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

LEFT ALONE IN THE JOURNEY OF LIFE (4)

Egoism is what destroys relationships between us. It is also something that sometimes takes men away from God, as well as from recognition of God, the creator and sustainer of all. This makes Egoism as the major promoter of poverty and suffering in our contemporary societies. Egoism makes us want more and more, and therefore, nothing seems to be enough to us even if we are rich with millions of money while this may be more than what we really need. Egoism makes mankind unconcerned with other people’s welfare and that is why, we are no longer concerned with the welfare of the people in our neighbourhood to the extent that, we have more but we can’t note that we have got more. We don’t even share or give away some of what we have, or no longer needs or uses, to others who might need, or use.
Sometimes we feel happy to throw what we no longer need or use to dustbins than to give to others who might need or use it. Our egoism is making us forget that any person in crisis needs us more in their lives than ever before. In fact, crisis presents opportunities for us to love, to appreciate, and to have mercy on others. A time of crisis is an opportunity to do good things to others that, we never got it before to do it. Thus, crisis time is a time in life where we all ought to re-examine our purpose of life and come to our own judgment whether we live as God created us to live for His Glory by taking care of His other creatures; or we just live as we want to live our lives. Therefore, crisis era is the best epoch for us to look into ourselves, our attitudes toward the poor, or those in crisis and then examine our own individualistic interests in light of humanity. A time of crisis is a time for us to do to others the best of our bests, which we have never done before, this makes a time of crisis not only a time we should know ourselves if we are selfish or not, but also a time to extend God’s love to others, as well as to allow ourselves to be vessels of blessing to other souls. We need to be good to others because our generosity is not only the medicine that heals those in crisis, but also the reason those in crisis praise God because of our deeds. Egoism is a weapon of people’s destruction. There are lots of people in this world that are capable of great and to bring changes in our world, to restore peace and happiness that this world is lacking; but they are buried alive by suffering in our midst because of our egoism. We are there, but not concerned, we left others to suffer and could not offer our best to save and serve them. We have got to love others; we have got to change in order to change this world because to change our World demands that we avoid facing back to those in suffering, but to face them and come nearer to them for their salvation.

Opinion: …what is being labelled as, “mass exodus from the SPLM/SPLA (IO)”,

The public should not be dismayed. In any conflict, there are those who collaboratorate with the enemy – this is not peculiar to the SPLM/SPLA (IO) – it is part of every known conflict in world history. The peoples’ Movement has survived defections since Gen. Lul Ruai (2015), Gen. Gathoth Gatkuoth and Gen. Peter Gadet (2015), to Gen Taban (2016), to Gen. Wnag Ckok (2017), Deng Vanang (2018), Gen. James Ochan in 2019. The latest defections are the class of 2020 – as it were – starting with the army Generals and now followed by Politicians. Our civil population should not be alarmed by this mischief – like silver – it is how we continue to be refined in the crucible of revolution.
The historic struggle of our civil population for total liberation has taken many forms throughout time and the latest manifestation of this is the SPLM/SPLA (IO) – formed in response to the failure of the preceding Movement to deliver the promise of the liberation struggle. This Movement – as President Lincoln would say; “of the people, by the people and for the people” – cannot be rocked by defections, they in fact make us stronger. The major talking points of those who have been lured by the counter intelligence of the SPLM/SPLA (IG) – representing the barbaric status quo – claim that the people’s Movement belongs to one family (by which they mean Dr. Riek Machar’s). This is the language of people who have surrendered and are looking for an exit from the struggle.
We say, “go in peace”!
The public must understand that what has been labled as, “an exodus from the SPLM/SPLA (IO)”, is nothing more than the surrender of some of our politicians, who are talking advantage of the weaker position of the peoples’ Movemenr in this Agreement and are threatening the Chairman for jobs. The entire leadership and the members of the peoples’ Movement are dissapointed in the manner the decision to go to Juba was taken and even more, when the R-TGONU was formed – many have alleged, President Salva Kiir to have a hand in our affairs. The feelings of many Comrades are valid; however, defecting to the side of the traditional elite, who maintain a more brutal system than any previous oppressors, is not the solution. Our love for our people and for the country, must exceed any disappointment. I cannot say that there are no problems in the peoples’ Movement – yes, we got problems – we are cut from the same cloth as the SPLM/SPLA (IG), as it were. The histories of the SPLM/SPLA (IO) and that of the SPLM/SPLA (IG), are inextricably linked. Many of our Comrades have been groomed in the same system we are trying to destroy – they have no other reference – we can call them the traditional elites in the opposition and they don’t want to see the end of the status quo, but are fighting to be the masters of it.
The politicians of the SPLM/SPLA (IO) – though an important part of the body – do not constitute the backbone of our peoples’ historic struggle for total liberation. We must remember that the SPLM/SPLA (IO) was founded in response to the events of the Juba Massacre of December 2013 and the subsequent intercommunal violence. This violence turned the calls of our peoples’ for radical reforms, into the most vicious tribal war ever experienced by our civil population. The civil defence forces – the white Army, Agwelek, Arrow Boys – together with the SPLA (IO) and our civil population are the backbone of our peoples’ struggle and they continue to demonstrate this as they continue to confront the regime’s militias under Gen. Ochan in Maiwut.
This is the conflic we are desperately trying to end in the midst of all the confusion by so-called politicians. All the revolutionary forces in our country – from IO, SSOMA,SSOA, FD’s,OPP and IG – must understand, the time has come to transform the struggle so that it is consistent with objective reality. The new political dispensation is more favourable for non-violent action and all the revolutionary intellectuals in our country must unite and engage in National Mobilization for fundamental change in our country. If our peoples are not free to assemble and express their views – at John Garang Mausoleum in Juba and at all the Freedom Squares in the 10 States – then what kind of peace are we really talking about? The struggle must go on, until we have concentrated power back into the hands of our people.
A luta continua!
Cpt. Mabior Garang Mobile Office 18/04/2020

Remembering Edward Mustafa Dut Lino Wor Abyei By Francis Mading Deng

I have given the full name of Edward Mustafa Dut Lino Wor Abyei, as I know it, because in our traditional system, names are important as they are a metaphoric core of one’s background and identity. Edward’s full name reflects the elements of Sudanese diversity and is therefore a microcosm of the country for which he struggled so much to liberate, and for which in varying ways he sacrificed his life. The names were presumably given by his father, Ustaz Lino Wor Abyei, a giant educationalist, who was educated in both the North and the South of Sudan, and who introduced modern education to the Ngok Dinka and taught throughout Southern Sudan. Ustaz Lino Wor’s students remember him with the reverence and affection of children for their father. I used to call him Ustaz-na al-Azeem, ‘Our Great Master’, to which he always reacted with characteristic dignified humility, ‘What Great!? Toward the end of his life, Ustaz Lino Wor Abyei wrote me a letter reflecting on his innovative educational work in Abyei in close partnership with our father, Deng Majok, whom he referred to as ‘my brother’, and more generally on his life as an educator. In that letter, he expressed great satisfaction and pride in seeing his students rise to important positions at home and abroad. Edward’s identity also links the country across ethnic divides, his mother, Angelina Kongbuo, being from the Ndogo of Wau; theirs was one of the earliest mixed marriages among our people, now increasingly becoming accepted in Southern Sudan. Angelina’s father, Norberto Kongbuo, whom Edward said was nick-named an-Nur, was one of the carpenters who constructed the ferry boat structure across Kiir River at Akecnhial. As they say, a fruit does not fall far from the tree that produced it; Edward’s service to his people and his country was the fruit of his family background. As I followed with great appreciation the enormous outpouring of messages in mourning the tragic loss to our people and our nation and indeed to humanity caused by the death of Edward Lino, I was once more reminded of the words of William Shakespeare in the speech of Mark Anthony to the Romans, eulogizing Emperor Julius Caesar, who had just been assassinated, words with which I have always disagreed. As I recall, Mark Anthony said, “The evil that men do lives after them, and the good is often interned with their bones.” Quite the contrary, our humanistic instinct always seems to glorify our dead by recalling their good deeds with greater exaltation than was the case during their lifetime. Although Edward Lino enjoyed much recognition and respect in his lifetime, I wish he was able to follow all the wonderful things being said about him after his death, of course all well deserved, but not revealed to him in his lifetime. Knowing Edward’s dignified humility, like his father, I believe he would not have wanted the order reversed. Also knowing his self confidence with due modesty, he probably knew all the good things now being said about him. He might even have said, “I thought you did not know.” And considering the lonely world of his suffering over the last few years of his fight against the terminal illness that slowly consumed his life, it would not have been easy for him to know how much his people and country held him in such high regard. When I last visited Edward Lino in Nairobi and found him sitting in a wheel chair, I saw how much the illness had consumed his physical body, but how much alive his jovial spirit and sparkling interaction with life were still glowing on his face. Ironically, the very day of his death, my wife Dorothy and I were talking on the phone; she was in the United States and I in Nairobi. My family knew Edward well because he stayed in our house when he was representing the SPLM/A in Washington and both my wife and our four sons had become very fond of him. My wife asked whether I had visited Edward. I said I had not because of the social distancing rules of Coronavirus, but that I would visit him as soon as that was permissible. I was not aware that just before I arrived in Nairobi, he had been taken to India for treatment. Almost immediately after my wife and I hang up, I got a phone call from Mustafa Biong to give me the tragic news. Of course, knowing how long Edward had been ill, the eventual end was not unexpected, but that did not make the news any less shocking. It is always difficult to think of such a powerful life as no longer with us. But that is the inevitable destiny for all. Much of what was special about Edward Lino has been said in the messages that have been pouring in, and will undoubtedly continue to pour in, mourning his death. Edward is widely acknowledged as a brave fighter, both physically and verbally, for equality and dignity for all Sudanese, indeed all human beings. This was a principle that underlay his ideological commitment which has been given a variety of labels: communism, socialism, liberalism, ‘leftism’ and other possible ‘isms’, and for which he was often in and out of detention. He focussed this in his unwavering commitment to the struggle for the New Sudan, which he and his liberal colleagues in the University of Khartoum and other institutions in the capital started before the outbreak of the liberation movement, the SPLM/A. Although the intransigence of the dominant Arab-IsLamic Establishment and the stalemate in the war made partitioning the country imperative, Edward Lino was a devout believer in the vision of the New Sudan and the liberation of all Sudanese from marginalization, oppression and domination, irrespective of race, ethnicity, religion, culture or gender. His connection with John Garang and other founding leaders of the Liberation Movement predates the outbreak of the rebellion. Although his activism interfered with his legal education, as he was dismissed for political reasons in his last year in the Faculty of Law, his yearning for knowledge and his activist application of knowledge never ceased. He continued to learn and transmit his knowledge both as a teacher and a political activist. He reflected this in his poetic, analytical and literary works, books, articles, essays and journalistic contributions. His three books, Long Live the Monkeys, John Garang: A Man to Know, and the most recent, Ngok Dinka Versus Missiriya, reflect a combination of poetic, literary and intellectual excellence.. I acquired a great deal of insight from Edward Lino’s book on John Garang from which I quoted heavily in my recently published fictionalized memoirs about my relations with John Garang, Visitations: Conversations with the Ghost of the Chairman. Edward Lino’s book provides remarkable insights into the origins and depth of his involvement in the struggle that eventually became the SPLM/A. I later followed the prominent role he played in the Movement. Although I was not a member of the SPLM/A, I was a strong supporter of the Movement and the Vision of the New Sudan. As I had established and was directing the African Studies Program at the Brookings Institution and was closely associated with several other think tanks in Washington, among them the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Center for International and Strategic Studies, and the United States Institute of Peace, I played an active role in promoting the Movement and collaborated very closely with the leadership, specifically with Dr. John Garang. I was therefore intimately familiar with the ideals, strategies and operations of the Movement. John Garang and Salva Kiir always spoke to me in raving praise for the valorous role played by the Ngok Dinka freedom fighters in the struggle. And of course Edward Lino was among the Ngok Dinka leaders in the struggle whose names were most prominent. One remarkable thing about Edward Lino was that he was never down cast by any hardship. No matter how grave the challenges, how heavy the burdens, or how immanent the danger facing him, Edward Lino always smiled under all difficulties. Even when he was angry, and there was always much to be angry about, he quickly alternated between a fiery fuming face and a beaming vivacious smile. In fact, I rarely remember seeing Edward Lino without his distinctive laughter or his sprightly smile. It was our intention with my co-editors, Dr. Luka Biong and Daniel Jok, to include Edward Lino among several of the Ngok Dinka leaders in the struggle who have contributed chapters to our soon to be published book, Abyei Between the Two Sudans, which has documented through personal experiences the role played by the freedom fighters from Abyei in the political and military struggle of South Sudan in the two wars. Unfortunately, despite his strong manifest desire to contribute to the book, Edward Lino’s deteriorating health condition made that implausible. I do, however, believe that those who knew Edward Lino well and have reflected on his life in their eulogies, have given him the great honor which he so much deserves by highlighting the heroic contribution he made to the liberation struggle. In particular, his comrade in the struggle, Atem Yaak Atem, in his powerful and deeply moving eulogy, has began an in-depth account of Edward Lino’s role in the struggle which he thoughtfully pledged to elaborate into a publishable work. I also hope that the messages that have poured in since the announcement of his death will be collected into a volume that will be published as a tribute to his noble and memorable service to his people and his country. Our people used to say that absence is like death. I now reverse this to say that death is like absence. This is particularly true these days when a combination of devastating crises have shattered our people and scattered them around the globe to the point where many relatives and friends hardly ever meet face to face. Absence and death have become closely twinned. And so, Edward Lino continues to be absent as he has been for many among us, but he will also remain forever present among us in our memory. His heroic deeds and his unwavering commitment to the struggle for human dignity for all will continue to be a source of inspiration for generations to come. Our people do not cry over the death of heroes for they live on in the remembered glory of their immortal deeds. So it is with Edward Lino; he is dead, but he lives on in our memory. May the Almighty God rest his soul in peace among our ancestors and all our departed, whose heads remain standing upright, to paraphrase the principles of kooc e nhom in our people’s spiritual belief system…

The Foundation of the Traditional Council of Chiefs condemned cruel treatment inflicted upon prophet Abraham Chol Maketh

Now, a nation that countless people died to free has been fled by many of its citizens, who have ended up in refugee camps.

A vision and mission must have been killed with Dr John Garang. Otherwise, our dear liberators perished in vain, or else the country is ruled by foreign governors as asserted by Eng Chol Tong Mayai.

I am frustrated, bothered, and irritated by the nude pictures of Abraham swimming circulating social media. I cannot understand people who stay to suffer at the hands of the government. Why was Abraham stripped naked? And what does the Act say about privacy and the distribution of nude pictures without consent? On 23 March, Sudan’s chief of justice denied health officials the right to screen his sons for coronavirus at Juba airport, and no action was taken, nor summons from the court in response to this. This demonstrates the unfairness of what was done to Abraham.

According to the picture taken during the first hearing, the room was full of people, which was a breach of social distancing measures, though some people in South Sudan are above the law. Abraham Chol Maketh was not alone, nor did he breach social distancing procedures. Cruel prejudice has proved the country to be lawless. Abraham was locked in the church on Friday by the police under the pretext of COVID-19 breaches. But churches continue to operate, and the court does not observe social distancing rules. I condemn the South Sudan law enforcement sector and law enforcers to summon those involved. In African traditions, this situation creates a taboo that could result in a curse upon those involved. I encourage those who have shared the images of Abraham to take the pictures down from social media. Leaders must repent and offer apologies to all South Sudanese and religious groups, locally and abroad. Declining to do so will bring about another crisis. No human deserves injustice or to be treated as a second citizen in his/her motherland. South Sudan is going down the wrong path, and those who laughed at Chol Maketh will regret it someday.

I implore the law enforcing body to free Abraham promptly, take him for medical evaluation, and compensate him for defamation and the distribution of his naked photos on social media without his permission. By Acting Chief of Twi East Peter Lual Reech Deng

References Why has South Sudan become A Failed Country by Prof Martin Takpiny Lives at Stake South-Sudan during the Liberation Struggle by Halle Jorn Hanssen

 

Halle Jorn Hanssen: SOUTH SUDAN, A DESTROYED STATE The Legacy of Salva Kiir

As the people of South Sudan most likely on Saturday, 22nd February will see the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement from the summer of 2018 begin, it is worthwhile trying to list the developments that under the rule of Kiir and his henchmen, have made South Sudan a failed and destroyed state.

In this context we must always keep in mind the disaster that hit the people of South Sudan on 30th July 2005, the so-called helicopter accident that killed the liberator, then the President of South Sudan and the First Vice-President of Sudan, John Garang. The International Commission that analysed the reasons for the accident, concluded that it was due to human failure and bad weather.

I have spent hours with the commander from SPLA who arrived first at the spot of the wrecked Russian made helicopter. He found the black box, travelled to Moscow with it and was present when it was opened and investigated by Russian experts. He was then a member of the International Commission that investigated the accident and made the report. The story he shared with me, is fundamentally different from the official conclusion in the report from the Commission. He told me that the instruments of the helicopter had been tempered with and wrongly adjusted. Neither the height meter nor the radar was properly working. His conclusion was clear, it was not an accident, but a refined scheme set up to murder John Garang. The mastermind was to be found with the old dictatorial regime of Omar Bashir in Khartoum, and he had his partners outside and inside SPLM/A in South Sudan. Members of the John Garang’s family have shared similar views with me. Now with a new regime in Sudan, hopefully on its way towards the rule of law and democracy, one day soon some documents may be found in secret archives that will cast more light on how John Garang died.

In the course of 2012 and 2013 the discontent with Kiirs rule both as the president and as the chairman of the governing party SPLM was growing, and if a democratic process within SPLM had taken place before the elections that were scheduled for 2015, Kiir would have been running the risk of not being renominated.

Kiir’s answer to that possibility was the military coup d’etat that he and his henchmen carried out on the 15th of December 2013. The war that followed, has caused a lot of suffering and destruction:

  1. In a country with about 11 million inhabitants, approximately 400 000 lives are lost due to the war that lasted until sometime in 2018.
  2. Almost 6 million people have been made homeless, and 2 million of them are refugees in neighbouring countries. In total, more than 6 million inside and outside South Sudan is today dependent on international humanitarian aid for their survival. Neither Salva Kiir nor any of his ministers have ever visited a camp for displaced persons inside South Sudan or a refugee camp in neighbouring countries. The indifference demonstrated, has chocked the international community.
  3. Tens of thousands of women and children have been raped.
  4. Hundreds of thousands of both sexes and all ages are traumatised for life.
  5. Never in the history of the people of South Sudan, not even during the long liberation war, has the educational services been worse than now while the children of the opulent, kleptocratic power elite in Juba attend school in neighbouring countries, paid for with money stolen from the people by the same elite in Juba.
  6. Never in the same period has the health and social services been poorer, in fact, they are non-existent for the ordinary citizen, if not provided for by the churches or international NGOs. Whenever a family member of the kleptocratic elite falls sick and needs hospitalisation, they are sent abroad and paid for with stolen state money.

The misrule of Kiir’s government and administration since 2011 and until today has made South Sudan a failed and destroyed state. I list in the following some of the gravest failures and crimes:

  1. Kiir has systematically like a blind dictator since December 2013 ruled the country by decree while seeking advice for his political actions from a self-composed and self-interest seeking group that has named itself JCE, the Jieng (Dinka) Council of Elders. The Dinka people like other South Sudanese ethnic groups are the victims of their myopic and sectarian policies.
  2. In 2016 in a stark violation of the peace agreement signed a few days before, Salva Kiir changed the administrative infrastructure of South Sudan from 10 states to 28 states and then again to 32 states. Then, he made sure that 12 of 32 states had Dinka governors, and with two other states having deputy-governors and finally, he had his nephew appointed deputy Governor of the Capital, Juba.
  3. His own government of today has an 85 percent dominance of Dinka ministers and deputy ministers although the Dinka ethnic group only makes up only some 25 – 30 percent of the total population.
  4. With the active support of the president and JCE, the Dinka Council of Elders, a group of Dinka ethnic elements closed to Kiir and other influential people have in different ways taken control of most of the natural assets of the nation in order to enrich themselves while most of the Dinka people continue to live poor lives while they are being misled by their rulers.
  5. The power elite in Juba has developed a system of corruption and kleptocracy worse than what one has seen in Zaire during Mobutu and in Zimbabwe or in other failed states in Africa.
  6. The oil industries are not properly maintained, but carelessly overused by Chinese, Malaysian and Indian oil companies without any consideration for the pollution effects and the environment. The result is a major disaster for both human beings and for fauna and flora in the areas affected.
  7. South Sudan is for 98 percent of its state income dependent on oil. The assessed income for the government from oil in the period from 2005 and until 2020, is at least some 25 billion dollars. More than half of that sum has been spent on war and internal security. Most of the rest has either been stolen or squandered. There are many kleptocrats in Juba, and the leading ones are president Salva Kiir and his family members and their children included, and the helpers of the family like Bol Mel who recently without the least of military background was made a general in the National Army. The stolen money which is shared among some few individuals of the present holders of power in Juba, has been transferred out of the country with the assistance of banks in Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, and it has been hidden i tax havens mainly in Indian Ocean countries and some Arab countries.
  8. South Sudan has other rare mineral resources like gold. Concessions to dig for gold have been rendered to international plundering companies from countries like Great Britain, South Africa, China and Israel, and gold mines have been opened mainly in Central and East Equatoria. The work force in the mines are mainly child slaves who are being beaten when they do not work hard enough. Co-owners with the international companies of the mines, are a cluster of leading members of the Kiir Government, the president himself included. The profits from the gold mining go 100 percent to the owners, nothing for the people of the land.
  9. The economy of the country has for all these reasons gradually come to a stand-still and is now collapsing.
  10. Both many leaders in SPLM and the people of South Sudan were after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 and even more after the independence of South Sudan in 2011 eagerly waiting for a political and societal development in which the principles and values of human rights, the rule of law and democracy were to be implemented. But they were betrayed. Salva Kiir appointed people to the government who had the hidden agenda to make sure that these principal values for good societal development were rejected. The leading mastermind in this field Is Michael Makuei Leuth who in present-day Africa must be the principal violator of Human Rights, not least Freedom of Expression.
  11. Oppression, imprisonment and torture. Kiir’s key man is general Akol Koor Kuc. He is in charge of Internal Security, and he is an unscrupulous person with unlimited resources who has ordered the abduction, arrest, torture and murder of countless fellow citizens. Today he is probably a more powerful man in the Power Hierarchy of South Sudan than the President himself.
  12. The awareness of crimes committed by the persons mentioned above has led to UN and US sanctions of a large number of Salva Kiir’s government, including the First Vice-President Taban Deng Gai, the Minister of Cabinet Affairs Martin Elia Lomuro, the Minister of Information, Michael Makuei Leuth, the Minister of defence Kuol Manyang Juuk and other ministers, and the generals Gabriel Jok Riak and Akol Koor Kuc among other military leaders and Mel Bol, Kur Ajiing and the Al Cardinal group in the business sector. They are all high-ranking businesspeople closely connected to Kiir.

The regional body IGAD has been in charge of the peace negotiations for South Sudan since 2014.

But in 2015 for some months, there was a kind of parallel effort, the Arusha Agreement on the reunification of SPLM, and in the summer of 2015 it was to be implemented. According to this agreement, the sacked and banned Secretary general of SPLM, Pagan Amum, was to be reinstated. He, in the company of the Kenyan Minister of Defence, arrived in Juba on 23rd June 2015. The reinstatement ceremony in the presence of President Salva Kiir took place the day after, and I spoke to Pagan Amum the same evening. He was happy to be back on the job and stated that ending the war and starting a process of reconciliation had to be given priority in order to build lasting peace. But when Pagan Amum went back to his office the day after to begin working, he and the other former detainees who before the summer of 2013 were leaders of SPLM and again back in Juba, discovered that there was a plot to detain and assassinate them. President Salva Kiir had sanctioned the plot and Pagan Amum is reported to have confronted the president with the plan. The President was evasive in his answer.

Pagan Amum and his FD colleagues then had to run necks over heads from Juba, and friends and people inside the system but loyal nationalists, succeeded to push them through the airport, and they escaped onboard a flight to Addis Ababa.

The first peace agreement negotiated by IGAD was finalized and to be signed in early 2015. President Kiir objected to it and only signed after heavy international pressure in the early fall of 2015. The implementation started in the spring of 2016. One key point in the agreement was the reinstatement of Riek Machar as first Vice-President. It ended with a shoot out between the security guard of the president and the first vice -president in the summer of 2016 with many killed. It was followed by a rampage of the town of Juba by elements of Kiir’s forces who stormed an international hotel and raped several women from abroad serving the people of South Sudan. In the aftermath, Kiir ordered the hunt for Riek Machar and hired international mercenaries to assist his own forces. But the hunt failed as Machar escaped into the Central African Republic and was taken care of by UN peace keeping forces.

The IGAD efforts to bring peace to Sudan in the aftermath of the events of the summer of 2016 have been many but have failed. However, in the summer of 2018 IGAD handed over the responsibility to lead the negotiations to the then dictator of Sudan, Omar Bashir with the assistance of the president of Uganda, Yoveri Museveni. They succeeded in making both Salva Kiir and Riek Machar and a few other parties sign a renewed version of the agreement from 2015.

While Omar Bashir was pursuing his interest to continue exploit South Sudan’s oil, Salva Kiir had one other important reason to sign this agreement. There was a very important change from the previous ones on one point, the power sharing between the different parties to the agreement. In this agreement, Salva Kiir together with ministers of his own choice maintain the majority power in all decisions of importance for the people and the country. In addition, the contentious issue of how many states 32 or 10 or another number, was not settled.

The Machar faction and party to the agreement as well as other opposition groups like the South Sudan Opposition Alliance that has not signed the agreement, have stood firm in their demand to Kiir to go back to the original number of states which are 10. Kiir and his government has consistently refused to grant any concession on the matter.

But to the big surprise of South Sudanese as well as others, Kiir last Saturday 15th February made a statement to the fact that he and his government would accept to go back to ten states. However, he added that he would assign three special administrative areas that would be under de facto the control of the Presidency. One is Abyei. Another of the areas is named Ruweng and is one in which oil is being produced. A third is Greater Pibor which is another area of South Sudan rich with minerals like gold. The President has granted important mining concessions to foreign companies that together with one of Kiir’s daughters are plundering this area for minerals, The reports from the area leaked to the media recently also say that the mining managements are using local militias to terrorize and force people to leave the mining areas. The suspicion is that the president with his family and his henchmen in this way want to continue to control and have unlimited access to the profits from oil and other minerals.

While the Machar faction has applauded the decision to have only ten states, it immediately refused to accept the establishment of the administrative areas of Ruweng and Greater Pibor.

As the new transitional national government is being formed, one has to take note of what are still critical and unsolved issues in the Peace Agreement.

  1. The demilitarization of Juba and other major towns have not taken place. This fact represents a constant threat to the survival of the Peace Agreement.
  2. The cantonment of forces belonging to the government and Machar faction is far from being fulfilled, and the building of a new integrated National Army is at best in its very beginning.
  3. The cease fire agreement which is an essential part of the Peace Agreement has until recently been frequently violated by the government forces, having tried but failed to eradicate the forces of opposition groups like the National Salvation front.
  4. There is no indication to the fact that Salva Kiir in the transition period until the next elections whose dates have not been agreed, will give up his power to rule by Presidential Decree, meaning to continue his dictatorial practice.
  5. A state of emergency has since December 2013 marked every-day life in South Sudan, and Salva Kiir and his henchmen has not given any indication to the fact that the emergency will be lifted as soon as a new government is in place.
  6. There is no indication whatsoever to the fact the Kiir faction holding the majority in a government vote, has any intention to accept and implement the important parts of the Peace Agreement that deal with justice, special tribunes for war crimes and similar.
  7. There is no indication to the fact that basic human rights like freedom of expression will be respected by a new coalition government.

There is hardly any hope for any real progress on the six issues listed because it might expose the crimes that first and foremost Kiir’s faction, but also Machar’s faction have committed against their own people in the period since the end of 2013.

The best and decent part of the political elite in South Sudan with a strong commitment to human rights and democracy from before the summer of 2013 who then was chased into the cold, are either political refugees somewhere in the world or they have died in the war or have been killed by Kiir’s assassins.

The political leaders of Africa and the world are tired of the South Sudan, Salva Kiir and his henchmen and their continuous obstruction of all efforts to bring peace to the people of South Sudan. They have at the same time not been willing to apply the kind of power, political and economic pressure and through UN, military force that could have ended the destruction of the state and the suffering of the people.

Now the people pin their hopes on a coalition of two factions that consistently have failed for a decade. But there is a big risk that one will see a repetition of what happened in the summer of 2016 when the two factions clashed, and the war continued

I hope that I am wrong, but I fear that the destruction of South Sudan and the sufferings of its people shall continue. We might have a pause for a few months in the continuing process before the hopes of a people desperately wanting peace, is being crushed again.

Sources:

  1. The Sentry report, an American NOGO in partnership with the Enough Project, Not on our watch and C4ADS in USA with George Cloony and John Prendergast being the co-founders of the Sentry Report. It has since 2014 published many reports on the failing of the state of South Sudan and its kleptocratic networks.
  2. Amnesty International has also published many reports on South Sudan.
  3. The same goes for Global Human Rights Watch.
  4. International Crisis Group, many reports and newsletters.
  5. UN reports, many of human rights violations and sexual violence.
  6. The AU Report from 2015 with Olusegun Obasanjo from Nigeria as the Chair.
  7. September 2018. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine report on lives lost in the civil war in South Sudan.
  8. Wikipedia on the Conflict in South Sudan.
  9. Reports in international media on South Sudan. I have read all reports referred to above from no. 1 – 8 and many news reports from different media sources.
  10. I am an old Africa reporter and had my first mission into South Sudan in 1978 and my last in October 2013. I was the Secretary General of Norwegian Peoples Aid, NPA, between 1992 and 2001. NPA took in 1987 a stand in support of the liberation struggle of SPLM/SPLA and provided humanitarian aid and development in the liberated areas for the same period and further. I in published 2017 published the book; LIVES AT STAKE. South Sudan during the liberation struggle (ISBN 978-82-91385-61-7).