By Augustino Lucano,
Dec 6, 2014(Nyamilepedia) — Is defense minister, Kuol Manyang, allowed to use a sexist language because of his important government position? Kuol Manyang uses his power to demean South Sudanese youth and women. He said that “If you refuse to join the army, let your hair be plated and we will buy a skirt. It means you will no longer be a man, but a typical woman.”
The defense minister must be held responsible and ask to apologize to the youth and women he has disrespected. Kuol has easily forgotten that the young people and women have sacrificed immensely in the civil war. During the civil war struggle in the Sudan, South Sudanese women worked tirelessly to help. Faria (2011) described that “The South Sudanese women have been intimately evoked in efforts to produce and defend a shifting notion of the ever-imminent South Sudanese nation. However, women have also actively participated in the struggle for land, resources, greater autonomy and recognition – efforts that have reworked norms around political subjectivity and the acceptable role of women” (p.2).
In addition, Kuol Manyang must understand and appreciate that the South Sudanese women plated their hair because it fuels creativity and provides inspiration for them. These women, like other women in the world, plated their hair because it is an extraordinary modern and contemporary art form.
South Sudanese women have shared equal responsibilities during the civil war in the Sudan. Bubenzer and Stern (2011) elaborated that “The roles played by women during South Sudan’s long liberation struggle (1955-1972 and 1983-2005) have largely been unrecognized and undocumented. Countless women joined the liberation struggle in the South, responding to a political situation that directly affected their families and communities. Women left the comfort and security of their homes to fight for freedom, democracy, equality and dignity. As well as taking on important support roles in the armed forces, women acted as teachers, nurses and farmers, while continuing to raise their children and ensure the wellbeing of their families” (p.12).
Furthermore, Kuol Manyang may need to refresh his memory. He seems to forget women’s roles in the civil war very quickly. South Sudanese women have contributed countlessly in the struggle. The defense minister must recognize and celebrate these numerous contributions from women. Bubenzer and Stern (2011) expounded very clearly that “Judith McCallum and Alfred Okech (2008) have paid tribute to the Kateeba banaat, a battalion made up exclusively of women volunteers trained by the SPLA in Ethiopia. Although this battalion was described as a formidable force, the SPLA’s high command refused to assign them to the front lines after their first battle in Njoko. Instead, the battalion was given the task of supporting the fighting troops, supplying ammunition and treating men wounded on the battlefields” (p.19). Bubenzer and Stern (2011) illustrated that “Many South Sudanese women contributed to the war effort in official and unofficial support roles as cooks, porters, nurses, translators, and administrators. Perhaps just importantly, women contributed on domestic front, caring for families and men who were away fighting the war” (p.19). As citizens, we must acknowledge and celebrate all contributions, both large and small, that our brothers and sister had provided in society.
Likewise, Faria (2011) explained that “During the second civil war (1983-2005), the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), John Garang, sought more formally to incorporate women into the resistance movement and they were recruited directly into the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) through the Women’s Battalion, which was formed in 1984. Women were officially represented in the movement through the SPLM/A’s Secretariat for Women, Gender and Child Welfare and the Department for Women’s Affairs (later Family Affairs), which held workshops and conferences on women’s rights and empowerment from 1994 onwards, and throughout the conflict (Fitzgerald 2002) and which relied on women activists to undertake much of this work” (p.2). These women’s struggles must be recognised. We cannot overlook the efforts they made in the battles. The defense minister has a short-term memory and needs to be reminded about these incredible sacrifices.
In Budi County, there was substantial involvement from the South Sudanese women. A large number of women advocated for peace. Faria (2011) stated that “Another early example of women’s contributions through civil society occurred in 1994, in Chukudum at a women’s conference for civic groups. Over seven hundred women leaders and grassroots organization members attended an event coordinated by the SPLA. This was a significant moment for Southern Sudanese civil society – seen as one of the first times the military institution recognized the role of civil society and made attempts to co-ordinate its own operations with those of civilian groups” (p.4). Kuol Manyang should be reminded that women did not just plated their hair and wear skirts. These women struggled, like everybody, during the civil war where they devoted their time and resources to the movement. We must always remember their hard work.
Kuol Manyang does not realize that his government marginalized the young people and women. The majority of women and all young people were neglected. They did not have opportunities to go to school and were not provided with work opportunities. Ariath (2014) expressed that “Young people which constituted 70% of country’s vast population were cripplingly marginalized in decision making process in the country, no greater attentions that were paid by existing government to address challenges facing them, such as lack of employment, good education and better services toward youth empowerment”(p.2).
The defense minister persuaded young South Sudanese people to join a useless war, instead he encourages them to praise peace in the country. Ariath argued (2014) that “Young people matter, they matter because they are potential tools used by politicians to fought war of their own interest, if this is the case, South Sudanese youth on both sides of the two warring parties should come into their senses and denounce these politicians that use them” (p.2).
I concur with many that Kuol Manyang has offended all women in South Sudan and around the world when he compared them with the young men who refused to join the useless war. I agreed with Kopling (2014) that “This is an insult to all women of South Sudan to include his mother, sisters, and daughters not only that but also including the acting secretary general of the SPLA Dr Ann Itto, and other prominent women like Gamma Nunu Komba,Nyandeng Malek Deliech, the governor of Warrap state just to mention a few great females of our nation” (p.1). No doubt, Kuol Manyang uses his dominant power to oppress unprivileged men and women in South Sudan. I urge all of the South Sudanese people around the world to hold Kuol Manyang responsible and accountable for his recklessness. He must be asked to resign from his position and allow a responsible person who cares about humanity to take over.
How long are we going to allow people like Kuol Manyang, who use their impressive position to oppress and abuse the poor South Sudanese men and women, to continue to govern? The South Sudanese families and their children are forced to live in appalling conditions because people like Kuol Manyang do not care about the suffering of these families and their children. Instead of calling for peace, he called for another bloodshed. I agree with Dr. Peter Kopling that we must protest and call Kuol Manyang to apologize and resign. Kopling (2014) explained that “I urge all intellectuals, men and women, to protest again the devaluating remarks of the defense minister. We cannot allow such attitude to prevail in our nation, and we must strongly demands apology and the resignation of the defense minister for encouraging crimes against women” (p.2).
The most important reason why the young people refused to fight for the South Sudan government is very simple to understand. The government of South Sudan is the most corrupt government on earth. The government cannot even provide basic necessity for her own military soldiers who are protecting the government. Ugaz (2014) illuminated that “A recent corruption Index compiled by the Transparency International has put South Sudan in the 4th place as one of the most corrupted countries in the world” (p.1).
Who wants to fight for a corrupt country like South Sudan? The government cannot afford to provide its citizens protection. Civilians and military alike are suffering. Wenbur (2014) explained that “Danis who attended military training confirmed that their salaries are been deducted for unknown reasons and he said that if a soldier inquires as to why the deductions are taking place – they are typically told that it is for a food allowance — despite the fact that they sometimes wait for several months before being paid. Adding that because of the lack of food, soldiers will sometimes use what little money they have to buy their own. We even buy some stuff like local made popcorn and other local fruits as the source of diet by ourselves while in a deployed areas which cannot add any food value in my body” (p.2).
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org