By Gabrial Pager Ajang
Histories of Liberation Struggles and independence are supported by facts and thoughtful ideas. Nations are founded by the ideals, and these ideals become beacon and groundwork for state development. South Sudan is not an exception. Prolific political scientist and renowned historians will scrutinize history of South Sudan. Researchers could arrive at the same deduction because history is guided by primary and secondary documents of state. Today, we have tons of historical materials that dated back to period of Anglo Egyptian condominium to independence of Sudan from Great Britain, and secession of South Sudan from Khartoum. And in procedures of examining these histories, Am certain, there would no time current circulating opinions will be considered and affirmed as part of South Sudan’s history. It will be improbable to compare Dr. John Garang de Mabior with President Kiir. Nevertheless, these leaders made accomplishments and their legacies will be awarded based on their merited and tasks completed. Legacies are not awarded like trophies, they are achieved.
Ateny Wek and Buay Malek are voices and mouths of president Kiir respectively in South Sudan and United States: two individuals who never held professional jobs in the West. They went to Juba to lure government with thin internship resumes and got employed. They know our nation is at the cross road, and intentionally want to award legacies just to create more chaos. And what is even more intriguing is that Ateny Wek asserted in his article that “let bow down in saluting in president Kiir and Dr. Garang.” It seems to be simple and honorable line to South Sudan national leaders but I was concerned about such statement because it reinforces the existing sentiment that painted South Sudan as a state that had dictatorial regime or monarchy which comprised of Dinka only. On the other hand, Gordon Buay had made South Sudan embassy in Washington DC as a site for spewing loathing and abhorring against South Sudanese citizens. Gordon Buay and Ateny Wek ought to be careful because South Sudan government is perceived and understood from the West through lenses of their writings and talks. Therefore it is important to debunk and put a break on this enhanced national divisive rhetoric and hawkish politics from Ateny Wek Ateny and Gordon Buay Malek which continue to shape South Sudan.
I joined SPLM/A in 1987. Gordon Malek and Ateny Wek were in Khartoum and joined SPLM/A after independence of South Sudan. They need to be informed that we were not fighting to establish tyranny leadership. So the leaders they work for can never be treated as King. As veteran, I will always honor and revere President Kiir and Dr. Garang for their excellent and tremendously achievements but there would be no time I would say that I will bow down to them, for this would set a bad precedent for next generations and a country we all so loved.
Furthermore, Ateny Wek article equates current president of South Sudan with previous Chairman of SPLM/A, Dr. John Garang in a manner that disparaged all of them. He wrote one page in which he unraveled legacy of liberation struggles to interim period from Dr. John Garang and hanged it in the midst air. No one in right mind could possibly do that. In this piece, I would like to debunk Ateny Wek recent article and previous article of Gordon Buay because attacking Dr. Garang is inevitably an attack on South Sudan and president Kiir. Dr. John Garang is dead and it is reprehensible to belittle a dead person for political purpose and employment.
Even more important, president Kiir is a president of development. So if you want to compare president Kiir with Dr. John Garang, wouldn’t it be great to talk about Kiir’s presidency, at his developmental projects, programs that are often press secretaries talking points.
Yes, Kiir is one of the founding fathers but Kiir will be judged and scrutinized on his roles and accomplishments as a president of Sudan South at time of independence not necessary as one of the founding fathers.
Folks like Gordon and Ateny Wek may not know Dr. John Garang de Mabior, so let me provide you with a glimpse of his leadership styles. Dr. Garang could have lived in United States and excel but he saw that as a self-serving and selfishness. He was true nationalist and patriot, he gave up luxurious lifestyle to sacrifice his own life so that you can live in a country you call your own home. Dr. Garang did it by pioneering a dynamic and inspiring vision that called for unity and prosperity of our people.
He maintained his leadership in the course of struggles through influence. He was a political figure who used charisma to influence soldiers and civil population to support him. Dr. Garang Kept the people of Bhar el Ghazel, Equtoria around goals of liberation struggles and he maintained his leadership through influence, expertize and collaboration within South Sudan, African regions and international community. He saw diversity of South Sudanese tribes as strength and not weakness. Dr. Garang was an expert in organizing people, continued to pioneer new avenues of developing South Sudan juniors and spearheaded advancement in ranks of SPLM/A leaderships. He sent series of SPLA generals to Iowa State University to obtain tools and skills that would allow them to be more effective, resourceful and efficient in SPLA units.
Dr. Garang was a political figure and Commander in chief who used charisma and wisdom served both civil population of South Sudan and soldiers. Historians, Social and political scientists would argue in coming years that Dr. Garang used influence as paid check to thousands of armies that fought for independent. He lured thousand with his words and wisdoms. He was likeable. These traits and many more set him apart from leaders who fought for South Sudan autonomy or secession.
It is also true that many South Sudanese leaders were distressed with Dr. Garang because they did think transformation of Sudan into democratic and idea of South Sudan secession were impossible. South Sudan leaders and citizens that were in Khartoum opposed the principles protocols enunciated in Comprehensive Peace Agreement that provided people South Sudan with power to vote for independence in a referendum. So I wouldn’t blame Ateny Wek and Gordon Buay that much. They may work for government of South Sudan but they are not educated about the history of SPLM/A but I will say this history of a country that had cost millions of people lives is never written through microscopic zoom of pay checks. A history as essential as this warrants an impartial mind and sovereign mind that is never adulterated.
Bwana Malual, Wol Wol, Abel Alier and Lagu; leaders of Southern Sudan in1960s and 1970s disagreed on principles of independence of South Sudan and transformation of Sudan with Dr. Garang and remained as part of Khartoum government. However, they were unrelenting and unwavering in their quest for South Sudan autonomy. They led Southern Sudan in those tough years. They knew enemy was so powerful that they even never envision independence of South Sudan was at they reach.
Abel Alier articulated and mapped out such argument in his book “Too Many Agreements Dishonored. This thesis was derived from a view which suggests that Sudan can never be transformed into democratic or Sudan government would never consent to an agreement that would offer South Sudan independent. This narrative was true in their views. And riveting evident illustrated that Khartoum had dishonored many agreements.
1972 Addis Ababa agreement, Abuja agreement, Khartoum agreement, Kampala agreement and many other agreements that were signed by SPLM/A and Anya Anya with Sudan government were all dishonored.
Abel Alier and Joseph Lagu will be fathers of South Sudan regional government, and leaders who laid foundation for South Sudan independent. They embodied core principles of South Sudan autonomy and charter new face for final struggles for South Sudan independence. Therefore I commenced the leaderships of Abel Alier and Joseph Lagu along with men and women who writhed for liberation of people of South Sudan. They have endured torturous suffering from their times to times of the Sudan People Liberation Movement/Army: a struggle that sent us to our final destination.
It is worth mentioning that almost all families of South Sudan had contributed their goats, cows, grains and most importantly precious blood of their sons and daughters to the liberation struggles. Their hard work and precious blood spilled culminated into state today we called our own. It is good reiterate to Ateny Wek that South Sudan journey to statehood was a long and agonizing one. Men and women who fought fiercely were guided by a living vision and entire leadership used to embrace programs of the SPLM/A. Dr. Garang eloquence in rationalizing the national purposes coupled with his skill in keeping committed to the vision of democracy and secession were frequently pronounced and understood by everyone. He rallied people behind him and assured them of victory. SPLA soldiers and civil population understood SPLM ideals of nationalism and patriotism which eventually triumphant over fear and skepticism among common citizens and leaders of South Sudan.
In the first year of 1983, majority of men and women volunteered from Bhar el ghazel and Greater Upper Nile. They were effectively trained and equipped. Subsequently, enthusiastic young men and women of all age came and joined the SPLM between 1983 and1991. Dr. Garang and president Kiir along with their soldiers were driven by political ideology, holding firm to belief about the importance of liberty, equality and prosperity of deprived citizens by Khartoum. The vehemently fought the Khartoum government and defense of families of regions they controlled and honor their core values by preserving the rights of South Sudanese people. Many Historians would concur with me that success of Dr. Garang is intertwined with success of president Kiir. Soldiers who had privilege to fight alongside Dr. Garang and president Kiir will forever be proud in their tombs. They fought fiercely in battles and they love it. They experienced combat and it affected them profoundly and sometimes altered their reasons and it might be the reason why SPLA continue fight today.
Dr. Garang and President Kiir fought for 21 years. Sudan civil war had a major impact on people of South Sudan and it will shape course their history. I do not know whether Ateny Wek and Gordon Buay know but Dr. Garang won in many battles of war and most importantly won the COMPREHESIVE PEACE AGREEMENT on diplomatic fronts. He was victorious on the negotiating table and energized popular democratic forces which politically subdued Khartoum. He brawled Khartoum government vehemently to secure peace. Hence, there were no magical things that were performed by the SPLM current leadership besides CPA; An accord that gave South Sudan statehood. However, it is essential that we remember that Dr. Garang and Kiir are inseparable in history of liberation struggles.
Simultaneously, Dr. Garang authored Comprehensive Peace Agreement that was signed in 2005 by Sudan government, a landmark accord that gave the people of South Sudan a right either to vote for secession or unity. In 2011, people of South Sudan voted for independence, and South Sudan became a nascent nation within the same year.
It is vital that all South Sudanese people to remember their history. Unlike other histories of liberation, South Sudan had a unique history of independence. It is unique because people of South Sudan were given power that gave them chances to vote for independence. While United States declared independent in 1776 before patriot (soldiers fought to win revolutionary war, while Algeria won their war to become independence state. So I will be blunt to you Ateny Wek Ateny without CPA, there would be no South Sudan. Ideals and ideas are dis-proportionally fundamental than simple declaration of independent for nothing would be declared with core values and ideals.
To contextualize my point even more, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton and many of the United States founding fathers wrote Federalist and Anti-federalists papers, papers that are now celebrated as blueprint for United States creation. They drafted United States constitution. They are architects of a United States living constitution.
They were called founding fathers because their ideals and values they developed were used in framing United States Constitution. So I would urge Ateny to point to one of protocols or protocols which that were written by president Kiir to solidify his argument, otherwise it falls apart. It is important to mention that United States fought for 85 years as a loose union. There was no state called United States since 1776 to 1864. It was known as a loose union which officially became United States in 1865. Abraham Lincoln pronounced and proclaimed United States in 1865. So declaration of statehood does not make one father of a nation.
Ateny compares Kiir and Garang without supporting his argument with solid evidences. He hangs his arguments on declaration of independence of South Sudan. But it is possible to compare Kiir and Dr. Garang without disparaging Dr. John Garang. It would have been at least better to bestow upon them their accomplishments based on their deeds and leadership in liberation struggles, crafting peace agreements and post-war issues. In these areas, the two leaders have measurable accomplishments on their own rights. They have done noble job for people of South Sudan. It would be remorse and disservice to our nation and citizens if we do not do them a due diligent. President Kiir guided Dr. John Garang vision through difficult times of referendum and internal uprisings to secure independent of South Sudan.
Therefore history of South Sudan will speak but Ateny wek and Gordon need to emphasize and anchor Kiir as a president of development. He tasked to take South Sudan to a new era. African regional leaders or presidents of Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia or West for that matter would never serve South Sudan national interest. Only President of South Sudan will secure South Sudan national interests. Presidents work to safeguard their national interests. So instead of disparaging the father of our nation, shouldn’t you guys be creating programs that would ease reliance on Kenya and Uganda produces/productions? South Sudan production of crops or agricultural development will provide her with a power and parity to compete in the region and global market. Now, South Sudan had zero leverage to bargain with other nations in Africa. South Sudan does not export anything commodities that why South Sudanese pounds is weak, thus hyperinflation escalated. This is something to think about to fix instead of going on unmerciful road.
Message to Ateny Wek Ateny
My message to Ateny Wek is that success of Dr. John Garang is a success of President Kiir. It does not do any good to siting president—when his own press secretary goes on an ego trip in midnight to cemetery and wish bad things to happen to a dead person. It is puzzling to even think for a minute as to what forces him to write such article this October, 2016. In politics, government employees ought to be extra careful in their writings. If Ateny Wek was writing such piece to secure his job, than it can intuitively cost him his job. So Mr. Wek, with all due respect I agreed with you. Indeed, you indicated that you were writing your article as a private citizen.
So it will be treated as your opinion of a common citizen. But retrospectively, you work for government of South Sudan and that means everything you write can be treated and interpreted as position of government. Be aware that all government officials’ opinions in the worlds are constrained by positions they hold, am you are not exception. Your article is perceived as a position of government because you speak for government of South Sudan
Dr. Garang and Kiir may have disagreed illustrated in an infamous 2004 Rumbek Conference. It is now clear that they were set up to disagreed and conflict. And it is ok, brothers and sisters disagreed let alone leaders provided that their conflict is a healthy one. I can tell you with certain terms that there is no press secretary of a sitting president that have ever attacked dead predecessor from the same party. Great leaders build an incremental legacy from previous presidents. Leaders who start from nothing are doomed to fail.
Dr. John Garang left tons of programs and visions for South Sudan development—-if President Kiir were to contrivance from policies of Dr. Garang, our country would have been in better shape. But here you are you talking about the past and not focusing on future of our country. Please leave important topics such as history and legacy to us because it pertain academia and execute your responsibilities as government official.
My Message to Gordon Buay Malek, the Hawkish, Ambassador
Moreover, am concerned about patterns that have been set by South Sudanese public officials since the outbreak of war in 2013. Most of Juba officials are damaging and damming the image of our country on national television, and most ambassadors are exhausting their positions and state resources to advance their awful opinions at the global stage. Citizens of South Sudan, World and regional leaders understood that our leaders are either expressing egos or selfish tribal motives. Nationalism and patriotism is dead. Nationalism and patriotism put national interest first rather than individual tribes or stomach. Ambassador Gordon Buay Malek is so hawkish and hoax to a point the Voice of American in Washington DC called him in an interview as an individual who “inflames and incites violent in South Sudan.” You can find his interviews in YouTube on this link below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OE3a8H9mhE
Ambassador, Gordon Buay is the worst of all. Well, as the saying goes, you ripped what you sow. Am aware Juba probably wonders why United States and South Sudan relations got worst. Juba sent Gordon Buay to Washington DC, and the United State-South Sudan relationships changed from good to bad. It makes me sometime wonders what sorts of professional job had Gordon Buay done in Canada before he moved to South Sudan. I have asked my friends who are currently living in Canada, and not a single South Sudan had positive things to say about him. And as a person who lives in the United States, Buay has damaged South Sudan diplomatic mission to United States.
Buay is seen by United States Senate of Foreign Relation as an individual who is brewing tribalism and hatreds in South Sudan. His writings do not only go against core principles of diplomacy but they spearhead ugly perpetual violent. Buay uses diplomatic sites as launching pads for continuous conflicts. He enhances tribal and national hatreds, and South Sudan embassy allows and provides platform for such hatreds to flourish. He has reduced national embassy to a tiny tick that goes after that goes after hosts and finishes it. So why does the government of South Sudan would keep such monster on diplomatic sites?
Undoubtedly, Buay is a reason why United States- South Sudan relations gradually got shoddier. He man had no minimal diplomatic mission concepts that could help South Sudan. He does not comprehend that anything he says or do can be used against South Sudan, and to be specific, against president Kiir. Besides, he does not recognize weight and gravity that comes with responsibilities of ambassadorship—-especially when engaged at the global spot light and questioned with the allegations of war crimes and corruptions.
One would think Gordon Buay‘s responsibility would reign from advancing strategic alliance with United States, fostering cooperation to support nascent state of South Sudan to peace among tribes, capacity development and conflict resolution. But you know what? That is not the case, diplomatic priorities have been compromised and hence South Sudan foreign policy continues to deteriorate. Moreover, instead of executing his responsibilities in Washington, Buay embarks on trashing the founding father of South Sudan; Dr. John Garang de Mabior in his article dated 10/17/2015, and reared his ugly divisive rhetoric: in a writing which does not help, President Kiir, South Sudan or himself.
The World and regional leaders honored Dr. John Garang vision of legacy and programs that acknowledged common persons as equal stakeholders in their own state. The World United around his vision and apportions South Sudan statehood. Garang remains as a symbol of South Sudan and pulling him down is appalling. However, preservation of Dr. Garang legacy is automatically could solidify for president legacy because legacies are built from one president to another. There is no way president Kiir that can succeed in isolation. He can succeed if he chooses to follow footsteps of late Dr. John Garang. To settle the question of founding fathers, I think
- Karbino Kuanyin Bol
- William Nyuon
- Salva Kiir Kuethping
- Arok Thon Arok
- Akuot Atem
- Majier Gai
- Lual Diing Wol
- Manyiel Ayuen
- Gai Tut and many more and are founding South Sudan founding fathers and the father of nation: Dr. John Garand de Mabior.
And indeed George Washington is the father of United States, and those who fought alongside with him and ones who commanded patriots are called founding fathers. Founding fathers are not only leaders who fought for independent but leaders who are armed with tools, wisdom and had capacity to leave ideas that would lay foundation to stabilize new nations. The reason why leaders are honored and revered with such title (father of nation, is not because one was the first president. It is because they are architect of ideals and vision that offer nations’ statehood. In this case not only did Dr. John Garang led the liberation struggles but he also authored CPA and mapped out vision for independent. For 21 years, men and women safeguarded road to statehood because Dr. Garang was inspirational and transformational leader. He led unpaid army for 21 years, kept SPLA/M intact, and signed numerous agreements with Khartoum. Garang rallied global leaders around common cause. He won the hearts of world leaders, South Sudan and Sudan to sign comprehensive Peace Agreement. Dr. Garang enshrined into Comprehensive Peace Agreement a vision that called transformation of Sudan into democratic state and, or the people of South Sudan can exercise their rights in an international monitored referendum to vote either for Unity or Secession. These two options irrefutably become ideals and beacon that gave South Sudan a true self.
Gabrial Pager Ajang is a Political Science and History Instructor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org