By Professor Peter Adwok Nyaba
Oppression is as old as humanity. Like slavery in human history, oppression is historically not peculiar to a particular race or skin complexion. However, this assertion, like slavery oppression and domination seem to have stuck with black man and in particular the Africans. They seem familiar that we tolerate them.
Franz Fanon in his two books: “The wretched of the earth” and “Black skins white masks”, studied the phenomenal behaviour of people who find themselves in situations of oppression. The Brazilian education, Paulo Freire in his treatise “The Pedagogy of the oppressed” called this phenomenon ‘internalization of the oppression’. Nearer home, Al Baqir Affifi, also in his paper entitled “The crisis of identity in northern Sudan: The dilemma of a black people with a while culture”, tackled such behaviours consequential to conflictual relations obtaining in an oppressive reality of societal domination.
In “The politics of liberation in South Sudan: An insider’s view”, I attributed the brutalization, dehumanization and all anti-social traits the SPLA soldiers meted out on the unarmed civil population on their advance to contact with the enemy, to the similar treatment they got in the process of training. Theirs were acts of regaining their manhood or rather their humanity, which they had lost to the trainers in Bonga or Bilpam.
Oppressive reality generate a dichotomised psychology in both the ‘oppressor’ and the ‘oppressed’ corresponding to that relationship, which evolve between the ‘horse’ and the ‘rider’ or between the ‘colonial master’ and the ‘colonized people’ upon which hinges many other issue. This prompted Freire’s definition of ‘liberation’ as a process of freeing from the ‘situation of oppression’, which conditions their attitudes and behaviours both the ‘oppressed’ and the ‘oppressor’.
The reaction on the social media, especially on the Facebook, to my recent article in response to the Jieŋ Council of Elders (JCE) prompted me to write this piece. The insults and innuendos will not deter me for they meant to muzzle me and stifle the truth. I am an intellectual driven by progressive ideology and love for South Sudan and its people without distinction. I am not as a Chollo whose village the Padang-Jieŋ elite want to misappropriate with the assistance of President Salva Kiir. In this context, I read as ‘oppressed’ muon-jaaŋ psychology, which drives certain condescending and patronizing attitudes and actions towards other ethnic communities in South Sudan. This psychology is a product of oppression, exploitation, slavery and slave trade our people went through since the nineteenth century.
I recall vividly a discussion I had sometimes in 1998 with late Dr. Peter Nyot Kok (R.I.P) and Dr. Luka Biong Deng in Mapel, Bahr el Ghazal, on the definition of ‘muony-jieŋ (singular) and muony-jaaŋ (plural), which according to them translated to ‘husband of all others’ analogous to superiority – inferiority relations, whatever that would really mean. The discussion remained inconclusive but kind of impaired our mutual relationship. I hope Dr. Luka Biong Deng will be kind to pick up the discussion now in our current volatile social and political context informed in part by muony-jaaŋ attitudes.
My starting point in this discourse would be the “Dinka Development Plan for 200 years” authored by the JCE. Most of the members of JCE are senior members of the SPLM – ruling Party. In fact, they occupy positions in the executive, legislative and judicial organs of the state. By the look of things, they pull the strings in the SPLM and in the government suggesting that they are the authors of many bad decisions and policies in South Sudan. I was a member of the SPLM until 1st June 2013. I had always been loudly critical of certain decisions purportedly attributed to SPLM or its Political Bureau but unilaterally taken by President Salva Kiir Mayardit.
One such outrageous decision was ‘electoral college’ system, whereby in many places non-SPLM individuals selected on ethnic criteria evaluated and vetted prospective SPLM candidates. We all know the result; many SPLM members contested as independents and won against the SPLM. In other areas, the 2010 elections were far from free and fair. This SPLM conducted the exercise against the recommendations of the subcommittee of the National Elections Strategy Committee [I headed that body] that the SPLM should conduct primaries in order to choose its candidate for the general and presidential elections.
Another important mistake presumably attributed to President Salva Kiir Mayardit would be the SPLM so-called greater so and so conferences. Started by the so-called SPLM Greater Equatoria Region Conference, which has no constitutional legitimacy neither as region in the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011, nor as a structure in the SPLM constitution. However, there was sense to these conferences except the so-called Greater Upper Nile did not convene one. The sense I am alluding to registers in the machinations to slaughter the SPLM as a legacy of Dr. John Garang de Mabior (R.I.P) in the context of shifting power centre to Warrap in Bahr el Ghazal.
In the context of South Sudan, the JCE authority makes sense only in the death of the SPLM as a political institution on the one hand, suggesting that policy decisions would now emanate from the JCE through the president of the republic, and on the other hand, this JCE authority makes sense within the Jieŋ power politics. Thus, geographical proximity to President Salva Kiir Mayardit acquires significance as gleaned from the inordinately large political influence in the country Justice Ambrose Riiny Thiik seems to ooze as Chairman of the JCE. This JCE power and authority in promotion of muony-jaaŋ social, economic and political interests has correspondingly led to the emasculation of the SPLM as the ruling party, the state institutions especially the Judiciary and security organs and don’t forget the banking system under the tutelage of the Governor of the Central Bank of South Sudan.
This digression was necessary in order to gather the threads that link muony-jaaŋ or muony-jieŋ ‘oppressed’ psychology to the current crisis of South Sudan. The urge to self –assertion and identity compromised by foreigners drives this ‘oppressed psychology’. Having achieved that through the war of national liberation, in which the muony-jaaŋ contributed inordinately larger numbers compared to other nationalities, they want to do it on those others in order to complete the satisfaction. As clearly spelt out in the Dinka Master Plan, in 200 years – a very long time though, the Dinka will have achieved all it takes to be what they perceive as muony-jaaŋ. This now drives the policy that the Jieng must be seen as the custodian of every authority in the land. In their constellation of power, the Nuer then follow the Jieng, and all others lumped together as ‘Equatorians’ or Jur are third class.
Now, I understand what ‘awic ko aŋic ko’, mooted silently in whispers by Bahr el Ghazal elite in the SPLM/A during the last few years, really meant. The Jieŋ elite unlike all the others knew what they wanted. This perception trumped the attempts at raising the social awareness and political consciousness of the masses of our people. The result efficaciously was to create the kind social and political situation South Sudan is in today. I do not believe it is even to the interest of those elite peddling that ideology of ethnic supremacy. Like Nazism in the last century, it is bound to cause catastrophe but the people including the Dinka themselves will be part of its destruction in the end.
The Dinka people or muony-Jaaŋ are an integral part of the people of South Sudan. Instead of planning for the Dinka alone because they have the opportunity to provide leadership of the country now, why not plan for all the communities that make up the population of South Sudan and in this, we will have no reason to war. It was mind that every community is proud of itself but there will be no problem as long as that self-pride expressed in traditional cultural practices like dance, song does not impinge on or demean others. I want to challenge the Dinka elite; indeed all of us, to engage in this ideological struggle as a means of bring peace, stability and socio-economic development to our people.
It is not generational change of power that will bring salvation to South Sudan as some young elite would want make believe. The ideological struggle will make the difference in this discourse of war, peace and socio-economic development. This ideological struggle will sharpen our ideas to chart the best way to resolve our developmental problems.
In conclusion, I want to say that the elite who shape and articulate this Jieŋ political thought are not realistic to say the least. As a product of oppression and exploitation, the muony-jaaŋ psychology of supremacy can survive only in a process that leads to its destruction. This means the Jieŋ, Nȁȁth, Azande, Chollo, and Murle; Maaban, Toposa, Otuho, Bari and all the sixty-four ethnicities of South Sudan merge in unison as a nation. The resultant nation will not be Dinka in character and culture but something that will contain the characters and cultures of all of them. It us therefore rise the primoval parochialism we found ourselves in since birth.
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