By Maker Lual Kuol,
Bor on 1st March 2018
(A Greater Bor County heart breaking case)
IntroductionOn 22nd December 2017, Greater Bor Counties celebrated the birth of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ by losing 23 innocent lives of our people as a sacrifice for the sacred occasion being peacefully celebrated by billions of faithful Christians all over the World. From the 22nd December 2017, the tension and standoff continued to mount between the warring communities till eruption once more of hostilities on the 5th of February 2018 to add more 16 innocent lives including a grandmother burnt inside her hut!!! Despite the fact that a small army contingent and other organized forces created a buffer zone between the warring communities, no one budged down as each community was armed to teeth with sophisticated weapons not even owned by the organized forces deployed to neutralize them. Only God knows whether that would be the end of that sad episode among those warring communities or not!
The cause of the skirmishes was a trivial misunderstanding between lineages, clans and sections that have been peacefully co-existing for centuries as kin, kith and in-laws!! That is left to the law to determine the causes and the one who aggrieved the other.
This incident happened at the time Greater Bor Community is engulfed by unscrupulous enemies from all directions. If we have forgotten all the sufferings inflicted and being inflicted by the Murles and Nuers on our people during the last centuries and decades, the latest attack on Abuodit on 15th September 2017 where 34 people got killed including three sibling children from one family, is still fresh in the minds of our people
It was and is a saddening and chocking event for a community that; for quite long, enjoyed the reverence of the people of South Sudan if not the former Sudan from which South Sudan seceded from. Not only revered but a role model in behavior, conduct, organization and even education. A community where every individual strives to take upon himself or herself the role of sacrificing his/her life for the interest and the welfare of the whole community be it local or that of South Sudan.
As our Lord Jesus Christ said (Do not let what your right hand does, be known by your left hand. And on that gospel teaching, I thought to leave the good things our community did and contributed for the welfare of South Sudanese to others to air or expose but at this juncture of losing the track, one may be forced to rewind the cassette of the good achievements of our community along the history lane of South Sudan.
The young generation and even some elderly may not be aware that:
- Bor was the first area in the whole of Southern Sudan where Christianity landed through Church Mission Society (CMS) in 1906 lead by Rev. Archdeacon Shaw famously known among the Bor Dinkas as Machuor.
- That, it was the first to get education in South Sudan through Malek Missionary Primary School
- That, it was the first area to establish a girl school in 1913.
- That, it was the first Area in South Sudan to have an educated chief in the person of Joseph Machiek Deng
- That, it was the first area in South Sudan to have an ordained Bishop in the person of late Rt. Rev. Daniel Deng Atong.
- That, it was the first area in South Sudan to have one of its sons joining the judiciary service in the person of Justice Abel Alier.
- That, it was the first area in South Sudan if not the whole Sudan to form a student union in 1965.
- That it was the first area in South Sudan where its son was the first South Sudanese vice president of the republic in Sudan in the person of Abel Alier.
- That, it was the first area its son was appointed president of the High Executive Council of the Southern Region in the person of Abel Alier.
- The first area in South Sudan where one of its sons was the first commissioner of police in the person of Gen. Ruben Mach Buot
- And may be the list may be long in other fields that my memory could not recall.
All these achievements were not acquired by design.
Then for trivial issues, our great community hurtles down to disgrace!!!
If the continuous losses through Murles and Nuer attacks and invasions are computed, they will not be less than tens of thousands of killed people, thousand of abducted children leave alone the over a million of livestock robbed. The Nuers invaded Bor many times in the last century as well as in this century but the most recall is their invasion of Bor in 1991 and 2013 where over 4,000 lives have been lost and almost the entire population displaced. Bor community as transhumant pastoralists, do not have contact areas with the neighboring hostile communities for pastures and water during the dry season in order the three pastoralists communities compete for the scarce resources of water and pastures.
Then without shame we shrug off the humiliating treatments of these hostile neighbors to our people and instead turn the sophisticated weapons against ourselves for trivial issues and loose lives of dear brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers and compatriots!!!
We even forget that we are the most scattered single community in South Sudan, either as displaced inside the country, as refugees in the neighboring countries or as Diasporas around the world. Our people did not traverse South Sudan or the world for pleasure and tourism!! Palestinians during Belfour declaration on 2nd November 1917 were 700,000 souls but after hundred years they have multiplied to over 12 million people. Similarly, we may be underrating our population size in displacement, refugee and in Diaspora but if all return home now, the population may hit over half a million.
Before the December 2017 incident, some other incidents which were simmering underground among other communities were strangled at infancy before erupting into violence through the quick interference and convergence of all the concerned elders and leaders of the community. Besides all these efforts, some problems are still smoldering and nobody knows whether they may continue dormant or explode any time without prior notification. At least, four timed bombs among some communities are hibernating and if triggered and detonated by some reckless and unscrupulous people, a similar sad situation to what took place on 22nd December 2017 and 5th February may repeat itself.
The trends things are turning and moving in our society today is alarming and worrying. Spirit of unity, forgiveness and peaceful co-existence is disappearing despite the fact that we are one community, related to one another in one way or the other and above all endowed with education.
How many with marital relations? And how many cousins, nephews or nieces reproduced due to these social relations? How many have shared cattle camps and villages since migrating to the current settlements? How many shared classes and schools, how many suffered together as combatants during the wars of attrition with Khartoum? And so many things that unite us together rather than to divide us that many pages cannot take if narrated.
The question is what are the causes of feuds and conflicts? Who engineer or instigate them? Who are responsible of these conflicts; the youth, the elderly, the government authorities or the acquisition of firearms? Let us in this space analyze the role of each separately.
The youth represent the majority among the mentioned categories but still for their role in life we can split them further into the youth in the cattle camps, the educated urban youth and the youth in Diaspora. Some people may take the age as the dividing factor between generations. Political developments in other countries especially the developed world has nullified this concept of age. Emanuel Macron ascended the presidency in France at 37 years to rule over 60 million people at a time Robert Mugabe of 93 years clung to power in Zimbabwe for nearly 4 decades. So, it is not matter of age but matter of one conscience and patriotism.
The war produced us three categories of youth. The rural youth, the Educated urban youth, and the youth in Diaspora. The last two have one in common and that both are educated and exposed to different levels of civilization. Most of the educated youth acquired education as minors or as those got cut to the North during the liberation struggle. Most of them tried to uphold the cultures of their people during their roaming. They tried to toe the footsteps of their people and if I am to mention some of their contributions to their country South Sudan and community (Bor Dinka):
- Many of them despite their tender ages, participated gallantly in the liberation struggle and many of them martyred for the cause of their people.
- They achieved good and quality education despite the suffering they had been exposed to. They are our pride in that respect.
- During economical crisis at home in Bor, the Diasporas have been financially supportive to their families at home, displacement or refuge. Many are sponsoring education of relative students in the neighboring countries of Kenya and Uganda. Others are meeting medical bills for relatives. Above all, they are settling marriages for themselves and for their relatives. In this respect of financial support to their people, in 2004 and prior to the implementation of the CPA, a hunger situation struck the area and hurriedly at one go they sent in $40,000 in order to rescue the situation. Again, when Riek forces uprooted the whole area in December 2013, millions of dollars poured into Guolyar displaced camp, refugee camps in Kenya and Uganda and other displaced camps inside South Sudan in order to mitigate the suffering of their people. Then when the Murles and other hostile neighbors heightened their attacks on our unarmed people, they sent in their financial support. Leave alone the individual efforts in convincing friends and those foreigners of goodwill in order to construct schools and health centers. And so forth.
The youth in the country are also doing their best in order to protect and enhance the image and good name and history of their people. They participate in routine reconnaissance at the borders with the hostile communities. They participate in rescue missions of abducted children and robbed livestock. And in performing those noble activities some of them meet their fates.
Still our youth are not saints not to suffer from some shortcomings
- They compete for associations to the extent that the defeated party refuses to cooperate with the victors. Since implementation of the CPA, five successive youth associations exchanged hands on power and the five bodies do not show much cooperation among themselves.
- Some youth are injecting foreign cultures into our cultures such as piercing of left ears and inserting ear rings into them, bleaching of bodies by some girls, Duel or fattening entrusting Tahania (A sweet paste made of Sesame and Sugar) to girl friends etc.
- Exaggeration of marriages by paying large amounts of money and many cows as bride wealth as a show off and indirectly challenging the poor. Seating of bride father and opening his ear to hear and carrying or lifting of the bride mother!!! Nowadays guns are fired for welcoming of bride mothers!! How many poor youths who are there and how many girls who will miss marriages through this practices and what future that awaits them? Please let us be honest with ourselves and speculate.
- Competition for political positions and tendering applications to await relieving others from certain political posts!!!
- Consecutive marriage of many wives at short intervals.
- Many divorces!!!
2- The elderly
Many of our elderly have passed on and the few who are still breathing the air are a drop in the ocean of youth such that they cannot cover this sea of people. And if unfortunately, the existing elder is a reckless one who will inject the bad history into the minds of the youth, chaos may flare up between communities and precious lives will be lost unnecessarily.
But the youth also are to blame to listen to such irresponsible elders. Why not asking such elders why did they not settle those grievances when they were young? Why raising them at our time?
All the current elderly was once youth like the current youth. They played their social and political roles till becoming old. Some may be sarcastic and derisive that they know nothing especially when many are less educated than the youth. True, there were no cell phones and internet in general during the growth and education of many elderly!! But is this the civilization when many of our people survive on food aid.
I mentioned earlier that Bor was the first area in South Sudan, if not Sudan that formed the first student union (similar to Association) in 1965. I happened to be among those students. The Union came up when two of our colleagues quarreled when we were travelling on a steamer to Bor from Kosti. One of those colleagues passed on as a parliamentarian and the other is currently a professor at Juba University and to mention with pride, the first PhD holder in the whole of Bor Area. The venue for the reconciliation meeting was the current Jonglei State Assembly.
As the cause was a trivial issue we solved it but we took that occasion as a launching pad for the formation of Bor Student Union.
A meeting that was attended by more than 50 students was conducted at Bor Girls Primary (Currently Bor B) Late Manoah Magot Pec, a student of Engineering at the University of Khartoum by the time and Agany Nyok Agang were selected to lead the union as President and vice president. Magot tried to turn down his nomination as his course of engineering was demanding and needed great concentration but the meeting insisted on persuading him.
When their tenure of office ended, Dr. Aggrey Ayuen Majok and Dr. Mark Aleer Deng (Students of veterinary Science) were selected. Both tried to evade the appointment but the meeting persuaded them. Elijah Mawut Alier; now a PhD. Holder and Charles Manyang Awal were selected Chairperson and deputy. The two tried to turn down the nomination but were persuaded by the meeting and they continued. Mawut besides being President of Bor Student Union was also elected President of Shambat Student Union despite the fact that Mawut and myself (Maker) were the only Southern Sudanese Students at Shambat. And the system continued like that afterwards. Sorry to say that that system of recognizing someone better than oneself has gone.
Competition for accessing political positions nowadays almost leads to taking to fists. Abel Alier when appointed as minister after the second military coup in Sudan on 25th May 1969 went into hiding consulting his compatriots South Sudanese whether to join the May Regime or not and when many Southern Sudanese supported his joining the government, he appeared after three days. Does that spirit of giving way to others exist nowadays? During the implementation of the CPA, two colleagues disputed over a name for the membership of the Jonglei State Assembly till it was ruled in the favor of one them. Also, when one of the governors was appointed in one of the states, over 2,400 people applied for different political positions in the state.
Still elders are not saints. As mentioned earlier, many of our elderly have passed on. If it happened that one trouble shooter remains, instead of directing the youth rightfully, he may engrave into old feuds and misunderstanding and consequently plunges the whole community into conflicts. On the other hand, if a wise elder remains among the youth, he would be directing them wisely.
3- The Government Authorities
The first and leading responsibility of any government is maintenance of security. An urgent security issue can force the government to call and convene a meeting by night even at the late hours of the night. In 1951 and before the departure of the colonial rule from Sudan, the authorities in Bor were informed of an imminent fight between two neighboring communities bur the official in charge of Bor District by the time, Mamur, did not respond to the information with seriousness and in the following morning the fight took place and a number of lives between the two communities were lost. That administrator unfortunately did not witness the independence of Sudan as an administrator. The laxity in security resulted in the loss of 40 lives of our innocent people on the 22nd of December 2017 and 5th of February 2018 .
4- The Acquisition of firearms
The tribal conflict that took place in 1951 and earlier were fought with the usage of the traditional weapons mainly spears otherwise had the two conflicting parties used the current sophisticated firearms such as Akm 47, Pkm and RPG, losses would have been several times bigger than the actual losses incurred by the time.
Till currently, the two warring communities are at maximum standoff and the tension is very high on the verge of erupting once more
As famously known as their other counterparts of Bor such as Juor Hol, Juor Palek, Juor Koch and Juor Athoch, Communities of current Bor South County are known as Juor Abiey,
This great community which is composed of six sub- sections of Gol, Awan, Nyara, Mach Ayel, Biong and Nyichak that is bordering Greater Bor County to the south continued to be a symbol of pride and prestige to the whole community of Bor in particular and Jonglei State in general as it could be shown below:
- It is covering a wide area to the south and east of Greater Bor County. This area is neighboring two hostile communities of Murle to the east and Mundari to the South. They throughout their lives defended the whole area without fail from these two hostile communities. In the face of any attack launched by any of these hostile communities, the whole community of Bor is always confident that they will teach the invaders a lesson that they will not forget.
- Wrestling tournament seems to have descended from there to the rest of Bor passing through Twic East to Duk. May be, it is the young generation that may not be aware of that but the old generations know about great wrestlers who entertained generations and generations for decades and centuries. Many know about Athel Akuch, the two sons of Ariek Mach (Malaak and Thon) Others included Makem Kuer, Chol Aguto Chol, Behr Ngong and brother Alier Ngong (Tier) and Makuei Wel Abirya. For the old generations, they resemble Mike Tyson, Ronaldo, Henry Thiery and other heavy weight and football champions who turn the young fans of today wild when knocking down another champion or scoring a goal.
- Juor Abiey has the largest grazing low land east and west of the river (Toch). Many searchers for grazing (Akorwal) migrate there annually through permission of relatives, friends or well-wishers. That vast grazing land gave Abiey community a special social status among the communities of greater Bor County. Each and every community among the six sub- sections has one to three cattle camps east and west of the river. Such cattle camps include Manyiel Awan, Manyiel Gal, Mathiang, Gombol, Akoot, Makur, Majak, Benglou, Dabiok, Lir, Aguarkou and Goi. I have been an Akorwal twice in some of those cattle camps during my childhood. In 1955 after the Torit Revolt, I, Ambassador Maluk Mach, Justice Panchol Awal and Brigadier Gen. Madhor Kuot happened to be among the Akorwal at Mathiang. Bulen Panchol and Isaac Maluk (Both from Kucdok when Panchol was with his maternal uncles), Madhor Kuot from Pathuyith and myself from Atet camped together with the owners of the cattle camp. Possibly there might have been other Akorwal from other sections of Bor that my tender age by the time could not identify. That annual migration creates good social environment among the communities. Intra and extra- marriages happen among these communities. These marriages result in many becoming in-laws, maternal and paternal uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces. Others become friends and acquaint ants.
Then, when these great losses happen, the whole community is greatly affected.
What possible immediate solution to bring back peace among these communities?
Some communities in some parts of South Sudan, continued to be a laughing lot for incessant attacks and revenge attacks. But that behavior at a sudden buoyed at our backyard in Bor with the loss of 40 lives, wounding of others and burning of settlements to the ground; thus, abruptly locking the lips of many who used to see those killings as foreign to our renowned community for decency and discipline. Nobody knows whether that conflict will end there or escalate to other areas with simmering disputes!
In order to restore our renowned reverence and prestige among our communities in particular and South Sudanese in general, let us act immediately without delay by doing the followings:
- All the accused to be urgently arrested, investigated and tried such the innocent among the detained do not suffer unnecessarily.
- All members of Bor Community are to intervene at their personal or group capacities in order to nip that precarious act in the bud.
- The two warring communities are to be given the opportunity to suggest how they could exist after this conflict under one administration especially in regard to appointment of the county commissioner
Please let us speculate; Are the warring communities to be disarmed and leave them exposed to attacks of invaders? Do we leave them armed and kill themselves? Or is the problem difficult to solve and to be left to chances?
Please let us save our community from hurtling towards abyss of disintegration and disgrace.
May the Almighty God avert this posing disintegration?