Response to Uncle Bona Malwal recent press statement on Abyei in Khartoum

Posted: December 12, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Arop Madut-Arop, Columnists, Commentary, Contributing Writers, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Hon Arop Madut Arop, Nairobi, Kenya

john garang in the bushDecember 12, 2017 (SSB) — As I was reading the last proof of my new book on the Ngok Dinka history, which is currently with the printers, somebody sent me a recorded voice message purportedly given by Uncle Bona Malwal in his recent press conference in Khartoum. In the voice message, it would appear that Uncle Bona Malwal was answering questions from journalists about a number of sensitive issues including a so-called Abyei Area controversy.

From Uncle Bona Malwal press statement, which I believed was staged to enable him to air some of his frustrations about a number of issues which had in not very distant past, led to his retiring from politics; Some facts beg the positive response from the concerned citizens of Ngok Dinka Region, which by accident of politics, has become known as Abyei area.

But as most of the issues discussed by Uncle Bona Malwal in his Khartoum conference were his own personal opinions, I will only comment on some of the important issues that struck me in the face. But before I discuss the issues raised by Uncle Bona Malwal, I would like to appeal to my great and resilient people of the Ngok Atungdiak not to react negatively and used abusive language in their response to Uncle Bona Malwal assertion that; Abyei area is a Sudanese for the following reasons.

Firstly, Uncle Bona Malwal is one of our respectable political figures. On a number of occasions, in the past, Uncle Bona had been standing tall among our important elders. He has undeniably been seen championing not only the interest of the entire people of South Sudan but also that of the people of Abyei region. However, by default, if Uncle Bona Malwal has changed his leadership style and priorities today, he should be forgiven because according to sociologists, any human being changes his/her way of life every eight years.

Additionally, human being life goes through three stages: as a child, as an adult and as an elderly. Naturally, each of these stages has its own dynamics through which an individual behavior and public performances could be judged.

The second reason why our Ngok Dinka youths should not respond negatively to Uncle Bona Malwal’s adopted Khartoum slogan (that Abyei is a part of Sudan), is that, in our time honored South Sudanese tradition, young people do respect the opinion of their elders regardless to the impact that opinion has on them.

More so, African younger people do not even use abusive language in their response to what the elders say about them; good or bad. Rather, the youths do confront elderly people with facts.

It is in this light that I am going to confront Uncle Bona Malwal with historical facts that he may have knowingly or unknowingly disregarded. I will first start my response with historical facts which surrounded the transfer of the Ngok Dinka Nine Chiefdoms; which Uncle Bona stated; it was done through a request by the Ngok Dinka traditional leadership. Please bear with me as I delve into discussing these historical facts.


Following the crashing defeat of Mahdi’s successor Khalifa Abdullahi, one of the former Mahdist insurgents, Ali Jula who had been fighting alongside the Mahdist dervishes went back to the Misseriya land and usurped power from Sheikh Azoza who had been at peace with Southern neighbors.

Despite the ban on slave trade by the Anglo-Egyptian authorities, Sheikh Ali Jula embarked on large-scale slave trafficking on the Dinka tribes in Bahr al Ghazal in general and on the Ngok Dinka Chiefdoms in particular. However, it took a long time before the reports of the continuation of the slave trafficking came to the notice of Khartoum authorities to decide on what to do about the violation of the slave trafficking ban.

The first incident which would contribute to the subsequent transfer of the Ngok Dinka Chiefdoms from Bahr al Ghazal in South Sudan to Kordofan in North Sudan reportedly, came to the notice of the Khartoum authorities when the Ngok Dinka Chief, Arop Biong, sent two runners to the British Commissioner at Fashoda aka Tauffikia on the White Nile.

Reportedly, Sultan Arop Biong’s runners arrived at Kodok on 13th of September 1903 and told the District authorities that some Humr Arab tribesmen under Mohamed Khada had raided Ngok Dinka villages about a month earlier. The runners disclosed to the authorities that, the Arab raiders had killed two people, carried thirty others into captivity and took one thousand herds of cattle along with them. With order from Khartoum, the Governor of Kordofan Province investigated the matter. He recovered the thirty men and all the looted cattle were given back to their rightful owners.

The second incident that would force the authorities in Khartoum to intervene immediately took place in January 1904. Reportedly the Misseriya Arabs, under the command of Sheikh Ali Jula of the Misseriya had raided the Twic Dinka country; uncle Bona Malwal home area, looted a number of cattle and took along with them a number of young men and women into captivity.

The Twic spiritual leader, Deng Cyier aka Deng Thiapduok, sent his innovative nephew, Sheik Rehan Gorkuei, as an envoy to find out the whereabouts of the new British authorities. He would thereafter accused Ali Jula of the Misseriya for violating the slave trafficking ban imposed by the new Khartoum authorities.

Accordingly, Sheikh Rehan Gorkuei could not go to Aweil, Gogrial or Tonj, where he could present his complaint to the authorities; because those towns were not yet established. Sheikh Rehan Gorkwei, could not go even to Bentiu because that town was not yet established. Sheikh Rehan Gorkuei could only go to Kodok which was the only spot from where reports about the security situation from southern provinces could reach the new authorities in Khartoum.

Thus after a journey of twenty-three days on foot, the Twic leader Sheikh Rehan Gorkuei arrived in Kodok in March 1905, and presented his complaints to the British District Commissioner. In the meeting Sheikh, Rehan Gorkuei accused the Misseriya Chief Ali Jula for defying the British ban on slave trade; adding, Ali Jula of the Misseriya Arabs had raided his country in January and had looted thousands heads of cattle.

The Twic envoy told the Kodok authorities that, the Arab Misseriya raiders took fifteen young men along with them into captivity. The District Commissioner of Kodok, took Sheikh Rehan Gorkuei to Khartoum where he met the Governor General, Sir Reginald Wingate who, accordingly, ordered the acting Governor of Wau, Mr Sweeny to report to Khartoum immediately.

On arrival in Khartoum, the Governor General Wingate queried Mr Sweeny why he could not protect the people at the northern frontier of his administration. Governor Sweeny, reportedly, argued that, there were so many rivers and swamps on the way to Sheikh Rehan Gorkuei and Sultan Arop Biong areas. He added that, police forces or administrators could not easily reach those remote areas especially during rainy seasons.

Immediately the Governor General ordered the Governor of Kordofan Province, Mr Connally, where the slavers came from, to report to Khartoum immediately. On arrival Governor Connelly told the Governor General that, according to Colonel Baldyn’s report, it was possible to reach Sheikh Rehan Gorkuei and Sultan Arop Biong areas from Kordofan Province.

After consulting with the two governors, the Governor General ordered that the territories that were subjected to slave raids in northern Upper Nile and Northern Bahr al Ghazal provinces be transferred to Kordofan in the North. The rationale behind the decision was that, both the slavers and slave victims should be put under one administration in Kordofan, where they could be well protected by a neutral British Governor.

Thus in March 1905, the Governor General made an administrative order to the effect that, the Ngok of Arop Biong, the Twic of Sheikh Rehan Gorkuei, Panaru of Chief Bill Kuei and Alor of Kuur Kuot Chiefdoms, were officially transferred from northern Bahr al Ghazal and northern Upper Nile respectively to Kordofan Province. Accordingly, the areas affected by the transfer to Kordofan were to remain there until such time that the administration and security were sufficiently established and functioning in the southern provinces.

Thus when law and order, local government administration and security were well established in the southern provinces, the Governor General made another administrative order to reconsider the retransfer of the areas previously transferred to Kordofan. Accordingly, the territories of the southern tribes annexed to Kordofan in 1905 were to be restored to their respective provinces in the Southern Provinces. In the year, 1929, Twic Ruweng and Panaru Chiefdoms agreed and reverted their area to their previous respective provinces. Consequently their areas were restored to Gogrial and Bentiu respectively.

As for the Ngok Dinka Chief, Kuol Arop who had replaced his father Arop Biong, he declined for his area to revert to Bahr al Ghazal for the reasons discussed here below.


We are told that, before the rise of Mahdia most of the Arab tribes were domiciled in Darfur Province. Hence their cattle were using Kiir Adem to water themselves and their animals. But following the dismissal of Ali Jula and appointment of his son Nimr Ali Jula with tacit approval of Sultan Kuol Arop the Two Chiefs entered into a peaceful co-existence and cooperation Agreement. In efforts to avoid any future clash between the two neighbouring tribesmen over the pastures and water points, Misseriya and Ngok chiefs made the following agreement.

The Ngok Dinka-Misseriya mutual agreement allowed the Misseriya cattlemen to traverse the Ngok Dinka area annually, beginning from the start of the dry season (January) without hindrance. The Ngok Dinka cattlemen would also traverse the part of Misseriya Qooz i.e. (dry land) whenever there was flooding in the Ngok Dinka area. Remarkably, since Kuol Arop signed a detente, with his Misseriya counterpart Nimr Ali Jula (1910) the Misseriya cattle herders, as a tradition, spent the months of June, July, August and September around Muglad and Babanusa areas, where they do some cultivation during the rainy season. When the water and pastures become scanty, the Misseriya and their cattle moved annually to the Qooz, a vast waterless landmass between the Misseriya region and the Ngok Dinka country in the South.

In January, when the Ngok Dinka cattle herders would have moved away from the Ngol/Ngaol area in the north, to the central Ngok Dinka land, often after the second harvest (Anguol), the Misseriya would replace them there. In February, when the Ngok Dinka cattle had moved to the pasture land, south of the river Kiir, the Misseriya would move to the central Ngok Dinka land. By February when the Twic cattlemen have moved to Apuk area in eastern Gogrial (Toiny Apuk), the Ngok Dinka cattlemen would move to Twic area.

At the beginning of the next rainy season in April, the Twic cattle herders would move back to Twic area when the rains would fall. The Ngok Dinka would have moved back to their Toich, south of Kiir River where they would stay until the rains fall in May.

By this time, the Misseriya would have started moving away from central Ngok Dinka to Ngol area in anticipation of their northward journey to their homeland starting from June. By June the Ngok Dinka people would divide themselves, with milking cows remaining in the permanent homesteads, while the young men move to Ngol area where they would remain there until the next winter season begins. That important smooth rotational arrangement by two great tribal leaders, who wanted peaceful co-existence between their people, remained effectively in force until it was impacted by the Misseriya Dinka conflict of 1965.

The third important historical fact I would like to inform Sudanese on both sides of the two republics is that the Twic Dinka of Ajak Kuac, was carved out from Ngok Dinka land aka Abyei area and annexed to Twic Chiefdoms by the British authorities in response to Uncle Bona Malual father Sultan Madut Ring request for reasons beyond this narrative.

The fourth historical fact to add is that, during the last general elections (2010), the Ngok Dinka of Abyei and Ajack Kuac (Uncle Bona Home area; were put in one constituency. Reportedly through the tacit connivance of Uncle Bona Malwal, the Twic of Ajak Kuac people refused to register as voters in the combined Ngok-Ajak Kuac constituency. Hence they could not vote in the combined constituency during the said elections.  They could not even nominate a candidate to contest in the 2010 elections. Thus when I was nominated by my people to contest and as there was no candidate that contested against me from Ajak Kuac, I was declared unopposed.

As a member of the South Sudan Legislative Assembly, I represent the combined constituency of Abyei Area and Ajack Kuac area. The above are sufficient enough for the people of South Sudan and the Ngok Dinka to understand whether Uncle Bona Malwal statement in Khartoum were historical facts or random statement to satisfy his audience,

The fifth and final fact is that Uncle Bona Malwal called those who say that Abyei area is a part of the Republic of South Sudan, instead of the Republic of Sudan as inexperienced and irresponsible and I quote. ‘’But these are the facts, legal and constitutional facts which the inexperienced and irresponsible boys don’t see’’. At this juncture, I would appeal to Uncle Bona Malwal to apologize to his people the Ngok Dinka or make the counter statement and withdraw his unfortunate statement he made before his respectful audience in Khartoum.

Because not all those who say Abyei is a part of South Sudan are inexperienced and irresponsible. I do not even believe that Uncle Bona Malwal called all the Ngok leaders inexperienced and irresponsible because; it is a known fact, even to Uncle Bona Malwal himself, that the Ngok Atungdiak has the best experienced and responsible people who have undeniably contributed effectively for the liberation of South Sudan. Unless there is something dangerously pushing uncle Bona from behind; not to believe the facts that, the people of Ngok Atungdiak have throughout history offered South Sudan political, military and social leadership.

Sixthly, Uncle Bona Malwal is quite aware of the sensitivity of the Ngok area predicament; as it is a matter of life or die. As a seasoned journalist Uncle Bona Malwal should have used the journalistic jargon of ‘’non-committant’’ because the fate of Abyei is in the hands of the two presidents.

Furthermore, uncle Bona Malwal statement would have been taken positively if he were to tell his audience that since Abyei is still a part of Sudan until the time of the referendum as he put it, he should have appealed to the Khartoum authorities to send services to the Ngok area or at least allow foreign NGOs to extend services to the Ngok people who have been living in squalid condition since the invasion of the area by the Sudanese Army in 2011. If Uncle Bona Malwal had secured food security and medical services for the Ngok people he would have done a wonderful job as these services would find themselves in Uncle Bona Malwal area.

Another important fact I would like to tell Uncle Bona Malwal is that the Abyei Conference in which was aimed at reverting the Nine Ngok Dinka Chiefdoms by the outgoing British authorities was held in April 1951 and not in 1952 as mentioned in Uncle Bona Malwal recent book.

In the 1951 conference, which was attended by prominent paramount chiefs from Gogrial and Aweil including Uncle Bona Father Madut Ring, no decision was made. Rather, Chief Deng Majok asked the conference to defer the issue to some later date; adding that the Ngok Chiefs should be allowed to undertake a fact-finding guided tour to Bahr al-Ghazal to acquaint themselves with the nature of the native administration there.

Upon their return, the Chiefs were expected to make their decision on the subject under scrutiny. In 1952, Mr Richard Owen the Governor of Bahr al-Ghazal sent a convoy of cars and the Ngok Chiefs were taken on a guided tour to native court centers in Bahr al-Ghazal Province. The next conference in which a decision would have been made, probably in 1953, was overtaken by events of Sudanisation. Consequently, no conference was ever held again. The rot had set in.

In conclusion I would like to suggest that if uncle Bona Malwal has some axe to grind against the Ngok Dinka leadership, the best thing he should do, as an acclaimed seasoned politician who is too informed to be informed; is to reconcile with the Ngok Atungdaik leadership through our time honoured African traditional mechanism; instead of distortion of historical facts and the use of abusive language against those leaders who rightly say that their area is by right, a part and parcel of the Republic of South Sudan.

Hon Arop Madut Arop, currently an MP for Abyei at SSLA and an international media consultant, holds a Diploma in Socialist journalism – International Institute of journalism (East Berlin); Advanced Diploma in Liberal Journalism International Institute of Media Studies (West Berlin) and Masters of Arts Degree in International Journalism (City University of London). He is the author of two books: Sudan Painful Road to Peace, a full story of the founding and development of SPLM/SPLA (2006) and The Genesis of political consciousness in South Sudan (2012). He is also the author of a number of unpublished books. He can be reached at

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is 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 SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing from, plus a concise biography of yourself.

  1. Malith Alier says:

    “The rot had set in” indeed as a result of Atungdhiak leaders actions.


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