22 May 2019


Agel Machar And I, Fooled By His Mother

"Obviously, she made us carry our own ‘cross for the crucifixion.’ We were real fools! Young and dumb, spoiled and illiterate? What a terrible combination!"

By Willy Mayom Maker
(A Gurtong's September 2018 Collection)
Not knowing how to read or write is a very bad thing! I remember how I was easily fooled by an educated woman when I was illiterate!
I was fooled along with my good friend, Agel Machar. Guess who fooled us? It was Agel’s own mother, CDR Victoria Adhar Arop (Adhardit). The incident happened in Dimma, Ethiopia, in 1987, when we were probably around 11 or 12-year-old boys. We were among thousands of other trained boys known as "Jesh el Amer".
The food we ate in the camp was terrible. It was sorghum. But not like the kind of sorghum we have in Sudan. No. Our Sudanese sorghum has a tasty flavour. But this sorghum was disgusting! When cooked, it looked and tasted like dirt, literally. The food was so bad that even vultures, scavenging birds that eat everything, rejected it. Hence, it was nicknamed "Arec-gon" - meaning "rejected by vulture." Even worse, the grains were equally mixed – half sand and half sorghum. Stomach ache and diarrhea were common as a result.
Adhardit was a nurse and dietitian by professions. She had opened up a clinic and a feeding center, where sick and malnourished boys were treated and fed. Agel and I were not interested in the clinic; we were interested in the feeding center, which served varieties of nutritious foods: wheat, yellow-corn, sardines, milk, biscuits and other good foods. Our favourite food was yellow-corn flour mixed with butteroil, powder milk, egg, sugar and salt. Very nutritious and delicious! The food was so yummy that when put in the mouth, it exploded with the taste: "athihai," it was called.
Unfortunately, the Feeding Center's food was meant for the sick and malnourished boys only. Agel and I were neither sick nor malnourished. But that didn’t stop us from visiting the center regularly. Determined to get a piece of that yummy food, we pretended to be sick every morning and headed to the feeding center.
I forgot to mention that, in addition to being friends, Agel and I also shared one thing in common: we were both lastborn children of our mothers, coincidently. Lastborn children, according to South Sudanese, are known to be nothing but “spoiled little brats” who like to get away with everything. What is next? We were also spoiled by the SPLA: we were among the youngest (Jesh el Amer) named Marek-rek, Nya-wa-nyiw or Dik-dik – all the words implying “adorable, little ones”. We were not allowed to do heavy duties like the other big Jesh el Amer, for example. We were not even allowed to stand as guards (doria) at night. Indeed, we were spoiled little brats!
Every morning, Agel and I would fake the sickness and headed to the Feeding Centre to share the food with the sick and malnourished boys. The real sick and malnourished boys were feeding, but Agel and I were feasting. Life was good! Very good!
But life could have been better had it not been because of Adhardit who kept disturbing us. “You two (Mayom and Agel) don’t look sick to me,” Adhardit said. "Don't even come here again! This food is for the sick people only!"
“Watch your mouth, Comrade,” Agel would warn his mother, jokingly of course. “Don’t ever talk to soldiers like that! You are nothing but a musijid!” That time, Adhardit was retraining in a cadet.
The cooks in the Feeding Centre were untrained, too. So, it was easy for us to intimidate them into serving us, the soldiers, with the food. Recruits were expected to obey orders from soldiers. When they saw us, the cooks stood up at attention and remained standing until we told them to stand at ease or sit down. But we only told them to stand at ease after we had grabbed the food and leaving. We continued terrorizing and tormenting the Feeding Center, especially when Adhardit was not around.
Adhardit warned us many times not to keep stealing the sick people’s food, but we didn’t listen. Who would listen to a musijid saakit - a mere recruit. We took the food through a process known as “camouflage” – which was nothing but a combination of theft and robbery.
After Adhar had enough of our mischief, she used her wisdom to teach us a lesson I will never forget up to now. She completely fooled us. One morning, she called Agel and I, wrote a letter and gave it to us. “Take this letter to your taskforce commander," she said, “so that he can give you the permission to officially come to the Feeding Centre everyday. That way, you can have all the food you want.”
Agel and I looked at each other in disbelief! To have all the food we wanted? We were dumbfounded! None of us knew ABCD, let alone reading and writing, so we didn’t know the content of the letter. But, hey, Adhardit said the letter will give us the permission to have all the food we wanted. We treated the letter like a trophy. I folded it neatly and put it in my pocket. We could not afford to loss or damage it. The letter was taking us to the most delicious food. To hell with the arec-gon, the sorghum mixed with the sand.
But somehow something told me there was something fishy about this letter. But I suppressed the nagging fear. I didn’t think Adhar would mean any harm to her son and his friend.
We found Second Lieutenant, Paul Anyuat, siting under a tree listening to a radio. Agel and I uniformly marched and stamped our feet on the ground and saluted. “Comrade,” we yelled. Then, I took two steps forward, extended my right hand to hand over the letter, before taking the same steps backward to align with Agel Machar. We remained standing at attention, waiting for Lieutenant Paul to read the letter.
“I see what you two have been doing,” Lieutenant Paul said. “Lie down. Now!” he yelled so loud that I thought the ground shook.
Agel and I looked at each other, puzzled. Scared! Lieutenant Paul summoned in two big boys (shurtas) to give us each 25 whacks on our buttocks.
It turned out that Adhardit explained it in the letter how we terrorized the Feeding Centre, and she instructed the lieutenant to give us the highest punishment possible.
We were beaten, soaked in cold water, rolled in the mud, ran up and down the mountain, before being sent to sijin (jail) where we spent a couple of days doing hard labour.

Despite the punishment, however, what hurt me the most was the fact that Adhardit fooled us to deliver the letter ourselves. Obviously, she made us carry our own ‘cross for the crucifixion.’ We were real fools! Young and dumb, spoiled and illiterate? What a terrible combination! 

Posted in: Opinions
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15/09/2018, 4:34 PM
 - Posted by Jacob Akol
The incredible mothers whose invaluable lessons we quickly discard when tempted with unearned gains.
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