Opinion: Replacement of Johannes Kujiek Ruot as Panyijiar Commissioner will be treated as a coup

By Dak Buoth,

Panyijiar county commissioner, Yohannes Kujiek Ruot Loge waving to the crowd on top of vehicle in Ganyliel Town in 2019(Photo credit: supplied by author)

Panyijiar county commissioner, Yohannes Kujiek Ruot Loge waving to the crowd on top of vehicle in Ganyliel Town in 2019(Photo credit: supplied by author)

12th April, 2020(Nyamilepedia)I am bona fide member of Panyijiar County in Unity State; I hail from Kol constituency that hosted Panyijiar county headquarters. I was residing in Nyandong village where my placenta was buried before moving to Nyal municipality. So I am speaking with authority as a son of the soil. Politically speaking, I penned this piece to issue an advance warning, to peace partners that will be appointing the next State governors and county commissioners, in accordance with the IGAD brokered peace accord dubbed Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCISSS) that, removable and replacement of Johannes Kujiek Ruot Loge as Panyijiar county commissioner will be treated as a coup; his replacement will be resisted fiercely. The person that will be appointed or nominated to replace him before the expiry of his tenure may not have a place and or peace of mind. Panyijiarians will deal with him or her accordingly, and that ‘accordingly’ may not be good to say the least. Simply, a ‘‘coup is an occasion when a group of people takes control of a country, usually by means of military force.’’ It could also means a removable of a leader or seizure of an established system through unlawful procedure. The Panyijiar people culturally known as Nyuong resisted an attempt coup against General Tapuot last year. I am sure they will do the same again if their wishes are not respected. Nyuong has habit of supporting their leaders in defence of their dignity and integrity.

I understood there are group of Panyijiar members who are now busy looking for his position in Juba. My informants told me that they are always seen trekking from one building to another seeking the ears of the appointing authorities. Of course, this group of politicians has a right to seek the position of Panyijiar commissioner-ship if they are capable and willing to serve us. However, their time has not yet come. I am afraid that, one of those so called ‘appointing authorities’ may nominate someone as next Panyijiar commissioner based on their friendship, owing to the fact that nepotism has now become a norm in South Sudan. And should that happen, their nominee will be rejected by the Panyijiar populace in favour of the incumbent for reasons they know. In the same vein, i want to advise or appeal to those who are now doing lobbying not to waste their precious time and money in seeking the position of a democratically elected commissioner.

ELECTION

In February, 2019, Kujiek Ruot was elected by all Panyijiar chief and stakeholders from across the breadth and length of Panyijiar territory. All his competitors conceded defeat after he was declared as a winner in the county headquarters. That means Kujiek won in a free and fair election. Political pundit and Kisumu Governor, Anyang Nyongo in his book titled ‘‘presidential or parliamentary democracy in Kenya? He described a ‘‘free and fair democratic election’’ as one in which ‘‘the winners celebrate their victory while loser/s accept the results as legitimate.’’ Thus, if commissioner Kujiek will be removed and replaced, we shall treat it as a coup d’état, and we would not like it. Immediately after election, Kujiek was sworn in to succeed his predecessor and longtime former Panyijiar commissioner General Puot Tap Kang. Kujiek was not an appointee of anyone; he was brought into office via democratic process that cannot be altered single handedly or via presidential decree.
In Mathew 5:17, Jesus says ‘‘do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophet; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill. I believe the Khartoum peace agreement will not change but compliment the popular decision of the mighty elders of Panyijiar. As a participant to the peace process, I know this peace was crafted and brought to add legitimacy on what we already have as South Sudanese. It is worth noting that, Panyijiar County is one of the strongholds of the Sudan People Liberation movement in opposition (SPLM-IO) led by then rebel leader, Dr Riek Machar. Still it would have been a stronghold of any opposition movement fighting to dethrone the current autocratic regime. This is because SPLM regime marginalized Panyijiar people since South Sudan independence. The majestic people of Panyijiar will soldier on, and they will never let opposition movement down in the quest to usher in much needed change sooner than letter. In the SPLM-IO, there are only two people elected into office. The first was Riek Machar followed by Kujiek. 

The former was elected long time ago in 2014 at Nasir, upper Nile state. Weeks prior to an election where Kujiek was elected, there was illegitimate attempt by Unity State opposition military governor, Gen. Tor Tungwar, son of the respected Nuer chief Tungwar Kuigong. Tor wanted to oust General Tapuot with blessings from his SPLM-IO boss. The duo wanted him replace with one called John Gai Riak. However, Panyijiar revolutionary residents rejected and barred their nominee from setting foot in Panyijiar. By then I was strongly opposed to General Tap’s removal for numerous reasons, one being that, the country was still at war at the time, and there was no need for election at the time. But as a show of respect and sympathy to their elder, Dr. Riek Machar, and his confidante, Tor, Panyijiar Elders agreed for General Tap to be removed and replaced peacefully, and with someone whom they elected. The election did take place soon afterward.
My two paternal uncles, Chuol Dak Gaak, Stephen Gai Riek Gaak and many of my closed friends participated in this exercise. Unfortunately, they all lose to Kujiek and accepted the will of the Panyijiar people. They moved on knowing there is always another time.

ENDORSEMENT

soon after the swearing in of the five vice presidents on 21st February 2020, Panyijiar community through a letter authored by his namesake Kujiek Ruot Kuajien in Netherlands urged SPLM-IO Chairman, Riek Machar and company to reconfirm Kujiek as Panyijiar commissioner. In the same letter, they wanted Rev. Michael Muot Dew reconfirmed as Panyijiar MP in the National Assembly. These two leaders should not be replaced. They are there to stay until next election slated for 2023.

SUPREMACY

In Panyijiar, elders’ council is the supreme decision making organ according to our laws and customs. In the event of conflict between RTGoNU and Panyijiar elders’ decision the latter shall prevails. Hence, kujiek’s replacement is not negotiable. As of now, Kujiek is our area commissioner until his four years in office elapsed. For those who may not recognize that election, I want to remind them about the Abyie referendum held in 2012. The Dinka Ngok voted overwhelmingly to be part of South Sudan. At the time of election, South Sudan and United Nations kept silence while Sudan rejected the results. Let them ask, what happen now? Recently, Abyie was made an Administrative Area in South Sudan on the basis of that referendum.Nobody can overrule or overturn the voice of the people shown though ballot box. Thus, these other aspirants eyeing Kujiek’s should seek for other seats meant for Panyijiar in government. As we are aware, Panyijiar is underrepresented both at state and national levels. Those fellas should look beyond commissioner position for it’s already filled by Kujiek.

KUJIEK

Even though I was opposed to General Tap’s removal at the beginning, I later accept his removal and join Panyijiar majority in supporting Kujiek after his election. My initial objection to General Tap’s removal was not a dislike for Kujiek but a defence for the former’s rights. In fact, Kujiek has worked for Panyijiar in humanitarian fields as health worker since he was Young, and I knew he was a nice guy in terms of personality. He is always sober, open minded and accessible like our former Panyijiar commissioner late Peter Gai Joak whose first anniversary is due day after tomorrow. Currently, Panyijiar need not just selfless but fearless leader who could address its years of marginalization. I don’t doubt Kujiek’s bravery due to his blood relation to some renowned heroes of the land. He might have the gene of his uncle, and one of Panyijiar legends, Geng Top Loge, brother to mama Africa, Nyakeak Top Loge who mothered Panyijiar Elder, Buoth Riek-Gaak respectably known as Badier. It is common knowledge that Geng worked and fought for Panyijiar in all fronts throughout his life. His footprints are in all war fields. In case South Sudan goes to square one, God forbid, we shall know that Kujiek will fill the shoes left by General Tapuot.

PANYIJIAR NOT ISLAND

Having said that, you can also imagined an election being conducted in the midst of war in 2019. It demonstrated that Panyijiar residents are peace loving and compromising people. They proved beyond reasonable doubt what Reuters mentioned in 2015 that Panyijiar is an island of peace in South Sudan. Finally, Panyijiar County is not an island. It is central part of south Sudan, and its people are part and parcel of RTGoNU. So whichever party or peace partner/s that will be told to appoint Panyijiar commissioner must only reaffirm commissioner, Kujiek Ruot in line with the peace agreement. And if it is the next unity state governor that will appoint county commissioners, than s/he can just nominate 6 other commissioners and endorse kujiek as commissioner of Panyijiar County. No one should replace kujiek, and anything less than that will certainly put that person replacing him and Nyuong in deep trouble. I expect the relevant persons to heed his legitimate concern.

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 eligodakb@yahoo.com


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