By Chad Michael
Opinion – (Seattle, USA) I frequently visit the city of Seattle, Washington state. I know some friends there I grew up with. Some of them still cling to childhood memories, others have developed certain strange behaviors mostly seen in adults stricken by the mid-life crisis. Yet all are still in great youthful shape, their ages range from the thirties to late thirties, with some pushing close to their forties. They have jobs and live the American Dream, getting wives back home and some work on-and-off in the Alaskan panhandle inside the fishing vessels. In all, some of these guys know Lol well inside and out, or they do claim to know certain traits of him. One of them being a “hawkish.” This is a vague term, but I think it has something to do with an individual that jumps into action right before analyzing its pros and cons. Say, for instance, we have been told there is a new agency that just opened in the city and its management sets out to hire qualified candidates for some vacancies. Lol would be one of the first people to know the agency’s bosses and tells them which of us, fits for the job.
Another thing I was told, Lol does not necessarily validate others opinion, typically, one of his peers that much. He parachutes into the spotlight with or without proper endorsement from the people he claims to represent. That explains why he’s honeymooning with the Jieng Council of Elders right now.
The third thing I was cautioned to watch out for, is his individual persona or in other words, “climbing ultra ego.”
One time in Surrey, British Columbia when Lol was still working for Kiir, he was invited to meet with the Nuer in British Columbia under a very short notice as he just got off the ferry from Victoria, British Columbia where he held a conference with the SPLA youth there, mostly Dinka university students. His entourage consisted of Mading Ngor, one of the most hated lost boys in the South Sudanese community in British Columbia, because of his self-centered ego and his Dinkanistic ideals. And too! Mading was reported as one of the church protest organizers that took it upon themselves to stop Riek Machar from attending the Emmanuel Church in Juba, where he was scheduled to preach peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Meanwhile back to Lol, the diplomat. He had the rest of his entourage stood near him. They were tall, dark and as usual, sort of village-looking men, dressed in expensive suits, the ones you would find at some high-end men’s outfitters. They looked as if the Nuer crowds in the church were of any threat to their own supposedly Big Man at the time. Lol yapped and boasted about his experience and the things that he perceives make the SPLA-Oyee crap so great. I did not say anything because I like to listen, study and learn more about my guest for the first time than talking. Some political hawkish, members of my own community who think they know it all, questioned him on certain legitimate concerns, ranging from the view that the self-autonomy south was going down the toilet even before the independent, to the top-down state-sanctioned corruption. He dodged questions at first and then, he provided some answers, often expected of people who think they had things under control. As time went on, I took a like on how he framed his narrative of rising to stardom by declaring this: “some Nuer do not know how to climb up the tree.” This is exactly how he explained when asked why there are not so many Nuer in the GOSS as ambassadors. ” We Nuer, we have people who do not know how to climb the tree. They see someone who knows how to climb the tree and they try to bring him down to their level so they can be happy with him being around them.” That gave me a hint now that he has finally climbed the tree. He seems pretty sure of himself as a person most of us should look up to, based on my assessment of his character, charm of words and his ambition to stay close to the decision-makers.
My second encounter with him was at some church in Calgary. I think it was a Catholic near Sarcee trail SW. The so-called Sudanese politicians in Alberta were overjoyed, made a big fuss of his arrival from the United States to enlighten the anxious supporters of the newly formed SPLM-IO, which to me still bears significant similarities with the old SPLM of Salva Kiir or maybe I was just tired of anything SPLA/M.
How can I forget that second encounter? It has “stemmed edible in my heart like other fine memories of the past.”
Politicians exchanged fist punches that night while almost everyone there was in the celebratory, hopeful and amused mood as if Lol was something bigger than life.
Oh, there was another SPLM-IO’s heavyweight who came with Lol at the time and most people, judging from their facial expressions, they couldn’t wait to see him. But that diplomat did not make it to the church briefing on time, as I was told later that he was dragged away by some close friends and relatives from the airport.
Lol took the stage with some other diplomat, Miyong Gattuor. He talked seriously and had people changed their seats in the church. They paid attention and listened with their hearts.
Lol talked as if he was Riek Machar himself, addressing his committed men and women sitting in a congregation like fashion. He talked about how he personally introduced John Garang to the White House and the American people.
He also bragged about how he once again introduced Salva Kiir and his diplomats to the Bush administration. In his own perception, Kiir did not amount to anything without him in the United States of America. In the last minutes, leading to the end of his lecture, he asked and warned his audience about two things. First, he explained something about the SPLM/A and how “we” are not going to leave the SPLM/A to Salva Kiir and his bunch of noodles. He passionately talked about the ownership of the SPLM as if he was one of the founding fathers of the SPLM/A. He warned his audience in a packed church lounge how the “chairman” and others within the SPLM/A are not going to use a different name but the SPLM, because apparently, Salva Kiir and his group are the ones who have abandoned the SPLM and its core principles. Lol strongly threatened his opponents by saying “whether Kiir wants it or not,” we are not going to leave the name SPLM. On his second point, which came in the last minutes of his speech, was that “we have just started in America.” We are going to organize political chapters, similar to the ones used by lost boys before the independence to gear up financial and moral supports for the SPLM. Lol said he would like to see these chapters spring up quickly before he leaves for Addis Ababa. He threw the appointment of chapters leaders or the organizations to the people and warned the audience against appointing people with “fancy degrees” as he put it. He also said he was going to leave the appointment of the chapter leaders, humanitarian, women union and other grassroots organizations to the people. He was applauded and had more than once received what was more like a standing ovation from his audience. He proved his point and concluded his verdict. He was entrenching into the people something that seemed a little like his own political decision making, at least to a careful observer who was not moved much by his authoritative, unpersuasive and coarse accent. Overall, he had many looking inward, debating who should be the first to be appointed. Most people in the lounge had almost some form of education or at least some with “fancy degrees.” Everyone I gazed at looked somehow serious, dressed so neat and presentable. I was only one of the handfuls who dressed lousy, with flip-flops, shorts, and casual shirts. No one among the crowds would consider me as of any significant value to hold up one of the political and humanitarian posts that were just announced. Still, I was not interested in any of the posts. I did not see any potential benefits that might come out of the name SPLA/M beside catastrophic disaster in human life. I would have paid my way through if I were really interested in one of the political posts even though they do not necessarily carry any binding role. As it turned out later that night, Lol Gatkuoth is surely a man of little quality who in my best opinion often resorts to hotel diplomacy. After he left the church premises that night in a yellow hammer, his supporters, those who proclaim higher political stands among the crowd accommodated him in one of the Calgary’s four-star hotels. It was during that night skeptics like myself established some unfavorable opinions about Lol because, in a matter of one night, Lol went from being a statesman who swayed people to his side, a man whom that church audience went home mesmerizing his name, and bragged about his elegant courage and his diplomatic prerogative, to a well-established corrupt leader. He went and chose the leaders of the chapters, humanitarian and all other posts overnight in the hotel, which caused an uproar in the community. It was on that particular moment I realized the things said behind his back were probably true. He did not win me over, though, as I have over the years become a great judge of characters.
A person of peculiar habits, and one hell of lethal critics of power grabbers. I had a question I was going to ask. I did not get a chance to ask that question that night because of two things. First, it was going to demean the highly regarded diplomat in front of his anxious and beloved audience. Second, I was not going to get away with it. Some would have fist-fought me like the two prominent intellectuals who exchanged fists outside the church over some little misunderstanding, ignited by so much thirst for power and long-held grudges. So, the question Was going to ask would have been a lauded one. It would have been like this: I know Machar and the white army fought so hard to get you out of that shit-hole jail in Juba with your colleagues. Some even died on Juba-Bor highway of blood while trying to save your neck from the dictator. You were then released on the condition put forth by Riek Machar, backed by his loyal military men and the indomitable white army. Why did it take you more than three weeks after you were released to declare your support to the armed opposition? But I did not ask. I’m not surprised by Lol’s tendency to switch loyalty like a whore switching several men in one night.
So what, if he has gone to the dark side? There are plenty of us these days that can triumph him and can save the people’s movement if afforded the opportunity or by their own making become political-hawkish just like him.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Lol in Addis Ababa was known to have created some busts. He promoted himself as the new foreign secretary for the SPLM-IO, he looked down on his boss, Dr. Dhieu Mathok who is a man of great intellect, politically shrewdness with unquestionable loyalty to the cause. But hey, Lol thought he had better chances because of his little experience he often brags about and thought he could easily move up in the political ladder of the newly formed SPLM-IO. His only argument at the time was similar to the one I often overhear from those who frequent Calgary’s political cafes. That “the SPLM-IO’s military wing is overwhelmingly made up of Nuer fighters and therefore, Riek should appoint the Nuer political runarounds like him in all the higher positions. He was trying to push Dr. Mathok out of foreign affairs post using similar smearing tactics and negative rhetoric. In my opinion, he is a douchebag, a good for nothing who will in the end either return to the SPLM-IO or retire before his political career takes off. Juba, South Sudan Lol is in the same boat with Taban despite my lingering doubts that he might be forced to succumb by his necessity. He has been known to scout political offensive and “dancing to the tone of music” from the Dinka Council of Elders. I thought at first maybe he was just trying to even out, meaning, to come to the same playing field with the Dinka Council of Elders in order to save his and colleagues’ lives. But then, he looks as if he is a man of his own political making. And judging from his continued “marotha” or personal exhibition of seriousness, accompanied by his lack of withholding from working against the interest of his political constituents, the Nuer. It looks like Lol Gatkuoth is finally settling in the Dinka dynasty with four legs. I have confirmed my suspicion now that Taban makes him the Oil Minister because the two make a great team together. I would be careful if I were Lol Gatkuoth because of my background as a Gaajak Nuer. Gaajak Nuer, the first people to experience the all-out massacre by the SPLA army once they got rid of first South Sudanese who echoed the call for an independent south, Hon. Gai Tut and Kuot Atem. Gaajak Nuer have proven in generations that they cannot smoothly conduct business with any Dinka dynasty in the absence of genuine supports from the entire Nuer nation.