South Sudan’s blurring line between state and religion

For idealists, nothing else may be the clear indicator of loss of morality more than practicing the same things people consistently fought against over decades.

But to the realists, including me, that’s not anything to worry about.

A lot of lives have been lost in wars that partly sought to disentangle the Sudanese state from the grips of religion, particularly Islam. Fortunately, we ended up with our own state.

Surprisingly, we are fusing, once again, the state together with religion – again Islam.

For many years now, my President – my good President who I can’t criticize – has been enjoying his breakfasts and dinners with Muslims more than he would do with people of other faiths. He would donate to Muslims money, send them to Mecca for pilgrimage annually, accord them free airtime on the state television, and is now intervening on lands claimed by Muslims.

What beats my understanding is this blurring of the line between state and religion to the extent that Muslims will not have to follow lawful procedures to claim their allegedly grabbed land. In other words, they are becoming the state, moreover a state that is above the law.

I am not making this up, as one old researcher would always say. It is all in the press:

“President Salva Kiir has directed the Minister of National Security to recover Muslim properties that were grabbed by individuals in Juba. Speaking during Ramadhan breakfast with the Muslim community in Juba on Monday, President Kiir told the Muslim community that he will sit with the Minister of National Security to personally oversee the retrieval of the properties,” the Dawn newspaper reported on June 13, 2018.

In case you still want to doubt that newspaper report, this is the take by Eye Radio on the same:

President Salva Kiir has vowed to ensure that the Islamic Council is given back its grabbed pieces of land. The Muslim community has been complaining about its properties, especially in Juba town, Malakia, Konyo-konyo. President Kiir – who was addressing Islamic faithfuls during the Iftar in Juba on Monday – ordered security chiefs to address the issue. “I have promise you … the properties of the Muslim community that have been grabbed will be returned to them,” said Kiir. “I am giving orders even if those who are responsible for the implementation are not here, I will get them tomorrow in the office. But I know the minister of national security is here with us.” According to the Islamic Council, some of the pieces of land were grabbed after independence.

I am trying to make sense of how this has been turned into a national security issue. Why can’t Muslims seek redress through institutions by lawful means like providing evidence of ownership in a court of law? I still don’t have the answer.

But I know this is the reality idealists would oppose based on the old and waning principle of “morality.”

I am a realist. So I understand that “things” most often “fall apart” – As Chinua Achebe would say. Also, George Orwell taught me this realism with his perennial novel, The Animal Farm. So I am not worried about the growing link between the state, the rule of no-law, and Islam. it’s the rarity of this link in secular countries all over the world that’s alarming. But may be we are now an Islamic country.

Women dance on the independence day on July 9 2011. Ironically, we are now doing the same things from which we became independent.

 

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It’s unique, sweeping and dramatic, reviewers say of the debut – The Broken Promise: The Legacy of War and Hypocrisy

The comments are from the most trusted professional reviewers in the book publishing industry.

“Mach writes from a unique perspective about a world outside the experience of most readers … A dark and violent story of war and loss in Africa.” – Kirkus Reviews.

“The Broken Promise is a sweeping and tragic tale that depicts the horrors of wartime, conflicts with tradition, and the power of familial love … This historical novel reveals crucial information about the war in a fluid and gratifying way and displays knowledge of cultural customs and traditions, creating a nuanced and thorough portrait of a time and place…” – Foreword Reviews.

“In this dramatic, multi-generational saga set amidst the tumult of the Sudanese Civil War, Mabior P. Mach presents the harrowing journey of a man who leaves his home and family to fight against human injustices and hopefully to secure freedoms for his children’s future…. Mach details a severe landscape weighted by death and despair, where interrogations are constant, and rape is common….” – Blue Ink Reviews.

Book Preview- The Broken Promise: The Legacy of War and Hypocrisy

Overview:

Makeer is a man of high hopes. Intelligent and educated, he is a teacher in Sudan when he leaves his home and family for the bush, to fight for freedom and human dignity. At home, his sons must fight their own battles, as violence and death by malnutrition increase. Yet, nothing is quite as horrific as the way man treats man in the African battle for peace.

The Broken Promise is based on the true terrors of the Sudanese Civil War. Fighting for the prosperity of his country, Makeer is blind-sided by the hypocrisy of his leaders while dodging bullets and watching his family die. He finds strength in moments of hope, mixed with intense despair, but is hope enough to keep him fighting while the world goes mad?

Makeer might glimpse ultimate victory—touch for a moment high ideals and morality—but he soon comes face to face with blackmail and murder in South Sudan, a new country he helped curve out of the Sudan. War is a thing of corruption and betrayal, which Makeer learns fi rst hand. However, he fights onward, proving that no amount of suffering will ever suppress the quest for human dignity.

Free Preview:

At the gate, two men were curled up in pools of blood. They had been shot dead. Both forces were still fighting at the outskirts of the suburb closer to Bilpham. One man shouted at Tab, warning her sternly to stop or risk a bullet ripping her head apart. She stood there, shaking; wondering about what could be the intention of this order. He was wielding the gun ready to shoot. Apparently, he looked overwhelmed by a grudge he wanted to settle. Now that he had the means to do so, she worried the man may rape her, and in the worst case, kill her and her little daughter. He walked towards her, with his lower lip drooping down and hanging slackly below from the lower teeth. “Sit down,” he ordered. Fast, she was on her knees. The man looked at his gun, at the nozzle and the butt, then at Tab. He walked closer to her and cocked the gun. “You will see me now. You think we are stupid to follow you,” he said. Tab wasn’t sure if the man meant he had been shadowing her. She wasn’t sure too if by the word ‘you’ the man was referring to her personally. Whatever it was, the risk was eminent. He could rape her and shoot them dead. “Are you married with children,” Tab’s faint voice rang in the man’s round head. “Why not? You think I am impotent!” “Please imagine someone doing what you want to do to me and my child, to your wife and children.” She was still sitting on the ground, in the mud. The man glanced away, then to her once more. “Do you know where my family is,” he asked. “No,” she nodded as if to admit her naivety. “They suffered their fate because you think we are stupid to always follow you.” “No,” she protested calmly. “You are not stupid.” “Don’t pretend. I will kill you now,” he warned. Tab looked down to his feet to avoid his prodding eyes. His toes had grown into hooves. His tapered feet were webbed like those of ducks. Tab had an impression that these legs would easily tear a bed sheet. “I can’t even explain my predicament,” he interrupted her gaze and voluntarily went ahead to narrate the ‘fate’ anyway.

About the author:

Mabior P. Mach is an award-winning South Sudanese journalist with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and media management from Cavendish University, Uganda, and has written extensively about Sudan and South Sudan over the past decade. He is married to Yom Abuoi, and they live in Juba with their children.

 

Published in June 2017 by iUnivser. For more: http://www.iuniverse.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?Book=755449

America decides: If I were Hillary Clinton

I would have this concession speech if I were the speech writer for Hillary Clinton:

My dear Americans, you are a great people. I trust in your will power and unity.
It has been a tough campaign for me, my family, and millions of Americans who were fighting for what they believed in: An America our forefathers had dreamt of, where we cherish the values of universal rights to equality, to justice and to opportunities for all. I must admit that it is too painful we have not won the confidence of the majority of the electorate.
Today, Americans have spoken, so clearly. Donald Trump is the next US President. I hereby reach out to my supporters, to all the American people, to unite behind him and give him the chance to lead us.
I thank Donald Trump for the hard-fought campaign and wish him success for the common good of the American people.
To those little boys and girls, who have the opportunity to dream big, there isn’t anything you can’t achieve if you have the determination to do so. I therefore urge you to continue fighting for what you believe is right for the good of our country and your families.
My dear Americans, we have come too far to regress. We have gone past the days of racism. We have overcome the challenges of transition to this era during the times of John F Kenedy and Martin Lurther King. Our country was the first and has been the lead in cherishing the values of equality regardless of sex, religion or race. We are a country of diverse backgrounds with one identity: we are Americans. We can’t afford to reverse the human progress of the past centuries. Thank you very much.

I Was Not Being A Bluster When I Addressed President Kiir

“Lead by example; don’t get coaxed into the hoopla of riding through Konyo Konyo on the back of a pickup truck just to dispel rumors of your demise…that whole debacle with you waving right and King Paul waving left was too cheesy for what you wanted to accomplish.”

By Jok Madut Jok

Lest people thought my rant from the other day about failure of South Sudan’s leadership was just a mere bluster, I would like to do a follow up and go deeper into the anatomy of that failure and perhaps suggest a few ways out of it. Sorry to be so basic in what I posit. I do not mean to insult the intelligence of the readers. But just to ensure that everyone, including the leadership we are addressing, is on the same page.

The starting point of overcoming a problem or a challenge is actually acknowledging that you have a problem. Once you have admitted the existence of a problem, you examine it and study all its attributes and the causes of it, all before you think of solutions. In a sense, you can’t treat a disease you have not properly diagnosed.

This is to say that everyone knows there is war in South Sudan:

dr-jokCitizens are hacking each other to death all around the country and have been doing so for quite some time; state security forces are badly misbehaving every single day, with devastating consequences; the economy is all but collapsed, and its destroyers get away with it every day due to the culture of impunity our president has failed to reign in.

There have been no infrastructural projects since 2013, the unfinished terminal at Juba International airport remaining as the badge of dishonor since 2006.

We also know 4 million South Sudanese are food insecure and 2 million are displaced from their homes, not to mention anything about health and education that are non-existent.

These are all obvious facts and every citizen knows about them, because they live them every day.

But the most important question is why?

Why are these terrible things happening and no plan seems to be in place to address them? Where is the government’s action plan about these issues? If there is one, why is it not communicated to the public, at least so that we all know the government is trying?

Why do so many South Sudanese flee from their homes to seek refuge in UN camps, hiding from their own country’s security forces?

Why are South Sudanese increasingly building so much hatred against one another? What is the potential role of the political dynamics in Juba in fueling this growing hatred?

Why is there a claim that 65% of fighters have left the SPLA and joined Riek Machar’s rebellion and yet the Ministry of Defense and Veterans Affairs payroll was still the same in 2014 and 2015 as it was before 2013? Surely the new recruitment has not reached 100% level of replacement within a year or two!

Has the commander in-Chief ever asked the Generals to explain this, especially in view of the generals getting so ubiquitously wealthy, as the rest of the population gets poorer and poorer?

Kiir, attempted coup in South Sudan

Kiir, attempted coup in South Sudan

Why is the army worth up to 60% of the national expenditure and yet the soldiers are not getting paid, no barracks, no schools for the army children, no military hospital, no prosthetic limbs for wounded veterans, no army production projects?

In fact, may I ask, what exactly does the general in charge of SPLA’s corp of production do every day when he goes to office? I have never seen the soldiers working on roads, farms or volunteering in disaster response. So what do they do when they are not fighting their own citizens?

They are not even defending the country’s international borders, as Kenya, Uganda and Sudan grab South Sudan’s land left and right.

Why is South Sudan still the world’s worse place to be a mother, highest maternal and child mortality, lowest literacy rate, the new capital of sexual and gender-based violence?

Why do so many South Sudanese now say they were better off staying under Sudanese dictatorship than this life in South Sudan?

Why are more and more South Sudanese giving allegiance to their ethnic/regional citizenship than to the nation?

These questions and three dozen others that come to mind are the questions President Kiir could/should ask in his attempt to tackle the problem of why the country he runs, a country that was billed a middle income country when he came to power, has become so miserable to live in under his leadership. That is where he should/could start.

If there are readily available answers then he could act on those answers to turn the country around. For example, if he finds that much of the current chaos is rooted in corruption-conflict nexus, or in the weakness of nation-building project, or perhaps in the lackluster rule of law environment, the impunity with which state authority is being misappropriated, then, deal with these issues.

Or maybe the current mess is caused by the ghastly economic disparities that are born of misuse of state resources; or of the bad policies that made the country reliant on oil while neglecting agriculture, the trade of the majority of people and the most sustainable sector; lack of justice for war-time atrocities; absence of reconciliation; or born of whatever he finds.  Then he could act accordingly.

President Salva Kiir (File Photo)

President Salva Kiir (File Photo)

But if there are no readily available answers, then that is what his departmental research units are there for. That is why there are universities, think tanks, hired experts etc. Conduct research into why the country is falling apart and see what these entities recommend, choose what seems feasible and reject what is not.

Above all, talk to your people, have monthly radio address to the nation, to assure the people that you are on top of things and that your country is facing some challenges but it will be okay.

Visit communities that are befallen by tragedies and show them your sympathies and solidarity. Nothing makes a citizen bond more with her country better than having her president show her that she counts.

Lead by example; don’t get coaxed into the hoopla of riding through Konyo Konyo on the back of a pickup truck just to dispel rumors of your demise. Instead, make a televised press statement from the state house. Do not delegate to the fumbling inarticulate aides who speak out of script and put you in more trouble.

Believe me, that whole debacle with you waving right and King Paul waving left was too cheesy for what you wanted to accomplish.

Instead, you could have announced that you have become sick and tired of garbage in Juba and that you were going out to clean up and ask people to join you on Saturday for this purpose. Surely, they will know you are alive and well, if you are cleaning the streets with them.

In fact, that could have become the starting point of a general cleaning program, say an order from the President that every family participates in cleaning every first Saturday of the month.

You could pick up all the plastic water and coke bottles that litter entire neighborhoods, water streams and that get washed into River Nile. Can’t you see that even inside the Ministries compound plastic piling up, right across from your office, plastic that will outlive all of us, as it is not bio-degradable, and poison the earth and air for decades?

Dispel rumors by engaging in seamless and meaningful appearances, Mr. President. Do not be paraded by people who want to show you that they have your interest at heart. The Interest they have is their own and they are using you to get it.

Lest I digress, the only way to know the pulse of the street is to have genuinely knowledgeable advisors in every major field of concern. Do not use advisory positions as a way to accommodate job seekers.

If you must accommodate anyone, such as some of your generals who fought in the liberation war, who have undoubtedly done so much for this country to be free, but are no longer fit for the army, put them on the payroll for life and send them home, and for God’s sake let the work of the nation be done by people who are capable.

Furthermore, even when you have capable advisors, our people are poor and desperate for money, so don’t have single advisors come to see you. When they do, some of them will come into the President’s office to gossip and beg rather than advise.

Instead, have councils of advisors in economics, foreign policy, national security, governance, rural development etc. Have each team come to present to you what their knowledge-based says should be done, give you a powerpoint presentation, complete with options, and then leave you to make the decisions. In that way, your relationship with advisors is more professional than it is personal friendship.

That idea of hiring your relatives or your friends to be your advisors, arrrgh, looks terrible.

The guns costing our lives. In the picture are guns collected in a disarmament drive in Juba in 2009 (Photo by Mabior Philip Mach)

The guns costing our lives. In the picture are guns collected in a disarmament drive in Juba in 2009 (Photo by Mabior Philip Mach)

Furthermore, use dialogue with your people, foe and friend alike. You’re a conciliatory man, so be a facilitator of dialogue between your people. Yes, this is a diluted term in South Sudan. But all I mean is to allow South Sudanese to speak to one another, air each other’s fears, hurts and grievances to one another, without fear. This does not necessarily promise to solve all the problems facing the country, but it is a starting point.

See all those ethnic fights, highway attacks, those Dinka girls who got their breasts chopped off in Wau by angry Fertit, Lou Nuer attacks against the Murle in 2009 or the Madi-Dinka squabbles in Nimule, the cattle herders versus farmers in Western Equatoria. Most of these, if not all, are driven by a sense of injustice that so many people feel, by a general sense that you run a Dinka government and everyone who feels like protesting your government takes it upon innocent Dinka who equally suffer.

If you facilitate a discussion between all of them, you would have helped them understand each other better and they might together devise ways to share space and resources. They have always done this and they can do it again.

Lastly, tell Jieng Council of Elders to accept their old age and retire. What you run is not a Dinka government, it’s a country called South Sudan and it belongs to all of us. There is plenty they can do in their individual lives: write books, help their local communities find harmony, volunteer as teachers and be peace makers, not sources of mistrust between ethnic groups.

The Dinka cannot afford the anger of the rest of the country. It is not worth it, not feasible and it destroys the country further more.

 

The Rwandan Genocide: The inside story isn’t yet

Photo credit: unconfirmed

Photo credit: unconfirmed

Gen Romeo Dallaire, you have made an interesting narrative about the 1994 Rwandan genocide in your memoir “Shake Hands with the Devil”.

But your confession about the complex rivalry between the Belgian and French contingents within the peacekeeping force, and about a similar rivalry between the UN and the Rwandan army over who should control of the cite of the plane crash that killed President Habiyaramana, starkly spells another challenge the world has to rise over.

Interestingly, you admitted that you asked one senior Rwandan Army officer about who would be president ‘in case something happens’ to the incumbent, and less than a week later, Habiyaraman died.

And one of the contingents was accused of masterminding the killing. Then your insistence to help chose the next president. All these gives me an impression that we are not done with telling the Rwandan story of the genocide.

But in any case, you did a great job pulling off the story from your perspective as the UN force commander by then. In any case, I recommend this book for an insider account of the Rwandan genocide.

Confidential: IGAD pushes for a new “intervention force” in Juba

In what signals the frustration of the region with the repeated clashes among presidential guards in Juba, IGAD military wigs have resolved to push Juba to accept a new force to protect Juba.

The clashes in December 15, 2013, leading to the current conflict, are said to have started among the presidential guards and quickly engulfed Juba before spreading to other parts of the country.

In confidential minutes of a meeting held in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, the army chiefs of staff from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan agreed that both the SPLA-IO and the SPLA would be relocated outside Juba. A new force dubbed neutral would take over the security of Juba under UNMISS.

They also recommended that the mandate of UNMISS should be upgraded from the current protection of civilians to a fighting intervention force.

They recommendations have been dated 14th July 2016. The chiefs of staff are expected to send their team to Juba today, although the authenticity of the letter is yet to be confirmed.

The letter is attached below…

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