Chance brought the two young boys together. They met casually or by chance. Abdun Kedit was an Agar from Rumbek and Riel Deng, a Twic of Gogrial. The two were under the age of eighteen when they met…
Two Young Boys and other Stories is about the experiences of people caught up in the struggle for independence of modern South Sudan. In this collection one gets a sense of the personal hardships suffered by the people in the ofttimes brutal conflict between the two sides. It covers the period from 1983 when the second civil war began to 2005 when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed. In this work the Muslim Arabs and their collaborators are clearly portrayed as the enemy to be feared and overcome at every available opportunity.
There are six stories in total. The longest story is the first in the collection, and this sets the theme. It is the most graphic and brutal and reminds me of Xenophon’s Anabasis which is also a story of survival in a hostile land where a journey is undertaken seeking the safety of familiar places, a journey beset by unknown dangers and challenges. At the same time, we are reminded that this is war when violent heroism, cunning, revenge and loyalty play a part. I wonder when the childhood innocence of the boys was lost or perhaps it was never there in the first place. Certainly, we are left in no doubt about what happens when normal controls are absent and man is free to act with no imperative but to kill or be killed. Is it justified? Higher ideals are also at play, the idea of nationhood, the righting of wrongs and defending the innocent. But is it just settling old scores? Captain Limlim allows Giir to state his Ordeal is another example in the collection of the survival journey set against impossible odds.
This book must come with a warning. It is a book for mature age readers only.
What does the book achieve? It is a sobering reminder of what happens when you put highly efficient weapons (in this case AK47’s) into the hands of protagonists whose cultures have traditionally used less sophisticated arms, when the stakes are high, when the tribe and language are pre-eminent, when politics is about intimidation and buying influence, when daily life is precarious and easily disturbed or lost.
In these days we are seeing traditional values overridden in the political sphere and a self-defeating populism masquerading as wisdom. The inevitable reaction to this trend may lead to the kind of scenarios we see in these stories. This is the lesson we need to take away from this book. Anarchy may be just a thin veneer away from our seemingly ordered and prosperous society.