By Maker M. Marial
OPINION – As Lakes State descended to anarchy and citizens relentlessly looked for a leader who would restore law and order among their sons and daughters, Gen. Rin Tueny Mabor was always their favorite choice. However, he wasn’t being given to them, as President Kiir always went for the lobbyists’ choice. Consequently, looting, killings, rape and sexual assault against women and girls continued unabated; and Lakes State was often characterized by mayhem, and people were displaced. Besides, citizens of Lakes State were being disrespected everywhere in the country as they were often viewed as violent people. For these reasons, the search for a strong leader continued relentlessly even though the leadership in Juba was not paying attention to the people’s demand.
Then, there was unexpected decree on May 8th, 2021, for the appointment of Gen. Mabor as Governor of Lakes State. President Kiir had finally decided to save the lives and properties of the people of Lakes State by responding to their overdue demand and appointing the man they had been longing for more than a decade.
“The people of Lakes State have been asking me to be their governor since 2010 but there was no opportunity,” Gen. Mabor told me in the afternoon of May 26, 2019, as we chatted about Lakes State and its many challenges in his house in Juba.
Our good conversation was cut short by the depressing phone call from Rumbek that two of our Ugandan teachers, at Hope and Resurrection Secondary School (HRSS), had just been murdered at Apet, Rumbek East County, on their way back to school after picking up the headmaster Sunday afternoon. I was heartbroken, devastated, and had to rush home not knowing what to do. Presumably, the teachers were killed to avenge the death of a local chief who died that afternoon after he was involved in a car accident with a Kenyan driver in Rumbek town the day before.
I was also to be murdered in the same spot two months later as I visited HRSS and tried to resolve some problem there. I was in the car with 4 prominent people: former state SPLM secretary, State MP, former Director General in the Ministry of Agriculture, and the administrator of the Catholic Diocese when we fell into an ambush of thugs. Fortunately, we were able to know one of the gunmen as they readied themselves to shoot us. He was called by name, and he lowered his AK47 in surprise. His accomplice did the same, and we continued our journey to Rumbek peacefully.
Upon arrival in Rumbek, I reported the incident to the commissioner of the now defunct Amokpiny County, who told me that I could have been the target because of my association with HRSS and the slain teachers. I was astonished and couldn’t believe that somebody wanted me dead for no reason.
Disturbed by the commissioner’s statement, I traced one of the gunmen and asked him about their motive that evening. He cried and apologized for the incident and begged me not to report him to police. We grew up in the same village, and I was his protector from notorious boys. I also lived with him in the same neighborhood in Juba before he moved to Rumbek. Regretting his involvement in a failed murder attempt, he opened up and told me about the identity of the teachers’ murderers and their hiding place. Hearing this, I confirmed the commissioner’s statement and knew that the ambush was not random. I also concluded that the teachers’ killing wasn’t revenge as people thought.
Delivering on his promise
Gen. Mabor arrived in Lakes State and promised the citizens as he toured the state’s 8 counties that his main goal as governor was to “protect people and their property.” This wasn’t an empty promise as his predecessors usually do. He meant what he said. Subsequently, calm returned to Lakes State in less than a month following arrest of the most notorious criminals and voluntarily return of the raided and stolen cattle to their rightful owners.
Last month, my cousin Mading received a phone call from someone who stole his cows in 2015 and was asked to go and collect his cattle from the thief. This is what he had to say:
Last week, I received a phone call from unknown number, and when I picked the call, the caller told me he was the one who stole my two calves in 2015 and he wanted me to go to his village and collect them. It was an exciting news. I went and got my cows back after apologies from the thief and his father. I thank Gen. Mabor for restoring law and order.
There are many success stories like this nowadays in Lakes State. People are getting their stolen cows back and stealing has stopped. This is good news, and it means the state is now governable. Even the police that was not being respected before Gen. Mabor is getting respected these days.
“When you see a policeman coming toward you in Rumbek, you nervously think he is coming for you until he passes-by,” Mading told me from Rumbek. “Debts are being settled outside court, because people fear being taken to police and detained.”
This is now respect to the law and order is coming. Lakes State is now returning to what it was known for. Behavior is changing and peace is coming.
In Guolyar, Awerial County, I met a young boda-boda rider Makuer who had just dropped off his customer after hours of motorcycle ride from Rumbek. This is what he had to say, “There were no guns on the road, and I felt secured and protected. Rumbek is peaceful, Yirol is peaceful and everywhere in Lakes State is peaceful. I now take customers to places where I never went before. Thanks Gen. Rin for restoring law and order.”
On Sunday, October 24, 2021, youth from Rumbek East County organized a thanksgiving ceremony to appreciate Gen. Mabor for restoring peace and stability in Lakes State. Most of the crisis in Lakes State were attributed to the Rumbek East communities and their leaders, who were often blamed for fanning the violence and instability among their community members.
Additionally, Gen. Mabor was awarded prestigious bull Makuen-rial and a calf nyanyar on October 30th by Australia based women group known as Diar Akonbuoi Cipuothmat. He was also nicknamed Makuen Akonbuoi. This was in appreciation for his uncompromised efforts in bringing calm and restoring peace to Lakes State after years of deadly conflicts.
Gen. Mabor is the second governor to be widely accepted by the people Lakes State for doing an outstanding job after his cousin Telar Ring Deng who left a great legacy after his 2010 exceptional performance when he governed Lakes State for 3 months, as an acting governor. Deng was another choice for the governor if Lakes State was given to the SPLM-IO as part of the power sharing deal according to 2018 peace accord.
It is my hope that there will be no interruption in Gen. Mabor’s leadership anytime soon so that he continues to enforce the law and returns Lakes State to where it used to be.
The author of this article is citizen of Lakes State. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.