December 15th: It is Juba Massacre, not Nuer Massacre

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December 15th: It is Juba Massacre, not Nuer Massacre

By Duom Peter Chol

Just after gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, civil war broke out in December 2013 and 2016 killing nearly 400,000 people according to a United Nations report. During Sudanese civil war, it’s estimated that nearly 2 million people died as a result of war, famine and disease caused by conflict. The ethnic violence in the country resulted in a series of small-scale massacres during and after independence.

For example, the Uror massacre (2011), Pibor massacre (December 2011), Bor massacre (2014), and Bentiu massacre (2014). The massacres were named using the names of the town where the massacre occurred and not the names of the tribe that was targeted. If you can clearly recall of one of the massacres, you will notice that not only members of that particular tribe were lost, but other South Sudanese or tribes were targeted too.

Giving a proper naming other than using a name of tribe forges unity and puts all of us in a position of making sure the perpetrators or leaders are accountable without tribal sentiments. Calling 2013 Juba massacre as a Nuer massacre is ignorance and at the same time puts tribesmen who were behind the killing on the defensive side by justifying the killing in their own terms. I am not denying the fact that Nuer were the ones killed in Juba in large numbers in 2013, but we need to be careful with the history we are teaching our children.

Calling Bentiu massacre as a Darfur (traders) massacre, Juba massacre as a Nuer massacre, Bor massacre as a Dinka Bor massacre, Pibor Massacre as a Murle massacre, etc is another form of planting seeds of hatred in our children. Take example South Sudanese kids learning history of Nuer massacre in the class. It’s obvious, the kids will ask the following questions: why is it Nuer massacre and not the Juba massacre? Why were Nuer targeted alone? What did Nuer do after they were killed in big numbers? Who were some of the commanders? Who were Dot-ku-beny, Mathiang-anyor and Gelweng forces? From which tribes were these forces coming from?

Even though it’s history, a Nuer kid will likely develop emotional stress compared to other children in the class. On the other hand, kids from other tribes will feel superior for reasons best known to them. In the nutshell, if these kids are not properly guided during discussion, they may end up fighting or hating one another. If kids learn of the Juba, Bentiu, Uror, Bor, Torit and Pibor massacres without any tribe attached to it, they will definitely ask constructive questions.

The kids will understand that the leaders mobilized their tribesmen in order to fight the war that will keep them in power because it’s easier to mobilize illiterate masses than mobilizing educated masses. Of course, after causing the destruction, where are the leaders now and where are we too? Simple answer: they 6 presidents and 550 MPs live luxuriously without even thinking about our future.

We need to learn from other countries like Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and many other African countries when it comes to naming of massacres or genocides. We regularly hear Rwanda genocide, Lari massacre during Mau Mau rebellion (Kenya), and Mukuri massacre (Uganda). These massacres were named with names of locations not tribes or people that were targeted.

The memories of 2013 of the Juba massacre are vividly fresh in our minds and all the leaders including division commanders who orchestrated the target killing of South Sudanese in Juba have been fully documented by the international community or other groups. May their innocent souls rest in eternal peace. With time, evidence with videos or pictures will surface.

South Sudan becomes a laughing stock to the region and the world for every action we take. Instead of reconciling the grassroots and empowering them to become active stakeholders in realizing durable peace, we are coming up with unproductive things like launching of imported goods, changing of Country name, reshufflings, etc.

In conclusion, let us desist from naming past massacres with names of tribes than names of the cities in which the massacres occurred. Most African countries are in wars linked to either tribe or religion. The developed or developing countries ended tribal identity some centuries back because they knew tribe makes someone think primitively other than becoming a nationalist. To cause war in a country is very simple. You can use tribe or religion to ignite the conflict and the entire country is engulfed in war.

Let us identify ourselves as SOUTH SUDANESE and not by our tribes. We should not let history hold us back, but instead we should unite to end all forms of violence. This will give confidence to South Sudanese in refugee camps, Internal Displaced Camps (IDPs), and Protection of Civilians to return home and build the country.

God bless South Sudan. The author can be reached at

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