Dr Kwaje Was a Humble Man

"The humbleness of Dr Samson has been felt across the various communities of Southern Sudan in general and of communities of Greater Equatoria in particular."

 By Jacob K. Lupai

In the early morning of Sunday the 1st August 2010 a friend phoned to ask, did you hear? I said what. The friend said sadly that Dr Samson Kwaje passed away at around 2.00am. I received the news in utter disbelief. Earlier the latest medical bulletin monitored from Nairobi, Kenya, was that there was

Dr Samson Kwaje
some improvement in Dr Samson’s condition. Like any friend of his I was expecting Dr Samson to return home from Nairobi alive as he had done in that horrific assassination attempt on his life in his native Wonduruba Payam some five months ago. I had personally known Dr Samson since childhood in the 1950s.

In the 1950s I sat with Dr Samson in the same classroom at Kator Elementary School in Juba. As a child Dr Samson was spotted as a young promising lad by Kator Parish Priest, Fr Benedict (we used to pronounce the name as Belendeti). Fr Benedict brought the child, Dr Samson, from Moje village school to Kator elementary where he joined us in the second year. Moje was Dr Samson’s village some 73 miles from Juba. It coincided that Dr Samson was my namesake. He was called Kwaje and I was also called Kwaje. However, as a nickname I was called Abul Kwaj which is still my name used by close associates and those who knew me since childhood.

From his village roots Dr Samson adapted easily to town life. He was kind and sociable. I never witnessed Dr Samson in a fight with anybody else except he and I fought with him getting the better of me in wrestling and I the better of him in boxing. It was common to see school children fighting after classes. The banks of the small stream (Lo’bulet) separating Kator and Malakia were where most fights took place. The cowards or those who did not want trouble would always race ahead immediately after the last bell had gone to escape from being fought. The lucky ones had older brothers or older neighbours who would act as guardians. There was no time Dr Samson wouldn’t be seen in admiring company of boys and girls, and he seemed to have been the centre of attention. He was charming and in the classroom performed very well. In all Dr Samson as I had seen him in those elementary school days was a perfect person to whom to be a friend. 

In the 1980s we met again but this time as adults. Again unlike in elementary school this time we were staff but also of the same government establishment, the Ministry of Agriculture in the then Southern Region as the product of Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972. After decentralization of the Southern Region into three regions of Equatoria, Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile, Dr Samson progressed on merit to become the Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture in Equatoria Region. During his tenure of office I was nominated to study in the United Kingdom. After qualifying through the British Council system of tests I left for the United Kingdom as a scholar.

I did not hear of Dr Samson again until he crossed to join fellow Sudanese in the struggle for a new Sudan perceived as a nation of democracy, equality and justice. He joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and became its spokesman. Dr Samson was brilliant at his job. As the spokesman Dr Samson was being quoted widely on issues related to the war in Sudan and this brought Sudan on the spotlight. He was instrumental in galvanizing worldwide sympathy and support for the marginalised and downtrodden of Sudan. Dr Samson played a key role as a revolutionary that only the prejudiced may not care to recognise. In his entire revolutionary struggle Dr Samson carried himself with dignity. He stood firm and never wavered an inch, typical of an Equatorian who will be the last to betray the cause of the people of Southern Sudan. Many have been racing back and forth in search of those elusive fortunes but Dr Samson stuck with the SPLM as a man of principles until a breakthrough was made in 2005.

In the early 2000s Dr Samson came to the United Kingdom in the company of Dr John Garang de Mabior and others. After briefing by Dr John Garang of the Sudanese community in London and beyond, Dr Samson spotted me in the crowd and in his buoyant approach called me out loud. The hugging and handshakes were incredible and reminded us of our childhood days. We shared moments of unforgettable friendship. Dr Samson was a humble man, never imposing nor being paternalistic. On hearing of his death condolences poured out from far and wide. Greater Equatoria Association in Port Sudan sent their condolences to the family of Dr Samson and also to the Government of Southern Sudan for the great loss. In expressing their grief the Association is preparing to conduct prayers for Dr Samson.

The humbleness of Dr Samson has been felt across the various communities of Southern Sudan in general and of communities of Greater Equatoria in particular. Many newspapers still carry condolence messages for Dr Samson. This only goes to show how Dr Samson was held in high esteem as a humble person. He was a down to earth person who cared about the feelings of others something that might have been taken as cowardice or self-centeredness because Dr Samson avoided confrontation. He was unlikely to be very assertive if that could be perceived negatively only with the exception of the issue of his native Wonduruba Payam either to belong to Juba or to Lainya County which many might have believed to have caused him his life. Dr Samson believed Wonduruba Payam belonged to Lainya County but others did not share that belief, hence the assassination attempt on his life.  

While the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry in the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) Dr Samson told me never to make an appointment but simply to walk in whenever I wanted to see him. Indeed his office manager was Aware of this. I would simply walk in for a chat. The focus was mainly on development and his admiration of my articles in newspapers and websites. He had wanted me to be in the GOSS and encouraged me to apply for the position of the Secretary General of the Southern Sudan Food Security Council. Dr Samson was the first to congratulate me on my appointment as 1st Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture in Central Equatoria State. He was also delighted when I was appointed Chairman of State Food Security Commission, saying I was in the right place at the right time. Dr Samson teased me by asking when we would be food self-sufficient. I said soon and we laughed aware of the enormous task ahead. From elementary school days to our days as adults Dr Samson and I had been on the best of terms. Ours was strictly childhood friendship and professionalism. Rarely did we discuss politics except to make a comment on one issue here and there. Dr Samson’s last words to me were when my daughter, who was on a short visit to Juba, and I popped in to greet him in his office. He told my daughter to come home and to me he said, “Jacob I like the analysis in your articles”. Those were to prove to be the last words to me from a dear friend and brother Dr Samson Kwaje Lukare. May the Almighty God rest his soul in eternal peace, Amen.

In memory of Dr Samson southerners should remind themselves of the enormous sacrifices made during the war of liberation. With the referendum around the corner southerners should be clear in their minds which way to vote. A lasting tribute to Dr Samson and all those who ultimately laid down their lives is for southerners to vote for total independence. There is no time for deception or games. We have reached the end of the road where our conscience should be clear as to which way to branch. We have two ways, unity and separation in which to choose only one. We have been in unity for the better part of our lives and how miserable we have been under the heavy hand of Arab Islamic bigotry. Separation and ultimate independence is the only option if southerners are to be freemen in their own land of birth. We have had an expensive experiment with unity that brought us nothing but hell on earth. The lunatics that want to give unity a chance should better cleanse themselves before independence. The South will be independent and independent it will be.

The North may be contemplating to occupy southern oil fields through the brute use of force but it should be reminded of what happened to Iraq under Sadam Hussein who  brutally occupied Kuwaiti’s oil fields. Sadam Hussein despite having had lavish presidential treatment  was hanged like a common criminal. The international community surely will  not accept the occupation of a sovereign country by another one. The case of Iraq occupying Kuwait is one good example. It is hoped that the North will be wiser than Iraq during the regime of Sadam Hussein. The North should not committing suicide by not occupying southern oil fields and encouraging inter-southern strife. Hopefully the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) will be able to guarantee Southern Sudan territorial integrity.

Another tribute to Dr Samson Kwaje Lukare is the establishment of University of Agriculture in Central Equatoria State as mentioned during the eulogy of Dr Samson. There are many professional agriculturists in Central Equatoria State who could, with the availability of resources, easily establish the university.

In conclusion voting for southern independence is the best way of expressing our deep respect for all those who ultimately shed their precious blood for the freedom of Southern Sudan. The North must pay for its murderous and tyrannical treatment of the South. Only when the South is independent will there be a consideration to forgive and forget the past mistreatment by the North. Independence to the South may in fact make unity in diversity attractive to the coming new generations. However, unity now is a recipe for disaster. Southerners are not fools to accept unity on northern terms. The North may use stooges but they will  not have any effect on how the majority of southerners will vote in the referendum because it is either slavery or freedom and the choice of course is obvious.

The author can be reached at jklupai@googlemail.com

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