I read a cut-rate anecdote by someone who insinuated that President Salva did Dr. John Garang a favour by sticking by him during the liberation days.

That Garang’s people should reciprocate to follow President Salva Kiir Mayardit. I have heard this cheap argument before from people who are educated who should be more politically informed.

These questions should bring your conscience to live before I put my option forward:

1. Did the liberation struggle by South Sudanese start with Dr. John Garang’s era?
2. Did Dr. John Garang fight a personal war?
3. In any case, if Garang’s people have to pay for whatever went wrong in the liberation struggle, then why didn’t they inherit leadership?

As one reels with the above questions, I would like to state my hunch on this emotive subject as follow.

First of all, when Dr. John Garang led the liberation struggle, he did it as a national leader nominated by his peers to lead liberation of his people. There was nowhere or time where people of Twi or Bor were consulted if they approved of Garang’s leadership of the movement. Instead, he had an adversary from his community in the person of Akuot Atem de Mayen… who had different political lineup and approach in mind. Uncle Akuot Atem did not make it..and that was treated as a consequence of his political decision. He died in the hands of SPLM/A and Anya Anya II men. No community took responsibility or offense in his demise apart from personal grieve to loss of his dear life and his potential contribution to the movement. Akuot’s sons remained in the lines of liberation struggle. In fact, I remember his son singing with us, a song that derided Akuotdit. To him, I presume, the vision of Dr. John Garang was stronger than his tribulation presented by the fate that had befallen his father. That was true for most liberators who fell out of favor with the SPLM/A. Their kins and kith stayed true to the cause of liberation struggle. The cause was greater than individual’s predicaments. Moreover, no one had exception in the liberation except those who had chosen to stay by the fence in their comfort to be liberated. Dr. John Garang had his biological brothers, Deng Mabior and Malual Mabior, fighting in different fronts of the New Sudan. I do not think they or any other South Sudanese fought because their brother, relative or acquaintance was in leadership of the Movement. They had contextualized liberation in their own terms..and were thanking Dr. John Garang like most other Sudanese for having articulated the vision, led the war and provided logistics at no cost on our future. And indeed, Dr. John Garang did that without a favour on himself, for the benefits of presidency never acrued to him, his immediate family and or his community.

Yes, uncle Arok Thon Arok, Majier Gai Ayuel and many junior officers from Garang’s constituency found themselves at odd with the movement for reasons that were personal or institutional. They were not treated differently. In fact, Salva Kiir, carried out their arrests. Something that cannot be done today, given how being from President’s family or lineage makes one qualify for presidential treatment.

Garang and by extension, his community never saw the liberation struggle or its agenda as their own. Instead, Dr. Garang saw himself duty-bound to liberate his people not for his benefit but to engender a foundation of a society that avails opportunities to its people without institutionalized constrictions to them, by way of laws or perceptions of their origins, faith, look or creeds. This was system being perpetually advanced and imposed on our people by our archenemies.

So, instead Garang did South Sudanese a favour by liberating them not the other way. A forbearance being begged from him to get them to see the lights of freedom. As Lualdit one time insinuated that Garang was being gaurded so that he could not abandon that weighty responsibility before him. We all knew it, it was Garang and only him in those prevailing circumstances that could liberate us. Now, we have a head of State, National Ministers, Managing Directors of Oil Companies, Millionaires and so forth, thanks be to Dr. John Garang who made this happen.

Any bothersome cheap talk therefore, which insinuates that anybody did Dr. John Garang a favour by following him in the bushes during liberation struggle is foolhardy. Others have even gone further to imply that if President Salva Kiir did not stand with Garang, the movement would have run-out of fuel and crashed on its face. This is simply not untrue. Instead, if Salva Kiir did not stick with Garang, he would not be the President of the Republic of South Sudan. He would have come back to negotiate his reintegration as a militia leader of some kind of outfit with his head down in shame. Commander Salva was never more priced than Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, William Nyuon Bany, Arok Thon or Martin Majier Gai or even Dr. Riek and Dr. Lam. He just happened to be another member of Political Military High Command. He would have been replaced by another more competent officer, for example. Therefore, his responsibility as a head of State cannot be discounted because of his participation in the liberation struggle.

Without sense of contradiction, I would like to state that, no one followed Dr. John Garang as a son of Awulian, Patem, Pan de Ayen. Neither because he was a son of Gak Malual Kuol, Kongor, Padol, Pareng. Not at a glimpse would it be because he was from Twi, Bor or a Dinka. It was his vision and articulation of freedom agenda on behalf of the oppressed that precipitated loyalty and stamina to follow him. Any predisposition otherwise is opportunistic and naive of those that have hijacked people’s cause. Different groups of people had different liberation goals that took them to Ethiopia. Dr. Garang instead coalesced all these predicaments into a bigger cause to address those pigeonholes of injustices.

For example, Anya Anya II led by Bagat Aguek were protesting killings of their own people with impunity by the Misirya and untamed continuous encroachment on their ancestral land. People of Mading Aweil went to Ethiopia to acquire guns to protect themselves against maralhiin, people of Bor went to Bongo to get guns to protect themselves against marauding Murle militias. Panruu and Nuer of Bentiu went to Bilpham to get guns to guard themselves and their properties against Rizigat that were being used as proxies to displace them to create space for Oil exploration and name many more. The elites and students who were politically informed protested different mistreatments of South Sudanese in urban centres. That caused them to flee to Ethiopia in search for arms to turn around state of their perceived or real grievances. Non of them went to Ethiopia to certain Dinka man in the name of Dr. John Garang.

For the record, the movement was first dominated by Nuer followed by Bor and then Apadang upon arrival of 104 and 105 at Ethiopian borders to join elements of Anya Anya II mostly from Nuer, Shilluks and Apadang.

Upon training and graduation of Jamus and Tiger, Bor took numbers superiority which was consolidated by 11,000 recruits that became part of Koryom. The other 2,000 in Koryom mainly came from Bailiet, Panruu, Nasir, Bentiu, Akobo, and Malakal (Shilluks) of Upper Nile.
Anya Anya II fall out with SPLM/A later affected mobilization from Nuer communities in general. It was however reversed after integration of Gordon Koang Chol in 1988.
The 200 students that came with Lual Diing Wol to join Tiger and Jamus, and few Anya Anya II with Peter Bol Ayomnok were the first representatives from Aweil. A good number of students led by ustadh Daniel Ayual Makoi from Rumbek and Yirol responded to the call for liberation to join Tiger and Tumsah. Bol Madut and Malong Awan with their militia groups could not cross to Ethiopia until elements of Jamus under the command of Kawac Makuei, Bagat Aguek, Deng Aloor and Peter Bol went to escort them. Aweil and Gogrial swell their numbers significantly upon arrival of 11,000 recruits that became Muor Muor. At the start of the movement, mobilization of peasants had significant response from Aweil because of Maralhiin, Baliet because of Anya Anya II, Bor because of Murle and Panruu and Bentiu because of Rizigats and the rest had to be recruited over time.
That’s a bit of digression.

The reason for these skechy details, is to remind those with unfounded predilection that anybody did a favour to Dr. John Garang by sticking with him during the liberation struggle. Instead, Dr. John Garang was begged by his colleagues in the underground movement to take leadership of the liberation because of his unique exposure both in Anya Anya and in the United States of America. Garang answered to different frustrations that were being experience by South Sudanese at different corners of the country at the time. We owe him a big thank you, because he answered this call with distinction. The same people should stop bothering Garang’s relatives or community that they should follow President Salva because he stood. Instead, they should thank Dr. John Garang and his family, if necessary because, he has made him rule South Sudan, which his own admission, he did not expect.

Dr. John Garang amalgamated our various grievances into a political cause that was translatable and interpretable in geopolitical and global political terms. It won us unrelated and unconditional military support from allies. It finally gave us sovereignty. Garang’himself, did not earn a month’s salary for the first vice President and the President of the Government of South Sudan. He hunted down an animal called freedom from 22 years until it fell..skinned it, had it cooked and handed it over to junubiin.

People started partying in the spoils without recourse of thoughts. Now, like any other party, there’s a responsibility that comes with excesses and someone wants Dr. John Garang’s community on his behalf to bear responsibility..come on junubiin. Connect your consumption with responsibility, and if I may paraphrase Francis Mading et al, ” Take Power as a Responsibility, not just a privilege.”
When you hold power, be responsible to bear the consequences of it. People will call you names and hold you to account for their grievances, because that power is theirs!
That is the meaning of public Responsibility and Accountability.



THE WOMEN’S FATE IN SOUTH SUDAN ARE IN QUESTION! The Women are the biggest losers in South Sudan, and time and time again they have never learned to change their status economically politically, socially and educationally. A woman carries your little one in the womb for good nine months and once carried you. They gave birth or some died during the process of delivering. Some make it through the process only to have some ruthless raiders take your baby away and you became childless in the blink of an eye. surprisingly, women don’t speak up, come out and stand up for themselves. In such a terrible incident as having your child taken from you, you can lose your husband or brother in the process trying to pursue the abductors and you lose your immediate family and partner on top of the baby. The horror of the brutality and social injustice continues over and over again. nobody can ask nor is willing to investigate the pernicious physical and emotional effects on such barbaric deeds which leads to untold emotional and psychological damages in women and parents. It is very painful to even imagine that we are facing such a corrupt world. your child most likely will be under the influence to continue the cycle of inflicting pain of untold sufferings to other families that could be his/her own blood. The grief and sorrows will never get cured with what is still happening and will carry over still after you are to your own grave. That’s the painful story of a lawless society like South Sudan, which breaks my heart from its instability and insensitivity in relations between its people. the greed for power has reached its peak. Politicians fights for position in Juba, as being appointed at any level in the government has lost all honorability. I resigned my job at the Ministry of Justice because of the corrupt, unstable politics I witnessed. I could see societies were grossly misinformed and misguided about politics. In South Sudan, poor massive populations are fooled to the point the party they align with results in their own death and before that comes about, they are instructed to dig their own graves. They celebrate with no foundation or understanding of the god given, life encompassing principles of happy living. The only people who can mourn your passing on in such a state are those who can overlook the lies and corruption happening. To all South Sudanese communities both at home, in the diaspora and over the entire World. If you are behind the News or don’t have any clue about the ongoing pernicious activities and Fighting happening, as with Families I posted about and mentioned previously who have had their children abducted and responded in the Murlei Land region. The Conflicts are sparked as revenge attacks. The Lou Nuer youths and the other thousands of the post abducted children and wives families members pursuing their abducted children and wives mission resulted to an invasion of Murlei land as Murlei bandits resisted and caused more casualties to the families of abducted children. Once the child is abducted, the situation appears hopeless. The causes or the genesis of the conflict began, on February 15th, 2020 that, the armed Murlei militias had broken into a Church, where two famous Chiefs daughter and son were getting married in the Church, the wedding ceremony was well attended in Lou Nuer village. The Murlei men Suddenly broke into the church and they started to shooting and slaughtering people including the priests. They also slaughtered the groom and they abducted the Newly wed bride. They left dozens of the attendees killed and dead in the Holy place, Murlei raiders took the bride ’s maids and flower Girls and went onward toward Pibor, the Home of criminals. The retaliation followed and that’s what’s sparked the conflict, I don’t blame the Lou Nuer nor the ten of thousand families of the victims who desperately want their beloved abducted girls restored back to them. From the Human rights perspective, Murlei culture of violence and child abduction is the major crime worldwide. You as a young analyst who had not gone to the school of politics can Make your own rational analysis or judgement as Human being, what would you do if you are one of the newly wed couples? I think you would seek justice and as per the fact, the justice in South Sudan is at hands of the Lou Nuer youth and other affected Dinka sections has a rights to pursuing their abducted children, young girls and wives and should come together for the sole purpose of positive change. The second fear now is Anyidi Payam, Jur Palek who is hosting some of Murlei militias youths, wives, children and elderly people is rising and gaining momentum in the Jonglei State. If I we were among Juor Palek leaders including Leekrieth, it’s useless after all to host in my backyard and protect such culprits as IDPS when holding the abducted newlywed bride who became a widow on her wedding day as hostage in Anyidi Land. As an English proverb said that, what’s goes around comes around, I think it’s now a right time for the Murlei ethnic to cease such a barbaric culture of child abduction and reckless killings of other communities Yom Deng Bul Is A South Sudanese Human Rights Activist, she’s Famously Known for her Human Rights Perspectives Concept to Champions the Children’s Rights and Protection In the Republic of South Sudan. Yom Is A Postgraduate from the Prestigious University Of Nairobi, Yom Is a Founder and A Director of Achut Foundation (A.F), the Charitable Entity. She’s Currently residing in the U.S. as Political Asylee and Basing In Manhattan, New York, United States of America. You Can Follow Me On Twitter @ Yom Deng (Winner) And On Facebook @Yom Deng Contact email: yombul2015@gmail.com

TRIBUTE Col Amos Ajak Garang: He Sang for Love and Justice by Atem Yaak Atem

Amos Ajak Garang, Police colonel, freedom fighter and famous composer and singer of popular love songs and revolution has died after bravely battling cancer of the throat for a very long time.
Amos Ajak began singing in the late 1950s as a schoolboy at Abwong Elementary School. Abwong to the east of Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile State. Ajak who was born to peasant parents at Pawuoi village in what is today Twi County (Twic East is a misnomer), showed interest in music. That was the time of religious revival among when Ngok Dinka of today’s Bailiet County, when hymn singing was part of that spiritual awakening. Ajak was also a self-taught drummer.
Christian believers of whom some were affiliated to the Presbyterian Church were composing hymns in the vernacular as well as making rendition of martials in which words had to be given biblical terms instead of their original secular lyrics. One of these was “Bäny-dïït de Pinynhom Cɔk Wo Ɣer”, literally, Lord of the World Make Us White [clean].
Today when the SPLA band plays this march, Dinka Christians with no knowledge of the origin of the tune sing it in Dinka, convinced that it is their own chorus that has been adapted by the army. There is a coincidence in this as will be seen later in this appreciation since late Amos Ajak later became choirmaster of the SPLA Band.
Early years
I met Amos Ajak at Atar Intermediate School in 1961 when he was two years my senior. By age, Ajak was much older, probably by seven years.
A quiet, tall and charming youth, nobody remembers having seen or heard Amos Ajak getting into altercation with fellow students or in trouble with school authorities. He was, however, a common figure on school playgrounds as he participated in football, volleyball and Ping Pong as table tennis is known.
Ajak later added Arabic music of Northern Sudanese to his Church-based hymn-singing. He imitated the popular singers of the day, among them Ibrahim Awad, one of the national stars in those days. By lucky coincidence, when the military governor Upper Nile was going by boat up the Nile to open a new hospital in Bentiu in 1961, decided to have a stopover at Atar- 25 miles away from Malakal the provincial capital- where he and his entourage included Ibrahim Awad, disembarked and went straight to the school hall. The young tall, slim and good-looking entertainer offered just one song- a hit at the time- to the students in the company of the headmaster and his teaching staff. The song was “Habibi Janani”- Arabic for “my lover has made me mad [with love”). The free entertainment by the young and popular performer was over. In less half an hour the governor and company were gone to continue their voyage to Adok and then from there by land to Bentiu.
Ibrahim Awad was one the Northern Sudanese singers whose songs Amos Ajak loved to perform to entertain fellow students.
Good at Arabic, both spoken and written, Amos Ajak who was endowed with a melodious voice, would sometimes spend his leisure time singing while seated on the edge of the sandy quay along the White Nile, not far from the school compound. We used the dockside for swimming early mornings and late afternoons when the heat of the day was gradually dissipating.
The turbulent Sixties
The early 1960s were times of political turbulence in the three Southern Provinces of Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile. This was the period of the resurgence of the rebellion against the government in Khartoum. Following the takeover of power by the military under General Ibrahim Abboud in 1958, the repressive policies of his regime against the South directly helped rekindle the nationalistic zeal in the then dormant former participants in the Torit mutiny of August 18, 1955 to organise and conduct a guerrilla warfare.
This development that was largely confined to Equatoria Province soon gradually began to engulf the entire Southern Sudan where defections by policemen, civil servants and students helped to swell the ranks of the new insurgency.
After every strike, which were mostly politically motivated, a number of students would be reported missing; they had gone over to the rebels who later adopted the name of Anya Nya, or the snake venom in the Madi language. The most memorable of all those strikes was the 1960 student protests at the government’s decision to turn Sunday, then a day of worship and rest in the South, to a working day, and Friday, the Islamic Sabbath, was officially declared as a day of rest, instead.
In 1962 students all over Southern Sudan and in what was called English pattern (as opposed to “national” schools where Arabic was a medium of instruction) went on strike. After the reopening of schools, a couple of months later that year, a sizeable number of students, especially those aged 16 and above had found their way into the bushes of Southern Sudan to train as guerrilla warriors. Rumbek led the rest of the students in that nationalistic agitation. These young men were to form the nucleus of Anya Nya fighters or scouts. Amos Ajak was one of the students who did not return to school: he had joined the freedom fighters as the rebels were known to their supporters.
But not all who voted with their feet were able to carry guns: weapons were in short supply, and so were food, medicine and clothing. It was decided by the rebel leadership that very young volunteers had to be assigned some roles to play in the war of liberation. Some of those youths were trained as scouts or agents, who were secretly sent to towns to spy on government’s positions and installations, list and keep tabs on the names of Southern Sudanese collaborators with security agents in the Government of Sudan.
In later years, scouts worked closely with chiefs and other traditional leaders to organise food supplies for the fighters or to help in collection of funds that were taken to the Congo for buying weapons from the defeated Simba rebels. The scouts also worked closely with the secret internal cells and assisted nationalists intending to defect to the fighters. Amos Ajak was one of the active scouts in Bor home district, Bor, after returning from the border between Southern Sudan and the Congo, where he had received military training of sorts.
In mid- 1960s the Anya Nya leadership decided that formal education was so important as part of the struggle that some students were allowed to resume schooling.
Amos Ajak returned to town, but unlike most of his comrades, he decided to work in the North where he got a job in a factory. It is to be recalled that some workers contributed parts of their wages for supporting the rebels and the struggle by means collecting money for buying medicine and facilitating couriers. Ajak and his colleagues who worked in the civil service financed the armed struggle via the underground cells in Northern cities, where there was little fear of government spies to uncover their networks and anti-State activities; the bulk of government’s security personnel were concentrated in urban centres of Southern Sudan. The rural population also contributed food and money for the rebels to acquire weapons. At a later stage in the second half of the 1960s young peasants sold some of the livestock, and travelled to the Congo to acquire weapons; some of them underwent military training with Anya Nya, and later participated in pitched battles as well as ambushes, guerrillas’ favourite method.
While in Khartoum North where he worked, Amos Ajak continued his singing as a hobby, receiving no pay for his labour. It was at that time that he composed his famous song “Abängda Yïn Anhiaar”, which became an instant hit when Omdurman Radio, the State broadcaster, began to play it. The lyrics were so moving that some of the listeners were reported to weep when it was being played. With music arranged and supplied by the station orchestra, the song was rated one of the best in languages other than Arabic. Among Ajak became the darling of the youth of both gender.
A rough translation of the name of the song in Dinka goes “I love you our beloved baby”. In fact, “abäng” is a word without a single nearest equivalent in English as the word stands for what one would call typical classical Dinka and very poetical. Without the possessive “da” (our), “abäng” means young, pure, innocent, beloved, pristine, ethereal, seedling, babe, among many others. Paradoxically, the word gets its clear meaning within the context of mourning. In the past, a mother, for instance, who lost a young child would utter heart-rending wail “Abäng-dï mawoou!” repeatedly. “Dï” is possessive for “my”. In this sense “abäng” symbolises the possible best person, idea or object that could be. For one to refer a sweetheart as abäng was to say she was more than darling or even honey. Singing and poetry in Dinka was getting into a new and unchartered territory, linguistically speaking. Amos Ajak was one of the pioneers in the brave new world of spiced metaphors in lyrics.
From a best man to a suitor
Although Amos Ajak had by then established himself as an accomplished composer and singer, with an electrifying voice, he did not give up his job as a factory worker to become a full time performing artist.
A turning point in his personal life, however, happened in 1968 when his friend Kothia Kuany Mabior Juarwel asked him to be his best man at his wedding to Akeer Gak. The bride had her cousin Duoom Arok Goch as her maid of honour.
Those formal relations later mellowed into a firm love between Amos and Duoom, who in less a year became sweet-hearts, wife and husband. In fact, it appears “Abäng-da Yïn Anhiaar” was a courtship song that predated the marriage of the former best man to the former maid of honour. The couples have five daughters and a son, with their own children at the time of Amos Ajak’ passing.
Amos Ajak the cop
Four years after that wedding an agreement that temporarily ended the first civil war was concluded between the government of Jaafar Nimeiri and the rebels of Southern Sudan Liberation Movement, SSLM, and its military wing, Anya Nya. The accord called the Addis Ababa Agreement, had given the former rebels the right to have 6,000 men to be integrated into the regular forces- Army, Police, Prison Service wardens, and Wildlife Department.
The Anya Nya command kept the lists of their sleepers (intelligence jargon for elements belonging to an enemy group operating clandestinely within the territory of their enemy). Some of these secret agents were taken as officers, non-commissioned officers, (NCOs) and men in the new regular forces of the Republic of Sudan. Amos Ajak Garang was absorbed as a sergeant major in the Police force in Juba. He continued to sing to entertain huge gatherings, and always for free. One of these was when he entertained the President of the High Executive Council, Abel Alier, and accompanying VIPs during the inauguration of new studios for Radio Juba in 1975. On that night of celebration, I had the honour of receiving and escorting the VIPs to their seats, a first for me, and which I exceedingly relished.
Rebel for a second time
When the entire Police force under the command of Colonel Makuei Deng Majuch in Bor, the capital of what was Jonglei Province, rebelled in 1984 to join the rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, the SPLA, Amos Ajak Garang was with the force that soon was integrated into the SPLA. Those elements soon took part in battles before they had been given refresher guerrilla tactics or general military training. At the time of his defection Amos Ajak was a sergeant major in the police force.
While in the SPLA, Amos Ajak was waging the liberation struggle using his Kalashnikov rifle as well as his creative mind and golden voice to keep the morale of his fellow combatants high with his inspiring and revolutionary songs.
His comrades and the rest of Radio SPLA listeners fondly remember to this day Ajak’s memorable “Kapoeta”, a song he composed in standard Arabic mainly for the consumption of the oppressors in power in Khartoum.
Ajak composed this expressive cry from the heart after the capture of Kapoeta garrison by the SPLA in later 1980s in a battle in which some of his comrades fell. In part, the songster wonders why he- representing every oppressed and marginalised South Sudanese- should be hungry and naked- metaphorically of course- in his homeland which is very rich in everything. “Asma’ Sauti ana fi Medina Kapoeta” (Hear my Voice in Kapoeta Town) in reality this is and will remain one of the odes to the cause of liberation struggle and its justification.
Poor health
Amos Ajak was not always in good health despite the fact that he had a well built frame. When I met him in Yei after the liberation of that important town a few months earlier in 1997, he was recovering from wounds he sustained after a vehicle he and his colleagues were travelling in had overturned, killing several of them.
During the SPLM-Church dialogue, which resulted in what was later dubbed Kajiko, after the village of that name, and which was the venue of the conference, after which the two bodies endorsed the “Liberation Theology”, I noticed a disturbing trend in the singer: a desire to sing at every interlude. When I privately complained to a mutual friend about what I had observed, he told me that singing was a form of therapy for Ajak. I agreed. That was the last time I saw Amos Ajak Garang.
From that time until the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, CPA, in 2005, Alternate Commander Amos Ajak Garang was the commander of the SPLA Military Band, a position he used not only as a leader but one for training the personnel of the inchoate military organs of prestige and protocols, all symbols of State in the making. The SPLA Military Band plays our national anthem during State functions.
After the end of the armed conflict in 2005, Amos Ajak was one of the former SPLA who became senior officers in the standing Army of Southern Sudan, and later of sovereign South Sudan. His rank of alternate commander was converted into that of a full colonel. He was later transferred and deployed as a colonel in the Southern Sudan Police Service, where he served until his death.
Ties going back to parents
Late Amos Ajak Garang had several ties with me, some which, sometimes take me to my childhood in rural Southern Sudan. As a former school-mate he was both a colleague and friend. I still remember him as a warm sensitive, kindly human being. During the last war of liberation, we were comrades-in arms. We also had blood ties.
We often used to address each other as “Molën”, an abbreviated Dinka slang for “Mɛnh de Malën” or child of mother’s sister, to translate it literally. His biological mother was not sister to my mother, but his wife Duoom’s mother, Gak Bior Aguer Ajang, was a distant cousin of my mother Nyanluak Bior Aguek. Not only were the two girls- my mother and Ajak’s mothr in law- from Paan-Bior clan related by blood; they too were next door neighbours in the Piom de Wun Aguer village. The pair was dancing-mates according to cultural trend of their time: a pair of girls would dance with a pair of young men; the sets were often close relatives or friends.
Gak’s father, Bior Aguer, known universally within the community by his personality ox nickname of Bäny de Aliap was in charge of the luak (cattle byre) that housed the Kongor Wut (group of clans) totem in the form of a drum called Mayom. The custody of the emblem of the divinity and its shrine was the responsibility of Bior Bäny de Aliap. (Godfrey Lienhardt, the famous anthropologist visited the luak while he was passing through the area in the early 1950s. In his book, Divinity and Experience: The Religion of the Dinka, Prof Lienhardt narrates a short incident about his visit to the luak).
Personal link
The totem’s abode was known as Luaŋ de Lɔ̈ɔ̈r (Luang de Loor) or the Byre of the Drum. My mother’s name was derived from this building. Nyanluak in some Dinka communities is a name given to a girl born in a luak. My mother was not; she was named after the Luang de Loor in the neighbourhood of her family’s homestead.
Alas, that place and its spiritual symbols have gone, thanks to the work of modern barbarians, who in the moment of their madness turned the Big Houses into ashes in the 1990s. Misguided Christians with very little knowledge of their newly acquired faith and lacking in tolerance of other people’s faiths and their symbols, they destroyed what would qualify for the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Unesco, world ‘s heritage sites and objects.
Adieu Molën
I have learned that late Amos Ajak Garang was going through savage ravages of cancer characterised by constant and relentless excruciating pain and agony to his loved ones. When an end to such a long and painful condition comes and prevails, with no hope of reversal is in sight, the inevitable, although premature and unwanted end, might be welcome, sadly. In the same vein there is bound to be some sort of relief, mixed with deep and sincere sorrow for the loss of such a great person and citizen, who made a difference for the better for their country and its people.
I say: Adieu Molën! and may your memory live on for a very long time to come. You deserve to be missed and remembered by family, comrades-in-arms and all those who yearn for freedom and justice, norms you and your comrades fought for and won. You and fellow freedom fighters fought a good fight and the crown is the independence, which we, including the former turncoats, now enjoy and celebrate.
Colonel Amos Ajak Garang died in Juba in 2013. He was buried at Sherikat, a suburb of Juba on the eastern bank of Supiri as the White Nile is known in Bari. This tribute was published in the Citizen daily newspaper, in Juba the same week he died.

TRIBUTE John Luk Jok: a bright and articulate lawyer by Atem Yaak Atem

While I was writing these lines I was- and continue to be- full of sorrow over loss after loss of many people- all over the world in general and South Sudan in particular-due partly to Covid-19 and other causes. Some of the departed South Sudanese public figures were either friends or individuals I have worked with or known for varying lengths of time. Among those who have passed on since early this year- in the order the precedence- are Edward Lino Wuor Abyei; Dr Mansour Khalid- a Sudanese national but a compatriot by deeds and spirit- and former SPLM Politburo member; former Minister for Justice, Paulino Wanawilla; Prof Aggrey Ayuen Majok, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Rumbek of Science and Technology; Justice Bullen Panchol Awal, former Judge of Supreme Court; former Minister for Wildlife and Environment, Jonglei State, Nyang Lul; the immediate serving East African Affairs Minister, John Luk Jok, and General John Diing Deng Arok, formerly of South Sudan Prison Service. The last two passed away the same day on June 2, 2020.

I have written full appreciations, each of for the persons named here, but only abridged versions will be released separately, beginning with this tribute.

Student days

Most members of South Sudan’s members of the ruling elites are likely to have known each other during their school days, in the region’s bushes or in exile during the two civil wars of the 1960s and that one from 1983-2005.

I first met John Luk Jok Ruach at Rumbek Secondary School, then relocated to Omdurman in Northern Sudan towards the end of 1960s because of the then prevailing insecurity in Southern Sudan. We went to the University of Khartoum but to separate faculties; he at Law while I was at Arts. Although we remotely knew each other, one would not claim any form of friendship existed between us during those student days.

Before his admission to the university, John Luk, Hussein Ajuong (from Renk), Timothy Tot Chol, and Abraham Kot, among others, had already been taken as the first batch of new public administrators- provincial and district administration- when the Government of Southern Region was formed in March 1972.

After obtaining his law degree in the second half of the 1970s, John Luk made history in then sub-national entity, Southern Region, as one of the two graduates to enter politics almost straight from college. The other was his fellow law graduate, Hugo Dhol Achuil Aleu, who was appointed in 1978 as commissioner of Lakes Province by the newly elected President of the High Executive Council, Joseph Lagu.

While John Luk was a member of the legislative body, the People’s Regional Assembly, where he represented public administrators, I was with the press. Although my assignments as a reporter and later as an editor, took me to follow debate in the House’s press gallery, I don’t remember ever listening to John Luk taking part. But I learned from his fellow legislators that he was a keen observer of parliamentary procedures, and that he was a bright and competent debater, who used cogent arguments in defence of his position.

John Luk the politician, was known to have been a protégé of the President of the High Executive Council, Abel Alier, and Peter Gatkuoth Gual, who like John Luk hailed from Akobo District. Peter Gatkuoth, after whom Luk had named one of his sons, Peter, was a widely respected politician for his fairness, intellectual acumen and staunch patriotism. Gatkuoth and his colleague, Hilary Paulo Logali, whom he succeeded at the Finance and Economic Development Ministry, have been described by those who knew them as the Presidents Southern Sudan never had. The two politicians who were staunch supporters of the SPLM/A died before the region gained its independence in 2011.

Fellow students in the UK

In 1981, John Luk and I were travelling to study in London, both of us for the second year as students.  He was going to begin a post graduate degree study in law at the London School of Economics. I was in transit to Cardiff, where I was to do a research for a post graduate degree in media at the University of Wales.

There is a local saying that when two or more persons are faced with a common problem, their hardship usually brings them closer together. This is what happened to John Luk and me in September 1982. We had booked a Khartoum-London flight of Sudan Airways. Since our flight was scheduled for early morning departure, we would wake up and prepare for a taxi drive to the airport around three in the morning.

For about four consecutive days, we had to return to the hotel where we were living after we had been informed the flight we were to board had been cancelled. Reasons for cancellations were always different but flimsy and hardly convincing. These including claims such as weather being not good or at other, that one the aircraft’s engines had developed a technical problem. It was very exhausting and financially draining. Our shared disappointment built in each of us a kind of solidarity: comrades in victimhood. It was widely believed that the airline’s management were conducting a sabotage mission against the government of President Jaafar Nimeiri, in the hope that the disgruntled populace would rise and rid themselves of the system.

By the time we arrived London, we had become friends. Since we were going to study in different cities, we only met whenever I went to London for matters related to my research or for a break. When his family joined him some months later, I would stay with him at his rented house in Brixton, a suburb in southern London.

During those brief stays, from time to time I learned a lot- from my conversation with Luk- about laws governing natural resources, as well as how countries rich in natural resources, apportion national wealth accruing from wealth such as minerals. Elites from the former Southern Region had particular interest in the knowledge of percentages allotted to a central government, and its regions, particularly the area where such resources like oil are located. At the time the Government of Sudan was doing what was in their power to deny the South its rightful share of revenue from the oil that had been found in Bentiu District, renamed Unity by Nimeiri for the purpose of obscuring the place of origin- Southern Region. Late William Kon Bior, Luk’s colleague at the Faculty of Law was also studying Law of the Sea with special emphasis with carriage of goods, a field related to what Luk was studying. Southern Sudan had a bright future considering that its citizens were acquiring technical skills that were going to be of paramount importance in the development of the region and its future. Juba had invested in its citizens. The challenge then as is now remains: do we utilise skills paid for by our taxpayers? In a few cases, the answer may be yes. John Luk could be cited as one of those exceptions because he happened to have been appointed to where his expertise could come in handy: Ministry of Legal Affairs.

I was not surprised later after the region became a sovereign State to learn that John Luk was one of the architects behind the creation of the “sovereign fund”, money from oil revenue set aside for future generations and their benefit. The scheme was conceived and spelled out on the Norwegian model.

Events in London to remember

During one of my visits to London, as usual I put up with Luk’s family. One morning as he was waiting for a telephone call from overseas, I volunteered to take his two children to their school, which was a walking distance from home. When we reached the school’s gate other children were entering the compound. Brixton at the time had a sizeable population of people of African descent, most of them from West Indies. The presence of the West Indian in the area was also reflected in the number of their children in the school Luk’s boys attended.

For the first few minutes the boys and I passed through a bevy of generally happy schoolchildren, without anything untoward. But after we had left the gate behind us and a few steps towards the classroom buildings, where I was intending to leave the boys and then return home, a boy of about eight years old stopped, stepped forward and pointed at me as he was shouting “Nigger!” Although he had a slightly lighter skin colour, he was of mixed race. Surprised by the unexpected and unprovoked rudeness I was unprepared for an appropriate response. For Ruach, it was a reflex.

“Why do you call my uncle like that…” Before he could finish his angry words Ruach had already slapped hard his colleague on the left check. I was having a full blown fight and altercation on my watch. I quickly rushed to separate them, with a rebuke to Ruach that it was not good for him to resort to force. As Ruach was fuming with anger, three of his friends, who were all whites, joined- showing an open solidarity with him- as they walked into parade ground. It was time for me to return home.

Days later when I narrated the incident to a fellow Southern Sudanese, the answer was a compliment to Ruach, of course, in absentia, who according to him had done “the right thing. He is a typical Southern Sudanese. That is what we are; proud not ready to accept an insult lying down. I am proud of him. You should have complimented him.” I prefer here to withhold the response I gave to that friend’s remarks.

A row in a sitting room

That incident involving children was of minor significance compared to the following story. While I was preparing to report to the SPLM/A headquarters, I moved to London where I was going to spend the few days there before my departure. That was in May 1984. As usual I put up with John Luk and his family.

Most of us- former students- had by that time dissolved our underground political organisation- the Sudan Revolutionary Movement – to transform it to a chapter of the SPLM in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. John Luk’s residence sometimes served as a venue for meetings as well as other social events as most of the members lived outside London.

One after noon, a semi-official meeting related to the affairs of the SPLM took place in Luk’s house. We were about 10. The only person whose name I will reveal was one of my trusted friends, John Ruach Jal, who like me was staying with the Luk’s family at that time. He had come- for the meeting- from Liverpool where he and his family lived. As we were talking, Rhoda, Luk’s wife, was preparing a meal for us in the kitchen very close to the lounge, and as such she could clearly hear our voice, especially as tempers were rising unexpectedly.

In the middle of the talk that was supposed to be quiet and friendly, John Luk began to raise his voice. He was questioning one of our comrades over a matter related to the affairs of the organisation, this time the SPLM.

Worried about what she had noted as out of the ordinary, Rhoda came out of the kitchen to politely tell Luk that a quarrel with visitors or guests in one’s own home was unacceptable and had to stop. But Luk politely waved her away and continued with the sensitive subject. His words were more of a reprimand to our comrade than they would be under a normal conversation.

For fear of a possible inaccuracy in a verbatim recall and rendering of the quotations from what John Luk was saying to the colleague, I will here have to paraphrase the substance of the topic and John Luk’s message. Likewise, I will be concealing some of the facts that may give away the person John Luk was arguing with.

When the SPLM/A was formed, its leaders had to solicit for both diplomatic and material support for its cause. Chapters abroad had to acquire rented spaces and facilities for their activities. That required funds from both members, supporters, foreign or Sudanese.

In London a mzungu businessman gave financial assistance to the SPLM Chapter. The amount received was too small by corporate standards, but since the needs for the office that had just been established were modest, so the gifted amount could be judged to be quite sufficient, at least for the time being. The funds were strictly for official use, not for personal benefit of any member of the movement. Without any known exception, all the members of the chapter had their different sources of income for their individual needs, including livelihood. None of us was rich, but neither a pauper, desperate for daily bread.

The donor was a crafty person. He told- separately and secretly- several members of the chapter’s steering committee, of which John Luk was one, the amount of money he had given to the organisation. The businessman then instructed his secretary to do likewise before she could hand out the money to a nominated member one behalf of the chapter.

In the house the member of the committee who had signed for the donated money declared an amount that was about 20 percent short of the figure the businessman had disclosed to the other members. Matters came to head when John Luk asked his colleague to explain the discrepancy. When his colleague was firm that the sum he had declared was the exact money he had signed for and received from the secretary, Luk was not convinced. He continued to ask question after question, concluding the session with a lecture: the SPLM/A was waging the liberation war to end a bad system of rule in Sudan, and that it was regrettable that fraudulent practices had been detected at such an early stage of the revolutionary fervour.

Since none of us sitting and quietly listening had attempted to say a word to contradict or request Luk from grousing, Rhoda, who didn’t have a clue about the problem, had no single ally, with the exception of the one receiving the lecture from John Luk on probity and trust. To Luk, those norms were some of the principal objectives the SPLM/A was fighting to achieve.

It was time for the meal to be served. Days later I was gone to Africa. A couple of months after that I learned that the problem had been solved by means of what was called a refund, repayment, return- I am not sure the exact word that was used to describe the remedial settlement. That was became possible thanks to Luk’s decision to dispense with civility, which could have been maintained at the expense of lofty principles.

SPLA Penal and Disciplinary Laws

At the formation of the SPLM/A, Martin Majier Gai, a former magistrate, legislator and minister in Government of Southern Sudan in Juba, was appointed as the head the Legal Affairs and Administration. It was his office that drafted the SPLA Disciplinary and Penal Laws of 1984. Martin Majier and John Luk were credited with softening the originally harsh tone of the laws that were designed to guide the conduct of the war. The laws assigned the SPLA fighters as well as the civil population the responsibility of protecting the environment in general and the wildlife in particular, which with the availability of man guns in war zones would be vulnerable to poaching and large scale slaughter for food.

Days of split within the SPLM/A

During the split within the SPLM/A of 1991, John Luk was with the Nasir faction led by Riek Machar while I remained with what was known the movement’s mainstream or Torit faction under John Garang. When the rupture occurred while I was at Kapoeta, where Garang and most of the members of the leadership were preparing for a scheduled meeting in which the commanders at Nasir were expected to attend.

At that time members of my nuclear family was among the thousands of Sudanese refugees who had fled from western Ethiopia- after the change of regime there- to Nasir across the border. Although there were flights operated by international humanitarian NGOs between Nasir and Kapoeta, my family, who were with very young children including a two-month old daughter, were unable to find seats on those planes, to join me in Kapoeta. They remained at Nasir from 1991 to 1994.

For much of that time I was living in the displaced persons’ camp at Ame in Eastern Equatoria, where I had to depend on the generosity of two friends and their families since I was not receiving relief food rations. (Although food and other necessities were given to the displaced persons on the basis of headcounts, the corrupt camp administration denied persons without families their share).

In 1993, a friend, Dr Lual A. L. Deng secured me a consultancy at the African Development Bank in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where he was a senior executive member. While in transit in Nairobi, I was able to meet members of the Nasir faction. I had to seek their approval to grant me a written permission to facilitate family reunion.

To state that relations between the two factions were not good at that material moment would be an understatement: raw emotions on both sides were very high. It was therefore natural my visit to their humanitarian office in the Kenyan capital was a trying time for me and the friend I had requested to accompany me to what we considered as a lion’s den.

In the factional fighting that erupted immediately after the declaration of the abortive overthrow of Garang, thousands of people, mostly civilians, died in the ensuring fighting and later in the retaliatory skirmishes. Loss of hundreds of thousands of livestock in the affected areas were stolen, leaving their owners destitute. The resulting insecurity also created what was later called Hunger Triangle- Waat, Ayod and Kongor, my native home area. Figures from the reports from humanitarian organisations about death from famine and disease vary, but they are very high; in hundreds of thousands of people of all ages and gender.

On a personal note, such devastating losses in human lives, affected me as I lost many members of my extended family. Those included my elderly step-mother, her daughter (my half-sister) with her husband and their four children, my two elder brothers, of whom one of them lost six of his children; while three of my nieces all under the 14 were abducted. The losses also included several cousins and their families.

Just a day before my visit to the Relief Association for South Sudan (RASS) office, my colleague, Cdr Meshach Madol Yol. * and I were walking on Nairobi’s Denis Pritt Road when we suddenly came face to face with John Luk, Simon Mori Diduma, Gordon Koang Chol, Barry Wanji, and other senior members in the Nasir faction’s leadership. Could we detour to avoid meeting them? No. It was too late to come face to face with them, as they were about two metres away, walking to their cars parked nearby. There was also some hesitation on the other side until John Luk shouted “Hi my friends Atem and Brezhenev!”1 John Luk had broken the ice, so to speak. We were soon hugging each other, the Sudanese way.

As were about to leave for our separate directions, Barry Wanji2, who was a member of the Nasir faction, and who was with the group we had accidentally met, got hold of my hand and pulled me aside. What he wanted to tell Meshach and me was how puzzled he was. He told us he couldn’t believe his eyes seeing us greeting each other as we, on both side of the political and military divides, behaved as if we were the best friends ever at the time when nobody (on both sides) was prepared to put aside the conflict with its bleeding wounds since the August 28, 1991, the date when the BBC’s correspondent in Nasir town, Collin Blaine, reported the announcement of Garang’s overthrow as the leader of the founding leader of SPLM/A. What its leaders later dubbed as a creeping revolution was soon followed by heavy fighting with an immense loss of many lives and unleashing of anarchy- lasting a more than four years- at the theatre of fighting, mainly in Jonglei Province.

Time is the greatest healer of wounds and broken hearts. A couple of years after that John Luk and some of his colleagues re-joined the SPLM/A mainstream. He did the right thing by establishing a centre for documentation: he created an assignment for himself that gave him a sense of independence, not someone seeking for an assignment. Documentation was in itself a service to society since the war had largely destroyed important documents in major towns of Southern Sudan.

The centre produced a monthly magazine, South Sudan Post in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Some years later John Luk offered me a job as a consulting editor on the magazine he founded and ran in Nairobi. The fees I was receiving became a source of income in a Nairobi in which life for most of the refugees was most brutish and almost short. My co-worker was Stephen Tut Puol, who instantly became a friend to me. We are still good pals to this day.

While on the publication I learned that John Luk would only supervise a staff member when that person appeared to be in need of help or couching on the job, but on the whole he would give everyone working with him a lot of room for taking an initiative or action. I learned also that John Luk was a widely read person, who effectively and judiciously applied the vast amount of knowledge he had accumulated over the years of study and voracious reading of serious authors and their works.

Both friends and adversaries admitted John Luk’s brilliance and clarity of thought. During negotiations, for example, friends and allies welcomed those attributes, while opponents dreaded them like lethal weapons.

Last meeting

In the second half of 2016 I met John Luk in Nairobi, where I was passing in transit from Uganda on my way to Australia. He and his colleagues who were arrested and detained- after being accused of an attempt to overthrow the government in Juba-and later released to Kenya after the charges had been dismissed by court.

Consistent with my habit of collecting a few choicest paperbacks and ties as gifts to friends on my return home from a long visit to a foreign country, that time I gave Luk a copy of The Road to Ruin: How Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin Destroy Their Own Government, an expose by an Australian journalist, Niki Savva. The book is about how a chief of staff, an office holder we in South Sudan usually call either as office manager or private secretary, ran the office of the former Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, in a manner that even ministers could be denied seeing their boss. Friends advised the prime minister that such insubordination by the chief of staff had created bad feelings within the government and outside it, and that such behaviour would bring ruin or his downfall. The advice of those friends and from party senior advisers went unheeded. Soon, a colleague their ruling party challenged the prime minister for the post. At the party boardroom the majority of the MPs voted out the prime minister. The way his office was run had alienated and angered a lot of colleagues. It is a book with good lessons for nearly everyone in public life, whether corporate, political or in life in general.

I knew the story would not be a surprise to John Luk; he must have read similar abuses of public office of a similar nature by public servants worldwide. When I gave him the book I added “Please pass it to some of your friends after you are through with it.” Until his passing I haven’t had any feedback on the book from him or whether he had lent it to any of his colleagues, especially after he later re-joined the government in accordance with the terms of the peace agreement of 2016.     

Not the time for criticism

I have read some writings critical of late John Luk at the time he was Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development. Such criticisms, along the line of the one published in the recent edition of the Kenyan Daily Nation, cite some changes to the constitution of South Sudan, especially the sections that removed some powers from state governors to the country’s executive head of State as a point of censure for his role.

Like the rest of us, John Luk erred in his public life. But writers of such complaints unfortunately don’t mention anything about his courage to acknowledge the mistake he made and went out publicly with a written apology. It is human to make mistakes, but it requires honesty and huge amount of moral courage for one to admit an error, intended or inadvertent.

It is rare for many politicians to admit their shortcomings. John Luk will go down in our history as one of the few people of my generation to own up. This is important considering that until recent times, in some Nilotic societies it was not considered to be “manly” (my apologies for the use of this sexist word) for one to publicly declare mea culpa (through my fault) as it was considered to be a form of weakness. John Luk was such a civilised person that there was no room in his mind to accommodate obsolete concepts and practices which are in conflict with modernity and a changed world.

Finally, it is not only in bad taste to lash out at a deceased person- who will not be able to defend themselves- at the time his family, colleagues and the country are mourning his loss; in many cultures the world over, this is not done as it is inappropriate soon after the demise of the person, no matter how that person was regarded in life.

Atem Yaak Atem is a South Sudanese journalist and author.

1Meshach Madol Yol, is a telecommunication engineer who trained in the former Soviet Union was my deputy while we were running Radio SPLA. It was from that Soviet background where he acquired the nickname of Brezhnev, who was one of the prominent leaders of the former the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Meshach Madol received military training at the SPLA officers’ centre during the war and was commissioned captain. Captain Meshach Madol Yol later served in Western Upper Zone as deputy to Major Riek Machar. He is currently a senior director in the Department of Telecommunications within the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in Juba.

2Barry Wanji was an academic and a firebrand revolutionary. He was a friend to me. In 1985 Barry Wani and I attended SPLA batch three officers’ course, known as Shield Three. Some of my colleagues during the 1985 military training included Gen Obuto Mete Mamur, late Gen Philip Chol Biowei, late Cdr Majok Ayuen Kur, Judge Ayuel Parmena Bul.