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Sudan Tribune

Plural news and views on Sudan

A KINGMAKER: My piece of political autobiography (informative)

James Dak in the court in Juba on February 15, 2018 on

James Dak in the court in Juba on February 15, 2018 (Reuters photo)

 

By James Gatdet Dak Lampuar

Messages sent to me included a repeated question which, as paraphrased, says, “When was the first time you joined politics, and how did it start, etc?”

Before I indulge in this, I should admit that I don’t understand the motive behind the question, whether it is a compliment or a challenge, or simply about knowing my political journey.

Nonetheless, let me try to answer those many repeated questions, or inquiries, in a form of an autobiography.

This, however, may not be comprehensive, though. I would have to write a book to adequately cover all its span of over 40 years in detail.

Honestly, I am not sure exactly — date-wise — when I entered politics per se. But I will share with you by highlighting some of it or summarize it below and walk you through it —- pointing to how it gradually progressed or developed!

So, to begin with, I should say I was pretty much exposed to ‘Anya-Nya 2′ leaders in Bilpam, notably late uncle Vincent (Benson) Kuany Latjor and late uncle Gordon Koang Chol, et al.

I used to randomly listen to their political conversations whenever they visited my father. This is since my childhood in the late1970s —- after our family returned from Malakal. They were good friends to my father, who co-founded Bilpam with them as the General Headquarters (GHQrs).

I was also recruited as a minor student (Jesh Amer) by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/SPLA) or (SPLA/SPLM) in 1985. This was under the leadership of our late Chairman, Dr. John Garang de Mabior, per permission from my father to join the Movement.

As I already stated, the recruitment happened in Bilpam at the end of 1985, when I was still in my early adolescence while in primary school.

I then took a bit of a basic Cuban language course — also in Bilpam — for months into 1986. The purpose was to prepare me to be sent to Cuba with the rest of my classmates for further training to become a medical doctor — I was told.

If I can recall, we were two groups of students at that time in Bilpam. One group was led by the late Order Thabach and another group led by the late Deng William Nyuon Bany. I was in the students’ group led by late Order Thabach.

We were taught by white Cuban soldiers in uniforms — turned teachers. They always carried their guns while teaching us under some big trees near the office of late Uncle Chagai Atem, the then administrator of Bilpam.

However, the process was cut short when my biological paternal uncle, the late Peter Puot Lampuar, rejected it. He was an Anya-Nya I veteran and was residing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by then, and got married to an Ethiopian lady. He protested the idea that I was to go to the “Communist Cuba.”

I did not behave like a prodigal son in the Bible. So, I obeyed my uncle’s concern, which my father also agreed to. I later came to realize that he was right.

He instead took me to his residence in Addis Ababa in 1986 to continue with my formal education from Primary Seven (7).

I later on qualified for the United Nations (UN) refugee students’ sponsorship program in Addis Ababa because they deemed me brilliant in classes (a brag).

This also made it possible for me to continue in high school as an urban student in the Ethiopian capital. I was receiving monthly allowances for accommodation and feeding from the UN. With the monthly allowances I was receiving from the UN, I was able to sometimes bring some of my younger brothers to Addis Ababa for studies during summer times. Thus, I never went to Cuba.

But could that Bilpam recruitment in 1985 be my introductory entrance into political life, or political liberation struggle?

I also lived in Itang and knew most of the residences of the top SPLM/SPLA leaders, starting with the residence of the Chairman, Dr. John Garang de Mabior, Deputy Chairman, Commander Kerubino Kwanyin Bol, and Chief of Staff of SPLA, Commander William Nyuon Bany, etc. Whether in the designated areas of Telul 1 or Telul 2 or Tuektuek or Bethe, etc.

For those who do not know Itang, it is an Ethiopian town, turned into a refugee camp. It is about 30 kilometers from Ethiopia-South Sudan border. It is located in the western part of Ethiopia in the Gambela region. The town was turned into the biggest refugee camp in Africa at that time from 1984, hosting nearly a million refugees from South(ern) Sudan.

INTERLUDE: Interestingly, corruption started to take deep roots in Itang, Dimma, Pinyudo, and in other areas liberated by SPLM/SPLA inside South Sudan where such everyday looting or corruption prevailed. How such residences, including of many junior officers, became semi-food stores from the looted UN food rations — meant for the suffering ordinary refugees — was mind-boggling.

Then they usually sold all types of food items they looted to Ethiopian businesspeople in the name of using the monies for the liberation struggle. But instead pocketed most of the money for their own families. And some began to rent or buy houses in East African countries at the expense of the destitute.

Does that looting spree not look familiar now in our independent Republic of South Sudan?

Yes, in the economic or finance section of the agreed reforms in the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), there is a provision which calls for an enforced return to South Sudan of all the stolen monies from the bank accounts of South Sudanese nationals in all countries around the world. This also includes the confiscation of all assets, such as companies, houses or buildings bought or built in South Sudan and around the world using stolen monies.

Yet, nobody is touching or talking about this money recovery provision now in the Agreement. It is being seen as a taboo or too sensitive to talk about or implement, at least for now.

Sadly, even many of our good, promising young people today, who never saw looting in the Itang refugee camp, or never worked in the corrupted system of the old Sudan, or some of whom were born after 1990, are now being forced into the culture of learning the art of sycophancy due to joblessness — and to mainly become very creative in making shoddy deals in practising corruption in our new Republic.

It was either passed on to them, or trained by the older corrupt uncles or nieces, or they have learned it live through experiences of others around them. Being rich or acquiring wealth is a very good thing if achieved honestly. But stealing to get rich is not.

There is now a real danger that almost all of us in the middle and working classes are becoming corrupt or potential thieves longing to steal if given a chance. Corruption has not only been condoned but also glorified as creativity, strength and successful hustling.

However, people do not receive true love and true respect in the public as corrupt or dishonest rich persons. People disrespect you even if you are a millionaire. They know you stole their monies, which would have been used to pay their salaries on time, deliver services to the suffering, dying populations, and develop infrastructures.

Thus, our dishonest millionaires in US dollars are being insulted left and right with disrespect every day.

Dishonest power and wealth may command fear, but NOT inspire genuine love and respect from the people!

Similarly, a good quality of life blessed with good health and happiness and love and being closer to God’s ways, etc., is not always determined by how wealthy you are, or how much money you stole, or how many mansions you own. Money or wealth illegally acquired is sometimes dangerous.

A dishonest wealth acquisition may deny you a good quality life, and most of the time turn you into not only a moderate drinker, but also an alcoholic — or an unhealthy 24/7 womanizer, or an unhealthy slay queen expert, or a sinful murderer, etc. You most of the time respond to important issues irrationally under the influence of alcohol and arrogance, or you become a selfish, unhappy, hateful and unloving human being. Only a very few people truly enjoy it in a healthy way and closer to God!

Unfortunately, in our society today in Juba, and in our states, those who are reluctant to practice corruption, or refuse to steal are seen as weak people, and are being looked down upon as lacking creativity!

And no other tangible legal means are availed through which honest people can acquire clean wealth without involving themselves in bad corrupt practices, such as direct money embezzlement, shoddy deals, betrayals, slay queen expertise, witchcraft kickbacks, etc.

Yes, the bitter truth is, that this unfortunate situation has forced most of us to become corrupt citizens, or hungry and angry potential thieves waiting in line!

We are creating a society in which thievery has become a new normal or a new acceptable societal norm that will take generations to reverse — if at all. Only God knows!

That was partly learned from the looting spree in Itang, Pinyudo and Dimma, plus from the corrupt system in the old Sudan. Now instead of looting the UN food items, we are looting our own resources, or budgets meant for service delivery and infrastructural developments in South Sudan.

We as the elites, or the lucky young and old privileged elites, have resorted to only stomach development, at the expense of the millions living in abject poverty throughout the nation. And all the looters falsely call themselves liberators. Liberating a few stomachs now?

And although majority of the men went to the bush to fight the enemy, many others either walked just dozens of kilometres, or trekked to Ethiopia for hundreds if not thousands of kilometres, not only because they wanted to practically participate in the war of liberation, but also mainly to benefit from the free food provided by the UN.

Poverty-stricken people in destitution back home also flooded to Itang as economic refugees from mainly Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazal regions. They seized the opportunity upon hearing the news that free food aid of various types descended in the Itang refugee camp, and almost everyone from South(ern) Sudan was qualified to receive it.

They left the hard work of subsistence farming or cultivation, and/or inadequate fishing, and/or rearing stubborn cattle. Some of them possessed only a few animals, which were not providing enough milk to feed their families. They took off to Itang refugee camp, or Pinyudo or Dimma for free food and to educate their kids, etc.

This was before the war could intensify in the said two regions from 1986, which also —- as a result — forced many more refugees and volunteer fighters to trek to Ethiopia, either for safety reasons or to actively participate in the struggle. This became an established observation!

And they also included those with criminal records back in Sudan, or on the run as fugitives, and those who could not find jobs in towns and cities. They all made use of the new opportunity and flocked to Itang in Ethiopia for different reasons.

While in Addis Ababa in 1986, I used to visit the office of the SPLM/SPLA and chatted about politics with whoever was available.

In Addis Ababa’s office, there was nothing called public finance management or accountability. Only unrecorded looting was taking place.

Yes, while in Itang, Bilpam and Addis Ababa, I saw a lot of things. I heard a lot of things. And I also experienced a lot of good and bad things as a very young adolescent and then as a young teenager.

The good thing is, I don’t talk a lot or gossip. I keep most of the things to myself. But I am very good at observing things around me! And I did observe a lot of things in the SPLM/SPLA. Watch out for more of my friendly books in the future — God willing.

I felt I had to highlight certain issues about this anointed and normalized disease called corruption in our beloved country, South Sudan. Sorry for the divergence!

Now back to my main autobiography: I left Addis Ababa and moved to Nairobi, Kenya, in 1992, and at times lived in a refugee camp. While in Kenya I became an active supporter of the Nasir Declaration faction of August 28, 1991, on the right of self-determination for the people of South(ern) Sudan.

This was after the SPLM/SPLA office was dismantled or evacuated from Addis Ababa in 1991. It followed the fall of the regime of the former Ethiopian President, Mengistu Haile Mariam, and the subsequent split within the SPLM/SPLA in the same year.

While in Nairobi from 1992, I with my other friends sometimes used to visit politicians of the Nasir Declaration faction, including the late Justice John Luk Jok, and late Professor Bari Wanji, etc.

We used to chat with them and hence received informal briefings from them on political developments in the Sudan.

The Secretary General of the then Nasir Declaration faction based in Kenya at that time in the mid-1990s was Dr. Richard K. Mulla if I can recall my memory correctly.

We pretty much acquainted ourselves with political matters, which we also used to disseminate to others.

Again, I am not sure what to describe that political support or affiliation. Was it my introduction to political life?

Then in the year 1994, I left Kenya and moved to the United States of America (USA). I took with me one of my younger brothers, Peter Changkuoth Dak Lampuar, who was underage at the time, plus my cousin. Three of us travelled to the USA from Nairobi.

While in the USA, I first focused on finding a job and then enrolling in university. I was working for a part-time job, and sometimes a full-time job, and studying at the university at the same time. I was able to support our parents (family) back home in Africa, and I was also supporting the schooling of my younger brothers in Addis Ababa. It was not an easy responsibility for me being the first-born male child in our family after my elder sister who was married off in the mid-1980s.

In 1994 while still residing in the city of Des Moines in the state of Iowa, I, James (Gatdet) Dak and James (Dak) Rut (now a church Pastor in the USA), jointly produced a handbook facilitated by the Social Welfare office in the state of Iowa — with those two names as the co-authors.

The handbook availed a glimpse of cultural and social norms among the contemporary Nuer community members that went to the USA in their hundreds that year and the year before in 1993.

The copies of the book were then distributed to Social Welfare offices in different states in the US so that social workers in those states acquainted themselves with the cultural or social norms of the Nuer refugees migrating to the USA.

Previously, in 1993/1994 while in the IFO refugee camp in Kenya, which was located near the border with Somalia, I volunteered to interpret/translate for Nuer refugees seeking resettlement in USA. I used to help so many people and families by filling out their resettlement application forms to the USA.

I also used to interpret/translate for them during their interviews with US migration officers. I would estimate that about 90% of all those individuals or families for whom I interpreted or translated their resettlement processes passed and travelled to the USA in 1993/1994.

My younger brother, Changkuoth, also joined me in supporting our big family back home in Africa after he turned 18 years old in the USA and found a job.

I actively became a political activist online in 1997/1998 in the USA, although I was still young in my 20’s. And that was the first time I made use of the internet and saw its power to spread messages worldwide through social media.

There was this internet website called ‘Sudan Discussion Board. I believe it was the first Sudanese online website by then. It was moderated by a Sudanese from the diaspora called Mauz.

The website provided a platform for daily debates on issues related to the civil war and peace in Sudan. By then the SPLM/SPLA had already split into two — years back — as mentioned above.

Our late Chairman, Dr. John Garang de Mabior, continued to lead the mainstream SPLM/SPLA faction, as it was called, which was also known as the Torit faction.

The other faction, the Nasir Faction, also became to be known as SPLM/SPLA-United, etc., was led by our current First Vice President of the Republic and Chairman and Commander-in-Chief of the SPLM/SPLA (IO), Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon.

In fact, after the split, the name SPLA/SPLM was for the first time reversed in order to become the SPLM/SPLA. This was done by Dr. Riek Machar and his colleagues in the Nasir Faction, including Dr Lam Akol Ajawin and the late elder Gordon Koang Chuol Kulang. They wanted to give an upper hand to the political wing rather than the military wing of the Movement.

Dr. Machar then signed the Khartoum Peace Agreement (KPA) on April 21, 1997, after he renamed his faction as the South Sudan Independence Movement/Army (SSIM/A). This was to champion the main objective or drive towards independence of South Sudan.

Joining him were also other splinter groups led by Comrades: the late Kerubino Kwanyin Bol, leading what was known as Bahr el Ghazal Group (BGG); the late Arok Thon Arok, leading what he named as Bor Group (BG); Dr. Theophiles Ochieng, leading Equatoria Defense Forces (EDF); and late Samuel Aru Bol, etc.

The Agreement introduced the right of self-determination for the people of South(ern) Sudan into the constitution of the Sudan in 1998.

It was for the first time in the history of Sudan that a regime in Khartoum enshrined self-determination for the people of South(ern) Sudan in the constitution.

Yes, the aspiration of the people of South(ern) Sudan to exercise their right of self-determination, or to achieve their independence, was NOT invented by Dr. Riek Machar. It had been whispered, if not clearly demanded, by many of our grandfathers or freedom fighters, many decades ago, even before the independence of Sudan on January 1, 1956.

However, after its supposed pursuit became dormant for many, many years, it was Dr. Riek Machar and his colleagues who revived and stepped up this demand for the exercise of the right of self-determination.

Dr. Riek Machar began to seriously champion it until all political forces in the Sudan (both in North and South) seriously came to terms with its inevitable pursuit. Even Dr. John Garang at one time honestly gave credit to Dr. Riek Machar for it.

So, jumping ahead of myself for a second in this article, note that after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed, Dr. Machar and all his colleagues, led by H.E. President Salva Kiir Mayardit, continued to champion the right of self-determination until independence was achieved on July 9, 2011!

During the USA debates on that online Discussion Board in 1997/1998, I was initially the only South(ern) Sudanese supporter of Dr. Riek Machar. I was defending the Khartoum Peace Agreement on the right of self-determination for the people of South(ern) Sudan.

I was almost debating against all the other South(ern) Sudanese members on the Board who supported the late Dr. Garang, for a secular democratic united Sudan.

If I can recall, some of those who were on the Board supporting Dr. Garang included uncle Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba, former Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology. He was residing in Kampala, Uganda, by then.

Uncle Dr. Peter Adwok was once a senior official in the Nasir Declaration faction but re-defected to Dr. Garang’s Torit faction along the way.

Another debater was Ambassador Dr. James Pitia Morgan, who was in the USA with me by then, but in different states.

I tried to mobilize other supporters of Dr. Machar at that time in the USA who knew how to use a computer and the internet and were also good in English as well as passionate about politics.

It was difficult to find willing participants with basic computer skills even though the majority of South(ern) Sudanese in the USA by then were supporting Dr. Machar.

But some gradually joined me in the debates at a later stage.

I was lucky because I had already learned basic computers in university and could type fast, and I knew how to browse the internet. These were some of the basic requirements.

I was also good in the English language and became one of the interpreters/translators for Nuer community members in my state who could not speak or write English well. I could interpret/translate for them in government offices, hospitals and courts, etc.

No YouTube or Facebook or WhatsApp or Instagram or many other social media platforms were created that time.

Only Google was predominantly used as the main search engine on the internet and Email plus Blogs/Websites, etc., as far as I could remember.

Also, screen-touch mobile phones or smartphones were not yet available to the public that time. We only used desktop or laptop computers to browse the internet.

I tried to mobilize Ambassador Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth to join me in the online debates. He was a good supporter of Dr. Machar by then and was also a university student in Washington DC. But it didn’t work out.

Luckily, I was joined by brother Dak Machar Kok who was residing in Sweden and did Computer Science studies.

Then we also reached out to the late Honourable Daniel Wuor Joak, who was residing in Norway, and was a political activist.

Now we the supporters of Dr. Machar become three active participants on the Board. Many others joined in the online debates later including Cde Biel Torkech, etc.

In January 1999, I returned to Africa to get married. And after getting married in Addis Ababa I then travelled to Khartoum in June 1999 and joined Dr. Machar in the Khartoum Peace Agreement. I stayed with him at his residence in Khartoum as his guest from the diaspora.

Dr. Machar was then the Assistant President of the Sudan and the President of the then Southern Sudan Coordinating Council (SSCC). The SSCC was a regional government and the first to be semi-autonomously in charge of the ten states of South(ern) Sudan.

Its sole purpose, inter alia, was to coordinate the implementation of the peace agreement and organize a referendum on self-determination for the people of South(ern) Sudan in four years by 2001.

The four-year countdown to the referendum was from April 21, 1997, to April 21, 2001 —- as stipulated in the Khartoum Peace Agreement.

When the Khartoum Peace Agreement was abrogated in the year 2000 — as Dr. Garang was still fighting — we subsequently moved back to Nairobi, Kenya. However, we left the provision of self-determination VERY intact in the constitution of Sudan, 1998.

Upon arriving in Nairobi from Khartoum, I was then officially appointed by Dr. Riek Machar as the person in charge of the Information Desk (Media) in the Office of the Chairman — his Office — from the year 2000.

At this point, Dr. Riek Machar had already renamed the Movement as Sudan People’s Democratic Front/Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SPDF/SPDF).

Then discussions between Dr. Garang and Dr. Machar began on how to unify the two factions of (former) SPLM/SPLA. Committees were formed by both sides. But at times the two principals would meet face to face.

I used to accompany Dr. Machar sometimes with some other officials from our side during his face-to-face meetings with Dr. Garang. Although I first saw Dr. Garang very close about five meters away from me when I was a minor student in Bilpam in 1985, and on many other occasions, we never shook hands. It is in that Nairobi meeting in the year 2001 where we had our first opportunity to shake hands a few times before I and others retired to a waiting room or reception. We left only the two principals having locked themselves inside a room for several hours, from 3 pm up to 9 pm.

One of the contentious issues, among many others, was how the new top leadership should look like in the would-be unified Movement. It was either Dr. Garang or Dr. Machar to lead it.

Finally, Dr. Machar accepted that Dr. Garang led it, and to deputize him, but with a condition that a National Convention should convene within months after signing the merger agreement and elect a new top leader, etc. Both leaders were to compete for the top position. Good, Dr. Garang accepted that!

Then another contentious issue arose. Comrade Salva Kiir Mayardit who deputized Dr. Garang in the Torit Faction — after late uncle Kerubino Kwanyin and late uncle William Nyuon were no longer there — became bitter about the would-be leadership arrangement that replaced him.

Comrade Salva argued that he was senior to Dr. Machar in the original hierarchy of the SPLM/SPLA and, hence, should not be demoted. And secondly, he also argued that Dr. Garang and Dr. Machar were both from the Upper Nile region and should not take the two most top positions.

On the other hand, Dr. Machar argued that the merger or unification was between two equal factions of leadership that stayed separately even longer for eleven years, more than they were together for eight years in the old hierarchy before the split.

And secondly, he challenged that it was more negatively concerning for Comrades Garang and Salva, who hailed from the same ethnic group, to take the two top positions.

Dr. Machar further pointed out that it is NOT the sharing of a region that is more concerning, or against the principle of diversity, but rather, it is being from the same ethnic group that should be seen as unacceptable in the leadership diversity.

It is the ethnical ties which are stronger than the artificial regional or state ties when it comes to the diversity of the people among ethnic groups like in South Sudan. History attests to it!

Dr. Machar’s side of logic made a lot of sense to Dr. Garang and he tried to convince Cde Salva to vacate the position.

When Dr. Garang failed to convince Comrade Salva to relinquish his position to Dr. Machar, he (Garang) became a bit confused on what to do, or he pretended so, and instead lamented to Dr. Machar to help him by keeping Comrade Salva in his position.

Dr. Machar reluctantly agreed to step down to the third position, which was previously occupied by Comrade James Wani Igga in the Torit faction. It is important to note that Dr. Igga was junior to Dr. Machar in the original leadership hierarchy of SPLM/SPLA.

Dr. Machar however said he would compete for the top position against Dr. Garang in the agreed National Convention.

On January 6, 2002, Dr Garang and Dr. Machar reunited their respective Movements and signed in the presence of thousands of South(ern) Sudanese in what was dubbed the Nairobi Merger Agreement in a big hall at the KICC building in Nairobi. I was in the hall as Justice John Luk Jok read out the whole document before the signing by the two top leaders.

In the text, the two leaders finally agreed that both self-determination and secular democratic united Sudan should be accommodated as twin objectives of the unified SPLM/SPLA, and therefore the two objectives were allowed to compete in the process of finding a peaceful resolution to the Sudanese conflict.

Someone at the top probably felt not confident to compete against the other in a free and fair election with a secret ballot in the agreed National Convention. Therefore, the Convention NEVER took place!

And before the procedural merger of the two offices kicked off, Comrade late Dr. Samson Kwaje, former Spokesperson in the Torit Faction, with Comrade George Garang, called me to their office in Nairobi. They asked me if I could start to work with them and showed me a ready-arranged office. I declined and reminded them to wait until I received a directive from my boss.

“Do you want Riek to tell you first?” George Garang asked me. I said yes and left. They both looked disappointed.

Then gradually the reunified and revitalized Movement, SPLM/SPLA, further re-engaged the Khartoum government with peace talks.

The self-determination clause — which was to be exercised in a referendum by the people of South(ern) Sudan in the dishonoured or defunct Khartoum Peace Agreement —- was again probably copied and pasted as the first protocol signed in Machakos, Kenya.

This was signed on July 20, 2002, with the former regime in Khartoum, under the auspices of IGAD — just six months after the unification of SPLM/SPLA in Nairobi.

Khartoum government was reminded that the regime had already accepted the exercise of the right of self-determination for the people of South(ern) Sudan — through an internationally monitored referendum — as they previously agreed to it and signed it in the abrogated Khartoum Peace Agreement of 1997 with Dr. Riek Machar. And that it was also provided for in the constitution of the Sudan, 1998.

Therefore, no need for further time-consuming negotiations on it as a contentious issue, but to simply adjust the transitional period that would lead to the exercise of the referendum. Then a separate would-be referendum for Abyei and popular consultations for Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan were also added.

Our current President of the Republic, H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit, was tasked to ink the revived protocol on the right of self-determination as the first clause in the Agreement.

This gradually gave birth to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed on January 9, 2005, under international pressure.

We gradually became a transitional government for six years — after elapsing of six months of a pre-transitional period from January 9, 2005, to July 9, 2005.

The six-year transitional government began on July 9, 2005, and ended on July 9, 2011.

Unfortunately, we lost Dr. Garang, untimely, on July 30, 2005, in a Ugandan chopper crash, just 21 days in office before he could visit Juba, the capital city, and to form the six years transitional government.

Then Cde Salva Kiir immediately took over by virtue of his hierarchical position —- as late Dr. Garang previously appointed him as his deputy —– both in the pre-independent semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) and in the SPLM/SPLA.

I have had continued to carry on with this task, which I call a ‘Special Mission’ as the person in charge of the Press or public outreach desk in the Office of Dr. Machar, as the then Vice president of GoSS from 2005 to 2011.

I had been attending almost all meetings of the national Cabinet (Council of Ministers) in Juba as a member of its Secretariat from 2006 up to 2013.

At the same time, I was also a Senior Correspondent in the Office on behalf of the State-run Radio and TV, now SSBC.

In 2010, Dr Machar — as the Vice President of GoSS — became the Chairperson of a high executive body, or the Southern Sudan Referendum Taskforce (SSRT). His executive strong team organized and oversaw that successful referendum. I was also in charge of the media in the Secretariat of the Referendum Taskforce.

Read one of my media reports in 2010 before the referendum in this attached link below: https://sudantribune.com/article34101/

We used to travel to Khartoum to meet the former President of Sudan, Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, to seek reassurances from him on the road to the independence of South(ern) Sudan, etc.

We also separately met with the main opposition leaders in (northern) Sudan, including late Dr. Hassan Al-Turabi, and the late Sadiq Al-Mahdi, including late Mohamed Osman Al Mirghani. We also sought their blessings for the referendum without any negative interference or foul play.

After the outcome of over 98% of our votes for independence, and we became an independent country on July 9, 2011, Dr. Machar appointed me as the Press Secretary in the Office of the Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan — now the First Vice President.

This is from the year 2011 to the present time despite some unpleasant interruptions along the way, including my illegal kidnapping on November 2, 2016, from Nairobi to Juba. May God forgive the perpetrators. They did not know what they were doing!

Special thanks go to all who stood with me inside the country and around the region and the world, demanding my freedom. These include my dear family members, relatives, friends, colleagues, members of my community, the public, human rights organizations and activists, ICRC, members of the diplomatic corps, the United Nations, etc.

Also, special thanks particularly go to both H.E. Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon, for demanding my freedom, and H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit, for ordering of my release publicly on a Peace Day in Juba.

Above all, thanks be to God for everything!

I also became the Official Spokesperson in the Office of Dr. Riek Machar, as the Chairman and Commander-in-Chief of the SPLM/SPLA (IO), from 2014 to the present after the crisis of December 15, 2013.

In brief, this was quite a long journey on how I gradually entered politics! It is not a shortcut, unfortunately. And the journey continues, God willing.

But I am not politically ambitious. I love civil service work and I am now Grade 1 — a most senior position in the civil service’s ranking system in South Sudan!

I would have been appointed to a lucrative position with the title ‘honourable’ a very long time ago if I had made noise about it — or if I had a get-rich-quick mentality scheme glued to my mind as the sole purpose of leadership and life.

I love to balance my life by humbling myself. I love to play a low profile — but working very hard behind the scenes for the people.

Honestly speaking, I also believe that my media work over the years has factually and truthfully informed, influenced and shaped public opinion in a certain right direction on political issues in South Sudan, not only domestically, but also regionally and internationally.

This is one of the main reasons I love this job, even though it is not lucrative — for a get-rich-quick politics.

And at the same time, unfortunately, the media role is one of the most hated or feared arms of government by many politicians, pseudo or not, who always tend to hide the truth from the public.

And without a doubt, my media civil service work —- for a very long time —- has put me or my name in the spotlight around the world for many years (over two decades).

I have been in the limelight more than most of our myriad number of ‘honourables’ in South Sudan, due to the nature of my work and its impact on publicity (an honest brag).

Many people say I conduct myself like a KING MAKER. Maybe!

But God is the KINGMAKER!

I thank you all for your love and best wishes!

Again, there is a time for everything!

And I hope I have satisfactorily answered the questions to all, including to those who might be thinking of asking me the same questions.

But note this, I was first a Christian church participant before I also became a participant in the political liberation struggle.

And I insist, let us use the power of the internet or social media to promote peace and unity among our people, including through the sharing of God’s words.

God bless South Sudan! Peace!

The author is the current Press Secretary (Head of Press) in the Office of the First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan, H.E. Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon.

The author is a veteran journalist and writer, who extensively published articles and reports on political issues in South Sudan. He has also authored the book: ‘My Painful Story: Abducted from Kenya, Imprisoned in South Sudan.’ He can be reached at: [email protected].