Archive for the ‘Atem Yaak Atem’ Category

Young people who lived in Kakuma Refugee Camp will remember uncle Aquila as a senior teacher, leader, mentor and a wise elder who was supportive of their educational needs even in bad times. The cause of death was a motorcycle’s accident in Uganda while he was processing a visa to Australia to attend the wedding of his son. He was hit by a motorcycle, and was admitted to the hospital with serious injuries that later claimed his life.” South Sudanese Australian Radio journalist, Ajak Deng Chiengkou

By Atem Yaak Atem, Gosford, Australia

Ustaz Aquila Kelei Madol
Ustaz Aquila Kelei Madol

Sunday, September 8, 2019 (PW) — I have been saddened by the news of the passing of Aquila Kelei Madol. The veteran school teacher lost his life through a road accident this week. Aquila Kelei was my contemporary at Malek Elementary, Atar Intermediate and Rumbek Secondary School, respectively.

In those schools, he was one class ahead of me. A kind and friendly student, Aquila condemned and refrained from bullying, which was a common phenomenon in schools those days.

For example, at Malek, older and stronger students terrorised the younger boys among entrants from what were known as bush schools. The arrivals were dubbed as “New Boys”, and in Atar as “Blue Boys”.


By Atem Yaak Atem, Sydney, Australia

shisha smoking

Sunday, January 13, 2019 (PW) — Smoking shisha, * the pastime that is common in some middle Eastern and African countries, is known by several names. In its weekend edition the Australian daily newspaper, Sydney Morning Herald reported two bodies working for local communities, the Australian Lebanese Muslim Association and South East Sydney Local Health District, had come together in their concern over the effect of shisha on the users within the community. In their campaign to enlighten the public on the dangers smoking shisha posed to people, the state government of New South Wales (NSW) has contributed Australian $ 386, 000 (US $274, 368.80 at the time the article was being written) to support the campaign that aims at advising smokers to quit the habit.

Well-founded fear

The concern expressed over harm inherent in smoking shisha may appear to be the work of fear mongers. It is not alarmist; the campaigners have reputable source of information on which they base concerns. Claims that smoking shisha could be harmful to people’s health the way smoking tobacco has been identified as a culprit, is slowly but surely gaining grounds among scientists and health workers in the developed world. Australia is one of these countries. The Herald’s report has quoted NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard: “Smoking shisha for an hour is equivalent to inhaling the volume of smoke from 100 to 200 cigarettes”. Such frightening statements, similar to this one, do not come from a politician’s guesswork or imagination. The minister has a credible authority to back his claim. World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations’ body responsible for global governance of health and disease is the source. According to the 2005 advisory note from WHO’s research arm, TobReg or tobacco study group, the smoke that comes from water in the shisha “contains toxicants known to cause lung cancer, heart disease and other disease”.

The report adds that the campaigners aim at educating members of their community as well as the general public to rethink about the perception of shisha smoking as a pastime. In their drive to educate the public, the organisers are not alone. The head of NSW Cancer Institute, Professor David Currow, backs the campaign against smoking, when he told the paper that “shisha smokers were unknowingly putting themselves at risk of the same deadly diseases that kill cigarette and second-hand smokers”. (more…)

By Kur Wël Kur, Adelaide, Australia 

Aesop’s Fables in Dinka, translated by Atem Yaak Atem

Aesop’s Fables in Dinka, translated by Atem Yaak Atem

Sunday, October 14, 2018 (PW) — We’re almost in all four corners of the world, and fighting to remain the Dinka people. I am afraid that the load of melanin isn’t one of the tools to fight this war of identity because masses of other Africans are our mirror images with the same shades of black.

But the LANGUAGE—the Dinka language along with moral values and cultures of Dinka are the main tools to protect our identity. One’s mother tongue is an invaluable definition of who one truly is.

However, having become wanderers because of wars, our language is falling behind other languages—English, Arabic, Kiswahili and even Spanish (some people who went to Cuba as kids speak less Dinka than Spanish)—we have picked up in nations of our refuge.

Our children in other nations speak other languages with fluidity; their fluency in these languages is extremely towering that one of their Dinka (language).


Plagiarism, and copyright infringement: a Wakeup call for South Sudanese

By Atem Yaak Atem, Sydney, Australia

Atem Yaak Atem

Atem Yaak Atem is the former deputy minister for information and a veteran South Sudanese journalist who was the founding director, chief editor, and trainer of Radio SPLA (1984-1991). 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 instalment.

The premise

Tuesday, August 21, 2018 (PW) — When a country is in the grip of a crippling and divisive war as is the case with South Sudan now, those who discuss matters, for example, such as the arts, promotion of environmental awareness, the value of having national archives, and so forth, can be seen as heartless creatures, indifferent to the suffering of millions of their compatriots and the future of the country. It is a universally acknowledged fact that what we as South Sudanese need is to hammer out an agreement that addresses the root causes of the conflict to be the basis for reconciliation and a lasting peace that provides justice not only for the parties concerned and members of the educated elite but all the citizens and the future generations.

There is no doubt about the validity of this observation. But the pursuit of peace does not prevent people doing what is apparently the norm or mundane. In defence of my erstwhile column, “Far Away from War”, which the SPLM/Update weekly newsletter carried in the 1990s, I argued that in war as well as in peace, people continue to carry on with their lives with a semblance or normality, where and when that is possible. Under any prevailing armed conflict situation, young people even those at the warfront marry, women give birth to children and nurture them, able-bodied persons work for a livelihood, and so forth. It is impossible for people to put on hold every day activity until the advent of peace. That is impossible; the society will simply collapse. This is why I write and read virtually every day despite the persistent agony gnawing one inside because of the tragedy that is threatening the very existence of South Sudan as a burgeoning and independent nation. (more…)

By Atem Yaak Atem, Sydney, Australia

$18 million bonus for MP

Thursday, 26 July 2018 (PW) — It was the Nazi German propaganda minister, Paul Joseph Goebbels, who once said “A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth”.  Falsehoods about South Sudan abound. The perception by outsiders about the country’s political leaders, and by extension the entire people, is getting more negative especially after the outbreak of the armed conflict in 2013. The five-year long civil war is universally attributed, even by the protagonists themselves, to power struggle within the “then” ruling SPLM, the political component that spearheaded the armed struggle from 1983-2005.

We frequently read and hear unflattering description of ourselves as a deeply divided, insensitive, greedy for power, barbaric, incompetent and myopic, lot. This tainted image of who we are or assumed to be, comes from the regional and international news media, from our own politicians and from Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party, its leaders and their apologists. Although there is some truth in that judgement, the profile does not separate the wheat from the chaff.  The projection therefore suffers from gross generalisation. The vast majority of South Sudanese including a sizeable number within members of educated elite, are among the best people one would wish to have around as compatriots, neighbours or members of international community of nations. But that is a topic for another day and another forum. (more…)

By Atem Yaak Atem, Sydney, Australia

Abel Alier and Atem Yaak Atem

Hon. Abel Alier and Atem Yaak Atem in Nairobi, Kenya, 2005, at the signing of the CPA

Wednesday, 20 June 2018 (PW) — Over the weekend I took part in a video discussion on the education of South Sudanese girls to be at a par with boys. During my talk, the moderator asked me to throw some light on why the current generation- young men and girls- tend to show overt interest in politics. As the scope of the talk limited me to matters pertaining to education, and not politics, my answer was deliberately inadequate. This piece is an attempt to provide an overview of what I left out in the conversation.

‘Because politicians are famous’

While we were exploring the skills and careers formal education should confer on students, specifically to be gainfully employed as well as good citizens, I was presented with the question relating to the fact that many young South Sudanese show an undisguised interest in politics. “Is it because politicians are famous?”

As a hypothesis, it could be one of several answers to what is undeniably an obvious attraction: not by youth alone but also by a large segment of the society of South Sudan; nearly everyone loves to talk politics and hopes to become a full time “professional” politician one day. (more…)

Eulogies and Tributes to the Revolutionary Life of Gen. Andrew Makur Thou

By Atem Yaak Atem, Sydney, Australia


March 26, 2018 (SSB) — Glowing tributes have been paid to General Andrew Makur Thou, who died last week. As will be seen later in this appreciation, Makur was a freedom fighter, a decorated military officer, a politician, a diplomat, a community leader, and towards the end of his life, an honest broker in peacemaking process to end the debilitating armed conflict in his country.

Reacting to the news of the death of General Makur Thou, one of the Eminent Personalities working to resolve the armed conflict in South Sudan, the office of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism (JMEC)- headed by the former president of Botswana, Festus Mogae- released a statement to express the body’s condolence.

“Ambassador General Makur was a patriot, a champion of peace and indeed a key pillar in the 2015 Peace Agreement of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS)”, read the release in part. It went on to describe late Makur’s contribution as “sober and honest”, and with the general death “the entire South Sudan Peace process” will miss his role.

As chair of Security Working Committee, retired General Andrew Makur worked alongside the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) team. The organ’s head, Major General Ibrahim Abduljellil, has recognised late Makur as a leader who “had an ability to instil great understanding amongst CTSAMM forum”.


By Atem Yaak Atem, Sydney, Australia

Pioocku Thuongjang

Pioocku Thuongjang: The Elementary Modern Standard Dinka (May 2011), by Makwei Mabioor Deng (Author)

March 13, 2018 (SSB) — I have one of my precious collections, a copy of the manual- in Dinka language- for use by the congregation of what used to be Anglican Church in Sudan, later to become Episcopal Church of the Sudan after the enthronement in 1976 of its first native archbishop, the Right Rev Elanana Ngalamu.

The book which is the subject of this article carries the title: KITAP DE DUƆR. First, let me present the physical outlook of this antique kind of a book. It is a pocket size hardcover 327-page book. The white lettering is within two rectangular and concentric boxes on a rose background. The spine is broken. It was in recent days when my wife- who has realised the importance of the item- that she reattached the broken part with a glue that the book now looks more useable.

It’s first two pages and corners are not as elegant as they used to be during their youthful days; they have become an eyesore with yellow smudges. That the book has passed through several hands or overused by its first and last owner (I got this book in 2012 from a member of the Emmanuel Jiëëng Parish Church, Juba.  I have since forgotten how I came to be the owner of this treasure, only that I recall, a few if any, saw any value in what appeared to be a junk).

The title deserves a brief, if a passing, comment. Kitap de Duɔr in Dinka1 means Worship book, “kitap” being a loan Arabic word for kitaab or book and “duɔr” is Dinka for “worship”. The loan word should have been the Dinka possessive “kitam de” or “the book of” while “duɔr” is Dinka for worship. Again, something here is not right with the spelling of this word which should have a long /ɔɔ/ instead of short /ɔ/. Since the book is a product of the days before the marking of “breathy vowels” had been introduced by Summer Institute of Linguistics, SIL, in late 1970s- an orthography that helps the reader with pronunciation and meaning- today Dinka word for “worship” is written “duɔ̈ɔ̈r”.


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.


Who was the Late Dr. Mark Majak Abiem?

Posted: January 21, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Atem Yaak Atem, History, Junub Sudan, People

By Atem Yaak Atem, Australia

Walter Rodney and Mark Majak Abiem

Picture of Mark Majak Abiem and Professor Water Rodney at the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), London, 1976. Both were later murdered in cold blood in their respective home countries in 1977 and 1980 respectively.

January 21, 2018 (SSB) — Late Mark Majak Abiem was an extraordinary and pleasant human being, an outstanding student and a very promising scholar. He was my roommate at the Barracks (University of Khartoum’s hostels on the Blue Nile) from 1971-2.

When he passed his neatly organized notebook of lectures on Archaeology he took while a prelim student to me, there was no surprise that I was able to score the top marks in that subject. Although only two of my colleagues knew about the “inheritance” I openly gave credit to Mark.

After the History Dept., Faculty of Arts took Mark Majak as a teaching assistant the dream that the history of the future South Sudan was then going to be written by its own sons and daughters as well as other scholars who love the people and their land was almost becoming a reality.


Someone without an advice-giver

This one and what follows it are true stories. They happened in the first half of the 20th century. The stories became proverbs and popular even during the lifetime of the persons associated with them. 

Retold by Atem Yaak Atem, Australia


January 20, 2018 (SSB) — Once in the last century, there lived a man called Awuol Bol Deng. He was known by his nickname of Awuol-Akuong-Awuɔ̈l-Akuɔŋ. He was a member of Pareng Clan of Kongor Wut (collection of clans) in what was known at the time as Bor District.  Awuol, a friendly and peace loving person, was universally admired for his wits and as the author of many memorable sayings. To this day, Awuol’s aphorisms are still in currency among the people from the area, at home and all over the world. A wise saying, in Dinka, is called kääŋ-kaang plural kɛ̈ŋ-keng.

When Awuol moved out of his parent’s ancestral home to raise his own family, he built his homestead at Majak, then a virgin land west of Kongor, which was at the time, an administrative center of what later became known as Kongor People’s Rural Council in the 1970s.

Majak village is about 8 kilometers to the west of Kongor and on the edge of the world’s largest swampland, the Sudd. Wildlife seasonal movement from west to east and back used to traverse this area. This migration still happens although the traffic has significantly reduced over the years due to the proliferation of illegal or even legitimate firearms that have become a real threat to wildlife.


By Atem Yaak Atem, Australia

National Prayers Day

April 12, 2017 (SSB) — Academics have written books on topics such as why nations fail or peace fail. These scholarly works try to delve into roots causes by their authors going into histories of specific areas while others examine case studies of recent times and dealing with particular countries or regions of the world, for instance.

Such findings naturally come out with what they say are the main causes. Those researchers also give recommendations on what could be done to right the situation under reviews. Opinions on their conclusions are not, as expected, universally endorsed. And that is not our concern here.

This tantalizing title does not claim to belong, by approach, to those works distilled from careful research. The concern of this article and those which will follow is to look at our society, its current problems and how they can be tackled successfully, in the long run, from a common sense perspective. I lay no claim to being an expert or an authority in any field that I will touch on.


By Atem Yaak Atem -Australia

“Dr. Lueth Garang Kuany, a renowned medical practitioner during the Liberation days has passed away. The late Dr. Lueth was on duty in Bor Hospital on the 16th of May 1983 when Battalion 105 was attacked at Malual ë Chaat and casualties began to arrive. He personally treated the wounded Kerubino when he was brought into the hospital before joining the rebellion that became the SPLA/M few months later. Dr. Lueth was among the six people in the car that took John Garang to Ethiopia. During the War of Liberation Dr. Lueth, together with the likes of Dr. Achol Marial, Dr. Akol Diing, Dr. Atem Nathan, Dr. Kemerie, Dr. Dau Aleer, and many others worked in the liberated area rendering medical care to hundreds of thousands of people in need. He died on the 5th of March in Kampala, Uganda and his body was brought back on Wednesday 8 March to South Sudan for burial.” From The National Courier, March 9, 2017.

pagan and john garang

Commander Pagan Amum Okiech, with Chairman Dr. John Garang and Commander Yasir Said Arman, Rumbek Senior, 2003

March 23, 2017 (SSB) — When I received a text message from a friend in Juba carrying the news of the passing away of Dr Lueth Garang, I was struck by sadness. Late Lueth Garang was one of the people I have known for a very long time. He was a friend. More than that, the departed compatriot was truly a decent man. At a time when people see and feel evil things happening around them, their consolation is when they see good people in their midst; the presence of the righteous ones often inspires hope while their exit opens a space for despair and loneliness; it also weakens the defences in the war against the forces of darkness. Where and who are the replacements for the departed good people? The good fight must not relent but its soldiers are leaving the stage. For good. Very sad indeed.