Opinion: In memory of late Hon. Oliver Batali Albino, former regional minister of housing and utilities of South Sudan

By Dr. David S. Bassiouni

The Albino Children, Nadi, Naumba, Aida,Suzy and David, and their mothers Monica and Zeinab

Fellow South Sudanese Compatriots and all Friends,

Veteran politician ,uncle Oliver Batali Albino, passed away on January 4, 2020 in the city of Augusta, the state of Georgia in the United States due to heart failure(Photo credit: supplied)
Veteran politician ,uncle Oliver Batali Albino, passed away on January 4, 2020 in the city of Augusta, the state of Georgia in the United States due to heart failure(Photo credit: supplied)

January 24th 2020(Nyamilepedia) — While we are grateful to God Almighty for bringing us safely into 2020, the year has not been a kind start for us! We are assembled here today and in thousands, in several locations in South Sudan, East Africa and in the Diaspora to mourn and say final farewell to two giant sons of South Sudan, Oliver Batali Albino and Lubari Ramba Lokolo, First Speaker of the Regional Assembly! The tragedy of their losses to us is that it is rare that two close friends and colleagues from the same district, the same region and the same country and married to two sisters, should both leave us on the same date, in the same year, just hours apart, in two different continents! In Juba, Yei, and Nairobi it was difficult for the families and communities to divide into two to mourn our departed heroes and icons. May their souls rest in eternal peace. So, as we dedicate this Funeral Service especially to Hon Oliver Batali Albino, formerly Regional Minister of Works, Intellectual, Writer, Freedom Fighter, Patriot and above all a dearly beloved father, grandfather, husband, uncle, cousin and friend, let us know that Oliver would have wanted us to also remember someone who was a true brother to him as he was a true brother to Lubari.

Hon Oliver Batali Albino was a man of great achievements and firsts in many endeavors of life. He followed the then classical and famous path to education in South Sudan. After completing Loka Nugent School and Rumbek Secondary School he graduated from Khartoum University in 1961 with BA (Honors) and was retained as a Research Assistant in the Faculty of Arts but left the University when he was not given the opportunity to pursue his post-graduate studies abroad. At the time, the normal path to a career for any university graduate was to join the government service. Instead, Oliver Albino joined the Blue Nile Cigarette Company, a subsidiary of the British American Tobacco Company (BATC) in Yei. This took everybody by surprise and some thought there was something wrong with him. However, now in hindsight, his pioneering role as the first South Sudanese graduate to enter the Private Sector, opened the way for many other compatriots to follow his footsteps and today thanks to the vision and foresight of leaders like Hon Oliver Albino, we have a robust and thriving private sector in South Sudan.

In January 1963 he was arrested without charge and accused of being an Anyanya supporter. He was a man of extraordinary courage and principles and never took no for answer. He protested against his unjust arrest by going on a hunger strike, the first of its type in the South Sudanese political arena until he was released on bail. He seized the opportunity to flee to DRC and joined Ananya which Movement he served at several senior levels with dedication and distinction. In November 1964, he was elected as a member of SANU’s Executive Committee responsible for Information. It was in that capacity that he accompanied Aggrey Jaden to Khartoum, Sudan and participated in the Round Table Conference in 1965 that attempted to solve the problem of South Sudan. It was also in that capacity that he initiated contacts with the Israelis in Nairobi and introduced the then Lt Col Joseph Lagu to the famed Israeli military legend, General Moshe Dayan. This single act was a game changer militarily for the Anyanya and South Sudan. It drastically changed the course of the liberation war for South Sudan. In 1972 he was appointed by General Lagu to join the Anyanya Delegation to the Addis Ababa Peace Talks which resulted in the Addis Ababa Agreement that gave South Sudan Regional Autonomy. He joined the Sudan Foreign Ministry and was posted as Counsellor at the Sudan Embassy in Nairobi Kenya. He left the Sudan Foreign Service and contested elections for the Regional Assembly. He won as the first elected Representative of Graduates in the Regional Assembly. He was later appointed Regional Minister of Housing and Public Utilities.

Many of you may have expected that I met and knew Hon Oliver Albino at the Loka Nugent School, or Rumbek Secondary School or Khartoum University! Far from that he was many years my senior and we never met at school. I met and knew him, and we became very close friends in the streets of Juba where Oliver Albino, his colleague Oliver Nigo and three of us youngsters Ade Wudango, Khamis Lamisong and myself became the closest of friends known as the Juba Five. Oliver Albino was an intellectual to the core, but he was also a man of many talents—electrician, carpenter, musician etc. As the leader of our group especially during the school holidays, he organized us into several technical teams engaged in doing many useful tasks in the city for the community. Later, the seed of community organizations he laid down, became useful social and political platforms. So later in life when our paths crossed during the struggle for self-determination and independence and professionally during the era of Regional Government, we knew and trusted each other to such a level that we remained a family to the end. That is what I value and will always personally treasure to eternity.

This is an attempt to narrate in a candid manner the remarkable story of the life of one of the most extraordinary, brilliant and accomplished men of our time. He achieved much and was a first in many pioneering areas of human endeavor. He sacrificed much but contributed much more to his beloved country, South Sudan. We have today laid Hon Oliver Batali Albino to his final resting place and bid him our last respects, but he will forever remain amongst us and in our hearts. To you the Albino children, the formidable challenge that has been thrust upon you is to live up to the ideals and principles that he established and complete his unfinished mission. 

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