The Nuer Factor and Identity Politics In South Sudan

By Changkuoth Wal Chuor

The Nuer council of elders addressing Dr. Riek Machar's leadership in Nairobi, Kenya(Photo: Machar's profiles)

The Nuer council of elders addressing Dr. Riek Machar’s leadership in Nairobi, Kenya(Photo: Machar’s profiles)

Jan 15, 2017(Nyamilepedia) —– I greet you here in Omaha, Nebraska, United States. First, I thank you, the Southern Sudanese people, for having a platform in which I felt the need to express my views unequivocally. Some of you might recall that I have been gone for quiet sometimes and without connection to the real world since our nation’s independence.

It’s necessary for me to stress that Nuer land never have riots brought in by outsiders, we had vigils. We didn’t have hatred toward other southerners, we had compassion. To the best of my knowledge, the concept of identity politics within the South Sudanese society have never been explained in microscopic detail from beginning to end in book form. Hopefully you will take something at heart from me to realize the real Nuer factor in modern South Sudan.

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This article contains my spirit and mind, and expresses in depth my honest personal motive to be direct and most bluntly sincere. I will cover as many topics, as clearly and briefly, with as much detail as possible. I would like every southerner, specially Nuer state-men and women, who comes in contact with this writing, to take the necessary time to dissect this information and try to relate it to the current frame of reference or situation in our country. Perhaps you will see what is being done to Nuer statehood by the undesirable.

In my book, Nuer has a great potential and purpose in the south. We define the Nilo’s traditional culture, custom, religion, political and military status. We spur splendor, encourage economic prosperity and represent the language of the people here. Nuer is the sole defender of one of the Africa’s inland-country full of green grasses, vegetations, rivers, swamps, pepper landscapes and the rainforest of the continent’s narrowing center toward Ethiopia in the east. The cattle keeper-Nuer is obligated to defend South Sudan from all its enemies. It shall protect its oil-wealth, minerals and natural resources and livestock with automatic weapons, spears, fists and even teeth if need be. Nuer’s power, influence, prestige and its ethnic loyalty must be realize by Nilotic.

In recent memory, however, identity politics created a systematic decision for some Dinka leaders to hinder the advancement of a huge share of southern population, rather than recover from the previous war the south wallowed in it before separation from Sudan. Now in an ethnically charge environment, Dinka refused to disavow the label: Nuer’s Tribal Supremacy. They are blinded by hatred of Nuer to accept that power. The reality is Nilotic in general, as a nation of people, still suffers largely from the lack of education… which at its, essence revolves around the deprivation of our historical based the Nuer preserved. Unfortunately, the refusal to accept or acknowledge Nuer’s social status will have a serious consequent.

Here and now of course, to prevent genocide of undesirables, I speak against the political and tribal divide in South Sudan. Our nation deserved a fair chance to have a constitutional democracy. It would be a paradigm bending to support Salva Kiir Mayardit, a demagogue who created tribal bubbles, himself, in hope to affect the natural share interest in the country we love. His power-grabs allowed him to puddle influence, extort money and self-serve his purpose to remains in power illegally and without full Nuer support. It appeared to me that this president has been infested by some special kind of stupid. It’s a double standard, and without it Salva will have no standard at all. Within this terrible time in the south, Ngundeng has visited grace upon Nuer. He has allowed us to see where we have been blinded, ourselves for so long, to the way past injustice. It continues to shape the present reality.

My questions to you are why Nuer as collective, so fragmented? What happens when our South Sudanese Dinka becomes the enemy? In attempt to answer these questions, we must first look at our previous tribal warfare of cattle rustlings, ethnic infightings and the fact that for every action, either taken by Nuer or Dinka, there’s equal and opposite reaction.

Nowadays, what you see happening between Nuer and Dinka has been a constant but generational struggle until the absolute dominance of one tribe over another is finally decided. Believe me Nuer is capable of doing just that, controlling other tribes. Remember, though, to dominate means to divide a people from themselves or bring them down from their original nature. With that in mind, the Nuer supremacy is being challenged. Salva and his equals gave their careful attention to stimulating natural chaos, which would be rooted in perverting the natural roles Nuer plays in South Sudan’s political arena.

Nuer politicians, themselves on the other hand, failed to realize the Dinka conspiracy and the craft of manipulating us in general to benefit from the chaos they would produce as an end result. In detail, the chaos is produced when the natural leaders among Nuer begins to follow the follower-Dinka, abandon Nuer council and its organization will quickly deteriorate; or Nuer would be dulled to the point where self-guidance is no longer present. These were tactics initiated, made public and standardized in 2013 when Salva and thousands of Dinka elements fabricated a coup against our nemeses, Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon and the Nuer leadership, for effective control, hoping for Nuer to fall behind in South Sudan.

Identity politics never existed in the south as we were fighting the Islamists of Khartoum together as southerners. In fact, when the British withdrew from Sudan in mid-1950s, the tensions were geographic, religious and racial disputes. Thereafter, in a nation divided by faith, Arabs-Sudan chosed to have closer ties with the Arab World. While we were seeking seclusion among the Subsaharan of the African continent in defaince against Arabization, Islamization and cultural assimilation.

As a consequent, in African history, we fought a long-bloody civil war in hope to overthrow the government of Sudan. But years of blood bath continued, ending in 2005 after the international observers made an extraordinary, behind close-doors diplomatic maneuvers which later brought about the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA); followed by a ballot democratic process where southerners voted overwhelmingly for secession. Then, we gained our independence South Sudan.

It was in this new nation that identity politics and tribalism shaped and soon created new tensions with Dinka in highest office. As a result, leaders were distracted by nonsense and failed to work toward a solid democratic society where we could concentrate on our prayers for permanent peace, stability, vow out of poverty and social unrest. No wonder, at that point in time, southerners reluctantly pushed ahead with the nation building. Unfortunately we had an empty hope of earning our place in the world and that led us to project an unrealistic potential success.

Although the political process wasn’t so smooth, thousands of southerners abroad race to Juba and join the SPLM/A. Their intention was to help the Nilotic community becomes a major employment site for the local people, African neighbors and a greater economic center for global investors. Sure enough, the country developed into a livable place and became an oasis of peace-being protected by the SPLA, the faith of its inhabitants and the low-lying, well-watered wetland. There as a constant hucksters and African migrant workers lured by the promise of jobs in agriculture, infrastructure and in oil-field refineries as Bentiue and the entire nation winks at all new arrivals like a “gold-rush” hub in the African Continent; the seclusion we once sought.

By 2013, however, the excitement of having a new country dwindled. Politicians in the south split, picked sides, and began to fight over special political status. At the end of that year, the president sacked his cabinet, and thereafter announced a coup which he said initiated by the nemesis and eleven Nuer government officials. They were arrested shortly, but Dr. Riek Machar later left the country. The December massacre in Juba created a ripple of fear that penetrated the tranquility. Rumors about the orchestrated, inventive, coup quickly reached Pagak of a terrible to the southwest; indicated that Juba’s residents were being killed at the President Salva Kiir’s orders. The targeted killings continued for days and only frowned upon Dr. Riek Machar’s supporters by the Dinka militants. They attacked innocence Nuer systematically, house-to-house, in a brutal inter-tribal assault. But mercy, with regard to Dinka aggression, was not a quality that befitted the White Army…unsettled by the action of a power hungry demagogue who stirred up violence to willfully destabilize the young country.

In the blink of an eye, the tribal conflict began and now it took a consequential pace. It had created inhumane conditions and caused over a million southerners to suffer and thousands fled the capitol city in all direction to Kampala, Nairobi, Addis, Khartoum, and across the world.

Left behind in Juba were three-hundred Nuer bodies on streets, few burned buildings and a shattered Nilotic community. Virtually the only thing that left intact was John Garang Mausoleum which stood massively high as if in warning of the terrible that had just unfolded. It was followed by scarcity of ethnic cleansing conspiracy that further set the stage for mass killings later in Malakal and Bor. There, thousands of men, women, elderly and small children ranging down to nursing infants were slaughtered. Many were forced to escape death or simply starve in Bindi Bindi makeshift camp of Uganda; or simply fight over scraps and food raids internally and abroad.

The chaos became the new normal…fueled by economic discontent which contributed to the uprising and military campaign by Dinka-backed government in attempt to keep Salva Kiir in power illegally. The killer of my cousins, Lam and Pal Chuol Thechuong, surely sensed the meaning of Salva Kiir’s violent act. An act he imagined would incite fear, violence and suspicion among the Nuer. An act he presumed would deepen divisions around the tribal lines. But Nuer will never forget such an act.

The violence has divided the leadership. Instead of unifying against the common threat, Nuer and Dinka leaders spent the last few years fighting over tribal supremacy. Several ceasefires were reached but violated by the government time and again. Seemingly, it appeared that the government does not want a political solution. Some peopled said that Salva Kiir even tried to turns some Nuer against each other in hope to easily divide and conquer us by means of and through the cover of tribal warfare. The allegation thereof, at least to me, has no faction basis. If it was so, I believe the damage to the country would have been immense. What Salva got is money to bribe the weak minds. But he could never turn the brave and heart-liners Nuer to kill one another.

We should recall the extrajudicial killings against the undesirable in 2009 when Nuer tribe-men attacked the Dinka village of Duk Padiet, as many others had done for centuries. The death toll there of 167, those included civilians as well as soldiers, were added to the live loss in the regional conflict since 1991 war in Kongor. ‘In the aftermath of the Kongor and Bor fighting Wut Nyang took the initiative to reconstitute peace after the “White Army’s became victorious. The Dinka communities bordering the Nuer had been severely disrupted.’ So, in my view, this ongoing tribal conflict is simply a war within the Nuer community itself because our leaders are being used as escape-goats to buy more time for Salva Kiir to stay in power. It seems the “priviledge few” care about money, the political power, and themselves. They’re thugs, thieves and embezzlers of resources…which led them to known as minions of the foreign elite.

In my chaotic, troublesome heart, I hate to see identity politics and tribalism interfere with our national interest or turned the country to some type of a ‘banana republic’ for foreign meddlers to exploits, as its truly is today. I am bewildered by the lack of leadership and rigged system of government. It’s disgusted me, and so the dreadful move the brash, gregarious and infinitely charismatic crook had made in causing the proxy tribal war. A shameful political scheme aimed to prolong his rule. The same tactic he had used to cheat southerners for his an entire SPLM/A career and finally gotten himself too greedy as the head of state. Salva and his cronies have left nothing valuable in the national treasury but runaway inflation, food price hike, fallen currency, trickled-down economic and political instability…are his primary objectives to keep the country over the cliff.

In contrary, the nemesis has vowed to fix whatever Salva left in free-fall. Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon is prepared to lead and ends the war. His supporters among Naath and Jiang knows he feel a deep kinship to the national unity and healing. It’s deeper than non-southerners might realize. In fact the bond among Nilotic never fallen apart. It is still here the same way since we stood shoulder to should when we fought the radical Islamists. It was there when we were united and met them with a clash. We fought and forced the Ottomans retreated in early 1880s, and thereafter settled scores with Great Britain. Collectively, we refused to enslaved and dominated by foreign invaders. The poverty which they afflicted upon us today is more serious and continued to hold us down to the lowest order of the African society.

My point is that our future depends on us. It has to be Nuer who must decide the total destruction or rebuilding of our republic. ‘We’re made wise not by the recollection of our past experiences but by the responsibility for our future. Hold on and begin again. My fellow Nuer, I have been so touched by atrocities afflicted against us. Thousands of us are locked up in open prisons inside our country. What is the matter with us? When it should have been us who decide what tribe or ethnicity survive South Sudan. When it’s should have been us who protects innocence citizens, defends our borders, preserve the rule of law and guaranteed every human right under the constitution.

We now the current scourges of war are too harsh to bear in Nuer areas. Therefore we should come together and unite despite the differences. Identity politics is simply a war of ideas. But Salva and the Dinka has messed all up, to shift their focus on us. A real leader, within this young country, should only think about curtailing corruption and social division. A real leader should figure out why South Sudan is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, and why its trails the rest of the African nations in term of food production, infrastructure investment, technological innovation, educational development, defend mechanism and overall social progress.

Truly, our progress has been uneven. The work of democracy has always been hard. It has contentious. Sometimes it has been bloody and continues to be. But Nuer is wise. The fearless, cunning and ruthless tribe in Africa can never surrender and will keep it at heart to match-on, toward Juba, Warrap, Barh el-Ghazal, etc, at the time of our own choosing. So, whatever Salva has in confident, he sure lacked competent to under-estimate the Nuer onslaughts. We’re brave and always take extraordinary measures to reunite and focus toward one goal. The ones that run away and joined the inner circle or Salva’s security cabal are out; they should be banned from Nuer’s social organization. I believe their support is solely based on bribes or fear of being killed forced them to remain in Juba as traitors of the Nuer existence.

What appeared to be obvious, aside from the tribal divide, has been the fabricated coup that had backfired against the very security cabal. Certainly, Pagak continue to believe that Juba’s autocrats and all bureaucrats including their paid Uganda’s mercenaries had set fire on South Sudan’s democratic statehood. Then, thereafter, they raced down to oil-rigs with their considerable loot to the national wealth.

Yes, for every step forward is a straight line we must follow to stop Salva Kiir. It would often feels we take ten steps back but a forward motion will bring us together, embrace all and not some of our people including the Apuk. In this generation of southerners, no matter their political stand or what side they are on, should walk that straight line to bridge the divide. We should not defend on the demagogue. Salva is a coward who based his leadership on solipsism, stupidity, and ignorance. To me ignorance is one think but our society does not thrives increasingly on stupidity. We are smart. For that reason it would be a mistake to expect a stupid president to give us the same consideration, courtesy and respect we would naturally give him. He won’t. Likewise, we shall never play homage to his sacred cows he would present to us with blood guilt including the devoted roles he would expect us to play in his government, to be more happier.

Do not be disturbed. Our nemesis is exception. He is genuine and noticed southerners’ suffering. Support him the same way I do because he is a competent, well-informed political and military leader of our modern South Sudan. The ‘left-handed doctor’ stuck out his neck for the benefit of all southerner. For instant, in 1997, Dr. Riek Machar signed the Khartoum Peace Agreement aimed for self-determination in the south. When it had collapsed three years later, he returned to exile and eventually reunited with Garang in Kenya. There Dr. John Garang accepted his crafted vision for South Sudan independence which was finalized in January 2005 under the CPA with Islamists of Khartoum.

The nemesis has stamina and fit to lead the nation which has been under fire politically. Therefore Dr. Riek Machar is looking for ways to end the conflict. He is aware that the current civil strife and local hostilities are epidemic. He understood that our people are bleeding here, loss enough people and can’t afford to sacrifice more Nuer and other southerners in the name of power. He would not divide or control non-Naath. He will never allow anyone to turn Nuer against each other; against the Dinkas, Shilluk, Meban and etc. Dr. Machar is mindful that tribal loyalty could be important to some southerners but urges that it shouldn’t prevent the people of South Sudan from live in a peaceful country. So, any leader in Juba who has a problem or interferes with the sacred appointment to be president of the nemesis is a filthy scum.
The nemesis has a concerted effort to embrace Nilotic and had created a peace commission tasked with ending the conflict.

Evidently, in April 2016, he sent Nyadeng Garang, Taban Deng Gai, and some SPLM/A-IO council members to Juba in hope to secure a peaceful transition of power. Having once delivered their provisions aimed for power-sharing in government, they would have justified, anyone would think, to take top positions and spurring for the path toward stability. As plucky rescuers of democracy, the condition of the country which they came to save must have been a shock to them. The nemesis, himself in the noblest spirit of self-sacrifice and social duty, later flew into a nearly destroyed capitol to save what? One might bother to ask; to save South Sudan from senseless chaos. No longer even what used to be fairly unified SPLM/A party, which he left unwillingly, needed a second chance to run the country properly and without blame.
Under the stress of circumstances almost too great to be borne at that moment, the bribery changed Taban Deng Gai’s mind. He switched sides immediately and thereafter the country disintegrated into war once more in early July 2016.

He was later tapped-in as first Vice-President and sure supported the very government that had killed innocence Nuer in every village and town throughout the country. However, we must remember that South Sudan does not belong to a specific, one narrow minded tribe, believing in itself alone, to rule all southerners with iron-fist. The same way the “13012” played identity politics between 19803-2005. Now the Bahr el-Ghazal! Seriously, Naath must consider some out of this world respond, to fit our interest.

As Nuer, let’s begin again and re-invent ourselves. Let’s count on the battles SPLM/A-IO had won, re-examin the ones we have lost. Let’s hold on and defend the contest we pursue. I encourage all like-minded people; all brilliant men and women among Nuer, Achioli, Shilluk and Meban to abandon the leadership of the “priviledge few.” Remember the unwanted war they had caused. We know the massacre Rev. James D. Rut, the Chairman of Nuer Christian Network in North America, denounced by prayer will no longer destroyed or controlled our lives. We are free to choose our permanent response somewhere in time.

Keep in mind that the country has been neglected by misrule, corruption and lawlessness. In all honesty, I believe there is no outside power (like Uganda) ever going to be able to force southerners to co-exist. The paraded demagogue in juba has already failed to unite us. African Union will not do it. America and the rest of the global community will never bring us together, unless we answered some of the basic questions with regard to stability… otherwise the embers of tribalism will forever continue to burn the very fabric of our society. I said this because Salva Kiir’s longevity in power and his tawdry military compaign against the Nuer drawn the nation into stagnation. Likewise, his exceptionally long reign since John Garang’s death in 2005 without elections on schedule locally or nationally is a disaster to civilization.

If one finally asked how did we get here? Well, it suddenly hit me too. The answer to this question is related to the identity politics which excluded Nuer from having a full control in the government. Again, briefly, identity politics had divided the nation into existed factions backed by tribal units. The political disagreements became prerequisite to violence which eventually led the national mood into a dark place. Soon, we came from being a one united Nilotic to being outraged, out of control society. At this moment, many southerners felt cheated and betrayed by their own very leaders they hope to protect them. Unfortunately, the ‘priviledge few’ care less about protecting civilians but lining-up their pockets with public money; by considering self-gratification as significant in earnest then the country itself.

Finally, my fellow Nuer as well as other southerners, please be mindful that I have my views on our political stage. I do not wish to offend anyone who might have disagreed with me on these issues. We all have our takes on things and are free to articulate them by using different perspectives. I am open minded and will listen empathically to other viewpoints. I hope to work with anyone in support of reaching a concrete solution to the current political climate in Juba. I understand a person could have good faith differences of opinion and that people of good will could compromise or synergistically accomplish enormous of things as collective.

Ultimately, with a good hand guiding us toward social change, we shall overcome identity politics and realize the Nuer factor once again. Under the nemesis’s leadership, all grievances and general demands would get answers. I know this because Dr. Machar pledged to deliver justice not sword. He promise to put in place a representative government of, for, and by the people of one united South Sudan. He will establish an open and interdependent relationship with all people to freely exercise their rights under the constitution and within the law. He promise to build a robust economic and invest in energy and so forth for us to have a prosperous African society right here in South Sudan.
I believe Dr. Riek Machar will bring a lasting peace. Eradicate pandemics, poverty, illiteracy and the woeful list of horrible. He will rule by law not by war.

He will bring back those who pled the conflict and return them home. He will make peace with the African neighbors; re-open our national borders for global society to invest. He will repairs the damaged oil-fields, refine it and export it to the world whereby immense wealth could be generated for equal distribution in all states. Thereafter, differences will be set aside and the allegiance will be made forever.

The author can be reached for further comments at gatdetwal@outlook.com


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2 comments

  • Absolutely great article Mr.Wal. Have to come back and read it over again in a bit. Logical questions to Nuer leaders that need bold yet sensible answers. I am touched. What a chaos to come back to.

  • This was a great article, but I think it’s best that Nuer people start working on getting their own country South Sudan will never be a United country with the Dinkas wanting to be on top and everybody on the bottom. Us Nuer fought far too long for freedom, and what did we get out of it, an extermination of our people we will never have peace, we are better off with our own country we can’t worry about other tribes feelings or how they feel, well Nuer generation is in crisis the other tribes never really back us up anyways when “Dinkas”were trying to exterminate us, and put us in a position where we will conform to their ruling over us making us second class citizens in our own land why should we continue living like that, let’s built a Nuer country where we won’t have to go hungry again a country where education is free for all a place with clean water a place with health care that’s safe etc, let’s built that, we have the strength to do that. Let’s not let another dictator to rule over us again let’s from a government that gives us the 1.Freedom of Speech, Press, Religion and Petition

    2. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

    3. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

    4. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    5.Provisons concerning prosecution

    6.Right to a speedy trial, witnesses, etc.

    7.Right to a trial by jury

    8.Excessive bail, cruel punish

    9.Rule of construction of Constitution

    10.Rights of the States under Constitution