A THANK-YOU NOTE FROM MAKERERE TO ALL THE BROTHER’S KEEPERS OF MINE
On announcing my resumption of membership in Makerere University, as a student, beginning from where I stopped, Thomases reacted! The abnormal doubters and my ardent ‘hell wishers’, championed by my three cousins, who had even gone on to tell their slanderous world how my name was forever deleted in this university’s archives, and then felt they were thrice sly now feel twice shy on learning that I am learning normally. They are adamantly standing against all evidences, including fresh revelations by volunteers, who have offered to stand behind me in the courts of law, should I sue those responsible for my past woes. Anyway, I found it time-wasting, so I have ‘forgiven’ them as I proceed with my struggles.
Those are the first people I begin my appreciation with. I appreciate them because they kept me on their toss, hence on my toes, to make it back as such. Inasmuch as I acknowledge my detractors, I more genuinely appreciate the ‘contractors’ of my education anonymously. They have responded to my yearning for learning, hence, I will soon be earning from their leaning and generosity offered to me.
The second person I owe my returning to complete the three remaining semesters, or more—one of which I am doing its exams shortly—is Elizabeth. You know Elizabeth? She is that courageously suicidal woman, who dogged Jesus on his way to be pierced at Calvary while driven by a fierce cavalry. Elizabeth is the mother of John’s, that most disciplined disciple, who did not betray his friend, Jesus, when the rest had taken to their heels to the hills on that ‘good’ Thursday! This woman witnessed not only the crucifixion but also the resurrection, hence, has won for herself a seat in the kingdom to come.
As I am writing this piece in the dawn of the morning of April 29, the day given back to me by a kidnapper in 2006 (Click this and scroll it to page 9 of the PDF), this other paragraph is unto this woman (Elizabeth-incarnate), still. She is a friend in need in indeed— and, indeed, if Jesus had to tear out of His tomb this April, Elizabeth (Nyiel Kuai) would be the first woman at the open tomb; alas! she was born two millennia late! Nevertheless, she has served and saved some other ‘fugitive Jesuses’ of her time. I confessed, my life escapades are not fit for a woman who means just love. Mama-Tabby (as called by her peers) means not only love but life to me. I owe her it! More details are kept for the post-graduation publication, entitled, ‘Condemned To Go To School’!
This title does not only date back to a letter from a CMS’s missionary, Archibald Shaw (Machuor), in Malek, writing back to his colonial Bor district commission, who lived in London, excerpted by Marc Nikkel (RIP) in his first title, ‘DINKA CHRISTIANITY: Days of Devastation and Contentment’ (1998). I quote, “Dear DC, there is another wayward boy sent here. He is condemned to go to school.” The boy later became a successful teacher in Bor. Those days, Dinka chiefs and parents would not administer their punishing by banishing (to exile like today) their male juvenile delinquents, they used to excommunicate them from their villages to Malek, a Biblical sort of a gentile centre inhabited by a ‘foreign god’ (Jong-lei) or white missionaries, and their accomplices, besides the lepers. Those bad boys previously ‘condemned to go to school’ by their communities later became those good boys liberating the very people from the yoke of colonialism and neocolonialism; that ended in July 2011. Wait a minute! Did I say ‘those good boys’? Correction: they are now the very bad boys dismantling their hard-earned nation through corruption and power struggle.
Leave the complex title of my book there, one of the so-called ‘bad boys’ helped me to return to Makerere—his name withheld on his request till the book is published after my graduation or graduations thereafter.
Yet, another paragraph goes to another woman. She was almost my girlfriend according to distance love proposed by my friends and brothers separated from me by war those days. After a series of serious recommendations, I arrived, for the first time, at Kakuma in 2003. The second day, I had to go to ‘inspect’ my would be girlfriend, after which I would then stroll in the evening to see my aunt and her daughters. Auntie Ayuen Makuei took care of us in those Red Army’s red days in Palotaka, so she was top in my list of reunification visitations after my sister and other relatives, but not without that most praised, most prized lady, the tallest in the camp, second on my priorities. Sorry, I found myself in my aunt’s house simultaneously. Hold on, am I communicating here? She ordered her daughter, the tallest and most charming teen in the camp, to fetch me water, tea and food. And we dined, and we dialed the button of our Palotaka history, and we discussed the fate of our distant relatives… In Kakuma, I had no more girlfriend but a beautiful cousin! Imagine how mixed those feelings were on discovering my pen friend becoming this Mr. Penn’s cousin!
Sorry, did I send you away from the theme of the scene? I am actually writing an appreciation letter here to those who made me returned to Makerere 10 years later. They include this ‘failed attempted girlfriend’, my dedicated cousin, Aheu Deng Kudum. Two months ago, she faced me in Nairobi by the time she paid me a visit at my Amnesty International’s office. “Menh malen (maternal cousin),” as we addressed each other. “Leave this job, go to school. You are being condemned out there!” And she meant it in a big way, as detailed in the continuity of our conversation later after my graduation, and in the book, ‘Condemned To Go To School’.
Excuse me, I cannot just thank Aheu for ‘condemning’ me to go back to school, without regretting how she, herself, was condemned to go back from school. And this bitter life history of a girl child of war should be summed up in her own words in a near future book she asked me to co-write or edit.
“I lost my dream wedding. It was not a wedding; it was a whipping, with weeping! I was ambushed on my way to school by strangers directed by my own family members. I was thrown down from the bicycle, bundled onto the neck of some rugged men, whisked off to unknown location, and locked up in a dark room, though in the same camp. I was brought into a mind-splitting dilemma as I was introduced to a bundle of sticks and a crowd of strange youth commanded by their old uncle, who doubled as my father-in-law and father-in-love. How in love? The old man arranged with my family to marry me to his son, one of the so-called ‘South Sudanese Lost Boys’ in America. So in this wedding by whipping, he was my acting husband, or the deputy husband, to his son that was my proposed husband. They swore to keep me indoor till the real husband, who had not a word of love with me–leave alone knowing him physically, had to come back to take over ‘his wife’. My deal with this old man was not intimate but the ordeal was ultimate! I had, in their own words, ‘to be beaten to death, if I wish, else I surrender to wait till my ‘husband’ found his visa in USA and flew to Kakuma, if possible’. He made it at last sometimes later after a series of serious life-threatening attempt on my lonely self.”
More tear-letting horrors to be revealed later in the chapter entitled ‘Wedding with a Deputy Husband’. Meanwhile the real title of the book is still in the pipeline. I did not write this part of the story during my interview with her for The Star Newspaper and my magazine, “The You’nique Mega’zine”, in 2009 and 2010, on her way to Manila, Philippines, where she ranked the tallest model in the world. What I almost included is the way she courageously rolled herself in a blanket, doused the whole of herself with paraffin and set it alight in the UN protection camp, like Mohammed Bozize, the suicidal man that set off the Arab Springs in Tunisia in 2011. Aheu survived, but is now a single mother with one beautiful daughter.
Not only that, she is now a successful businesswoman amidst economic meltdown in Juba; she is the head of her late father’s family. The late Ustaz Deng Kudum Thoat was killed while commanding a battalion of SPLA attacking Juba in 1992. In order to support the orphans, Aheu, being the oldest daughter, took over the responsibility and built a house at Shirkat, Juba, in the spot where her father was shot down. While renting it out to send the girls to school and keep her ailing mother on medication, a million-pound house is facing demolition now by the city authorities. The rest of the story is in the book. This piece is not to preempt her book but to appreciate her for pushing me to go back to school, when she has lost her own chance for school for good.
Of course, I am always comfortable to tell my story using other characters of my calibre. Aheu is not the only one. There are more in the struggle with me, including those who saved my life and lost theirs like the late Lam Chuol Thichuong and the late Karbino Kolen Dhulo.
I cannot forget my own community brothers and friends who made me come back here, including those who might have withdrawn their support, leaving me in this maddening suspense, on flimsy excuses of my being antagonistic to the government of the day (according to rumours). I still love them because they would still help me in the future, when I have changed my heart (Inshallah), or when they have changed their hearts, or when the leaders of our country have changed their hearts and united our split-down-to-the-family nation as such. More of this will come in the Part Two of this series.
To conclude, and also to include, I would do great injustice if I were to leave out my mother, Keth Bathou, whom I have included as one of my saviours among ‘The Black Christs of Africa’. Allow me to quote this as you will discover it from this excerpt from my poetry book’s preface chapter.
THANK YOU TO THOSE WHO HELPED ME IN MY EARLY EDUCATION AND TALENT DAYS
Finally, if I made a mistake of including the word ‘Acknowledgement’ among the titles of Chapter X: herein known as The Prologue, I would be condemned, like Africa; \condemned to debts/sentenced to debts penalty/to service debts for eternity’ (Poem 96). This is because I am heavily indebted to everyone. Over the last 20 years, I have been under a certain fate supervisor. In other words, a faith survivor – mysterious I have been – totally dependent on God, and Mama Nature…thanks to the plants of green leaves, the trees of wild but succulent fruits and roots of the bushes of southern Sudan and northern Uganda. And thanks to people, philanthropic people whose list alone needs another book like this. Gracefully and gratefully, these poems are due to:
Emmanuel J. Christ
He or she or it
That is lain
Sincerely, I cannot tamper with the too many individual names of such Emmanuels’, the actors who in/directly invested either meagerly or majorly in my head, now being harvested with this – and other, and another – book. I can still hold names such as my mother’s Keth Bassou, the first to sacrifice her all and last saving, which is the first and last contribution to my school fees from my family member and family income, a coin of 10 Sudanese Pounds, barely a tenth of a dollar then, for my pencil. This 10-pence family budget was initially debated and bet for buying one loaf of bread to quell the hunger in my younger brother, one leaf of ostrich feather to cool the anger in my elder brother, or one leaf of tobacco to kill the hungover in my elderly father in 1989. Thank God I won that ‘lottery’ and made sure it was not abused. So I used it for my inspiring pen, making me the first boy from Pen clan (name not related in any way to a pen as an instrument for writing) and the whole of our village to enroll in a bush school during the war times.
Inspired by that penny for a pen(cil), I reported to school in May 1989 and was later joined by one boy and one girl, namely Angok Lueth Reech (RIP) and Achieng Majok Akuak, but my second recognition here goes to Stephen Reech Akuak, who introduced me, in that under-the-tree, three-pupil classroom, to letter ‘A’ in that ‘A-Day (heyday) of the launch of my personal civilization. Before we tackled letter ‘B’ and others of the English alphabet the following day, more boys and girls reported themselves voluntarily to the bush school from Kolmarek and other neighbouring cattle camps and villages. And then came my first literacy campaign song in my mother tongue, usually sung with the help of my other schoolmates such as Ayuen Biar Kuur and Chol Mayen Reech, “Sitting on a chair should not be just assumed by uneducated person/What was said has really come true/So that I will be like Garang de Mabior/To be highly educated like Garang de Mabior/To sleep on a bed like Garang de Mabior/To fight for homeland like Garang de Mabior…’.
My old woman also comforted me not to give up when Uncle Anyang-arem brutally beat me up for deserting the cattle at Pamai Cattle Camp for classes in Duk-Kolmarek Primary School. She also condemned my father for beating me and locking me up for leaving our crops to birds to attend church service and classes in my school. “Leave the boy alone! Don’t you know they are condemned to betray their families and go to school? They call them ‘mith ke abun’ (the children of the priest/father),” my mother protested. She fought not only to let me financially win that penny for a pen, which symbolically means school, but also to psychologically wean me from her love and family at the age of 9 in 1989 for an unknown destination for the sake of my education, that took place later in 1990. This is the first declaration of independence, according to me! “Alui, my son,” my mother addressed me in her mother tongue with a nickname she alone uses and knows what it means, “Your uncle doesn’t hate you but Aroh (now Matiop Anyang), his son, is not grown up enough, that’s why he is tethering you down with the goats and heifers. Just go, go with the boys, and go wherever they are being driven by the ‘Athielei’ (SPLA). None of us knows what awaits this land in the days to come!” she properly prophesied what later befell them in 1991, one year after my departure for Eastern Equatoria as a Jesh Ahmr.
With those words came a song, which I composed in my uncle’s luak while I was taking a night refuge after the news spread throughout Pen clan and Aboudit section that I had defected from the community by being secretly baptized besides being enrolled in school. In the face of this persecution, I composed and taught a song, which became one of the daily hits during my Red Army days from Kolmarek Primary School (Jonglei) in 1989 to Palotaka FACE Foundation Minors’ School (Eastern Equatoria) till 1994. The song goes here in my Bor Dinka dialect, translated beside into English, as follows:
Yo lɛ̈kɛ̈ Konë Jale, Tell the Jale Court Centre (now Payam)
Dunë yï piɔ̈u pɛ̈l wei, Never give up
Lɛ̈kɛ̈ Konë Dukthar, Tell the Dukthar Court Centre
Duɔ̈në yï piɔ̈u pɛ̈l wei, Never give up
Konë Akuai Deng, Tell the Akuai Deng
Duɔ̈në yï piɔ̈u pɛ̈l wei ë luɛɛk Never give up into slavery
wɔ cï gam wɔdhia. We’re all convinced
Pan dɛn abuk luel ë galɛɛm thook, We’ll negotiate our country through the barel
cï wɔ nuaan abï tek ë rou, of the pen and if it fails, it will split into two.
Pan dɛɛn abuk lueel ë Kalɛɛny thook, We’ll negotiate our country through the barel
Cï wɔ nuaan abï tek ë rou, of the gun and if it fails, it will split into two.
Pan dɛɛn abuk lueel ë këriɛ̈ɛ̈c ëbɛ̈n, We’ll negotiate our country by every means,
Cï wɔ nuaan abï tek ë röu, and if it fails, it will split into two.
Yo lɛ̈kɛ̈ Jɔɔn Gɛ̈rɛ̈ŋ Tell John Garang
Duɔ̈në yï piɔ̈u pɛ̈l wei Never give up
Lɛ̈kɛ̈ Kiir Mayaar Tell Kiir Mayar(dit)
Duɔ̈në yï piɔ̈u pɛ̈l wei Never give up
lɛ̈kɛ̈ Kuɔl Manyaŋ Tell Kuol Manyang
duɔ̈në yï piɔ̈u pɛ̈l wei ë luɛɛk Never give up into slavery
wɔ cï gam wɔdhia we’re all convinced (to fight)
NB: The last stanza of personalities was cut off by my teacher for reasons not known to me that time, maybe his trademark inferiority complex when I mentioned the name of the then most revered commander, ‘Kuol Manyang’, so it was not officially part of the song from 1989 to 1994.
Therefore, the heroes mentioned in this song and in my other songs of literary liberation struggle, including my heroine, Keth, are the primary beneficiaries of the title of this book; they are my black ‘christs’. In other words, she is my shadow saviour to whom I dedicate this poetry book, which she inspired in me in one of her many survival songs she composed and taught the village women, which I also learned, during that dreadful year of famine known in Bor as ‘Yang de Apar’, (the Drought of the Creeper, whereby people survived on leafy wild vines called ‘apar’) that hit Borland in 1986. Keth-dit also reignited the book in me when I met her after a 16-year separation in 2006, the year I started composing these poems. And, “Alleluia”, she screamed ‘Alui is here!”–she will tangibly touch it when I present the copy to her this December, 2012 (sorry, not fulfilled due to my political insecurity in Juba). Like a Holy Ghost who biblically perspires the word into the heart of an evangelist, she is my only ghost writer, who biologically transpires the word into this mind of an essayist, a poet and an artist. See her hereditary influence for the origin of this book on Poem #199, entitled ‘By Genetic Lottery’ of Chapter 16: Nature, Nurture and the Environs.
More names are in my debts gallery, like of Dan Callery, a solitary American businessman who, for God-knows reasons, came to Africa during the times it rained fire and brimstone on Sudan, just to ‘lose’ thousands of dollars of his business fortunes to education-thirsty lost boys wandering in South Sudan and East Africa, among them me. If this book gathers funds, Daniel Callery will be survived by the ‘Callery Gallery’ of our hitherto war pieces of arts. The names are too many to mention. That is why, in advance, I regret excluding names of my friends in deed and my friends in need. For this reason, if I mentioned Philip Makhor Majak, Nhial Titt Nhial and his colleagues of the New Sudan Vision news website, who facilitated the early works of this book; then all the rest, with bigger names like Gier Chuang Aluong and Michael Makuei Lueth as a few to mention, who contributed in either funding or founding my latent talent, may feel cheated. For this and other reasons, I needn’t want to mention any names.
For all the names I have regrettably excluded in The Black Christs of Africa, I hereby pledge to incredibly and indelibly include in my ‘Black Cries for Africa’, (not The Black Cries of Africa, Poem #88, but) an anthology of names published in my best wishes and my daily prayers to heaven. May the Good God be praised, and – lo, we go…!
Long live the long list of my donors.
Long live the long lease of their dollars.
Long live the long list of my heroes.
Wrong live the long list of my Herods.
Your faithful donor
Of your fateful honor,
J.P. de Ngong
My long absence in school has not gone without a lot of scrutiny, including some malicious slandering by my hell wishers. But I have the litany of evidences, some volunteer witnesses, others participants in pulling me back from school with their malice. For an example – and a sample – of my on-and-off appearance from this campus, download this testimony in a PDF format and read it at your own time. Click the link here and scroll the PDF document to page 9 of that paper…. https://weakleak.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/jst0404_issue9new.pdf