Dear Reader, this open letter was sent to me and many other bloggers and social media activists from Juba on the eve of Valentine Day, Saturday 13, 2016. Because I did not know the sender by details, it passed the Valentine Day by one as I was checking the source of the letter. Unfortunately, due to the sensitivity of the accompanying photoshopped picture of the president and the representative of the writer/sender, many people are scared to share it on their Facebook pages, Twitter handles, blogs or websites. Having felt the content to be really reflecting the situation on our people now in South Sudan, I have taken this daredevil’s courage to share my small brother, ‘Valentino Kenyi Manut Gatluak”s condition (not his real name) with the public, and probably the president, if at all he has accurate access to public complaints as such. The story was first published on the Facebook page of ‘Boko Harambee‘ (not Boko Haram), a page dedicated to child soldiers and child sufferers.



Your Excellency,

I am writing to you from Konyo-Konyo market. My name is Kenyi, and I am 12. I was told by my elder brother not to use my full name in this public letter. He is the one who is writing for me this letter now. You may know the reason. You may know the missing name if I put it here. It is for your fallen comrade.

My father died during the battle of Juba in 1992. I hear that he was tortured and thrown in a sack into the Nile at the ‘Beid al Abiad’ (so-called ‘white house’) by the ‘unknown gunmen’ of Juba for ‘collaborating’ with you. So my mother told me my uncle, who is now a drunken policeman, took over. So I was born before they separated! And I also got separated from them. But, thank God, I have managed to hang on as a business boy. I am an experienced shoe shiner. 7 years in service!

At this status, I don’t know if I qualify for a title of an orphan. And even if I do qualify, I wonder if there is a program to help the war orphans, widows, widowers (especially the drunken ones like my uncle), and the disabled. I see a signpost for their government office somewhere in town. Last year, my auntie, a cleaner there, showed me the V8 of the big man of that commission. I copied its number plate from behind. One day, I found it packed in front of KCB, so I wanted to see the Zol Kebiir to beg him to shine his shoes and buy more brushes and polishes. Your Excellency, his driver kicked my butt!

In 2012, I used to make up to 50 SSP a day at the Airport gate. Some big travelers used to give us their feet to clean before they step into the airplanes. Guess what, the security caned us one day December, that we are a dirty crowd that is risky to the VIP travelers. So we dispersed, and I relocated to Konyo-Konyo. That time, I dropped out of Komuyangi Primary School. I see a big hotel in that place nowadays.

I am a shoe shiner. My dream target this year was to shine your presidential shoes this Valentine Day. Unfortunately, I could not even catch sight of your vehicles speeding on Ministry Road. The police and security whisk us away like flies from the roadside.

This is the reason why I want to take this service to your doorstep. There is no business. Those we used to shine shoes for complain of ‘gurus mafi’. That there is no money. They say the prices of oil have dropped. And then all the remaining oil money goes to Khartoum as fees for this and that. They say some people in the government have increased the exchange rate. Yet they are keeping the salaries and prices of commodities normally low.

Bany, can you believe this? One of them slapped me on my cheeks when I asked for 10 SSP for shining two shoes. Yet when I go to buy fatah, the restaurant women ask for 20 SSP per plates. At the old price of my roadside stall at Juba-dit, that is 10 smart men, that I shine for 2 SSP each. And they want the price to remain like that. You see how they exploit us, Banydit, Mayardit?

Back home, my mother has left our house and is staying deep in the Nile, to catch waterlilies. She has not money to buy nets for catching fish. Food prices have gone beyond our imagination, except waterlily and wild fruits like lalop, tamarin, etc.

Sir, should I also talk of medicine, education, etc.? No, those are luxuries. The most overriding threat now is security. The rebels being too far away from kidnapping me to the bush for their small soldiers, your ‘unknown gunmen’ are here. Some junior unknown ones also rob us, I mean those who collect ‘taxes’ from us, shoe shiners! Nobody can believe this.

Banydit, I don’t know if this letter will reach your office, but I just feel like writing to inform you about my situation. My situation is lack of job, something to do at my age of 12 for survival. Please, don’t say I belong to school. An empty stomach makes an empty head. That is the truth.

By the way, the other day, they said it’s Riek Machar and his group who are making us to suffer like this. I heard last time that they started the war. I also saw on TV how they killed many people in Bor, Bentiu, etc. because their people were killed by your body guards in Juba here. I don’t know which one is true. I hear he is delaying our peace, that’s why things are going down. Bany, is that guy stronger than you?

11044176_916667188398562_6493174147295406757_nFinally, again, I need something to do. Please, give me your shoes just in one day, and I will survive for the next one year. If not that, then I will pick the gun. Last time, I lifted it up and was lighter for a small fighter like me. I will pick the gun and be a known gunman because I hear they will be paid first big money. Banydit, I repeat, let me remain in my business or I pick up the gun!