By Deng Kur Deng
You are now a Governor of one battlefield—Jonglei State—but Phillip Aguer Panyang, I hope you are ready to head to another battlefield. With every passing day, you are closer to going outside of the military to make decisions associated with complex issues. With that in mind, we the citizens are very hopeful that you represent a positive, fresh start with a new position that you have just filled. I hope you brought sound plans with you, because they are desperately needed in the newly established Jonglei State.
Like everyone else, I know you have already familiarized yourself with much of the chaos in the state. And while I am joyous because I was one of many who wanted you to be the Governor, it is too soon to celebrate anything. In fact, we would rather celebrate your future success as Governor of Jonglei.
Let me be honest, Phillip Aguer Panyang, you are courageous enough to take up this challenging responsibility. But sometimes, we are prompted to doubt the motives of many politicians who think we can be easily blindfolded using insincere strategies meant only to mismanage what is in our disposal. The chance to either disregard or secure a legacy comes in different forms, but once you start to focus on yourself and forget the reasons why you were chosen, it means you have abandoned your people. Mind-numbing, isn’t it? To shift a little bit, a young journalist by name Mading Ngor Akech sympathized with you at some point, which I felt that it comes from your commitment serving people with dignity in mind. Keep that spirit.
Personally, my admiration of your leadership started while you were working for the SRRA in Lokichiggio, although you had shown comradeship in previous positions, including as the spokesman for the SPLA. In order to tackle our Jonglei problems, we must employ certain behaviors and approaches, some of which are not new to you, given your background. You are not limited to act only on the most justifiable strategies, only limited by whatever capabilities you have in your capacity as Governor and as an officer in the army. In fact, in order to accomplish tasks in Jonglei, you must keep one leg in the government of the state and one in the army because you needs to balance them to defeat these problems. Your presence in this new role must work using what I just mentioned above.
Those who we called leaders are only interested in indulging in superiority through the accumulation of wealth gained through corruption. Please do not try to play politics, but instead invest in an honest service to our people. They are relying solely on your self-confidence to deal with the disgraces in their nation, which have been going on throughout the state for so long. It is about time to take violations as personally as you may need to in order to restore the security of the Jonglei State. You need to do so on all accounts to protect those who have suffered for so long in what was then a lawless Jonglei State.
For instance, the Jonglei State began at the starting point of disarmament, but I believe the South Sudanese government must be told to start elsewhere this time. Such inculcated strategies and sympathies have fostered nothing but disaster throughout every village we all come from. Our communities were ill-equipped when the history of violence kept repeating itself; therefore, we must be the last people to be disarmed in the country. Guns aren’t easily disseminated throughout Great Bor, unlike our neighbors, and so it does not make sense to launch a strategy of disarmament before addressing other more pressing issues. Moreover, to be honest, although disarmament was well-exhibited in the past when the evidence was right before you, too many lives were lost. This kind of manipulation of vulnerable, innocent lives cannot be tolerated again.
To give you a personal example of how security has deteriorated, I must share the story of my younger brother. Recently, I lost my younger brother Chol-tuong Kur Deng to Murle. This is only an example from my family, but there have been hundreds killed by Murle. The figures are very depressing to reflect on, but this is the reality. Even though our neighbors are constantly unfriendly—even in the face of such violence towards our existence—our counties remain “friendly.” In fact, we are always the community that suppresses tensions with other communities, but this practice of leniency has destroyed the livelihoods of many of our people. We are great at whining about Murle and talking too much, but there has not been a single solution to any of the problems.
All of these issues may not mean anything to you personally, except that these practices, these norms, have led to the unstoppable killing of our people. You must do something before the situation deteriorates any further. Unfortunately, any positive development that we envision may not work if we continue to neglect this singular problem, one that has uprooted our families from their homes. In fact, our communities must put future development aside and let us deal with security issues first, because the persistence of violence is interfering with what little development we have managed to achieve.
Despite our collective preaching of peace, it has not worked, and we must stand to confront these offenders, whether it is uncomfortable or seems unjustifiable within the context of our communities or country at large. Enough is enough. Up until this point, perhaps we called it self-denial, but now there is nothing left to excuse our lack of action. Our communities have tried to be more objective, but our neighbors have always encouraged the killing of innocent people. This time, we have no other option left to reflect on; we simply have our capability of responding to the violence that has affected civilians.
As far as I know, violence is not generally supported by the Greater Bor community, because it reflects poorly on our collective identity. We are devoted to peace, and this violence from Murle has become unbearable. It is true that we have competent leaders in our communities, but that does not mean all the leaders on the other side are incompetent, or are unable to control their communities. Sometimes a group can take matters into their own hands, until it becomes impossible for leadership to control. However, there comes a time when the frustration boils over and preaching peace is not enough. Friction produces fire, so if you keep rubbing two stones together, they will eventually produce a flame. We must all understand this metaphor in every aspect: Friction has consequences.
I know this subject matter is very sensitive, however, we should not be pretentious about it either. Some may say these intentions are shameful, but in all honesty, it is worth confronting to give children, the elderly, women, and young men a chance to thrive instead of facing this sort of brutality. If you are determined to be our Governor, Phillip Aguer Panyang, then the problem is not incomprehensible as long you have a serious plan to deal with the matter. Without a doubt, you are aware of what you are getting yourself into in the State of Jonglei. Personally, I feel that you are ready to deal with our social problems; however, if don’t have any plan that means persistent of the social issues is more likely to continue.
Jonglei’s problems are not what others would call “isolated incidents,” because these problems have been very consistent, so it is urgent that you act right away and fulfill your commitments. Let our people say, “It was done by Aguer Panyang.” You must achieve some improvement, at least within the context of security, education, or roads, and then everything else will eventually build off of those improvements in their own right. It is nerve-racking to imagine that someone has been instituted into a position that they are not capable of handling.
However, I am certain that you are capable of dealing with our crisis in Jonglei. By joining our cause, you are helping to dignify the lives of our people by first promoting an atmosphere conducive to positive change, and especially by addressing security issues in the state, which have distracted almost every other activity, particularly development. Our conviction as people of the Jonglei State is to live in peace. There has been so little resistance to brutality in our former Jonglei State—a brutality carried out constantly by Murle. But our people remain harmonious amidst this kind of chaos, and the time is come to secure peace once and for all. The time has come for you to do something. Congratulations Aguer Panyang.
This article was written by Deng Kur Deng, AKA, Raanmangar. You can reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org