July 5, 2011 (JUBA) – The longest serving chief in South Sudan’s Nuer community has died just days before the region will formally declare independence on July 9.
Born in 1913, Paramount Chief Malual Wuon Kuoth died in Ganyliel town of Panyijiar County in Unity state on Saturday at the age of 98. He was appointed the permanent Paramount Chief of the area by the British colonial administration in 1945 and held the position for 66 years until he died on July 2, 2011.
Kuoth, who also acted as spiritual leader, was known for his peace making among the neighboring Nuer communities in Unity state and with their neighboring Dinka communities in Lakes and Warrap states. In recent years became paralysed and could not walk.
The Vice President of South Sudan, Riek Machar, who is also from the Nuer community flew to Unity state on Tuesday to attend his funeral in Panyijiar County.
Machar also took part in the funeral of Rev. John Gatluok, who died on Monday in Khartoum. The body of the senior pastor and former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of the Sudan, was flown to Unity state and laid to rest on Tuesday in his home county of Leer.
While consoling the mourners, Machar told them that the deceased had already witnessed the independence of the land even if they have not reached July 9.
He said independence of South Sudan was already achieved by the vote of the people of South Sudan in the self-determination’s referendum in January and that those who died after they had voted had already reached the day of freedom.
He urged the mourners to continue to prepare for the independence celebrations on Saturday, July 9.