The Smell of Death in My Home Town

"This gloomy and humiliating ordeal has turned the entire Fangak into a community of mourners on the back drop of celebrating the victory of referendum in which they overwhelmingly voted for peace and independence of Southern Sudan"

By Stephen Par Kuol

Raised and educated in this riverside town where the Kiir of God meets the mighty Phow to flow north in harmony, I have been socialized and environmentally nurtured to love every glance of it. It has always been naturally serene and lively.

Here is where I called home as I have always felt since tender age. Each time of home coming has always been featured by a sea of happy faces of my Jageay extended family and of course, our elegant wild flowers on the shores of our two rivers of life and abundant.  Male cows, fishes and birds died to feast every now and then. Our conversations have always been dominated by ambitious dreams of quality education, development and lasting peace with our neighboring communities.

This was not the case on February 11, 2011 rushing home from Upper Nile Capital of Malakal by speed boat only to be received by floating corpses and understandably angry faces of Fangak People.” Give us guns if you are capable leaders” shouted the mourning crowd of youth at us!! In my culture, men internalized tears. So, I managed to hold them up in extreme agony.

The rest was unbearable smell of death. Death, death, death and death as you can humanly imagine!!. In English, death is an abstract noun. This means that it is not physically grab -able. That I disputed at the painful view of New Fangak mass graves. Death was concrete at this mournful time. I touched it and smelt it on the corpses of my own uncle , Mr.Ruot Mut Biliew, my cousins and comrade in arms, Nhial Kham, Mawich Ruach Luak ,my Executive Chief, Gatuak Gatdet and many of  my fellow Fangak citizens.

In Fangak, death is found every where these days. It is floating on the river; it is in the air smelling like nothing but awful end of human life in which the very dear flesh we routinely clean and groom turns into unbearable filth. To be very precise, it looks pale and humbling.

Psychologically, its disgusting view can live- on in human mind to later manifest itself in the form of what Psychologists have called Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Please refer to the images of these two mass graves at the glance to internalize that.

It must be emphasized that what you have at the glance unfolded amidst two months appeal by Fangak political leadership to the Almighty Leadership of GOSS in Juba to come to the rescue of Fangak against the immense attack of  Athor forces who have been gearing for it since December 2010.    
As widely dreaded, Athor struck like a preying crocodile on February 9, 2011 engulfing the entire community of 30,000 people to the confluence of Kiir and Phow. Over 900 People were instantly injured. 201were found killed. Two third of these casualties died a torturous death drowning into the river.  20,000 people displaced. A couple of others have so far gone missing. Most are feared dead as the death toll keeps rising.

Literally speaking, more than half of the County government has been killed. The County Executive Director, five young graduates working with the county government as administrative officers, the Deputy Commander of Prison Service, the Chief Accountant of Police Headquarters, The Tax Administration Officer and the  Deputy Commander of the SPLA Division 8 were all killed.

The County Commissioner narrowly survived where three of his personal bodyguards were killed in action to secure his miraculous escape.

This gloomy and humiliating ordeal has turned the entire Fangak into a community of mourners on the back drop of celebrating the victory of referendum in which they overwhelmingly voted for peace and independence of Southern Sudan. Emotionally, our life as a community is left miserable and empty.

Far and wide, Fangak feels feel betrayed and sacrificed to the ongoing peace meal with this war criminal called Athor Deng.

What adds wound to the mass humiliation though is that our survivors are still exposed to the same danger of February 9 instances at this time. That is even more devastating to the helpless leadership of this community whose months of appeal felt into deaf ears of Almighty Leadership in Juba.

I could not believe my tinny tortoise’s ears telling me that some of those invincible Generals of Bilpam in Juba went as far as issuing death threats to sons of Fangak in SPLA uniform who took it upon themselves to go home for the burial of  their drown and dead children.  That speaks volume of this mass murder as organized crimes against the collective humanity of our patriotic and loyal people who accepted the disarmament as a public policy three years before its full implementation in the year 2005.
Ask me of the mood in Fangak at the moment to tell you that you do not need an academic background in psychology to see that our people are deeply terrified, depressed and traumatized. Take it from me; the survivors of this mass butchery can not psychologically come to term with their physical survival at the time of writing.   

According to the few survivors I personally encountered during my brief trip, they see what they have at hand as a false sense of survival as the agent of death called Athor Deng is not only enjoying the impunity granted to him through the standing amnesty and the ceasefire agreement that has brought him to the doorstep of his helpless victims, but still preparing to finish what he has started since 2010. As a matter of fact, only haven knows whether Athor has finally quenched his blood thirst this time around. Otherwise, camping in Mankueilual which is only 30 minutes walk from us, instant death is still smelt in my home town.
The author is a former Deputy Ambassador of the Sudan to the United Republic of Tanzania and current Minister of Education in Jonglei State. The views expressed do not represent formal position of the Government of Jonglei State but his own as independent human right advocate and in his capacity as a son of Fangak. He can be reached by phone at 0955437497/0903745362 or by electronic mail at

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