opinionBy Apuk Deng Reech
Rumbek community and Nhial Bol at the crossroads over Bahsir's visit. While we strive for harmonious coexistence of our communities in the nascent Republic of South Sudan, we also seek to avoid trampling on the dignity and liberty of our countrymen/women. The new era ushered in has brought with it freedom of speech. However, the burgeoning mercantile media in Juba has abused the dignity of media given the fact that some various individual in the media houses are crossing redlines required of responsible reporting based on international standards. This includes taking accountability where the media falls short of required legal standard. One such media house which abused the principles of responsible reporting is the Citizen Newspaper, the only daily newspaper in Juba enjoying commercial monopoly. It is common knowledge that the sole objective of media is to disseminate peace among communities, educate citizens about their duties and obligations towards security, peace and development. And above all, inter alia, the inter-communal coexistence.
Unfortunately, the Editor-in-chief of the said newspaper, Nhial Bol Aken sacrificed expediency over selfish interests. We apparently assumed that the character content of an Editor in chief of National Newspaper should be a unifying force behind societal ills; nevertheless, Nhial took unprecedented deviation from the noble journalism principles of telling the truth in their literal value to the public and avoiding prejudice and biasness against any particular section of the community. Instead, he took unilateral path of pitiful bigotry akin to behaviours of medieval era of journalism, where a given newspaper is used unreasonably to advance narrow interests of sub-standards journalists. In fact, people are beginning to realise that Nhial's paper, has of late been used as a propaganda machinery through which he unequivocally choose to attack any community as he pleases. But people also begin to realise that Nhial should not get away with his crude behaviours and it is high time to call spade a spade. The readers may be wondering as to what unforgivable sin Nhial may have committed. Nhial in his capacity as chief editor published an article which appeared in his column "straight talk" (Citizen Monday 29 October 2012 Vol.7.Issue 287) concerning the announced visit of the President of the Republic of Sudan, Omer Hassan Al Bashir as announced by the Foreign Ministry of Sudan and affirmed by Juba. Nhial in his response to the prospective visit was critical of the move, but his arguments are no more than tribal invectives adorned with immaturity.
He maintained that the moment Bashir sets foot on the soil of Juba, the widows whose husbands were killed during bitter days of war, before the CPA will weep and feel betrayed by the government of South Sudan; instead, he suggested that Bashir goes to Rumbek in Lakes State where they made (two heads of state) Dinka Agar to dance when they heard that El Bashir will build schools, Hospitals for them. There is no justification here for such visit to be diverted to Rumbek. People of Rumbek are not materialistic.
Yes, Bashir did visit Rumbek in February 2006 and was accorded cordial reception like any other Head of State; in fact, he visited various States of Southern Sudan and was received with whatever cultural tempo of a particular State. In Jonglei, for instance, he was adorned with leopard skin which has its own cultural connotation, and when he went to Upper Nile, during the 9 July 2009 CPA celebrations, Bashir was received with colourful cultural dance and was clad in Shilluk's cultural long Malaya and adorned with cultural beads, signifying respect and warm reception. All other States which Bashir visited did the same and accorded him with State's cultural methods of reception for notables. It beats the logic of reasoning why Nhial was very particular about the reception accorded to Bashir in Rumbek specifically about the Dinka Agar dance, when other States just did likewise. The claim that Bashir should go to Rumbek only because the "dance" accorded to him induced the former to pledge series of promises to Rumbek Community is unfounded, nor should the killing in Juba of 1992 justify in anyway the reason for Nhial's argument for Bashir's visit to be diverted to Rumbek. We believe that the atrocities committed during the protracted Civil War were a bitter reminiscent of colonial legacy and marginalisation of South Sudanese perpetuated by Arabs. However, we also believe that since politics is a game of possibilities, the CPA underscored the necessity of political intercourse with former foes - the Northern Sudanese.
Moreover, based on the strength of the President's speech recently in the National Parliament, in response to agitated emotional politicians who ignorantly rejected the Cooperation Agreement with Bashir's NCP, Gen. Kiir underlined the need for political expediency to prevail and urge restraint and patience. The president underscored that he should do everything within his disposal to prevent the return to war with the North and also to normalise and strengthen the relationship.
Having said that, Nhial seems to be ignorant of the latest political development of our Country, he has not been following our President's utterances and speeches regarding the envisioned relationship with the Republic of Sudan, in fact, he seems to be ignorant of the recently signed cooperation agreement endorsed by President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his Sudanese Counterpart, president Omer Al Bashir and ratified by the National Parliaments of the two countries. Cognizant of the importance of peaceful relations and the mutual benefits accrue between the two countries, the governments of Sudan and South Sudan arranged for such visit to cement political and economic relationships, and to forge a new era of prosperity.
In a subtle reference to lack of hard currency dogging our country, Nhial in the said column decried the impasse that engulf his paper and announced to the readership that it is highly likely the paper might shut down its publication and probably lay off employees because of delayed remittance of hard currency into Citizen newspaper account. He doesn't know that the visit of President Bashir consolidates theeconomic ties that will improve economic viability and ensure constantflow of the hard currency, to liberate Nhial from his predicament.
Last but not the least, we wish to send a strong message to Nhial that the nationalities of South Sudan are as important to each other as would be difficult for them to live divided. At some point in time during the struggle Nhial Bol was station and working in Khartoum with Bashir whereas people of Lakes state never waiver in the SPLM/A struggle. Nhial considered himself as more patriotic than the people of Rumbek when in fact the other day Nhial was in Khartoum but people of Rumbek were the backbone of the movement. We are matured enough to know stories from histories that Nhial committed some terrible political blunders during and after the war, but because we fall and rise together as a nation, we forget our political mistakes and open a new chapter of political dispensation and engagement to forge our country ahead.
But Nhial Bol with his constant controversial remarks once branded the Minister for electricity and Dam as "Minister of Darkness" in reference to apparent lack of electricity in the City. David Deng Athorbei, the Minister of the said Ministry was attacked by Nhial before he could even locate office and outline the policy statement of his Ministry to the Government. Such attack is an apparent move to ostracize and demonize Hon. Athorbei as a failed Minister when he didn't really fail. Hon. Deng Athorbei is a cadre of the SPLM committed to the Party values and service of the people of South Sudan and demonizing him on falsehood is unbearable. This was quite a personal attack on Hon. Athorbei.
Rumbek Community are a very noble people and their contribution during the war could never be questioned. Our nobility and integrity underlined Nhial's suggestion that Agar Community were moved by material gains accrued from President Bashir's pledges, but the claim is rebuttable based on historical facts about communities.
In the interest of peace and stability, politician, journalist, MPs and all people must rise above sectional and tribal line and portray national image of the country. This is the role Agaar community has committed itself in order to advance social and political harmony.
Apuk Deng Reech is the chairman of Lakes state youth union (LASYU)