By Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak
Almost two weeks ago, South Sudanese and their American friends converged at Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa on Saturday October 3, 2015. A day earlier, there was a jamboree of enthusiastic crowd who received the SPLM-IO delegation at the Eppley Airfield before returning and received the Chairman Dr. Riek Machar on the same airfield. The crowd was carrying posters with Dr. Riek’s picture, chanting with ululation and praising songs to show their gratitude and respect to the man who dedicated his life to free South Sudanese from the Arab slavery toward the Southerners when the two Sudans were once one part.
Again Dr. Riek is doing it all over again ensuring that there is a better way of exercising power and also satisfying the South Sudanese public with the democracy and freedom they they fought for than what President Kiir is doing.
The crowd was eager to hear from him for the first time since the infamous war was ignited by the country’s president in 2013. Eppley Airfield staffs were greatly surprised of who is being much loved. After warm welcome at the airport, the crowd proceed to Mid-America Center and found the audience seated ready to hear from their leaders.
In the corridor was a group of Chapter leaders of the SPLA in Opposition from various States in the United States lined up in order to greet Dr. Riek one by one. When the delegate sat down, Brown Both Bol who entertained the audience called the “DJ” to play Kang JJ and Gordon Koang Duoth songs before handed the microphone over to deputy SPLM-IO representative to the United States Mr. Mariano.
The deputy representative asked the “DJ” to play South Sudan’s national Anthem before introducing Nebraska Chapter chairperson to say a word of welcome. After that, the host call upon women league chairperson Nyagile Thot. Then, the SPLM-IO coordinator was called and thanked the delegation as well as the fellow SPLM-IO members in the United States.
Subsequently, Mr. Mariano called upon the SPLM-IO representative to Washington D.C. Reath Muoch Tang to introduce the delegation one by one started from deputy chairman Afred Lado Gore, Angelina Teny, Taban Deng Gai, Dr. Dhou Mathok, Ezekiel Lol, Hussien Mar Nyuot, Stephen Par Kuol, Shejock, Peter, Sophia Pal, Agnes Nyoka Peter, Sandera Bona Malwual, Agel Machar, Martin Akushu, Martha Martin, Nyakuoth Tot, Nyamark Gai, Miyong Kuon, Rebecca Nyakier, Teny Riek Machar, Meer Riek Machar, Kim Riek Machar; among others.
After that, Reath required all chapter leaders to lineup in order to introduce and praise them for what they had done during this crisis, telling the chairman that these people are the ones who work day and night to collect fund from people to support the cause.
While Reath came to the point to introduce the chairman, Agel Machar who was so enthusiastic for the high turnout attendance alerted the chair that he wanted to thank the audience. Below is Agel and all delegation statements.
Agel Machar: I would like to thank all of you here in Omaha Nebraska. We are very happy for you. All of you fought a great war as much as we did in Malakal, Bentiu, and all other places. I also would like to thanks Nuer community chairperson and all other leaders who came from very far places like Canada and all over the United States. We have been failed by some leaders in our country and that is why we are working extra harder day after day to bring much needed change so that each and every individual of us has a place in that country. Agel has also told the story and relate it to South Sudan crisis.
Sandera Bonna Malual: I am so happy to be here as part of the delegation. Some of you may surprise by my being here. I am here as an individual who opposed Salva Kiir murderous regime. In our SPLM-IO, I am a chairperson for women and child-development sector. In any institution, women are the back born of any development; without women, success is absent. In that regard, I would like to spend enough time with women and meet with them if our time would allow. Thank you!
Stephen Par Kuol: Viva, Viva SPLA, Viva Viva SPLM. I am very happy to be here. This is like a reunion to the family. I have a family here in Omaha. Other than that, we are very grateful to all of you for the contribution you have made in this crisis, keep up the good work. Viva, Viva SPLM; Viva SPLA. Thank you all very much.
Agnes Nyoka Peter: Thank you all very much for the warm welcome. I am happy to be part of the delegation. Our leadership is working day and night to ensure that peace prevail in our country so that we as a nation thrive especially those of you who are women. I urge all of you my sisters to participate in transitional government. This is our time as women to do good as the saying goes “behind any successful man there is a successful woman” let work hard to make this a reality.
Hussein Mar Nyuot: I am happy to very heretic. I am the chairperson for the relief in our movement. I was here last May and June where I spoke with many of you and thanked you for your contribution. I am only passing my greeting to you and announce that I will have a meeting with the team of relief representatives tonight. Thank you!
Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth: I would like to thank all of you for organizing this important event. Let me assure you that freedom is not free, you have to work hard for it in order to earn it. Thank you very much!
Dr. Dhou Mathok Ding: Comrade chairman, deputy chairman and all colleagues, good evening. I am not sure, if it is it evening at the moment? I would like to thank all of you for coming and also for the contribution you have made in term of money. We know you made a lot of sacrifices by giving us airtimes since this crisis started. This is a huge contribution similar to what your brothers and sisters are making in the frontline. Thank you!
Angelina Jany Teny: Viva, Viva SPLM; Viva, Viva SPLA; I am so happy to be here with the chairman, deputy chairman and all leadership of our movement. I have only few remark to make. First of all, I would like to thank each and every individual of you for contributing to the cause; that was a great sacrifices.
As you all know peace has been signed, we still have a lot of challenges ahead of us. Implementation of the peace remain a challenge, which we all need to strive for and get it done. We need to make sure that reform is made so that horrors of 2013 does not occur again. I know you in Nebraska has also pay the price. Your relatives were mercilessly killed. Among those who lost their lives is my friend Lam Chuol Thechuong. Lam was a very dear friend of mine. He is also a husband and a father to young children among you here in Omaha. The fade of their lost will only be overcome by implementing this peace. I hope God change Salva Kiir heart and agree with the implementation of the peace. Thank you!
Taban Deng Gai: I would like to greet the chairman, the deputy, and all of you comrades. I am not going to talk a lot. I have only two points to state. Firstly, when we voted during the referendum, all of us were bond together and voted 98% so that South Sudan must exist as a country. After we got our independence, we thought we should not fall backward, but the lack of vision befallen us. My second point is that, our community has large present in this country, in that regard, we are carrying a belief and a high hope that our first scientist will come from you here. However, we are hearing that our children are missing opportunity and do not take education as a priority. Please encourage them to stay in school and let them not be driven away by shortcomings.
Alfred Lado Gore: Comrade Chairman & Commander in chief of our armed forces, I am very happy to speak before you today. Thank you very much to all of you who give us a righteous welcome. This is a mandate, it’s a mandate not only to us as the leaders but to our leader Riek Machar Teny.
Applause! Thank you very much for this huge number. I have never seen a big number like this in diaspora. I want you to post pictures of this gathering so that Kiir and his group know what had taken place~laughters.
Comrade Chairman, thank you very much for telling me to talk as much as I want. However, I will make it brief. I am very happy to be here. We are here for the cause. I am not going to talk about peace. I only want to tell you that we are fighting for the right cause. Applause! We are fighting for the freedom of our people. I do thank our soldiers who took courage marching to Juba and engaged with tyranny regime forces at Gadiang, some of them are no longer with us.
We know our people had been butchered in Juba base on their ethnicity, we must stood firm and make sure that such a horror does not repeat itself. We must be the last movement that will fulfill our people aspiration. We fall backward because it happens that we had been led by brainless leader who is not different from those who are collecting cow-dung in villages.
The main problem of South Sudan is the lack of the leadership. We must show Kiir that he is stupid. He is someone who could not be compare with Dr. Riek Machar. We have a lot of challenges ahead of us but we must confront and overcome these challenges. We need the leadership in South Sudan and show the world that we are disciplined.
We have a task to rebuild the country but this task must be carried on by a leader who has a vision. We also have weaknesses. Our people all of them wanted to be “kuar midit” (meaning a leader in Nuer). We are following the leader. Dr. Riek is not just a leader for Nuer or any other tribe, he is a leader of all South Sudanese. I advise you to follow him. It is extremely important a nation that have sacrificed enough for 50 years of war must have people who care for its stability.
This is why we want you to come home, especially those of you who are educated so that we fulfil our parameters. We also need our women to participate. This is not a time when a women can serve in subordination posts. A woman can compete for presidency as Dr. Riek Machar. This is what Dr. Riek and I are fighting for, which mean we need more educated women in our country. So Mr. Chairman Dr. Riek, you have a task—our people need to hear from you about the peace. Please let welcome our commander in chief!
Dr. Riek Machar: I’ll hold it with my hand thank you very much, referring to Microphone. Well first of all, I would like to thank all those who receive us at the airport, Omaha airport. We are very happy, we did not expect that reception from the people of Nebraska, who had allowed you to overcrowd in the airport, or airport-men would be very surprise what that was. Because people were making loud noises and singing, so we are very happy. Applause! I am also very happy for the reception you are giving us in this hall, as you always give us here in Nebraska. Applause! I would also want to thank your other compatriots who had joined us from neighbouring States, such as, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, State-chapters from Kansas City or Kansas and Nebraska all those who have come, we want to thank you all of you for making an effort to come to meet us in this place; at least for us to meet, for us to congregate and for us to talk, thank you very much! Applause!
I also would like to thank the foreigners of this State or this City, I was told there were two mayors who had an appointment to meet with us but because we were late, this meeting is not going to take place. So I want to thank them for expressing their interest to come as they initiated to meet us.
They are citizen as well as you are citizen of South Sudan and also Nebraska. Applause! I had wanted my comrades to tell you some of the points that are important, some of points that have been neglected by comrades, I will try my best to evaluate them and oversee our time. I also want to thank Chapter’s leaders who have come to Nebraska to interact with us in this occasion.
I want to thank comrade Reath with his team for joining force with chapter leaders here and also the country coordinator of the chapters. I also want to thank comrade Miyong for receiving us in New York and for the good work they have done in New York to connect us with the United Nations. Applause!
We came here as a delegation because we were invited by the secretary General of the United Nations Mr. Ban K-Moon, and if he did not invited us, probably we would not have come and if we came we would come with very small team but because we were invited by the Secretary General of the United Nations, we decided to come as a big team so that we discuss our views with UN and the rest of other heads of States who had come, so I thank him!
There are two other reasons we came for, one, there is UN high level meeting on South Sudan. Applause! Secretary General told us on September 29, south Sudan will be recognized by the global partners and you should come. Applause! He said he told the world leaders to talk on South Sudan. And that is why he invited leaders of South Sudan, he invited President Salva Kiir and he invited us. This is because the peace agreement was signed. They want to know how they can help South Sudan. The world know that we are a very young country, and because we gone to war in every short time. A war that has divested our country. So the world want to express their solidarity on us. So we thank Mr. Ban K-Moon for what he has done to us. Applause!
We were also disappointed because the occasion was not organized for the SPLM/A-IO alone, it was also organized for the leadership of the government in Juba, but Salva Kiir did not come, and this is important because, if the Secretary General decided to called world leaders to come and talk about your country and you want to address the gathering very far through the video, it beg the question, how serious is that person? Laughers and applause! I want to communicate to you that the world want to help us. They want to help us of how we should implement the peace agreement. It is the accommodation of the peace agreement through the UN Security Council and this is what we came here for that number one.
Number two, you know the report, Obasanjo report. The AU have established a commission of inquiry on South Sudan, and the former president Obasanjo head the commission to investigate what had taken place and report it. There were a lot of grievances that should be discussed, and made public. With fresh fighting, the AU peace and Security Council wanted to know how they should bring peace. This report is important, it important because it is a part of the peace agreement, it addresses issues that IGAD think are important to be addressed, issues that are addressed are timely addressed, issues of accountability, justice and accountability, issues of national reconciliation and healing. For our people to reconciled, they want to know what happened in Juba started December 2013, what happen Bor, Malakal and Bentiu. And this is how the peace agreement come to AU and Security Council, they want to discuss the final document and make it a resolution to the public so we thank them very much. Applause! The world body want to know how south Sudan is ruled.
We cannot leave and go back to South Sudan without coming to you and inform you about what brought us here and most importantly the peace agreement we have signed what kind of peace is it? We need to inform you. We have informed our communities in refugee camps and neighbouring countries who had sought refuge. Whether in South Sudan or neighbouring countries. We had a quarter of one million who are forced by the war to leave our country in a very short time, less than two years, they ran to neighbouring countries some are living in Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and some had followed you to live in a very far away to where you have come. We had to form a delegation that visited Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, and also we kick it off in Ethiopia the information about the peace agreement, we also sent delegations to Cairo this is because we think this peace agreement you can live with it. It is not the best we got, but it is a minimum that you can live with, a minimum that can solved peace and security of South Sudan. Applause!
So we think we must come to you and talk to you about peace agreement. When we started, there were speeches praising you for what you have done. We want to insure that we congratulate you! You have made a lot of contribution with the small money you saved to support your family but, you make a decision to send some of those money to us on the ground. We thank you very much for that! Applause!
Some of you also who are writing in the internet help to expose the war in the media, writing a lot in the internet. Sometimes it very bitterness when you write. Bitterness we even think you are fighting a war in the internet. Applause!
There are some foreigners who come to visit us and say, your people are fighting in the internet, they are an internet warriors. Applause and laughers! If peace is coming, we don’t want to leave you in that stage of war. We want you to use your pen to promote peace. Applause! You can see the bitterness of this war when the deputy chairman spoke, what did you see?
Disappointment of what is in Juba, bitterness of what had happened in Juba. How do we move away from this bitterness? How are we going to make those in Juba understand that if we had signed the peace agreement, there is a need and hope to implement that agreement?
So these are the serious challenges because all of us were surprised on the 15 of December by sound of guns in Juba on December 15, 2013. We want you to consolidate this peace. If the world see you to like peace, they will follow you. Be part of the peace implementation.
Why do we think this peace is good? One, we think the system of the governance should be a federal system. On our side we decided that former British counties will be transformed from counties to States. Each State can have its own rules that is why people of Nebraska called their State “Good Life”! You should have freedom of speech so that you should not be censored base on what you say.
And you should not also be arrested without committing an offence which is punishable by law. Yesterday Salva Kiir decided to create 28 States. Boohoo! This is a violation of the peace. Why would you create States whom you refuse when we were negotiating? I hope someone told him to do that but this is the violation of peace, even the world will think that this man is not serious about peace. We don’t want to make a mistake Sudan had made during its independence. We need to reform economic security system and financial so that corruption is tackled.
Let me talk on security issue. We need to reform the government and all public institutions. We need the army which should be drawn from all tribes in South Sudan not only two tribes. The third issues of peace is the justice and accountability. There were people who had killed many people. The agreement said these people will be held accountable in court given that a hybrid court will be formed.
When I left Juba and travel through Bor, Gatdiang, Lou, and Gaatwar people were very angry for those who were killing innocent people in Juba. The person who killed people had used government resources. He started a tribal war. Even people who were arrested in Juba, only Ezekiel and Luk were Nuer but only members of one community were killed and this entail that Salva was aiming for tribal war. When 6 students were killed, Agnes was a member of the parliament.
She left when she knew that government was killing people that when she quit the job. I think that government should not do that to the citizen. The same thing to Afred Lado he was threatened on the 6 of December when we talked about issues that concern the government. And there are many others that are being abused of trying to correct bad behaviours of the government. We are now have a choice of the peace, we think with this peace all abuses will stop.
Then the questions is, how are we going to reconcile our people? These are the challenges we are facing and I want you to take these challenges. South Sudan will not survive if we don’t reconcile to each other. During the war we had never thought we must fall backward. But this happened. I want those who want to ask questions to ask very tough questions. We are very soon going to make preparation to repatriate our IDPS and those who are in United Nations protection camps. I will stop here and be waiting for your questions.
After Dr. Riek has done speaking, audience was just start leaving and nobody asked any question, due to the fact that they are very satisfied for the message they heard for delegation.
Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak
The author is a political commentator on South Sudan affairs. He could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com