A South Sudanese who fought and died before July 2011 is a martyr; the one who is fighting in present internal wars, dies a tribesman: Bishop Yugu

By Professor Deng Awur Wenyin, SEPT/01/2016, SSN;

It was Sunday August 21st, 2016. The 11 o’clock English service was on in Juba All Saints’ Cathedral. The preacher was Jackson Moses Pitia, Dean of the Cathedral. The main readings were Psalms 46: 1-11, Jeremiah 1: 4-10, Hebrews 12: 18-29 and Luke 13:10-17. The theme of Pitia’s sermon was: “God is our refuge and strength”. The topical example he gave is the exodus of South Sudanese to other countries as refugees, because of the civil strife which started on December 15th, 2013. He said we inside the country and refugees, our prayers strengthen us.

All the churches in their different denominations and the mosques, have been preaching for peace, forgiveness and reconciliation. Some of the preachers even weep in their preaching and prayers. Indeed, our religious institutions are working for peace.

The most senior priest in the service was Assistant Bishop Frazer Yugu. As it is the rule in the Church, the duty was on Bishop Yugu to make the benediction. Normally this authority who closes the service and dismisses the congregation, would make some comments and commendations on the sermon, or at least say something in the form of an announcement.

Bishop Yugu commended Dean Pitia for the splendid sermon by asking the congregation the usual questions: What is this current war for? Who is fighting who? And why? He made a brief analysis of the wars which were fought by South Sudanese from 1955 to 2011 and then declared: any South Sudanese who fought and died in any of those wars, is a martyr.

Then, by way of distinction, he furthermore declared: any South Sudanese who is fighting and killed in an internal war after 2011, dies a tribesman.

When I tried to work out the rationale of that statement, it means to me that the qualification for martyrdom is for a South Sudanese who fought and got killed in a war against foreign invasion. For some of our younger generation who might not have been exposed to our history of resistance and struggle, foreign invasions in our land go back as far as 1821. The start was the Turco – Egyptian invasion led by Mohammed Ali Pasha. At that time the Sudan was a loose territory without strict borders.

That period (1821 – 1881) lasted for 60 years. It was the then southern Sudanese who suffered most because slave trade was applied on them. Then came the Mahdist revolution or the Mahdiya (1881 -1899). Instead of the revolution being a salvation for all the Sudanese, the Mahdists expanded the slave trade in the whole of southern Sudan. The Mahdists reigned for 18 years.

Then came the Anglo – Egyptian reconquest of the Sudan (1899 – 1956) in which the official name of the country became the Anglo – Egyptian Sudan. That period was 57 years. Then came the period which the northern Sudanese called independence (1956 – 2011). That period was 55 years.

It was supposed to be genuine independence for all of us but alas, the old treatment of southerners and outlook of the Turco – Egyptian, Mahdists and Anglo – Egyptian Sudan periods, did not change. In fact the South Sudanese had forecasted and therefore the new struggle started in August 1955, just some four months to independence.

So from 1821 – 2011 there was good cause to continue fighting. With that historical background of having resisted all sorts of foreign invasions and mistreatment for 190 years, why are our people killing themselves these days?

It is unfortunate that historical tribal competitions, ambitions and rivalries have been brought to town to be used for attaining political power. Attainment of political power has its own history in the European civilization.

Great Britain, Germany, France, Belgium and Portugal scrambled for Africa and established the European model of rule. On independence that model was inherited, thus in Africa today we have elections, legislatures, cabinets and judiciaries. The United Nations (UN), which was a result of the European wars which they call World Wars One and Two, has accepted as the standard the European model of acquiring power.

Tribes like the Jieeng (Dinka), Nuer, Chollo (Shilluk), Mundari, Murle, Otuho (Latuka), Boya, Didinga and Toposa, just to mention a few, should not import their cultural conflicts to the town. For example the Jieeng and Nuer have a long history of fighting among themselves in the toch (open plains and swamps) where their cattle graze.

Also cattle rustling is a factor. There they do not fight over any power but mainly for acquisition and control of pastures and watering places. Let the reader be informed that the Jieeng (Jaang in Nuer) and the Nuer are first cousins.

Some individuals would distort that fact but to no success. Observe their languages, names and initiation system, respectively. For example, the forehead marks of my Agaar section of the Jieeng are the same ones on the Nuer foreheads.

Even these tribes know when and where to fight. In December 2013 when the fighting broke out in Juba, the fighting which was, because of Riek and Kiir, taken to be a Jieeng–Nuer war, some individuals from my hometown, Rumbek, tried to mobilise the Agaar youth for war against the Nuer.

But the youth and elders wanted to know where the Nuers were attacking from. When the answer was Juba, they said no, they can’t be mobilized for that war because their Nuers attack from Bentiu, not Juba. The essence was that the fighting in Juba was a government affair, not their customary war.

Regrettably, the Lou Nuer do not see the logic of the Agaar: they have allowed themselves to be manipulated by Dr Riek Machar, wading all the way from Leer in Bentiu area on the West Nile, to raise the white army (jech mabor) to fight the Jaang. It seems to me the Bentiu youth tend to think like the Agaar. This is because Dr Riek could not raise a White army in Bentiu area.

I would like to underline a point which I think is important. Though the Jieeng and Nuer were the majority in the SPLA liberation war, the war which culminated in the independence, nevertheless South Sudan is not a country for two tribes alone so as to compete over it. The country belongs to all the tribes.

Since we have inherited the European mode of governance from the Sudan, we want a political leader to come to power through the will of the people.

In 1978 the people of the then Southern Region of the Sudan, through their Regional Assembly, elected Gen. Joseph Lagu president of the High Executive Council (HEC). Majority of the Jieeng members of the Assembly voted against their tribesman, Moulana Abel Alier and instead voted for Gen. Lagu.

Lagu’s Ma’adi tribe is a minute one on the Ugandan border but notwithstanding, he was elected because of his role in the Anya-Nya Liberation Movement. Gen. Lagu did not organize a fight to be president but presented himself humbly to the people’s representatives.

In conclusion, a question to you, the reader, and to myself as well, is Bishop Yugu right or wrong when he makes a distinction between a person who died in a liberation war, and a person who dies after the liberation wars, in these trivial wars, as a tribesman?

For my part, before I choose, I would like to ascertain the precise meaning of martyr. A dictionary meaning of the word is that a martyr is a “person who … dies for a cause or belief.”

What is the cause or reason to fight to die after the liberation? Riek? Or who? What is the belief to fight to die for? Folktales about Ngun-Deng?

Therefore, I entirely agree with my bishop that those who died during the liberation wars, are martyrs but those who are dying in these uncalled for internal wars, are dying as tribesmen. William Deng Nhial, Aggrey Jadein, Ezboni Mondiri, Dominic Muorwel Malou, Fr Saterlino Lohure and many others died in the struggle while poor. Their riches is July 9th 2011.

Of course Bishop Yugu didn’t make that judgment out of the blue. He is a well-informed bishop about topical issues. He and some of us are aware that, many individuals, civil societies and even the government, have been describing this Riek’s war as a senseless war.

Then he logically concludes that someone who fights and dies in these senseless Riek’s war can’t be a martyr. Such a person would be like an animal killed not according to Jewish or Islamic rituals. The meat of such an animal can’t be eaten by a Jew because it is unclean and a Muslim can’t eat it as well because it is fatis or not pure, because it is not halal. In Islam halal is something allowed and haram is something prohibited. Any unclean meat or thing in Judaism and Islam is negis or nasty.

In our Christian faith taking someone’s life is a sin.

The Nation Mirror daily of August 30th, 2016 had the following title for its editorial: “Can we stop killing ourselves?” My answer: Yes we can. But how and when?


  1. J Gore says:

    Professor Deng Aweer,
    I expected you to be better than your tribesmen who have not gone to school but am wrong to think education can change a jaang like yourself. I think you should be stripped of the title of professorship and allowed to join jce or go to herd cattle in your village if this is how you can analyse a simple sermon by a clergy.

    The Bishop did not say in his sermon that it was Dr Riek’s war but you are trying to put words onto his mouth which is wrong and unacceptable, and you should retract it. Time for fooling South Sudanese is long gone and every one, even children in primary school, knows who is responsible for the on-going senseless war and the killing of innocent civilians in South Sudan.

    So stop lying and make some effort to educate your tribesmen to have some humanity in themselves and to stop killing innocent South Sudanese.

  2. abai okwahu says:

    whatever happened to the christian maxim that ‘do not be a judge unto others’? perhaps bishop yugu is a devil in a preacher’s garb. folks who died challenging the dictatorship in juba will be remembered as patriots, let yugu keep his opinion to himself and his flock in juba.
    he (yugu) is afraid to speak the truth like his brethren in the Cathoiic church and other denominations who have spoken up and condemned the tyrannical regime in juba.

  3. GatNor says:

    In case the professor wants to write a book on the meaning of the word “martyr” he can help himself to the followings below ..free of charge

    1). a person who willingly suffers death rather than renounce his or her religion.
    2). a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause: is a martyr to the cause of social justice.

    noun – a person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs.
    “saints, martyrs, and witnesses to the faith”

    verb – kill (someone) because of their beliefs.
    “she was martyred for her faith”

    Perhaps, the professor’s article is a martyr of a fundamentally misconceived philosophical meaning of the word itself.

  4. Abel Magok says:


    This is one of the few best article I have read on this website, neutral, balanced, informative and indeed carrying highly intellectual stand-point on this issue of war. People gone wild on this website, look at J Gore, he pickups one word in the whole article, Dr. Riek’s war, he misunderstood it and become fiery. What people know most on this website is tribalism talks and expression of maximum hatred and insults to certain group indiscriminately without distinguished the ordinary from those leading government and has been encouraged by highly educated people most of them are living in the U.K.
    Read an article written by El hag Paul, titled Time for Dr. Riek to strategize Aug.11, 2016 and see commentary of the EDITOR of this website, he attacked Yien Mathews, saying your negativity has been problematic to those who support the Nuer in general in their leadership in the new war of liberating the people from JCE.—- and more.

    • info@southsudannation says:

      Abel Magok,
      The irony of the message of the learned professor’s article is abundantly clear. Picking up the wisdom of Bishop Yugu, he is mostly telling the jieng and especially those serving the interests of pres. Kiir and the JCE that their deaths are shameful and futile because these tribesmen are only laying down their lives for the interest of parochialism. Of course, to be fair to you, the professor’s message also goes out to Riek Machar’s Nuer militias.
      Apparently, the professor is coming around the centrality of the message of this website that you so unfairly hates, and that’s South Sudan is the nation for all South Sudanese.

    • Eastern says:

      Abel Magok,

      Kiir and Malong through mobilisation carried out by the JCE, are wagging a tribal war; the initial report by UN Panel of expert says so. I alluded to this during the clashes in Juba because I was in the thick of it all. Please read the report through this link:


      These two evil men must be haunted by their evil actions till their deaths!!!!!

  5. Eastern says:

    My friend, the professor Awur Deng didn’t do himself justice in his article by referring to the current conflict in South Sudan as “Riek’s war” before falling short in drawing the corollary between previous wars of “liberation struggle” waged by southern Sudanese starting way back in 1821 and culminating with the independence of South Sudan on July 9, 2011. The professor is playing dirty politics by insinuating that it’s Dr Machar wagging a war against Kiir.

    Professor Awur Deng has not been objective on this article. His article is cheap politics at best. Professor Deng Awur is perhaps trying hard to win back his deanship at the college of law at the university of Juba of which Kiir stripped him sometime back. The bushes of South Sudan are now teeming with a large number of agrieved citizens baying for Kiir’s blood; it’s no longer SPLA-IO or Dr Machar alone fighting Kiir’s dictatorial and tribal regime.

    It’s sad that a learned fellow would fail to discern such simple philosophical messages.

    Thank you J Gore for your rebuttal.

  6. White Rat. says:

    Tribal professor. Your are disgrace to your tribes mate How dare could you term the war Riek’s War!. Tribes mates are killing our pp at will and ruling with impunity. Hell on you.

  7. Southdan says:

    Hi professor, you are really professor for jeeng elders council not for south Sudan. Why do I believe you not for south Sudanese but for dinka. because now a day non intellectual Dinkas are better you intellectuals. Professor Awur, please thinks carefully before you act. To me, buying people loyality buying words is an ignorant. First of all the word maryter (ma-ry-ter )that you bought from Honorable Mr. Bishop, means one who died for his country in Arabic. ( الشهيد ) of course, if those white army, or rebels in general from upper Nile, Bahr Gahzel and equatoria has died since 2013-2016 I think they could qualified as maryer despite Bishop’s opinion. I know many people would blamed and disagree with you but to me any one like you has a sickness that could be diagnosed as Riek Machar sickness I said this because I heard all Dinkas intellectuals uttering nonsense over internet against Dr. Reik Machar. Therefore are mentally sick with Risk Machar the only man wanted to bring about reforms. Dear Editor please forgive my language consider a whistle blowing.

    • info@southsudannation says:

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with your criticism or language.

    • GatCharwearbol says:


      The disease these folks are suffering from is call Riekphobia. If you want crumbs of bread, use acrimonous words against Dr. Machar and praise Kiir, you have your bread. This is exactly what Awur Deng is up to.

  8. It is the war mongers who will associates themselves with Riack Machar. Those who know

    the man are now following the peace lover Taban Gai. So for you who are enlightened ignore these people. There is no point of killing your own people.
    Who are the people killing innocent civillians on roads. Has those civillians done anything wrong.

  9. Southdan says:

    Thanks Mr. Editor, shame to those who’re buying words and people loyalty by a superficial propaganda. We have realized those who do so have a disease called (Riek syndrome). To me it was just a personal opinion for Reverend Mr. Bishop to say those who had died during 1955-2005 are only martyrs and those died from 2013-2016 are not, this also a cheap prescription and nobody should agree unless a person with sick mind like professor Deng Awuor how had Reik syndrome. We have learned in Arabic curriculum that a martyr is one who died or a soldier who died for sake of his country. If those rebels who had fought President Kiir government and I will not called it (regime ) have been acknowledged as Spla-io forces therefore would acknowledge marytrs no matter who say nonsense.

  10. maku jolo says:

    hello brothers and sisters,
    Let us analysis our situation in reality not because I come from such a……tribe . if you read prof.” article carefully you will realize he is a critic. Backing our tribe would not benefit us.

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