Atem Yaak Atem: Journalists and writers should not write to earn public adulation

Posted: January 22, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Atem Yaak Atem, Books, Columnists, Commentary, Contributing Writers, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Atem Yaak Atem, Australia

Atem Yaak Atem

Atem Yaak Atem is the former deputy minister for information, the founding director, chief editor, and trainer of Radio SPLA, and the author of  “Jungle Chronicles and Other Writings: Recollections of a South Sudanese“, a four-volume memoir, of which Jungle Chronicle is the first installment.

January 22, 2018 (SSB) — Thanks to you and the rest of your colleagues who have written those flattering remarks. It’s always good and encouraging to be appreciated for what one has done or said. However, it should not be forgotten that anyone who is engaged in sharing public knowledge or information and not motivated by a desire to be admired, must do that as a duty and not a means to earn adulation or endorsement.

In a sense, if for example, such a role happens to earn them displeasure and scorn from any individual or circles, one shouldn’t be surprised or disheartened.

The other factor worth taking into consideration in this aspect is the assumption that my generation or the one before our own has the monopoly of knowledge and that they are more and better informed than our younger siblings or our own children. That claim or thinking is wrong because it ignores the factor which late Dr William Kon Bior called “historical advantage”- having been there before others.

Some of among my age mates happen to know some of the events and the personalities involved in them because they- the narrators- were either eyewitnesses, participants or both. In that sense, such an account from one in such a situation is bound to be first hand, unlikely to be emasculated by the process of telling and retelling.

Would it then be strange if I were to write on personal impressions and actions or utterances of many public figures I have served under or worked with (Abel Alier, Joseph Lagu, Peter Gatkuoth, Hilary Paulo Logali, Victoria Yaar Arol, Samuel Aru Bol, Toby Maduot Parek, Clement Mboro, Tito Adibo, Ambrose Wol Dhal etc in Juba or John Garang, Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, William Nyuon Bany, Salva Kiir, Riek Machar, Lam Akol, James Wani, Alfred Lado Gore, Joseph Oduho, Martin Majier, Garang Akook (the bane of the Sudan Airforce) etc during the struggle).

Furthermore, memory is not always the best repository of information or knowledge. And this is why the younger generation should liberate themselves from our disease of “South Sudan being an oral society”. (The administration formed after the Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972 did its best in laying a solid foundation in that direction but the NCP barbarians and their local agents destroyed everything during the war).

Even after becoming a sovereign state we still don’t have legislation for keeping public documents or archives as they known.

More importantly, I don’t use the verb “flatter” in a negative way. However, a good number of people including myself, feel uncomfortable when they are being praised publicly for doing what is supposed to be their job. Most of our young people have missed out of the history of their motherland because of war. In the countries where they had gone as refugees or for settlement, it is it is that the history taught to them is that of the host country.

Well, to be frank , I am not a historian. Furthermore, even if I were to be a professional historian, social media or even newspapers and magazines, are not an ideal platform for the teaching the subject. Works of authorities such as Douglas H. Johnson, Martin Daly, Robert O. Collins, Lillian Sanderson and G. N. Sanderson, Lazarus Leek Mawut, Gabriel Giet Jal, Jok Madut Jok, among others, could help introduce one to the modern history of South Sudan.

I would strongly recommend every South Sudanese who loves reading to read Valentino Achak Deng and Dave Eggers important book, What is the What, a great work of art in which facts and fiction are fused in such a way the classification of the book is not easy.

Anyone interested in things cultural especially about the Dinka society should look for the works- although most of them are inaccessible to the general reading public- of Dr Francis Mading Deng, who has no equal in that field.

Atem Yaak Atem is the former deputy minister for information in Juba and a veteran South Sudanese journalist who was the founding director, chief editor, and trainer of Radio SPLA (1984-1991). He was also the editor in chief of Southern Sudan monthly magazine (1977-1982), SPLM/A newsletter (1986-1988), Horn of Africa Vision magazine (1997-2000), The Pioneer weekly newspaper (2010-2011), as well as the Nile Mirror (1975-1977) when its chief editor Kosti Manibe had travelled abroad on duty. As a senior journalist, he was also a prominent columnist and contributor to the SPLM/Update (1993-1996), and the Sudan Mirror (2003-2005). He is the author of a new book, “Jungle Chronicles and Other Writings: Recollections of a South Sudanese“, a four-volume memoir, of which Jungle Chronicle is the first installment. You can reach him via his email:

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, commentary or news analysis, please email it to PaanLuel Wël website (SSB) do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

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