AFRICANGLOBE – When Ethiopian rebels were on verge to overthrow the government of Magistu Haile Mariam in 1991 I was at Tharpam which is one hour a half journey from Itang refugee camp in Ethiopia. As the rebels were advancing towards Addis Ababa, Kuol Deng Kuol the man in charge of Red Army (jiech Ahmer) in Tharpam was informed that the rebels had defeated SPLA and Ethiopian forces in the fierce battle of Damdolla town which left many SPLA comrades dead as well as Ethiopian soldiers and the only way was to go back to Sudan in what was later named by UN agencies as Trek Back to Sudan.
Kuol Deng Kuol who later perished in the bloody hands of Mr. Machar in coup of 1991 organized the Red Army of Tharpam for a long and tiresome journey which took several days from Tharpam to outside village. That village is called Pananyang a 45 minute walk from Nasir town on the east bank of River Sobat tribune. The journey was not an easy one. It was very exhaustive due to flooding of 1991 that coupled with lack of food. The little food that Captain Kuol Deng Kuol told us to carry got finished on the way.
The worries and anxieties that were caused by Riek Machar’s unwise decision of instigating coup at that wrong time were unbearable. From the summer of 1992 everybody not only those who ran away from Ethiopia but also within South Sudan was expecting deadly confrontation between John Garang and Riek Machar’s forces.
Having been caught up under Riek’s command, he moved us from Pananyang Village to Ketbek which is on the western side of Sobat tribute. Ketbek is 30 minute walk from Nasir town. Buildings with corrugated iron sheets could be seen at a distance because the place is located at the edge of the desert.
By the time, Ketbek was the headquarters of Riek that was from 1991 to early 1994. This was after Riek forces and Nuer of Jikany also known as Gajok were chased away by Nuer of Lou in the battle which took place on 4th April 1994.
Riek, in most of his battles depends for his success on traditional spiritual leaders who boosted his unbridled desire and ambition of becoming the leader of South Sudan.
As well-known by all, Riek is being motivated by false and illusive vision of becoming the next president of South Sudan based on unfounded Ngun Deng’s prophecy about hundred years ago. This prophecy seems to be one of the major causes of South Sudan problems and Dr. Riek has become so lunatic with the desire of getting power based on such vague prophecy.
What is not clear from the prophecy of Ngun Deng is how Riek or anybody he was prophesying about to get power. The means of that person getting power as prophesied by Ngun Deng was not clear. It was not clear whether it would be through coup or democratic means.
The prophecy makes Riek instigate coup and runs to the region of Nuer every time he decides. This was the region he located his headquarters at Ketbek.
Ketbek was the place where Riek with help of chiefs and Neur spear masters organized the offences on Bor the town of Garang the man they hate. The sections of the Nuer community that organized the massacre of in the Bor included Gajok (Jikany), Gaguang and Gajak at the border with Ethiopia and some Gajak are Nuers from Ethiopa.
Next to Bor at the border between Nuer and Dinka Bor are Lou Nuer, the largest group and where the prophet Ngun Deng, a man whose loose prophesy still haunts South Sudan came from. Lou Nuer, Gaweer, Gaguang, Gajak and Gajok (Jikany) are Nuer sections that form the rutheless army known as White Army (Jiech Mebor). This army is one of the strongest civilian fighters which are now fighting the SPLA forces.
Although I was young, I can recall the song they liked to sing, which I think they still sing it now when they want to attack others. The song goes “Thile maleech thile maleech thile maleech thile maleech eeee, oooh thile maleech waa kaam den kon Jang(Dinka) thile maleec waa.”
The meaning is that there is no sorry (or forgiveness) between us (Nuer) and Dinka (Jang). Riek, unrepentantly enjoys all the atrocities committed by the White Army because his mission was, which is still is to get power and that is all, irrespective of how to get power. Riek does not care about the moral turpitude of his action.
From the above simple story I have narrated, it can be concluded that Riek is ultimately responsible for brooding hatred between ethnic groups in South Sudan. He is seen as a potential leader of South Sudan but his parochial plans destroys such hope, which has huge negative impact on nation building, peace and co-existing among the people of South Sudan. The whole plot of Riek Machar explains his lack of wisdom.
Such lack of wisdom and self-interest was also shown by the move he undertook at Ketbek. It was at Ketbek were the Red Army was relocated to which was also became known as K. Minor.
Riek Purposely moved us from Pananyang to Ketbek in order to have easy access to our food for himself and new bride Emma and his White Army who were organized for major offences against traditional rivals in the summer of 1992.
Riek, though struggling to become president of South Sudan, he needs the presidency of the Nuer ethnic group only but above all to eliminate others groups from South Sudan’s politics, a dream I believe will die with Riek. Riek has a deeply ingrained hatred for Dinkas.
The destruction of Bor town and the lives of five thousand lost was not a surprise to me, it was a punishment to Garang and his Dinka ethnic group, the question is will Gat Machar (son of Machar) as Nuer call him lead the country with such unprecedented ethnicity affiliation, visionless attitude and myopia in dealing with national issues?
Absolutely not; Riek will never become one in my life time. This is because he is incapable and unwise. His lack of wisdom and care for the ordinary citizens of South Sudan was shown by his timing of coup.
Riek timed the coup at time when the SPLA was at the point of victory against the North, a time any ordinary and patriotic citizen would have not taken such unwise decision. His action of instigating coup in 1991 led to the split of the Mighty SPLA/M.
The split brought immense and devastating consequences which will never escape the memories of people of Sudan and South Sudan in Particular. Many lives were lost besides five thousand lives lost in Bor massacre.
What will never go away from my memory was the killing of 67 elderly women and men that were aging from 60 and above. If Riek, were a wise son of South Sudan he would have not allowed the enemy of South Sudanese that they had been fighting since 1955 to re-enter the liberated areas of South Sudan under control of Garang faction especially in Greater Equatoria and Upper Nile.
This traitorous act of Riek Machar gave the enemy an upper hand over the control of South Sudan and momentum which was gained before the attempted coup suffered a huge setback to the liberation of Sudan and in particular shattered the ambition of entirely liberating Southern territories within 1990s.
It was sad to see Riek acting like what our grandfathers did when they signed treaties with Arabs and Whites in 1947 that gave away the freedom of South Sudan in exchange of beats, clothes, and salt.