Hon. Atem Garang DeKuek, South Sudan Government Chief Whip, During First Visit to Canada

chief whipWinnipeg – On August 3, Hon. Atem Garang DeKuek came to Canada through a joint invitation by the SPLM Canada, SPLM Chapter in Winnipeg and the Council of South Sudanese Community in Manitoba (COSCOM). The reason for the visit was to address South Sudanese communities on Martyrs’ Day celebration as well as brief them on the progress made by the SPLM in nascent nation. The event took place in Winnipeg since it is the hub for South Sudanese across Canada. Hon Atem Garang is a Chief Whip in the South Sudan’s National Assembly and MP for Twic East County in Jonglei State on SPLM party list and former Deputy Speaker in the government of Nation Unity.

In the beginning of Martyrs’ Day celebration, Hon. Atem Garang entered into the venue, accompanied by theSPLM and community leaders where he waved and greeted attendees in Arabic, salama alekum, salama alekum, salama alekum. He was so thrilled to see his people, of which during a 10 minutes break, he managed to go around and shook their hands, which is the most desirable and acceptable traditional greetings. Hon. Atem Garang was very humble to his country’s people.

Hon. Atem Garang was the third official from the government of South Sudan/SPLM who had visited Canada in the past three years.

  1. In 2011 before referendum, Government of Canada through Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited delegation from the SPLM and NCP for political orientation. Through that invitation SPLM delegation headed by the Deputy Secretary General Dr. Ito were the first group that visited Canada and addressed South Sudanese in Calgary and eastern part of Canada.
  2. In winter of 2013 after independence of South Sudan, His Excellency; James Wani, Speaker of National Assembly, came to Canada to attend 127th Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Conference (IPU) in Quebec where he was requested by the SPLM Canada and South Sudanese community’s leaders to remain behind in order to meet South Sudanese across Canada.
  3. On August 3, 2013, Hon. Atem Garang became the third official from the government of South Sudan to come to Canada and Winnipeg in particular.

In his speech, Hon. Atem Garang narrated that, killing of our martyrs can be traced back to 1820s when the Arabs from Egypt began to invade villages, ( from Renk to Numelei) and took the young people away for slave trade while killing elderly people and destroying properties. He remarked that each of every village in South Sudan has a history of martyrdom excepted that they were not recorded and documented. Sudan followed that practice of killing South Sudanese for long time. Consequently, in the 1950s, South Sudanese began to mobilize villages, clans, ethnic groups and regions to form strong forces for the defence of all communities. It was from that spirit of unity and collective effort which the SPLM was born to liberate South Sudanese from the long bondage of slavery. He challenged South Sudanese intellectuals to begin documenting the rich history for the next generation, not to continue with unwritten history like our fathers and grandfathers’ generations.

The Chief Whip also urged the audience to unite and embrace the spirit of nationhood. The South Sudanese in diaspora should come home to give to their nation. He argued that South Sudan should no longer depend on foreign researchers that come with their personal motives to advance at the expense of national interests. In his view, some of those research publications are propaganda meant to discredit the nation in the eyes of its people, continent and international community. The SPLM prominent member also said some of the reports about South Sudan are exaggerated. For example, “on July 20, 2013 report titled South Sudan: Over 5 million at risk of river blindness. A report lamented that river blindness is also known as Ochocerciasis is an eye and skin disease caused by a tiny worm called onchocerca volvulus, which is spread by the bite of an infected black fly”. Please read more at this link: http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article47352 He told the gathering that he rejected such claims because he is knowledgeable in some of the areas in South Sudan that are free of river blindness disease. He posed a question that if nearly six million people are risk of river blindness out of 8.5 to 10 million populations how many South Sudanese would unblind? He sarcastically said that maybe only South Sudanese in Diaspora would then be free from a claim of the above report published on July 20, 2013.

He further advised the diaspora communities to take pride in their nation and protect its image from being tarnished in such away. However, he lamented that he was so disappointed at the South Sudanese individuals and communities who attacked each other on the internet especially in Sudan tribune’s website. Individual’s comments under news or articles should not involve communities. All the ethnic groups belong to South Sudan and no community is better than the other. Those who do not respect other communities do not respect their nation and he condemned such attitudes.

He credited people of Winnipeg for working together and urged other communities to emulate Winnipeg as a way of building unity, equality and progress. He told the gathering that government’s officials will continue visiting Canada particularly Winnipeg, which is a centre to east and west. However, internet’s debating and discussing of opposing opinions should be objective and subjective. He urged South Sudanese across the globe to desist and ceased unconstructive criticism. Reasonable debate is one way of learning process.

On the national front, Hon. Atem Garang had expressed that, His Excellency President Salva Kiir Mayardit is keen enough to heed the reform and progress needed by the people of South Sudan. The formation of lean and technocrat government is a first step. He added that SPLM as a party is directing itself to enshrine rule of law and governance from within and throughout the country. In his speech, he called for patience as the party is re-organizing its structure and governing documents that would lead to a convention in the near future. He echoed that SPLM is a genuine party by the people and with the vision of a nation. He called for the people to register and join hands with the party to build peaceful country for all people.

On the other hand, he shared his account on the challenges facing the young nation. He admitted that there are enormous problems. For instance, there are inherited challenges such as lack of human capital, infrastructures, health care, capable civil servants, strong education system, and economic community development and human insecurity i.e. food security and insecurity. He linked insecurity to rampant militias and inter-communal conflicts such cattle raiding and killing of innocent civilians; while for the human capital he said South Sudan has difficulties finding the right people with right experiences to head national programs.

In his observation, some of those who came from or returned to South Sudan after the war with their education lack experiences and institutional knowledge. He gave an example that some of the people that were employed by the government of Sudan by then were given symbolic assignments and titles but in reality they never have hand-on experience to delivery service as needed now in South Sudan. The same thing applied to those who had completed their education joined the SPLM/A of which their knowledge had worn-out during the war. When peace was signed, the government was formed; these groups became the senior civil servant officials in the government of South Sudan to run day-to-day activities/programs.

The South Sudan government’s Chief Whip, however, stated that much criticism had been placed and concentrated on what has not been done subsequently giving a blind eye to leadership’s accomplishments and achievements. He declared that South Sudanese in diaspora should leave behind tribalism, criticism and work collectively to addressed challenges facing the world newest nation. Hon. Atem Garang was very optimistic that South Sudan under the leadership of SPLM we will overcome those enormous problems. Therefore, he warned that people who are singing the song of a fail state on the streets should overhaul their views and begins defending their nation.

He concluded his speech by comparing a government of South Sudan with a mother who has little food to share with her starving children. When children constantly cry neighbours tend to think that a mother has greedy children but that is not true. The case is that she has a very little food to feed her starving children and the above example represent South Sudan’s situation.

In his opinion, he thinks that the right way to delivery services to South Sudanese is to reverse the salary scale within the government’s structures. For example, highest payment will be given to local administrative personnel ranging from payam’s administrators to state’s ministries, which will allow and attract employees to move to rural communities. In the above suggested reversion, central government will be less competitive and avoid overpopulation of capital city as well as ensuring and enshrining an application of decentralization. This is another way of implementing a Dr. John Garang De Mabior’s idea of taking towns to villages.

On a separate development, Hon. Atem Garang attended Sunday Services of Dinka’s congregation on August 4. Attending Sunday services had given him another opportunity of interacting and meeting with families and children after the Sunday services. With his sharp eye and great memories he had recognised some people by their names and recognized other through resembling faces to their relatives. Hon. Atem Garang said that “I feel at home when I see children around me. They are the future generation for our community and country at large”.

Below was a picture he took with children in the church. Hon. Atem Garang was crowded by children. The pictures are credited to Machiek Mark Atem and Reuben Mayen Garang Atem.canada

During his greetings in front of congregation he directly and indirectly appealed to children that you are the seeds of South Sudan. Myself and some of your parents fought the Africa longest civil war for you to have an independent nation where your generation and next generation will enjoy the fruits of peace, unquestionable citizenship, freedom of religion, development, equality, human dignity or freedom of civil liberties and many more. For parents, I know that you would not afford it to bring the whole family to South Sudan for visit but at least try your level best to take children home one-by-one such that they will know that South Sudan is their country of origin. Those were Hon. Atem Garangs's words of encouragement to the Dinka’s congregation in Winnipeg, Canada.

This report was prepared by two attendees who attended Martyrs Day’s celebration where Hon. Atem Garang delivered key note address. We are independently reporting this event using our listening notes, and not official minutes of the celebration, since it doesn’t include other speeches of that day. Reporters are:

Reuben Mayen Garang Atem, Masters of MDP, who returned to Winnipeg upon completion of international practicum from Ghana. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

David Mabior Atem Kuir, writes columns for The New Sudan Vision and other websites. Check out his scholastic account at this link: http://newsudanvision.com/ He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   

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