Gurtong was “born” in the UK, by a South Sudanese Internet Technology (IT) expert, Napoleon Adok Gai in 2002. While in Europe, Napoleon, seeing a need of bringing the South Sudanese together, regardless of the distance, used his skills to create the website. South Sudanese previously used to meet physically for discussions a few times in year yet there was a need to continuously have constructive social engagements to unite them in the midst of the conflict then.
Thus, the website, which had within it an inbuilt discussion forum provided a platform for the South Sudanese in the Diaspora from several countries and continents including USA, Australia, Europe, Africa, Asia to talk.
Napoleon secured the support of the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs who helped establish the “Gurtong Peace Project” in London. While in London, the project was surrogated by the London-based Africa Educational Trust. In 2004, on return to Kenya, Napoleon registered Gurtong as "Gurtong Peace Trust” and set up an office in Nairobi, from where he managed the project until his departure at the end of 2005.
Headed since 2006 by a South Sudanese veteran journalist and author, Jacob Jiel Akol, Gurtong was registered in Juba, South Sudan, in 2007 as “Gurtong Peace and Media Project”, an NGO. In combining the names under which it is registered in both Kenya and South Sudan, the full name is now “Gurtong Trust – Peace and Media Project”, generally shortened to just “Gurtong”.
Gurtong operates from Juba South Sudan, with foal points/ correspondents across the states of South Sudan and a liaison office in Nairobi.
'Gurtong' is a phrase, not a word. It consists of two words: a verb 'gur' and a noun 'tong'.
'Gur' means 'to grind' or 'to blunt' and 'tong' means 'spear'. 'Gurtong' therefore means 'to blunt the spear' or simply 'blunt the spear' by grinding the sharp edges of the spear against something hard until it is blunt. The words and the phrase have their origins in most Nilotic languages: Acholi, Jieng, Nath, Chollo, Pari and Anyuak.
However, it’s symbolic meaning associated with peacemaking has been perfected and commonly applied by the Anyuak in settling serious disputes among members of the ethnic community and between themselves and others. 'Gur-tong' to them therefore means to perform a ritual in which a spear is unsharpened by moving its sharp edges against stone.
The occasion captured in the picture was that of reconciliation between an Anyuak clan with MedAir – a Swiss-based NGO operating in Pochalla and other parts of South Sudan. A MedAir vehicle had killed a child, who had slipped under it without the knowledge of the driver – a Kenyan Luo. The case was settled traditionally as above. It follows a code in which there is acceptance of guilt , cleansing, compensation , forgiveness and therefore reconciliation and hence the occasion 'gurtong'.
It involves a ceremony where two parties to a conflict settle a dispute, in which lives have been lost, through peaceful discussions. The unsharpening of a spear symbolizes forgiveness and reconciliation.
What Does The Gurtong Logo Symbolize?
The new logo is a symbolic union and solidarity of the peoples of South Sudan, represented by the Rhino, the Shield and the Shoebill.
The Spear underlining the logo is the symbolic rejection of conflict among them and a call for peace and unity, the key objective of the Gurtong Peace Project, supported by this website.
The three southern provinces of Equatoria (Rhino), Upper Nile (Shield) and Bhar el Ghazal (Shoebill) were administered under those symbols as a separate entity from 1920s to 1946; after which the then Anglo-Egyptian condominium, which ruled the country from 1898 to January 1956, decided that the future of the South lay with the North. But, except for a ten-year period, (1972 - 1982), the two regions have been at war with each other.
The Gurtong logo has been redesigned severally but the original components remain the same:
Initial logo design and concept by Atem Akol
Second logo design modification by Billy Mugambi
Current logo design by Brand X.