By Mareng Chuor Deng
“It is my strong conviction that organizing our sports sector effectively, and anchoring it on a strong base of visionary management, sound fiscal discipline, transparency and innovation will not only please our passionate football community, but it will also be a net positive to our quest for national unity, reconciliation and equitable development.” Mr Augustino Maduot Parek (CAMPAIGN MANISFESTO, 2021) Pg.1
There are rare things as a society we may applause like honesty and integrity, but when someone actually stands up for those principles, we hunch and wander how he acquired and manages those virtues. This is especially true in an environment gorged with corruption, squabbles and mudslinging. But there is one person among equals who stand above the latter vices and uphold the virtues of honesty and integrity; Mr Augustino Maduot Parek, a candidate for the President of the South Sudan Football Association (SSFA). The election will be held on the 22nd of July 2021.
As a journalist, I am supposed to be objective in my assessment of people. And hesitation will engulf me if I label him a ‘Savior’ for the ailing football fraternity in the country. I also felt it will be a misnomer to call him the opposite. This is a journalistic taboo, where we are demanded to look at both sides in order to produce credible news story. But the saving grace about this particular article is that the story of Mr Augustino Maduot Parek is not a news piece. It is a story of a man who has a reputation for pumping oxygen to crippling institutions he led. It is a story told by a person looking at him at an angle of bird’s eye view.
It has to be noted that I have never had any close interaction with Augustino (I will use his first name for the rest of the article). I first met him when he was the founding Director-General of the Directorate of Nationality, Passport and Immigration (DNPI). It was a fleeting encounter. I was at the institution to acquire a new Passport. One of my friends who work there painted a rosy picture about his boss and it was something I came to accept and admire during the preceding years when he was at the helm of DNPI. Establishing an institution from scratch comes with its own oddity with tumbles and tosses erected at every turn. Augustino braved odds through hard work, discipline, determination and integrity to bring to light what we proudly called today the DNPI. His service as a liberator for 21 years were incentives to acquire an in-built determination for the citizenry of the country to rip the fruits of Africa’s longest war and indeed having a country of our own. And these are the very incentives that made him join the liberation struggle in the first place.
In his Press Release #2 of 16th July 2021, he stated five points for his journey to SSFA. But point number three, “To Transform SSFA into a stable, progressive and innovative institution that upholds integrity in its conduct,” very much caught my attention. This particular theme echoes with his long-standing approach to any critical areas that call for his intuition to transform. The same transformation into “…stable, progressive and innovative institution….” approach is what still keeps DNPI a float at the face of adversaries unto this day.
A past adroit footballer in his own right, Augustino went ahead to juggle between his tight official schedules and nurturing young talents by sponsoring and managing football clubs at various Local Football Associations (LFAs) in different States including some of them in cosmopolitan Juba. This brings his non-tribal view to the fore. Football as one of the uniting factor in social settings needs negative tribal sentiments to be kept at bay. Augustino excels in this platform. His uniting and arresting personality can be used as a yardstick to measure social advancement. If studies are done on him closely, it is discovered that his leanings are the hinge on to service of the nation regardless of glaring tribal sentiments that always want to wreck our beloved country apart. He has never confined himself to the dictates of the locality. Those petty and negative inclinations never featured in his dictionary. I believe that its people like him who keep our society from falling into total darkness.
A proverbial story was narrated to the late Dr John Garang by our famous Statesman the late Cdr. Lual Diing Wol equating him (Dr John) having the strength of a dung beetle. Not that this small insect has that physical strength per se, but its determination and consistency enables it to roll the huge ball of cow-dung to its destination. Once it encounters an obstacle along the way because of uneven terrain, it will leave the rolling process and move around the dung to study what causes the blockage of its way. Once the dung beetle discovers the problem, it will either change the course of direction or will push it with all its strength across the obstacle. Such is a startling feat that is hard to come about.
In this case, there are so many little Dr John Garangs in so many Augustinos of good standing out there. Therefore, Augustino who has demonstrated his conviction, determination and consistency will change the course of steering the footballing community to betterment. Naysayers will argue to the contrary but they will have no ground to prove how this High school student-turned guerilla-turned technocratic reformer will not bring innovation and progress to SSFA. And am talking about his wealth of experience that seems to expand in every bit of the way. South Sudan being a country whose work is in constant progress, Augustino will have to shun loyalty over principles and comes with bricks and cement to add and strengthen the shaky foundation of SSFA if he wins; and I believe he will go through with a clean slate if the level ground of contest is provided. This issue of fair play was also stressed by SSFA current Secretary-General when Augustino went to present his credentials to the Electoral Committee on Friday 18th 2021 at the SSFA headquarters in Juba.
As one of the people who had the privilege of witnessing his presentation of the credentials papers. I cannot help thinking how far this energetic and patriotic citizen will reach. He was ushered into the waiting room with his team. I also tugged along to study him closely. What I was looking for in him did not take long before I fidgeted in my seat. One of the people among those in the room asked him why he never recommends accelerated promotion to some of his relatives to be officers at the DNPI during his heydays as the supermom of that institution. For it is a common practice within the organized forces.
“When people refuse to follow the system, don’t copy them, but do what is best expected of you as a leader. A leader is there to deliver service but not promote nepotism,” he replied. This simple and fast answer echoes with every bit of his belief in being a person who is best suited for a sound service delivery job. It was as if he knew that is the question I would have asked him during his press briefing. As common American folks will always remark about one of their own achieving goals of tough assignment ‘you gotta give it to him, the guy is a steel.’ I therefore paraphrase and say that ‘you gotta give it to him, the guy is a reformer.’
Looking back at the level of 16 Local Football Associations of the ten States and Abyei with exception of Pibor and Ruweng Administrative Areas, the necessity to improve sport could not have been more wanting. Currently, Abyei is represented by one delegate as opposed to three like any of the ten states of the country. Efforts must be made to fully bring Abyei under the wing of SSFA and have them represented fully by three delegates at the time of general assembly and election where decisions are made. Furthermore, it has no member at the national football Board level and Augustino should plan to have it represented on equal footing like the rest of their brethren in the country. Needless to say, Abyei presence at the border divide with Sudan can make them football ambassadors of peace.
There is a dictum case of ‘supply vs. demand.’ In this scenario, SSFA who is a supplier has a daunting task to fill up the yawning appetite of football at the state level where the demand for this sport is far-fetched. The interest in being a footballer is ingrained into the very souls of many young South Sudanese boys and girls. A concerned citizen like me who only wants to see this important institution progress to the right direction will only urge the voters to objectively lookout for him to be SSFA president. Their judgment should never be obscured by strings of loyalty.
To close this piece, I will advise Augustino to promote peace tournaments among warring communities like Bor-Murle-Lou Nuer etc. who are always embroil in a cycle of conflict if he wins. This brings the issue of expediting the formation of Pibor and Ruweng LFAs in case he successfully graces SSFA’s office. A friend of mine, who accompanied me to witness Augustino’s credential presentation, had this to ask me, “By the way, how is he planning to reclaim football fields at the national and state levels that have been turned into residential areas?” I don’t know. Mr Augustino, that’s your question. Adios!
The Author is a freelance journalist based in Juba, South Sudan. He can be reached at [email protected] or Tel: +211928544186