Mini-Open Letter To: Hon. Maker Thiong Maal, Jieng Council of Elders

By David Mabior Atem Kuir

January 7, 2016 (SSNA) — The leisure of Christmas holiday had given me the opportunity to explore some websites where I came across the following season’s greetings; titled: “New Year Message From Jieng Council of Elders” published at Gurtong:

Upon skimming through it, I saw Hon. Maker Thiong Maal’s name as one of the signatories; although I am not certain whether it is the same Maker that was in-charge of the education system during the liberation struggle or a different person of the same name as the name Maker is very common among Jieng. If it is Maker that was in-charge of the education system in Kakuma refugee camp, then I intend to write to him.  I am writing to you as a way to express my humble opinion that being a mentor, leader and guardian of the red army from across ethnicities would oppose to serving in an organization that represents one ethnicity. This would make them shy away from seeking advice and inputs of national significance. I will be focusing on Hon. Maker because of the followings:

1. As a member of the red army, I had spent most of my childhood in the bush with Hon. Maker Thiong Maal. Through him I was able to learn and benefit from his dynamic leadership. His leadership in education paved the way for some of the red army to score and record excellent achievements in education;

2. As a mentor and leader for the red army group, I am well-aware that your remarkable contribution was an integral part of SPLA/SPLM vision of liberation for freedom;

3. No doubt, other signatories have significant national contributions and reputations but I don’t know them the way I knew Hon. Maker;

The intention of writing to you is to seek answers but in lieu of that, expressing my view is one away of consoling my soul in an event of disgrace;

Straightaway, I would like to admit and confess that JCE season’s greetings content has nothing to do with Jieng’s sub-communities but political initiatives and activities. There was nothing mentioned about how many cultural activities were accomplished in 2013, 2014 and 2015. What are the future goals to be accomplished by Jieng leadership in the name of its people? Given the content, it would be necessary to form the South Sudan Council of Elders (SSCE) to unify, nationalize, symbolize inclusive unity and social cohesion. Having that would also eliminate interfering institutionally and constitutionally.

Hon. Maker, anything that reduces you to one body like JCE is a compromise to your national reputation and integrity. You are a transformer of generation of the red army through education and you earned and gained an honest account and respect for that selfless contribution! You cannot believe how many times your name has come up in many social conversations about what you said and what did etc. Thus, you were one of the leaders who had suffered a very hot climate of Kakuma refugee camp plus humiliation of Kenyan police when you and Hon. Deng Dau spent months in Jail. You had spent years educating and encouraging us to see each other as brothers although we are now infected and influenced by the forces of separatists, tribalists, corruptionists and nepotism whose legitimatized and institutionalized looting and robing of public resources.

I am not exaggerating nor underestimating the issue of your nationalistic. With the education we gained while hiding in the bush, we had become very successful among the global Diasporas completing in the top universities in the west. So, you and your teachers whom taught us will be the proudest people in that country when you see your invested knowledge and time yield the fruits of successes at your watch.

As you know that red army was mobilized and recruited from different regions of old Sudan. Our membership was drawn from Nuba Mountain, Nuer, Equatoria, Chollo Kingdom, Jur-Chol, and Dinka etc. Together with your teachers you had told us to see each other as biological brothers from different territories which were true; as we cared for each other, lived together under one roof, shared little resources and we used to bury each other as we were strike by the multiple forces of death etc.

As elaborated above, I am of the opinion that serving in JCE would create limitation for the red army from other communities across South Sudan. However, curiosity has pressed me to explore and research the origin and objective of JCE but I have found very little resources available on the net. Thus, strong language built-in previous positions and letters make it sounds like one of the institutions in the government of South Sudan but why there are no others ethnicities council of elders? The same curiosity forced me to scan through the South Sudan transitional constitution but there was nothing specific about JCE. This begs two simple questions. Is JCE is a cultural or political organization? Why not forming a South Sudan Council of elders? There are many questions to be asked but I cautioned myself because I am writing a mini-open letter

South Sudan is a nation forged on the basis of different ethnicities or communities which deserve equal representations if it is deemed as one form of the governance. From a common sense standpoint, that forum should be headed by the Jieng’s paramount chiefs to channel their issues to different level of governments which should also be replicated across the board. 

Concluding Remarks:

The title of your seasons greetings and content were not rhyming or aligning whatsoever. Jieng is one of 64 ethnicities in South Sudan and your group message was addressed to whole South Sudanese. Therefore, anything aided to one ethnicity over others is a source of mistrust and disunity. However, as you were one of drivers behind red army successes, it is time to let them light the candles of their successes at your watch because their achievement is a national pride. Their acquired knowledge and experiences from various institutions around the world will be imported back home to replace despairs with hope, miseries with joy of freedom and identity, under trees with modern houses, barefooting for months with luxuries of planes and V8. Finally, aligning the title of that organization with content of messages will convey sincerity and eliminate fear of Jieng name being used for a political manoeuvre. Jieng is one of sub-communities that had borrowed different cultures that conflicted with their ancestral practices which require rethinking and refocusing in order to weed out inapplicability and emerge adaptable cultures to appreciate the global village of 21th century.

David Mabior Atem Kuir lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He can be reached at: [email protected].

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