Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 23 May 2014



By Zechariah Manyok Biar

May 23, 2014 - South Sudan is really young. It seems its people in all their capacities mess up in the process of trying to do their best in serving their country better. The problem could be the lack of experiences in all the complexities of the rule of law. Many people who mess up often seem to believe that one thing about their mandate fits all.

When President Kiir boldly came out on May 16, 2014 and said that soldiers who killed people in Juba in December 2013 in the name of defending him will be severely punished, most of the eleven soldiers who were interviewed by Paanluel Wel blogger seemed dumfounded by the President’s words but they still spoke. They tried to rationalize their actions. The interviewees argued that they were defending the Constitution of South Sudan from juntas when they killed civilians in Juba. Some of them confidently said that they “will not regret defending the constitution of South Sudan,” even if they were fire squad for having killed the civilians.

These soldiers, however, did not admit that they killed civilians intentionally. They argued that civilians were killed in crossfire. What they did not put into consideration in their argument, I think, is why some civilians were killed in crossfire in areas where fighting did not take place. We all know that fighting took place in Giata, Bilpam, and 107. But civilians were killed in Gudele where fighting did not take place and crossfire cannot kill dozens that far.

Others did not argue on how they killed civilians. They only said that they were implementing orders. So, they should not be blamed. Some of these soldiers seem to believe that President Kiir is blaming them now simply because he wants to avoid being indicted. One of the interviewed soldiers, for example, said that President Kiir is distancing himself from what happened in Juba because he is just afraid of the rumors for International Criminal Court’s indictment.

However, one would still argue that even if the reason why the President distanced himself from Juba massacre of Nuer’s civilians is because of the rumors of his indictment (if at all such rumors exist), then he can still be appreciate for it. Any right-minded person does not only fear the law, he or she also fears the spoiling of his or her legacy. Nobody should act outside the given orders and think that leaders will take the responsibility.

Still, the soldiers have some points in what they said. One of the quotes that caught my attention is this: “We did not initiate any anything, we were just responding to the situation… We acted within the law and within our constitutionally mandate, no more or less.’’

It is true that soldiers in Juba just reacted to the situation that they never initiated. The problem is that they overreacted by killing innocent or not innocent but vulnerable people. Article 151 (4) (a) mandates the army to uphold the Constitution. But the same Article (4) (c) also mandates the army to “protect the people of South Sudan.” So, killing civilians in the name of defending the Constitution goes against the same Constitution.

Yet, the soldiers seem to have their reason for killing civilians that the Constitution mandates them to protect. One of the soldiers interviewed said that “many of these juntas were in civilian clothes.” This means that the killed civilians could have been juntas in civilian clothes. He went ahead to ask, “whom do you blame, is it me?”

The above question is a very interesting one. It is where most of us go wrong. We think that it is lawful to kill soldiers who are in civilian clothes. One of the leaders, who is also a lawyer, seemed to believe that it was right to get out soldiers who had removed their military clothes and entered the UN compound in Bor to seek protection.

Even though I am not a lawyer, it seems to be a commonsense to know that it is wrong to kill soldiers who have decided to remove their military uniforms and put on civilian clothes. Let me put it this way: I would regard it as wrong to even kill a soldier who has decided to throw away his gun that he was using against you in less than a minute and raises up his hands. He has become vulnerable and poses no threat to your life, taking out of question your right to self-defense. This is the same reason why anybody who kills a prisoner of war is blamed.

There is one condition, to use my commonsense again, which seems to justify the taking of the life of another person: it is self-defense. That is why armies who face themselves in a battle field kill one another, but not when one is overcome and disarmed. A captured soldier might have had the intention to kill or had already killed, but that is not enough reason to kill him after capturing him since he becomes vulnerable under such conditions.

The so-called juntas in civilian clothes might have had the intention to kill or they had already killed some soldiers in Juba before throwing away their uniforms and arms and put on civilian clothes. But killing them without giving them the chance in the court of law to defend themselves is mob justice, not defending of the Constitution and its institutions.

If commonsense is somehow difficult, then let us talk like human beings. If you were to put yourself in the shoes of the ones you killed simply because you suspected them to be juntas in civilian clothes, would you like to be killed like them without being given a chance to defend yourself in the court of law?

In addition to talking like humans, when you raise your hand to strike unarmed person or you pull your trigger to kill him or her, do you first see behind such a person that he or she has some other people he could take care of if he were to live?

Let me note before concluding this article that killing people in revenge, like what was done in Bor, Malakal, Bentiu, among other towns is also not morally justified.

Having said the above, I would conclude by saying that there is no justification for killing innocent or not innocent but vulnerable people in the name of defending the Constitution or avenging oneself. Defending the Constitution includes protecting the people of South Sudan, regardless of political or tribal association. For this reason, I believe the President is right to distance himself from the massacre even though the army is dumfounded by what he did.

Zechariah Manyok Biar can be reached at manyok34@gmail.com

The views expressed in the 'Comment and Analysis' section are solely the opinions of the writers. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author not Sudan Tribune.

If you want to submit an opinion piece or an analysis please email it to comment@sudantribune.com

Sudan Tribune reserves the right to edit articles before publication. Please include your full name, relevant personal information and political affiliations.
Comments on the Sudan Tribune website must abide by the following rules. Contravention of these rules will lead to the user losing their Sudan Tribune account with immediate effect.

- No inciting violence
- No inappropriate or offensive language
- No racism, tribalism or sectarianism
- No inappropriate or derogatory remarks
- No deviation from the topic of the article
- No advertising, spamming or links
- No incomprehensible comments

Due to the unprecedented amount of racist and offensive language on the site, Sudan Tribune tries to vet all comments on the site.

There is now also a limit of 400 words per comment. If you want to express yourself in more detail than this allows, please e-mail your comment as an article to comment@sudantribune.com

Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
  • 23 May 2014 16:11, by Lotodo Awino Odug

    They should let these soldiers go free since the rebels who committed murders in Bor, Malakal, Akobo and Bentiu are at large, why want to kill the innocent victims of politics, when the killers like Gatdet and Tanggino are still roaming free in the forests. get them first and put all of them on trials. if the government is to be fair in delivering justice to all regardless of who is who.

    repondre message

    • 24 May 2014 20:22, by Ito

      I strongly advise you to not engage in your usual tribal politics. I know you are pretending to play the role of a good guys but since you are a Dinka, your doors are all closed once and for all. We do not need any convincing. Dinka, bully, threaten, kill, rape other small tribes on daily basis and people are expected to not react. This is not happening anymore. Lotodo, please seek ligh

      repondre message

The following ads are provided by Google. SudanTribune has no authority on it.

Sudan Tribune

Promote your Page too

Latest Comments & Analysis

Perspectives on Kiir and Machar meeting 2018-06-20 22:48:12 By Santino Ayual Bol IGAD which has been facilitating and mediating the slow-heel Agreement to Resolve the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan shortly abbreviated as ARCISS has unilaterally (...)

SLM’s al-Nur’s response to Troika countries about violence in Darfur 2018-06-20 22:02:28 Response by the Sudan Liberation Movement to statement by the United States, United Kingdom & Kingdom Of Norway on cessation of violence in Darfur By Abdul Wahid al-Nur Dear President (...)

Another electoral farce Sudanese should expect in 2020 2018-06-18 02:08:16 Sudanese Elections Scheduled for 2020 will be Fraught with Dangers andCounterfeiting like its predecessors By Mahmoud A. Suleiman The National Congress Party (NCP) regime’s Elections Scheduled (...)


Latest Press Releases

The Suspension of Hurriyat Online Newspaper 2018-04-29 07:04:37 Sudan Democracy First Group 28 April 2018 The Sudanese civil and political circles and those concerned with Sudan were shocked by the news that the management of Hurriyat online newspaper has (...)

Petition on the Deteriorating Human Rights and Humanitarian Situation in Sudan 2018-04-22 10:01:20 UN Secretary-General, New York African Union Commission, Addis Ababa UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva Petition on the Deteriorating Human Rights and Humanitarian Situation in Sudan (...)

Abyei celebrates Mine Awareness Day 2018-04-05 08:52:03 4 April 2018 | Abyei - The United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) commemorated the International Day for Mine Awareness and (...)


Copyright © 2003-2018 SudanTribune - All rights reserved.