By Manyang Mayom
April 17, 2010 (RUMBEK) – Daniel Awet Akot says that eight of his dreams have come true in his lifetime, some of them good and some bad. He is the ex-governor of Lakes state and a member of the high Political Bureau of South Sudan’s ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.
Awet is more than 75 years old, a man with military skill which he used in battle as Bahr-El-Ghazal zonal commander during the struggle against the Khartoum government from 1982 until a 2003 ceasefire put a footbreak on the fighting ahead of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. He ended the war with the rank of lieutenant general.
Speaking in his hometown Cueibet County, located at western part of Rumbek, the state capital, Awet expressed his views under a palm-tree while sharing a soft drink.
Awet Akot said that he had eight dreams which became true in his lifetime and he will not forget those eight dreams.
He recalled the first dream: “First it started when I married my wife, and I have a first child and then with the second child at about nine months I got a dream as if that child was dyeing, and I sat with three doctors and at midnight that child died; it was in 1976.”
Other dreams were also about illness. “I dreamed that my child died of diarrhea and it happened that my child did die from diarrhea. I dreamed also that a child had a bulky head and that child died and that dream happened. I dreamed that as I was driving a car and I knocked down my father resulting in making him blind and in fact that dream happened; in the morning I received a phone call that ‘your father has got an eye problem.’”
“My role in the army: I dreamed that I captured Rumbek and that dream became fact – I also dreamed to have defeated murahileen militias and that dream came as truth whereby I made peace with murahileen without the Khartoum government. I dreamed that over 150 bulls were given to me with the aim of opening the Abyei road and that dream happened and I managed to open Abyei road without the Khartoum government.”
“I dreamed that Torit was hit by SPLA artillery and during the night, late Dr. John Garang de Mabior phoned me and told me ‘my brother Daniel Awet, we are going to capture Torit tomorrow’ and I replied to him that I had dreamed that 8 of your cars were captured by the enemy — and that dream happened on the morning when Torit was attacked by SPLA soldiers and eight cars belong to SPLA were capture by the enemy.”
“I dreamed of staying under a tree — a sound came to me and told me, Daniel Awet, please don’t sit under the tree tomorrow, if you attempt to sit under a tree you will be bombed by airplane; in this dream I decided to avoid sitting under a tree and in the morning an enemy plane bombed the zone and many people who sat under a tree were killed by that plane.”
ROAD TO BELIEF IN CHRISTIANITY
“I was sleeping at night and I dreamed someone was coming to me and calling me ‘Daniel, Daniel, Daniel,’ and when I woke up I did not see anybody around me. I decide again to sleep and the same message repeat itself to me. I asked myself ‘what is happening to me, who is Daniel?’ We do have a bishop whose name was Daniel and I thought maybe he was the one calling me. So in this process, I went and met the bishop and I told him the dream – the bishop told me that ‘you are a chosen man by God’ and he advised me to take the name of Daniel alive and not dead Daniel name.
“I decide to ignore that dream and again the same dream repeat itself other nights telling me ‘Daniel, Daniel, you will see the year 2000’ – then I woke up and in the morning I rushed to church and I was baptized with the name of Daniel and that is why now my name is Daniel,” he said.
The former governor affirmed that his close friend Dr. John Garang, who served with him during the bush life, was a good Christian man but one who did not go to church daily. “Garang is a good man who kept all bible chapters in his mind – I did not see late Dr. John Garang de Mabior going to church on a daily basis,” said Daniel Awet.
“In my term as Lakes state governor, over one hundred and twenty (120) churches are already built in Rumbek under my administration through the goodwill of Samaritan’s Purse organization,” he noted.
Despite professing to be a devoted Christian, Governor Awet has also shown belief in traditional religious practices. As a commander of SPLA forces in Bahr el Ghazal – and perhaps later as well — he consulted with traditional spiritual leaders known in Dinka as ’Bany-Biith’ or the Masters of Fishing Spears, for protection, decision-making and mere luck in whatever he was doing.
ROLE IN 2010 ELECTION
Daniel Awet Akot contested for Cueibet constituency number one during the recently completed polling. He also serves at present as Lakes state SPLM chairperson and as a member of the SPLM Political Bureau, which is the powerful decision-making body of the movement. He governed Lakes state from 5/9/2007 until 2010 when he was replaced by caretaker governor Telar Ring Deng.
If he wins, he says, he will give services to people to improve their lives. But he cautioned, “Our people should noted that (Rome was not built in one day).” If he does not win, he will remain calm and concede to his opponent, he said.
Awet commented that the election process went normally and smoothly in ten stations that he saw. Asked how he sees the atmosphere between SPLM and other parties, he replied, “If SPLM loses the governorship position in this election in Lakes state, what do you think could happen in this state? I am sure SPLM will not lose in the governorship position because people would suffer without SPLM and I have confidence that SPLM will win in Lakes state generally. People know what SPLM is to their life.”
Asked about lack of civic education for voters which reportedly led many in the community to cast their vote incorrectly, he answered “wrong ticking is a simple thing and that cannot be a big mistake that can bring everything down.”
WHAT MAKES YOU POPULAR?
Over one thousand and twenty children were named for Daniel Awet Akot during the war period, commented the former general. He was pointing out that it was his fame during the war period that makes him popular. One hundred thirty thousand schools were built, he added, and his area was connected to toch (grass land), a development that people need.
In 1985, Daniel Awet was leader of Tuek-Tuek and Shark battalions which led an intensive war against the Khartoum government. These two battalions were stationed in Bahr el Ghazal region where Daniel Awet was chosen as a zonal commander by SPLA leader John Garang.
Speaking about his term as governor he said: “Insecurity was imposed on me… cattle raids are most common because people are proud, if someone beats another, each needs to revenge.”
UNITY OR SEPARATION?
Daniel Awet Akot has stated that two rivers, the White Nile and Blue Nile, meet in Khartoum but he himself will not meet with Khartoum.
He declined to specifically detail more much about separation or unity of the country but he commented: “My happier moment is to see that my people are free and happy from the Khartoum government regime – I want all our freedom fighters to feel that their objective of fighting are met by SPLM/A. The independence of Southern Sudan is the will of freedom fighters. South Sudan will be rich and will be like Switzerland. The supporters of SPLM/A should be strict on what we need. The vision of SPLM is a free country without disturbance.”
“I think the CPA is very obvious on this subject of Sudan’s separation or unity, what we are saying is that the CPA is signalling clearly to us whether peace was made attractive or not so that Sudan could remain a unified country. In four years we have spent with NCP, they did not fulfil the common expectation of our people. The decision of unity or separation will be made though the outcome of the referendum in 2011.”
The general and former governor also commented that the decision to withdraw candidate Yasir Saeed Arman from the presidential race at a third meeting of the Political Bureau held in Juba was decided in his absence. “I will go and find out what fact led them to decide such a decision,” he said.