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

ON CULTURAL IDENTITY & BELONGING

Dear Melbournians, the South Sudanese people to be precise. Do you think we have seen it all? Do you think we have seen that: I mean in the aftermath of yesteryears, in regard to our culture and the notions around identity and belonging? Do you think we have seen the true reaping of what we sowed years ago? Do you really think so? After all, did we really sow anything like seeds and that there’s something to be reaped? Did we really live it out well to be seen today?

I am sorry to have bothered you, my potential readers, with questions regarding our social, economic, and political location in our host society: Australia. I think we have not seen it all and as a whole: The idea that people are bound by certain values and beliefs of significance to them. This requires cooperation and role-specific obligations on the roles of every man and woman across a given people and their society.

TOLERANCE & INCLUSION


While it is possible for us to racially discriminate or judge people we know, the chances of judging people we know diminish significantly the more we know them. An easy example of the importance of understanding others is the attitude people develop when they want to harm others or when they want to deny them something valuable. Essentially, before you fight someone, you insult them. Insults are attempts at diminishing the value of people, an attempt at estranging them, as Toni Morrison argued in The Origin of Others. It is easy to discriminate against strangers or make others strangers or dehumanized in order to discriminate against them.

Transformational Leadership, Inclusive Institutions and Service Provision

Leadership, given what is happening now in South Sudan, and generally in Africa, fascinates me. And it fascinates me not in a good way but because of the sociopolitical and socioeconomic ills facing the African continent and most of the so-called 'Third World.' To me, South Sudan, now, is a classic case.

Rebellion by disaffected politico-military leaders and repression by the government of South Sudan in Juba have stunted institutional development and leadership growth. This has made service provision almost irrelevant as political survival has taken primacy and supremacy. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

‘Black’ as an Identity Oversimplification and Mockery

Black as a universalized cultural identity of the African Person (AP)* is a residual effect of slave and colonial mentality; a racial/race paradigm. It is a malady I call, conservatively speaking, stuck-in-the-past syndrome of color constraints. Black could be an on-the-street ‘social identifier’ of race figures not a meaningful phenomenon of deep cultural identification on a universal scale.