After coming out of a catastrophe that has stumbled upon me in Malakal, Upper Nile State, with thousand others, one has to take this time to put in the picture how life was sustained. It is imperative to remember the person who has given his time to monitor all the defenseless students in Upper Nile University who were subjected to the worst branch of their life’s experience, “death” if Kuendit did not intervened.
Lewis Anei Kuendit, the former Governor of Warrap State struggled so hard to make sure that we were moved out of hostilities and as well as out of the so much militarized and tribalised city during the days advancing to Christmas while in Malakal. He has coordinated and contracted some important people who were able to find ways and volunteer for our transport to Juba in the far south of this new
nation, another war traumatized city.
Kuendit knows better how he made that deal which has transported over 700 students and many others who were able to benefit from his sympathy and generosity. We were airlifted from Paloch- Tir Airport
in Melut County of Upper Nile state to Juba after we ran out of Malakal and walked dozens of kilometers away from war.
Kuendit is a man who cannot close his eyes and turn his back away from those who might be in frantic circumstances. He has shown to us that he cannot run away from people in problems but join in and be part of problem-solving. He has the correct and the best policy of socialization.
This is a man I cannot know how to really thank him. He stood by us when we were in bad times when everybody was closing phones if we tried to contact them for help. He comforted us and felt so much
concerned and worked out very kind deeds that nobody has ever done if so, not in this country.
“Ariik I don’t sleep if I imagine the kind of sufferings you are facing while in that war state of affairs in Malakal. I know you are the brighter future for our nation and you cannot be left to die inexpensively like the way it is now,” Kuendit told me on phone on 25 December in very concerned frustrated voice, I could feel.
The 25th of December in the rest of the world was a Christmas Day, people were celebrating, welcoming and commemorating the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ but that was not the same in Malakal and elsewhere in Upper Nile state. War was entering into its third day on Christmas Day. People were in yelled settings - seeing their dear ones being killed and waiting to experience all those situations of worthless killings imposed on individuals because they belong to certain tribes.
I am writing to you these notes but still don’t want to tell it. I hate to mention more about it. It is senseless and it should not be the best choice of our politicians to continue doing it. I hate politics that pronounces the killings of some tribes’ members as not a crime. The deaths of my fellow Dinka in some parts in Greater Upper Nile was celebrated by people who are blind and cannot see beyond their nose-bridge. May be some Dinka might have celebrated the deaths of Nuers but both parties might not be doing wise actions. I wish my people could hear my voice and stop any attempt of imposing any
Under which circumstances did the war get us in Malakal? We were busy and so much engaged and committed to our academic books in Upper Nile University as final exams were scheduled to commence on 18 December through Christmas time until Jan 3rd.
However, as time emerged we heard of a ‘thrash about’ for a ‘political change’ in the country spearheaded by those believed to be ex- government officials - all active members of the well-known politburo of the ruling – SPLM party. They have been in government for the last 8 years since before independence and refused to bring any democratic change in the government or in their party not until they were dismissed from the government. So are they fighting for positions or to bring democracy? Only God knows.
As university students we could really like to achieve our academic grades in the campus but our dreams and interests were shortly distorted as war surfaced in this juvenile nation’s Capital of Juba, just on December 15. The war which was quickly named by President Salva Kiir as a failed “Coup Attempt” engineered by the SPLM deputy chairman Dr. Riek Machar was also named by his political rival the former Vice President, Dr. Machar as “Presidential Guards’ Quarrels” manufactured by Gen. Kiir to destroy the reputations of the 13 SPLM members who are struggling for transformation in the party.
Our thoughts were that the war would end up in Juba. For we knew a quarrel of Presidential Guards cannot travel a long distance up to Bentiu, Malakal and Bor towns nor should a foil Coup Attempt in Juba move up to villages across the country to be experienced dangerously by innocent population that has never benefited from any politics in Juba since the independence South Sudan, just waiting for the promised services delivery in vain.
Villagers in South Sudan are looking for services delivery and stability. But what came out of Juba this time was a war that has taken their beloved ones and destroyed uncountable properties and many
more displaced like me. The Capture of Bor town 125 miles away from Juba failed all the political analyses posed by analysts and simple citizens in the country about the ongoing politics in what is so-called the World’s newest country and how quickly the unplanned war can so much multiply to the other parts of the country. It has shown to the citizens that the Government has really failed to create a strong foundation of a better security and stability of the country.
The arrival of war to Bor and Bentiu and the consequent downfalls of these strategic towns to the hands of those the country calls now as rebels headed by Dr. Riek Machar was really a threat to the government, the citizens and the region.
So Dr Riek Machar, our former Vice President is now a rebel? Is he rebelling because of his dismissal in the government or because of his plan to bring democracy in his party the SPLM? Why does democracy
bring us chaos and disorder then? Many of us who have read books and understood how democracy can be pursued believe that people cannot take arms against their own country just because of a misunderstanding in one political party subjecting the majority population who are not SPLM members in desperate life situations in what is known as poor management of the party’s affairs. Why should the SPLM make innocent population die and suffer because of their political weaknesses and misunderstandings? How has the innocent population contributed to their misunderstandings? If not who will be answerable and accountable to many properties and lives lost during this senseless war?
The above questions were asked by people and especially students around me who were trying to test their political workouts but could not find any possible equations of why should a leader like Dr Riek Machar puts down his PhD and takes arms against his people. Not only that- how did it happen that certain tribesmen were targeted in Juba? How would you know Nuers who support Riek and those that support Kiir? It should have not been clear how the war would be fought. Nobody knows at whom should the gun be aimed? But in Upper Nile region guns were directly aimed at Dinka, especially those from Bahr el Ghazal just because they hail from the tribe of the president, many people died in these political and military confusions in the region. But how would they supporters of Chol Tong Mayay or those that support Madut Biar or Deng Alor be left untouched by the atrocities? It was just indiscriminate killings against the Dinka.
Definitely it took its tribal dimensions between Nuer and Dinka. The fact that President Kiir is a Dinka, some Nuer elements agreed to fight the government troops believing that the next government will be led by their son Dr. Riek and in this mess we were really traumatized and so much afraid and confused, the fact that Bahr el Ghazal citizens in Greater Upper Nile states were killed and others at threats. Those
alive were being hunted and hooked out if found, beginning from December 17.
As a journalist and a freelance writer in that region I could get some more information that was spoken in secrets about the killings of Dinka – Bahr El Ghazal across the region. The Dinkas residing in Nuer counties across the former Upper Nile province were counting down their minutes of life and it really
happened. I was also counting down my seconds because I was living in the residential area not in the students’ hostels like others. I knew after every breath I may die. I knew I had no reason to die and I was
not guilty of anything but me being Dinka was a definite fact that needs no negotiation to survive.
Many Nuer friends advised me to find a safer place to hide. But did I know anywhere to hide? Where I stayed was not my home. And I think there was no safer place. I don’t know any forest to run to. The dream of all of us was to go to UNMISS Compound, yet the question was raised: Was UNMISS Compound safe? The news of Nuer white army breaking into Akobo UNMISS compound resulting into the death of a dozen human beings believed to be Dinka - was still fresh and rings in our brains.
We could not conclude any idea as a nice decision but yet there was no choice rather than reporting to UN than just dying without being reported anyway that was the advice given to us many friends, relatives and family members. I came to know that it is only South Sudan that citizens can stay united to struggle for independence of their country to defeat their common enemy and later break down easily as simple tribal leaders, just speaking their own mother tongues with words of hatred to commit atrocities that can mount to war crimes pretending that they are nationalists or politicians and of course they cannot prove it right in any possible and logic ways. I wonder why our people agree to butcher themselves on tribal lines in what they traditionally believed as politics at the hands of politicians of tribes’ representatives.
In the University Campus grouping according to tribal lines started, people began to be suspicious, some were afraid and hopeless. We were waiting for our dear death. We were not soldiers not anything but only students but we knew we would die and subjected to it because we are Dinkas. It was really bad but thank God we survived with only few of us sustaining injuries. At the UNMISS we were kept outside the compound but surrounded with UN soldiers with their heavy artillery but yet when war was so much
tensed some of us were killed at the camp and many others wounded. Madhieu Thiep Madhieu, a student of medicine was shot at his ankle when had lay down flat on the ground just to try to avoid bullets during a much tensed shooting around UNMISS compound with rebel intending to kill us.
We tried to talk to our leaders back home in Warrap, Lakes, Western and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states to crack some agreements to drive us out of war but no politicians turn up with any help. Thank God Ustaz Lewis Anei Kuendit made it possible to access us on phones and he was able to communicate with us while in the warring city of Malakal.
The many days we spent at the vicinity of the UNMISS compound were days of no comfort and there was no hope for life. Kuendit was really very sorry and he made it to encourage us that we must stay at the camp but just try to be wise as we stay there. “There was no water, no food, not even shelters and there was no possible security,” I reported to Kuendit, we really want your support and you are the only politician who has accepted to help us,” I added.
Kuendit sincerely asked me of how we could be helped. I told him unless there are planes to airlift us at Paloch airport directly to Juba. The agreement he made and the coordination he has synchronized made
us come to Juba and some of us to Rumbek. As I write am in Juba, trying to experience some peace but in fact interrupted at times. Nearly 700 or more students were transported by this coordination when the four governors of Greater Bahr el Ghazal states kept their good silence. They could not talk to us. Some governors and many MPs have declined to receive our phone calls and others pledged blank promises that did not yield any product while we were in Malakal trying to lobby some help from them.
Kuendit has put onto his shoulders the responsibility of transporting only 200 students from Bahr el Ghazal who were studying in Upper Nile University in Renk and Malakal Campuses but his effort was later on extended to help more than 700 South Sudanese students. These students would die of crossfire if not targeted based on their tribal lines. Kuendit, how could I ever thank you enough? I can say you deserve a standing ovation, genuine, is my gratitude, I really like your attitude and you made it to the best of how you feel the demand of humanity – transporting us out war was another ticket for life you gave you when at the threat of deaths and we are now alive.
A positive person, I must say hardworking. As I exposed this story and a positive effort played by Ustaz Kuendit but know that I am climbing a political mountain to campaign for him but tell what a leader could do to his people whether at good times or bad times. This nation will find it very hard to look up the leaders who are keeping their ears to the grounds. Kuendit has become now the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily even if he has no title or a position in the government
rather. At periods where there is no leadership like when we were in Malakal, the society stands still but it needs sons of the land with their good hearts to stand against any earthquake and work for God and humanity like Kuendit.