|Paul Malong Awan Anei in Military Uniform. Photo credit: Anthony Chimir|
President Kiir has made another shake up, this time in the military. The army’s chief of general staff, James Hoth Mai, and the head of military intelligence, Major General Mac Paul Kuol were relieved and respectively replaced by Paul Malong Awan (former governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal) and Marial Nuor Jok, who previously served in a different capacity as Major General of the Police force.
The appearance of these military men at the war front in South Sudan, per the unending presidential decrees, has frozen the marrows for some people. To some, they will be the dreaded exterminators or genocideurs; to others, they come to instill discipline as well as manage army operations with less frustration in areas where skirmishes are ongoing with the rebels. Yet, those who are not satisfied with blood-spill are looking and unearthing the geographies of births of these men, geographies that were unquestionable throughout their careers as army commanders. This is a note of proof to those who see the war in South Sudan as being driven by ethnic undertone because appointment of leaders is not evaluated on capabilities, experiences or qualifications, but on where people come from in terms of ethnic origin.
Treading fairly, the two generals are not the monsters that people should fear, at least in my view. On this note, and in situations where the mind stands conditioned to terror and fear, I love reading from the book by Wafa Sultan: A God Who Hates: The Courageous Woman Who Inflamed the Muslim World Speaks Out Against the Evils of Islam. Wafa cautions that the object of our fear can be huge or minutiae, depending on our mental abstracted constructions. A prominent American tele-evangelist, Joel Osteen, preaches too that fear blows out of proportion circumstances that are otherwise manageable. Like Wafa, he denounces giving in to fear, for in doing so, we are imploring the greatest power in the universe to make the subjects matter of our fears come to pass.
In Malong and Marial Nuor, I think people have the ‘ogres’ they know little about. One might be wrong. However, if the witticism, ‘highly decorated military general,’ often used by ethnic followers of generals, has any meaning in the history of the SPLA/M, then the two newly appointed leaders as Chief of Staff and Military Intelligence respectively, have never passed with distinctions in the army’s popularization of titles in South Sudan.
To assume, therefore, that they will be likely bloodier than the rebel general who, captured Bentiu and shocked the world with grisly bodies of massacred civilians in cold blood; or the leader of the youth who attacked the UN Compound in Bor killing several unarmed people; or the dreaded Peter Gadet Yak, the man whose opportunism is solidified in blood-letting, is to christen them into bad boys; a stance they would humanely opt out of in their new leadership assignments. It will be wise not to sing death into the ears of these appointed leaders before reading their true books of deeds, unless the flow of blood ‘opiumises’ the spirits for those who do so.
If anyone has travelled in the zones of operations of the two army strongmen, Marial and Malong, one would agree to the fact that even David Yau Yau (who recently signed peace with the government and winning a special administrative consideration for his people in the troubled state of Jonglei) and Ismael Konyi (a notorious Sudanese government counter-insurgence militia leader of the 1990s) were more brutish than the two were. Now is the time for history to record them deed by deed.
Finally, as the violence had become a commitment of killing each other in order to become one strong country, and not to split up into nations of ethnic identities, the game of innocence must therefore end. Both the rebels and the government must not freeze themselves in the corners of the ‘expected diplomats,’ as expected of the government and ‘aggressive-to-be-pleased’ as always hoped by the rebels. If the objective in the overall differences in the war is to make a prosperous and a peaceful country, then it is time for each party to own up for its atrocities so that a solution for ending the death is found.