Commemorating the 37th Anniversary of SPLM/A Day Online To the men and women of our country,

Biong Deng Biong
We are going to reflect on the historical struggle for the people of South Sudan in the fight for independence. South Sudanese people from all the corners of the country endured great challenges to create the South Sudan we know today. The SPLM/A-led struggle that steered South Sudan to independence was a culmination of previous struggles.
On 16 May 1983, Battalion 105 mutinied in Bor. This was later echoed by battalions 104, 106, and 107 in Ayod, Pibor, and Kapoeta, respectively. The message of the people’s struggle was later echoed in all marginalised areas of Sudan.
We are going to reflect on this day not as SPLM/A day but as the day South Sudanese people from all walks of life, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or political affiliation, united against injustice and marginalisation.
The focus of our reflection will be on the suffering we all endured during the struggle. Some special guests will share their experiences of the protracted struggle for independence in South Sudan.
The main purpose of this reflection will be to remind ourselves that our collective sufferings and efforts brought us to where we are today. The people who were born on the day Anyanya One took arms in 1956 are now in their early sixties. The people who were born on 16 May 1983 will turn 37 this year. The SPLM/A-promised seeds (child soldiers/red army) are in their forties and are yet to be sowed. The children born on 9 January 2005, when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed, are now 15 years old and are either growing up in refugee camps or living at the edge of the country. The children born as South Sudanese people voted in a referendum to decide their final destiny from 9 to 15 January 2011 destiny are now 9 years old and are yet to experience South Sudan at peace. South Sudan has lost generations to war, illiteracy, economic exploitation, and more.
To guide our reflection, a set of questions will be drafted and forwarded to those who have expressed interest in the discussion.

SPLM/A 37th Anniversary Guiding Questions

1) What does this day mean to you?

2) What were some of your most memorable experiences during the struggle?

3) Why did we fight for the independence of South Sudan?

4) Have we achieved the aims and objectives of the liberation struggle?

5) What are the impacts of extended wars on South Sudanese people?

6) When and how will the South Sudanese diaspora contribute to development in South Sudan?

7) How can the South Sudanese Government attract local and foreign investors?

8) What role can technology play in the development of our country?

9) Have regularly updating government systems and departments been established?

9) How do we treat our people in need (people with disabilities, orphaned children, elderly people)?

10) What roles did local chiefs play during the struggle? What roles are they playing now?

11) Hon Chol Tong Myai says, “We are the foreign governors governing you.” What is your response to this statement?

12) How are South Sudanese people perceived by our regional and international supporters?

Please don,t hesitate to send answers to

The Pain of Peace Without Handshakes By Stephen Par Kuol

“2020 is a year to stay alive, not a year for making a profit”

-Jack Ma.

The people of South Sudan have chosen the year 2020, aka, (the twin year) as a year of peace, reconciliation, social cohesion, and national healing. Call it a year of hugs and handshakes, if you will. I have been amazed by the humbling gestures of handshakes with former adversaries as we embark on this tumultuous journey of peacebuilding. Alas, those tender handshakes have been short-lived by this pandemic, dreadfully known as Noble Virus (COVID-19)!! The virus has come and the world will not be the same again! The rest is a history of a protracted misery. The monstrous beast has created a permanent climate of terror in which even our own limbs will never trust one another any time soon. Under its gloomy silhouette, dreams are shattered and hopes are dashed. All humanity has taken for granted since times immemorial are painfully compromised.

The deadly pandemic has globally struck through the hearts of all human institutions including those that link us with the high (warship houses). In my case as a practicing Presbyterian, my handshake tradition after every Sunday Service is painfully surrendered to the demons of Corona Virus. Cunning the worlds at will, the noble virus first goes for the elites and nobilities wherever it sets its grips. It has belittled kings and queens as it roams its world in defiance of medical science and modern technology. That way, it has trembled the core of even the most powerful Kingdoms and supper powers of our lifetime. You name it; the Corona Virus has spared no single aspect of human life. Besides the million lives, it has so far claimed globally, the invincible human tormentor has miserably robbed us of the most indispensable values of social life. In an extremely agonizing bout, it has replaced all kinds of social intimacies with an antisocial barrier called social distancing. Even more biologically torturous, it has replaced the natural air for our nostrils with nose numbing and suffocating masks. Any social congregation in the form of weddings, religious gatherings, cultural festivals, and funeral rites become breeding grounds for this invisible predator to spread its poisonous offsprings as it continues to expand its infectious network.

Economically, this pandemic of doom and death has superimposed its own microeconomics situation in which even the oxygen is no longer free as it takes a mask that costs money to breathe and function in public where the human breath is dreaded like the venom of a desert snake. As days turned into weeks, and weeks into months without a glimpse of hope at sight, we are desperately adopting some socially inconvenient ways for life to continue. For the worst part, it is a life without fun and funds. There is no fun without funds, they say in the cooperate world. That is why the alien world where its origin is traced is currently compelled to reopen up and die doing it (die making the funds). As for us in the conflict-ravaged South Sudan, whether we do or don’t, there are no funds to make in our ailing economy. Our socioeconomic capital is in our relentless effort to bring peace back to our country and that is what we must die doing within these social red tapes imposed by COVID 19. Jack Ma has summed it all up by articulating the heart wrecking truth that 2020 is not a year to thrive, but a year to survive. Let us do just that in order to be the fittest in this painful social evolution under the Corona Virus. In my humble book, it is a year to reconcile, build peace without handshakes, and stay alive!!

The author is a freelance writer and the Minister of Peace Building in the Revitalized Government of National Unity (RTGONU). He can be reached via:

The Agony of Losing our War Veterans to Senseless Tribal Conflict in South SudanThursday, May 21, 20

Biong Deng Biong

Thursday, May 21, 2020 (PW) On May 13 2020, just three days before May 16 National celebration, a veteran revolutionary was inoffensively gunned down in his home village of Mayen Jur (Apuk Giir Thiik), while he was undertaking his regular family duties. The alleged attackers, who massacred more than 26 civilians and inflicted injuries on many more members of Mayen Jurvillage, are thought to be from the neighbouring tribe of BullNuer.

The motive of the aggressors is not yet known, and the National Government in Juba has as yet said nothing concerning the tragic incident. However, in recent years the Bull Nuer tribesmen have been predisposed to such attacks, mainly blamed on cattle raiding or incidences of revenge.

The late veteran, whose name is withheld for privacy reasons, was a freedom fighter who took arms against Khartoum to contest the prejudice. He volunteered his life alongside many of his comrades to begin what would famously become known as SPLA/M. For 21 years he fought against the dictatorial Khartoum regime, endangering his life to secure south Sudanese freedom. His contributions toward present-day sovereign South Sudan are unquestionable. I, along with many other children, was kept alive during the war because of his efforts. He brought us freedom. His alleged killers were likely among people whose lives he so gallantly fought to save.

Having accomplished his mission of freeing South Sudan, he retired to his village, only to be exterminated by his people. It was the murder of a national hero, three days before the 37th Anniversary commemoration of the liberation of his beloved country and people for whom he had invested so much.

Concurrently to this tragic event, my bleeding Facebook newsfeed bears witness to the Luo Nuer siege; a brutal village slaughter by another neighbouring tribe, the Murle. Hundreds of guiltless lives are believed to have been cruelly stolen by Murle hitmen. Disturbingly, this is not the first time, and the reason for the bloodshed has not been confirmed. Juba claimed that it was revenge.

Barely a week ago, Twic Mayardit also sustained attacks from neighbouring Bull Nuer. This community has lost many lives in recent years due to cross border Bull Nuer attacks. Like other cross tribal attacks, Juba has not condemned, nor made any effort to care for, the civilians. Nevertheless, what made me shudder about this particular attack is the worrying statement I read on social media: “Twic Mayardit must be destroyed by all means…for peace to come to South Sudan. Congratulations to men who took the fight to the hearts of enemies”. This statement was made by a person believed to be from Bull Nuer, the alleged attacking tribe.

This incident, among many others, causes me to conclude that South Sudanese society is in danger of total moral collapse.

The question must then be asked; what happened to the proud South Sudanese moral values which not only governed and protected them for so many years but made them one of the most gratified people in Africa? What happened to our proud culture where absolute respect, honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love were paramount?

Here is my take on the matter.

Historical Context

For centuries, South Sudanese tribes have coexisted peacefully with minimum conflict. Traditional authorities swiftly and timely handled disputes with support from distinguished elders. Any crime committed by neighbouring tribal men in a territory that was not theirs was not handled with violence or revenge. Cross-cultural meetings would be called to resolve issues peacefully. The action was only required if the victim/s felt that their request for a dispute resolution had been ignored or mishandled. The Government would then enforce a law as an intervention in restoring peace, but this was infrequent.

So why was this possible then and not now?

Most South Sudanese tribes were guided by principles, set standards and taboos. Some of the guiding rules were absolute honesty, respect, purity, unselfishness, and love. Any dishonesty was severely punished. In many tribes, anyone who committed murder would be considered impure until he/she had been through the justice system, and racial cleansing was conducted. Deceitfulness was uncommon for the same reason. Individuals could end up as outcasts due to the breach of these guiding principles/standards.

Additionally, intermarriage was common, especially among the elite, which helped to oust any cross -tribe conflict.

Equally, the Government was quick to act because if they did not, they would be held accountable by the traditional leaders who were powerful and influential. However, all this changed within the last fifty years of the South Sudan War. But why?

The following is my perspective:

South Sudan war

For almost fifty years, South Sudanese cultures and tribes have been subjected to sustainable cruelty and oppression, which has placed enormous pressure on social systems and brought moral standards and principles to a breaking point. Ultimately, elders and traditional leaders lost their power and voice, giving way to a culture of revenge and violence. Survival of the fittest, to be precise, emerged as the new normal.

Weak Traditional Authority.

The Government of the South Sudanese did not empower traditional authorities when the war ended. People were more likely to listen to their local chiefs than Government authorities. Chiefs are more suited to depose the conflict by talking to their counterparts across the border. The tribesmen disobey weak leaders.

Poverty and Hopelessness

As a result of war, much South Sudanese wealth was wiped out. Subsequently, people adopted hand-to-mouth living. With surging poverty and hopelessness, anything is possible. A darker side of human nature emerges. People are susceptive to bribery and may resort to antisocial or criminal behaviour to fulfil basic needs. It used to be divide and control, but what we are experiencing now is, deprive and control. People are so hopeless that they will do anything to survive, henceforth cattle raiding has become attractive.

Lack of Education

Due to the lack of education, tribesmen are not aware that peaceful coexistence has more advantages than a life of violence. Enduring war since the Anyanya 1, Anyanya 2, SPLA/M, to the 2013 civil war and up until the present, has left people in the dark, not aware of the benefits of a free world.

Lack of leadership

In Shuluk culture, when a king dies, there follows an official lawless period between the time of the King’s death and the new King’s election. During this period, the tribesmen and women would do any unlawful thing without being held accountable.

I believe we might be in the period of lawlessness when it comes to tribal conflicts. It is unheard of to arrest or hold people to justice in a court of law, even when it involves the loss of many lives.

Juba has chosen to remain silent on most tribal conflicts. Ateny Wek, the GoSS spokesperson, has recently blamed the Lou Nuer attack on revenge by Murle. My question would then be, is revenge lawful? And if not, why is the Government watching the loss of innocent lives and taking no action?

Moreover, due to decades of civil war, local leadership was disrupted at the grassroots level, leaving a huge vacuum. Since then, structural/ethnic leadership has never returned to this ground level. Consequently, groups or individuals are acting loose, sometimes used by politicians for political gain. A community without leadership is like a river without a source.

Uncontrolled ownership of Weapons

Buying a gun in South Sudan, I believe, is as cheap as purchasing a cup of tea and very unregulated, as is the South Sudanesealcohol market. Increased lethal weapons in the hands of civilians are more dangerous than a coup by a properly trained army. Armed civilians will always misuse guns for wrong reasons, and innocent lives always pay the price.

Lack of Law Enforcement

Kenya, like any other African country, faces tribal disputes, but with their strong leadership and respect to the rule of law, tribal wars are always handled swiftly. Perpetrators are still held accountable. The case of South Sudan is not unique; there must be leaders willing to use force to keep law and order.

Politics and proxy war

The Juba government is widely blamed for its lack of response. More so, there have been accusations of politicians fighting a proxy war through tribes. Recently, Lou Nuer accused Juba of arming Murle to attack them. On the other hand, Bull Nuer attackers are always blamed on Dr Machar’s proxy war on President Kiir’s tribes.

The truth might never be revealed, but civilians are paying a heavy price.

What is needed?

South Sudanese inside South Sudan and around the globe need moral rearmament. The decades of war have taken a negative toll on us. We seem to have lost love for each other and the nation. We have lost our moral standards. Our unity which made us stand centuries of aggression, starting from the colonisation period to the Al Bashir regime, is distant history.

So how do we address these issues and begin the process of restoration?

Role of Every South Sudanese individual.

The healing journey must first begin with a changing of self, which can then shift to others. Gandhi rightfully put it that we must be the change we wish to see. I am a part of the problem, and therefore I should also be part of the solution. There is no way we can create change if we do not transform our attitudes and how we act toward others.

In my own life, I have many things for which to apologise and to put right. Therefore, I must start with myself first, and so it is with any other South Sudanese person. We all have things to address within ourselves and in our relationships. When we are honest with ourselves and admit we have not loved as best we could; growth begins to take place.

After we intentionally commit to a positive mindset, we naturally influence our family and friends. If our immediate circle practices absolute love, respect, honesty, purity, and unselfishness, this will then have a positive effect on the local community. Over time, a ripple effect will occur and bring change to the entire nation.

Role of Government of South Sudan

Government of South Sudan, like any other government, carry the ultimate responsibility of all its citizens. One life loss unjustly is too many. The Government could take control as follows:

Provide Ethical leadership– Lead by example- All leaders must be held to a high level of integrity and ethical practice. Ethical leadership is needed from the national level down to the county level and villages. Civilian lives and their properties need to be protected. Security is paramount to everything we need and long for in South Sudan.

Enforce law – All criminal acts must be brought to justice, even if a group of people or community commits crimes. A single community should never hold the national government hostage.

Stop proxy war – Juba needs to hold accountable any politician that is proven to be modelling or fuelling tribal conflict for their political gain.

Reduce poverty– prosperous communities are always peaceful. Thus, the Government needs to work hard to reduce poverty. Providing better security, for example, could promote trade which could encourage more farming, resulting in poverty reduction and the circle continue.

Empower Traditional leaders – empowered traditional leaders are better influencers at the grassroots level. They could more positively implement the national plan at their level than political appointees.

Support Civil Education – Very few citizens in villages know what Juba is trying to achieve. They need to be educated of the benefit of being a nationalist and the importance of peaceful coexistence. They do not need a formal education to learn these things. Public campaigns through media and government appointees can share this message.

Provide Hope – Importantly, Juba needs to provide hope to the country. A hopeless society always disintegrates into chaos and statelessness. Even small actions, like the recent announcement of road construction, would give greater hope to the people in villages.

The story of a murdered veteran who sacrificed his life for, and was then betrayed by his countrymen, is a testimony to the growing moral bankruptcy in South Sudan.

As people of Mayen Jur were mourning their losses while in displacement from their village, Lou Nuer was undergoing a siege by a neighbouring tribe, the Murle.

Barely two weeks earlier, another tribe, Twic Mayardit, sustained weeks of attack from Bull Nuer, the same tribe who recently attacked people of Mayen Jur, Apuk Giir Thiik. We naturally question how centuries of proud South Sudanese moral values disintegrated. Decades of war, poverty and bad governance are mainly to blame for the erosion of ethics and traditional ethical systems.

However, morality begins with the individual. With good personal choices and attitudes, one’s integrity can positively impact family and friends, and in turn, the wider community. The Government also has a more significant role in demonstrating leadership and leading by example, in areas such as civic education and law enforcement, and by providing morale, empowering traditional authorities, creating a poverty-free society, control weapon and stopping a proxy war.

These changes are actions recommended that the Government can take; as long-term and practical steps to restore the moral standards in South Sudanese society.

I wish all South Sudan pleasant hearth during this unprecedented COVID – 19 times. May you all be safe.

The author, Biong Deng Biong, is an Executive Officer with Edmund Rice Services Ltd. He currently resides in Melbourne, Australia can be reached via his email: Biong Biong <>.





While I acknowledge what Malcolm Turnbull may or might have been through, I truly believed that his recent turn of the political bull’s eye to his mates in the Liberal party over ‘the politically infectious African gang narrative’ is an affirmation that some politicians indeed does and continue to wage fear and hate to weaponise on the minority groups. This comes as not a surprise to an average African Australian who bear the brand of this miscalculated mischief and whose lives, careers, and potentially their aspirations are shattered by this unfortunate utterances. This is to reaffirm that we’re caught up in a society where elites intend to go against the nature and use our differences to win the gold just by hurting others. About couple years ago, Malcolm Turnbull’s message to the 25M Australians that young people of the African descent had a gang issue in Melbourne and which he now described as ‘clumsy remarks’ from his then minister Mr Dutton was not only outrageous but equally manifested his inability to protect our multiculturalism. Clearly, this wasn’t an apology and even if it was, then, in the words of Magret Lee, ‘an apology is a lovely perfume, it can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift’, therefore, can this clumsiness be made calmly genuine to offer an apology? Could it be in his written memoir? You wonder if he were to return to politics, will he surely reiterates what he has just alluded to? Will, there be a lesson learned or a change of tone by his colleagues or is it just too little too late? Well, that’s a food for thought! I remember In the summer of 2017 three years ago, we resettled to Melbourne from a refugee camp, we were so elated to be here, and that will always be. We arrived at the time when the gang crime’s issue flooded the TV screens from the “Apex’s gang, to the Africans’ gang and then later to the Sudanese gang lately sugarcoated as Blood Driller Killers aka BDK, all these descriptions were from the lazy tabloids backed up by ‘the clumsy politicians’ to suit their interests, hence the former Prime Minister’s latest revelations is an assurance to Australians that truly African Australians are law abiding citizens who happens to be victims of greedy elites in politics and I’m certainly convinced that the African gang’s narrative as portrayed to be has always been untrue but a political tool. Finally, as much as Australia may be the largest or even the proudest multicultural society on earth, our political discourse must be inextricably linked with our multiculturalism where ideas and policies reflects the needs of the common citizens not those that divides us and gives racism a chance. Be always cautious; racism is an invisible war, it is one of the most tormenting forms of mental torture of the modern society, others might’ve escaped atomic bombs, wars but at times, they may find it more harder to deal with racism. Deng Lual DeNuun is an activist and political commentator, he’s a Victorian South Sudanese.

Thought for today

I appreciate all the messages of congratulations which have been pouring in for the last few days. However, I doubt we will achieve anything. In fact I am being set up to fail.
I was going to turn down the portfolio but after many Comrades pleaded with me, I decided to take up the post. My position remains the same despite accepting to participate in the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGONU); we should congratulate ourselves when we free our citizens from the refugee camps and the Internally Displaced Peoples’ (IDP) camps.
It is difficult to fathom how after eight (8) months of the pre-interim plus two (2) extensions we have not been able to implement Security Arrangements, we would suddenly find the will to implement them in the next thirty-six (36) months. There are even more critical tasks to be addressed during this Interim Period. We should have started our work in the Ministries after disarmament of civilians, demilitarization of Juba and other major towns and so on. If the C-in-C is against change, there is little we can do. Furthermore, the intransigence of our partners in peace is well documented.
It is also difficult to fathom how the R-TGONU will survive beyond six (6) months before it implodes under it’s own weight; five (5) VPs, thirty-five (35) Ministers, nine (9) D/Ministers, five hundred and fifty (550) MPs, thirteen (13) Governors with their Ministers, MPs, Commissioners. Then there is the Public Service and the Organized Forces.
Where will we get money to sustain this huge machine?
The oil prices have dropped to a new low and the donors will not fund a government run by the same sanctioned financial criminals. It is the same on the IO side; with some of the people who have looted the National Pre-transition Committee (NPTC) money during the eight (8) months pre-interim – plus two extensions – are among the IO appointees. There is not a single provision of the Agreement which has been implemented. It has instead continuously been dismantled from the day it was signed. If we are not using the Agreement as our road map for the peace process, how will we arrive at peace? The SPLM-IO has surrendered and all we have done is legitimize the status quo for another 3 years – within which the hardliners, most of whom have returned on the regime’s ticket – will precipitate another conflict. The seeds of intercommunal violence are all over and will not take much for it to be politicized into tribal war.
I am only going to Juba because of the popular demand for my return. I will help our people see the realities on the ground and continue to speak truth to power. With the political appointment, I will capture some attention and use it to capture the imagination of the public. I will not go to Juba with the delusion that I will be able to change things in any grand way. It is not a matter of plugging the right people into positions. I will do what I can within the constraints of what we are calling a unity government and resign if we fail to implement the security arrangements in the next eight (8) months- something which should have been completed before we start our work.
I am certain that the regime will not implement the Agreement, or President Salva Kiir would have cut his losses and implemented Chapter II – Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements. It is not the Deputy Minister of Interior – as an individual – who will bring peace from his home. This idea is a continuation of the untenable status quo and countless Ministers have been set up to fail in this way.
It is mischief!
There is still an uphill struggle before us to implement the negotiated peace settlement. It is the only way we can bring about fundamental change in our country. We must all be part of the peace process and all Junubeen – South Sudanese in vernacular – must be part of this and are indeed stakeholders in this peace. The SPLM-IO cannot do it alone, the SPLM-IG cannot do it alone, SSOA cannot do it alone, FDs cannot do it alone; the Ministry of Interior alone will not bring peace, there is no single movement great enough to bring peace on its own. Nothing short of the full implementation of the Agreement in letter and in spirit will bring peace. The current peace Agreement we are struggling to implement is an opportunity for our civil population to rise up – in a non-violent way – to assert their hard won independence. An uprising out of abject poverty and the brutal status quo, a political uprising and not a violent revolution.
A luta continua!
Cpt. Mabior Garang Mobile Office 15/03/2020

Two transmuted pop tales Retold by Atem Yaak Atem

Someone without an advice-giver This one and what follows it are true stories. They happened in the first half of the 20th century. The stories became proverbs and popular even during the life time of the persons associated with them. Once in the last century, there lived a man called Awuol Bol Deng. He was known by his nickname of Awuol-Akuong-Awuɔ̈l-Akuɔŋ. He was a member of Pareng Clan of Kongor Wut (collection of clans) in what was known at the time as Bor District. Awuol, a friendly and peace loving person, was universally admired for his wits and as the author of many memorable sayings. To this day, Awuol’s aphorisms are still in currency among the people from the area, at home and all over the world. A wise saying, in Dinka is called kääŋ-kaang plural kɛ̈ŋ-keng. When Awuol moved out of his parent’s ancestral home to raise his own family, he built his homestead at Majak, then a virgin land west of Kongor, which was at the time, an administrative centre of what later became known as Kongor People’s Rural Council in the 1970s. Majak village is about 8 kilometres to the west of Kongor and on the edge of the world’s largest swampland, the Sudd. Wildlife seasonal movement from west to east and back, used to traverse this area. This migration still happens although the traffic has significantly reduced over the years due to the proliferation of illegal or even legitimate firearms that have become a real threat to wildlife. One day as he was relaxing in front of his luak after a hard day work on his sorghum farm, Awuol couldn’t believe his eyes when he raised his head. A gigantic rogue elephant bull was walking slowly, majestically and confidently towards the east. He had just begun his long, lonely walk towards the Boma Plateau from Majak or from wherever he had left the parade. And nobody had the answer to the why, when or the how, of his decision. A bickering within the clan? Perhaps. Anyway, the journey that would take him through the densely populated villages of which Majak was on their outer margins, later proved to be tragic. As the destination was over a 200 kilometres to the east, that meant the elephant would have to traverse a series of human settlements separated by a stretch of more than 15 kilometres between Majak and Manyang at the eastern end. From Manyang onward he would enter a huge expanse of wilderness separating the area from the plateau, Upper Nile Province’s only highland. Was Awuol daydreaming? No. He was bewildered. He had found the answer to the puzzle. And he must share it with his wife, who was the only person around at the time. “Ye akön cïn wën wuun jäny een?” (rendered into English it would literally run: doesn’t this elephant have a cousin1 to warn him?) Awuol wondered aloud. For sure, “This elephant had no cousin to advise him [against the risk he was taking]”, he told his wife, adding “Please, quickly get me my assegai”.2 Awuol’s question was followed by an order to his wife to get him his assegai2 that was inside the luak. After receiving his weapon, he sped to the scene of the drama to ensue soon. From experience, Awuol was aware that he was not going to be taking part in the hunting (spearing the animal). By the time of his arrival at the scene of action, the victim had already been fell down, fatally wounded with tens of spear wounds on the jumbo’s body. Awuol’s role then would be to get a share of the carcass3. He knew too well that by the time of his arrival the animal would have already been down. When he arrived he wasn’t surprised to find that the jumbo was already dead from the many wounds he had received from the men of the village. When Awuol arrived at the scene, men were busy cutting and sharing the elephant’s meat among themselves. Awuol, the sage, was convinced that the elephant had met his end because the animal didn’t have a cousin to advise him about the danger of taking the route that led him to a heavily populated cluster of hamlets. From that time, the saying “He has no cousin to advise him (timely and rightly)” became an aphorism among the people from Awuol Bol’s area and beyond. It is assaying that is expressed after someone has committed a blunder which would have been avoided had there been someone to provide a prudent piece of advice on the matter in question. Endnote 1Cousin to warn him: this is a reference to the old custom which makes a cousin, usually on father’s side, act as a keeper of a close relative who in turn receives advice from the one he counsels. That relationship included a man giving advice to a relative to desist doing what was deemed to be harmful, practically or morally unacceptable. 2Assegai (tɔŋ): the rural Nilotic men, mainly among the Nuer, Shilluk and Dinka, own and carry two types of spears: the spear with a blade of different sizes, is mainly used for cutting, meat for example. Then there is what is called fishing spear or what the Dinka call bith is mostly used in fishing. All of them are fixed to long, slender shafts. The two types are used both as weapons as well as fancy tools, just like walking sticks. 3Elephants used to be hunted primarily for their tusks (single: tuŋ akɔ̈ɔ̈n), then coveted for making different types of bangles and bracelets used for decorative purposes by both men and girls and young women and for sale to foreign merchants resident in the major towns of Southern Sudan during the colonial times. The first two men (women were not allowed to take part in hunting even of less dangerous animals) to throw their spears and landed on the elephant were entitled to own the two tusks; the right one would go to the first man while the second man would take the left tusk. The tusks would be sold at a cost that would make the two men rich in cattle, the currency of the day, and measure of personal wealth. With the establishment of the British administration of Sudan from 1898-1956, hunting elephants was outlawed in general, allowing the communities the kind of hunting that was akin to culling: only old and bull elephants were allowed to be hunted and the numbers of the elephants to be killed were also limited.
Acting on advice In the 20th century there lived a man called Mayau Atem Mayau, a member of Padol-Padɔ̈ɔ̈l) Clan. Like Awuol Bol, the main character of the previous pop tale, Mayau was from Kongor Wut. While Awuol’s fame rested on his witticism, Mayau was known over the land for his wealth in cattle and his children who had celebratory status; the son, Mayen was one of the leaders of the young men of the area’s cattle community while Mayau’s two daughters, Adhieu and Akuol were known for their physical graces as well as upright character. Mayau’s home was in Pakur-nhial village, about a kilometre east of Kongor. But Mayau had a problem of a kind: he had a high-pitched voice. Since that didn’t hurt or inconvenience anyone, people even those closest to him either ignored or tolerated that idiosyncrasy. Throughout his life Mayau went on with his life without giving a thought to his unusually foghorn type of voice. Except one day. Mayau was a plaintiff: a high stake case which had to be settled by the District Commissioner, DC, a white man whose office was in a town known as Mading by the natives but to the outsiders it was Bor, was pending. These variable names still play trick with people’s memory to this day. The DC was scheduled to sit in judgement in what was called a court centre which was headquartered at a place known locally as Pawel-Pawɛ̈l, aka, Kongor-Kɔŋɔ̈ɔ̈r. On the eve of the arrival of the DC in the area by car, Mayau’s cousins descended on his homestead. The host was a little taken aback. Were the relatives coming to break some unpleasant news? Why at that time of the day when people all over the village would be busy receiving cattle returning from grazing and to be tethered for the night? As members of the extended family who equally took the home they were visiting as their own, they sat, without having been beckoned, and made themselves comfortable. “Mayau, are you going to court tomorrow, aren’t you?” asked one of his cousins. “Yes” was Mayau’s response. “Then you have to be careful. The Turuk people don’t like people who talk loudly. You must change” concluded the cousin as he stressed the verb “change”. Mayau agreed and the group turned to other worldly matters. The next day the court sat. Mayau was ushered in while the DC was sitting surrounded by senior chiefs and other notables. As the plaintiff Mayau was shown where to sit, facing his adversary. An announcement was made that the proceeding would begin. Mayau was given the chance to speak first. All eyes turned to him. Mayau: began to speak but he was completely inaudible. Nobody heard a thing out of what he was saying or murmuring, to be exact. The DC (with impatience implicit in his voice): “What is wrong with the man? I can’t hear what you are saying. Speak Up!” Agamlong1- agamlöng (who is also in the dark repeats) the DC’s statement for clarity and effect. Mayau (as a loud as he could): Bäny yan e rit! Yan e rit!2 The entire courtroom burst into laughter as Mayau’s statement was being interpreted to the DC who also joined the crowd with a smirk. 1Bäny yan e rit would literally translate into “Sir, I have been altered (made to change)”. 2Agamlong: an auxiliary who used to repeat statements from public meetings, courtrooms and other meetings, mostly to effect, interest and clarity.

General Anthony Bol Madut: The officer whose name is synonymous with Boma By Atem Yaak Atem

General Anthony Bol Madut, the former governor of Warrap who died in 2019 while undergoing medical treatment in Egypt, was one of the SPLA officers during its early days- from 1984.
I first saw Bol Madut in person in June 1984.
I was accompanying the SPLM/A leader, John Garang, when he went to Bonga, an Anyuak village turned to a military forward base and training centre for the SPLA. Garang was going to launch the first officer course, which was dubbed Shield One. The intake included fresh civilians, officers called from the war front and officers from Anya Two Bahr el Ghazal. Bol Madut was a brigadier. Whatever rank the commissioned or self-declared officers held, had to go. Everyone had to start without a rank; they had to wait until the end of the training, after which they would receive a new commission. (Among the former civilians on the batch were Alfred Lado Gore, Dr Akech Khoch Achieu and Riek Machar. This writer was in the list but was pulled out as he was organising the launch of Radio SPLA, which went on air for the first time on October 12, 1984. His training was deferred to Shield Three, and commissioned 1st lt, when cadets of Shield One holding master degrees like him were commissioned majors!).
The temporary suspension of ranks was silently not welcomed by some among those affected, Bol included.
After graduation, Bol Madut, now a captain became deputy to Major Ngachigak Nyachiluk, then a promising young officer with military and political leadership qualities.
As commander and deputy commander respectively, the two led Agreb (Arabic for scorpion) Battalion to capture the strategically important government garrison at Boma Plateau, which enjoys natural defence.
The occupation was a resounding victory for the SPLA; it meant that the rebel army was now to be taken seriously. With the government garrison out the way, Boma opened a gateway to Equatoria, rural Bor and ultimately opened the route to Bahr el Ghazal, Abyei and Nuba Mountains.
The fall of Boma to the SPLA could have been one of the reasons Koka Dam meeting between the SPLM/A and the political forces in Sudan would conduct a dialogue with the rebels about a year and a half later. (More about the importance of Boma and role of Bol Madut later).
When Major Ngachigak Nyachiluk, now a junior member of Political Military Command, was assigned to command forces in Kapoeta campaign, where unfortunately he died in battle, Captain, later Commander Anthony Bol Madut took charge of the forces.
Promoted to the rank of major, Bol Madut returned to Boma as its commander for years. While there he earned a reputation for intercepting SPLA soldiers on their ways to Southern Sudan or to refugee camps inside Ethiopia. There was a lot of grumbles against him on that account.
When I was on my way from Torit to Ethiopia after my recall after two years as secretary of SRRA from March 1989-March 1991- Kongor, Bor and Torit, respectively, Commander Anthony Bol Madut me and my family an exceptionally warm welcome that included an offer of an oz for food, in the traditional African honour to an important guest, which I politely turned down in preference for a ram. The sign of respect was to assign my family and me (there were many other senior SPLA officers in transit at the base at the time) to stay at the guesthouse, which was exclusively for the SPLA Commander in Chief, and who was not present at Boma then.
When my family and tried to move into the huge compound, the NCO in charge told me we were not allowed in and that those were his “orders”. When some soldiers informed the guard that I was a captain he responded “Whatever rank he is, he cannot get into the Chairman’s house only on my dead body”.
On hearing such a rude statement a bodyguard assigned to me ran to Commander Anthony Bol Madut, who immediately rushed to the scene to resolve the problem.
On arrival the NCO repeated his objection. Bol ordered him to allow my family and me into the guesthouse, but the guard stood firm: it was still no!
Bol backed down. He took my family and me to another accommodation within the garrison.
To say I was surprised by the turn of events- open insubordination- would be an understatement.
We left Boma for Ethiopia by vehicles the following.
Within a week from my return from the liberated areas I met Dr John Garang at his residence in Addis Ababa.
During the long chat, I raised the matter of SPLA soldiers being detained in Boma. Garang listened attentively before it was his turn.
“Where is Agreb?” he asked.
I replied “There is no force as Agreb that captured Boma”.
“So where do think Commander Bol Madut will get forces to defend this important base?”
Garang was right. Even after the fall to Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) of all the garrisons controlled by the SPLA following the rebellion of Commander Riek Machar in 1991, Boma to the east and Nimule to South were the only towns that remained under the severely weakened SPLM/A. It was after the SPLA took the initiative to reverse its losses in 1994 that the war ended in a stalemate.
A couple of months later, someone told me the secret- his apparent acceptance of being disobeyed by a junior. My colleague explained to me that Bol Madut and John Garang were great friends. The NCO, said my friend, represented Garang, and therefore taking disciplinary action against him would amount- in Bol Madut’s thinking- to disrespecting the Commander in Chief.
I chose be sceptical, but strange enough that rationale was what I received from several people who knew the strong bonds obtaining between John Garang and Bol Madut.
A few months after this incident I was among the SPLA captains who were promoted to the rank of alternate commander.
The first message of congratulating me was from Commander Anthony Bol Madut. He said he was pleased that at long last I got what he said I rightly deserved for my role in designing and the delivery of the message of Radio SPLA. “The leadership has recognised your contribution”, Bol concluded.
When some of my colleagues read his message, they confirmed the general view that Bol Madut was a difficult person, but that there were people he liked. And that I was among those lucky few.
I still wonder to this day why.

On the launch of D. K. Matthews’s biography, The Struggle for the Liberation of South Sudan By Atem

At the onset, I must apologise for not turning up and be with you in person on this important cultural and social function. It was a rare honour to have been invited by the organisers of the event. In particular, I thank Kenyatta Dei Wal for personally asking me to be the guest speaker at the event. It was unfortunate, however, that factors beyond my control and that of the organisers could not allow me to be with you tonight. I will also miss, not only your esteemed presence as members of south Sudanese community in Melbourne, but also that of our artists who will grace this occasion. I extend my greetings to the artists, especially singer Gordon Koang, one of our celebrated performers, who will remember that we met and discussed in Juba, a couple of years ago, the role of music in our nation building process. Now to the matter.
Who is D. K. Matthews?
The occasion that has brought you together here tonight is the launch of a book written by a South Sudanese public figure. The author of The Struggle for the Liberation of South Sudan is Daniel Koat Matthews, former minister in the Juba-based Government of Southern Sudan in 1978 and in 1983 became governor of Upper Nile Region. The book’s sub-title is: The Memoirs of Veteran Participant. Memoirs are about life stories of their writers. So before one can talk about the contents of the book, it is relevant to give a glimpse of what one knows about the writer, and in this case, that author’s public life. Nevertheless, we should bear in mind that our individual perception of other people, ideas or the world around us, is often shaped by many factors. One of those influencing agents is subjectivity as opposed to objectivity. In that respect, I ask you to forgive me if my selection of certain aspects in the public life of Daniel Koat Matthews if anyone within the audience finds my projection of D. K. Matthews, the public servant, disappointing. That image is my view and cannot help doing otherwise.
As a member of younger generation way behind that of D. K. Matthews’s, I “knew” him, having heard about him before we met in person-when I was a school boy at Atar intermediate School which he had attended many years before. This is not surprising. Young people know their elders- what is said about or is attributed to them by words of deeds, especially prominent public figures, which unfortunately is not always reciprocal in many cases.
A man with a Khawaja’s name
The man who in years to come to be known as Daniel Koat Matthews was born in a cattle camp called Koat in Nasir District bordering Ethiopia. The name of the place his birth became his own. As a school boy, he added Old Testament Daniel to his name at baptism.
“My father’s name was Dhuoth Lual Matenyang”, he writes at the beginning of his life story. In the tradition of many South Sudanese communities, the man known to everyone now as Daniel Koat Matthews would be Daniel Koat Lual Matenyang, with the fourth in the chain normally being excluded.
During 1977 when the people of what is now South Sudan were preparing to elect their representatives to conduct to the second People’s Regional Assembly, my friend Stephen Abraham Yar asked me to join him to visit his friend D.K. Matthews who was staying in an apartment within the Hillat Jallaba shopping area. It was while we were taking tea that our host abruptly announced he was going to contest a seat in one of the constituencies allotted to his native Nasir District, of eastern Upper Nile Province.
“Who will elect you?” jibed Stephen.
“My people will elect me, believe it or not”, he hit back as he looked serious and offended by the question.
And he went to beat his rival, Daniel Deng Kuach. Deng Kuach was our contemporary at Atar. He was a peaceable and friendly student, so it was baffling how he had acquired the nickname of “Achamliny”, which in Chollo language literally means “someone who eats fighting”.
D. K. Matthews was one of prominent leaders in what was called “The Wind of Change” political grouping in Juba. The Change camp which brought together most leaders of Anya Nya under their former chief Joseph Lagu, Sudan African National Union or Sanu, under Samuel Aru Bol, and an array of politicians who had fallen out with the leadership of Abel Alier, former Southern Front secretary general and then head of the Regional Government, the High Executive Council, won by a large margin the election that was universally judged as free and transparent. In the cabinet the Gen Lagu formed, Daniel Koat Matthews became minster for Youth and Sports.
At the time I was editor of Southern Sudan monthly and cultural magazine. The capture of power by the Change alliance was the main story for the magazine’s May 1978 issue. For the cover story I interviewed Lagu, with brief profiles of his ministers to complete the picture. When the magazine hit the streets of Juba, I received a bitter complaint from the new minister of Youth and Sports, Daniel Koat Matthews. Reasons? Why did I frequently refer to him as DK only without writing it out in full? In response, I apologised that I meant no offence. He accepted the apology, somewhat reluctantly. We became friends again, but a kind of bond that I would describe as close and warm.
Job offer
Another memorable personal encounter I had with Daniel Koat Matthews occurred in around June 1982. By that time Daniel Koat Matthews was one of leading lights within what was known as Kokora and their grouping which was opposed by Unity camp headed by Clement Mboro, had won election held that year. Joseph James Tambura, the Kokora’s candidate for the presidency of High Executive Council had just been sworn in. I was at the time in Juba on holiday from Britain where I was studying printing at the London College of Printing (later changed to do research in Journalism). As one of the architects of the new government, Daniel Koat Matthews approached me with an offer that was too tempting to be rejected: position of press secretary to the President of High Executive Council. Although the job was less glamourous especially for photogenic characters, the office had huge material perks attached to it.
“Atem is going to be the President’s press secretary. We must end tribalism. We should not have a Zande journalist as a press secretary to a Zande president”, he told a group of friends. I was seated among them. Those present included newly appointed ministers who openly backed his nomination and its justification.
“Thanks for that” I told him, adding “but I cannot take up that job at the moment. I am currently on a scholarship in the UK and have another two years to finish”.
“As yours is a government scholarship I will terminate it”, he cut me short. His tone showed he was going to follow his threats with action. When I later told a trusted friend about the day’s encounter, his comment was “You are in trouble. He means what he says. He will terminate your studies”. I believed him.
The problem was not only that I was going to lose a rare technical training only available abroad; there was some political implication in my acceptance of the job. Initially, I supported the Unity camp on principle but over time I became utterly disillusioned with the grouping for their unethical power struggle within their ranks, with some of its members pursuing what was clearly an ethnically-motivated agenda. Despite that, the best option for a citizen and journalist was to stay clear out of the rival political parties and their squabble for power.
Kokora in essence was not a set of policies for better management of the autonomous Southern Sudan; rather it was partly a reaction to an illegal removal of Lagu, contrary to the provisions of the Addis Ababa Agreement which vested that power in the People’s Regional Assembly, not in the President of the Republic. Tit for tat could not be dressed up as a political agenda. That was my view of the status quo ante. Furthermore, I was determined to complete my studies and not prepared for any distraction from that. I gradually cooled down and asked him to allow me to think over the matter.
Aware of the fact that a fight against Daniel Koat Matthews was not a child play, I immediately went out to plead with some of his colleagues and friends within and outside the cabinet. One of these personalities I contacted to dissuade D.K. Matthews was the late Charles Kuot Chatim, a friend of mine and at the time he had just been appointed to the powerful ministry of Administration, Police and Prisons. It would appear that those persons succeeded in their mission on my behalf because a few days later I learned, to my relief, that Simon Gaiku, a journalist colleague and an ethnic Zande had been named for the coveted job. I lost in touch with D. K. Matthews for a long time. By he was governor of Upper Nile Region I was studying while at eh same time a member of a secret Southern Sudanese organisation in the UK who were opposed to the regime of Nimeiri. Our organisation later dissolved itself to become an SPLM chapter in the UK and Northern Ireland. At the end my studies in early 1984, I headed to the SPLA/SPLM (the order was reversed in 1986 to become SPLM/SPLA, and subsequently to SPLM/A) to establish Radio SPLA.
D. K. Matthews denied to witness “capture of Jekou by SPLA”
After losing his job as governor of Upper Nile Region following the overthrow of the government of Jaafar Nimeiri in a popular uprising in 1985, D. K. Matthews played not a small role in the reconciliation between the warring SPLA and Anya Nya Two. While in power he had supported Anya Nya Two fighters against the SPLA. As a result of the much hailed 1987 agreement between the two military organisations Daniel Koat Matthews became an SPLM/A member. In that year, the SPLA moved to attack to dislodge the Sudan Government’s the militarily strategic outpost at Jekou which is in D. K.’s home district.
On the eve of the attack, Cdr John Garang, then SPLA commander in chief and Cdr William Nyuon Bany, SPLA’s chief of the general staff presented sand model for the operation underway. D. K. Matthews who was in the area where he was mobilising the local population in support of the just concluded peace and reconciliation was present as was Dr Justin Yaac Arop who had returned from a mission to the USA with Cdr Lam Akol.
The two were the only civilians present at the presentation. Showing a huge missile as a sample to be fired from a ballistic missile- BM- machine mounted on a lorry nearby, Garang told the officers, men and the two civilians that the job for the attacking soldiers the following morning would be “teftish al aradhi”, or inspection of what would remain of a garrison that would have been obliterated by fire and brimstone in the form of BM. Obviously, there was excitement and everyone wanted to witness the apocalypse that would befall Jekou and its army.
Unfortunately that was not going to be the case for D. K. Matthews and his fellow politician, Dr Justin Yaac Arop, a British trained gynaecologist and like Daniel Koat Matthews, a former minister in Juba. At about nine that night an officer went to inform them to pack their personal effects: they were to be driven to nearby Bilpam, the SPLA general headquarters, with instructions that the two should be given a two week crash training in military basics. Fifteen days later the former politicians were commissioned at the rank of captain in the SPLA.
As it is to be expected Daniel Koat Matthews and Justin Yaac, were not only disappointed to miss the promised “destruction” of Jekou by the SPLA’s BM; they felt their sudden and unexplained removal from base at Mangok, the technical headquarters, was a personal insult to them. In their complaint the decision by the SPLA top commanders to send them away from the theatre of fighting indirectly questioned their patriotism.
Humanitarian worker in Bor
Following the launch of the UN sponsored relief programme, Operation Lifeline Sudan in 1989, Captain Daniel Koat Matthews was posted to Bor town to manage relief operations on behalf of the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association, SRRA- SPLM’s humanitarian component. I also had my stint at the same assignment which took me to Panyagoor in my native Kongor area. Daniel Koat Matthews had requested the SPLM leadership to allow him visit his home in Nasir, then under the SPLM/A administration. His absence meant that I had to be transferred to Bor as his relief.
Arriving Bor in September 1989, I did not find the person I was going to take over from. He had gone to a Gualla village in the heart of southern Bor District. I waited for about five days before he showed up for handing over process.
What was he doing in the remote Dinka countryside? I was told by members of his staff that he was planning to marry a girl from Gualla and that he was busy conducting gok, the Dinka art of wooing a girl for marriage. How about the allegation to the effect that while governor of Greater Upper Nile Region he was alleged to have said “Upper Nile without Bor?” Personally, I have never asked him about that claim. Nevertheless, that act alone would vindicate Daniel Koat Matthews of the claim that he disliked people hailing from Bor, particularly their members of political elite; no sensible person would love a woman whose race, ethnicity or religion one hates. Whether the story about his intention to marry was a fabrication or that his plan was true but aborted by his transfer, I have no way to know for sure.
2. The importance of the book launch
Book launches are a cultural, intellectual and business affair. Usually, a book that has just been released is presented to the public, mostly made of readers who would critique its contents. Most authors, academics or writers of creative works or non-fiction, are motivated by the desire to share their ideas and their different worldview with the reading public. Then there is the commercial side to publishing: book production costs writers money. And to meet those costs books must be sold. There would be no point printing books that would not be bought and read.
Why history of South Sudan matters
In our situation in Australia, book launches I have been involved in so far tend to be more of social and communal than intellectual, events. For example, in September last year I travelled to Perth in Western Australia to spearhead the launch of Upper Nile Province Handbook edited by Dr Douglas H. Johnson, a friend of mine and one of non-South Sudanese professional historians who treat the history of the country and its people objectively and sympathetically.
My abiding interest in the history of our country is that we South Sudanese, especially our youth, have missed out to study the past of our ancestral home not out of choice but by default. Out of necessity our young people in the diaspora have learned and continue to read for examinations, histories of the lands where they have gone to settle in as refugees or migrants. Understandably, one should not expect curriculums designed for and taught in the schools and colleges in the lands which South Sudanese migrants call home to include lessons and courses in the history of South Sudan. Courses of that nature could be available to students wishing to specialise in Africa affairs, but such opportunities are limited.
But one has to be careful: whose version of history and what the writer trying to project? Politicised history or one written with scant respect for professional methods and intellectual integrity is as deleterious as a deliberately distorted account to serve political and other narrow interests.
At the Perth function, I was humbled and pleased to witness a huge turn up by members from our linguistically diverse communities not only from Greater Upper Nile- the subject matter of the reports converted to a book- but also from the rest of South Sudan. The hall was packed full to the point that some members of the audience were forced to participate while standing up. The occasion, in my view, had national characteristics which was a good thing; most of our gatherings are usually ethnically oriented, exclusive, and sometimes divisive as communication is often conducted in a language of a group that happens to have more members at the venue, thus excluding the other South Sudanese present or who would like to take part.
In January this year, Perth was again the venue for launching of three books. I went to talk about South Sudanese Past Notes and Records, also by Dr Johnson. This book is a collection of articles that were published in The Pioneer weekly newspaper of which I was its editor a couple of years. As the title indicates the publication is about some important themes, events, personalities, places, a valuable advice to would be writers on the writing of our history and so on. The other books were Lewis Anei’s The Dinka History and D. K. Matthews’ book being launched here tonight.
No role for children in fathers’ wars
What is of note was the information I had received before the occasion: Kenyatta Dei Wal was to represent the author in the presentation. After reading the book, I began to wonder how Kenyatta, one of the sons of another prominent South Sudanese politicians from Nasir District like D. K. Matthews and a former chief administrator of half of what is now Greater Upper Nile, would stand for the author who has bashed his father in the account of his life?
The organisers assured me that Kenyatta was going for the launch, attack on his father by the writer notwithstanding. During his presentation Kenyatta who referred to D. K. Matthews with the endearing sobriquet of “Uncle” described the eighty two year old politician as a freedom fighter who has spent much of his adult life struggling for the cause of his country.
Another score at the occasion was the unity of the people of South Sudan. Previously members of Nuer and Dinka communities in Perth rarely shared a public forum. This was the second time- the first was the September 2015 launch- when the two communities were able to sit together and discuss common issues besides politics and the armed conflict.
The following day while we were having lunch with Kenyatta Dei Wal and the organisers of the event I asked him how he managed to liberate himself from our common malaise in which differences and conflicts between two individuals would suck in others who have nothing to do with the bone of contention. Kenyatta’s answer was simple: “The differences between my late father and DK have nothing to do with me or with us the children of Joshua Dei Wal or DK’s own children. They had their own time and issues which had nothing to do with us.”
The spirit of mutual tolerance
It is indisputable that the spirit of tolerance and open-mindedness are what South Sudanese need now. When one looks closely at some of the conflicts which drag communities and even the entire nation into violence, hatred and self-destruction, the causes can be traced to some people trying to fight in defence of a public figure with whom they share a lineage, a dialect, a district or region. Rarely are causes of differences within the ruling power elite investigated to establish who is right or wrong; what counts in most instances is “my tribe* and tribesmen/women, right or wrong”.
But being objective and tolerant often comes under threat from extremists who drive members into the “family fold” through appeal to herd mentality, summed up by: “We are safer together” and “’Others’ are evil and dangerous”. The result is that the faint-hearted buckles and forced to follow the crowd to avoid being perceived as a traitor. The fear of excommunication to which open-minded members of a group can be subjected when they oppose or act contrary to “received wisdom” such as claim to superiority over “Others” or being in the right when the opposing members of the other camp are branded as perpetual malefactors and irrational, is one of the reasons why hardliners get away bigotry and other forms of ethnocentric antagonisms such as racism, xenophobia or discrimination based on faith. In many societies, confronting these evils is hampered by fear of ostracisation: few are prepared to openly denounce fanatics and their views as they appear to be in the majority simply because they cow opponents with dissenting conviction and stand.
It comes as no surprise that many people from all our communities who do not subscribe to the ideology of hatred and demonisation of “Others” prefer to remain silent when the nation is being torn to shreds by the barren and primordial “We” versus “They” alignment. In a way, all of us bear responsibility for most of the mistakes made by our leaders on all sides of the divide.
The renowned American broadcaster and journalist, Ed Murrow was referring to such situations as those which plague human societies when he wrote “No one can terrorise a whole nation, unless we all are his accomplices”. With the exception of the likes of the Ugandan criminal Joseph Kony who abducts, trains abductees in barbarism to kill innocent to do his dirty job of killing innocent persons, most followers of world’s misguided warlords act voluntarily on their behalf.
Highlights from the book
This is not a review of the book but a few remarks on two events in the life of Daniel Koat Matthews which have left an indelible imprint in his memory and which the reader of the book is likely to remember for a long time afterward.
The first is about Daniel Koat Matthews, the student at Rumbek Secondary School in the mid-1950s. He tells the reader about a quarrel between him and an Art teacher called Gritly. The teacher is from Northern Sudan. He teacher is unhappy with his student Koat for not taking his subject in the Cambridge examination, a forerunner of Sudan School Certificate. Daniel Koat tells him he does not like the subject and will not take it for exam.
The teacher loses his temper and insults him: he is a progeny of slaves; the student gets furious; picks a chair and hits the teacher with; the headmaster who is from England dismisses the offending student; the school population rises up in protest and in support of their colleague; the punishment is reduced to five strokes of the cane; the students demand all of them to be lashed; this is done but the exercise is stopped after the tenth student has received his five strokes. Lesson: Daniel Koat Matthews learns his first lesson that unity and group solidarity are a strength.
Teachers and a baby killed
Then we have a tale that is too graphic and therefore stressful that details are skipped here. Suffice, this is the story of August 18, 1955, the day officers and men from the South mutiny against their Northern officers of Sudan Defence Force stationed at Torit. The disturbances as they officially later became known, spreads to the rest of Southern Sudan.
Some students from Rumbek Secondary School happen to be travelling to Northern Sudan for friendly sporting activities with their colleagues there. Daniel Koat Matthews who is a sportsman is among the band and is one of its organisers. The students are travelling by land to Juba where they will take a Nile boat northward. Accompanying them are the school’s deputy headmaster with his wife, two children, aged six years and four months respectively, a Geography teacher, all Northern Sudanese. On the trip also there is the sports teacher who is from the South.
On August 18, the convoy carrying students and their teachers is stopped near Lainya, some tens of miles south of Juba. Members of the public sympathetic with the mutineers want to attack the Northerners. The students and their sports teacher plead for them to be spared.
D. K. Matthews and colleagues learn here that “all teachers of Northern Sudanese origins at Mundri Junior Secondary School (sic) had been executed…by Sudan Defence Force soldiers of South Sudanese (sic) origins”. The convoy is allowed to precede. But at another spot, they are stopped again. This time, their pleas fall on deaf ears. The two Northerners teachers and the baby are dragged out of the vehicles and brutally killed; the students manage to save the other child and his mother. The narrator is one of the students who hand over the widow and her child to Belgian colonial authorities at Abba, a border post of the neighbouring colony of the Belgian Congo. They return to Rumbek where students will be sent to their various homes in the three provinces of Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile after the closure of schools all over the country for a year.
Cause for reflection
Reflecting over these tragic events which occurred 60 years ago, D. K. Matthews has this to say: “How could I then have imagined that the rage, the thirst for revenge and the horror of bloodletting that I had personally witnessed in two [the] fateful days [August 18-19, 1955] would be multiplied a thousand times over the protracted period of half a century?”
These are truly sobering thoughts which raise further questions. For example, despite the horrors he witnessed and perhaps might have heard of inhumanity of people to fellow humans, the author appears to have forgotten that there were stories of some Southern Sudanese who took risk to save lives by hiding vulnerable Northern Sudanese civilians, particularly women, children, the sick and the elderly among them.
Likewise, he might not be aware of the famous story about a Northern boy who was hidden by a Lotuho family and later given to authorities after the situation had returned to normal. The boy, the popular tale goes, in later years became a civil servant working for a Sudan’s mission in a European country. The man, according to the same reliable sources, morbidly hated all Southern Sudanese for the deaths of his parents in Torit that August. It was claimed that each time he saw a person of Southern Sudanese descent he would throw tantrums and cried hysterically.
Did Khartoum commemorate the 10th anniversary of Torit mutiny with the 1965 massacres?
Again in the context of vengeance, how many South Sudanese have seen a possible synergy between the 1965 declaration of war against the people of the South by the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Ahmed Mahjoub and his interior minister, Ahmed el Mahdi? In that war, for example, more than 1,000 innocent civilians in Juba were killed in cold blood by the army in a single night of July that year.
Those unprovoked massacres were followed a few days later by the killing of over 70 wedding guests, mostly senior civil servants in Wau town. The same year, the peaceful inhabitants of Warajwok a Chollo village, not far from Malakal, were wiped out of the face of the earth together with their livestock. The carnage that bore the hallmarks of genocide continued unabated for about two years.
In early 1967, 24 elderly chiefs, including Paramount Chief Ajang Duot and one of Southern Sudan’s prominent nationalists, Chief Parmena Bul Kooc, in Bor District were assassinated by orders from Prime Minister Sadiq el Mahdi who had succeeded Mahjoub.
Clearly Khartoum was exacting vengeance on the people of Southern Sudan to mark the tenth anniversary of the Torit mutiny of August 18, 1955 and to avenge the deaths of Northern civilians who perished in the disturbances. Vengeance, which is said to be wild justice, is also self-perpetuating as today’s hurt begets tomorrow’s retaliatory act, and it goes on and on. No wonder some people have coined a saying for an unending cycles of payback for a past injury inflicted on a group: “ke ater bï dhieth mïth” which when rendered into English literally would run “This is the kind of enmity that requires the procreation of children (to sustain it)”.
Both recipients and the executors of vengeance have nothing to gain but pain, mutual fear and insecurity. The antidote in such a situation is for the adversaries to embrace forgiveness and reconciliation, not an eye for an eye.
Assessing the book as a contribution to understanding of our past
Some readers are likely to disagree with the accuracy of some statements made by the author. One of these is his understanding of the objectives of the mutiny “The ultimate strategic objective [of the mutiny] was to declare self-government in South Sudan”. The conclusion of the Commission of Inquiry into the causes of the upheavals do not hint to that. This is just one out of several assertions that are likely to be challenged on the basis that supporting evidences are either inadequate or totally absent.
Nonetheless, D. K. Matthews’s The Struggle for the Liberation of South Sudan: The Memoirs of a Veteran Participant, has raised issues that certainly will make its reader ponder over the price the people of South Sudan have paying for a very long time for their freedom; and of some follies that were committed in the name of the liberation by different political and military leaders and groups with their varying ideological orientation and goals.
Disagreement over the book’s contents is likely to be expressed by some readers but seen in the context of freedom of expression, one could conclude that D. K. Matthews, just like the rest of us, is entitled to his opinion. Furthermore, he could as well repeat the words of the late Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe when he says “If you don’t like someone’s story write your own”.
*A long time ago I embargoed the use of the word “tribe” and its derivatives such as “tribesman”, “tribalism”, and “tribalist”. “Nationality” becomes a substitute for “tribe” and “racism” alternates with “nepotism” in the place of “tribalism”. Other expressions which I am loath to use are words such as “animist/animism”, “pagan”, “heathen”, “savage” (in reference to people and culture, especially Africans). Recently, I have blacklisted three expressions: “our people”, “service delivery” and “popular demand”. In the context of South Sudan these overused phrases are empty of meanings. And those public figures who are fond of singing or writing them are not probably aware of the hypocrisy the phrases imply.
This is an edited version of the talk that was read on the writer’s behalf at the launch of Daniel Koat Matthews’s autobiography, The Struggle for the Liberation of South Sudan: The Memoirs of a Veteran Participant, in Melbourne, Australia, on February 6, 2016. Atem Yaak Atem is an internationally accredited translator based in Australia where he is also an editorial consultant in book publishing.

Sudan mourns the departure of Dr. Mansour Khalid By Suzanne Jambo

Sudan mourns the departure of Dr Mansour Khalid By Suzanne Jambo Today we mourn the departure of one of Africa’s finest intellectuals, Sudanese Dr Mansour Khalid a renown thinker, a diplomatist, an author, a politician and most of all his embracing the liberation of the marginalized people of Sudan. He served as Sudan’s foreign minister; he also served in several global organizations as the Brundtland Commission (formally known as the World Commission on Environment and Development), the United Nations and the World Bank. Although his upbringing was strictly religious, Dr Mansour Khalid dared to write his book; “War and Prospects of Peace in Sudan”, in which he challenged the question of separation of religion from the state, secularism. This made him challenge the Islamic State of Sudan at the time. He was a true thinker able to overcome rigidity and defend liberty through his books and association. To name one, his diplomatic career earned him friendship with African leaders as Nigeria’s 1st elected President Olusegun Obasanjo, who also became SPLM’s friend. Equally, remarkably to the marginalized Sudanese, Dr. Mansour Khalid risked his life and ‘global repute’ by serving as chief advisor to the late Dr John Garang of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement, SPLM during a time when SPLM was named an ‘outlawed movement’ by the Sudanese government and frowned upon by the world. Although Dr Mansour Khalid stood for the unity of all Sudanese, he chose to stand by the marginalized for he chose freedoms, justice and equality as a way to live in unity, not marginalization, oppression and injustice. As a South Sudanese, I salute and bow in respect to this great man who used his intellect, made brave choices and helped articulate our Struggle as African Sudanese of diverse faiths and identities. Thank you, Dr Mansour Khalid, may your amazing soul RIP in heaven

*Remembering Dr Mansour Khalid*

I have just received the shocking news of the passing away of our Dear Patriot, Brother and Friend Mansour Khalid. I  visited him  at his house on two occasions during my last visit to Khartoum in February. He was always seated in a chair with his legs stretched out and covered, suffering from an ailment that had hospitalized him for prolonged periods of time and which he explained to me, but I could not fully understand. His mind was still very sharp and as always we talked much about substantive issues related to conditions in our two countries and the state of the world. I did not see the end close in sight. I was in fact just thinking of calling him to check on his condition.
Mansour and I were very close intellectually, politically, professionally, socially, and personally. I will have much more to say about Mansour later in a longer tribute. What I would like to say in this brief message is that Mansour was a true giant who, through his scholarly and intellectual contributions, his political stands, and his public service, transcended the divides of identity politics in favor of justice and human dignity for all nationally, regionally and globally. He was a personification of ideals that are rare in our paradoxically globalizing and yet fragmenting world.
Mansour’s death  is a grave  loss to our Two Sudans, to our African Continent and to humanity. But he will remain immortal in our living memory.
My deepest condolences to his family, his friends, his colleagues and our people of the Two Sudanese Nations. May Almighty God rest him in eternal peace, having endeavored for so hard and for so long  for peace in this world.
Francis Mading Deng