By Daniel Juol Nhomngek, LDC, Kampala, Uganda, SEP/21/2016, SSN;
Revering the dead is a culture of humanity. It is done in different parts of the world and by different communities. In Traditional American Indian burial prayer, for instance, the respect of the dead is shown in the way they are talked to as if they are alive.
The dead are part and parcel of the living community members and they must be respected. In Traditional African Communities and in particular Dinka Community, the Dead are respected because they are considered to be part of the living.
In addition, in Dinka Community the families of the Dead are looked after and even those who died before getting married, their brothers or other living relatives marry for them wives. The question is: why do we respect the Dead?
There are a number of good reasons, both moral and material aspects for respecting the Dead. First of all, the dead had contributed to the welfare of the living members of their community while they were alive.
Sometime they might have sacrificed their valuable lives to save the community by lying the lives down. Besides, the dead have left their families that they used to cater for as they were the sole bread winners, so they expected their living to respect them through taking care of their families whom they left behind.
The statement in the above paragraph explains as to why the livings are not allowed to kill ourselves when a person they depend on dies; this is because he expected them to continue his or her legacy. Thus, his widows and orphans plus other close relatives are stopped from killing themselves while grieving because they represent him in the world of the livings.
Spiritually, the Dead are considered to be closer to God and because of that they are seen as interceding for the living and protect them from bad spirits or evil spirit as the Christians may term them.
In moral aspect, the Dead are part of traditions and customs and act as conscience that guides our actions in all areas. Hence, majority of the Dinka people and other tribes in South Sudan used to hate corruption because it was uncouth and anti-South Sudanese Culture to be involved in corruption of all kinds.
However, in South Sudan today things are different in term of morals. Morals are thrown to the dogs and the life is becoming meaningless as it is equated with wealth in terms of money. Thus, as Sigmund Freud has put it in his Book, Civilization and its Discontent:
“It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life. In making any general judgment of the sort as pointed out by Fred, we are in danger of forgetting how variegated the human world and its mental life are.”
In fact, there are a few people from whom their contemporaries do not withhold admiration, although their greatness rests on attributes and achievements which are completely foreign to the aims and ideals of the multitude as seen in the case of the Late General, Lat Makoi.
As Sigmund Fred again explains above, the proper conclusion one can reach when reflection over the greatness of people is that the greatness of any person does not lie in how much wealth one has but it is found in how much love for humanity one has, as seen in the case of Nelson Mandela in South Africa and Martin Luther King in North America.
However, in South Sudan today the tendency is that greatness is seen in terms of wealth. So the people are struggling to corrupt the country in the process of accumulating unbridled wealth in order to be rich and famous.
Therefore, the Dead are no longer respected is because they are seen as not product and contrary to the interest of those who are struggling to be rich. Hence, the respect for the dead is no longer part of culture and morals of the so-called “powerful and tycoons of South Sudan”.
If such tycoons respect the dead then it is only done out of formality. This is because corruption for physical resources has engulfed and swallowed up the community as people struggle over limited resources with insatiable desire for becoming rich and famous.
For the above reasons, the Dead no longer have room in the kingdom of the rich of South Sudan and in particular in the heart of the top army generals. There is no respect for the dead in the army as the mission of some top generals is to achieve material wealth and power. Hence, the politics in the army has taken a dirty twist as the dead and their families are being ignored.
Members of the army are being used like slaves who are valued for their services but upon their death, they are forgotten and their families are no longer in the priority of the masters.
Then, the question is: why serving a system that does not care for the welfare of its members, a system that is set in a way that disregards the families of its dead members?
I am really angry with the way the Dead army members and their families are treated by the top generals who strongly believe in wealth, power and fame to the extent of forgetting they were one time mere soldiers with no ranks.
I came to the realization of the fact that things are not good in the army of South Sudan and there is a dead politics that has reached the extent of disrespecting the dead. How on earth can a family of a general who devoted the rest of his life in serving South Sudan being treated in a contemptible manner as shown to the Late General, Lat Makoi?
The Late General, Lat Makoi, served the SPLA for the whole of his life. He joined the rebel Movement, Anyanya 11 which was later transformed into the SPLA/M in 1983. Sadly enough, though he was a very bright student and had a bright future ahead of him (had followed his dream that he had in Rumbek Senior of becoming a medical doctor), he had to sacrifice his future in order to fight for the right to self determination of South Sudanese that was realized in 2011.
Due to his dedication and hard work, he climbed ranks and files until he became a general when he died on 17th September, 2016. Because of his hard work and moral integrity, he was highly respected when he was alive, no one knew including him that one day he would be disrespected even inside the tomb.
Nonetheless, after his death we were shocked and dismayed how deadly the politics is in the army of South Sudan.
The question is: if the politics affected top generals the way it negatively affected the Late General Lat Makoi’s family, what would be the status of the mere soldiers who are in the front lines? It is obvious and I do not need an answer here.
However, the politics in the army of South Sudan has reached the extent that without reforms the country will be thrown into further and worse chaos. What makes such a politics even worse is the fact that it is mixed with immoral and corrupt practices among some of the top generals who use the army code of discipline to perpetuate corruption.
Moreover, the army is not different from cattle keeping and hunting because army is very much based on tribes and because of that if a person does not have anybody on the top of military hierarchy then he can be borrowed at day light.
There is no difference between militias and trained armies in South Sudan. Corruption has created porous inlet in which all kinds of persons are allowed into the army even though they are not trained.
As a result, majority of the soldiers are not trained but they’ve been corruptly given ranks that put them above the trained soldiers and since their mission for joining the army was not to serve South Sudan but to get money, then, they are corrupting the army system to become rich as soon as possible.
Where there is corruption the first victims are always valuable morals and cultures. For that reason, valuable South Sudanese cultures and morals that use to respect human rights and the dead have been sacrificed at the altar of corruption and the high priests, who are top army generals are wielding sharp knives ready to cut anybody who points out the vice of corruption in the army.
Therefore, the lower ranking army officers and other army members without ranks are being mistreated, their salaries are being grabbed by some of the generals and if they complain, they are subjected to the army disciplinary code that does not allow complaints against misdeeds of the top army generals hence the lower soldiers always appeal to their guns to shoot down the army generals as a solution to their grievances.
Moreover, even in among generals the generals who are not corrupt or who hate corruption are hated by corrupt generals and mistreated. Lat General Lat Makoi was one of the few army generals in South Sudan who hated corruption but because of that he had to pay for his sin of hating corruption.
It was worse to see that even after his death his family was subjected to the same politics in the army in South Sudan. His family was promised that the plane was being prepared by the government to come and pick them in Kampala Uganda due to the insecurity on the road to Juba.
Nonetheless, the politics came and destroyed the plan as one of the top generals who was supposed to sign the paper in order for plane to come refused and the reason for his refusal was not given. As a result, the children of the late and his wife were forced to risk the insecurity by travelling by road which was dangerous. However, the children had reached safely.
In short, the way the family of the Late General, John Lat Makoi was treated leaves much to be desired. It appears that those who were against him in the army when he was alive are still after his family and his soul even after he died.
South Sudan army politics of disrespect for the dead members should stop if the army will continue to support the system because it is useless to support the corrupt system that segregates it members.
NB//: the writer can be reached through: firstname.lastname@example.org