Saturday, June 16, 2018

Brief Reflection of the Past

By Pal Chol Nyan

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"As you would recall, the red army consisted of teenagers recruited from Bahr El Ghazal, the Nuba Mountains, Equatoria, and Upper Nile. They had trekked all the way to Ethiopia, a journey of three to four months, arriving there only as skeletons." 
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Photo: UNHCR
I was a member of the red army, who after the fall of the Ethiopia's Derg Regime in 1990, came and settled in Nasir. We were a group of what UNICEF later called "Unaccompanied Minors." We built our tukuls in the swampy areas of Ketbek adjacent to the SPLM/A Nasir Faction Headquarters. On arrival from Ethiopia, we first settled at Torpuot but we later moved to Pananyang before coming to settle finally at Ketbek. We were known as K-Minors (Ketbek Minors). UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) started to open schools for the minors.

I was both a minor and a primary school teacher, the youngest teacher at the time. This spectacularly brought me closer to the UNICEF senior staff, prominent of whom was Prof essor Magne Raudalen, a Norwegian Professor of Psychology whose main task focused on trauma therapy and counselling.

Trauma is a mental condition that begets behavioral changes. It is also a physical harm inflicted with the use of blunt or sharp objects. Prof. Magne made me his interpreter when interviewing the minors about their experiences. It was not easy but it was a task I could not turn down because most of the minors were speaking Arabic and local languages.

As you would recall, the red army consisted of teenagers recruited from Bahr El Ghazal, the Nuba Mountains, Equatoria, and Upper Nile. They had trekked all the way to Ethiopia, a journey of three to four months, arriving there only as skeletons.

These minors were based in Itang, Pinyudo and Dimma. They were trained as soldiers while schooling, though improper because it used to be interrupted for reasons known to all of us. We had teachers. We also had caretakers, who were appointed and assigned by the SPLM/A Leadership. They catered for us. 

During the long trek to Ethiopia, many of these teenagers did not make it to their destinations. They felt prey to the wild beasts, succumbed to death as a result of snakes bites,  drowning while crossing rivers, some were eaten up by crocodiles, some starved to death, some died of thirst and felt into the ambushes of the Murahaleen (Arab nomads in Sudan) and some tribal armed groups. With time, the survivors got traumatized. They would scream in dreams about the worst experiences they had gone through. UNICEF introduced the program of psycho-social trauma therapy to help the minors cope with these experiences and disturbing nightmares. One day, I was hosted by the UNICEF Film Crew where I had to narrate my life experiences, which was also part of trauma therapy.

I hope the SPLM/A commanders wouldn't deny that they picked and dispatched some of us to war. Zal Zal (Earthquake) two consisted mainly of the red army. General Pieng Deng Majok is a living witness to this fact. They have fallen in many battles. Some of our colleagues, who managed to go to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya and Pinyudo Refugee Camp in Ethiopia, immigrated to the USA through the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) initiated program of resettlement.

They are the ones who called themselves the "Lost Boys" of Sudan. The term red army was an SPLM/A jargon and a euphemism for child soldiers. We were picked from our homes under the pretext of going to school in Ethiopia when, in actual fact, it was a conscription because the parents who opposed this forceful removal faced fines in form of cattle. I can state here clearly that most of the red army undertook specialized military training. They became signalists and Combat Intelligence officers( GIS: General Intelligence Services) as it used to be called. The first group of the red army was sent to Cuba for education and military training at Youth Island became professionals in many disciplines.The survivors of the red army  are  now in their late 40s. They can lead and do what others do.

South Sudan has great minds and skilled manpower. However, these are people who have no chance of utilizing these skills due to the SPLM's power war.

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The author is an independent opinion writer and stands where truth is deemed bitter. He's also a medical practitioner based in South Sudan. My email is  palcholnyan@yahoo.com

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SELF-ESTEEM AND DISCRIMINATION

As someone who grew up in war conditions and lived as a refugee for a long time, I'm sometimes considered by many people in the 'west' to be prone to (or have) low self-esteem, be poor or illiterate. Living as refugees or displaced persons, who depended on the good will of others put people in a situation where they don't think much about themselves. But that's not everyone though.

As I stood by our front desk at my place work talking about Race and Identity in relation to my book, Is 'Black' Really Beautiful?, the issue of why many African peoples in North America become so over-sensitive when racial issues come up! For many rational people, this owes its origin to slavery and racial segregation.

But one of my coworkers, a person of European descent, was surprised to realize that her 'black' friend, a very intelligent woman, easily becomes irritated by simple things she [friend] considers racist. The friend considers any mention of a watermelon racist; and complains a lot about 'white privilege.' This means that discrimination is considered something 'whites' don't face because of 'white privilege.' In any discussion between 'blacks' and 'whites', 'white privilege' issue comes up!