Greater Bor community forms historic union in America, elects overall representative

denglueth(Grand Rapids, Michigan NSV) - For members of the Dinka Bor community of Southern Sudan based in North America, an historic moment arrived here once again on the evening of September 4, 2010 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. At exactly 6:00 PM, after what appeared to be roughly 30 minutes of ballot counting, Deng Lueth Mayom was declared the winner, becoming the President of the Greater Bor Community after getting 192 votes (29.9%), edging out Mabior Aciek Chau, who got 190 votes (29.3 %) of the total votes. Deng’s campaign theme read: “A visionary and cohesive community that self-adjusts and adapts when necessary to stay stronger.”

Overall,attendance was impressive. Billed as the closest thing to a great reunion by members of the Bor community in North America, the estimated number of those who turned up for Grand Rapids, Michigan conference was roughly between 1500 -2000. There were 655 votes cast for the election and only 643 determined the outcome of the election, because 12 votes were deemed invalid by the electoral committee. For the rest of the candidates, a breakdown of the votes was as follows: Dhieu Deng Leek (137 votes); Michael Ayuen Kuany (73 votes); and Mayol Aguto Malaak (51 votes).

As might have been expected, the results were disappointing for the losing candidates although not being able to win was one of the possibilities on their minds; for some it was not what they had hoped for. But in the end, they handled themselves very professionally and each of them graciously congratulated Mr. Deng Lueth for his hard earned victory. They all committed to working together with Deng Lueth Mayom to serve the Bor Community in whatever way they see fit to make Deng’s term effective.

Mr. Michael Ayuen Kuany was the first to give his concession speech. He began by graciously congratulating the winner, Deng Lueth, for his victory and then thanked his running mate, the secretary as well as the campaign managers, and advisors for supporting him during their journey starting the day he decided to mount such a stiff run for the position of president. Mr. Ayuen stressed that this loss was not the end of his passion to serve the Bor Community and added that he would serve the community in other ways because his calling is in public service.

Mr. Dhieu Deng Leek (Dhieu-Magaar) was the next to concede and he began his concession by challenging the entire community to not forget “our name of Bor because it is our identity”. He made reference to former vice president Abel Alier Kuai, Bishop Nathaniel Garang Anyieth, and the SPLM/A founder and First Vice President of the Republic of Sudan and President of the Government of Southern Sudan the late Dr. John Garang de Mabior as having descended from Bor, and that these iconic figures from Bor served the entire nation of Sudan with respect and dignity.

Dhieu also narrated the story of a bull (Malith) sacrificed by Ateny Leek Agoot for all boys from Chuei e Keer to Chuei e Thon who passed through Anyidi on their way to Ethiopia back in 1987—the year of mass exodus by children, 4 years, following the start of the civil war in Sudan. He also recited a story of a Bor elder “who prayed for all of us” at the time, saying “Athiei Nhialiny de Bor” as they were heading to Ethiopia. Dhieu emphasized that these two Bor elders “blessed us as one people and one generation and our identity is Bor”. He said that Bor is an identity and name that its people have worked hard for and died for and it has to be remembered and respected by all. The outside world does not know other name but Bor and we cannot change it, he said.

Mr. Dhieu-Magaar took time to thank his running mate, secretary and the rest of his team for putting in countless hours on his behalf during his campaign. He assured them that they deserved to serve in their current capacities if there is a desire for him to seek another elected public office.

 Mr. Magaar concluded his concession speech by committing to working together with the Bor Community President-Elect, Deng Lueth Mayom because the goal of serving Bor Community (three counties) has not changed with his defeat. He offered to hand over his campaign platform to Deng’s team so that they can take some of the ideas and  incorporate them into their programs as they begin their daunting tasks in the days ahead.

He also publicly committed to continue with the training programs for the teachers and the number is to be equally distributed among the three counties that make up the Bor Community. It was not clear if the training program is to be done through his foundation (John Dau Foundation) or through Deng Lueth’s leadership now that his candidacy has ended. 

Mr. Mayol Aguto Malaak was the third candidate to concede and he began by stating that the end of this election “is a happy moment for all of us.” He stressed the importance of a civil debate that had no negativity because the candidates respected each other and they were all committed to not putting each other down, saying  their goals were to win and to lead the Bor Community here in the United States and to make a difference in the lives of people back at home. 

Mr. Mayol thanked his running mate, the secretary, and the rest of his campaign team for standing up for him even when his prospect for winning was painted grim at some occasions. He congratulated Deng Lueth Mayom whom he called a personal friend going back to their days of church membership as Sunday school choir members. He made a pledge to serve Bor Community under Deng’s leadership and will do whatever Deng asks him to do for Bor Community.

Mabior Aciek Chau, who narrowly lost to Deng Lueth Mayom by 2 votes, was the last to take the stage in giving his concession speech. He began by stating that he was happy for the unity of Bor Community and he was committed to working with Deng Lueth including working as a private citizen or serving in Deng’s administration. Mr. Mabior added he considered himself and his team victors as well because they lost narrowly by 2 votes.

Mr. Mabior thanked his running mate, his campaign managers, and advisors for working tirelessly to bring his candidacy this far. He concluded his concession speech by donating $100-- the last cash that remained from his $3000 campaign fund for Bor Community presidency.

The winner’s moment

The winner, Deng Lueth Mayom, the President-Elect, finally took the stage and graciously thanked all his opponents for putting themselves forward to serve Bor the Community. He humbly stated that he was not a winner but a messenger asked “by you to serve you” [the Bor Community]. The President-Elect took a more global view of his leadership philosophy by reiterating that “our elders used to refer to us as seeds of tomorrow, and that time has now come to serve our community; and our nation”.

Deng promised the electorates the commitment by his team to unveil the fundraising strategy, and reunion of all Bor Community members in Bor Town in the near future. Deng challenged all the members to rise beyond clans and county politics because this generation has reached the level of not only serving the Bor Community but also the whole nation of Sudan and the world over.

The President-Elect, Deng and his running mate Chiengkuach Mabil, and his Secretary, Maluak Malou took the oath of their offices and that concluded the ceremony.

The lows and the highs

The conference had its bumps and stumbles. The highs and lows of the conference could be summed up as follows.

The most troubling low that would have derailed the conference was the announcement by Twic East County Chairman, Thuch Wal, and Duk County Chairman, Ariik Thon, that the conference and the elections be postponed because the process did not pass through them, and more deliberations were needed. The half full mega church was stunned and quiet for a moment as these two leaders walked out of the room.

The highest moment was when Gabriel Kuol Awan took the stage and gave an emotional speech by reciting countless number of people who died from Chuei e Keer to Chuei e Keer because of the name Bor.

Mr. Kuol Awan, known for his direct and candid speaking style, publicly stated that those who walked out did not speak for their communities, and that election must go forward.

 Another highlight and in fact the highest moment of all was also when members of the two counties turned deaf ears to the call by the chairs and neither walked out of conference nor endorsed the calls to postpone or boycott the elections. Gabriel Kuol Awan was the man of the day because he saved the whole process from going down the drain, by inspiring the gathering to reach a consensus. Tears were seen welling up in people’s eyes during his speech in support of the continuation of the conference and elections. His vision of a strong united Bor Community committed to solving the problems of its own people was touching; it had people tearing up.

Another high moment was during the debate when the candidates, while taking swipes and shots at each other, handled themselves professionally. Nobody went off the track, and there was a level of maturity throughout the entire debate time. It was the most entertaining moment of the whole conference.

A few observations about the candidates’ performances ---the game changer

It was clear from the public that Mabior Aciek Chau permanently wounded both Ayuen Kuany and Mayol Aguto to the point of no recovery by using their disagreements over the management of the Coalition of Willing (COW), an organization the two founded to build schools in Bor County. It was effective because both Ayuen and Mayol had hard time rebutting that allegation.

Mabior Aciek also succeeded to some extend by leveling all the candidates, except him, as individuals who are trying to take on too many responsibilities at the same time because they have their organizations. He made the case that he was the right candidate for the job because he has no other commitments but Bor Community to serve for his entire term.

The rests of the candidates had some explanations to make, and that was when swipes and back and forth between Dhieu-Magaar and Deng Lueth as well as others took off; a moment that entertained the entire conference attendees.

Deng Lueth seized the moment to explain that he has resigned from his organization when he decided to run for the leadership of Bor Community. He added that he only has Bor Community to serve should he be afforded the opportunity to serve this community that he loves.

Dhieu-Magaar invited the attack when he declined to commit to resigning from his organization by stating the similarity of his situation with that of Chol e Mong’s fishing experience. Deng Lueth shot back by saying that if Chol e Mong had a nephew on his side, he would have asked for help but he didn’t. “But here you (Dhieu-Magaar) do have a nephew at your side; so why allowing yourself to suffer by taking too many roles than you can handle?” Deng posed.

Mabior Aciek joined in by explaining the conflict of interest that exists between raising money for Bor and for John Dau Foundation painting the picture that once resources thin out, the Bor Community will not be the priority for Mr. Dhieu-Magaar.

Dhieu-Magaar shot back by challenging the other candidates to show him and Bor Community members what they have done. Dhieu explained that he is successful and he has something to show that he has done for his community. He declared he is running for this position because he is the guy who can work and deliver for his community. He is a president of John Dau Foundation. Others are just running for the titles but not to serve because they have not done anything.

Deng came back strongly seizing the moment to capitalize on Dhieu’s emphasis of success by giving the distinction between an individual building the organization and be successful as an individual and the success by a leader working in the team to unite the Bor Community and work for it day in day out. Deng reiterated that the success needed is the later because that is what he has done all along-- by working with various Sudanese people to build an organization that never had controversies at all.

Dhieu-Magaar came back now and capitalized on his campaign promises of teachers to be selected equally between three counties and trained to serve their people in their communities. Mabior Aciek shot back by warning people that what Dhieu was doing was similar to President Moi buying thousands of bags of maize to buy Turkana votes during the elections when in fact the money used by President Moi may have come from national treasury. He declared Dhieu is trying to buy votes with that $ 29,000 but that money may have been already slated for that function, and it is not a promise at all.

Ayuen Kuany came back and accused Mabior Aciek of double-standard, stating that Mabior is an ordained pastor and is working for the church, and that he is now putting the tie over the collar and be a politician. “Isn’t it taking on too many responsibilities on its own right?” he wondered.  Ayuen declared his admiration for Mabior as a pastor, saying he (Mabior) perfectly belongs in the church, not in politics or non-profit organization. Mabior rebutted Ayuen’s contention by arguing that leading the church and organization serves the very same purpose of helping the fellow human beings and he had done that in Dimma Refugee Camp both as a community leader and a pastor.

Mayol Aguto capitalized on his nature as a task oriented individual and a servant leader. He stated his decision to spend 10 months in Sudan training health care professionals and building clinics in Bor.

 He stated he did this out of hardship including using his hands to lead the locals to dig the latrines to be used by the patients visiting the clinics.  But Dhieu-Magaar shot back by declaring that Mayol has poor decision making. He asked Mayol now that he was sitting and digging up the latrine, what does he do if it rains or clocked up? Do you pick another land? What do you do? Mayol shot back by wondering if Dhieu-Magaar’s clinic in Duk lacks the latrine and if it does, do the patients visiting doctors take time off and go to the bush? What do they do? Mayol added that he knew that Dhieu-Magaar’s clinic has latrine but the reason why Dhieu challenged him was because he (Mayol) offered to help with the digging of the latrines. Mayol emphasized that Dhieu will never humble himself to help with the digging and that is the kind of elitism he does not want in a leader. Humility should be the key.

In the end, this was an evening full of emotions, historical reflections and definitive statements about rebuilding the war broken communities. The candidates presented themselves professionally and they did not spare the moment to take a swipe at each other if there was an opening. The attendees were entertained, and loved the level of growth, maturity, and civility that each of the candidates showed in this debate. The consensus was any of the candidates could be a leader of this community but only one has to be a leader at a time and Deng Lueth Mayom happened to be that leader this time.

Stay tuned for analysis of the voting pattern by all people who cast their ballots, including festivities and Bor annual dance taking place this afternoon, coming up in the next article.

Akol Aguek Ngong was reporting for the from Grand Rapids, Michigan