Date: 26 September 2020
Humility is a Characteristic of the Wise: An Open Letter to Joshua Dau
Joshua Dau Dieu wrote a letter dated 18 September 2020 to Hon. Samson Oyay Awin in which he devoted three (3) pages blaming him as to why he allowed me, being his “kid”, to write my open letter to him (Joshua) dated 22 August 2020. He calls it “unnecessary interference in dialogue between mature political ideologues and age mates”(p. 3). This is not only abusive but ludicrously fallacious as well. As much as the two can be good friends, that is their business. I am discussing national politics for which I am entitled to like any other grown up South Sudanese. For the information of Joshua, I am 46 years old, hold a PhD degree and teach in the University of Upper Nile. If all these credentials cannot qualify me to discuss public issues, what else can? Should Joshua and his age mate monopolize discussion on such national issues?
In the same vein, a good number of Jieng youth have been writing for years now, some ignorantly and most heaping abuse on Chollo politicians who stood publicly against their expansionist dreams. Is Joshua Dau telling us now that it was him who instigated them to do so?
After having a spite on me, Joshua turned in his letter to pass his judgment as follows:
1- The events that took place in the SPLM/A following the 1991 split were blamed on Dr Riek Machar and Dr Lam Akol and claiming rather preposterously that “This was the beginning of tribal politics in South Sudan, initiated by Dr Riek Machar Teny and Dr Lam Akol Ajawin: Nuers and Chollo against Jieng”.
2- The fighting that was resolved through the last Peace Agreement in 2018 has nothing to do with land grabbing but the agreement was “intended to accommodate leaders of those [rebellious] groups in a government which cannot deliver services, leave alone economic development”.
The rest of the letter was devoted to give his opinion under the followings headings:
1- Padaang-Chollo contest over land: East of River Nile
2- Attempts to survey East Nile land
3- Obel Peace Conference
4- SPLM/A Concession for Peace.
We shall in what follows respond to the substantive issued raised by Joshua Dau under the same headings or topics.
1- The 1991 Events in the SPLM/A
Unlike Joshua who speaks with authority as if he was the in centre of these events I will only comment on his unfounded claim that the 1991 Split in the SPLM/A was the beginning of tribal politics in South Sudan. Didn’t Joshua hear about Kokoro in 1982? The proponents of Kokoro “division of the South” made it clear that their move was in reaction to Dinka domination of politics in South Sudan for 10 years. They listed the names of occupants of government positions according to tribe and concluded that Dinka had more than their rightful share. In the SPLM/A itself, the Gaajak Nuer were targeted in 1983-85, the Mundaris in 1986 and the Murle in 1983-90. What tribal politics is he talking about?
2- That the war waged in 2013-15 and 2016-18 had nothing to do with land grabbing
As usual, Joshua would want to skirt the reality that their claim over Chollo land would not have gone this far were it not that the President and Government in Juba under pressure from the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) yielded to their baseless demand and decreed that it belongs to the Padaang. I wouldn’t waste time arguing about such an obvious matter but will ask two questions only: why was there a TBC and an IBC if the agreement was just about accommodating the rebel groups? And why was the issue of the ten (10) States so contentious that without its resolution the government wasn’t going to be formed? These are clear indications that the grabbing of Chollo land by the Padaang was in the centre of the conflict. In fact, that issue was the most contentious issue in the talks next to the security arrangements.
3- Padaang-Chollo contest over land: East of River Nile
To begin with, we, the Chollo never knew or heard of the word “Padaang” in relation to our Jieng neighbours until after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. We knew them by their individual names: Ngok, Dungjol, Pawiny, Thiony, etc. In any case, if they chose to call themselves so, so be it. Here, Joshua lists three possible solutions to the problem from his perspective. One is left wondering whether it is Joshua who has a short memory or he thinks we have. In my last letter, I challenged him to produce the document that proves that IGAD, AU and other bodies supported the position of Padaang in the land dispute as he claimed in his letter of 29 July 2020. Because there is none, he would want to divert attention from his wild claim.
4- Attempts to survey East Nile land
The version given by Joshua Dau is a tall story which has no relation to the facts. Natale Olwak, Angelo Othow and Matthew Othow had nothing whatsoever to do with the matter. To jog his memory, it was the two Dinka Chiefs Gajang Awol (Court President) and Michael Miakol Deng who wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Jonglei Province on 14 March 1980 complaining about the establishment of Obay-Nyitho model village by the Jonglei Canal Development Projects claiming that the area belongs to Thiony Dinka. It is this letter that prompted the reply of the then Minister of Regional Ministry of Administration, Police and Prisons in a letter to the Commissioners of Upper Nile and Jonglei Provinces on 23 September 1981 in which he concluded that “I wish to state that the letter written by the Court President above does not seem to tally with the actual facts existing on the boundaries between Upper Nile and Jonglei Provinces as borne out by the work of survey team.” (see, Akol, Lam, “Collo Boundaries Dispute”, Khartoum: Laser Printing, 2nd edn, 2016, pp. 52-3).
Charles Kuot Chatim became Minster of the Regional Ministry of Decentralization (the successor to the Regional Ministry of Administration, Police and Prisons) in 1982. On 20 September 1982 he wrote a letter to the two provincial Commissioners confirming what his predecessor had directed (see the same reference pp. 54-5). These are the facts. What does Joshua mean by “the chiefs stood their ground and surveyors never went back till today to demarcate the land….”? Did they disobey the government and the government did nothing? Absolute fiction.
5- Obel Peace Conference
The story of the murder of Monyyik Yor as related by Joshua Dau is a total distortion of the facts. The truth is that the man was a friend to a gentleman from Pajur villages. They used to visit each other and they shared many things between them. One day they quarreled and fought leading to the death of Monyyik Yor. The elders on both sides saw that since they were friends the death could not have been premeditated murder and decided, according to custom, to pay compensation to the family of the deceased. The matter was to be reported to the police. However, unknown to the people of Panyidwai, the Jieng mobilized themselves and launched a surprise attack on Pathworo-Chang killing many Chollo in cold blood. Not a single Chollo crossed to Luac area. Now Joshua turns the story around and without shame alleges that cold blood killing is a characteristic of Chollo!!!. The reader can now judge who betrayed the community agreement and who killed in cold blood.
The Obel Conference was not convened because of the death of Monyyik Yor but to preempt the situation caused by the Jieng’s unprovoked attack on Chollo and the looming possibility then of a Chollo revenge. Jieng attacked a section of Pathworo and the nearby Athidhiang villages. If it were Panyidwai fighting Luac, they wouldn’t have been there now.
In the Obel Conference itself, Joshua is admitting the disrespectful words uttered againg the Reth albeit he is putting those words into the mouth of one of the Jieng chiefs. That is fine. But he cannot deny that His Majesty Reth Ayang walked out in anger when he heard those denigrating utterances and Ustaz Acwil Lwal was dispatched to persuade him to return for the conference to continue.
6- SPLM/A Concession for Peace
Joshua Dau crafts a story in which Dr John Garang is depicted as ignorant or naïve, not able to “forsee the implications of his concession”(p. 6). This was in relation to his message No. 003/10/2004 dated 16 October 2004 approving the Chollo counties. This order was approving counties already on the ground when the SPLM-United merged with the SPLM/A in October 2003. Joshua claims that “the area was not even under the SPLM/A control” and that “they remained hollow just like the 21 states of Dr Riek Machar Teny which were created in Pagak when he had no legal status to establish any workable entities; so they remain void and baseless” (p. 6). These bogus claims reveal the ignorance of Joshua Dau and expose his pretense of knowing SPLM/A in and out as he asserts in this letter. First of all who gives “legal status to establish any workable entities”? Is Joshua expecting the de facto government in Khartoum to do so? Well, the very essence of a revolutionary war was to liberate the areas of our people from government control. This was the reason why the SPLM-United was administering the area concerned. It didn’t need permission from Khartoum or any other quarter to establish those four counties that it administered. In the same token the SPLM/A didn’t need permission from anybody to establish the 79 counties all over Southern Sudan (including these 4 counties). If these 4 counties were hollow then the other 75 counties were also hollow as they were established by similar orders in form of messages. When the SPLM-United merged with the SPLM/A in October 2003 the area fell under the administration of the SPLM/A. This order came a year after the merger. Was that time not enough for Dr John Garang to know that they were not “hollow”?
Second, these counties did not “remain void and baseless”. The same order (message 003/10/2004) appointed Commissioners to the 4 counties and they were running them even after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed and the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) was formed. In May 2007, the Commissioners were changed but the counties continued intact. As we all know, the capital of Makal County was in Malakal together with the State capital. The building was next to the old Cinema house. It was only the JCE inspired division of the country into 28 States on 2 October 2015 that grabbed Chollo land that tried to tamper with those counties. Therefore, the reference that “These counties were later in 2016-2017 created again by Dr Othwon (sic) Awer…” (p. 5), must be understood in the context of their abolition in 2015 by the JCE order.
Joshua Dau’s abusive and disrespectful language towards Chollo
Having refuted Joshua Dau’s claims, there is a dangerous thread that permeates his letter that must be pointed out: his abusive language against Chollo as a tribe. For instance he asserts that “lifestyle without borderlines between juniors and seniors or social distances in Chollo community” should not be allowed “to surface publicly to be known by other communities with lofty standard code.” (p. 1)This implies that Chollo do not have “lofty standard code”. See who is talking. What a joke!! We just do not want to stoop low. Otherwise, we would have said a lot about that. He also alleges of “the decaying Chollo Kingdom” (p. 8) and that killing in cold blood is a “typical characteristic of Shilluks” (p. 4). Can he substantiate this odious allegation?
Joshua Dau, in this letter, constantly refers to Chollo disparagingly as “immigrants and settlers”(pp. 5, 6 and 8). Can Joshua Dau and his elk tell us the exact date when Chollo migrated to their current locations east and west of the Nile? Who did they find there that they displaced? Where did the displaced go? Was the displacement peaceful or violent?
They have been avoiding answering these hard questions thinking that a repeated lie will become the truth. Fortunately, Chollo being a well organized nation has kept its history over the centuries. The most recent part of it is supported by literature written by those who were administering Upper Nile Province since its capital was at Kodok (which was the capital of the whole Southern Sudan until 1903) before it moved to Tawfigia and finally to Malakal. See, for example, “The Upper Nile Province Handbook” written by the outgoing Upper Nile governor, Mr C.A. Willis, in 1931. I challenge Elder Joshua to produce a single document supporting his claim.
The arrogance and lack of sensitivity of Joshua Dau against Chollo is reflected in the following quote from his letter. Says he:
“Now, that you have insisted on foul play through your own son Jalpan, the intention is evidently clear, for us to part ways. When I was proposing an Independent Administrative Area or State for the Chollo, it was in good faith and a genuine suggestion to bring to an end the subservient life the Chollo people are mostly subjected to in others’ towns, cities and areas specifically in Khorfulus, Akoka, Malakal, Renk, Malut, etc. to do the humiliating activities.” (p. 7) [Emphasis is mine].
Note that some of the places mentioned are those the Padaang occupied using state power in 2015. Whether those listed places could qualify to be termed “towns, cities, etc”, is beside the point. The point is that Joshua Dau is threatening that either Chollo surrender to their terms or continue to be subjected to humiliating treatment by none other than the Padaang governments foisted on the Chollo. He is reminding us of the action their so-called “Central Nile State” did in 2015 by dismissing all the civil servants from Chollo and Nuer nationality from the new grand Jieng State that extended from the border with Sudan down to the northern part of Jonglei state. This was tantamount to ethnic cleansing; a practice unheard of since the time of South Africa’s apartheid. Chollo will endure as they did under more difficult conditions during its five (5) centuries existence in the current areas they own east and west of the White Nile and Bahr el Jebel. They have not been known to be quitters.
Drunk with power, Joshua continues with his arrogance and veiled threats when he claims that:
“The reality is that I wanted to save the Chollo people from a horrible situation to be free by having their own state or Independent Administrative Area like other people and in-advertently even safeguard the decaying Chollo Kingdom. However, Padaang people, like other level headed Africans, the Europeans and Americans or the Arabs have no problem in accepting immigrants and settlers who volunteer to be enslaved by doing most of the domestic functions. In the final analysis, the immigrants and settlers are not the owners of the motherland, no matter how numerous and capable or skillful they might become. So, the Chollo people refusal of being in an Independent Administrative Area or State is not going to bother anybody hereafter.” (p. 8)[Emphasis is mine].
Again, it is the same language of threat and intimidation. Since the phrase “immigrant and settlers” have been repeatedly used to refer to Chollo, then the reference here is no doubt to them: you either accept what I am proposing for you or Joshua the Saviour will not “save the Chollo from a terrible situation” of voluntary enslavement, if there was something like that. The question is: when did Chollo “volunteer to be enslaved”? The enslavement Padaang wanted to mete out to the Chollo was vehemently rejected. If Joshua and Co. have slaves now, as he suggests here, then those for sure did not choose to be slaves and Joshua will face the full weight of international law if he doesn’t free them voluntarily.
Now, Joshua portrays himself as the final authority in the land. According to him if Chollo refuses his proposal, then that refusal “is not going to bother anybody hereafter”!! Can there be any stronger indication that his word is final? Thank you, Joshua, for letting the cat out of the bag.
Dr Jalpan Oyay
26 September 2020.
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