Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 4 June 2021

Remembering Abraham Chol Marial and William Ater Lual

Ngor Arol Garang

On Wednesday morning, I woke up to two nerve wrecking news. It was the passing of Abraham Chol Marial, a colleague and a longtime friend and William Ater Lual, a friend of my brother and someone from my home turf. Their passing not only shocked and shaken their loved ones, colleagues, friends, and many other people who knew them at personal levels. I am equally shocked and deeply saddened by these great losses. Abraham died in Nairobi, Kenya, and William passed on in Khartoum, Sudan, all under different circumstances, details of which are either embryonic or speculative. Abraham, whom I first met at Rumbek Civil hospital in 2005, where he was working as an auxiliary nurse having trained in Kenya for 9 months course, when colleagues and I heard a news about the presence of the Aweil West County Commissioner, Simon Wol Mawien, who was waiting arrangements to Nairobi, Kenya, for further medical care and attention, was to me, as he was to many others who may have met to know him, a trusted friend, and a comrade, who did several acts of kindness without considering favours of any kind in return. He was a true incarnation of honesty and humility. Eager to save the life of his patient, he struggled to identify the vein and set up a drip which he continued to monitor the flow and condition of the commissioner until when he could not perform any miracle to save life. He was one of the young and the best nurses the hospital had at the time. The administration was ever looking for him.

While Rumbek Civil hospital was the first spot at which we met, we later consolidated it at Ronco, a US based de-mining company in which many colleagues and I at the headquarters of the third (3rd) front of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) served. Owing to shortage of technical knowledge, the leadership decided to recruit technical staff to provide a support to operational activities. The news spread fast and Abraham with his colleague Paul Nyata heard about it and came to the headquarters for a query. It was confirmed and took them to Chol Martin, now a major general commanding a division. They were added to our list and asked to appear the next day for interview. They came the following day and together, we did the interview which we passed and accepted for training meant for selection of the best. Abraham and three of us performed to admiration of instructors during the training, resulting in the selection of four (4). He was assigned to team Bravo (B) and I was assigned to team Alpha (A). Paul Nyata and Daniel Ghai Bona were in the other teams. They did well, performed to expectation at the time. With all the teams trained and our knowledge of Lakes, we crisscrossed from Mvolo in the east to Pakam in the north and Cueibet in the west to Adior, Bunagok, Pagareu, Agany, Yirol center and all the other areas in the east.

Our working relations albeit in two separate teams picked up but became close at Rumbek Senior Secondary School at which we sat and went to University of Juba where I initially sought to study law before suspending owing to personal commitment at its branch in Khartoum between 2007 and 2009. When I suspended studies which I later resumed in Uganda with different courses, he (Abraham) did not approve the decision I took, causing us more than four hours on and off discussions exploring ways and strategies I should employ to address what prompted suspension while pursuing studies. We tried unsuccessfully. He continued and completed his studies before I did. When I resumed and completed undergraduate studies, he was elated and had to travel all the way from Rumbek to attend my graduation. Regrettably, his flight was delayed that he could not catch up with the time of the graduation, reaching after the occasion. On arrival, his phones slipped between fingers at Entebbe Airport. He could not get them albeit attempts and searches by airport workers and crews. Abraham had to sleep without meeting me. It was something which he and I could not come to term with it, causing us to feel it was an enamor, an evil’s work. When we later met the next day, it was as if the graduation ceremony was continuing. He had bought flowers and other gifts. His wife once told me he once told her upon seeing my call that he feels happy whenever we are together or talking. That I am good at praising and criticizing as well. Indeed, Abraham and I could sit to argue until when we are told or have realized it is late to go sleep. I remember a day in 2020 we forgot the wife had come from Nairobi and was in the room. I had to apologize to her for inconvenience our discussion into late night may have caused. She returned it with Wek ace laac room (meaning you do not meet regularly, and it is an opportunity to recollect your memories. She could not have said it any better. Until he moved to Juba this fast January 2021, it was always a challenge arranging how we should meet albeit social media chats and telephone conversations. There are more for which I can remember brother Abraham who was not only studious but intellectually analytical yet determined to inspire and follow.

He could not conceal a desire to invite me to attend his graduation at his cost when he completed his master’s degree course in India in 2019, resulting in the award of MBA majoring in supply chain management. We looked at my schedules and agreed I should not go. He was now preparing for another master’s degree in law and constitutional affairs. Such efforts and zeal with which he pursued a plan inspiringly makes him a distinct personality among peers yet showing he and I were not only intellectually, socially, and personally close in thinking but each other’s keeper. While I still have much more to say about Abraham, I would like to say in this brief eulogy that he was a true friend who, through his intellectual and social contributions, transcended the divides of tribal and regional association in favour of ideological association. He was an epitome of ideals that are rare in our paradoxically fragmenting country. May the precious soul of this brother rest in peace!
Flipping on William Ater Lual I could have met to know early, if it were not the effects of war which split people into groups which trekked to Ethiopia at the start of the second civil war in the Sudan, another of those who remained at home and that of those in government held areas and towns, until I met him at Akuem in 1998, though I used to see him in Malualkon, when he and others returned from Kakuma. It was in Akuem at my brother’s place where the opportunity presented itself to formally introduce and get to know ourselves. Smiling broadly, he introduced himself as the field supervisor working for Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA), now Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC), a relief wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/ Army (SPLM/A) at the time. He had just replaced his predecessor Dau Awaar at Akuem. My elder brother, Garang Arol Garang, was the field monitor, representing the military with him representing the civil administration. Their working relations were harmonious and cordial. It was at Akuem which I visited at the invitation of my brother to accompany his wife where I met and started knowing him and his siblings: Lual and Baak, later becoming friends as well. From Akuem William moved to the county headquarters where he became an executive secretary to commissioner, Ustaz Victor Akok Anei. My brother returned to his unit at the end of his assignment and was deployed at the headquarters of the local command, Pariak. I was assigned at Bakou Malou, a check point on the route to Warawar, a local peace market established to boost and bolster relations and economic activities between host community and nomadic communities from Sudan.

We would, once in Wanyjok, the administrative headquarters of Aweil East County, where he was now working in the office of the County Commissioner, meet, greet, chat and part ways respectfully. His brothers joined the relations and continue to relate. When the county commissioner was replaced, resulting in his replacement as well, and did not get another assignment except teaching in local primary schools and helping with coordination of a Canadian aid, it became an opportunity to remain at home until when he became a deputy governor when Aweil East County was upgraded and became a self-governing state, after the country was divided into 32 states before the decision was revoked and returned to 10 states. It is in this context he and I acquainted ourselves and members of our families. The relations later developed and strengthened in Kampala, where some of his family lives. In 2019, the issue of his health slipped out and was brought to my attention by his wife and continued to follow each time we run at each other online. Our last communication on May 28, 2021, did not indicate a serious diagnose when he told me of his presence in Khartoum, saying he was scheduled for operation. Our chat was short, and I wished him well only to be surprised by the news of his passing on Wednesday. His passing and that of brother Abraham have deprived the nation of strong minds whose knowledge, determination, experience, zeal, and contributions could have made a huge difference in one way or another. They have left a big gap not only in their families but to the country and it is in this context my family and I extend our sincere condolences to Aman, brother Abraham’s dear wife and Aluet, William’s dear wife.

The author is a South Sudanese journalist reachable at ngorgarang8@gmail.com