By Steve Paterno
April 7, 2007 — In the old days of biblical period of those of Joseph the son of Jacob, having dreams used to make sense as they will usually be translated into real life events, but not in our time when the connection between divinity and the men is obsolete. Today people dream as much often as possible and at times forget what they dream about. In my case, last night, I had a dream almost similar to a real life event that happened more than a decade ago. The dream is about an attack in Lobira village by the SPLA forces in the 1990s.
Lobira is a village of the Otuho people on the furthest east of all the Otuho villages bordering the Didinga and Buya tribes in the Eastern Equatoria state of the Sudan. The village lies only few miles from the main Torit-Kopoeta road. Like all the Otuho villages, it suffered the casulty of the Khartoum government destructive war as the village was completely burnt down in the 1980s. As a result, half of the village people found refuge on the top of the mountain while half lived strategically on the foot of the mountain.
Interestingly, Lobira village happens to be the village of my mother but being from a parternal culture like most cultures, I cannot claim the village to be my own even though growing up, I always had interest to visit the village. I was told that my parents visited the village with me as I was a toddler. Trying to reminiscent that visit, I failed every aspect of it, a disadvantage of being a toddler that was. However, my time came one day in the early 1990s. It was a tragic moment but it helped me visit the village of my mother. It was the death of Kizito Oduho the son of a South Sudanese veteran politician, Joseph Oduho. Kizito Oduho was an SPLA/M officer, a popular one. He was a joyous fellow with a healthy looking appearance that no one will suspect him of being sick leave alone dying of sickness. Unfortunately, he is alleged to have died of sickness.
Upon Kizito’s death, a funeral was convened in Lobira village. His father, Joseph Oduho who was in SPLA detention camp was released from detention to attend the funeral. On arriving to Lobira, Joseph Oduho defied the notion of security that the villagers lived by. He requested that he lived on the old deserted village by himself, which make him a vulnerable security target. The villagers honored his request. The four sections of the villages erected four hut house to accomodate Joseph Otuho in the old deserted and vulnerable village. Now, the village has a new name, "Yosefo’s village", since Joseph Oduho is the only one solely leaving in that village.
In my part, a found a truck belonging to the Dioceses of Torit bound to the Lobira village while I was in Torit. I couldn’t hesitate but hopped on the truck. The truck was full of loads donated by the Dioceses of Torit. The Loads were intended for the funeral. There was also some village people on the truck. On the way, the truck was bouncing so hard that at times it appeared as if it was going to overturn due to the potholes that filled the road throughout. Despite the rough journey, the truck managed to reach Lobira village. I was fascinated to at long last reach the village that I was so desparate in seeing.
As a kid, I thought it was not necessary for me to attend the funeral rituals like the grown ups do. I wanted to go village-wild, but I was restricted by a language bearer. I could hardly speak the language at the time. So, Yosefo’s village was saved for me then as there were different people with different background who speak Arabic and I could easily relate to them. I was also drawn into Oduho’s village because of the dignitaries who were present there. I saw almost every person on the SPLA/M who’s who list I wanted to see, but Dr. John Garang.
There was Cdr. William Nyoun in the audience, when he walked in, it is hard to identify him among his bodyguards because him and most of his bodyguards are all look alike. As a little fellow, I had advantage by squeezing closer to him without drawing any suspicion from his angry looking bodyguards. Also there was James Wani Iga, even though he did not look impressive militarily I was interested in the cane that he was holding because one of the soldiers told me that the cane can actually be converted into a seat. The soldier said when ever James Iga is tired he will convert the cane into a seat and sit on it. That was not the first time I heard a mysterious story about leaders and their canes. Dr. John Garang was also rumored to have been carrying one such mysterious canes but his was shaped in a hand-like with five fingers on it for some charms I guess. The rumor was that by sucking on the fingers on the cane, Dr. Garang could sense danger. Anyway, I was following James Iga around to see whether he was going to convert his cane into a seat, but unfornately he did not do it, and I gave up following him. And of course, there was Cdr. Isaac Obuto Mamur in the audience. This is the guy wherever he is, his presence is always felt. Typical of Cdr. Mamur, he was making fun of Emmanuel Oduho, Kizito’s older brother by calling him coward and all sort of names. I was like, "oh, the guy is punked" and indeed, he was punked by Cdr. Mamur. One of Cdr. Mamur’s bodyguard later told me that Mamur teased Emmanuel to the point that Emmanuel was made to shot targets on the mountain range with AK-47.
Anyway, the funeral procession and ritual ended, and those dignitaries and others who came for the funeral melted away on their own respective places. There was just Joseph Otuho and his family plus the villagers whom I am caught in the middle of. I divised a plan for myself. At night, I will go up the mountain to be with my relatives and during the day I will go down the mountain to be near Joseph Oduho who was mourning the lose of a great son. At the time as young as I was, I did not know what mourning was, but I could see agony in Joseph Oduho’s face. At one point, I heard him telling some of his visitors that he never saw his son Kizito since he went to SPLA/M. There, the tears dripped off the eyes of the old man and the same happened to me without me even noticing what was happening. The person of his age and who was also educated that provided him with the company was later shot and killed in apparant assasination attempt targated against Oduho. So, in most case, Oduho was by himself living on smoking tobacco. Myself and one of his sons will help on rolling him as much tobacco as he can smoke. Anyway, it is regretable for me that I did not learn much from him by not trying to be inquisitive but I was rather observance. Perhaps it was the age, my age, which contributed to this.
The peanut season ended meaning I could not sustain life in the village anymore because my main food was raw fresh peanut taken out of the ground. I could literally eat raw fresh peanut without have to eat anything else, may be drink water or milk. My mother told me it could be a curse from one of my grandfathers who was annoyed that my father had a huge farm of peanut but at the time I was too young to enjoy eating the peanut, therefore, will have to substitute for it when I am grown up, the predicament that I am in now. I hope the curse should be reversed. It was not just the end of the peanut season, the 1992 SPLA/M split came were Joseph Oduho have to leave the village too. What happened in that village in the following year was a dispicable act.
The SPLA soldiers majority of whom were from Dinka tribe who were based in Kidiopo made a silly mistake and a dispicable act to attack Lobira village. This is one of the instants where SPLA policy went amuck by trying to attack villages as oppose to the real enemy, the Khartoum soldiers. The SPLA plan to wipe the village and raid their cattle and belonging was somewhat brilliant. First, there was no leak of an imminent attack on the village. The villagers were caught off guard, and moreover at night. The section of the village on the foot of the mountain was actually celebrating by beating loud drums. When the SPLA soldiers start firing, the people were actually pumped up thinking that it was the other section of the village from the mountain who are the one joining the celebration, but when the SPLA started firing the artilleries, the poeple began to scream "jalaba!, jalaba!, jalaba!..." thinking that the Khartoum army might have invaded the village as it was not the first time they have done so.
On the mountain section of the village, the SPLA soldiers managed to make incursion in the village. Some of them started dancing Dinka dance in the field where the villagers usually dance, and yet some of them started to lead the cattle out of their stables.
During the incursion, the SPLA met no resistance and thought the battle was over, however, it was only the begining because after puting away children and women from harms way, the Monyie-Miji, which can roughly be translated as the people who take care of the village moblized without the help of radio, cell phone, or any electronic device to counter the incursion of the SPLA. The response was overwhleming, resulting into a total destruction of the SPLA soldiers. Those few who managed to reach their base in Kidiopo were either wounded or where just lucky to be alive but the rest of them were killed. Those from the mountain were driven down and before they can even think of running, they were flanked by the Monyie-Miji of a nearby village of Oguliere who responded on hearing the fire fight. Now, one wonders who ordered the SPLA soldiers to attack a village and for what purpose? And what lesson may that person learn?
In a similar occurance, it happened in my dream last night that the SPLA soldiers majority of whom are Dinkas decided to attack Lobira village, the village that they actually did attacked more than a decade ago. The Monyie-Miji were nowhere to be seen during the time of the attack. The dream placed me right in the middle of the village. That I have managed to moblize some kids who were hunting rats to lay ambush in a busy area by the hill side. I was the only one with a riffle, which seem to be mulfunction as it could not hold the bullets. The rest of the kids were armed with arrows and bows. In the ambush, we disbursed the enemy. They ran on the top of the mountain throwing behind a lot of guns. I myself, managed to have four guns including the best one. As we laid the ambush, the Monyie-Miji appeared from a wrong direction, a direction where we chased the SPLA soldiers. Because we were deployed deep on the foot of the mountain we cannot identify the Monyie-Miji well. So, I made a few step backward and fire with my powered weapon, and I could hear the Monyie-Miji shouting in a langauge as my rounds making impact on them. There I ordered them to hike down the mountain and I also told them that we managed to defeat the enemy. The Monyie-Miji congratualated me for defeating the enemy, and especially for not letting them burn the village. However, on my part, I was not satisfy, because I wanted to pursue the enemy to the place they came from, but the kids that I have led sucessfully warned me that if we pursue them, we may provoke them even further.
Before, I could enjoy the guns I captured, I woke from my dream feeling victorious. I checked my watch it was five thirty six AM. I knew I could not fell asleep again, I got up and I begin to look for my copy of the book the "Art of War" by Sun Tzu thinking it will give me some insight into war, but unfortunately I cannot get the copy of the book. So, I have to share my dreams with those who can read or want to read.
* Steve Paterno is a Sudanese residing in the U.S.A., and he can be reached at email@example.com