This interview was first published by the South Sudan News Now. Ramciel sees this interview very important for the people of Jonglei and South Sudan at large; thus. Would like to republished it here.
The interview was as follow:
Begin the interview……
Question: Mr. Deng Elijah, good morning, good afternoon or good evening: what time is it in your time zone and can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Answer: Thank you for having me. I’m Deng Elijah, the president of the Gawaar Global Community and the Chairperson of the Gawaar Community Association in Canada. For simplicity, I will leave it at that but there are a few more chunks about me that anyone interested can find on my LinkedIn Profile online. The time now is 9pm Pacific Standard Time but I’m happy to chat with you on this topic, it’s very important.
Q: Alright, can you tell us a bit about Gawaar Global Community and why it is the right institution to speak to these sensitive matters?
A – First of all, the Gawaar Global Community is the highest institution or the umbrella that brings together the Gawaar Community Associations in the United States of America, Canada, Australia, Europe, Asia and Africa. It’s the first of its kind and the first community organization to track down its members all over the whole, especially in different continents, and bring them together to build a community-based network under one hierarchical leadership to address the welfare of the community – thanks to globalization and technological advancement that this can be achieved today at a minimal cost!
Secondly, the Gawaar Global Community is the right institution to address fundamental challenges facing the Gawaar people in diaspora and even in Ayod county because it is the only institution that takes advantage of both local and global resources and experiences.
In other words, the leadership of the Gawaar Global Community combines both grassroot knowledge and transformation leadership that is free from corruption, nepotism, tribalism and all sorts of biases that seem to be the only viable options to put food on the table in South Sudan. For instance, my leadership is free from conflict of interests when it comes to addressing sensitive matters like this because we want nothing but the best for the nation of South Sudan to join other developing nations and developed countries [like the ones some of us are currently living in] in scientific discovery and other technological advancements.
Q: now, tell us what do you think about the recent interview by the Radio Tamazuj with the governor of Pibor Administrative Area, Hon. Joshua Konyi and what would you tell him?
First of all, I commend the humble tone and maturity exhibited by Governor Konyi in his responses to many questions. Hon. Joshua Konyi is a well experienced elite, he knows what he is doing, but the question is, can we trust what he said? Of course, NO.
It is well evidenced in most of his answers that he was selling only one side of the story and to make the matter even worse, the figures that he was quoting sound very exaggerated. For example, if you refer to his statement where he claimed that “they attacked around 1736 houses and looted nearly 44,962 head of cattle”. If you take your calculator and do the arithmetic [44,962 / 1,736] you will be made to believe that each house had a minimum of 25 cows on average. Obviously, this can’t be true, not only in Murle but in any other community across South Sudan. If Murle had so many cattle, then they would be the richest tribe in South Sudan and I doubt that is true.
Q: Why do you think Governor Joshua Konyi exaggerated his stories or lied?
Not only Hon. Joshua Konyi, every leader in South Sudan right now is bound to please his community and the leadership that put him to power even if it means lying. Konyi is surviving at the mercy of his people, it is the hand that feeds him and therefore, he cannot afford to bite it. Instead he is arming the youth under the table to fight other communities and that is the reality that is revealed by many independent reports.
Governor Joshua Konyi and some other leaders in Nuer, Dinka and Chollo communities are supplying the youth with weapons and ammunitions to go fight or raid other communities. This is not only in Jonglei State, it is happening in Upper Nile, Unity State, Warrap, Lakes States etcetera and it should be stopped, not encouraged!
Q: But what led Gawaar youth to cross borders to go and attack Murle in their territory? Was Governor Joshua Konyi right that they were led by a witch-doctor who wanted to test his witch powers on Murle people?
A: First of all, that is part of the exaggeration or call it propaganda that I was referring to. As he said “what we hear as rumours”, at his caliber, he should not resort to “rumours” when the root causes of all these tribal conflicts are written in the sky for everyone to see. It is not a rumor but a reality that Murle attacks all communities within their reach, not only in South Sudan but also in neighboring countries like Ethiopia that is adjacent to them. They attack both in small numbers and in big numbers, and they have done all sorts of atrocities, killing, burning down of houses and abductions of children and women to the Nuer and Dinka communities in Jonglei State, Upper Nile and Gambella region of Ethiopia.
The only difference is that none of these distance communities take revenge on the Murle. In the case of attacks on the Ethiopian communities, the Ethiopian army take the law into their hands to either fight or recover whatever has been stolen or raided. For the Gawaar, Twice and Hol Dinka, they had to endure Murle atrocities for decades until very recently when they started resorting to revenge because the leaders that claim to be resolving this inter-communal violence have failed. The governor needs to acknowledge that!
In regards to what led Gawaar youth to “attack Pibor” – I can’t speak to spiritual leaders or to the youth but what I’m aware of, the youth have been dispersed by local authorities, not just once or twice, but a multiple time; however, they have their counter arguments which I’m not in position to dive into because some of them are common knowledge to all Nilotic communities!
Q: How have the leadership of Governor Denay Chagor and Joshua Konyi failed to resolve the conflicts when they are working hard to resolve them?
A: – This is a very good question and thanks for asking. First of all, the governor of Jonglei State, Mr. Denay Chagor, is a young man that is both naïve and inexperienced. In addition, Denay admitted recently that he went to USA when he was 16-year-old and maybe he left from a different country. So literally he does not understand the complexity of the problems he is trying to solve. His cultural orientation and understanding of ethnic diversity of Jonglei state alone looks very fragile. All he knows is “Fangak” which is a misrepresentation altogether. So you cannot expect such a leader to solve very complex problems that have existed for decades, if not centuries.
To answer your question, the approach they used both in Juba and Pieri was not meant to address the conflicts between all the communities. They were tailored to Murle, Lou-Nuer and Dinka-Bor for reasons that are best known to these leaders. Such initiatives excluded Gawaar, other Dinka and other Nuer subtribes in Jonglei State and Upper Nile from their peace equation. Even worse, all these initiatives did not end the inter-communal conflicts between these three communities.
Q: So, what exactly are the governors doing wrong?
In simple terms, the governors and their advisors must be inclusive. All the communities that are aggrieved by these conflicts must be brought to the table.
Secondly, these initiatives must be led by less political leaders e.g. they can be led by traditional leaders, religious leaders, intellectuals or even by independent mediation/institutions. Socialites like governor Denay are not in touch with the grassroot experiences like they may sound in their speeches and in addition, they are too busy to focus on one agenda.
Q: What would you suggest to be the way forward?
The way forward is crystal clear. All that is needed to resolve any problem at a minimal cost and on time at any time is LEADERSHIP. If you have good leadership in place starting from J1 to Buma level, the bloodshed across South Sudan can be reduced by over 75% in less than 3 years and a lot of resources that are being wasted currently can be saved or diverted to development.
Specifically, the inter-communal conflicts cannot be resolved in Juba. A lot of resources are being wasted on political mobilizations in Juba when they should be used to mobilize traditional leaders and youth in the villages to sit down, reconcile and bury their differences.
Lastly, if we were to think of an ideal situation where leadership stands by its definition, the only viable option to contain these inter-communal crises would be to summon the two governors and show them how to form an independent mediation committee that would be independent, knowledgeable and inclusive. Such a committee should only be supervised by the governors without any interference of any sort.
Q: Lastly, is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
Yes, my last message to the youth, especially to those who are directly involved in these conflicts and the local authorities including commissioners, the youth should know that they are just collateral damage to leadership failure in the country. They must think twice to salvage the little that is left and save lives. Understand that revenge is not a solution, it will only escalate the situation. You must reserve and try to find alternative solutions.
To the local authorities, commissioners and governors, don’t fuel the inter-communal violence; don’t arm the youth and try to disperse them when they gather in large numbers to carry out offensives. Don’t use the army to fight but to separate the wars.
Finally, make peace, reconcile, forgive and live in harmony!
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