President Kiir Mayardit must come to the rescue of Ngok Dinka of Abyei before it is too late

(Burlington, Vermont) – We woke up last weekend and learned that the land of Ngok Dinka of Abyei was occupied by the Sudan Armed Forces. We learned of the slaughter of innocent civilians in their ancestral land—the very people whose ancestors would attest were born and lived there for generations. These are the very people who continue to live there in Abyei because it is their land. These are the very people who have been granted their inalienable rights by the CPA and by The Hague based International Tribunal to decide the destiny of their land – Abyei (whether to be part of the North or the South Sudan).

It is sad to imagine that they aren’t living there anymore today! Not only had their inalienable rights been taken away but also their very lives are at risk from the same ruthless regime that killed 2.5 million people in the South and hundreds of thousands in Darfur! As a matter of fact, many of them have been killed by the Sudan Armed Forces!

Today we have learned of the young, the aged and the sick being left behind and/or lost in the bushes as they tried to escape the scathing attacks and aerial bombardments by the Sudan Armed Forces. Today our own people have been robbed of their land, maimed, killed and left destitute by an army commanded by a wanted ICC criminal, Omar el Bashir.

One would think the first help and only salvation for the people of Abyei would come from our army, the SPLA—the same army whom the Ngok Dinka voluntarily allowed their own sons and daughters to join during the 22 years of liberation struggle that engaged these ruthless northern invaders. But so far not a word is heard from the SPLA leader, President Salva Kiir Mayardit. It is not yet clear what the leadership is contemplating as far as the annexation of Abyei is concerned. We know the South is waiting to declare independence on July 9 and that may be presenting some dilemma to the leadership in Juba. But even if the urgency of independence is the case, it is not a moral justification for letting the north to burn and occupy Abyei with such a dizzying level of impunity. It is not even a political justification because for the CPA to end in a meaningful way, we need the Ngok Dinka to celebrate with us on July 9. Whatever the calculation, again, the situation in Abyei is so dire and worrisome enough that it doesn’t even need to be put on a wait and see stance in case the UN or America is expected to come and save the people. 

Unfortunately, the international community can help up to a certain point and that means the UN or America may not come to the rescue of our people as is wished by the South Sudan leadership based in Juba.

Mr. President, we cannot second guess what the solution to this issue is; we know who can rid Abyei of the Northern invaders – it is our gallant SPLA forces! The SPLA engaged the Sudan Armed Forces to a draw during the 22 year civil war and there is no reason why they can’t drive out the northern invaders out of Abyei today. In the past, the call to deploy the SPLA to drive out the northern invaders would have been a no brainer, especially during the 22 year struggle. We know the bravery and professionalism of the SPLA forces when asked to take on a difficult assignment. They would take on their assignment with the amount of bravery and professionalism that is second to none.

But this time, they aren’t and there is a reason for it. Our men and women in uniform just want to hear the tone set from the top office in Juba, about what to do in order to rid Abyei of the northern invaders. But that tone is yet to be heard as we are entering the 5th day without the voice of President Kiir heard on the issue. There is no question, Mr. Kiir has to come out now and ask the South Sudanese and especially the SPLA to engage the northern invaders because the international community that he is waiting for is not coming any time soon to rescue our people.

Let’s be very clear! President Kiir needs to be aware of one thing: If the North ends up annexing Abyei and deprives the Ngok Dinka of their own land, he will go in history as the leader who failed his own people and lost Abyei on his watch! He does not want his legacy defined by weakness and inaction and he must act now – not tomorrow!

Mr. President, today, that indicted and ICC wanted criminal, Omar el Bashir, has come out publicly, ruling out the possibility of Sudan Armed Forces pulling out of Abyei; essentially blessing the killings, the maiming and the destitution of the Ngok Dinka. But we have no idea where you are and what you stand for while your own people are being slaughtered and their land plundered. How long are you going to keep quiet while your own people are dying in the hands of an internationally wanted war criminal?

Mr. President, do know that the loss of Abyei to the north could be your Achilles heel and may define your legacy. And, as long as the Northern forces continue to occupy Abyei, your leadership is being put to test and how you handle this will define the kind of leader you are forever!

So at this very moment, you cannot afford to throw the Ngok Dinka under the bus and watch their land being taken away in a broad daylight!

Akol Aguek Ngong, a recent graduate of the Master of Business Administration (MBA) and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Political Science from the University of Vermont, is  Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, USA

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