Heroes without Graves
By Chadi Michael,
April 20th, 2018(Nyamilepedia) —– A few weeks ago I came across a photo on facebook. A photo circulated by a friend who is also a friend of the photo’s owner, the individual in the photo and owns the right to it. Inside the photo, I can see three young men dressed in military attire. The uniform looked a lot like an old SPLA’s. One of the earliest uniforms from the earliest battalion or divisions of the 1980s.
In it, was Telar Deng. Telar and two others, Giir Chuong and another young man, Telar in his caption referred to as “Bravo” something. They looked really young those days. They were probably in their late teens to their early twenties. They also looked handsome in the photos. They had their rifles hung across their chests and backs.
The photo jogged my toddler’s memories. The memories of the glorious revolution. The days where young men voluntarily left villages in droves to join the newly formed SPLA. Those were the good old days. The times young heroes confronted the heavily armed Sudanese armed forces and citizens of the south were delighted to lend them any support they needed. Whether it was carrying their equipment, providing them with food and water or any required assistance.
It also reminded me of the liberation struggle long started by people like my father who went to Congo to be trained and armed. Armed to fight the searing injustices brought by the Arab-dominated government headquartered in Khartoum. I come from a long line of military family. Like my father before him, my older brother also joined the SPLA to fight the Arab regime and so did myself in the early 90s only to be spared a chance to fight in the frontline due to my young age and mostly because the stronger Sudanese armed forces drove us to the Kenyan border, denying the Red Army their turn to carry on the rebellion.
My comment in the circulated photo was: “Real heroes are the dead ones who would never share their photos or tell the story of their heroism.” And I meant it in its entirety. The real heroes are the dead ones. They died somewhere foreign and their corpses were never recovered by their families or relatives. They died for a cause. Or perhaps they were deceived and induced into a cause they really knew very little of.
I know real heroes were never buried because the birds of the sky and the beasts of the wild feasted on them. They don’t have headstones on their graves because they died in a land where no family member could find their bones. Like other heroes in this war and other wars of the past, my brother and father died too. Their bodies were never recovered. They are my unsung heroes who sacrificed so much but got nothing in return.
Sometimes ago a friend messengered me on a facebook. He informed me about the death of his brother, killed a few days ago. He said his late brother commanded heroes to the barrage of fire in the frontline of Nhial Diu and other Ruptkotni localities. I could sense he was saddened by the news and I was too. I shared his sorrows with him and tried my best to comfort him in his time of needs.
But then I recovered quickly enough to ask him one important question. I became stronger to get the details of his brother’s death. The details about what side his brother fought on. I knew it was a very difficult question to be asked in a time like this although I asked it in a form of shortly typed message. He replied that his brother was killed in the frontline fighting on the armed oppositions’. I became sad yet happy. I was sad because he’s dead but happy because he died for a cause. To me, he died a brave man who faced his enemy and the enemy of his people head-on.
Where I grew up, every boy was taught to have a purpose in his existence. A purpose to respect his parents, his community, and defend his nation, the people because a nation isn’t a nation at all without a people. And the peoples are the constituents, the parents, one’s family and their territory or a piece of land they are entitled to. A government is formed by the peoples who have agreed in their deeds and words to unite themselves and become an entity that would protect their collective goods from outsiders or trespassers.
I gave courage to my friend when I typed more words of comfort. Words which I meant to divert his attention away from the agony of facing the reality that he will never see his brother. And that they will never talk again because he died before they could exchange words. Perhaps their last words together as siblings. But this is the tragedy that has engulfed the nation. A tragedy that knocks on every family’s door every day in South Sudan.
People are forced to fight by the necessity to survive. The government rampages villages and mows down every life there. If one does not fight, he dies anyways unless he is hiding behind the “constitutional craps” pronounced by people like Buay and the whole organization, which consists of Nuer cowards who are quick to justify their reasons for siding with such a tribal army and continue to vilify the victims. And they do it pretty good too.
The reason I asked my friend about what side his brother fought on. It was a personal question for me and I believe he shared my curiosity as well. It is important because a Nuerman isn’t supposed to cast a shadow on his people. A real Nuerman isn’t supposed to command hostile forces against his own father’s land, mother’s land and the village he was born and raised in. A sane Nuerman isn’t supposed to hide behind a flag of evil and the regime of tyranny against his own people.
Sometimes I read from many naive people who blame the victims. They blame them for defending their God-given rights. The right not to be killed. The right to be free from discriminatory practices. The right to own a piece of land and have a family and protect that family with all their last breathe and might. The right to have a shared space with other tribes but be treated fairly and participate fully in the provisions of their own country. A right to represent their constituents and to side with them when they are attacked. Any human being who wouldn’t do that is good as dead period.
These are the reasons I asked my friend to tell me what side his brother fought on. I was relieved when he said he died commanding the armed oppositions’ troops against the invading and occupying forces of this evil tutelage. I was happy because his death will never be in vain. He died for a just and great cause. He died just like the millions of heroes who would never have proper burials or headstones on their graves.
The author, Chadi Michael, can be reached for further comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
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