurity and marginalization of the region by Sudanese past regimes in the course of our struggle for independence from Sudan, the region was forced to armed itself like other region in the country just for the purpose of defending itself against the merciless successive Sudanese Islamic regimes mostly government militias that used to raids villages searching for government’s dissidents and rebels supporters by then. In 2010 when there was total political space and peace in the then Sudan, your then southern government ordered the disarmament of the region and return of small arms in the hands of civilians to rightful places to curb out the deteriorating insecurity. The initiative was overwhelmingly welcome by the sons of the land with expectation that your government will take over the full responsibility of state security and also your government would fully equally disarm the common criminals. Surprisingly this became merely wishes as the enemy became more aggressive against the state and your government never took or thinking of taking a whip crack on enemy side.
Following that disarmament, the terrorists took full advantage of region venerability and started carrying out the constant attacks, ambushing and massacring innocent people like rates and looting of their properties like they will never come again for more.
For example Your Excellency, in December 2011 after your government had disarmed the region and handed over its full responsibility into the hands of bandits, the men estimated to be of more than 300 fully dressed up in military fatigue, military well equipped with moderns heavy machine guns believed to be from Murle criminals took advantage of already emasculated state security and carried out the first worst ever massacre in Jalle Payam in the history of greater Bor since you took over the administration of southern Sudan. The bandits indiscriminately and inhumanely slaughtered kids, elderly men and women, burning people and livestock alive inside their huts. In that attack, more than 40 innocent children, women, young men, elderly men and women were massacred and all their belonging most cattle taken.
This again was followed by another worst massacre on Ajuong and Pakeer villages on 20th October 2013 where more than 70 arm less innocent people lost their lives. The list would be very long if am to mention all the attacks that happened or happening and massacres from all the state peripheries on daily basis since 2005 and since disarmament of the region in 2010. In short, averages of 20 to 30 innocent people are massacred on monthly basis in greater Bor region.
In other word Mr President, there is no a single God image citizen of greater Bor region that has not lost at least a father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, aunty, uncle or in short a relative(s) through massacre, ambushing or adduction by bandits from Buma state.
Your excellency, as all these heinous crimes are being committed day and night in Jonglei state under your watch and responsibility, the region only hear outsiders such local and international nongovernmental organisations, United states of America, European countries etc sound more alarming and concerned than your very government which is in total violation of mandate given to you and your government by south Sudanese back in 2010.
Mr President, your government mass failure and refusal to heed to investigate the source of the bandits military equipment, the source of modern heavy machines guns, source of funds, their base, their leaders, their villages and where they always take cattle and abducted children in order to fish out those mostly culpable of committing heinous crimes and contain the menace is something regrettable and questionable.
Your government continuing putting of deaf ears to draw a security strategies or taking any boldly step toward ending these consistently cattle rustling, child abductions and merciless killings of innocent helpless civilians rather than hotels reconciliation project by individuals that only want media attention, publicity or even somewhere attention and favors but at the end yields no tangible positive results is something regrettable and questionable.
Your Excellency, if there are pathological deceptionists who deceive you that, Jonglei state is at ease in order to win favors that always place your government in offside position and ignore the deteriorating insecurity, please they are hiding under the guise of your administration to vanish what would be your legacy. Please rethink to save lives and your legacy.
Mr President as you knows that, in a pastoralist community, cattle are a source of food, wealth, prestige, pride and status. Jonglei state largely depend on all mentioned and also for survival largely which is sometime a relief to your government in term of government expending since majority depend on their own. Your government keep ignoring to secure such a free gift from God, leaving regional economy on life support and with also your government failing at the same to take a herculean effort to get it out of the woods in any way in order to eradicate the persistent starvation in the state.
Mr President, your government failures and culture of massive condoning of impunity, has given the bandits upper hands to continue terrorizing the venerable population, land and their resources and as thus, the state is gradually losing grazing lands, and erosion of both people’s traditional resources and lands for cultivation. The population have also been pushed further near the bank of the White Nile. Bor land is no longer inhabited as it was some centuries ago.
Your Excellency, this massive displacement prompted in 2017 the citizens of the land who are left venerable in the hands of bandits and take your government’s primary responsibility into their hands out of protest and frustrations to protect themselves, their ancestral lands, resources, safeguard their borders, and the entire deserted villages for people to resettle in. Your Excellency, your government quickly and largely misinterpreted the mission as a planned retaliatory raid on the enemy.
Your Excellency, your government came in and fed the sons of the land with usual empty promises and lips services that your government will take over a full responsibility of the state security, investigate the matter, arrest culprits, bring back abducted children and raided cattle. As the state’s citizen responded and went on with their usual business, none of the above promises was actually implemented and as thus the cycle goes on.
Your Excellency, as your government is fully aware that, the only disease the region (Jonglei) has been suffering from is the bullet syndrome. You cannot get graves in the region that belong to people who died from Malaria, Typhoid etc more than graves as a result of constant attacks, raiding and child’s abduction by the Murle bandits. Cattle raiding, child abduction and attacks are the highest cause of death rate in the state; your government continue to do nothing but only watching in the violation of its primary responsibility.
In 2014, to prove that human’s life is not really valued in the case of your administration, your government took less time to intervene with available resources to save your government when it was to be thrust out of Juba by white army. In many international inquires and reports, your government is alleged to have poured millions of our tax and oil money to hire Ugandan’s army to come and fight alongside SPLA. During the course of the war, strategically the government heavily deployed the army to shield Juba from any attacks. With millions and capacity of waging wars and protecting the seat, why should identifying the mere culprits and put the deteriorating situation under control in Jonglei state sound like atomic science your Excellency? Where are those military tactics, resources and planning to save the people of Jonglei state from further bloodshed your Excellency?
I’m not saying your government care most about protecting positions or in any way a scaremongering tactic to units or incite your administration against any community but I am saying all these out of frustrations and disappointments and need something to be done urgently.
In conclusion, Your Excellency am not asking your government to re-arm the region, any reparation or encourage tit-for-tat killing contrary to what law requires but I would request your government to consider the following security strategies both in short run and long run and not lips services this time since it is something nonstop and beyond individuals lives.
In short run,
1- I call on your government together with able-bodied and two states’ authorities to jointly and speedily coordinate efforts at this time to pursue, to investigate, to fish out and bring those culprits to book to face real justices without clemencies. This will frustrate the bandits from planning to carry out any further attacks and raiding in future.
2- I call on your government through the ministry of defence to relocate the 8th division infantry from its current HQs in Jonglei state and back up by other army’s divisions in the country to deserted villages or borderline with Buma state or greater Jonglei borders. This will create a security buffer zone and barricade the bandits from crossing to commit crimes.
3- I call on your government to summon the governor of Buma state Hon. David Yauyau to;
a) Explain to the nation the circumstances under which the recent ceasefire agreement was breached and violated by his men.
b) Explain the action taken so far by his administration to bring back the raided cattle to the owners and also handover the violators to face justice.
In Long run,
1- I would request your government to form brigade units of all law enforcement agencies whose headquarters will be at center point or borderlines between two or among greater Jonglei states. Be name as JONGLEI RESCUE UNIT (JRU). This will create more fear and attrite bandits from planning heinous crime in future and this will allow the deserted villages to be resettled.
2- I urge your government to build a pastoralist dialogue center at the center of these communities headed by the elders, youths and women of these communities ( Dinka bor, Lou Nuer and Murle or even more) as separate administration from these states and national governments but in direct supervision and coordination with both.
3- I urge also your government to conduct a rigorously and forcefully disarmament to both communities mostly in Buma state and pass a national robust gun control laws. This will limit the bandits from being access to more modern machine guns.
4- I urge your government to form “FOOTPRINT’’ unit whose role will be to track the stolen cattle by observing the footprint. This will allow security to know the direction in which the cattle are been taken to and that community can actually be responsible to face the full force of the law.
5- I urge your government to include mostly youth and women in any decision making and workshops concerning Jonglei states security. This will give youth the lead in peace keeping and women courage to caution their children about the negative effects of cattle raiding and positive side of peaceful living.
6- Finally, I urge your government to invest more in education and improve infrastructure. This will limit the number of up bring children who may be adopting the culture of cattle raiding, rustling and attacks since they will get engaged on educational activities. Improved infrastructure will improve mobility and insecurity within the states and create more job opportunities for the idled jobless youths in those states.
THANKS YOU MR PRESIDENT
By Jesus Panther Deng
The Author, Jesus Panther Deng is a south Sudanese and he can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org