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Monday, June 9, 2014

Twi Leaders, History Distortion and its Implication for South Sudan (Part I)


photo: ilovehistory.utah.gov
What would you do to leaders who want to benefit politically by sacrificing the truth about their own ethnic history? How would you call leaders who advise young people to forget about their history because it’s inconveniencing the falsehood and the political cocoon they’ve built for their selfish interests? How would you trust leaders who can’t unite their own counties but dream of being national leaders in South Sudan? Where in the world does an adult tell young, enthusiastic, truth-seeking people to never, ever talk about their own history? Would you trust a leader who tells his own kids to not be proud of their authentic history and embrace a vilifying, demeaning reality? Too many questions, I know!
Unfortunately, this is exactly what Twi leaders of Jonglei state tell their young people and the less informed populace.

Writers read to authenticate or defend what they write! As I continue to grow, read and discover realities about myself and where I come from, I continue to get appalled at how distorted my own history has become and how leaders from my own county (Twi) are sleeping on the truth in order to protect their interests. If these leaders are decided on destroying our history for their interests, then I’ll expose them to South Sudanese in order to protect my daughter from an impending future in which people pride in falsehood because it’s beneficial. She’ll grow up knowing the value of truth and respect for others.
Destroy our history and we’ll destroy you! Mess with our history and you’re messing with my daughter’s authentic pride and sense of self. And that, my people, is what Europeans and Arabs did to us! Who can allow that AGAIN?!

Some Arabs and the Europeans distorted our sense of pride and historical truth. Why would I want my own leaders to do the same?
Historically, we’ve always been the Twi Dinka, Nyarweng Dinka, Bor Dinka, Hol Dinka, Rek Dinka, Aliap Dinka, Thoi Dinka, Rut Dinka, Twic Dinka, Agar Dinka, Malwal Dinka, Ciec Dinka…etc. That was beautiful not divisive!

Administrative realities have distorted everything so many people refer collectively to Twi, Nyarweng, Hol and Bor as Dinka Bor. How can Bor be a subset of itself?
So Moulana Abel Alier and Dr. John Garang De Mabior are considered to both be Dinka Bor; or Kuol Manyang and Majak D’Agoot are all considered to be Dinka Bor. Dr. Majak and Dr. John are Twi Dinka while Honourable Kuol Manyang and Moulana Abel Alier are Bor Dinka. This was true in the past and is now true; however, politics and personal interests have distorted it. It’s therefore high time someone who has nothing to lose but to point out the truth speaks up. As a writer who does research, there’s no way in hell I can disregard documented history that correlate the words of our ancestors. I owe it to my daughter and the future generation.  (See the attached list of readings for more information!)

The Twi people
The Twi Section of the Jieeng of Jonglei State is currently housed by ‘Twic East County.’ Regrettably, these people have been shuttled between different administrative districts from the colonial period to the present to the point that their ethnic reality has been distorted by their own leaders and the outsiders that are feeding on what these leaders present. Of notable districts that the Twi people have been part of are the former ‘Bor District’ since the early 20th century and the former ‘Kongor District’ from the 1970s until the SPLA war.

The Bor District was named after the Bor people, the now inhabitants of the ‘Bor County.’ Kongor District was named after one section of the Twi Dinka. The use of the name of a given section within the larger community has created problems. Naming the District of Twi, Kongor created many problems as other Twi sections didn’t want their district named after one of their fellow sections of Twi. However, Kongor was also a government post named after the section of Kongor so the administrators were naming the district after the town; which unfortunately was the name of one section of the Twi. It’s good to remember that the Kongor section never referred to the whole of the Twi people as ‘Dinka Kongor.’


Unfortunately, the same problem came up with the Bor District in a slightly different manner. The district was named after the Bor people, however; other Jieeng sections who are not Bor were included in the Bor District. Twi, Nyarweng and Hol were included in the District. While they were all called the Dinka of Bor District (previously Southern or South Eastern Dinka) it has now become a general knowledge to some people that they are all Bor people. Bor people are the ones who now inhabit ‘Bor County.’
The name Bor applied to Twi, Nyarweng and Hol because of their inclusion in the ‘Bor District’ not because they are the same section of Dinka. The four sub-tribes speak different dialects (verify that for yourself). This inclusion in Bor District of Twi, Nyarweng and Hol has caused a lot of confusion among them with some people arguing that they are all Bor and some arguing otherwise. Since were no longer have Bor District as a reference point, it would be ridiculous to call Twi, Dinka of Bor. It would have made sense to call Twi Dinka of Bor District if we had a District called Bor that includes them administratively. The rightful Bor people (dialectally or ethnolinguistically) are the current inhabitants of Bor County.

So the next time you call Kuir ë Garang, Madam Rebecca Nyandeeng, Dr. Majak D’Agoot or Dr. Lual A. Achuek ‘Dinka Bor’, then know that you are not only falling into a falsified reality; you are also showing that you don’t know much about the people of the late Dr. John Garang De Mabior. Dr. John was from Awulian section of Twi in the now Nyuak Payam. Dr. John spoke a totally different Jieeng dialect as opposed to what Honorable Kuol Manyang speaks.

Diallectally or ethnolinguistically, Dr. John would ask: “ŋic kiir bï wo lɔ kuaŋ thïn?” and Moulana Abel Alier would say “Nyic ciir bïï wɔ lɔ kuaŋ thin?” And this means in English: “Do you know the river in which we are going to swim in?” Verify that for yourself!
‘Greater Bor’

Since the former inhabitants of the Bor District (Bor, Twi, Nyarweng and Hol) have their separate counties, (Bor County, Twic East County & Duk County) the leaders in these communities decided that a common name was required for reasons known to them.  And against all logic, they settled for a name of just one section among them: Bor. ‘Greater Bor’ was therefore chosen as supposedly a unifying name.

Since there’s no longer a District that includes the four communities, one wonders what area is being qualified as ‘greater’? We only have Bor County which carries the name Bor and also the State Capital. If it’s Bor County that’s being qualified as ‘greater’ then I fail to understand how it includes the other two counties. If the reference is to the former Bor District then why not ‘Greater Kongor?’ And why would they invoke an old, defunct administrative district that was left by Twi, Nyarweng and Hol over forty years ago?
The leaders in these counties know very well the ethnic and linguistic realities of the four communities. It’s known internally and there’s a load of historical records to prove it. However, Twi leaders believe that it’s better to be nice for political reasons than to be truthful.

They know that Twi is a separate ethnic identity; however, these leaders want to sacrifice Twi’s history because they believe telling the world the authentic Twi history and reality would anger the Bor people. It’s therefore better for the Twi history to be sacrificed. Too bad for them! History is documented!
The mere inclusion of the Twi people in the Bor District is being used to change Twi’s ethnic identity. Does inclusion in a given administrative district change people’s ethnic identity?

Some of these leaders think that because outsiders have used the name ‘Dinka Bor’ to collectively refer to the four sections of Jieeng of Jonglei then we have to just let it go that way. Is that how history is supposed to be? And the main motivation for such a state of mind is that correcting such a mistake is going to cause division and misunderstanding so ‘just let it go!’
Just imagine this scenario. Galuak, Lado, Ojullu and Sam decide to live in a two bedroom apartment that was previously rented by Galuak alone. Galuak has been renting the apartment for two years. The four friends now live together in that same apartment. After a year together, Ojullu suggests that they start a business and so a good name was required. Lado suggested that the business would be called ‘Galuak Enterprise.’ Sam and Ojullu were surprised. Galuak didn’t mind the name because it’s his name after all. Lado’s logic was that the house they’ve been living in has always been called ‘Galuak’s apartment’ and it would cause problems as Galuak would feel his name is being rejected should they create an inclusive name. Sam and Ojullu suggested the business be given a name that reflects and respects all the four friends. They also didn’t understand why their collective business should only carry Galuak’s name.

This is the same case with Bor, Twi, Hol and Nyarweng: ‘Greater Bor’ for all of them! While it was bad enough that they were all included in a district (by the Brits) that carried a name of only one of them (Bor) in the past, the leaders are doing the same now: using the name Bor to unify the four sub-tribes. This has no logical sense and has no historical basis.
‘Greater Bor’ not only distorts the history of the four peoples, it also portrays the problem of opportunism in South Sudan. If there’s such a thing as ‘Greater Bor’ then what’s its dialect and what’s its headquarters in Jonglei State? And why not ‘Greater Kongor’, ‘Greater Mongalla’ or ‘Greater Duk’ since some of us were part of these administrative centres in the past?

Historical Distortions and Opportunism
The good question is why would South Sudanese be interested in the history of these people? Should we not be concerned about national issues not these local matters?

First, there’s nothing trivial about a people’s history. It’s Twi people now but it could be you tomorrow. Would you allow your history to be distorted when you’ve learned beyond any reasonable doubt that it was and continues to be distorted for political interests?
Besides, this small sub-tribe, the Twi, of Jieeng of Jonglei has produced exceptional and national leaders since the first Anyanya war to the present. In the past, we had Mading de Garang, Akuot Atem de Mayen, Arok Thon Arok, Dr. John Garang de Mabior among others. These were not just leaders; they were leaders of national significance.

Now, we have among the Twi leaders, Dr. Lual A. Deng (former minister of petroleum in Sudan’s government of national unity), Dr. Majak D’Agoot (former Sudan’s deputy for national security and later, South Sudan’s deputy minister for defence), Madam Rebecca Nyandeeng (former minister of Roads and Transportation), Elijah Malok Aleng (former governor of South Sudan Central Bank), Atem Garang Dekuek (former deputy Speaker in the Sudan’s national assembly and government Chief Whip in South Sudan National Assembly), Deng Dau Malek… etc.
These latter leaders know that the history of their people was distorted and continue to be distorted; however, they are helping in its distortion. In a mind-boggling problem, they avoid inquisitive Twi youth who have come to extensively study the history of the Twi people and relate it to what they know and how it differs from what these leaders maintain.

These Twi leaders are afraid to come out and correct the distortion because it would compromise their standing in the eyes of the Bor people or what?... I don’t know. How can you trust leaders who mislead the uninformed and avoid the informed youth in their own community? What good would these leaders do to South Sudan?
How would such leaders have the interest of South Sudan in heart if they don’t care about their own counties? Not only have they let down their own counties in terms of development, they are helping in the complete destruction of their own history.

We’ve implored them to correct the mistakes but they are either dismissive or escapists. “Just let it go! We can’t do anything now!” they say! Just imagine someone from your own community telling you to stop reading or toss your history in favor of someone else’s truth!
Unity and Division

These leaders believe that talking about the real history of Twi and correcting it would cause disunity. Would you sacrifice your history for the sake of unity? Everyone in the world knows the value of history. No one would hate you or believe you’re being divisive when you correct your own history. Unity under falsehood is dangerous for the younger generation and a bad precedent in South Sudan. Falsehood or Truth can be covered up but it doesn’t last!

Slave traders in Europe tried it; Europeans colonialists tried it; American segregationists tried it; South African Racist regime tried it… No one can prosper on a concocted falsehood.
Bor, Twi, Nyarweng and Hol, as I’ve always said, have created a bond that’ll always be there. They are brothers and sisters and will always be! We don’t have to distort some histories or appease some people to maintain unity though. There’s no way their unity would be compromised if Bor people understand precisely that what is being corrected are historical mistakes. However, many Bor people know what I’m saying is the truth; however, like Galuak above, it’s their name being promoted after all.

However, Bor people and leaders are not the problem. They can’t correct Twi’s history if Twi people themselves don‘t want to do it. Twi leaders and elders are the problem. And they are the problem because political benefits have become more important than their people’s authentic histories.
Would you allow such leaders in your own community or see them handling national affairs? If they don’t care about their own why would one think they’d care about South Sudanese? If they treat their youth like idiots, how do you think they’d treat South Sudanese youth?

Implication for South Sudan
The current crisis was brought about by cooking up events and distortion of information for political interest. We don’t want leaders like these in South Sudan. It’s up to you in your own county to see if your leaders have the interest of the people at heart or they think for themselves. If we had leaders who care about the interest of the people, we would not have the current crisis and thousands of civilians would have not died.

Let’s hold leaders accountable! Let no one destroy our histories…AGAIN!
Sample readings on the history of Twi people

  1. Johnson, Douglas H., The Roots Causes of Sudan’s Civil Wars: Peace or Truce, Kampala,: Fountain Publishers, 2011, pp.65 & 92
  2. Will, C. A, The Upper Nile Province Hand Book: a report on peoples and government in the Southern Sudan, 1931, New York: Oxford University, Press, 1995
  3. Collins, Robert O, Land Beyond the Rivers : The Southern Sudan 1898-1918, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971
  4. Daly, M. W. Empire on the Nile The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan 1898-1934, Cambridge: University Press,1986 pp.146-147,149 & 151
  5. Kelly, Raymond Case, The Nuer Conquest: The Structure and Development of an Expansionist System, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1985 pp.58 & 161 & 258
  6. See Sudan Notes and Records Volume XI (1928) ‘The Cult of Deng’ by C. A. Willis, p.196
  7. Sudan Notes and Records, Volume XVII (1934), Part 1 ‘The Religious and Spiritual Beliefs of the Bor Dinka’ by  R. T Johnson, pp. 126 &.128.
  8. Honea, Kenneth, The Deng Cult and it’s Connections with the Goddess Aciek Among the Dinka, Vienna: Wiener Volkerkundliche Mitteilungen 2, no. 1, 1954, p.17
  9. Howell, P, Lock, M & Cobb, S, The Jonglei Canal: Impact and Opportunity, Cambridge: UP, 1988, p.206
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