George Athor Deng: Is he Somalizing or Laurent Nkundanizing Southern Sudan?

akol_aguekPardon me if I have created non-existing words in English. I guess it is not uncommon here in the US to see those words being coined every day. We have words such as “borking” coined after Judge Robert Bork to mean being meanly and politically attacked until you quit. This happened when the Democratic Senators under then Senator Joseph R. Biden defeated Judge Bork’s confirmation to the US Supreme Court in the 1990’s. And now we have “Palinizing” coined after Sarah Palin to mean being kept away from the media as John McCain did to her during their campaign against Obama when she was being shielded from the media for fear of embarrassing herself and the campaign when it became clear that she did not know anything. You now got the point and enough with digressing and back to Southern Sudan. I guess I am trying to underscore the that fact Southern Sudan may end up being like Somalia or Eastern Congo even past referendum unless we all put the nation first and our personal interests the last.

Here is why the future of Southern Sudan may parallel that of Somalia and Eastern Congo given what we are seeing unfolding right under our noses with regards to George Athor Deng’s rebellion against the SPLM/A and Government of Southern Sudan at large. It would be fair to take both case studies one by one.

(I)                The Rise of Revolution in Somalia and its descending into failed state status

Back in the early 1990’s, a group of self described nationalists in Somalia decided to oust President Siad Barre from power after having ruled the nation with iron fist for over 20 years. It was very very easy to do because these commanders who later became the Somalia warlords after accomplishing their mission could go to their villages, and sensitize their clansmen to pick up arms against the then dictator President Siad Barre. And as a matter of fact, the potential recruits listened, joined the training camps and fought bravely until President Siad Barre was ousted and exiled until his death outside the nation of Somalia.

After the mission was accomplished, the “heroes” who could have come together and formed a broad based government that would listen and solve their people’s problems did not come together, and instead turned against each other along the clan lines. And what resulted was not only a failed state but also an amalgam of clans ruled by the warlords. Over two decades later, things gotten worst in Somalia and an argument could be made that the dictatorial rule under President Siad Barre was much much better because there was security and stability in the nation. At the hindsight, there is no future in that failed state today and the young people have now turned to lslamic fundamentalism and piracy as the means of livelihoods. It is indeed ugly ugly and it could be uglier out there! No nation wants to be Somalia!

(II)             The Banyamulenge Rebellion and General Laurent Nkunda in Eastern Zaire

The Banyamulenge people of Eastern Congo are of Tutsi ethnicity and the majority of their fellow Tutsis inhabit the nations of Rwanda and Burundi together with Hutu Ethnic Group. It is not uncommon for these Tutsis to claim dual citizenship across the borders depending on where things are welcoming and/or unwelcoming: Just like Anyuak, Acholi, Azande, and Zaghawa people along the Sudan borders with its neighboring states. During the uprising of Tutsis against the Hutu led government in Rwanda, a young pastor in the name of Laurent Nkunda who was a Tutsi of Banyamulenge background in Eastern Zaire, enlisted in the Tutsi rebel group against the Hutu backed government in Kigali, and fought bravely, and honorably until the Tutsis toppled that government and installed the government of their own in Kigali.

And then came the plight of Banyamulenge people (Ethnic Tutsis) in Eastern Congo: General Laurent Nkunda who then considered himself a hero having fought bravely to topple the then genocidal Hutu backed Regime in Kigali considered it his duty now to topple Mobutu’s Regime, and that was the birth of Banyamulenge Rebellion in Eastern Zaire in 1996-1997. Laurent Nkunda teamed up with Laurent Kabila and easily hosted Mobutu’s Regime. We all know the assassination of Laurent Kabila, and the taking over of the presidency by his son, Joseph Kabila. We also know that General Laurent Nkunda never got along with President Joseph Kabila, and ended up staging his own rebellion against Joseph Kabila’s Government claiming he was defending the interest of his fellow Ethnic Tutsis (the Banyamulenge people of Eastern Congo) against the oppressive regime in Kinshasa. Over 5 million lives have been lost in Congo since the ousting of Mobutu, and the situation was rescued very recently when the Tutsi led government in Kigali (the supposed government he helped to topple the Hutu led regime) came in and arrested him in Eastern Congo. The situation is considerably calm now because General Nkunda is sitting behind bars at undisclosed location under the control of his fellow Ethnic Tutsi led government in Kigali.

(III)          The pieces of puzzle put together

And this brings me to looking at the parallels with the situation now brewing in Southern Sudan.

Here is how the pieces of the puzzle perfectly fall in place. Both the warlords in Somalia and General Nkunda in Eastern Congo all had well intentioned reasons to pick up arms and liberate their own people from the oppressive and dictatorial regimes in their respective nations. And so was General George Athor Deng who fought heroically during the liberation struggle against oppressive regimes in Northern Sudan.

Further, all the players in both nations were heard by their people, and backed during the liberation struggles and they succeeded in ousting their respective dictatorial strongmen from power: Said Barre and Mobutu Sseseko were all gone, and punitively died in exile. Similarly, Southern Sudanese listened to Athor and other SPLA leaders and fought heroically until the CPA was signed to grant Southern Sudanese their right to self determination through referendum which theoretically is coming up in months – not years!

 The problems occured when these supposed heroes failed to follow through with the very goals they picked up arms in the first place to eliminate the dictators from power. They turned against each other, and the ensuing results were and still are deaths and maiming of innocent civilians; the very people they aspired to liberate in the first place and that is shocking and unsettling about our leaders in the continent of Africa. Like Somalia warlords or Laurent Nkunda, George Athor Deng is now not getting along with the SPLM/A leadership and is now claiming to be defending the interest of his people against the oppressive SPLM/A led GOSS in Juba. This individual may end up being Laurent Nkunda of Southern Sudan or one of many post referendum Southern Sudan warlords and it clearly looks like a ship wreck slowly coming. It must be confronted and defused!

Southern Sudan will be a bloodbath with innocent civilian bloods; and along with it a clear designation as a failed state unless this situation is carefully and rightly averted. I bet General Athor Deng should know better to understand that we did not fight the oppressive regimes in Khartoum to end up being Somalia or Eastern Congo, and we must all find a solution now.

(IV)           Conclusion

I fear the somalization or Laurent Nkundanization of Southern Sudan more than anything else that possibly crosses my mind. Our innocent people will all be dead, and the very purpose of fighting the successive oppressive regimes in Khartoum would have been rendered meaningless and not worth the millions of lives we sacrificed to come this far.

It is now clear that General Athor Deng has something brewing and that is to the jubilation of Khartoum and we need to nip it in the bud now – not tomorrow. We need to do the best we can to have him not destabilize Southern Sudan and persuading him to come back to the Movement is the right course of action. We all win by having him back peacefully. We risk destabilizing the Southern Sudan if we allow him to be the proxy of the Sudan Government to undercut the march towards the independence Southern Sudan.

Akol Aguek Ngong, is Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Vermont, and a regular contributor to the NewSudanVision.Com. He lives in Burlington, Vermont, USA.