Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 21 April 2014

South Sudan: Revenge Killings is not the basis for building a modern nation


By Steve Paterno

April 20, 2014 - The theme of this article develops as a result of my extensive research and writings on a culture of revenge killings among South Sudanese communities, particularly among cattle herding communities. Of recent, with abundant supplies of deadly arms to civilians, the age old ethnic rivalries among South Sudanese escalate into unprecedented scale. The level of killing, looting and destruction is drawing much international attention and concern. Worst yet, political and military leaders are exploiting this adage of traditional revenge killings to advance their personal interests.

The current conflict in South Sudan perfectly follows the pattern of this backward traditional way of thinking and is pretty much being exploited by political and military leaders alike. The trigger starts after the ever ambitious Riek Machar long quest to ascend into presidency failed whereby he staged yet a failed coup d’etat organized primarily by his Nuer tribe. After a failed coup attempt, the Dinka tribe of President Salva Kiir then organised themselves and carried out targeted retaliatory killings against the tribal members of Riek Machar. This episode, which occurred in capital Juba, quickly spread throughout the country, with even examples of one time colleagues from rivaling communities, turning into bludgeoning and slaughtering each other without mercy.

Unfortunately, this culture of retaliatory killings now form the bases and core ideology of Riek Machar, a former vice president turned warlord. Machar message for mobilizing military support for his ambition is rather simple: "Dinka killed our people in Juba." This then feeds into the culture of a need for revenge, which very much is embedded in a long held tradition and psychic of the people. As a result, the tactics draws huge armed Nuers, popularly known as the White Army, a notorious group noted for cattle rustling, looting and pillaging. The actions of this so called White Army are of course met with retaliatory response from armed Dinka groups, perpetuating the cycle of violence.

The situation is now such that a culture of revenge is prevailing while the vision for a nation base on constitution and rule of law is losing traction. The idea of justice is overtaken by need for revenge, where the victims are often time the most innocent. Until then, there is no hope for nation building when aspiring national leaders bent on ideology of primitive culture of traditional revenge killings—a culture that perpetuate the cycle of violence.

Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at stevepaterno@yahoo.com

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  • 21 April 2014 06:42, by Akol Liai Mager

    Thanks Steve for your articulate shown not only in this article, but most of your past articles have been great informers. Riek Machar would have been President two months ago if his first press release was directed to his Nuer commanders not to kill any of their colleagues who happened to be Dinka leave alone civilians. But unfortunately, Riek failed to foresee the worst as he usually does.

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    • 21 April 2014 07:46, by John The President

      your piece is a brief and informative one, the whole world must first understand who this man called Riek is. first, when he disagreed with Garang in 1991, he immediately cling to his Ideology of using tribe (Nuer) youth (white army) to destroy massacre Bor civilian instead of facing Garang loyalist on the fronline. before the White army advance to Bor, all Dinka under his command were kille

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      • 21 April 2014 07:52, by John The President

        .. and after the had killed everything in Bor, he retreated back to Nasir, a base of his movement then. he then realized that he had no support from SPLA and voluntarly surrendered to Khartuom and his forces fought alside Sudan forces in Unity state killing many civilians. as that was not enough he finally abandoned his rebellion and returned to the SPLM and he was welcome despite the pain he had.

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        • 21 April 2014 07:58, by John The President

          Inflicted on South Sudanese masses, Nuer inclusive. as that was not enough for him, he repeated the same tactics of 1991 last year after his failed coup as you clearly stated. he rushed to Bor and ordered his white army to kill civilians, even those hospitalized and the elderly who ran to the churches and bushes were not sympathized with. the same thing happened in Akoko where he ordered the killi

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          • 21 April 2014 08:03, by John The President

            of none Nuer in UN compound and yet this the same man who has been pouring out so many message to the media out let about human right abuses, rule of law and so forth, you might have also watch the attroacities his white army committed in Bailiet County where over 300 childrens, women and old men who could not escaped were brutally massacred and many other part under his control.

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  • 21 April 2014 08:09, by John The President

    In summary, I urge the world bodies not to waste their time supporting Riek rebellion, they should first get it right from his history. this not the leader South Sudan want, an instance can be drawn from 1991-2013-2014 rebellion where only the innocent Lou Nuer youth (white army) who are supposed to go schools for their own goodness are being used and most importantly the entire South Sudan...

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  • 21 April 2014 08:10, by John The President

    population sit back and watch.

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  • 21 April 2014 10:48, by Ambago

    Hi Steve, as a South Sudanese myself I know that the three day massacre of innocent Nuer in Juba in the hands of Dinka presidential special force was in fact an act of revenge killings dated to events as far as 1991.
    This revenge killings you now want to make sound like a Riek thing, is in fact a tradition widely practised by many tribes.

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  • 21 April 2014 10:54, by Ambago

    The Dinka and the Nuer and many other tribes in Eastern Equatoria state where I perceive you belong to are also notoriously known for revenge killings. However political short-sightedness has very much dictated your article.
    You have your rights to dislike Riek, but you cannot hold him as the only practitioner of revenge killings in that savage land of South Sudan.

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  • 21 April 2014 11:07, by Ambago

    My brother, don’t be too sure of the current government in Juba. One thing you must not forget is that , "It is your own people in Equatoria" who will be the next victims of target killings by the same "dinkocrats" that you seem to have faith in today.
    When that day comes, you will be forced to surprise yourself. To disapprove of Riek is one thing and to support Kiir’s life presidency is another

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  • 21 April 2014 13:14, by Philosopherking

    I wonder what the likes of Steve and Gordon Bouy are being paid to the extend of lying on behalf of his incompetent master thieves, liars murders in Juba. Alll South Sudanese know there was no coup, besides the government has failed to substantiate their story. Like Buay, has become another propagandist; his writings are empty of substance.

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  • 21 April 2014 13:22, by Philosopherking

    Steve, look at this video and tell me https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQlad8R4G9k and you will notice that the South Sudan government had a hand in the recent BOR massacre. The demons-traitors (aka revenge killers) were known to if not armed by the government. If this government was a peaceful government, they would have screened them and made sure none was armed.

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    • 21 April 2014 13:27, by Philosopherking

      On several occasions, the government has been seeking ways of attacking refugees at the UNMISS compound; even in the video above, a whole minister referred to the refugees as rebels, confirming their believe that every Nuer (including the women children) are rebels. That UNMISS started the fight by firing in the air, what a rubbish, why did the government allow demonstrators to go there with arms.

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  • 21 April 2014 13:30, by Philosopherking

    It wasn’t long ago that the government ordered the killing of unarmed civilian demonstrators in Wau, yet at this instance, the government seems to think that it was okay to arm civilians and then send then to demonstrate at UNMISS? Isn’t this hypocrisy of the highest level? These guys need to be tried for genocide....they are mentally ill and unfit to lead this country.

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