Archive for February 12, 2015

George Mel: The Plane-Builder of South Sudan

Posted: February 12, 2015 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Technology

George Mel with the light aircraft he taught himself to build

George Mel has dreamed of flying since he was a boy, but when his father died he had to give up his studies, and any chance of training to be a pilot. Instead he built a plane in his back yard – which so impressed his country’s air force that it gave him a job.

“I’ve had the passion to become an aeronautic engineer since I was young,” says George Mel, a 23-year-old, who lives in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

“I love to make aircraft.

“When I was still young I tried to fly. I got curtains and put metal in to form wings, and got on top of the roof. I wanted to see if I would fly like a bird, but I fell. I almost broke my leg.”

Despite such early disappointments, Mel set out to learn as much as he could about aviation.

He went to study at high school in Uganda, but in 2011, as he was preparing for his final exams, his father died, leaving him unable to pay his tuition fees.

He had no choice but to give up his studies and come home.

But he continued to do whatever he could to teach himself aeronautics.

George Mel in his bedroom/study

Losing his father was bad, Mel says, but it also seemed to give him the space to pursue his goal.

“When I didn’t go to school I had a lot of time,” he says.

“My brain was released to do a lot of research. I didn’t just sit down… I stuck to my dreams and I started doing them practically and researching a lot.”

He painstakingly gathered the materials to build an aircraft, scouring Juba’s metal workshops to piece together an aluminium airframe, and importing two small petrol engines to power it.

Using a garden chair for the pilot’s seat, he put it aircraft together with information he found in old textbooks and on the internet.

In late 2013, South Sudan slid towards civil war amid a power struggle between the country’s two top politicians.

But Mel continued working on his aircraft even as the conflict spilled on to the streets around his family compound.

Shooting could be heard in his neighbourhood as fighting approached the United Nations mission close to Mel’s home.

“I didn’t stop my project,” he says, “I kept on doing it in my research centre. I just locked myself inside, and did my work.

“A lot of people left the place but I didn’t move anywhere. I didn’t know where to go, so I kept on doing my work.”

Mel’s “research centre” is his own room, where his bed sits alongside pieces of aircraft.

Model aircraft on the wall of George Mel's bedroom/study

“You can see wooden propellers here, and UAVs, because these were my interest, this is what I focused on.

“This is where I sleep, and the same place where I do my research, because they don’t have any working places like hangars at the moment.”

Occasionally, as the family bread-winner in one of Africa’s least developed economies, he has deemed it wise to conceal his activities from the rest of the household.

“Sometimes when I bring materials I sneak them into the house through the fence so they will not see. If they see, they will start saying I’m wasting money on crazy stuff,” he says.

But when Mel eventually took his work to the South Sudan Air Force, officers were impressed and gave him a job in their IT department.

He is now hoping to get a scholarship to study aeronautical engineering abroad.

So far the authorities in Juba have refused Mel permission to test-fly his ultra-light, restricting him to taxi-ing the aircraft in his yard.

But he remains determined to realise his ambitions, for himself and for the future of his country.

One of his aims is to develop a farming drone to spray crops, though in the long run, of course, he wants to design and build full-size planes.

George Mel with his light aircraft

On the tail of his first aircraft he has painted the South Sudanese flag, along with the words: “We have a future”.

“I’m very hopeful. What happened has happened and we have to move on with life,” says Mel.

“So we forget about the past and struggle for the future. Mainly as the youth we need to do our level best and lift up this country.

“It’s logic. The youth are the future of the country.”

George Mel spoke to Outlook on the BBC World Service. Listen again on iPlayer or get the Outlook podcast.

Mzee Kiir Mayardit: the Unchosen One.

Posted: February 12, 2015 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Apioth Mayom, Featured Articles

By Apioth Mayom Apioth, USA

President Salva Kiir Mayaardit

President Salva Kiir Mayaardit

February 12, 2015 (SSB) —  The rise of Salvatore Kiir during our times in the bush fighting Khartoum would not have gone unchallenged had his rivals not been overly ambitious to topple their leading colonel, Dr. Garang de Mabior. The likes of Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, Arok Thon Arok, Lam Akol, and Riek Machar, were talented enough to have replaced Dr. John when it was time for him to hang up his boots.

At the time, things weren’t straightforward as we would have like them to be; every one of these men was arrogantly coveting the top seat, and no doubt each and every one of them was saying, “What does Garang have that I don’t have?” In the end, all of them lost their way; with some switching to the enemy’s side; both Kuanyin and Arok met their deaths in the midst of those confusing times.

In the beginning, not many people knew whether Dr. Garang had the leadership capability to lead SPLM/SPLA; the Movement was a collection of southern Sudanese fastidiously lumped together to fight for a common cause: The liberation of southern Sudan from the marginalization practicalities of the Khartoum’s ruling elites.

Indeed, many of these compatriots were starting to get to know each other while they were putting together the Movement. As we looked back now, no one can point a finger at these compatriots, for they were rightful candidates in their own rights during the few years of the Movement; at the beginning of the 1990s, they should have back down just a little because they had the luxury of having seen what John Garang was capable of, during his short stint in power.

As things were, these camaraderie kept on calling for Dr. Garang to leave the Movement so as to put in place democratic reforms; however, they failed to have understood what they were dealing with in the first place: a guerrilla Movement. SPLM/SPLA was indeed a progressing Movement; but as things stood while we were in the bush, there wasn’t any spacious room to practice liberal ideologues of a democratic nation-state; a lot of things dictated the smooth flow of commandeering.

Dr. John de Mabior wasn’t that bad a leader as some people might have falsely made to believe; after the departure of Kuanyin Bol, Arok Thon and others from the Movement, he took in Nyuon Bany and the stormy friction that was commonplace when the likes of Lam Akol and Riek Machar were sharing the spotlight with Dr. John was gone.

I have a gut-feeling that Dr. John de Mabior was the right man to lead us back then, and even at these confusing times, his top-notch leadership hasn’t still been surpassed. His great workmanship with Nyuon Bany have time and time again shown that he was willing to work with anyone as long as they were willing to follow his lead because obviously his talents were superior than everyone at the time.

Things would have been different now in South Sudan had any of these compatriots waited patiently for his turn to take the top seat; the race for leadership that took to the fore in the nascent beginnings of the Movement finally plunged our nation into another war zone in December 2013, culminating in the deaths of thousands of our citizens.

I hate to say this, but let the truth be told: Dr. Garang was using both Kiir Mayar and James Wani because all the others wanted to bring the house down; a house that was sheltering the dreams of countless successive generations of South Sudanese. Garang’s intentions in using Kiir and Wani were for all our betterment; creating a nation we could all call home.

Here is how the governing house of Kiir Kuethpiny went haywire on him. Sometime after taking power, he began to surround himself with his closing aides. Rather than having the final say and putting in all the final touches to briefings he received, he was always willing to take the words right out of the mouths from his closing associates unaltered and without questioning how those decisions were going to affect the masses of the common South Sudanese.

Kiir’s African “big man” leadership is unlike many of the typical strongmen of Africa going back to the time of Toroitich Arap Moi to the present Robert Mugabe. Once similarity though, is the use of force to quieten their opposition forces. Other than that, those of Moi and Mugabe were (Mugabe is perhaps still) preoccupied with accumulating wealth from day one at the expense of their subjects.

Kiir, on other hand, perhaps wanted to share his leadership with his people. He probably had too much love for his people and mistakenly thought his leadership was for charity. He took it as though the leadership was a great wine to be shared among close friends. His leadership has been like a great wine being shared among friends and when everyone is in the wineroom, no one has the upper hand to dictate what every attendee says. Their utmost intention for being there in the first place was to relieve themselves from the stress and have a good time, a wonderful time to forget the daily grinds of the world.

As things took shape, and since he was legally sharing his leadership among his closest aides (according to him), he was taking an advice from Anei Wol today and the next day, he switched to Ring Biar. Events went haywire before his eyes by not taking precautionary measures to take what he was receiving from his advisers and let them pass through a filtration sieve; he had too much respect for them though, almost as though they were co-presidents with him on the throne. He was supposed to synthesize and make improvisations on the briefings he was receiving from his advisers.

Both Daniel Moi and Robert Mugabe have been thus far better than him on one thing: They put in place an orderly security apparatuses to prevent their people from butchering each other, and in reality, their leaderships have been a one-man show; it was either a Daniel Arap Moi’s world, or a Robert Mugabe’s world; whereas in South Sudan, perhaps there were also President Telar Ring Deng, President Malong Awan and President Salva Kiir Mayar, all ruling at one go.

This was what brought the chaotic dysfunctional downfall of our nation. There were way too many people stirring the soup, creating a messy, murky situation.

 The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made are the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing from.


By Anyieth D’Awol

Did President Kiir and Riek Machar sign the deal under duress?

Did President Kiir and Riek Machar sign the deal under duress?

February 12, 2015 (SSB) — After more than a year of talks in Addis Ababa under the auspices of IGAD, we, the people of South Sudan, know far too little about what is being done in our name and on our behalf. We know there is a peace process, publicly backed by the region and by the international community. We know there have been numerous attempts to reach comprehensive agreement, all of which have either failed or so far been inconclusive. We have little confidence in the quick political fix being pursued. The silence of the IGAD mediation is worrisome. What are your plans? What is your strategy? Why do you not directly involve us in the peace process, the citizens it is meant to serve?

This is more than about the right of citizens to know, which we hope is obvious and self-evident. It is about the right to be involved, and to hear more than the propaganda of the warring groups, which strengthens the parties and prolongs the conflict. We never know what is true. Factual information will enable us to leverage our leaders. We are the constituency for peace. It is our peace process, the peace process of South Sudanese, not the peace process of IGAD, nor of Salva Kiir, nor of Riek Machar.

Clearly, there are matters where discretion and confidentiality are necessary. But these are limited and few. When the future of our country is at stake, IGAD, we expect to hear more than the occasional press release or public statement from you on the milestones or the stalemates. Mediators Seyoum Mesfin and Lazaro Sumbeiywo, you have decades of experience in peace processes, and have lived through the conflicts of the region. If this was a process directly concerning your own countries, Ethiopia or Kenya, if the politics of Addis or Nairobi were being discussed now, you would have every expectation that your compatriots would be involved, be informed and be included in events. South Sudanese deserve no less.

We understand that the next round of talks, due to convene on February 19, may be the last. This is welcome news if it means peace and prosperity is at hand. But we have our doubts. We must be reassured. We need honesty and explanation. The broader the community engagement, the greater the potential for durable peace is. A more open and transparent process means we are aware of the elements of the agreements and can better hold our leaders to their word and deed. For peace to be sustained the citizens must believe in it, must be included, must have our voices heard. This peace process cannot be the preserve of the elite. Too many processes, too many agreements in the past have used that logic. None have succeeded and almost all have contributed to this conflict.

Mediators, South Sudan is more than Juba. Please, tour our country. Tell us the news. We may be skeptical but we must hear you, in every town and many villages across this land. Send your delegates. Translate your messages and information into our languages – English alone will not reach the masses. Be tireless in your attempts to speak to us. Do not only visit the offices of ministers and generals, of the president and other politicians. They matter, but they are not the only South Sudanese who matter. Yes, it is tiring and time consuming and it may be tedious. But it is necessary. It is vital. After more than a year of suffering, this plea should not even be required. That it has become necessary is most unfortunate. But there is still opportunity for you to correct this situation. We are waiting.

Anyieth D’Awol is a human rights activist and Founder and Director of the ROOTS Project, a civil society organization based in Juba, South Sudan

 The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made are the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing from.

Free Mading Ng’or Akech Kuaai

Posted: February 12, 2015 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Featured Articles, People

FREE Mading Ng'or

FREE Mading Ng’or

The gov’t of the liberators knows best how to humiliate its core supporters, which, in the process, invariably validate its core critics and mortal enemies. FREE Mading Ngor Akec Kuai​