Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Jesh el-Amer (Red Army) in Sydney, Australia

Posted: March 31, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Abuoi Jook Alith, History, jesh amer, Junub Sudan

By Abuoi Jook Alith, Sydney, Australia          


March 31, 2018 (SSB) — The significant origin of Jesh Al Hamer is dated back to 1987 after the idea was reported to SPLA leader Dr John Garang De Mabior by one of his zonal commanders around 1986-7. That commander (name withheld) raised the issue to Dr John Garang that schools have gone none operative across Southern Sudan for over 4 years since the onset of liberation war in 1983. Dr Garang wholeheartedly received such proposal a brilliant idea and wasted no time in sending the message to all units, ordering his zonal commanders to immediately mobilize boys and sent to refugee camps, to be established at Ethiopian border late 1987-1989.

Subsequent group mainly from Bor and Nuba Mountain areas only was later sent to Polataka in Eastern Equatoria in 1989. Those zonal commanders comprised of Cdr. Kuol Manyang Juuk commanding the Southern Upper Nile mainly Bor area, Cdr. Daniel Awet Akot for the entire Bhar Al Ghazal region, Cdr. Riek Machar Teny in Western Upper Nile mainly Bentiu and Cdr. Yousif Kuwa Mekki for the Nuba Mountain. All responded positively and sent massive numbers of boys to Ethiopia as per orders from their Commander in Chief Dr Garang.

Although the numbers were not the same across those zones, this author could squarely assert the named commanders contributed overwhelming in sending the current jesh al hamer, unaccompanied minors or lost boys as they later became to school as communicated then. The vast number of those boys largely settled at Fugnido and Dima refugee camps though few went to Itang at later years of settlement.

Early life in refugee camps

On arrival, life was as horrible in Fugnido and Dima refugee camps as many children dies daily of various diseases, malnutrition and lack of parental care coupled with poor diet as compared to milk the children used to feed on while with their families in Sudan. Boys were settled according to chieftaincies initially at Fugnido especially those who hailed from Br area. When Gen. Pieng was designated to lead the camp, he ordered the reshuffle of unaccompanied minors according to groups. There were total of twelve groups at Fugnido refugee camps each arranged in military forms.

Food was very limited at start and later increase to abundance. However, there was extremely hard child labour since arrival until the closure of the refugee camps when the Ethiopian government was toppled in early 1991. The child labour was concurrently performed alongside the poorly equipped school attending, whereby some children attends to school in the morning, while the other group goes to bush to fell trees and cut grass for thatching huts for themselves and care takers.

The latter group attends classes in the evening and those attended the morning classes go to bush in return. That was our daily routines at refugee camps throughout the years jesh al hamer spent in refugee camps mostly in Fugnido. Our initial patron Pieng Deng Kuol used to visit groups and dines with boys over their poor meal and they felt so exited once he shared that with them.

The life experiences above are the ones that informed the invitation of our then patrons to share in celebrating this 30th anniversary of jesh al hamer in Australia and to remember our fallen colleagues who could not share this day with us as narrated below.

Sydney event

The members of Jesh Al Hamer across Australia decided to honour some of their previous patrons at refugee camps while in Ethiopia and had invited Gen. Pieng Deng Kuol and Mama Victoria Adhar Arop Chop on behalf of the rests of patrons. Other patrons were already in Australia on personal notes in persons of Dr Atem Riak Anyuon and James Hoth Mai who managed Dima refugee camps respectively.

The idea of bringing the duo to Australia was initiated and implemented singlehandedly by the group members residing in Brisbane city, Queensland State under the facilitation of Ayii Mabior. The guests were at first hosted in Brisbane on 10th March 2018 and in Melbourne, on the 18th March 2018 by the then unaccompanied minors, where they addressed the gatherings with messages of appreciations and advisory speeches.

The group in Sydney hosted the event on the Saturday 24th March 2018, in which the hall was packed and filled with jubilation and ululation from women who happened to hail from Katiba Banaat and those who were girls at Fugnido, Itang and Dima refugee camps respectively.

The members of Jesh Al Hamer staged a high morale in warm welcoming of their previous camps’ patrons and sang their songs of liberation they composed in camps. Jesh al hamer dressed up in suits mostly black in colour with red tie in honour of their charismatic and caring leaders during their tender ages.

Speeches from dignitaries

The chief guest Gen. Pieng began his speech with much visible heartfelt thank you to the jesh al hamer for their invitation to Australia and to both current Australian and South Sudan governments, for having facilitated their journey to Australia. Gen. Pieng frankly embraced the group that they were very weak, uneducated, children but very strongly united those dark days full of anguish and hardship.

However, Pieng challenged jesh al hamer that you are “now physically fit, highly educated, earn own incomes yet much more disorganised than previously at your tender ages in refugee camps”. Pieng advised the group to be more organised as they used to be while in refugee camps, urging such unity would help in restoring peace back home.

The finest general informed the jesh al hamer that they have to accept three names given to them throughout the periods in refugee camps based on then arising situations at times. The first name given is Jesh Al Hamer, followed by Unaccompanied Minors and lastly the Lost Boys. The Jesh Al Hamer was given by the moment SPLM/SPLA while Unaccompanied minors was also coined by the camp’s chairpersons like Gen. Pieng simply to suit the demand by UNHCR when the boys were young with no parents.

The word lost boys and girls came at time when the resettlement agenda surfaced for various western countries such as Australia, United Stated of America and Canada.  Pieng advised that the moment SPLM/A was well aware of all naming and the group have to accept all the three names as officially given to them based on the above described situations. Gen. Pieng apologised for those who lost in action under his command during the war as well as those perished in Fugnido refugee camps to the parents and relatives.

The respected general concluded his speech with keynote that everybody in South Sudan claims to seriously seek peace including President Kiir, Riek Machar and you the Jesh Al Hamer. However, at his dismay with a short paused – Pieng asked, why then the peace is not realised if it is all we sing including the president and rebel chief? He summed up that for us to achieve the lasting peace in our country; we need to be honest to our individual selves that we do own part in all the problems currently facing our nation since 2013, either corruption or war.

Hon. Victoria Adhardit urged jesh al hamer that she knows who are real leaders amongst the group and cited one impeccable example of a boy called Majok from Bor, who get admitted at hospital. When Majok’s mother brings in porridge, Majok ordered Adhardit the caring nurse, to serve other boys in hospital beds with the porridge and when Majok’s mother asked him that it belongs to him (Majok) alone, he answered the mother that other boys were very ill and with no mothers.

Mother Adhardit therefore, urged the Jesh Al Hamer to get rid of division such Bor, Twic, Bar El Ghazal, Nuer or Equatoria and revisit their previous solid unity while in refugee camps.

Mr Abdon Agaw, the current general secretary of the government of South Sudan advised the Jesh Al Hamer to start dialogue in Australia with all South Sudanese, by convening the peace conferences to deliberate on issues around the current war in the country. Such discussions he said, could positively impact on the realisation of the genuine peace in the country. Abdon further asserted that the government is well aware of the dire need to have an Embassy in Australia and he himself has raised the issue with the President in previous years as requested by the community in Australia.

He updated the gathering that the issue of visa permit to the diaspora has been resolved with the department of Immigration in the Republic of South Sudan. The department is already authorized to write a Standing Order to all operating international airlines in the country, instructing them to allow all who claim the citizenship of South Sudan to enter.  Abdon concluded his speech with the piece of advice to the South Sudanese community in Australia, to be aware of being citizens of two countries and be prepared to defend them when need arises.

The veteran journalist Atem Yaak Atem also advised the Jesh Al Hamer to largely invest in their completed academic careers and secure self-employment instead of depending on government jobs. The renowned journalist cited examples of the retired Justice Abel Alier Kwai, who had built his current Juba residence when he was an Advocate, prior to becoming the president of Southern Sudan regional government and Vice President of Sudan in 1972. He also cited medical doctor in person of Dr Adwok who operated in Nairobi and had built house at Karen the most affluent suburb in Nairobi-Kenya. He urged the group to forego their utmost hunting the government jobs for employment in career fields such as Journalism, Medicine, Law, Urban planning, Social Science, Engineer, and etcetera.

Veteran Atem urged Hon. Victoria Adhardit in her capacity as the sitting Member of National Assembly in Juba, to raise the private bills, for the strengthening of educational institutions in the country, and that all children receiving education in neighbouring countries should be moved to South Sudan. Mr Atem noted that studying in neighbouring countries has led to children adopting alien values and cultures that are very foreign to our own.

Michael Garang Deng Chol, the current Presidential Advisor for the ministry of information and broadcasting in South Sudan, was acknowledged along with Comrades Chol Abednego Achiek and Dhieu Biar Kuek. Also three representatives from Katiba Banaat and general women were also given a chance to speak on the occasion respectively and expressed happiness for the ceremony.


This author somewhat agrees in part with the above stated disorganisation of jesh al hamer by the visiting chief guest as observed during the event in Sydney. This was evidenced by the fact the group portrayed very distinctive poor organisation of the event starting from planning through to the conduct of the ceremony with notable and significant errors as the celebration was concern. The in-charge group adamantly refused to disclose the names of the possible representatives who could speak on behalf of jesh al hamer during the planning meetings held previously.

The demand to identify the speakers before the event was meant for the contribution of ideas and points towards narrating the coherent history of jesh al hamer from inception through to life experiences in various refugee camps they later settled at. Such helpful call was met with cold resistance and uncivilized decline by the in-charge committee with their possible behind the scene leader, to disclose the names in the case of Sydney.

The worst significant part was that the very event was not introduced to the convened huge attendance – as the “celebration of 30th anniversary of jesh al hamer” as expected. Even those who spoke on behalf of the group squarely failed to mention in their talks what the program was either. The distinctive lack of transparency that was implied throughout the planning and organising processes reminds the author of current state of affairs in our country, whereby the political leaders feel insecure from their well informed and competent colleagues.

The high educational qualifications that most of us always pride of were of no use at all during this preparation, where they should have played the central role in making this event professionally organised and ran.

In summary, I am extremely convinced that we are far worse than those in Juba we daily criticise according to my observation of the processes we took to celebrate this 30th anniversary of unaccompanied minors. Had we opened up to one another during the planning processes through to the actual conduct of the ceremony, no doubt this event would have been colourful.

This is because the host have number of experts amongst with the best knowledge that could have contributed to an excellent and professional conduct of such event. Little did many of us know that acquiring higher degrees is not all it needs in hosting occasions like this? We have to remember that some of us are professionals in planning and running events such as this celebration and had been involved in planning events for employing agencies.

When one knows little or no idea at all, it is best to consult with colleagues and all that you lack shall be provided. As the saying goes, “the former informs the later”, literally means in Dinka (ke tueeng yene kee ke cien cok nyic).  I hope our dear comrades made their own observations and might have learnt their grave mistake to inform self-correction for the future events.

The author, Daniel Abuoi Jook Alith, is a member of unaccompanied minors ( Jesh Al Hamer) residing in Sydney and holds the Master degree in Urban Management and Planning (MUMP) and Bachelor of Social Science (BSSC) from Western Sydney University. He could be reached at dejook025@gmail.com

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 paanluel2011@gmail.com. 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.

  1. Majok Ajou says:

    Tears of joyce and happiness fill my eyes, when you brothers and sisters in Diaspora still remember those dark & tribble days where our ribs,s skin wrinsked waiting vulture to feed on, following Raad River (Gillo) involving death enhance Gen Ayuen Alier and Rin Tueny ( Jaanafil) rescued us to cross Pachalla. Also I appreciated Mama Adardit for finally healing my old wound once more again, you remain unite likewise we did with my colleague Awuol Deng during our hosital bed as Adardit stated in her speech.


  2. Tears of joyce and happiness fill my eyes, when you brothers and sisters in Diaspora still remember those dark & tribble days where our ribs,s skin wrinsked waiting vulture to feed on, following Raad River (Gillo) involving death enhance Gen Ayuen Alier and Rin Tueny ( Jaanafil) rescued us to cross Pachalla. Also I appreciated Mama Adardit for finally healing my old wound once more again, you remain unite likewise we did with my colleague Awuol Deng during our hosital bed as Adardit stated in her speech.


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