The Power of Creative Reasoning : The Ideas and Vision of John Garang

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In strategic terms, the Bor massacre backfired. Dinka-speakers in the SPLA and international aid workers who had formerly concurred with criticisms of John Garang's dictatorial style could not condone the bloodbath and ceased supporting everyone who claimed to control the White Army.

For the White Army, the looting of Bor was also a hollow victory against inequality because, after they returned home with Bor cattle infected with rinderpest, most of their own herds also died.

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The attack also failed to eliminate the true sources of wealth disparities that foreign aid agencies and the government of Sudan continued to manufacture. In the end, Riek Machar proved at least as adept at hoarding aid as the politicians whom he had criticised for their perceived corruption.

In his quest to supplant John Garang, Riek Machar had forged an alliance with the very government of Sudan against which he had struggled for independence. This new alliance inspired the government of Sudan to allow international aid agencies to ship aid to Riek Machar's headquarters in Nasir, where he quickly squirreled away these resources, literally burying stockpiles in the ground.

This new hoarding soon produced new inequalities that turned Lou-Nuer militiamen against their Jikany-Nuer neighbours around Nasir, though until that moment the two groups had been comrades in arms for two centuries. In Lou chapters of the White Army responded by invading Jikany areas and burning Nasir to the ground.

Dr. John Garang de Mabior visit to London in 2002.

Looking closely at how the White Army mobilised young men after the Bor massacre reveals that militias who invoked ethno-linguistic nationalism as a discourse took up arms for far more concrete reasons, and that male and female elders, as well as their unmarried daughters, had considerable control over male combatants. At the time of the Bor massacre, both Lou and Jikany communities were experiencing the most severe famine in over a century and were profoundly vulnerable.

However unromantic an existence, the UNHCR offered refugees food, safety, education and prospects for economic gain. The fact that many young men continued to fight in civilian militias despite the countervailing incentives testifies to the continued power of elders, and their marriageable daughters, to compel young men to fight on their behalf. During these times of scarcity, most militia conflicts revolved around control over critical local resources. Jikany yellow maize nourishes the hearts of the people.

As this rousing chorus made clear, any Lou militiamen who retreated would have to literally run past all the unmarried women of his community, broadcasting his cowardliness and thus his inability to provide for a household and the community in general. Thus organised and motivated, Lou militiamen depopulated Ulang County, burned Nasir town to the ground, and continued raiding farther eastward until female elders among their Jikany opponents devised their own recruiting strategy, making intensive use of the same premise of monopolising marriages.

The Gaajak-Jikany to the east were essentially unaffected by these raids but the Gaajiok-Jikany who bordered the Lou were soon scrambling to recruit militiamen Bup int. These matriarchs ensured that no able-bodied men even conversed with unmarried girls without first fulfilling their guard duties Bun int.

They also retained militia manpower by levying cattle fines against men who left the area to conduct private business.

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Portraying women as victims rather than leaders who recruited reluctant young men by leveraging their patriarchal ambitions, elite-centred narratives have also treated Nuer discourses of male machismo and feminine pacifism as literal truths rather than cultural ideals which people deploy instrumentally. They have not agreed on who to blame for the violence of the s but their debates do reveal the importance of local politics and competitions for power. Women have blamed men for the destruction by turning men's own boasts of military prowess against them.

These competing explanations co-existed because, however much outsiders may see them as a monolithic group, individuals within Nuer communities have multiple identities and competing agendas, and conduct most of the politics of mobilising and governing militias at that local level on the basis of more parochial motives. Refusing to believe that these militias were truly community governed, both the SPLM and the United Nations continued to erroneously believe in Wutnyang Gatakek and Riek Machar's authority decades later.

In , the SPLA co-opted Wutnyang Gatakek and sought to use his imagined authority to ease tensions after Lou-Nuer communities began complaining that some SPLA soldiers had commandeered their cattle during a government disarmament campaign. The SPLA brought the prophet to the disarmament site but Lou militiamen, who generally blamed him for offering bad council during the civil war, shot him on the spot.

The best publicised example of this failed elite-centred policy was the Nuer-Murle conflict of — The UN and the leadership of SPLM were aware they had not managed to prevent particularly gruesome assaults in Mareng and Nyandit payams in or Uror County in but still hoped to stop a retaliatory strike that so blatantly challenged the state's supposed monopoly on legitimate force.

The captains who were leading militiamen from each participating payam agreed to meet the vice president, but shouted him down and continued their march when they realised he had no new plan to prevent raids on their home communities. As with the elite-centred histories of past conflicts, most accounts of how the current war began focus on persons and events in Juba without describing the war's rural antecedents or the politics of civilian combatants.

In and early , rural Jikany men who were and are members of White Army chapters commonly criticised Salva Kiir, not for ethnic favouritism per se, but for being far too easily manipulated through ethnic rhetoric. Nuer communities certainly noticed that the SPLA hunted down Dinka rebels like George Athor Deng and bought off minor Nuer figures like Gatluak Gai, but they felt contempt, not gratitude, for a government easily manipulated by its own ethnic stereotypes. Rural herdsmen also resented officials from other areas who sought to enforce national laws that conflicted with local mores.

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Perhaps most importantly, rural Nuer communities resented wealth inequalities that had only continued to intensify since the CPA had created a flood of oil revenue and post-conflict development projects. Following the CPA, both the government and NGOs had focused the majority of their spending in Juba and other major cities, rather than in the rural areas where most South Sudanese actually lived.

By service delivery among Nuer communities in the Upper Nile State was extremely uneven, with most of the resources being devoted to the capital of Malakal or to Nasir town, rather than Nasir County's outlying payams or the state's other Nuer counties. Nasir town also received a significant amount of attention from aid agencies, which warped the local economy. Benefiting from inflated NGO salaries, many men in Nasir had become quite wealthy, by local standards, but little of this wealth trickled into the countryside.


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NGO employees spent much of their earnings in a parallel economy, run almost exclusively by merchants from Ethiopia, Darfur and Shilluk areas around Malakal, which inspired bitter locals to complain of merchants relaying profits to relatives abroad. This unsustainable trend resulted in a paradoxical scenario in which some towns with less NGO activity actually had noticeably better public services.

For example, Mathiang town could boast a serviceable roadway constructed by the state government , wireless internet in the county's medical centre, and several hours of free public electricity each day. Maiwut County used its meagre budget to employ a licensed physician, born in the county, who travelled to remote cattle-camps to evenly distribute medical services. By the spring of , men in the payams surrounding places like Nasir often spoke jealously of poorly utilised or mismanaged stockpiles of urban resources as property they might justly redistribute.

By , the Nuer White Army was also a different entity from the old militias of the s and included many members who had received a formal education while living as refugees, especially in Ethiopia's Gambella Region. Still an unsalaried civilian force, the militias blended bureaucratic strategies they had honed in other countries with local traditions and religious beliefs. While local chapters remained autonomous, they adhered to a common governing structure that allowed local commanders to coordinate with counterparts across the Upper Nile region even as they partnered with local elders and women who could recruit manpower.

This modern militia bureaucracy did run on patronage, but local businessmen and herders supplied more of the resources, not elites in Juba, Malakal and Bor or their salaried surrogates. In the s each payam had referred to its own local chapter of the White Army as their bunom , a term originally borrowed from their Anywaa or Anyuak neighbours once they began purchasing breech-loading rifles at the turn of the 20th century.


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By young men who remained active in White Army chapters had innovated more specialized terminology and used the once generalized word bunom to refer to one particular leadership position, the captain of a local White Army chapter. Militia captains did not need the blessing of every reputable elder, priest, or prophet in the area to legitimate their proceedings, nor the labour of every local woman to produce these feasts, but they did depend on significant support of both kinds.

During their meetings, captains also relied on literate bureaucrats to manage communal resources. These functionaries held official positions that the White Army had not developed back in the s, including a secretary who ensured members paid their dues including rotating responsibilities to supply animals sacrificed for these gatherings , a treasurer who kept the books, and a deputy ran m i guru bunom who managed relations with local government officials.

Local men attended these security meetings voluntarily, but in practice every household had an interest in protecting their herds and few reasons to pass up a free feast. Most captains were fairly wealthy men with plenty of cattle. However they usually owed their fortunes to relatives and shrewd business dealings, not salaries or gifts from higher-ranking government officials.


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Regional warlords like Gathoth Gatkuoth did have a following in towns like Nasir and in their natal payams but these elites rarely had direct connection with militia captains. Messengers quickly summoned thousands of militiamen to meetings in each county where the assemblies agreed to march on the state capital of Malakal, in the opposite direction to Juba, and overthrow the state government.

The Governor was loyal to President Salva Kiir, but not especially implicated in the SPLM infighting kilometres away from Juba, much less genocide against his own ethnic group. Moreover, when the conflict displaced Dinka civilians living between Nasir and Malakal in Baliet County, militiamen welcomed thousands of Dinka refugees who took shelter with their Nuer relatives in Dome payam White Army member from Yomding int. As proof of this, White Army members in Nasir decided to attack their own kinsman's government because, under his supervision, the booming mini-metropolis of Malakal, like Bor in , had become an island of capitalist prosperity built on hoarding rather than distributing wealth.

Will they work for South Sudan? Militiamen calling for rebellion argued instead that the war started because of the hoarding of resources by corrupt politicians. Elders, women and youths outside the militias generally concurred. Hoth Guandong, who has been the most respected judge in Nasir County's traditional courts since the early s, sided with the militias and turned his back on the county commissioner whom he had worked alongside for several years.

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Manual The Power of Creative Reasoning : The Ideas and Vision of John Garang

His counterparts in Longechuk County publicised their views by putting Salva Kiir on trial in absentia of course for massacres of Nuer civilians in Juba. Such enthusiasm for rebellion did not eliminate tensions within local communities and sometimes aggravated them. Fifteen-year-old schoolboys who chafed at parental authority in Gambella crossed the border in Ethiopia to join the fighting, though, at least at the beginning of the war, the White Army typically refused to enlist many youths fifteen-year-old combatant int.

In contrast to this perceived injustice, White Army militias strove to uphold principles of reciprocity as they elected leaders and redistributed wealth. At White Army assemblies in December , White Army chapters in each county decided to elect a single captain to serve as primus inter pares in the coming war and ultimately chose men with reputations for distributing wealth equitably.

For example, the Nasir assembly elected a captain from Jikmir payam who had built a small fortune by shipping cheap Ethiopian maize to Nasir's busy markets and transporting travellers, including one of the authors, on top of his merchandise for a fee White Army member from Korenge int.

Dr Lual Achuek:“Leaders in Juba dropped both SPLM’s policies and Garang’s vision.”

Rather than building a compound in Malakal, this captain had invested his wealth in cattle, which he used to help local men marry. At least some of the militiamen who voted for this captain were reciprocating his patronage, but they were also supporting a man whose track record of redistributing rather than hoarding wealth suggested they could trust him to work for their common good. White Army chapters mobilised for war more by coordinating than commanding.

Each chapter generally supplied their own war material and, at least among the Jikany, most did so by having each chapter's secretary take up a collection of cattle from their members. Select militiamen then drove these herds across the Ethiopian border where White Army treasurers sold the cattle and used the proceeds to purchase shoes, water jugs and ammunition.

Upon their return, captains redistributed these goods among militiamen for the coming campaign White Army Secretary from Jikmir int.