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Friday, December 20, 2013

Maker Mayek's too simplistic perception of Jieng people!


Maker Mayek Riak’s article on SSN dated December 20, 2013 is an interesting and worthy read. What I appreciated the most from that emotional, polemical and personalized article is the fact that Maker criticized his own tribe, the Jieng. This is a positive step if all tribes adopt it.  If we start to sincerely hold ourselves responsible for whatever we do then South Sudan would be a better place.
Thus: Nuer-Nuer criticism; Jieng-Jieng criticism; Bari-Bari criticism; Acholi-Acholi criticism; Zande-Zande criticism; Nyangwara-Nyangwara criticism; Didinga-Didinga; Uduk-Uduk criticism…etc.

It therefore goes without saying that there is indeed much cultural dynamics wrapped around the manner in which each and every tribe treads through every aspect of our society. These cultural matrices influence our views in Ethics, politics, economics, health, modernization, metaphysics, religion and perception of governance and power.
Like any other tribes in South Sudan, Jieng and Nuer have had their world view affected by their cultural perceptions.  Their grasp of foreign ideas and languages is also affected by their cultural realities.

Among the Jieng people I belong to, the Twï of Jonglei (always erroneously included as Dinka Bor because of their past inclusion in the now defunct Bor district) some of us have a problem pronouncing ‘l’ and ‘n.’ Chinese have the same problem too. Instead of saying ‘morning’ you hear ‘morling’; instead of saying ‘one’ you ‘ole’.

This is something Maker's section of Jieng doesn't have. Even Twï's neighbors (Bor, Hol and Nyarweng) don't have that problem. There are cultural things Maker's section of Jieng does that we don't do. There are words we have as Twï of Jonglei that Maker's section of Jieng doesn't have.
In the end, Maker needs to be patted on the back for that courage because not many people in South Sudan would do that regardless of what tribe they belong to.

However, a word of caution would be appropriate for Maker in regard to his simplistic presentation of the realities of the Jieng and Nuer people and his use of the premonitory and superstitious word, ‘cursed.’
I won’t waste time with the word ‘curse’ because of its superstitious nature. However, Maker presented Jieng and Nuer people as if they are some kind of homogenous tribes. Internal differences and realities can’t give anyone any ground to over generalize ethnic realities.

Simple differences are presented above.

To make it even worse, Maker uses his family’s example as an exacting fact of the Jieng’s and Nuer’s realities. This is not only factually irresponsible, it is misleading.
For Maker’s account to be taken seriously, he should have given a fact-based contrast between these two tribes and other tribes in South Sudan. How different in terms of cultural tendency to violence are shilluk, Murle, Toposa, Madi, Kuki, Bari, Moru and other tribes from Jieng and Nuer?

Well, Mundari and Bari fight over cattle raiding, Bira fights Didinga over cattle…etc.
A responsible account would have presented a contrast between the tribes in question and any other tribes in terms of how their cultures influence perception of economics, politics, power, violence and so forth.

While Maker’s emotional outburst is understandable, his polemic could have been presented in a more believable manner. These communities, and every community in South Sudan, need intense soul-searching and self-criticism in order to move the nation forward. However, this is something that needs to be done in a responsible and informative manner because some people use them for references.
We shouldn’t undermine our intellectual roles by presenting writings that can be seen as comedy by others. Jieng and Nuer are the largest tribes in South Sudan and their dirty laundries are easily known nationally and internationally

Those who know the history of South Sudan, even simply beginning with Anyanya I, would understand that tribal violence and ethnic barbarity isn’t restricted to Jieng and Nuer. So restricting this violence and barbarity to Jieng and Nuer, majority of home not ascribing to them, is wanting!
Some Jieng people are culturally closer to Nuer than they are to other Jieng. Hol and Nyarweng of Duk County have some things in common with their Nuer neighbors than they have with Twic of Warrap or Bor of Bor County. A good examples are names: Gatluak, Chuol etc.

Even the Jieng of the former Bor District, now the counties of Duk, Twï and Bor, who have the closest social tie and good neighborliness than any Jieng tribes, are dialectally and culturally different. Their dialects are distinct! Kuol Manyang and Nyandeng de Mabior speak very different and distinct Jieng dialects. Nyandeng being Twï and Kuol being Bor. To outsiders, and given lack of information regarding what their ethnic realities are, they are referred erroneously and simply as ‘Dinka Bor.’ This is partly due to superficial presentation of their realities and history by outsiders.
To generalize the Jieng and Nuer as having been ‘cursed’ and to use one’s filial realities to generalize a human population is irresponsible. While the writer had good intentions, he shouldn’t do that at the expense of facts and truth. Feeding people with emotive falsity is as bad as the evil one intended to get rid of.

Jieng and Nuer, by all accounts, need to criticize themselves, however, they have to be responsible in relation to how they do it so that others learn appropriately from them.
We shouldn’t confuse children upbringing and tribal realities. My older brother used to beat us up badly but I don’t see that as related to his being a Jieng (Twï to be precise). It was part of how children were raised then. And I still believe he was and still a good brother and human being. He’s helping hundreds of injured civilians in Juba as a medical assistant.

Let’s tell the truth but responsibly! The problem in South Sudan is not Jieng or Nuer people! And even if Jieng and Nuer people were to go, the same problem would still persist in form of other tribes.
The problem is greed for power, incompetence and tasteless individual human personalities. Tribal violence is triggered and taken advantage of by politicians and their greed for power. It’s not the genesis of our problems per se. Tribalism and tribal hatred only become instruments of political interest and aspirations!

Political differences are easy tribalized and people slaughter themselves in hundreds if not thousands as the case is now in South Sudan.
Innocent civilians don’t start this mess and they don’t kill one another because they feel like it or they’ve been cursed. It’s the greedy, selfish and imbecilic politicians who take advantage of the situation.

 Maker, his friends and his family; Kuir, his friends and his family are Jieng people but they are neither cursed nor do they ascribe to violence and tribalism.
Let’s criticize responsibly!

Kuir ë Garang lives in Canada. You can contact him on twitter: @kuirthiy

 Read Maker's article here Maker's article