The Unaccompanied Minors of Panyudo, Panyunduk, Fungnido, Fungnidu, Pinyudo, Pinyunduk, etc.
NB: The Anyuak people called the place —PANYIDO—That’s the real name of the place for those who are yet to write their memoirs.
Anyway, I join my friends and comrades in the struggle in providing my social history and assessment carried out by Radda Barnen, Ethiopia in 1989. The interview was historic.
*The challenge is now for the SPLM/A to avail their records of Jesh Amer and Jesh Asuad. Many people are still missing in actions, in inaction, and in life. It’s time for our own records to speak.
On Arriving at Panyido
For us who opened this camp as the first refugee center, we thought we would spend the night and leave the next day. But to our surprise, it wasn’t the way it went.
On the 20th of December 1987, we slept a few kilometers away from Anyuak village on Gilo River, less than 30 kilometers away from what would be one of the largest Sudanese refugee camps in South-western Ethiopia, hosting about 20 000 minors and thousands of others. Educated adults were telling us that we were already in the Ethiopian territory. Three months had since passed and our bodies were showing all signs of exhaustion and chronic fatigue. We had reached a point that every night we spent at a place, we wanted it to go on forever. Bodies and minds were saying one thing: no physical activity was required. To walk, you had to bend your head forward otherwise you would not take a step. Legs were beginning to feel heavy….
The next morning, December 21,1987, we woke up, folded our luggage, and resumed our journey to the unknown. We came to the crossing point where we crossed the river. I remember when crossing the river, our boat, after reaching midstream, became uncontrollable and spiraled downstream instead, throwing our failing emotions into chaos! We were soon pulled out after serious attempts to jump overboard and subsequent scolding from those on the other side of the river not to attempt a swim. The current was unusually strong. It was a rough way for Panyido to welcome her new arrivals. It would be four years, and at a different location, when this river proved its malevolence…
After crossing the river, at around 12:00 noon, everyone retired to the shades of the huge mahogany trees on the river, cooking and eating. There were Anyuak villages there, with women pounding sorghum in an unusual way. It was not long when we heard the bell rang from the school in Panyido and Anyuak children came passing by in their dazzling school uniforms. We tried smiling at the girls but they retorted with a word that came to define our homelessness – ajuel…
At 3:00pm and on orders from the brave Captain of Tuektuek, Maduok Akot Aru, (Madong Akot Aru) who led our safari, and who was returning to Itang on orders from above (note here that most officers from Aweil were being asked to return to base at the time.…), everyone formed a line. We then marched with discipline into Panyido, singing an army song that was composed during the long journey. I can still see Marach Thiik (former Speaker of Aweil Parliament), Lual Ayook (Great teacher in Aweil), Anguindit (RIP), Deng Aleu (former SPLA Signal Officer), Garang Bol Aher (RIP), John Aher Kuch Diing (RIP- father to Nyayaang Aher Monymeth and the first Logistician to be later replaced by Alier Ayoom), Deng Akol Wek (Juba), Malwal Aher-makerdit (Wunyik), etc., leading the march from the front. The song, as it had always been during the journey, was an encouragement song to the young people. The adults kept repeating it day after day, month after month, and never wavered. December 21 was it last.
Here it was:
Jec Amer Dɛɛt Yi Puöu
Jec Amer ee Jec Amer…x2
Jec Amer jal yï puöu dɛɛt…x2
Ku meth acëthök kek raandït ŋuɛ̈ɛ̈n
Meth acëthök kek raandïït dɔm baai
Dɛɛt yï puöu ɣok aa luel panda
Dɛɛt yï puöu ɣok aa luel tiɔmdan Thudän…x2…
When we reached the center of town, nobody welcomed us properly. The Company of Jesh Amer we found there was simply arrogant and terribly boastful. They were well trained with new guns and uniforms. Clearly, they were our age mates but were so powerful for their sizes. Minus, Captain Madongdit, and his men, they demanded respect from everyone, big or small. They kept everyone on their toes, ordering us to do this and that. It was crazy!! The next morning, after these young fellows had ordered us to bury one of their own who had died, and it was my first ever to do this kind of job, Kiir Daau, father-in-law to Ugwag Arun and Guor Miabok, called for a parade and announced the impossible news: an order had come from above that everyone who arrived in Panyido, starting with us, shouldn’t proceed to Itang but remain in Panyido. Panyido was to be a camp just like Itang. We couldn’t believe the “above” said that!! It is important to note here that Kiir Daau (RIP) was the first leader of Panyido and was in charge of the outpost before being replaced by Deng Garang Beny, followed by Pieng Deng Majok and Jurkuch Barach. He was martyred shortly after he left Panyido.
During the journey from Aweil
Throughout the journey, there was something that no one could miss but which must be appreciated: morale-boosting singing by a duo of dedicated elders. There were two adults who acted as morale boosters since we left home in September 1987. They loved to sing even when the safari was so tiring that nobody wanted to hear anyone talked. But they insisted! It became a matter of intuition for them. Whenever the whistle blew to announce the start of the day’s trek, there went their coordinated lively vocalizations. Sometimes, you would laugh because of their sheer notoriety to sing in the bleakest of time. To those of us consumed by the unrelenting trekking, their unbroken energy to sound the same after months of daily sweating was simply unworldly. One would stay at the very end of the very long line; the other led from the very front. They alternated every day. Like male and female dodo, they would break the dawn with their characteristic high-pitched voices, then ended the nights in a similar fashion when everyone was retiring to sleep.
One had this song:
…Dhël la Bilpam…
Ɣok acath ɣola Bilpam
Ɣok aa buöc ɣola Bilpam
Nhiäknhiäk, dhël la Bilpam
Akɔ̈lciɛlic, dhël la Bilpam
Taaŋakɔ̈l, dhël la Bilpam
Ɣok aa buöc ɣola Bilpam
Ɣok acath ɣola Bilpam…x 10
The other would echo:
Jat tig ka meth
Ɣɛn jɔt tig ku meth
Jat tig ka meth
Yaa ruu luaar…x10…x10
These elders were separated later. Strong ones were taken for training in Bonga and the elderly were trained in Markaz after Maniir and formed the indomitable TITBAAI. They were graduated together with Manyangdit from Tharpam. Their video is circulating out there.
SPLM/A Story of Jesh Amer and Jesh Asoud/credit