South Sudan Gender Revolution: Home-front Rebels or Traditional Trends-setters?

By Deng Vanang,

Women revolutionarists in South Sudan Politics.....

Women revolutionarists in South Sudan Politics…..

June 2, 2016(Nyamilepedia) —— “Men being lion kings in their homesteads,” has become something of the past, if it is not utterly facing slow motion demise. All thanks to ferocious struggle between the sexes, the hard and soft powers.

The former being masculine is drawn from men who lavishly display it through combined force of muscles and money. While the latter being feminine is women’s possession expressed through relationship and influence.

The two in the past were separately set apart by traditions unlike currently when hard power gives way to soft power in their closing years of hard fought supremacy. Ending with soft power incarnated into hard power to become mutually an inherent entity.

The stronger, though easily frustrated lion kings, are by no means more freer but caged under the influence of the more subtler but enduring lionesses. This male-female dying power struggle is so apparent in the relationships between ladies and gentlemen of higher classes.

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Whose power relations are now ones which challenge the aged old wisdom of men pompously taking charge in the open while women hastily withdraw to the back seat and only to plot the bed room onslaught that amounts to not less than a board room coup.

The modern Woman

This power struggle in local terms resonates well with our first and middle income women who labor hard to change their long suppressed fellow women’s fortunes in and outside their husbands’ long cast shadows.

Given the fact that they are no longer types of women who used to be tethered to lengthy hours in the smoky, tropical heat kitchens. Nurtured to be married off in arranged marriages to spouses and the world far and unknown to them. Coached to always remain submissive to both caring and abusive husbands till death do them part.

But in the modern fast tracking age of the dot.com are the academic degrees’ holders for whom marriage is either not an obligation or if it ever exists at all, its life span is determined by the sizes of husbands’ wallets. With too many on the loose, resulting in wrecked marriages in other already established families.

While rest of whom are known for having separate property holdings and bank accounts from their husbands. As well as no longer being in love of their in-laws, which in the consequence has severed once closely knitted extended family ties, especially in Nilotic families.

That is apart from being socialites who venture out to intermingle with estrange men of means as they independently explore the world and only to come back home fully ballooned, if missile shell dose of contraceptives failed, to a tumultuous reception by their virtually less concerned, hen-pecked sweet hearts.

Further go on an offensive to partake of the previously considered academic fields of the past supper but presently much subdued men that range as from mechanical engineering to military combat and overseas business tours.

This is in addition to having burning desires that madly drive their spouses under the crashing weight of poverty, if not forced to involving in mega corruption in public offices so as to finance their flashy life styles.

Quite reminiscent of the likes of Marie Antoinette of France whose lack of an emotional touch with hungry and subsequently angrily protesting ordinary French citizens told her husband Louis XVI to offer them cakes if no bread, which eventually triggered off famous French revolution that changed her country forever from monarchy to only republic in Europe in 1792.

Imelda Marcos of an impoverished Philippines whose extravagant shopping spree in the United States in 1983 that costed her $7 million USD in 90 days became the monumental symbol of her husband Ferdinand Marcos’s kleptocratic rule which resultantly sent them into an exile following the People Power Revolution in February, 1986.

And in Africa, is Grace Mugabe who divorced her retired Airport pilot husband, Stanley Goreraza to marry President Robert Gabriel Mugabe in 1996.

Her influence behind her new husband Robert Mugabe’s policy of land redistribution program is aimed at taking land from minority white farmers and giving it to majority landless blacks.

The program which started right from February, 2000 until now and from which she immensely benefits, caused immense deaths and destruction, besides driving Zimbabwe from the higher ranking index of an African food basket to a regrettable economic basket case. The list is endless.

Outstanding female figures

Away from the above mentioned outside instances, are six distinguished, relatively conservative and well pass menopause South Sudanese mothers of grown up men and women who lead the charge of female folk against the ever shrinking tide of male – dominated South Sudan both domestically and publicly.

Some of whom, as respected politicians and professionals, are known to have outgrown their long cast husbands’ shadows in going the extra miles of setting some men on a long run for their money both at home and away.

First on the list is Mama Rebecca Nyandeng Garang, widow of the SPLM/A’s founder, Dr. John Garang de Mabior who passed away in a helicopter crash on 30th July, 2005.

Followed by Her Excellency Marry Ayen Mayardit, the current South Sudan’s first lady. Others are Dr. Julia Aker Duany, Agnes Poni Lokudu, Rebecca Joshua Okwaci and Angelina Teny.

The last two are wives to Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin and first Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny respectively.

First of the six was faulted for being control freak on her late husband, Garang’s fat wallet while edging out his close bodyguards, especially on foreign trips where he was destined to meet the world’s moneyed men and women.

But more commendable was her recent blunt condemnation, before anybody else, of President Kiir’s 2013 stage managed coup against himself that triggered off ethnic Nuer massacre in South Sudanese capital, Juba.

Adding to that, was her so liberating response to husband’s sudden death in 2005 that saw gender roles sharply reversed in the Republic of the Sudan in general and semi-autonomous Southern Sudan region in particular.

On receiving the heart-wrenching news, South Sudanese mobs reached out for machetes, stones and sticks to square it off with Afro- Arab Northerners they blamed for the incident and rightly so, for they were distributing sweets in celebration.

Followed by SPLM/A’s only male leadership retreating to New site for secession plan while simultaneously engaging in conspiracy of silence, wishing the mobs to move on with their illicit trade.

Surprisingly in the heat of the chaos, Mama Nyandeng did what men could have done instead by urging calm so that life – saving CPA didn’t collapse over Garang’s dead body. That token of good gesture went on to mark the climax of South Sudan gender revolution which in turn propelled her to powerful Ministerial portfolio.

Mama Nyandeng, a Marxist trained SPLA Political Commissar, was given rich Ministry of Roads and Bridges as she claimed to be only one determined to implement Garang’s vision of connecting people of new Sudan who never knew one another due to lack of roads for ages.

Until the alleged combination of political sabotage and corruption dragged her down from the pinnacles of power in 2007 to what South Sudanese popularly regard as the Presidential parking lot {Presidential Advisory appointments known for frustrating redundancy} until recently when she got shuffled out.

She presently hinges hope on her son, Mabior as the youngest Minister of Water Resources and Irrigations in TGONU who must be contented with double burden of realizing his mother struggling political career on the one hand and on the other, the unfinished business as left behind by his larger than life father, Dr. John Garang de Mabior.

Her Excellency Marry Ayen Mayardit

Ayen is more of a conservative house wife who helped transform husband from a humble military officer to the dashing Head of State. She is also known for spiritedly defending her marital turf from ever preying female Ministers in her husband President Salva Kiir Mayardit’s cabinet.

With many accrediting husband’s string of successes in politics to her unwavering love for the man and devotion to his even more distant dreams under life’s threatening circumstances at times. She most apparently steers clear from rough and tumbles that characterize South Sudan’s vindictive politics. That is besides nobly indulging in social causes whose impact critics say is neither visible nor inclusive across the breadth and width of the vast country.

Dr. Julia Aker Duany

Though not a politician, is atop the pack of fierce women warriors. She cuts a notch for herself above the rest as a workaholic lady of many firsts against the odds of starting education late in life and weathering tradition at her early age that predominantly preferred boy child education over the girl child’s to become PhD. Holder.

From first South Sudanese female PhD. holder of Political Sciences from United States of America to first female Undersecretary in both Sudan and South Sudan in the former GOSS’ Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs until the declaration of the latter’s independence in 2011.

And currently the first and probably the only female Vice Chancellor in the country at Dr. John Garang’s Memorial University of Sciences and Technology. She is first and last wife of late Dr. Michael Wal Duany who was the first Nuer regional government Minister in 1972.

Agnes Poni Lokudu

Agnes has also charted her history of firsts in previously and still extremely male dominated field of hard tackle power politics, bravely brushing shoulders with men in green khaki uniforms and red berets of June, 1989 military junta at the height of catastrophic Sudanese civil war, to become first Sudanese female State Governor of

Agnes has also charted her history of firsts in previously and still extremely male dominated field of hard tackle power politics, bravely brushing shoulders with men in green khaki uniforms and red berets of June, 1989 military junta at the height of catastrophic Sudanese civil war, to become first Sudanese female State Governor of Bhar el Jebel, later renamed Central Equatoria State.

Served as former cabinet Minister in various capacities in the Sudan, Transports and Roads Minister in the first independence cabinet of South Sudan. Also the first and presently only female leader of a political party in South Sudanese history, the NCP- South Sudan.

Her husband is unknown to the public and how he helped Agnes in her successful political career that spans well over a quarter of a century. Now among a handful few of successful females she stands tall and proud as a role model to many upcoming female aspiring leaders.

Rebecca Joshua Okwachi,

a Master of Social Sciences degree holder, has got a clean break with equally prominent husband and politician, Dr. Lam Akol. She made history as sole female presenter on once popular radio SPLA from 1986 up to 1991.

Dr. Lam is both Minister of Agriculture and Food Security and party leader DCP, formerly first official opposition party, SPLM-DC in the young country.

She crawled out of her husband’s shadow to build political empire of her own, culminating in absorption into President Kiir’s government her husband opposition leader had been fighting tooth and nail. Quite a unique trait in itself that shows beyond any reasonable doubt to still doubting Thomases that time has changed for a wife to pair up with husband’s sworn rival.

She had been Minister of Telecommunications and postal services in the past government as well as Minister of Roads and Bridges in country TGONU in which she and her estranged husband serve as Ministers where they sternly steal glances at each other from different political divide.

Madam Angelina Teny

Angelina Teny is a former Sudan’s State Minister of Energy and Mining and rigged out gubernatorial contestant in oil rich Unity state among several others back in 2010 general elections. That election contest resulted in short and brutish six – month old mini-civil war in the state she later lost to victorious incumbent, Taban Deng Gai.

Madam Angelina Teny comes in as towering female intellectual and politician who in her hit and run politics walks away from husband when things seem rosier and returns under his protective arms when tough gets going outside there for her.

Currently she doesn’t only become the conspicuously tightening albatross around husband’s neck wherever he goes, but seems to stay and authoritatively stamp her power in his political kraal, ostensibly to bid her time as she cools aching feet before she gives another stab at public office.

In Dr. Machar’s shadow she firmly holds the steering wheel in directing policies and political appointments with many testifying to have owed their life lines to her good offices set up from behind the back door.

While in skirt and blouse, Angelina outflanked SPLA-IO’s highly decorated and boots – decked five stars’ male military generals to head the powerful Strategic Defense and Security Review Board, SDSRB which reports directly to both TGONU and JMEC.

It is an Igad – Troika backed multi-national board deliberating on contentious and still more serious issues of cantoning the no – holds barred belligerent two national standing armies in one country, joint police force and peace implementation violations.

That is apart from ensuring women’s inalienable rights and meteoric rise should no longer be trampled up on in SPLM-IO under crashing feet of mighty male folk.

In such pursuit, those who avoid to court her visibly fiddled influence have costed them political fortunes of a life time in the IO given the fact that she shares 70% male quota with husband, Dr. Machar.

With the remaining women 30% quota going for her as sole proprietress. That is apart from paying back her close cousin, sibling rival and politically wheeler – dealer General Taban Deng Gai for the bungled 2010 gubernatorial election saga with a mining trip, her bitter – sweet revenge.

Not to mention water tight lobbying for various positions in IO, from which wags get a field day in saying, it only successfully ends at one – on – one meeting with, ‘’Nyakue’’, her popular nickname.

Deng Vanang is a political scientist, journalist and author. Reachable at:dvanang@gmail.com

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