March 1, 2014 (LONDON) - The leader of a South Sudanese charity has written an open letter urging the country’s ex-vice president, Riek Machar to "rein" his forces from destroying and looting schools and health facilities in Jonglei’s Duk county.
- A family displaced from Bor by the current conlfict in Jonglei state. (Source: John Dau Foundation)
John Dau, one of the South Sudanese ’lost boys’ displaced during the civil war that led to South Sudan’s independence in 2011, appealed to Machar’s "true leadership and desire for the best for the people of South Sudan."
Machar was sacked as the country’s second most powerful person in July last year after he announced his ambition to succeed President Salva Kiir in his position as the country’s leader and chairperson of South Sudan’s ruling party (SPLM).
Tension within the SPLM triggered a conflict between members of the national army (SPLA) in mid-December during which civilians from Machar’s Nuer ethnic group were allegedly targeted by the security services. Mass defections from the SPLA quickly followed in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile where the rebels have also committed atrocities against civilians.
But Dau, in his open letter to Machar, said he was "appalled by the widespread destruction of properties and unnecessary harassment of civilians by your men from the unit of [Nuer] Gawaar soldiers."
As well as mutineers, led by Nuer General Peter Gadet, armed civilians known as the White Army have also affiliated themselves to Machar’s rebellion.
"My appeal to you, Dr. Machar, is to make an effort to rein in those who are committing selfish acts among civilians. Those who are currently occupying Duk County are hurting civilians and we expect you to urge them to cease destruction of civilians’ properties," partly read’s Dau’s letter extended to Sudan Tribune.
- John Dau (Source: John Dau Foundation)
It further stressed that John Dau Foundation clinic, orphanage and all the other schools in Duk "were not build by Kiir’s Government but by the citizens of Duk County with unwavering support from warm-hearted Americans and Europeans who care so much and wanted to mitigate suffering of all our people."
"I heard that our clinic’s fuel was looted by your men, food for malnourished children taken, medicines, equipment, beds, bed-sheets, doors, solar panels, medical equipment, computers, the clinic ambulance’s tires taken out, utensils, tools, tables, the medicines that cannot be carried by your men were set on fire and all of other essentials that enable the clinic to function have been looted by your soldiers," it noted.
Dau urged Machar to ensure that his forces return all the stolen items and hold accountable all individuals responsible for destruction caused.
Although much of the conflict has been along ethnic lines between Kiir’s Dinka and Machar’s Nuer tribe, the roots of the conflict is the longstanding political infighting among senior SPLM politicians. Both sides have political backing from a variety leaders from South Sudan’s many ethnic groups, but the vast majority of those fighting in Machar’s SPLM-in-Opposition are his fellow Nuers.
The foundation, through its fundraising initiative in America, reportedly raised over $3 million for health and education projects since its establishment in 2005. A number of local communities, including the Gawaar Nuer, Lou Nuer , Dinka, Murle and Anyuak people are said to have benefited from Dau’s charity.
"I might be born Dinka, but all my thoughts and what I do have been purely South Sudanese and all my Nuer and Murle friends can attest to that claim," Dau said.
"The charity’s clinic has been helping all of our tribes", he added and vowed never to relent his efforts towards providing services to all the area’s communities in future.
"I hope that your group will not bite off the hand that has been rendering critical services such as restoring eye-sight for about 600 blind people, treated over 119,000 patients, conducted about 8,000 births, vaccinated more than 8,000 children, treated 101patients with TB, admitted and fed 690 malnourished children and anything between," the foundation head stressed in his letter to Machar.
Meanwhile, the Dau wondered why a benevolent movement such as SPLM In Opposition, allegedly created on basis of bringing democracy, development, non-corruption, and respect of human rights, audaciously commit the very things it blames the other opponent for.
"The looting and destruction of this neutral medical facility, a clinic for peace is a huge blow to all tribes as our well-kept record shows that all the four major tribes in Jonglei State have benefited from services this clinic has been offering," he noted.
An estimated 10,000 people have died in the 10-week-old-conflict, which has displaced almost 900,000, including 190,000 who have fled to neighbouring countries, according to the United Nations.
The UN says that around 3.7 million people are at a high risk of food insecurity, including 3.2 million people in need of emergency assistance.
"You may be planning to win the war militarily but I’m afraid if such contemptible destruction of civilians’ assets continues for nothing other than culture of jealousy, you may lose the war of winning hearts and minds of people," Dau’s letter stated.
"This will be the most devastating unintended result to SPLM In Opposition, to say the least," it added.
Talks to end the fighting are yet to begin in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia after the rebels demanded that the Ugandan military withdraw and stop fighting alongside the government. The SPLM In Opposition are also demanding that four senior politicians, accused of taking part in Machar’s alleged coup be released from jail in Juba.
"Someone has to be the true humanitarian in this conflict", Dau said.
"If the government is not showing a sense of maturity in your opinion in this conflict, why can’t you take that role of being an adult who cares about people’s lives and avoids despicable and pointless destruction?" he questioned.
Dau, an award winning human rights activist, called on Machar to "stop the war immediately to avoid more lives being lost."