Opinion | By Dak Buoth
Sept 20, 2020 (Thessherald)–The Liech Community Association in Kenya is a forum of gallant and ‘growing south Sudanese’ who hail from Unity State. It is one of the oldest and largest South Sudanese Community Organizations in Kenya; it was established ahead of the Southern Sudan Referendum that brought our country’s independence to fruition on 9th July, 2011.
Its members composed of Nuer’s original clans namely Bul, Dok, Haak, Jagei, Jikany, Leek and Nyuong. It exists as a social welfare organization whose objectives include among others; fostering closed and peaceful interaction among its members, promoting cultural values and mother tongue, encouraging unity and Cohesion so as for us to be current and future agents and ambassadors of peace in our community and beyond.
Legally, the Liech community is a non-profit and non political organization. Its activities are restricted to the above mentioned objectives. Sometimes we engage in the politics of peace and unity of our community and south Sudan as a whole. In the last few years, the Liech community had involved in the struggle for the release of prisoners by issuing press releases and condemnation of certain actions that we think contravene the Peace Agreement, Human Rights and fundamental freedoms.
On 5th September 2020, we saw and read a 2-page letter addressed to President Salva Kiir by 12 senior Jikany-Nuer Leaders from diaspora. The title of the letter is ‘‘Gen. Taban Deng’s conspiracies against your leadership’’. It was widely circulated on various social media platforms, and it is still trending up to now. These Jikany-Nuer leaders who signed the letter are drawn from different parts of the USA, Canada and Australia.
They called on President Kiir to remove and replace Vice President, Taban Deng Gai with either former defunct Latjor State governor, Gen. Gathoth Gatkuoth, former Upper Nile Governor, Dak Duop Bichok and Former Health Minister Dr. Riek Gai Kok on ground that Taban is a conspirator, perennial rebel, evil worshiper, power-thirsty and butcher. The name of those who signed are as follows; Gach Chock chock, USA, Koang Malual Khor, Canada, Mok Riek Badeng, EPIC, Simon Ngut Kuon, EPIC, David Koang Patuom, EPIC, Dak Wal Miyong, USA, Lew Lual Deng, Australia, Tar Bol Mach, Australia, Rebecca Nyakuich, Australia, Tesloach Bang Diew, Queensland, Peter Pal Koang, WA and Dang Gatwech, Canada.
Later, on 11th September, one of the first signatories, Samuel Gach Chock Choch, President, Nuer Community Development Services (NCDS-USA) whose name appeared on top spoke on live video, saying the letter is fake; that he saw the letter in Facebook; and that even his name was misspelled in the letter. In his lengthy and widely shared video, Gach Chock chock spoke for himself candidly.
For two good weeks now, we thought other leaders would come and dismiss the letter if it was written by a ghost writer. And because they didn’t do that, we believe their silence is tacit agreement with the views expressed in the letter. Many keen readers would agree that the letter is very malicious. It was written not just to hurt Taban as an individual but others close to him. It is not the first time for Taban to be accused and described as such. But it is unusual for many Nuer community leaders to accuse him jointly and falsely in such a number.
English writer, Evelyn Beatrice Hall once wrote ‘‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’’ The authors are entitled to their opinions and we respect their views. However, the main reason for this response is not to defend Taban Deng Gai Perse.
Remember Liech Community does not speak for Taban Gai considering that Liech community does not belong to Taban Deng Gai. But he is a member of the Liech and Nuer community at large. We are simply responding to hidden motives and inaccuracies that characterized their letter. Their letter is political. And in politics they say ‘‘lies spread faster than the truth.’’
Individually and as a Liech community, we have great respect for the larger Jikany community and its people. With exception of these ones, Jikany Nuer has a reputation for always speaking the truth. We had expected those Jikany leaders to be highly informed about the political history of south Sudan due to their exposure. We were surprised by their ignorance on things that even underage Nuer children know.
For their information, Taban was not among the three leaders of Nasir faction of 1991. So it is not true for them to say he was the 1991 coup plotter. The lead plotters of the Nasir faction were Dr. Riek Machar, Dr. Lam Akol and Gen. Gordon Koang Chuol. As a matter of fact, Taban was among the first peace negotiators on Nasir Faction’s side.
These jikany Nuer leaders are in violation of one key principle of the agreement, which is tolerance. As Gach Chock Chock reiterated in his video, those who wrote the letter are a bunch of warmongers with the motive to create a wedge between Eastern, Central and western Nuer for no good reason. In fact, they just fall short of saying western Nuer of Bentiu should not occupy positions of two vice Presidents for reasons they know. The three sisterly and brotherly Nuers of western, central and Eastern are the same people who have suffered together.
Politically, these leaders’ intention was to hit two birds with one stone. The two birds that I am referring to are First Vice President, Dr Riek Machar and vice President Taban Deng Gai.
They actually mean Dr. Riek Machar when they stated that, ‘’our community has suffered immensely since 1991 due to evil conspiratorial plots of Taban Deng Gai, a man who is a member of South Sudan criminal Hall of fame when it comes to politics of destruction and backstabbing.’’ The suffering of Nuer and south Sudanese was there before 1991, and it is still there up to now.
They equally accused Taban of having a persistent mission to seize power by force when we know he has no army of his own. They also accused Taban of planning to kill the President by all means, adding that he ferried to Juba a witchdoctor from Northern Sudan with intention to eliminate the President. This is untrue because since Taban became vice President in 2016, he has shown great loyalty to the President.
Moreover, they pointed fingers at Taban as having a hand in the disappearance and subsequent killing of our renowned Human Rights Lawyer, Samuel Dong Luak and Nationalist, Idris Agrrey. It is undisputable that Taban has been sanctioned by US government in connection to Dong and Aggrey murder, but he has not yet been charge in the competence court of law.
As a Liech community, we are still mourning the death of Dong Luak, and we believe his killers will one day face the full wrath of the law. As of now, Taban is an accused person with all rights that should be respected. It is unfair to call him Dong’s Killer without further explanation. When time comes, he will defend himself and when he is found guilty then people can call him any name they want.
We must say Gen. Taban is a revolutionary Nuer son born in Unity State; he got married to many Nuer women with whom they have many children; and he was elected as first governor in unity state. He is connected to us in many aspects. Hence, any vicious attack on him is an attack on his children, family and the Nuer community as a whole.
We are calling on these Jikany Nuer leaders to go slowly and avoid provoking the situation. The Jikany Nuer of Mighty Latjor community is known in history as people who always fight a just war. Thus these Jikany leaders should refrain from engaging in cheap politics to advance self-aggrandizement.
As much as they want to enjoy their rights to political opinion, they should as well respect the right of others to have a good name and reputation. Their letter gravely violates Taban’s rights as an accused person. Right now we need peace, and peace will be restored through tolerance. We call on them to tolerate Taban if they can’t accept him.
We know the capacities of Gen. Gathoth Gatkuoth, Dr. Riek Gai and Dak Duop for they have served us in both civic and military leaderships before. But one thing is however clear that Taban is senior to the trio in all SPLM hierarchies. And that is not to say Taban is better than three of them. They could be better than Taban but they won’t replace him by using false and fake letters.
Written and Signed by;
Dak Buoth, Chairman, Liech community Association in Kenya
19th September, 2020