By Daniel Dut De Awan
The current seemingly lack of outrage over the outrageous situation that is unfolding in Jonglei state (JS) is outrageous. We’ve just entered another week, and there is no news of the women who were seized in front of their bewildered children and herded to jail, like some hardened criminal fugitives, having been released. Together with hardened murders, rapists, and adulterers, they are languishing inside Kong Nyuon’s dungeons, guarded by Nuer guardsmen. If this doesn’t fill my Bor brothers with a strong sense of nausea, I don’t know what will.
But what exactly was their crime? From the sketchy explanations that are trickling in rather lazily from Jonglei, it has emerged that these women exercised the very right for which their husband sacrificed their lives for. They protested, peacefully. They protested against Kong Nyuon’s incompetent management of state’s affairs. During their protested, they asked the governor to either deliver or quit. While the overall message was peaceful and positive, a few unflatering placards got into the mix, which called Kong Nyuon names. Allegedly, they accused him of being a rebels’ sympathizer and a host of other very ungodly names, like being a Nuer.
This, according to Kong Nyuon’s ardent sycophant, who happened to be a son of Bor, was akin to crossing a red line. The women were subsequently accused of harboring subversive feelings against the anointed governor. Despites the absurdity of all this, the woman were rounded up by the security agents and thrown into a dungeon and detained without charges, like some enemy’s combatants. Until today, any attempt to bail them out so that they could go back to their children has been thwarted by the state’s security agents.
This case raises a myriad of constitutional issues that every South Sudanese should pay attention to. First, the right to protest and petition our government peacefully is solidly enshrined in our constitution. Nobody should be incarcerated for airing out their legitimate discontent peacefully. Second, when one is arrested by the security agents for whatever reason, one must be charged within twenty (24) four hours. The constitution also makes this provision crystal clear. This provision has also been blatantly violated in this case since these women have been detained for more than a week now without charges being brought against them.
But if my memory serves me right, this is not the first time that Kong Nyuon has ever been booed by the citizens of Jonglei State. In March last year, Kong Nyuon tried to enter the UNMISS camp in Bor to talk with the Nuer IDPs inside. Upon arrival with his entourage, the Nuers who were waiting for him like vultures descended on him and almost lynched him with his team. In the pursuing mayhem, he was called many names such as: Dinka slave, money lover, Dinka sympathizer, and a series of other unflattering names. The question which begs asking is, did Kong Nyoun order the arrest of those citizens? If he didn’t, what is different with this class of citizens that they have to be arrested for airing out their particular feelings, just like the first group? If at all there is justice in this saga, why is it selective? If there is a hidden agenda in the way this governor is dealing with the citizens in this state, then people like me really would like to know.
Kong Nyuon and his group of soulless sycophants need to be schooled on a number of important democratic principles. It’s a shame that they are illiterate, but it is not too late. They can learn. First, human’s spirit to be free can’t be fought with medieval instruments of coercion, like jailing, torturing, and intimidation. It is self-defeating to try to do this because the more you oppress, the more discontent and opposition you generate. If you keep doing this, you will lose. Just ask other tyrants who have gone before you.
Second, these citizens didn’t elect you. You’re a “care-taker” governor, and this presupposes that you have to “take care” of them, not oppress them. If you keep doing this, you must be mindful that you have no legitimacy, and they will throw you out, like an unwanted trash. Don’t vaguely hope that President Kiir will come down to rescue you. He has enough fires in his hand to put out, and creating more small fires to be put out is the last thing in his mind. Your draconian rule will only get you in a much bigger trouble, and you will be alone when the time comes. In that governor’s office, you merely are a sitting duck.
Therefore, forget about those misleading messages being fed to you by your bootlickers and do the right thing before this situation spins out of control. You MUST release those women. They don’t belong in a jail cell and you know that. Hurry up and rescue what is left of your embattled legacy and release them before the hell breaks loose.
*Disclaimer: Mr. Daniel Dut De Awan is a citizen of Jonglei State. He resides in Juba, and he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org