Politicizing Death: Where Is Humanity Around J-1 in South Sudan?

879 views Published on 12th September 2017

On the the second of September, a fire that gutted a girls’ dormitory at Moi High School, claiming the lives of 10 students with many others critically injured, was another test and touching trial for my family. I had two students in this school, a 14-year-old, and a 16-year-old.

My 14-year-old survived the fire with minor injuries, thanks to her brave late elder sister who managed to push her through the window before she was caught up when she ran back to save her friend. As my 14-year-old recovers in hospital, her elder sister is still unaccounted for and thought to be among the 10 who burnt in the fire.

That unstoppably welled our cheeks with tears and engulfed us with unfathomable grieves because as a tradition, in death, a little relief comes from the ability to identify and burry the remains of our loved ones. My late daughter (Alakir Malong) was a very cheerful, kind and humble girl who had a bright future. The Parents of the missing children have been asked to provide DNA samples to help identify the remains of their loved ones who died in that sad tragedy.

Sadly, my husband Gen. Paul Malong has not been permitted by South Sudan’s government to provide a DNA sample to help identify his daughter, leave alone that he is socially required to mourn and console with his family. When the news of the fire broke out, we were all struck heavily, but more devastation came with the reports that our daughter may be one of the victims since she was reported missing.

This grief was compounded more on the morning of 6/9/2017 when I called my husband to inquire whether he will be permitted to come and give a DNA sample to identify his deceased daughter and he sadly told me that President Kiir (well knowing our current predicament) has declined to let him come and help to identify his deceased daughter’s remains and arrange for her burial.

Traditionally as Africans, life and death mean a lot and that is why the tragedy of death brings people together with none ready to mock the other because of power or whatsoever. Unfortunately, the leadership in Juba seems to have lost this basic social element of our tradition and humanity to the extent that they deny Gen. Malong the chance to mourn and burry his daughter.

In nutshell, it is really tantamount and can be considered the lowest level of thinking even if one lacks compassion and sympathy in such a tragedy and trial. My question is, have the powers around J1 become so rigid that they have lost that basic social element?

When I first published an appeal for my husband’s release on grounds of his health, the response from the President’s spokesman was a plain denial that Gen. Malong was not under house arrest. He openly lied that Malong is free to move as he wishes.

In the thinking of Mr. Ateny (president Kiir’s spokesman), Gen. Malong has simply chosen not to go for medical treatment even when he is not in a good health. Now, I presume they will claim that he has chosen not to provide a DNA sample to identify his daughter’s remains and equally chosen not to mourn with his family.

I call upon president Kiir, and his handlers to reconsider and show some humanity. If you would not let my husband out of detention, then at least allow him to come and provide a DNA sample to help in identifying his daughter’s body. There is no threat in that and denying him that is just being un-emphatic.

And if the government reaches such proportion of being too inhumane, then everyone should be scared. Because if they can do that to Gen. Malong if they can refuse to let him get his daughter’s body and burry the remains because of the “fear of the unknown,” what about the lives of other citizens whose names are unknown to president Kiir, will anything matter to J1?

While Gen. Malong and others are being persecuted without any charge, those in the corridors of power who stay silent in the face of this grievous and engraving injustice should be on notice. Because your silence gives credence and a node to the unlawful actions in J1, you are just preparing the ground for yourselves to suffer the same fate, tomorrow or the next day.

Remember the words of Martin Luther King Junior when he said, “our lives just stop the same moment we chose to be silent about the things that matter to us.”

My late Alakiir Malong, May your soul rest in Peace!

The writer is a Student of Masters in Leadership and Governance from University of Nairobi, and a wife to Gen. Paul Malong Awan, the former Chief of General Staff of the SPLA, South Sudan.

You can reach her via her email: Ayak Malek


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