By Paulino G. Kedok, Juba South Sudan
June 7, 2011 (SSNA) -- When the CPA was inked in 2005, and with its subsequent dividends, it was quite an obvious thing that two decades long running civil war in Africa was now imminently coming to an end. It was now time for basic social services to be provided to the deserving citizens who had suffered a lot from the wars since Sudan got its independence in January 1956; Whereas Fangak County, whose headquarters is located at Pam El Zeraf town is still bushier than ever before and thus no sign of developmental progress. Fangak County is the least developed amongst the 79 counties of the ten states in Southern Sudan, let alone in Jonglei State. Between the year 2001 and 2004, during the tenure of the late hero, Brig. Gen. Michael Top Yai, as the operation commander for central Upper Nile, Fangak County‘s civilisation shape was well placed and a lot of expectations were even higher: - that so long as peace prevailed, development and infrastructure of the- then- blessed county would overtake many neighbouring counties due to its healthy state in spite of its dark days.
But to the chagrin of many and due to grave miscalculations, Fangak County is located on a landlocked Island; which is thousands kilometres or miles far away from the state Capital, Bor. Bor, being the state capital, is hardly accessible on land except by river which sometimes is partly blocked by planktons and other fluvial obstacles. Hence, the distance alone raises some fundamental questions as to why such a County like Fangak from the far north could be part of Bor, which is nearer to Juba than any other place? Is there any other motive or covert reason as to why Fangak should continue to remain under Jonglei state? Is it justified given the distance and other factors? I don’t think so. For those who may not know, be informed that Fangak is a stone throw away distance to Malakal town, the Upper Nile State capital, than Bor, which is actually situated at the edge of state centre and whose proximity is to Juba instead.
Fangak County is inhabited by two peaceful sub-tribes of Laak and Thiang Nuer ethnic group in Central Upper Nile, and it lies far north of Jonglei State with an under-estimated population of 110,130 according to 2008 Sudan population census. It is located between Guit County of Unity State in the west; Ayod County in the south, Piji County in the East and Panyikang County of Upper Nile in the northeast, and Ruweng County in the North. Its inhabitants are Agro-pastoralist community whose sources of survival entirely depends on cattle rearing for marriages, milk, meat and hides as well as traditional agriculture of hand industry for subsistence and cash crops productions. Its County Headquarters is Fam El Zeraf Town, situated at the confluence of River Nile on the west part and Bhar – El Zeraf (Phow) on the East where the two fluvial bodies flow in opposite directions.
Fangak County olden day’s history was very prestigious because a number of scholars in which a few are in the present Government of South Sudan and other institutions of government, were the products of its Wangleel School compared to Rumbek and other prominent schools on sale during early 19th century in South Sudan districts. Therefore, Fangak County, according to the history, was among the first ever civilised towns since colonization era up to the beginning of liberation struggle. But as aforementioned, there is no reason as to why Fangak County should be part of Jonglei state because of some of the reasons stated above. First of all, the supposedly governor of the state, H.E. Kuol Manyang Juuk is a governor of Bor, not for the whole state. This is true and it could be attributed to a variety of reasons. Second of all, he is not concerned about other citizens beyond or outside Bor. No wonder when the people of Fangak were massacred by George Athor in February this year, he never bothered at all to visit the area in order to pay tribute to the families of those who lost their loved ones; and try to comfort the bereaved families, in the aftermath of that callous attack. He just kept quiet and never made any visit to Fangak and instead decided to visit Khorfulus, the backyard of his political rival –turned-enemy, to address the SPLA there.
To make matters worse, there is that huge social disparity between people living in Bor and those in the periphery, which is also characterised by unfair treatment. For instance, cleaners and other workers in Bor are paid salaries ranging from 200 to 300 SDG per a month, whereas cleaners and other workers in Fangak are paid salaries ranging from 20, 30 to 50 Sudanese pounds at the most per a month. Can we pretend to be equal here? It’s like that rule No. 7 of animal farm that contradictorily says “all animals are equal but some animals are more important than others”. This is the same thing that is repeating itself here in the case of Jonglei state. I suppose the policy should be that all citizens in the state are equal in everything, but not that some are more important than the rest. This is the same policy employed by Jallaba in the recent past, and which forced the people of South Sudan to opt for a country of their own where everybody would be accorded the same rights and opportunities or privileges without distinction or discrimination on the basis of their location, ethnic background, socio-economic and or political inclination. It should be acknowledged and appreciated that H.E. Governor Kuol Manyang is way better than his predecessor, Philip Thon Leek. Kuol has tried, to a certain extent, to balance his government and ensured that at least almost all the counties in the state are represented in his government, though everything is still largely dominated by his Dinka – Bor people. This is in sharp contrast with his predecessor, Philip Thon Leek, who never did this before during his tenure; everything was all for Dinka – Bor people.
There was an attempt by Fangak County MPs and other officials in the state in 2008 to have Fangak annexed to Upper Nile state but failed as it was rumoured or said that Madam Nyadeng De Mabior and other Dinka Bor figures used money to buy off those seen advocating for this to happen. She threw a lot of money and bought all those in parliament so that there is no such a motion about Fangak being annexed to Upper Nile State since it became abundantly clear that her citizens were discontented about Dinka-Bor dominion. Where on earth can minority rule and mistreat the majority without a shrug of shoulder? Does it make any sense? It doesn’t make any sense. Fangak County and her citizens have been denied access to basic social services like any other county in the state or South Sudan. Why should it continue to be under Jonglei state, Bor, when even distance alone is enough to justify this annexation to the nearest state of Upper Nile? The Dinka Bor people don’t want the idea of state capital to be moved to a centre where all the counties could feel part of the state.
In conclusion, if there is any kind of fragmentation of states in the near future, in light with the new republic of South Sudan, Fangak would be the first to advocate for more states or fragmentation of the largest and populous state (by area & population); Jonglei, to be fragmented into two or perhaps three states so that Fangak county could be part of the nearest state, and not Bor. But that does seem to be a far-fetched idea; hence it’s too early to predict the future on this! Therefore, we have every good reason to advocate for Fangak to be annexed to Upper Nile state so that the citizens can restore their lost hope in the government. We cannot build a prosperous and stable nation when basic social services don’t reach other quarters of the same country. No roads, no mobile network, no health facilities, no schools, no nothing etc in Fangak. This is marginalisation of the highest order!! Let Fangak be annexed to Upper Nile State in order for the citizens to get basic services.