A response to “Changing the name of the Unity state to Western Upper Nile need a referendum” by Peter Gai Manyuon

By Atok Dan Baguoot

September 11, 2013 (SSNA) — First and foremost, I would like to congratulate Mr. Peter Gai Manyuon, an independent journalist for having labored to let us know his personal stance on the topic, though I would simply tell Mr. Manyuon that his piece has tumbled and lacks material facts of what it’s supposed to entail. Manyuon’s opinion is hasty and contained a lot of intellectual slapdash.

Mr. Manyuon was out of touch with reality that the current states, counties and Payams (sic ten) of South Sudan are administrative units, but not for the purpose of preserving cultural heritage. Well, they could be but the primary reason of segmenting up a country into states, provinces and many more is to ensure that power is fully devolved to the people so as to let services trickle to the people in an easily accountable manner. In Manyuon’s writing, the state is to preserve the cultural origin of the people, and let me quote him “Lich state defined the originality and actual identification of the Naath Community (Nuer)” in particular because no one will tell me since the originality there were some inhabitants before Nuer who were in Bentiu or Lich at that time”. He continued saying Dinka of Pariang and Abiemnhom (Padang) just migrated recently some years back after most of the Nuer people crossed to Malakal. Yes, I know his piece needs a lot of work which is not my task.

The piece was just a trial and error in the sense that Mr. Manyuon has not explicitly stated whether the states where those Nuer communities migrated to bear cultural names of the first inhabitants. I know they migrated to Upper Nile and Jonglei states. If it not so, does Manyuon call them invaders or advanced lands grabbers? Mr. Manyuon has also talked of recent migration of Padang Dinka to Unity state which he was supposed to substantiate in a chronological sequence of events so as to inculcate into the minds of his readers. Unless Manyuon tells me that he was just trying to exercise his constitutional right of an opinion, which he deserves so long he does not falsify facts. Yes, I know the amount of ambiguity in his writing which shouldn’t be an excuse of feeding public with naked fallacies. Mr. Manyuon could not even differentiate between history and a myth.

Mr. Manyuon could be an academic spent force and a career burden because there is no way he can put the originality of Naath community as nineteen century, just a period of hundred years. Does it mean Nuer is just only two and half centuries in Unity state, and when did the Eastern Nuer migrate, recently in 20th century because we are in 21st century now? Mr. Manyuon, the tree that talked of in the history is a myth. It is an idealized concept of an origin in the traditional African society. I guessed the Eastern Nuer might have migrated to east bank some centuries back before the 19th century as you wrote. If I were you I would talk of how Padang Dinka displaced the Nuer.  In regard to that I will take you back to a class of history of how Padang Dinka came to be in Nuer dominated state. The Padang Dinka is found in northern part of the river, barricaded Nuer off from the Northern borders with Sudan. The Padang Dinka clans that were in Unity state before; which you have confused with none documented migration were the Ngok Dinka of Abyei, Paweny of Atar (Jonglei) and Ngok Lual Yak now in Baliet county in Upper Nile state, plus the two now in Unity state, i.e. Ruweng Dinka as combined. As you adore your tree of origin in Koch County, we also have another tree in Pariang and not just unknown tree but called Gok-ajuot. 

All these communities were in the present day Pariang, stretched to northern parts now occupied by Messiriyah. The first of the group to migrate was Ngok Lual Yak in Baliet County, Upper Nile state and it is estimated to be around 1400-15000 AD, followed by Ngok Dinka of Abyei in 1600-1700 AD. Paweny of Atar and Alor of Biemnhom followed immediately. There are places which still bear names of these communities in Pariang and they took on also with the same names to places they occupied. Ngok Lual Yak went and displaced the Anyuak east of the Nile. Abyei migrated to present day Abyei town after which they were joined by the Messiriyah and other nomadic Arab tribes in late 17th century. These Arab tribes settled in Muglad, far northward. The migration of Ngok Dinka to east of the Nile was simultaneous with the eastern Nuer. The Padang Dinka has no recorded historical accounts of clashes with Nuer when they came to Unity state. What oral narratives had is that Padang Dinka fought with Funj and displaced them northward in present day Panaruu area. Up to now you can still find cultural artefacts and distinctive residences of Funj. What happened between the Nuer and the current Dinka was internal migration which only took one way. I know you come from southern part of part of Unity, bordering Lakes state, so you might not be well aware of how those borders were traditionally delineated. All the places occupied by the Nuer in unity state are swampy, thus Nuer made several attempts to migrate north of the river in order to displace the Dinka, which resulted into numerous clashes, and there are records. Nuer in Unity state like to stay in swampy places and that’s why interior Nuer lands in unity state do have perennial hunger, with the exception of Bul Nuer.    

Mr. Manyuon seems to have not correctly discovered what he was trying to relay to public in his myopic piece because there is no logical ground or reason of confusing a tree with forest in just a mere change of name. When you talked of “people should not be intimidated or influence to accept certain names due to issue of making balance”, it sounds as if you were hallucinating. It could be true if the governor was a Dinka. You were trying to preach hatred against the Dinka minority whom you described as a clique of two to three people trying to manipulate state politics.  I know agreeing on a system of governance in the rank and file our Nuer brothers in unity state is still a new vocabulary to invent. Revisit constant attacks on the two Dinka counties in unity state by so called majority.

Mr. Manyuon, the only way the Naath community can preserve her origin in Lich is to build a monument and in that way no Dinka will question it but would as well work to ensure that such historical site is protected because it does not only define Naath people but the reality of Africans in South Sudan. I know, your viewpoint of what Unity state reflects is what other Nuer stand for, while forgetting that the then Nuer proposed states like Puou for Pangak, Bieh districts of Lou Nuer and Latjor for Upper Nile if not Nasir had never lived to celebrate a decade hereafter. The mindset that brought about the creation of Nuer states had fallen short of material reality of compositions of greater Upper Nile, and it is sure what you are trying to relay. I know, it is an open secret that most Nuer natives of Unity state feel offended when you tell them that unity state is part of a country called South Sudan, the same sentiment is what this piece all about. Bear it that naming a state as Western Upper Nile state would not prevent Naath from still being a majority. Otherwise the intellectualism you were trying to refer is not seen in your wording from beginning to end. The whole anarchy in Unity state isn’t because of name nor does it comes from the unfortunate minority but a technical inability by the majority to have a correct diagnose of their inheritable lawlessness.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

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