By Thiik Mou Giir, Melbourne, Australia
January 22, 2017 (SSB) — Three days ago I felt that I should write a New Year’s note to my Facebook friends. I sent out the following note about the vision I have been talking about for the last three years. It reads:
My Dear Fellow South Sudanese,
Here is my short message for you:
Let’s ‘Construct Our New Identity’ be the vision for this year, 2017, and the years to come. Dialogue is the cornerstone of this vision. I am not going to say, ‘I wish you a Happy New Year!’ Rather, let us meet one another with open heart and open mind and then let us talk. Let us have a serious talk, an honest talk. As we talk, we will be able to find a way to move forward together. The work of building this New Identity has to come from you. It has to come from your own heart and from your own mind. In the end of the year, we will judge whether we have had a Happy New Year or not. Let us make this New Year a Happy One with this vision in mind. It has to come from you and me; otherwise, what is the use of saying, ‘I wish you a Happy New Year!’ when I know for sure that we are not going to have one with this closed heart and this closed mind!
After I posted it on Facebook, I received so many responses in form of ‘likes’ and ‘comments’. I decided to send it to the chief editor of PaanLuel Wël blogger. His reply was, ‘It is a nice piece but too short for publication.’
In the meantime, I continued to receive comments. One of them was:
“Thanks Brother Thiik M. Giir. Talks and conversations are the solutions to our problems in South Sudan but the question is from where we will find people who know how to talk. I know all these critical things: disease and war came from lack of talk. If you go around now and look on people’s faces (South Sudanese), immediately you will see them angry without knowing why they are angry. Our people need lots of work to be done. They need treatment from sadness disease and then to accept the reconciliation after the permanent peace will remain.”
I responded to him by saying:
“Let me share one or two stories from my experience. I went to another state, here in Australia, with my wife for a visit. While we were there, we were invited to one of my wife’s acquaintances. When we arrived, I went and sat among men and we talked. They started saying harsh things about Dinka people and about the government of S Sudan. Someone among them interrupted and said, ‘have you forgotten that our guest here is a Dinka….Why don’t we make him feel comfortable’. Let us change the subject?” I stopped him right away and said, ‘I want this conversation to continue as it is … please don’t change anything.’ Then it was a freestyle, my friend. We boxed and we kicked, not literally, of course, until it hurts. We were wrestling with so many social and political issues. Then we saw, after a while, that the gap that was separating us was getting narrower and narrower. We started to enjoy the discussion. Anger, hatred, and fear of each other were replaced by things more positive. Then, midnight came on. My wife sent a word that we had to go. They didn’t want me to go. I didn’t want to go. My wife wanted me to go with her. I was forced to go against my will. They stood to hug me and to let me go. I left, feeling that I had learned so much from them.
Another example is this. When I started writing about issues that had affected our social fabric, published on https://paanluelwel.com/category/thiik-mou-giir/, I first wrote an introduction. Someone responded by saying, ‘Why don’t you write about the issue of ‘we liberated you’. That issue was almost at the bottom of the list of the things I was going to write about. Someone responded to that guy by saying, ‘There is nothing positive that we are to expect to come from this guy. Don’t you see, from his name, that he is related to the chairman of Jieng Council of Elders, Mr Ambrose Riiny Thiik? Anyway, they waited for my series of articles on the issues, including the one that discussed ‘We Liberated You’ issue. After they read the articles, they expressed their appreciation of them, all of them. Their prejudices were gone. Now they are among the first people who read my posts and press ‘like’ or point things out to me and to all others, on Facebook. I don’t wait for President Salva Kiir or for Dr Riek Machar to come and fix my world, my surroundings. Whenever I can, I try to do it myself. Sometimes I succeed and some other times I fail or, seemed to have failed. I struggle on’.
I don’t think I had answered the question sufficiently. The question was, “From where will we find the people who know how to talk?” Here is the second chance for me to answer that question. The skill that can enable one to talk effetely can be learned. I am still learning it. Anyway, here is the method that help me handle people with different attitudes and behaviours. I could have been one of those people who are being described as people with ‘anger’ on their faces. However, the way I tread my people is this. I approach them with a vision: ‘Construct Our New Identity’. That means, I have to treat them with respect guided by the vision. They were from different tribes; I was from Jieng tribe (The current identities). That does not mean I am more or less important. We are equal; we are human beings. In my mind, we had to forge a New Identity; that is, we have to talk and talk until we reach the point where we would come to realisation that we are in the process of becoming One People (New Identity). I also try to approach without any prejudices. Prejudices put me in a position of being deaf (handicap) to what they want to say to me. In that way, I am open, open to hear new ideas that will transform me and, in the meantime, open to share my ideas that could transform the people who I am talking to. As we talk, I try to put myself in their shoes. In this way, I can see the issues from different angles; I can wrestle with the same issues they are wrestling with effectively. This help people see clearly that I do not have any grudges against them. When they realise that, we then just focus on the issues, not on personalities. Our attitudes become more or less the same – positive. Even when we differ at times, we still continue to respect each other. When you have a vision, it guides you to the right direction. There will be surprises, pleasant sometimes and unpleasant sometimes. Whenever the experience is unpleasant, consider it as a price to pay as you are taking part in the “Construction Of Our New Identity.” Dialogue is vital this time and always.
When I sent my New Year’s note, a monologue, for publication, it was rejected on the grounds that it was too short. Now I have added the comments and exchanges on Facebook and fora. By doing this we have jointly and constructively written an article that is illustrative of a Dialogue. We have had a dialogue, in writing that will make it pass through the guidelines of publication.
You can reach the author via his email: Thiik Mou Giir, email@example.com
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