By Dak Buoth Riek-Gaak,
‘‘All warfare is based on deception.’’ Sun Tzu
20th July, 2022 — At the onset, let me briefly describe the similarities between the two regions of Tigray and Unity State. Firstly, Tigray is in the northern part of Ethiopia that borders Eritrea which seceded from it in 1991. Unity State is found in the northern side of South Sudan near Sudan.
SPLA soldiers on guard in Bentiu, Unity state, Jan. 12, 2014. (Credit Radio Tamazuj)
Secondly, Tigray and Unity State have a long history of conflicts with their erstwhile countries and also with the countries within which they exist. Tigray fought bitterly with Eritrea before and after the latter gained her independence in the aforementioned year.
In fact, during the era of the communist regime of Col. Mengistu, Tigray was a war base both against the Tigray People Liberation front (TPLF) then led by late prime minister, Meles Zenawi, and the separatist group known as the Eritrean People Liberation Front (EPLF) led by then rebel leader and now first Eritrean President, Isaias Afewerki.
Equally, Unity state being the home of countless rebel commanders fought fiercely against various Arab monolithic regimes in Khartoum. The former Sudanese President, Gen. Omar Hassan Al Bashir was based in Unity State before he went and took power in Sudan through a coup d’etat in 1989.
Tigray is the home town of TPLF Leader General Debretsion Gebremichel, who is still in the bush eying to dethrone Prime Minister Dr. Abiya Ahmed. Unity State on the other hand is the home tuft of the conventional rebel gurus namely late General Gatdet Yaka, General vice President, Taban Deng and first vice President, Dr. Riek Machar, who until recently were wrestling power with the incumbent South Sudan President.
Thirdly, Tigray and Unity state are politically dominated by the two armed groups namely TPLF and SPLM/SPLA which are clamoring for regime change in their respective countries of origin.
The unresolved conflict between Tigray and Ethiopian national Government had many hidden reasons which are yet to be made public. But there are three main events which led to the eruption and spread of civil war in Ethiopia.
First, on 20th March 2020, Prime Minister, Dr. Abiya Ahmed ordered the cancellation of general elections due to fear of the emerging coronavirus then. Second, on 9th September 2020, then Tigray governor and now rebel leader, Gebremichel ignored, disobeyed and defied the prime minister’s order. He then went on to mobilize Tigrayian residents and dissidents to continue with elections in Tigray against the prime minister’s wishes.
Third, in November 2020, it was alleged that TPLF attacked the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) based in Mekele, the capital of Tigray. And thus, prompted the Prime Minister Dr. Abiya ordered a military attack on the Tigrayian city of Mekelle leading to all-out war in Ethiopia.
Relatively, on 1st June 2022, the people of South Sudan saw an Egyptian convoy and machineries in Unity State. Shockingly, we learned that the convoys and equipment were meant for dredging of the Naam and Nile rivers in South Sudan.
This information elicited an avalanche of criticisms. Less than a week after the controversial dredging case came up, Irrigation and water Resources minister, Manawa Peter Gatkuoth suddenly fell sick and was subsequently pronounced dead in Cairo on arrival, before he could make a presentation to the council of ministers on the same.
On 9th July, 2022, the day of the 11th independence anniversary, President Kiir ordered an immediate suspension of ‘’all dredging related activities’’ in South Sudan.
On or about 14th July 2022, Unity State government under the Governor, Dr. Nguen Manytuil mobilized his state citizens to do a unilateral dredging against President’s directives.
This act of disobedience on the part of the Unity State governor is closely related to Gebremichel’s in Tigray. Comparably, in Ethiopia, the prime minister ordered an election canceled due to global fear against covid-19. In South Sudan, President Kiir ordered the dredging suspended purposely to give room for feasibility study and public participation. So, president Kiir and Prime Minister Abiy were victims of good work.
Prime Minister Abiy only postponed the election until further notice; he did not intend to cancel the election forever, for that’s not possible; he simply pushed the date pending the deadly covid-19 virus to go down because life of the people comes first.
Likewise, President Kiir, who is aware and concerned that a safe environment and water are the source and the life, ordered the dredging suspended to allow the public and environmental experts to gather and give professional reports as required by law.
Contrarily, in Tigray, they deliberately twisted the prime minister’s reasons behind the election cancellation. Instead they misinformed the public and said that the prime minister was doing it to delay and prolong his term in office with an aim of oppressing the people of Tigray.
Obviously, the simple reason for misinterpreting and misinforming the Tigrayian public was to wage war against the federal government so as to achieve their political objectives.
Similarly, the Unity State government is now out misinforming the residents saying that the national government in Juba was being careless about the suffering faced by the people through flood. They ought to be told that the President is the symbol of national unity. And if a state officer or a governor is seen inciting the residents against the presidency then he is aiming at causing disunity in the country.
This disunity and incitement perpetuated against the president by the governor of unity state is unjustified, unreasonable and uncalled for. I’m afraid that, if this misinformation is not put to rest, it could further plunge the country into conflict as witnessed in Tigray.
Unfortunately, my Governor, Dr. Manytuil is drunk with power that is why he is biting the hand that feeds him. Luckily, Governor Gebremichel was elected by the people of Tigray. Hence, he is capable of opposing Dr. Abiya, to advance and achieve his political ambitions in Ethiopia. But governor Manytuil is a mere appointee of President Kiir. He was among the few Nuer intellectuals who never at any one point supported the Nuer led rebellion since 2013. So, how will he confront President Kiir minus Nuer on his side?
As a matter of fact, he is not supporting the dredging for the sole interest of Unity State residents. Later, you will realize they are supporting the dredging because money had exchanged hands between the Egyptian government and the Unity State government.
I believe if Unity state authority is backing the dredging for the interest of the locals, they could have not forced civilians to do dredging by their hands in the Naam River that they know had snakes and dangerous animals. By telling residents to conduct dredging by their hands, they are further subjecting them to more suffering.
A few years ago, General Buay Rolnyang, who supported President Kiir throughout the entire period of the war later tried to fight Kiir, but because the former had no Nuer backers behind him, he fell like a leaf very easily.
By looking and analyzing these political tricks and tactics, don’t you think Unity State is increasingly becoming the Tigray of South Sudan? I think they are unknowingly or knowingly becoming the Tigray, because telling the citizens to conduct unilateral dredging against the presidential order is akin to the political act of Tigrayian, who went ahead to conduct an election against the Prime minister’s order.
The Writer is the Chairman of Liech community Association in Kenya; the views expressed here are his own, and he can be reached for comments via email@example.com.