An open letter to a potential governor of Eastern Lakes state (ELS)

From: Agok Takpiny , Australia, Melbourne, OCT/19/2015, SSN;

Yirol, the capital of a newly created Eastern Lakes state is a beautiful semi-urban area and it is where I was born and spent my childhood as well as adolescence live. It is situated beside a majestic lake Yirol. The green environment, comfortable weather, fresh air, scenic beauty and the simple life of people were the things I grew up knowing about Yirol.

In a broader view, Yirol has not changed that much compared to the time I lived there, but, of course, some changes have occurred over the period. High rise buildings (yes, two storey buildings) and many modern residential houses (thanks to our ‘big men”) can be seen everywhere.

Traditional farming and cattle herding were the main occupations. Traditionally, during the rainy season, which usually start in late April, young men packed up from cattle camps and go to villages to cultivate their fields together with their mothers or wives.

After two months, they would go back to cattle camps while their mothers or wives remain to look after the crops. By doing so, hunger was never close to entered the community, there was always plenty of food and everyone looks healthy.

That was the Yirol I grew up, however, this has changed for the worst. People almost gave up cultivation completely. It is like we have got the independence “everything will be milk and honey”.

We got to stop this, we need to return Yirol to its days of glory, and our next state government must do everything in its power to make people cultivate their fields again. There needs to be a strategy coordinated by the governor and carried out by chiefs with their goal leaders.

Every man who is not running a business or working for a paying job must have a home in his village, build a hut and make sure he cultivates his field come the rainy season.

Failure to comply with that would allow the state government to forcefully take those people to work on the government’s own farm which needed to be set up. There is no UN anymore and it is upon us to make sure that food is available.

The other changes are that people are widely accepting the modern technology and businesses have expanded (although almost all businesses are owned by Darfuris). The motorized transportation has replaced the manual ways of travelling, you know people used to walk from Yirol center to Aweirial or AluakLuak (a distance of more than 50 km each direction).

However, that is not the case anymore, now they can just catch a bus or hire a boda boda motorcycle. The lifestyle and fashion seem very different to what they used to be, the dance style of kabulo/bull has changed from the traditional energetic one to the more slow motion style, I can’t get the tune of it at all, but they seem to enjoy it.

Even kudung has been altered, but that is life, things change, nothing stationary. One of the notable change is Yirol being a state of its own. This is good for us people of Yirol as we are going to determine how we want to run our affairs in a way that is good for our people.

Now comes the challenging part, creating a workable political environment that will enable the citizens of Yirol to unleash their potential is key to state prosperity.

This article is for “you” the potential governor of ELS. It is for “you” too, the citizens of Eastern Lakes state, if you like the things I briefly explained in this article to happen in our state, then you have to choose a governor whom you think will be able to implement them all or some of the ideas herein.

To make Yirol the envy state that every businessman wants to invest in, and every South Sudanese want to live, our very first governor-whoever he/she may be, will need to make Yirol a liveable city.

When I visited Yirol in March this year, I witnessed something that saddens me. Every town or village has its own unique iconic marvels, these can be heritage buildings or trees. Yirol is blessed with majestic Mahogany trees which beautifully stand along four major roads in the town Centre, these trees form a permanent guard of honor to anyone walking along those roads in the town.

However, those trees are threatened by bird’s feces. Anyone who is in Yirol town or has been there recently would agree with me that if nothing is done to rescue the iconic mahogany trees from being destroyed completely by bird pest, then in a year or so the trees will be gone.

It was unbelievable to see the entire ground under those trees which almost cover 75% of town Centre being blanketed by smelly white colored bird’s feces. Apart from potential diseases, it could bring, the level of noise created by those birds at night in particular when roosting together is considerable disturbances.

This exasperating noise if one is new in Yirol town can cause sleepless nights. Controlling those birds need money, but it is not overly expensive. There are many mechanisms that can apply to control those birds, the next governor will just have to tell one of his/her staff members to search for those who specialize in bird pest control on google.

One practical way of solving it is to prune (cut down) top branches of Mahogany tree and many other big trees in town so they can re-grow afresh.

Protecting our people from all sorts of things need to be prioritised. Security is paramount, but the dignity of our people too worth protecting.

Mass rural, urban migration will need to be controlled by imposing a ban on all non-essential travel to Juba. When I went to Juba this year, one thing bothered me a lot. There were so many people from Yirol in Thongpiny suburb than in Nyang town.

The majority of those people went there just to meet people like Rain Tueny, Deng Athorbei, Telar Ring, Marial Chanuong or any other Yirolese who have a decent job in Juba.

Of course not all of them get to meet whoever they went there to meet, thus they end up stranded in Juba unable to go back home.

Furthermore, some men made going to Juba an escape route to avoid their responsibilities. Some men simply left their wives and children back home to struggle on their own.

A simple way to put a stop to this is by setting up an office in Yirol town to give out permits to those who want to go to Juba using public transport.

To get a permit if you are going to look for a job in Juba, you must show your resume/CV. If you are going for treatment in Juba, you must show the referral letter from Yirol hospital, or if there is no referral you must have at least 5000 SSP cash, or if the person who is going to pay for your treatment is in Juba, you must get him/her to confirm this.

If you are a businessman you must tell the name of your business and back it up with witness testimony. Note, those who travel by air or drive their own cars don’t need to apply for a permit simply because they are well off and could afford to cater for themselves in Juba.

Those who are involved in illegal money exchange should go back to Yirol and do their business there because the way they are being hated by the authorities and other tribes are dangerous to their lives and sooner or later someone is going to lose a life among them if nothing is done.

Socially, Yirolese are great people across the board, but that doesn’t mean we have nothing to reform for the better.

To those who have in-depth knowledge about taxation, it is a tool that is more than just collecting money for the sake of raising revenue for the government. Taxation is used to bring change by influencing person’s behaviours to behave in a certain way.

For example, a government can place higher taxes on tobacco to make buying tobacco more expensive just to discourage people from smoking.

In our case, we have dowry problem, dowry payment needs to be capped at 30 cows maximum, anything over that must be taxed 55%. For example, every single cow on top of 30 cows already paid will be valued at 3600 SSP fix regardless whether the cow is big or small. The bride’s parents will need to pay the 55 piasters tax for every 1 ssp.

That means, out of 3600 SSP (value of each cow), the government will get a tax of 1980 SSP from each cow. This is important not only for the revenue side of it, it will curb the runaway dowry prices, which are slowly barring young men who have no one to support them from marrying girls of their choice.

These young men, as already witnessed will engage in constant cattle robbery. So by discouraging excessive dowry payment, the government is solving the cattle wrestling indirectly.

Keep Yirol, Nyang, Aweirial and other major centres clean. Anyone who have a land/plot and did not yet build a house on it must be forced to cut the grass every 2 months and also pay yearly council fees.

Every single house in Yirol town must have a latrine, failure to do so must trigger a fine of not less than 2000 SSP.

Each house must clean not only in the compound but also outside their fence, put simply, each house must know its border with next house and therefore, the cleaning must reach the border where the other house will take it and so forth.

Failure to regularly clean will trigger a fine of not less than 100 SSP. This rule would be enforced by the council.

Commissionership system needs to be abolished and instead introduce mayorship where a county is ruled by a 5 member council headed by a mayor. Each council must have a constitution that explicitly explains what to do and who to do it if Y and Z happens.

Commissionership which give an absolute power to one person is prone to abuse of power by the incumbent and we have seen that numerous times. Commissionership has become an empty boastful prestige position where egos are fulfilled instead of service delivery, it needs to go.

We are unique people and we should not just copy everything from Khartoum or Juba, how we govern ourselves is entirely up to us.

Commissionership system and excessive dowry are not the only things I am hoping to be reformed or abolished altogether. I am also hoping that torturing (whipping) inmates be abolished as well.

When I went to Yirol in March this year I found the infamous former oil factory building (baburzet) which was turned into detention center still operating. In Baburzet, inmates are beaten terribly twice a day.

Instead of whipping inmates, hard labor should be introduced. We have an airport to build, our current airstrip is in the middle of the town center, and it ought to be moved at least 10 km away. Therefore, clearing the area where the airstrip would be built need to start early.

Each inmate should be shown a tree or trees to clear from the roots and smoothen where the tree was removed. Yes, our famous headmaster in Comboni School Mapurdit successfully implemented that in 1990s.

Whenever a student broke the rule by fighting each other or anybody who is weak (women) in the school ground, their punishment was to uproot a tree or trees depending on the severity of the offense.

It may sound hard enough, but it is better than whipping. It works in our school back then as our school expended, the administration only paid for the new classroom buildings while the land has already been cleared by offenders. Furthermore, fighting each other was reduced to near zero.

In addition, instead of banning alcohol like what current Lakes State governor, Matur Chut, did in the former Lakes state, those who get intoxicated and start to misbehave at weekdays should be taken to the field, detain them until they are sober enough and then show them their trees to uproot.

There are widows who depend on income from alcohol they brew and sell, and there are also those who drink responsibly, so banning alcohol is being inconsiderate to this group.

Thanks for reading this article.

7 Comments

  1. Deng Achol Madol says:

    Thank for your adivecs to the Govnor of Eastren Lakes State (ELS). My request or massage to the people of Greater Yirol is that, let’s make ELS to be the peaceful State in South Sudan. With peace amoung us, we will make develoment, reaching our goal & dream of the people GY.

  2. Guet Athina Guet says:

    Mr. Agok Takpiny,

    I appreciated the lecture, yes, Yirol is a beautiful place and I had seen it in my 3 day stayed and I enjoyed the lake very much. However, you lecturing people not to travel to Juba is totally wrong. You make it sound like Juba is a foreign country, it’s the capital and every citizen of south Sudan he/she’s free to move any where they wish in the country. Setting up restriction on traveling from state to state does not make senses. Look at you, you’re a day (Australia, Melbourne) way from south Sudan. You’re in no position to tell these people were not to go. On a personal note, the article was good, except when you started lecturing about restriction travel within the country, you lost many of your readers.

  3. Malouda says:

    Takpiny, You stated that security is paramount, but you do not elaborate properly, our main challenge is insecurity in whole former Lakes state and current three lakes let us work together on how we take back Lakes area like before when Yirol was known as the most traders people I remember when I was a child of 10 to 12 years old in the early 1980s Yirolese were known as Kouatians nick name (I means Kouat country) because of their best cattle trade as they us to go as far as Aweil or Gogrial walking on feet and bought cattle there and drive them up to Equatoria via Uganda with out any fear on the road but now a days you can not go any per meters peacefully so let us preach the peace first with in our borders and then come to the development, I agreed with you in some points of your article but some are not correct as going out from state with approval no is not correct. Am from former Lakes not Yirolese but Iam one of the concerned about the suffering of our people.

  4. Name says:

    Sounds like a dictator in the making.

  5. Jim Monyekak says:

    Mr. Agok Thakpiny,

    sadly, such brilliant ideas are far from Yirol. The best to do is now mobilize Yirolese (Yirolans??) or whatever to rally behind your vision of ELS. Your idea suits well in a federal system of governance as opposed to the “decentralzied”, after the creation of 28 states. Who knows whether you will elect your own governor, mayor, commisioner, enact your own laws as you wish with less interference from Kiir or Juba. Today, Juba streets are full of Yirolese/Yirolans etc. as money-changers, most of them illiterate, luak-boys carrying bundles of US Dollars apparently ill-gotten from some Yirol (Benydit or Bandit) in the govt. Most, as you alluded, are simply idlers, running away from hunger, insecurity and responsibility. Your proposition on travel-ban or restriction into urban centres like Juba pleases me very much. I like it.
    FYI: We have Juba-na Bar in our ledger books at the Min. of Housing and Infrastracture (CES) and NOT Thong-piny as you mentioned. Read the street signs or billboards in Juba town, there is no Thong-piny except Juba na Bari. It was those Jiengs from Bor in the mid-70s who after taking care of Bari cows, carry water in drum barrels mounted on donkey-carts from the River Nile around Konyo-konyo that began to plant peanuts around the areas of Kuru-ko-Dongong and Nyaing. Thats when these jiengs then began to call it thong-piny. ofcourse it already had its name: Juba na Bari. Tinate!

  6. Francis Mangok Angeir says:

    Mr. Agok,

    I truly appreciate your article because your article encourage many people do know how important they begin to develop their new states. True our government needs to encourage people to go back to their states than allowing them to stage in Juba without doing anything. In fact, South Sudan is a beautiful country, a tropical paradise, perfect place for agriculture and business, but we need peace to implement all what you mentions in your article otherwise Yirol itself would not become a peaceful to live. Unfortunately, we talk much, but we do not do much and that is a problem many South Sudanese have. God bless you.

  7. Jurping magot says:

    Dear maluoda you talk like person to be behead, your added comments are very wrong, let me tell you and mind to understand, no any tribe who had never been traders even agaar.Agaar were the great traders around 1980s they some time reach pot sudan to carry bags of salt on their heads bringing it to rumbek and some parts of greater yirol especially aluak-luak, for sale to get money so it’s was not been easy, so get out of your mind that yirolese are the only traders perhaps iam from Awerial but I know what you people were used to be. truth must told.

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