Time to Pack Our Rags and Swim As Refugees

Mural depicting Animal Farm by George Orwell
Mural depicting Animal Farm by George Orwell

In this article, originally published in his column in Juba Monitor in November 2014, Opoka Christopher challenges the Equatoria community to respond following the brutal murder of the former Mayor of Yei Municipality, Cecilia Oba.

By Opoka Christopher

Dear reader, I will not mix my words today. I will speak freely. I will write as if it is my last on this subject and in this country. I will write in anger such that this painstaking effort delivers some peace someday. I will write as a warning to those that will feign bravery and die as cowards do.

The brutal, barbaric murder of Cecilia Oba over the week must not leave us speechless. We all know too well how these stories always return around the issue of land or money and both in the end. It is always related loosely to our politics of chapters from a game of thrones. And the bloodletting has taken a person who has stood out for both women and men, for boys and girls; indeed for this country.

Again, I will not mince my words on this subject. The absurdity with which life is snatched in this country has taken us back far behind apes and other wild beasts. We seem to have devalued life in this country just as secret schemes to climb to the highest office are hatched under trees and in hotels abroad. The murderers of Cecilia Oba have simply sent to all South Sudanese a clear and simple message. That they can do as they please. That these life we are so proud of are at their mercy.

In March 2012, 18 Equatorians were killed in cold blood over a land wrangle. Descriptions of the assailants were very explicit. The corpses were brought before the gates of the national Legislative Assembly. The same Equatorian leaders came to quell down the anger, and in the end the crowd dispersed with the same anger and lose they came with.

As women wailed, they asked for all none-Equatorians whom they swore had a hand in the killings must leave Equatoria. They asked Equatorian politicians to fight for the rights of Equatorians first and for South Sudanese later.

Today, am reduced to the same cry. Today, I am in the same pain as those women and men that cried two years ago. Equatorians must hold a referendum on their identity. It is not about federalism any more. It is not about the identity of Equatorians in the liberations struggles that brought the peace we are all enjoying today. It is not about whether not Equatorians have shed equal blood. It must not be about politics. It must be about facts and decisions.

Lets try the fact and decision game for a minute. President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar have held this country hostage. But it is not about these two leaders. It is about many more evil strategists that I believe are running things in this country. Thugs don’t always have to appear as thugs do in the sense of what we know. Today’s gangsters are not those we knew of in our neighborhoods in the 1980s and 1990s. Thugs have evolved. And these thugs have born children and inculcated in their followers more devious plans. These are the people we must be weary of everyday of our lives.

So, in the jig-saw of things, Kiir camp and Riek camp will have some relative peace. They will get positions here and there; sharing the spoils. Contracts will move in this direction and that direction. Scholarships for war education and for poverty promotion will be handed to this and that. It will be business as usual.

This is not irony dear reader. This is life as I know it. It may be too early for citizens to be weary of what the future holds for us as a people. The barbarity of some of our people posits me to expect the worst. We are either resigned to be a nation of sheep or we pack our rags and head back to refugee camps. Those that will seek other alternatives may face a fate not less than what Cecilia Oba has met.

An excerpt from a book titled 1984 by George Orwell came to mind as I looked at the photos of the corpse of Cecilia Oba. “It was always at night — the arrests invariably happened at night. The sudden jerk out of sleep, the rough hand shaking your shoulder, the lights glaring in your eyes, the ring of hard faces round the bed. In the vast majority of cases there was no trial, no report of the arrest. People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.”

I know we are passed The Animal Farm by the same writer. We are surely nearing 1984, when a senior government official is killed in cold blood and no arrests are made within the first 48 hours.


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