Alfred Taban: A Patriotic South Sudanese Veteran Journalist Who Caught Khartoum Regime by the Horn

Posted: July 22, 2019 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Commentary, Contributing Writers, Junub Sudan, Obituary, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers, People

By Deng Awur Wenyin, Juba, South Sudan

Alfred Taban Logune
Alfred Taban Logune, South Sudanese veteran journalist and politician

Monday, July 22, 19 (PW) — President Kiir confirmed the words in the caption of this tribute when he paid his own tribute to the late Alfred Taban. That was in his speech when he was opening the Second Session of the Transitional National Legislature on May 14th, 2019. Rightly, he described Alfred as “… a hero who fiercely fought the oppressive policies of various regimes in Khartoum using his journalistic skills during the days of our liberation struggle. He will be remembered as a brave freedom fighter whose voice became synonymous with the call for freedom”. Robin White, former editor of the BBC Focus on Africa, felt astonished about the idea that Alfred wrote on the Sudanese politics and wars while in Khartoum. In his tribute White wrote: “Imagine an English journalist reporting from Adolf Hitler’s Germany during the Second World War …”

It was one Sunday in March/April 2019, in the Juba All Saints’ Cathedral – English Main Service and during the intercession, where I learned that Alfred was seriously ill and had been evacuated to Uganda. From then I followed his progress from Rev. Janet Michael, wife of his uncle, Professor Taban lo Liyong. He died on April 27th, 2019 in Kampala while I was there but didn’t hear of the death till days later when I was in the Entebbe Airport, returning to Juba. I was shocked, I first knew about the late’s name through the Sudanow magazine in the late ‘70s. He joined the magazine after having abandoned the medical school in the University of Khartoum where he was to specialize in medical laboratory. As the Church says, I think he was called to journalism. I used to enjoy his reports and articles in that magazine. In all his writings, he called a spade a spade.

Alfred Taban Logune, South Sudanese veteran journalist and politician

In 1983, as in the book of the late Dr Lazarus Leek Mawut, southerners returned to war again against the Khartoum-led government. The late hero Dr john Garang de Mabior, with the rest of his comrades (President Kiir included) mobilised southerners to join the armed struggle. Alfred Taban, like Bona Malwal, Sirr Anai kelueljang, Jacob Akol, Taban lo Liyong, just to mention a few, took up a distinctive weapon: the PEN. Alfred Taban was more unique because he usedhis weapon in the enemy’s camp, right inside Khartoum!

In the early days of the Islamists military in the ‘90s when the regime was very fierce, Alfred made a valiant comparison in which he identified similarities between Ja’afer Numeiry (military ruler 1969 – 1985) and Omar al-Bashir (military ruler 1989 – 2019). The similarities were announced over BBC Focus on Africa when he was a BBC correspondent in Khartoum. The first similarity was that the two men are from the northern province (al-Shamalia). As a general rule, many of the Sudan’s rulers came from that region. The second similarity was that the two men were army officers who were trained and passed out from the Sudan Military College at Omdurman. Thirdly, the two men, albeit each was married, none of them had children.

In the African context, and Arab as well, lack of children of a married man generates gossips of sterility and or impotence. I think the point which annoyed the regime most was this last one. Alfred was plunged into Kobar Prison, a maximum prison for political opponents and dangerous criminals. He remained in prison for about seven months without change and conviction. He deserves President Kiir’s tribute and, indeed from all of us. I think most of us who were inside the Sudan Government controlled areas, ridiculed one of the SPLA morale raising war songs which said that the only option left for us was to struggle through the GUN. Nevertheless we rightly thought the PEN was an important and a necessary auxiliary.

In 2000 in Khartoum Alfred, Nhial Bol, Albino Okeny and some others, thought of establishing their own independent newspaper. Alfred arranged a meeting of selected south Sudanese intellectuals, at the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC). One of the tasks for us was to suggest various names from which a name for the paper was to be selected. I suggested Sunrise; because I was hopeful that one day peace would be realized and that was to be a new dawn. Many other meaningful names were suggested but ultimately the paper appeared as Khartoum Monitor. As far as I can recall the name wasn’t among the suggested names but maybe the name was for the sake of convenience. After independence the paper relocated to Juba, becoming Juba Monitor.

When the 2015 Agreement for Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) was being implemented, in June 2016 fighting broke out suddenly between the Government and Dr Riek’s forces, not in any other place in the whole country but inside J1 (State House)! In July Alfred wrote an opinion in which he criticised both President Kiir and Dr Riek. He was arrested by the National Security Authorities. Many of us were stunned. During the struggle, Alfred Taban used to be in Khartoum prison; in independence, in Juba prison! Irony of ironies. Honestly, I was among many people disturbed by Alfred’s arrest and detention. I wrote and published in Juba Monitor (August 5, 2016) an article titled: “Take Courage! Alfred Taban.” The article was in form of a letter and I started: “Dear Taban, Madang! Gwanda? Kudual! Ye ke de?”

I count myself as one of Alfred’s best friends. In Khartoum I used to contribute articles to Khartoum Monitor. In 2017 I got an appointment as member of Board of Trustees of Media Development Institute (MDI). I felt honoured to be thought of along with Professor Taban lo Liyong, Dr Kenyi Spencer and Mr Moyiga Nduru. The MDI is an offshoot of the Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS). Alfred was Chairman of the AMDISS; and it must be he who suggested and included my name because the other AMDISS members didn’t know me.

Alfred Taban used journalism to fight for the rights of others. For example, when he appointed of Steering Committee of the National Dialogue, he said he would only join the Committee if a certain Radio Miraya Journalist was released from detention in Wau. George Libio Bahara (George Libio Bahara taught Dr James Wani Igga, Vice President of the Republic, English language in Rumbek Secondary School) was in detention for many months. The young journalist was released and Alfred Taban joined the Committee. Alfred Taban died on duty. He was sick but worked as if he was normal. He attended the Bhar al-Ghazal regional dialogue conference in Wau. Returned to Juba and went to Yei. There he became ill.

Alfred Taban had many friends all over the world. This is evident from many tributes which were posted over the internet. I suggest that all the tributes and condolences be compiled in one thing, call it a book or booklet. For this important task, I propose Alfred’s uncle, the renowned professor of literature, Taban lo Liyong, to do it professionally. Alternatively, in case the professor’s schedules won’t permit, I propose small committee to carry out the task, under the chairpersonship of Anna Nimiriano, with the following membership: Michael Koma, Dr Thuou Loi, Victor Lugala, Albino Okeny, Victor Keri Wani, Jonathan Mayen Nguen, Jacob Akol, and my simple self.

The writer is an Associate Professor of Law at University of Juba, School of law, and practicing at the Juba Law Chambers.

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 paanluel2011@gmail.com. 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.

Comments
  1. kailor says:

    When you mention Bona Malual, you resort to the most destroyers of South Sudanese struggle in your quest for adding some individual who implanted hatred to South Sudanese righteous cause of equality and justice for all people. You say Alfred call spade a spade and you call it a spoon, don’t have word traitor in your English vocabulary to address Bona and his son who have spoil our diplomatic relationship with our best alias USA. Yes I agree entirely with you if it come to Alfred and everybody else who supper in whichever form in the hand of oppressive Islamist government and not who not those who have so much harm disabling the unity South Sudanese people mainly Dinkas and Nuer when their unity is needed the most

    Like

  2. kailor says:

    When you mention Bona Malual, you resort to the most destroyers of South Sudanese struggle in your quest for adding some individual who implanted hatred to South Sudanese righteous cause of equality and justice for all people. You say Alfred call spade a spade and you call it a spoon, don’t have word traitor in your English vocabulary to address Bona and his son who have spoil our diplomatic relationship with our best alias USA. Yes I agree entirely with you if it come to Alfred and everybody else who supper in whichever form in the hand of oppressive Islamist government and not those who have inflicted so much harm by disabling the unity of South Sudanese people mainly Dinkas and Nuer when their unity was needed the most

    Like

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