Monday December 11, 2017

EDITORIAL: One year on. Remembering the Juba Massacre


A year ago…..

Juba, the capital city of South Sudan witnessed the bloodiest massacre ever. A three days of onslaught shook the nation to the core. While massacre is taking place, not everybody got the word unless you are a Presidential Guards (Dinka Militias group formed by the president Salva Kiir). Their heavy tanks and armours were roaming around the street of Juba. Whether through a senior directives or not, the guards often ask their prey in Dinka language: “eyien nga” which simply translates as “who are you?” or they will demand to see your ID to verify whether you are a Nuer or not. Some presidential guards in most cases shout “Kill the Nuer.” The world was brought to a standstill in just 3 days after about 20,000 are believed to have died. That number is nearly half the population of Nuer in Juba.


No theme is more deeply embedded in Nuer history than being refugees in their own country. The return of South Sudan from exile in the year 2005 and their independent in 2011, and the then killing of Nuer people in their homeland from December 15th to December 18th, 2013 left a huge thorn in their heart and forced them to defend and join the rebellion in their thousands.


It Was Not a Coup Attempt


To briefly walk you through the one year history of the crisis, on December 15th, 2013 violence engulfed South Sudan began with what President Salva Kiir (Dinka) says was an attempted coup led by Former Vice President Riek Machar (Nuer) and said was supported by many former top government officials, including Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba, Nyadeng de Mabior, etc. Kiir managed to rest a few of these groups. According to Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba, “Kiir was trying to purge the party of his political rivals”. Nyaba had known Kiir for decades as a fearless commander who spent more 28 years in the bush fighting Sudan. Now, as president, President Salva Kiir was handling political threats like another military campaign.


“President Salva Kiir is not a political animal,” Nyaba said. “He is a soldier, and doesn’t perceive the political process as some of us perceive it.”

“The democratic culture is still very shallow,” Nyaba said. He added, “It is a long struggle to bring these concepts to the minds of people so they can internalize them.”


Timeline of chronological events of the Juba Nuer Massacre

December 14, 2013

Tensions were high in Juba, caused by the strained relationship between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Dr. Riek Machar Teny as the SPLM National Liberation Council (NLC) met. Riek was sacked that July by Kiir in unknown circumstance but maintained calm and urged his supporters and the public to not take laws into their own hands.


December 15, 2013

The second day of the NLC convened. Riek and other key politicians boycotted the second day of the NLC meeting, saying the environment was tribally charged and not conducive for a good party meeting. At around 10:30 p.m. that night fighting between Nuer members of the Presidential Guard, loyal to Riek and those, mostly Dinka Presidential Guards soldiers loyal to Kiir started in the SPLA ‘Giyada’ Headquarters and spreads to some surrounding areas. At around midnight Nuer and Dinka soldiers fought over the New Site arms store in the north of the capital. Riek and Taban then escaped Juba. Riek initially refused to go thinking the fighting will not reach his place or the SPLA army and Chief of Staff, James Hoth and President Kiir will calm the situation.


December 16, 2013

At dawn, fighting in both places, the Giyada Headquarters and in New Site continued and spreads to engulf many residential neighborhoods. Attacks on Nuer houses especially in the north west of the capital begin early that morning. By around midday the renegade Nuer soldiers have been pushed out of Juba overwhelmed with firepower from Bilpham and thousands of Dinka militias armed to teeth by Kiir. Nuer civilians were shot at as they run to UN bases. Over the day Nuer men are rounded up in Gudele and nearby neighborhoods and taken to the Gudele “joint unit” police station.


That afternoon President Salva Kiir Clad in complete military attire, the President declared it was a coup and that the loyal forces have been crushed and were now pursuing the remnants. Meanwhile attacks on Nuer civilians were taking place in many different locations in Juba. More than 400 men were massacred at the Gudele “joint unit” police station at around 8 p.m.

South Sudan's president, Salva Kiir

December 17, 2013

Attacks continued on Nuer civilians, and as thousands flock to two UN bases. A gun battle over Riek’s house took place. Some armoured tanks continued to shell the house constantly while more than 35 people sheltered there. In the late afternoon, survivors of the Gudele massacre were rescued and authorities begin moving the bodies from the site. Fighting between Dinka and Nuer security forces was also reported in other parts of the town. The government announces arrests of politicians accused of masterminding the coup.

nuer nuer1


SUMMARY OF WHAT ENSUED: President Kiir, Presidential Guards House to House Search, and their Shout, “Kill the Nuer” war strategies.


For more than a century, Nuer people had lived in Juba peacefully with others communities. According to Nuer tradition, “values are embodied in words through which they influence behaviour”.

On December 15th, 2013 Nuer people were brutally attacked and killed by the Presidential Guards incited by the President Salva Kiir (Dinka). President Salva Kiir claimed that Dr. Riek Machar Teny (Nuer) was endangering his absolute power.

President Salva Kiir Mayardit, the Commander in Chief of the SPLA, ordered Major General Marial Ciennoung, the commander of Tiger Battalion to leave the meeting venue in Nyakuron back to his Headquarters and to disarm all his troops. Marial went and implemented the orders.


There after, he ordered the Dinka elements rearmed. The ensuing argument between him and his deputy, a Nuer, attracted the attention of some Nuer soldiers who happened to be nearby. A fistfight ensued between the storekeeper and some Nuer soldiers.

The Nuer soldiers broke into the store and armed themselves. This was the trigger of the fighting in Juba. It was a fight between the elements of the same Tiger Battalion, which makes the Presidential Guards (Kiir’s Militias) that lasted from Sunday night till Monday afternoon. Tiger battalion are believed to be around 10,000 soldiers with Dinka mostly from Warrap and Lakes State making more than 70% of them.

After the Nuer guards and soldiers were no more in Juba, Presidential Guards (Kiir’s Militias) went on killing spree, massacring Nuer in public, police stations, bus stations etc. Most of them publicly shout: “Kill the Nuer.” The Presidential Guards broke into the home of Former Vice President, where many Nuer had gathered for safety. There they murdered more than 38 innocents civilians including Lam Chuol Thichuong and his younger brother Pal and burned Former Vice President’s homes to ash. In every corner in Juba City, corpses were discovered on street, blood covered the tile floors. That day, children as young as 10 months old were murdered, old people and expecting mothers brutally mutilated and then killed. Teenage girls, their mothers and grandmothers were raped and killed. Some of the Nuer men particularly government official were castrated before they were slain.


According to the Human Right Watch on December 16th around 8 p.m. witnesses said that at least two men opened fire into the room through windows on one side of the building, killing more than 400 people in the room. One survivor recounted:

When it got dark, they fired at everyone (in the room) through the open windows. The room was very bright with bullets, sounds of PKM, and the different sounds from an AK 47.

Several of the survivors said they survived only because they were shot early on, fell to the ground and then were protected by the bodies of others falling on top of them. The survivors consistently reported that after the shooting, security forces entered the room with torches. “They came and checked who was still alive. Those still breathing they shot again,” one survivor remembered. Three of the survivors fled the building during the night but other survivors stayed in the room. “I spent a whole day with the corpses,” one man described

When the slaughter finally subsided on December 18th, more than 20,000 thousands Nuer were massacred with in three days.

The Nuer community worldwide will commemorate the One Year anniversary of Juba Nuer Massacre from December 15 – 23, 2014.

According to Evans-Pritchard a Social Anthropologist once narrated, “I found Nuer pride an increasing source of amazement” He characterizes the Nuer as an overwhelmingly proud people, who do not sell their labor

Nuer (Naath) are products of an egalitarian society which is both very democratic and sometimes violent. “But if they are approached without a suggestion of superiority they do not decline friendship, and in misfortune and sickness they show themselves kind and gentle. At such moments they permit themselves to show sympathy which their pride stifles at other times, for even when Nuer approve of one they cannot bear that one shall see it and are the more truculent to hide their friendliness . . . Their only test of character is whether one can stand up for oneself.”

In a matter of Three Days, Salva Kiir succeeded to erode the social capital that bounded together our people for centuries, Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba wrote.


Speaking in Dinka in his hometown AKON, President Salva Kiir told his Dinka audiences, “This power which I have belongs to you. You fought and died for it and now some people want to snatch it from me… will you accept it?” “Aci ba gam” meaning we will not accept, shouted the people back.





The Staff Writers

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