South Sudan coup: Is it revenge on the Nuer tribe?

What did you do last night to celebrate the full moon? In Dinka communities of South Sudan, the full moon is celebrated with dancing and drumming till late. For the last few days, the sound of women and children singing and dancing to the drums filed the air at our location  in Adol, Rumbek, Lake State. Last night was the most silent nights all nights we have been here. I only had a couple of children dancing and singing in the nearby school. At least their songs and beautiful voices helped carry  away the worry  of  a full scale war following today’s events after a failed coup attempt in Juba. As these children sang, I kept wondering what would happen if guns shots suddenly started and every body had to run for their lives?

More bad news today morning; more fighting started again at around mid night in Juba, the UN mission in South Sudan has about 10000 civilians seeking refugee (I will confirm through a friend later today); and two army generals from different tribes who command two  different army stations located north and south of our location might join any time from now.  Its getting very hot here.

You all know the south Sudan you read about or watch  on international TV channels; newest state in the world after decades of war and making progress to move forward, malnourished is children it is always reported from any African country by international media, corrupt government systems and above all the picture of John Garang comes along because he  was and is still the face of this new state. However, there is some thing that is hidden from us by our  reporters; beautiful people, I mean very lovely people who have struggled to preserve the cultures and identity  after decades of endless wars.

My partner and I and another lovely Ugandan women who heads an education department at the organization where we arrived as external consultants for a donor agency have been thinking about was how we get back home safely. News of airport being closed and international and local flights suspended for another day because of continued clashes are bad news because cant fly to Juba and then connect to Uganda.

Why does a new state that fought for decades to be independent from what they called an oppressive government in Sudan go back to war? Just because politicians failed to agree in a meeting and innocent lives are lost? Is that how governments work or this is unique to South Sudan? Every news channel’s website  that I have visited (thank God we still have internet)  has  a different story about the real cause but I think there are those  that no media has reported about  that  I also could not  understand if I was here; its all about revenge and more revenge here all in the name of fighting for ones clan and tribe.

#1: On December 8, two days after our arrival, we experienced  what everyone  has lived with for almost the past thirty years; prolonged gun shots at an inter clan fight. We were told 3 days later that some of the bullets fell in our compound. Staff here didn’t want to tell us because they knew we would be  scared. Inter clan fights are  very common here to an extent that one must  always be very careful when talking to a stranger because any bad words can incite the whole clan into a fight which we are told starts with fist fights, to sticks, stones, spears and then guns leaving hundreds on innocent people dead of severely injured because almost every one owns a gun including school children.  The fight went on till late evening leaving several people severely injured including soldiers.  We have been extremely careful with people we meet and talk to. Even when research assistants don’t perform to my expectations, I have to hide my disappointment.  I know this is one way of keeping the work moving on smoothly and keep every one in the team motivated and performing but I must admit it’s the only way to stay safe , I a real coward here.

#2. News of the deaths and arrests in Juba spread widely here to an extend that even staff who are supposed to ensure our safety seemed more worried and scared than us . News about the death of a former governor of the state where were spread very quickly so we started preparing our selves for the worst.   At around 17:30, about 6 men who we are told are brothers of the former governor reported shot in Juba mobilized there brothers to attack a military barrack commanded by a Nuer because they believe a Nuer – Riek Machar was the cause of the chaos in Juba and so they had to revenge and kill another prominent Nuer who is a commander at  a barracks located about 3 kilometers from where I am now. Fortunately  or unfortunately (whatever suits), the 6 were arrested at around 18:00 before they could accomplish their mission and tortured  and later taken another military barracks.  If this attack had happened, this would have been the start of another intertribal war which would definitely mean every body here must be involved to defend their tribe.

I have talked to several people here young and old and they believe spirit of revenge which every body here believes is one of the reasons behind the Juba coup attempt. We also received reports of night patrols into people’s homes to check for anyone who is a Nuer because they are now being blamed for the chaos.

#3. Mid last week as we prepared our research assistants to travel to the field, we received reports of gunshots from payams (Sub Counties) where we were supposed to work  that day. This time is an inter clan gunfight and all roads were closed. Reason; a young man from a different clan had impregnated a girl from another clan so the girl’s clan had come to revenge and exterminate the rival clan.  I don’t know what you think about this but I don’t think two mature people who agreed to have sex and want to get married should be a case for a gun fight.

I wrote this article late at night because we stayed up till late listening to any signs of war so we can try and walk back to Uganda. Maybe we will just the Nile  and hopefully get to Uganda.

Sending my love


Please remember to donate to ICOD Action Network’s campaign ‘Fruits for School Children’ even though I am still stuck here. Here is the link


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