By Bol Khan,
June 11, 2021 — On 9th June 2020 South Sudan’s Jonglei State lost a great; fair Father, a true legend and traditional leader. A leader with an enthralled and untold legacy worth shared, globally. This traditional leader is none other than Late Par Chongriah Nong (aka Neen Jadool), the Greater Fangak (County)’s former longest-serving Paramount Chief. Neen Jakdool slightly felt sick in Pathiai Boma of Toch Payam, on 29th May 2020. He then communicated that he would be immediately taken to Old Fangak. Perhaps, he divinely sensed what was going to happen to him. So, people acted without delay. He was motor-boated forthwith and admitted directly to Old Fangak’s Hospital. During the medical check, the nurses/doctors got no plain cause of his sickness. It was ‘general weariness together with some sort of pressure’. Unfortunately on the above date, Neen Jadool was announced to depart at 5:00 AM (EAT). Gatchongriah’s death shook every household. From the keen observations around, you could intuitively notice that a true legend and an important traditional icon or symbol of peace and unity had indeed departed. The market was closed without an order, to do so, from the authority. His residence in Old Fangak was soon full of thousands of mourners. The news “Gatchongriah is no more” speeded-up all over Greater Fangak and Jonglei State, especially those who know him. Jakdool was put to rest at his residence in Old Fangak town, on the same day. He was born in 1905. His funeral prayers were held on 12th June 2021. This author was part of the bereft mourners, so he listened and heard some stories from the elders narrating how Late Gatchongriah lived his enthused life.
Who is Late Par Chongriah Nong?
This writing gives a succinct account about Par Chongriah. Par Chongriah is a South Sudanese by nationality and a Nuer by tribe. He was born in a location called Pathiai Boma of Toch Payam in Gezira Island better known today as Fangak County in Jonglei State. He hailed from the Thiang Nuer clan of Fangak District. Par Chongriah and Kulang Toat both come from Riah’s sub-section of Chienyakai or Chiegiin. Par Chomgriah is widely viewed by many as a true opposite of Kulang Toat but only in terms of resources management and sharing. Par Chongriah was a natural pacemaker, a pacifist who spent his entire life working for Peace, Fairness and Democracy. He therefore became a unique and famous character not only in Greater Fangak but also to the people of Jonglei State in general. Par Chongriah was a real role model, a solid symbol of Unity, Justice, peace and harmony among the four (4) clans of Greater Fangak’s Pigi Dinka, Thiang, Gawaar and Lak Communities. Par strongly believed that the power is when you as one people are at peace from within, maintain and build your unity, gather and resources equitably. He was born in 1905, but throughout his life he never did anything that would harm anybody else be it physically or mentally.
Par Chongriah at Youth Time
Right from teenage age, Par Chongriah Nong was soon identified as a peaceful and fair character in Riah sub-clan’s Chienyakai-Chiegiin’s section of Toch Payam. He was initiated, given six (6) traditional marks on his forehead, in 1924. He first started to become a responsible person and fair distributor of food items within his extended family. In 1930, he then became an overall responsible person for the entire cattle camps of Pathiay and Toch area. During this time, he would move from one setting of family to another, in the cattle camps identifying vulnerable families with not enough milk-producing-cows. Once he identified such a family, he would then pick from his own cows or from whoever might have enough milk producing cows around and give it (one or two) cows to that vulnerable family. This created a wide difference and distinguished him from the rest of his age mates. In 1935 he became a traditional initiator—faces-marker. Because of him being a renowned benevolence and an altruistic person who would at all times work for Peace and Unity. Everybody gave him due respect, as he could not even participate in a Youth fight. He envied nobody. If it happened that two or more youth quarreled or fought among themselves in the camps, he would go and settle the dispute. Because of such identified uniqueness in character, Par became responsible for all cattle camps of Riah’s sub-clan (Chienyakai & Chiejaak). He preceded all his age mates in creating mystiques that support the idea of peace. One quick example, when a fighting occurred within Thiang Nuer Youth themselves i.e between Riah and Bhang Youth, Par would rush to the scene holding his only traditionally shaped six (6) metallic spears and then fixed on wooden thin-long-sticks. The six (6) spears, according to him “represented the six (6) main sections of the Thiang Nuer clan”. This means, he would never throw those six (6) spears at anybody during the fight even if someone speared him. Par’s key aim rushing there to the scene was always to go and separate the fight if possible or to help there the would-be speared/wounded individuals during the fight. So, Par would stand there waiting for whoever could be wounded or be at risk of being killed. Once it happened, that one side extricated and raced after the other side then Par would help save the lives of the wounded or those captured alive. His influential character accorded him respect so anybody would listen to his advice irrespective of the sides (be it a Riah or Bhang).
His Leadership Roles
Par Chongriah espoused to Nyahoth Liep Deng (but later both divorced due to blood relations), Nyabunye Bichiok, Nyakuon Machar Mut, Nyakoka Bab Puoth and Nyakuola Geaw Ngom from Thiang Nuer, Gawaar, Dok and Lak Nuer clans respectively. Jok Ruach was Chiegiin’s Sub-Chief before in 1962. However, in the same year, the position of Chiegiin’s Sub-Chief fell vacant. As a result, about three (3) young candidates from Chiegiin section got up and declared the desires to vie for the position. Par Chongriah was away, but never expressed his intention to run for the Sub-Chief position. Despite this, some members of Chiegiin section thought and suggested him (Par Chongriah) to take the Sub-Chief position. Others from the same Chiegiin section vehemently tried to block such a suggestion on the ground that “once the Sub-Chief position is given to Par Chongriah Nong, then nobody would get it again from Chiegiin, because the leadership qualities he Par possesses”. No one side agreed to each other, here. Par Chongriah came and was immediately informed that he was nominated to be the Sub-Chief. He accepted the suggestion and nomination. When it was circulated later that Par Chongriah has accepted the nomination and is now running for Chiegiin’s Sub-Chief position, then all of the three (3) candidates who expressed their intentions to run for the same position ceased from vying. And so, on the organized Election Day, Par Chongriah stood and took Chiegiin’s Sub-Chief position unopposed. During his tenure as Sub-Chief, Par exempted all vulnerable households (families) from all contributions, which were being done in kinds. In other words, he stopped all the families/households headed by vulnerable persons from contributing the little they have, vulnerable persons (like Disables, Elderly, Women and Children). He would also move in and around the villages in the early morning or late evening, to identify vulnerable families/households. Once he gets them he then assists them accordingly. Par Chongriah worked and succeeded in reducing the cases of violent conflicts which could have occurred within or between sections of Chiegiin and Chienyakai. Par Chongriah led Chiegiin as Sub-Chief for eleven (11) years i.e from 1962-1982 and then he handed the position of sub-chief back to Chiegiin.
In the same 1982, he contested and was elected as Thiang Nuer Riah sub-clan’s Head Chief. He later contested for this position nine (9th) times, but would defeat all his challengers in every election held. The kind of democracy they used then was a direct type of democracy or election. People rally behind the leader they are supporting or voting for. In 1993 he was elected Greater Fangak (Dinka Pigi, Thiang, Lak and Gawaar)’s Paramount Chief. He held this position until Greater Fangak (District) was finally divided into three Counties (Pigi, Ayod and Fangak) in 2005. So, he then remained as Fangak County’s Paramount Chief and at the same time as Riah sub-clan’s Head Chief. In 2012 he voluntarily stood down from being Riah sub-clan’s Head Chief and gave the position back to the people. Riah elected a new Head Chief. Par Chongriah was Fangak County’s Paramount Chief until he died in 2020. He died on 9th June 2020, at the age of one hundred and fifteen (115) years.
Bol Khan is a member of South Sudan’s Civil Society; human rights and peace Activist. He is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org
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