OMAHA- Almost a year ago, the chairman of Bor County Community Electoral Commission, Mangok Mach Bol, announced Bor County election. The election of the new leadership was announced a year before term of the incumbent ended. It is a democratic tradition to declare one year as a period of campaign. It also gave candidates ample time to interact with voters. Besides this exciting announcement, the incumbent, Mabior advanced and asked members of Bor County to give him one more term to serve this prodigious community. And subsequent candidates' announced their candidacies: Akol Aguek Ngong launched a compelling theme known as "One Bor Campaign." Akol initiated grass roots organizationsreminiscent of the United States presidential elections. He embarked on state to state based campaigns, a political strategy which gave him access to more members. One Bor campaign established strong connections and enhance relationships with voters. Meanwhile, the unfamiliar candidate, Rev: Ayuen Agok Alith propelled his campaign on social network. Ayuen succeeded in his message of unity of Bor County members and bettering relationship with neighboring counties. Besides, his program of unity, Ayuen is married to articulate woman, Amer Mach Aleu, a woman whose members of Bor County would have loved to see run for Bor County Community USA Presidency. Ayuen seized rare opportunity and became competitive opponent in last four months of campaigns.
In addition to Bor County's election on May 24tth, 2015, Ngor Biar Dengaguek and Abeny Chinkok scheduled their marriage on the same weekend. Marriage receptions were conducted simultaneously on Friday, May 22, and Saturday, May 23, 2015. The wedding was scheduled at the St Andrew's Episcopal Church, 5720 Urbandale Ave Des Moines and wedding lunch atMarriot Banquet hall at 1250 NE 56th Des Moines Iowa. The marriage and elections lure communities of Jieng to Iowa. It also attracted hundreds of relatives and friends across the globe to Iowa. Relatives of bride and groom came from as far as Australia. For instance, Abeny Kucha Tiir came from Australia, Abeny kuol Tiir from Canada, and Professor, Mayom Kuoirot Dengaguek from Bor, South Sudan. These relatives of both bridge and groom wanted to see their daughter and son had special occasion and honorable marriage. They wanted to see the bride and groom had marriage occasion compatible with values of values. It was divine a reunion in marriage, and Bor Communities united in election. One can only struggle with finding words that would capture the historic significant of this election and reunion conference. Only pictures and videos would best capture the numbers of people who attended two events. The hall with capacity of 3,000 seats was filled by the sea of people. Therefore I can safely say that over 3,000 people flocked into Iowa, the building was filled by sea of people filled with excitement and enthusiasm.
Debate: The three Candidates Squared Off
Electoral Commission structured debate into five continuous segments, and these segments were organized into dire issues confronting Bor County. Hence, candidates were grilled on five topics or subjects matters that are consequential to members of Bor County Community in South Sudan and United States. On both fronts, candidates were questioned by the moderator on how they can improve INSECURITY, EDUCATION, HEALTH, DEVELOPMENT, and DISPLACED POPULATIONS and some questions were taken from audience. Candidates squared off and beneath are their summarized talking points and programs.
President-Elect: Akol Aguek Ngong
In the first segment of debate, Akol stated that he had appointed over 40 members in his campaign. He stressed that the proposed ideas that would develop and move forward Paan Bor were organized by over 40 well educated members. Akol anchored ONE BOR CAMPAING ON: "communication, seamless and unfettered Communication plan, internal organization of diaspora, Identifying and utilizing talents, and better collaboration with all the stakeholders." In his opening statement, he urged 40 members to stand up for audience to see them.
He added, that if elected, he would develop a "state of the art website", a website that would premier projects/programs, Payams, state leadership, and main office leaderships. He pledged that his office will conduct an extensive headcounts to know the number of members of Bor County that live in the United States. He suggested that it is vital to know the number of people living in the United States because the only vital resources of a community or locale are its people. Akol asserted that he would collaborate and work with members of Bor County in Canada, Australia and in African, and would ask them to pledge their contributions toward development.
As part of his debate strategy, Akol cornered Ayuen in series of investigative questions. Akol asked Ayuen, were where you when Mabior asked members to contribute money toward 2013-2014 disasters caused by war? He made it clear that he had raised over $950 and $400 on different occasions from his home state of Vermont to toward Bor Leadership effort under Mabior Achiek Chaw to rescue displaced persons back in South Sudan! "Were where you Ayuen?" Asked Akol! He suggested that it would be very hard to ask members to vote for you when you never participated in community's activities. He asserted that you have not or never attended a single conference organized by our community.
Akol cautioned members that peace comes from the position of strengths. He clarified by saying… if Bor County is developed and had vibrant economy, and we are able to protect ourselves, we can have meaningful peace with neighboring counties.
He concluded his talk by getting to the emotional feelings of Bor County members by invoking the names of Bor legends and fallen heroes. Akol emotionally appealed to voters by saying this community has over and over again sacrificed the lives of our prominent leaders and members for the greater good of all in South Sudan. It is a community that knows who can do what at what time. It is a community that chooses its leaders based on their ability to face the challenges of a given time. Akol paused and asked if this is the community where Vice President Abel Alier Kuai or Judge Hon. Martin Majier Gai were enthroned and allowed to shine and lead; if this is the same community where Gen. Ajak Yen Alier and Gen. Abraham Jongroor Dengalich recently sacrificed their lives, than it will elect me because this community sees the capability of its sons and daughters. Akol pleaded "Paan Bor, you know I can do this! You perfectly know I have the capacity to lead this community better than the other candidates. I know I am not righteous but I can do the work. I beg you to elect me as the next Bor County leader in the United States," Akol concluded his closing remarks.
The Incumbent: Mabior Achiek Chaw
Mabior took four minutes of his five minutes greeting members of Twic, Duk, Bhar El Ghazel, and most importantly praising members of Bor Community for their work they have done in the course of his term. He expressed it is vital to change leadership on time. He suggested that it is an achievement to change office on time. Mabior campaigns on the platform of constructing a Vocational Training School. He expressed that this will be center for training students to learn or study Carpentry, Masonry, welding, electric engineering and Business. Mabior painted Akol as elitist. He attempted in several occasions of debate to use Akol's education as his a strategy to win election.
Challenger: Rev. Michael Ayuen Agok Alith
Ayuen expressed that he would ensure "unity of Paan Bor." He assured members that he knows Murle dialect. He articulated that he would initiate a comprehensive dialogue between Dinka Bor and Murle. He suggested that he knows David Yau Yau well. They have worked before and they can work again to resolve issues of cattle rustling, insecurity and child abduction between. He also wants to resolve issues that are facing "single parents in the diaspora, especially in the United States." At the end of debate and election, Ayuen conceded to Akol. And at his conceding speech, his wife, Amer Mach Aleu acknowledged the miraculous event that occurred during voting process. This happened when members of Twic and Duk were asked to leave the hall till all members of Bor County voted. She discerned and told that audience "you see, it immediately rained outside." "Twic and Duk members are a blessing to us. They perfect our unity" Amer explained. They are important component of our community, and that is why it rained outside so they returned to the hall, she concluded.
Who is This Man: Bor County President Elect, Akol Aguek Ngong?
Birth place and life growing up: Akol was born in Malith Village of Gwalla Clan about 1 mile South of Kolnyang Payam in the 1970s. He grew up in Gwalla village in modern day Kolnyang Payam, Bor County, Jonglei State. Earlier in his young life, beyond cattle camps in Bor, Akol spent quite amount of times at cattle camps around Gemeza and Mongalla (East of Nile River) as well as around Jubabui, Buko and Tombek (West of River Nile) all areas in the modern day Terekeka (Mundari) County, Central Equatoria State. Akol also spent sometimes in the cattle camps around Kalthok, Minkaman (Guolyar) all the way to Bunagok in modern day, Awerial (Aliab) County, Lakes States. Akol developed co-existent and multicultural perspectives living with Mundari and Aliab people during his young life.
Marital status: Akol is married to Thiei Machar Dengdit of Pale, Anyidi Payam, Bor County, Jonglei State. They live in Burlington, Vermont, USA with their two kids: a son (Dengdit) and a daughter (Adut).
Education: Mr. Aguek holds a Masters' Degree in Government (diplomacy, international affairs and social policy focus) from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government; and another Masters' Degree in Business (management focus) from University of Vermont's School of Business Administration; and a Bachelors' Degree in Economics (finance) and Political Science (international affairs) from University of Vermont's College of Arts and Sciences. Akol got his elementary and high school education in Ethiopia and Kenya before resettling in the United States in the summer of 2001.
Professional Experience: Akol is an educator by profession with experience in enrollment management focusing on international education and undergraduate admissions. He is a former assistant director of admissions and transfer coordinator at the University of Vermont's undergraduate admissions office and is currently the International Student Services' Advisor and University of Vermont's Designated University Official to the US Federal Agencies on behalf of International Students. Akol loves working with international student and new American communities to expand their access to American college education. Akol was tapped as a teaching assistant for modern diplomacy course by former undersecretary of States, Nicholas Burns in 2013. And he has been selected for the prestigious Aspen Ideas Fellowship as 2014 Aspen Ideas Festival Fellow as one of the young and upcoming leaders under the age of 40.
Leadership Experience: Akol was appointed a Staff Council member at the University of Vermont. The staff council is the body charged with negotiating pay raises and benefit packages with the leading university administrators on behalf of over 1,000 staff members at the University. Akol spent a quite amount of time on the council in which he successfully negotiated pay raises and generous benefit packages for his fellow staff members.
Akol was also one of the founding members of the University of Vermont STAND Chapter; an organization that was campaigning to end genocide in Darfur, South Sudan and at other troubled places around the globe. In the summer of 2003, Akol negotiated free summer housing benefits for all Sudanese students attending the University of Vermont with the office of residential life; a benefit that was granted and subsequently offered to all Sudanese including those who were attending other Vermont's state colleges.
Akol was also the founding President of the Sudanese Community in Vermont Association and a founding member of the Sudanese education fund; both organizations were dedicated to improving the lives of Sudanese (and now South Sudanese) living in Vermont with social services and access to college education. During his leadership tenure, Akol led lobbied Chittenden County School District to allow all Lost Boys who passed high school age to attend high school in Vermont; an opportunity that turned out to be a huge success with increased enrollment in high schools and full progression to colleges in Vermont.
At the advent of the arrival of the Somali Bantus in Burlington, Vermont, Akol was tapped as a Refugee Advocate (without pay), by the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program (VRRP) to give testimony to the Burlington City Council urging the members to accept Somali Bantus to resettle in Burlington, Vermont. Akol was also recruited as a College Advisor (without pay) by the Association of Africans Living in Vermont (AALV) to advise new Americans on access to higher education in the United States.
Akol has traveled around the US to as far as Oregon sharing the story of the plights of South Sudanese during the 22 year brutal civil war between North and South Sudan and of new Americans in their adjustments to the realities of American life here in the United States.
Akol loves Bor Dinka traditional dance and over the past 2 years, he has composed over 30 traditional songs (some of which are now widely sung by East Coast wrestling team members). He is a founding member of East Coast wrestling team; a team on which he plays the role of information secretary since the organization founding up to this day. Akol has played some leadership roles with on and off temporary advisory and commission tasks supporting leaderships of Bor County and Greater Bor Community in the United States (Akol has no pending assignments with both organizations at this time).
Over the past several years, Akol has been engaged in South Sudanese public policy debates in which he contributed articles for public consumption as an opinion editorial columnist for the New Sudan Vision. More importantly, back at the refugee camp in Kenya at the time of his resettlement to the US in 2001, Akol was the vice chairman of Gwalla Community Youth in Group 17, Kakuma Refugee Camp. It was a role full of daunting tasks including organizing youths to peacefully engage in community and traditional festivities among others. Akol was briefly a teacher at Imatong Primary School; a position he relinquished upon his departure for United States of America.
During the recent crisis resulting in South Sudan Civil War, Akol has engaged the current Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, in person on the current South Sudan crisis including the destruction of Bor and Kolnyang Massacre in which over 30 people were killed and 11 children abducted. Akol has also reached out to Sarah Sewall, the current US Undersecretary of State for Human Rights, advocating for the accountabilities for those who have committed heinous crimes against humanity in Bor and other areas during this current civil war. Akol also engaged Nicholas Burns, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs (2005-2008), and Meghan O'Sullivan, Deputy National Security Advisor (2004-2008), David King, Chair of Bi-Partisan Program on Newly elected Members of Congress, on current crisis in South Sudan especially on the crimes committed in Bor in late 2013/Early 2014. As Harvard's professors, all five current or former US government officials have taught and mentored Akol as a student at Harvard University.
Akol also engaged Lise Grande, former UN Representative to South Sudan on UNMISS Chapter 6 &7 mandate on civilian protections, on then aborted UNMISS facilitated peace talk between Yau Yau's Cobra Rebels Group and Government of South Sudan, and on role of UNMISS during the current crisis in South Sudan.
What Can Politicians and Voters Learn in This Campaigns Organization? Here is the Analysis!
Even though candidates campaigned for a year, and community was consumed by politic, Bor County Community is not a political organization. Politic only comes at time of elections because presidency is contested. It is a significant time for members to elect a leader of their choice. It is significant that electoral Commission gave candidates one year period of campaign, which is a decent time for candidates to have ample interactions with voters before election.
In politic, at least in the West, and particularly in the United States, it is difficult to unseat the incumbent. Defeating the Mabior suggested otherwise, Bor county members wanted change. Bor County leadership contest of 2015 demonstrated paradigm of achieving and sustaining democracy. South Sudanese leaders of today and tomorrow can learn from this election. Perhaps, new generation is a transition from often ineffective leadership, rigid personalities and politics to a more effective political program that can move South Sudanese contemporary society forward. This pending episode became clear in this election. From the declaration of his candidacy, Akol presumed and validated political maturity of leadership. He initiated a riveting campaign strategy that would not only unseat the incumbent but also defeat prominent opponent.
So what necessitated Akol's huge victory? The best answer would be the team he put together. Akol organized a team of prolific individuals who were not afraid of criticizing and exposing their leader weakness. A team of over 40 members campaigned for period of nine months were able to identify mistakes, weaknesses and provided solid remedy them. Akol is Harvard University and University of Vermont Alumni with MPA and MBA but it will be a mistake to credit his victory to educational achievements, programs presented, wealth experience, strong community leadership Akol had from Vermont, and Bor Community and, whether individual, collective or both.
In fact, on the account of individual achievements, Akol's ground works, the team he put together and campaign he led in key battle ground states or swing states could be the best answer to his victory. Akol spent more times campaigning in Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Michigan than other two candidates. He spent more times in states were larger numbers of Bor County members are residing. He is a man of people.
For over nine months, voters were able to learn more about candidates. In a campaign period, candidates had a chance to crisscross key states, a state where large numbers of Bor County members are residing. In this rigorous trips, candidates spent extensive times on campaign trails to convince voters to vote them. At the end of their campaign, members flocked to Iowa State to decide 2015 Bor County Presidential election. Most voters came to Iowa decided of which candidate they would vote for, and only small number of about percentage 30 percent came undecided.
The debate started and candidates were grilled and questioned on unity, security, development, repatriations and many other projects. These debate segments exposed candidates' weakness and strengths. This became quite clear in the first around of debate. Mabior was dormant in the first round of debate and that hurt him. He, at the end unleashed barrage of negative attacks against Akol. Such escalation of attacks on reputable candidate hurt him. It is important to mention that Mabior and Ayuen were able to make their case and proposed programs to members but they both failed to connect the dots ….on how their programs would be funded or simply identifying source of funding. One hand Akol became more credible candidate. He articulated programs and enunciated sources of funding. Akol indicated that he would ask contributions from members before he would embarking on writings various kinds grants and requests money from American friends for development and reconstructions of Bor County. President elect, Akol Aguek Ngong articulated his programs, and his articulation showed good correlations with voters which better explained the outcome of election. Akol provided answers which indicated on how undecided voters make the last decision to vote for him. The way candidates answered questions, and personal presentation suggested whether candidate looked presidential. In short, questioning candidates and answers constituted the most satisfactory that measure skills of leadership and help voters to make more informed decision on whom they could vote for to lead a community. However, all candidates were able to articulate their programs. The President elect, Akol Aguek Ngong was rewarded by his grassroots organization. He toured the United States and made compelling arguments. He portrayed himself as an individual who has wealth of experiences.
In 2001 and 2002, Akol together with other Lost Boys in Vermont helped championed access to high school and that enabled lots of Lost Boys to eventually to attend college. He had served at various levels at Bor and GBC communities. Akol began to organize multi-day rides around the state to promote ONE BOR CAMPAIGN programs. He chronicled his campaign on state to state base with a heavy focus on social media as his news outlet.
His programs of peace with neighbors and a strong sense of community and, often, more conservative ideals of embracing Dinka values gave him edge. Akol loves dancing wearing traditional dance gowns (Agangrial or Thoh). His traditional dancing alone slowly becomes a colorful lobbying force, and a platform that enhances his social interactions with members of his community than other candidates. Although the outgoing president criticized his involvement in Dinka Bor cultural activities, Akol stood firm and sang a song of his father at his victorious session. He humbly confesses that his had decent relationship with Twi and then Bor, and it is in this context his father composed songs that turn to appreciate his relationship with Twi.
However, when examining campaigns, it's important to note that although these three candidates seem quite different, in substance they occupy a relatively restricted area within the universal political spectrum. Democracies with a system of proportional representation give expression to a wider range of political views. In this wide open field, candidates make their case to all potential voters. In contrast, the incumbent, Mabior Achiek Chaw attempted to brand himself as an individual who has experienced and had a better understanding of issues affecting Bor County community. Even with experience and community resources and privilege of having served community for 4 years, he suffered a nerve wrecking lost to election. This is because he even lost to unknown and unfamiliar candidate, Ayuen Agok.
Concurrently, the five Payams were equally present and it was shown by their diverse present on Election Day. This also means that numbers of people that voted were proportional to that of five Payams of Bor County. Even with this view, there was sentiment circulating that majority of members who voted in election came from Gok and then Athooch. Members cited wedding of Abeny and Biar as one reason that encouraged more members from Gok to attend the election or maybe two candidates were from Gok. And this could be another reason that attracts people to election. It is important to acknowledge that Gok had three Payams and Athooch had two. The fact that Gok had three Payams can explain why it seems Gok were majority in Election Day. With this political demography, some commentators before election thought Ayuen would be in advantageous position because Marriage would attract members of his Payam to election and this may be translated into his victory. Although Ayuen came out better than Mabior, this analogy was proven wrong them. But, to what extent is this representative of Payam electorate? I have spoken with member of Electoral, Chol Kuch (Chol Mang'aai) in an attempt to obtain Payam's Data. He had told me that the data of five Payam has not been released by electoral commission, and they have not shared data with no one. Chol told that they will release Payam's data once it is completed.
In conclusion, political sentiment which could effectively to capture the voting intentions and explains demographic would be voters voted for candidate with better qualities of leadership and skills warranted by the time. I have observed and combined my observation with sentiment analysis and evaluated, and I say with clarity and equivocal terms that our community is in a better political positions. I have explored the underlying content of Akol's victory and came out with this result. Bor County elected merited leader. The members elected leaders with better qualities of leadership, who has better organization and conducted a better campaign. Voters did not along Payams lines as commentators had suggested.
The Election Results
The electoral commission revealed to me that 609 people were registered to vote. 14 people who were registered did not vote in election, and 3 ballots were declared invalid. 282 people voted for Akol Aguek Ngong, 189 people voted for Rev: Ayuen Agok Alith and 122 people voted for Mabior Achiek Chaw. These results are interpreted in the above pie chart which illustrated that Akol got 47 percent, Ayuen, got 32 percent, Mabior got 22 percent and 0.005 percent were invalid.
Victory Speech by President of Bor County Community USA Akol Aguek Ngong
In his victory speech, Akol Aguek Ngong gave his Vice president, Ajok Atong Ajok a chance. Ajok recounted this emotional story that captures suffering and death of our people during the liberation struggle, and he did with this captivating message. Ajok gave one example of sad stories of family that war had not spared a single person. The whole family perished because of 21 year conflict. Ajok narrated that 1984 he was taken to "Abii Cattle Camp, Wun e Ruar." He went and met his friend Chol Dakbai. And amongst his closest friends was Janglou Mayen Janglou. They were only three in the family, his father, him and his sisters. Janglou was in Group #3 in Pinyudo.
Janglou voluntary joined Cdr Ayuen Mabior Garang as a soldier and left Kakuma to fight in South Sudan. Janglou had one sister. His sister was shot by a person at dancing field. Janglou fought in Upper Nile, Equatoria and Abyei and came back to Bor and married, and had two children. Janglou was killed in Manyingak by Murle. In 2012, his orphan wife went to live in Sudd areas, along the Nile to at least survive or support her family. Janglou's wife boat capsized in the River Nile and his wife died in the River.
Besides, this horrific story, Ajok said that my own mother ran 1991, and spent months in the bush because I was not in the United States but not now. In 2013 my mother did not run because I am in the United States. She lives in Nakuru. People whose relatives are suffering are people who had no people in the West or people whose relatives have no decent incomes. If we want to remove our orphans from the streets of South Sudan and if we want to develop Bor County, please put your hands in your pocket if you want this community to function. People who are now living in Guolyar or in other displaced camps need our help now.
In conclusion, Akol praised and congratulated Ateny Thiong Ajak for remarkable campaign he conducted. He also congratulated all the campaign managers for awesome job they have done. He stressed that time of politics is over. He said that I have neither denigrated nor turned down Beny Mabior Achiek during his tenure. I was with him during his time. Akol asked Mabior to work with him during his tenure for the next 4 years.
Bor County Community USA Electoral commission
The Validity and Fairness of the results was affirmed by the following Payam Observers
1) Jok Luol Ngong Kolnyang Payam
2) Dut Leek Deng Makuach Payam)
3) Mawut Kur-Aninjot Baaidit Payam
4) Mabil Majak Geu Anyidi Payam
5) Bol Kon Jalle Payam
Campaign Managers of the Candidates
1. Aguet Kuany Aguet of One Bor Campaign appointed by President-elect, Akol Aguek Ngong;
2. Gai Makor Akuendel of One More Chance Campaign appointed by former president Mabior Achiek Chau
3. Abraham Machol Mach of Unity Campaign appointedby former candidate, Rev. Ayuen Agok Alith.