Home | Comment & Analysis    Saturday 6 January 2018

Sayed Bona Malwal: A Sudanese Desperately Dreaming of Re-annexing South Sudan to Sudan


By Justice Deng Biong

Recently, Sayed (Mr. in Arabic) Bona Malwal held a press conference in Khartoum on December, 4th, 2017, where he said, inter alia, that Abyei is part of Sudan and that it has never been claimed neither by the SPLM nor by South Sudan. Those utterances angered people of Abyei and other South Sudanese who described them as not only irresponsible from an elder but amounted to a betrayal to South Sudan national interest. Abyei people expected me, as in charge of Abyei file in the South Sudan Government, and other leaders who hail from the Area to immediately respond to Sayed Bona utterances. Some radicals even went as far as accusing us of having chosen silence in order to maintain our positions in Government despite the fact that they know Sayed Bona is not formally part of the Government of South Sudan. But since Sayed Bona was saying neither the SPLM nor GOSS has ever claimed Abyei as part of South Sudan, we preferred responses to come from the SPLM Party, the official Government spokesman or from the President’s press secretary since Sayed Bona mentioned H.E. President Salva Kiir in the name in his audio clip. Since there is no official response so far, I am offering this personal response by virtue of being a citizen of this country and a member of the SPLM Party, hoping the official response will later shed more light and clarify some serious allegations made by Sayed Bona.

Before delving into specific responses, allow me to give you a brief introduction and background to the struggle of the Ngok Dinka of Abyei to maintain their citizenship in South Sudan:
First, I want to emphasize that the Ngok Dinka people are South Sudanese historically, ethnically, culturally and constitutionally. They are not Kashmiris or Sudanese as some ill-wishers, cowards and cheap political opportunists would want them to be! It is not their mistake that they happened to be at South Sudan’s northern frontier. They found themselves at the South Sudan gate and defended it through history to the best of their abilities. A nationalist would thank them for such nationalistic role; but a political sycophant blinded by envy and political opportunism would laugh at their struggle and dismiss them as foreigners or at best, half nationals! What a cheap and shallow-based argument?!

Secondly, in March 1905, and without consultation with the Ngok Dinka people, the British colonial administration made their decision to annex them (Abyei) to Kordofan Province in the then Sudan (Observe, not Northern Sudan) on grounds of administrative convenience. Despite the fact that Ngok Dinka people started to resist that annexation since 1954 and later their sons and daughters took part in the Anya-anya I, Anya-nya II and the SPLM/A liberation struggles, the ill-wishers, I referred to above, insist that Ngok Dinka voluntary decided to remain in the North and therefore should not bother the South in their attempts to come back! But what they do not know or pretend not to know is that what some Ngok Dinka Chiefs did or said those days was not more than what our South Sudanese Chiefs did or said in 1947, when they decided to embrace unity with the North that we later rejected, resisted and eventually caused us millions of innocent lives in armed liberation struggles that lasted for more than 50 years.

If we all agree that the Northern negotiators were by far more educated and well experienced in matters of politics and law (e.g., Senior lawyer el Shangithi and Sir el Khitim el Khaliffa) and therefore might have outwitted or used tricks and other means to make our Chiefs and some half-educated Southern representatives of the time to sign that agreement, then what makes the sycophants and political opportunists of the day insist that the Ngok Dinka Chiefs who were illiterate like their brothers in the South, were not influenced or tricked in the very way and the circumstances their fellow Southern Chiefs were influenced and tricked?!

Today some of these opportunists shamelessly say let sons and daughters of Abyei go home and fight for their land! To me, this is too late, to say the least! They should have said this during the difficult days of Anya-nya I and in 1982 when youth from the Ngok Dinka of Abyei under late Michael Miyokol Deng were joined by youth from Aweil, Gogrial, Tonj and Wau districts and started the Anya-nya two armed struggle which culminated later into the formidable SPLA/M Movement.

If it was agreed that time that let sons and daughters of each district go and liberate their own district, I am sure we would have liberated Abyei and our late heroes, Capt. Miyokol Deng(Upper Nile/UPN) Capt.Wieu Kuol Makuei (UPN) 1st.Lt. Nyuot Miyen Monywan (UPN), Capt.Bagat Aguek, 1st.Lt.Bulabek Deng Kuol (UPN-the immediate elder brother of Gen.Pieng Deng) 2nd Lt. Kuol Biong Mijak- my immediate elder brother- Kuany-lou near Nassir (UPN), Capt.Wuor Jook Abyei, cousin to Cde Edward Wuor Abyei and brother to the former Court of Appeal Justice Charles Jook Abyei, Capt.Kuol Deng Kuol (Nasser-UPN), 2ndLt. Lal Miyoor Dut Menpha (Jiekou-UPN), 2nd Lt.Aguek Kuol Mijak (Blue Nile), 2nd Lt. Malwal Biong Mading, 2nd Lt.Deng Nyuat (Torit- Equatoria), Capt.Aguek Bol, 1stLts. Molou Kuol and Adok Deng Minyiel (BG), 1st Lt. Deng Miyoor Dut Menpha (elder brother of Lal Dut) (Dar Fur), Magek Deng Jooc (Abeimnom-UPN), Lt.Deng Bul Deng Luak (Tanks Unit-Yei-Equatoria), 1st Lt. Jook Agook Madut (Kimba-Equatoria), Capt. Mijak Miyen Kuol (Kapoeta-Equatoria) and thousands of others, would have not died there but in Abyei.

Personally, I carried out all my military operations in Greater Equatoria, particularly around Juba, where I was wounded behind Malok hills-East of Juba on February, 26th, 1989, the very day our SPLA Bright Star Campaign (BSC) gallant forces captured Torit. Being part of BSC, our Mogiri based brigade’s military assignment was to prevent the enemy’s el Saif el Batir convoy from rescuing Torit, which we did successfully.

If we assess the contributions of our communities to our liberation struggles by the ratio of the numbers of the freedom fighters to the sizes of the population of their respective communities, I do not think Ngok Dinka of Abyei will miss out of the first top ten communities who highly contributed in the last liberation struggle.

Now who deserves to be a South Sudanese, Sayed Bona who never fired a bullet against Khartoum, campaigned with his boss Omar Bashir on platform of making unity attractive and presumed to have voted against independence of South Sudan in 2011, or these Ngok Dinka patriots who paid the ultimate sacrifices and whose fellow survivors voted for the independence of South Sudan?!

What did Sayed Bona say at Dar el Hibba Press in relation to Abyei?

Speaking in local Sudanese Arabic, Sayed Bona was talking about Renk as a model of re-unification between South Sudan and Sudan, the impossible mission his masters assigned him to make possible when a journalist interrupted him by saying Renk was not a disputed area between the two states but Abyei was. Then Sayed Bona went on to say the following which I transcribed and translated into English and I quote:

“The problem of Abyei…yeah, the problem of Abyei...by the way, I recently wrote a book about Abyei...and want to tell you I am not one of the people who think Abyei is a problem between the North and the South. If there is a Southerner who thinks this Abyei is a problem between the South and the North…then he is mistaken…because we …and I who is seated here before you …I was the first Secretary General of the of Southern Front in 1964 when Abud government collapsed ….I was one of the people in that political organization who demanded from the people and indeed the world as a whole not only in the Sudan…that the borders should be 1/1/1956…about the provinces of the old Sudan…that was the border….because we don’t want to enter into quarrels over borders with our brothers in the North. Since we had accepted the boundaries of the 9 provinces and the British ruled us for 60 years and we said those were the borders of Sudan ….of the South and the North...that means Abyei falls in the North (Laughter from audience).

In fact Abyei falls North of 1/1/56..yeah, Abyei falls in the North…who is this Jinubbi (Southerner) who will come and say Abyei is a problem between the North and the South?! That means if there is a Southerner who claims Abyei then he is mistaken. The problem now is the problem of that people of Abyei want to be part of the South. This is their right because ….because people of Abyei constitute a one Sultanate (chieftaincy) of the Dinka and for the Dinka people…since the country got divided and there is one Sultanate cut off at the border….they want them to be part of the South. This is the problem that I am aware of….but if people want to turn things upside down to make it a case between the South and the North…that is a mistake.

I think the solution of this case, the case of this one Sultanate (chieftaincy) in the end will be found in an agreement between Khartoum and Juba….because since Khartoum and Juba had agreed on social issues like reinvigorating their relations, it is not possible for them to disagree over one Sultanate. But the politicians ….the people who are fond of creating problems…are the ones saying the South claimed Abyei…that is not true! There is no Jinubbi (Southerner)….I have never heard….I neither heard that from the SPLM when it was under the leadership of John Garang nor did I hear it from Salva Kiir or heard anyone saying we are claiming Abyei. What happened is that people of Abyei as happened to the people of Nuba Mountains went and joint the SPLM/A and fought alongside the Southerners and here there was an agreement. In the CPA there is recognition and that we ask people of Abyei whether they want to be part of South Sudan or they stay in Northern Sudan. This was not implemented….this is one of the examples of political failures in the relationship between the North and the South …they did not implement this as they did not implement the agreement in respect to the Nuba Mountains and Angessina. “

My first observation is that I am once more seeing the very confusion, inconsistency and dishonesty in narrating facts that made me to discontinue reading Sayed Bona’s book he referred to above despite encouragement from my brothers. If Abyei is not a problem between South Sudan and Sudan, then why is he finally saying that it is a problem that could be solved by both Juba and Khartoum?! (See his statement above).

Apart from boosting that as early as 1964, he was the Secretary-General of Southern Front, there is no clarity about what was the political agenda of the Southern Front that year that made it to be specific about that 1/1/1956 should be the South-North borderline! Were they calling for the separation of Southern provinces from the Northern provinces? What most South Sudanese know about the two traditional defunct political parties SANU and Southern Front is that while the first was working for political reform within one Sudan, the latter was a separatist political party advocating for separation of Southern Sudan from Northern Sudan. The question is why Sayed Bona did not complete the sentence by justifying why they were calling for 1/1/1956 as the border between the north and the South. Was he shy to disclose to his audience and new northern masters his separatist background as opposed to his newly adopted opportunistic stance to re-unify South Sudan with Sudan?!
On the point that South Sudan never claimed Abyei, any reasonable South Sudanese and even Sudanese will not believe Sayed Bona but will take him as an inadvertent or aware of historical facts but decided to be dishonest and twist history to meet his whims. Who in the SPLM who does not know that in 2004 when opportunists wanted to leave Abyei behind, Dr.John Garang in an SPLM Leadership meeting bang the table collected his papers and said: “ no Abyei no Agreement! “. As a result of that firm stance, the Americans came in with Rev. Danforth Proposal on Abyei which culminated in the Abyei Protocol Sayed Bona, in a contradictory manner, referred to above. If Abyei was not claimed by the SPLM in that serious form, there could not have been an agreement on Abyei known today as the Abyei Protocol in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), 2005.

During President Salva Kiir’s era the SPLM/Southern Sudan Government and later the Republic of South Sudan continued to claim Abyei in the following forms:

1- When Sudan Armed Forces (SAF)’s Joint Integrated Units (JIU) component attacked the SPLA’s JIU component in Abyei in 2008, the latter fought back fiercely. I thought Sayed Bona was aware that the Commander-in-Chief of those SPLA forces was and still Gen.Salva Kiir Mayardit the President of the Government of Southern Sudan by then and the incumbent President of the Republic of South Sudan.
2- After Khartoum rejected the Abyei Boundary Commission (ABC)’s Report in July, 2005, and decided to attack and occupy Abyei in May 2008, and after the intervention of the AU and the international community which forced the two parties to resort seek international arbitration, the then Government of Southern Sudan sent a delegation headed by the then Vice President Riak Machar to defend South Sudan claim to Abyei at the PCA in the Hague-Netherlands. PCA later passed its ruling delineating the boundaries of the Ngok Dinka territory which is the current Abyei Box on July 22nd, 2009. It is needless to remind Sayed Bona that it was Salva Kiir, whom he claimed never claimed Abyei that sent his then VP to the Hague.
3- The Government of South Sudan exercised dominant right in the formation of the Abyei joint Administration in 2008, 2009 ( 60% SPLM to 40% NCP) until when President Bashir stormed Abyei, took it over and unilaterally dissolved that joint administration.
4- Southern Sudan forces fought in Abyei when Khartoum forces stormed and occupied it for the second time in May 2011. Many SPLA soldiers including from Sayed Bona’s home Area lost their lives defending and claiming Abyei by paying the ultimate sacrifice, yet Sayed Bona sitting in his ivory tower says South Sudan never claimed Abyei!!
5- South Sudan negotiated the June, 20th, 2011, Agreement to protect its interest in Abyei as well as the establishment of UNISFA peacekeeping force in the Area.
6- South Sudan negotiated and signed the Status of Forces Agreement SOFA with the UN on November, 12th, 2012, making it a sovereign state over Abyei…and many other actions and yet Sayed Bona says South Sudan never claimed Abyei!!

Sayed Bona’s real motive behind his repeated attacks on Abyei and Abyei SPLM Cadres (observe here, Abyei SPLM cadres and not Abyei intellectuals in general) is part of his campaign to destroy pillars of the SPLM in order for the latter to scramble and giving his opportunistic assignment a chance to succeed. All the individuals reconciled with him namely Deng Alor, Edward Lino Abyei, Dr.Luka Biong and Gen. Pieng Deng are political and military cadres of the SPLM/A. Some were fierce fighters and liberation war heroes known within South Sudan and even beyond! At times Sayed Bona, supported by his Khartoum masters and in a campaign to create unnecessary friction between SPLM members, proliferated slogans such as Abyei sons dominated the SPLM/A or that Abyei controls Government of South Sudan. Those slogans are sheer negative propaganda by enemies of the Ngok Dinka of Abyei. The idea is to antagonize Southerners against Abyei people and therefore withdraw their support to get a final settlement to the Abyei issue. It is a trend adopted by Khartoum and their opportunistic allies among Southerners. Each of us from Abyei did his/her best in the service of the SPLM/A, according to personal abilities and opportunities.

It should not be understood that Abyei cadres are the only cadres or pillar for SPLM. Many others are there and Sayed Bona and NCP masqueraders targeted them in different ways; sometimes by calling some of them Awlad Garang (Sons of Garang) or through patronizing unconstitutional and illegitimate bodies like the so-called Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) spreading divisive ethnic policies that SPLM successfully resolved but now being brought back to fragment our nation beyond repair! It is unfortunate that those of Sayed Bona hope that when we are weakened as such, we shall fall prey to Khartoum! I think they are, to use Sayed Bona’s word, Khaltanniin (Mistaken) and shall wait longer.

While Abyei’s disputed status is being cheaply used to discredit Abyei SPLM cadres, other means are being used against other cadres and indeed against the Party as whole, including this general false assertion that while the SPLM/A could successfully manage the war of liberation, but it lacks the necessary skills to run a state. This is said despite the fact that SPLA/M was number one liberation movement in Africa if not in the world that was joined by highly educated cadres! So the idea is that Sayed Bona with his archaic and intermittently educated Jabha el Janub (Southern Front) cadres should take over and do the job, an offer he earlier made to late Dr John Garang but the latter ignored it, turning Sayed Bona into an enemy to Dr Garang until his (Garang) death.

At times it has been conceived that Sayed Bona hatred to the Ngok Dinka or his views about Abyei status, represented those of the people in his home Area of Twic. I personally do not believe so. Our relations with Twic are bigger than Sayed Bona utterances. It is unfortunate that in relation to Ngok Dinka people and particularly towards its educated elite, Sayed Bona is still suffering from an inferiority complex that he needs to clearly explain and get rid of it for the sake of the current and future generations in both neighbouring Ngok and Twic communities. In our Dinka community and probably in all South Sudan communities, elders are always sources of wisdom, guidance and problems solvers. Could elder Sayed Bona and his colleagues in the Jieng Council be an exceptional case to this general rule in our Dinka community?!

Historically, Sayed Bona’s section of Kuwac Twic was part of Abyei up to end of the first quarter of the 20th century. It was in 1926, during the era of Ngok Dinka Paramount Chief Kuol Arop (1905-1945) and with the help of the British administration that they were transferred to Akwar Twic under the Paramount Chieftaincy Juuk Choom Ring, P/Chief Kuol’s father-in-law and placed under Gogrial administration. But despite that transfer, Kuwac section including Sayed Bona remained inclined to Ngok in most social, economic and cultural aspects.

If not because he went to school earlier, Sayed Bona could have been carrying Ngok Dnka’s traditional marks in his forehead now, because his younger brothers including the current Chief Wundit Madut Ring are traditionally marked like Ngok Dinkas.
When we were in the bush his younger brother and hero of both Anya-nya 2 and the SPLM armed struggles, late Ring Madut Ring (Marked like a Ngok gentleman) whom I met (Later killed in action) and other comrades from Kuwac Twic and Aloor from Abiemnom, were always camping together with us from Abyei as one community. Not only that, late Paramount Chief Deng Majok used to take care of Sayed Bona to the extent that in 1969, when he was dying, he asked his two sons namely; Dr Francis M. Deng and Dr Zakaria Bol Deng to take care of Bona as their brother, yet Sayed Bona is not grateful to Ngok Dinka of Abyei.

When last year Dr Francis Deng, a contemporary and a lifetime friend of Sayed Bona initiated a reconciliation between Sayed Bona and four sons of Ngok Dinka namely Hon. Deng Alor, Gen. Edward Lino, Gen. Pieng Deng and Dr. Luka Biong, I personally expressed reservations about the sincerity of that exercise, but finally accepted to attend it because some brothers who are close friends to Sayed Bona and who believed that exercise might push Abyei case as Sayed Bona was enjoying listening ears in both Juba and Khartoum, urged me to join. I, who like any patriotic Abyei son or daughter earnestly looking for any quick solution to the Abyei issue, convinced myself to join in order to avoid being blamed later for a loss of some opportunity that reconciliation exercise might have offered.

Participants of that reconciliation exercise may recall my words when I told Sayed Bona that as an elder we respect him but we differ with him on his erroneous views about the status of Abyei Area. I wished I was wrong, but Sayed Bona’s conduct since that fake reconciliation exercise has, unfortunately, proven my point correct.

Finally, let me reiterate that I do not think Sayed Bona objective is only Abyei. Destroying Abyei case could be part of his tools to realize his main objective which is the total destruction of SPLM and eventually handing over of South Sudan to Sudan.
What I know is that, for the sake of unity and harmony in our country, the SPLM gave room and accommodated other political players including those who fought us during our liberation struggle. What Sayed Bona and other NCP masqueraders need to know is that for a giant people’s party like the SPLM to forgive and accommodate former adversaries should not be interpreted as a lack of clear vision, political programme or organizational weakness.

As for Abyei, allow me Sayed Bona to remind you, in case you are not aware, that the settlement of the Area’s final status, is currently governed by a strong legal framework that both the SPLM and the Government of South Sudan have successfully negotiated including the international Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) Ruling of July, 22nd, 2009), UNSC Resolution 1990, (2011), AUHIP or Mbeki Proposal (21/9/2012) accepted by the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) on October, 24th, 2012, and the two SOFAs (Status of Forces Agreement) signed with the UN by South Sudan (12/11/2012) and by Sudan (1/10/2012), which established, legally speaking, two Sovereign states and two hosting governments; namely South Sudan and Sudan in the Abyei Area. This framework has superseded and modified the Abyei Protocol, 2005, that you remain stuck with, whether deliberately or inadvertently.

The author can be reached at Mijak. dkoklek@yahoo.com.

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