By Wuok Mayang Janguan
SUDANS POST – The catastrophic war that turned the two major ethnic groups – Nuer and Dinka – into harsh rivals started as a small dispute. Then like wildfire on a windy day, it escalated and laid waste practically to the entire region. It is dubbed as “Wrestling of Two Elephants.”
Memories of that man-made disaster are still fresh in some peoples’ minds. It has left ugly marks that may take a very long time to vanish. Those marks still haunt the young nation today.
Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) descended into chaos and babel eight years later after its formation when its two prominent leaders had disagreements over which path to take. Garang was very relentless in his pursuit for the ‘New Sudan”.
What he meant for the term “New Sudan” was to make Sudan a country free of marginalization and discrimination based on skin color and religion. He showed no signs of giving up on that ambition. He spoke optimistically about liberating Sudan from Arabs elite that ruled the country with an iron fist.
Garang loved Sudan very much that he called it Garden of Eden. He liked its diversity and wanted to keep it as one country. Turning Sudan into Africa’s superpower was one of his dreams.
Riek opposed Garang’s idea. He believed that transforming Sudan into New Sudan “is easier said than done”. He also thought that the northerners and southerners would be hard to integrate for they are distinctively different in culture, lifestyles and faith. Arabs disdained and looked down to southerners. They referred to them as slaves, primitives and faithless savages.
Riek advocated for the independence of South Sudan. To him the idea of liberating Sudan (starting from the south all the way to the north) was very ridiculous and dangerous. He pointed out that Sudanese Arabs were backed by many wealthy Arabs countries.Trying to take power from them could be a waste of time and risky business that would end in failure.
These conflicting views spelled woes to the movement. Friction placed itself between the two leaders and it continued to grow. Things ran out of control : Riek Machar broke away from SPLM and founded a new movement known as South Sudan Independence Movement (SSIM) whose goal was to separate Southern Sudan from the Republic of Sudan. SSIM flourished overnight and started having an enormous number of soldiers. In its call for independence, SSIM attracted a considerable number of military generals.
Nuer youth were drawn in to the new movement in their thousands.
On his part, Dr Garang worked tirelessly to maintain the SPLM/A and filled the vacuum created by the defection of Machar. With the help of military commanders that hadn’t abandoned him, Garang managed to make SPLM/A even stronger. Thousands of Dinka young men volunteered and the number of SPLA soldiers magically soared
Both sides foresaw the danger that lurked beneath the surface. So beefing up their military strengths was the response. Things slowly broke loose, then war broke out. In swift speed the conflict reached numerous parts of southern Sudan. It was fought in various fronts. The question of who initiated the war is still a mystery.
The war raged on, unleashing unforgiving famines and epidemic illnesses.
Death from disease and starvation became commonplace. Families were weakened by hunger and diseases that they couldn’t bury their dead. They had to get rid of corpses by dragging them out to nearby forests.
Because both men were supported by their tribesmen, the war looked more like tribal hostility. Some people called it Dinka-Nuer war. The conflict took its toll on both civilians and combatants. Both sides carried out mass killings in some areas. Cross border raids were frequent. Cattle raiding and plundering intensified. Several villages were reduced to ashes and this caused exodus to neighboring countries. Thousands of people marched northward to the capital Khartoum only to find themselves living in subhuman conditions in the outskirts of the city.
The war hadn’t gone unnoticed. It attracted the attention of Arab government in the north. President Bashir swooped in and said that SPLM was taking a wrong direction. He vehemently said he liked Independence of South Sudan and despised Garang’s idea of liberating the entire Sudan. Bashir said SSIM were fighting for the right cause. He exempted SSIM/A from his military operations in the South. In other words, he targeted only areas controlled by SPLM/A. SSIM/A and SPLM/A signed a peace agreement which ended the war in 2002. Both sides agreed on right to self-determination.
Notice: Today some propagandist sing choruses of lies against Riek Machar, calling him names and portraying him as a traitor who fought alongside enemy against his brothers. But a cursory glance of history puts this bunch of liars to shame. There was no betrayal by him or by anyone else. He was fighting for independence of South Sudan. Of course, having a place to call home is very sweet as we see it today. It is something that is worth fighting for.
Dr Garang was totally against separation from Sudan. He was championing for the liberation of Sudan in general, which had already proved to be unachievable, costly and time-consuming. His idea could have spelled death to our beautiful languages and values, and then brought about islamisation and Arabisation of the entire population of South Sudan.
If there is someone among our politicians who devoted his time to making South Sudanese free, it is Dr Riek Machar. Hadn’t he worked tirelessly, some of you would have found themselves whimpering and fighting over leftovers in the streets of Khartoum once more. Sadly, you have been awfully brainwashed into blinds and deafs that you don’t listen and see. In other words, you don’t know what is wrong and good.
You should be appreciating and praising him for what he did to you instead of insulting and defaming him.