WARRIORS FROM ABYEI in The Liberation of South Sudan edited by Dr Francis Mading Deng
This book is about four sets of experiences in the liberation struggle of the people of South Sudan covering the period 1965 to 2005. The writer is Francis Deng who has served as diplomat for South Sudan at the UN and authored many publications covering this and related topics. The individuals whose stories are narrated in this volume include one man, three women, and a child of nine years at the time of documented experience. All five individuals hailed from the Ngok Dinka tribe of Abyei which is a province sandwiched between North and South Sudan but is culturally and racially Southern. The theme of the book is rebellion against perceived injustice and the different paths chosen to resist oppression and support the aggrieved people of South Sudan. The man, Pieng Deng Kuol, was a brilliant student of engineering in the University of Khartoum. He established and managed a camp for unaccompanied children that became an internationally acclaimed success, and many were resettled in the United States, Canada, Australia and elsewhere. They became well known worldwide as the Lost Boys (later, Boys and Girls) who, to this day, revere Pieng as their Father and Leader. Pieng went on from there to distinguish himself as a remarkable commander in the military struggle for independence of South Sudan and later as chief of police. Pieng’s half-sister Awuor Deng, who was later joined by her sister, also called Awuor, was motivated to join the rebellion by the humiliation she suffered as a Southern Sudanese student in the Junior Secondary School in Khartoum. The third story is that of Nyenagwek Kuol who found herself struggling within the system, but in which she paradoxically found opportunities to serve her people, including by redeeming abducted children and returning them to their families. The fourth story in this compilation tells the same saga from the perspective of a child, Raphael Tikley Abiem, who was driven to rebel by raging anger against injustice, mistreatment and intolerable indignity, by joining the Anya-Nya armed liberation struggle (1955-1972) at the tender age of nine years.
The individual stories are told in the first person in the words of the protagonists with commentary and analysis provided by the author. There are many close encounters with danger and the possibility of sudden death haunts each of the narratives. There is no mistaking whose side the author, Francis Deng is on, but he attempts to understand the general problem of conflict resolution from a political and academic perspective in the final part of the book. The question is, given that differences are sure to arise between neighboring peoples and countries, how to avoid violence and resolve conflicts peacefully. Sudan in recent times has paid a heavy price. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of the modern liberation struggle of South Sudan with a particular emphasis on the human toll.
Modern day peace and war in South Sudan – the story of five individuals caught up in the conflict between North and South and their different ways of resisting and seeking justice for their people; at times tragic, heroic and gripping, presenting real life and death encounters in Africa and what it means to rebel against a well-armed opposition. This is a solid contribution to the history of the country and especially the people of Abyei who live in close contact with the Arabic North. In the words of the author, “a modest tribute to these outstanding individuals and to war heroes in general, both from the Ngok Dinka of Abyei and their comrades-in-arms in South Sudan and the wider New Sudan without discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity, religion and culture.”