Revitalizing the Incentive Debate: A Respectful Response to Uncle Arop Madut Arop

Posted: May 21, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Columnists, Commentary, Contributing Writers, Junub Sudan, Mayen Ayarbior, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By David Mayen Dengdit, Denver, USA

Arop Madut Arop's book

Monday, May 21, 2018 (PW) — I must begin with assuring my good Uncle Arop Madut Arop that my respect for him as an elder (not just a maternal uncle) is firmly rooted in that glaring aspect of our Dinka (indeed all African) culture which gives maternal Uncles a special; almost divine status among their nephews. In fact, Uncle Aropdit knows that he has been a role model for me personally and has earned our respect in the family due to his own personal attributes and long principled life experiences.

 I must admit that, given my long family and professional relations with him in which respect for him is a natural order, I may have stepped a certain cultural boundary by responding to his article, even though I (and those whose names were cited by him) may still be right to feel uneasy to be included in an article where “respect for elders” was the main advice. Hence, he has trapped me in those two coexisting uneasy conditions of right-wrong. It feels like that proven physical state of “cold-hot” which certain objects may possess at the same time.

It is not so long ago that my good and close friend Isaiah Abraham (whose name I have given my son) and many writers in South Sudan were killed by known gunmen just because of that unwarranted perception of disrespect in a political arena where they were equal citizens and stakeholders, not just young(er) men. Taking precious life has been the price of disrespect for President Kiir (real or perceived), and what a price it has been!

If the topic is at all about “respect,” then uncle Aropdit (indeed my entire family) knows very well how I have always respected everyone around me, irrespective of age. And if there is any single one description with which I have been known in the family and community, then the description has been that I am “respectful.” Most writers are respectful people.

But, as Uncle Aropdit confessed in his response, that topic of respect should not have been part of the incentive debate in the first place, yet it has now, ironically, become the topic of my public correspondence with him. This, by itself, describes the plight we the so called “youth” or “young(er)” citizens are facing in South Sudan where a trap of respect is unnecessarily, sometimes cynically, placed in front of us.

We are called upon to be 100% of the fighting forces in senseless wars (I fought two decades ago in our sensible liberation war), yet we are unfairly expected to march into these political wars with our mouths shut, lest we appear disrespectful.

Our country (and future) is destroyed in front of our eyes by selfish leaders who have stolen public resources which were meant for building needed social and physical infrastructures, who killed tens of thousands of innocent citizens, displaced millions, and we are expected to keep quite because we would be disrespectful if we protest in writing. Those who fight against Juba are now getting more respect than those who debate the wrongs with their pens (keyboards).

Uncle Aropdit made the choice to use a public forum to give me (us) advice, even though we had spoken on the phone at length just last month (April) after I resigned my post of Press Secretary in the VP’s office. As typical of him, he gave me long words of wisdom and advice which I have kept at heart. It might have been better if we had continued using that direct channel of phone calls where misunderstandings are always avoidable.

All that notwithstanding, I would like to publicly ask Uncle Aropdit these rhetorical questions: What would be the appropriate cultural response to an elder who stole a goat or cassava during times of starvation?  What of an elder who orchestrated mass killings and raping of women and children in neighboring villages as the price for maintaining his chieftaincy?

What of an elder who went crazy and callously set all houses in the village ablaze while other elders, women and children were inside sleeping, trusting him with the responsibility to protect them all? What of a father whose starving children found him eating at a restaurant?

Do we call such elders patriotic, just because of their past involvement in village warfare? Is that past individual involvement in warfare a blank license to do all those evil deeds against his village?

Please excuse the young men of South Sudan who may be or sound abusive out of frustration with the appalling and unscrupulous behavior of their elders who are supposed to be role models and custodians of good African cultural norms. Respond not to young men’s insults which are hurled here and there, but exert more efforts in alerting fellow elders to observe African culture of socialism and respect for community lives and wealth.

Finally, it seems the politics of divide and rule which the tyrannical Juba regime has mastered is drawing rifts not only between communities, but even among clans and family members. I agree that we are all traumatized that is why a respectful nephew can respond to his role model uncle on social media, or vice versa.

Allow me, good Uncle, to rest my case the way I started it, with another sincere apology if at all I sounded disrespectful during this public conversation in which we lost track of the main topic, which was about the controversial state “what is my incentive to resign?”

The author, David Mayen Dengdit, has a Bachelor Degree in Economics and Political Science from Kampala International University (Uganda), Masters in International Security from JKSIS-University of Denver (USA), and Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the University of London. He is the author of “House of War (Civil War and State Failure in Africa) 2013”. You can reach him via his email address:

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 Media (PW) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website 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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