Des Moines, Iowa (NSV) – Friends, family and invited members of the South Sudanese Diaspora paid tribute to former Governor of the Central Bank of South Sudan Elijah Malok Aleng on Saturday at a memorial service held in Des Moines, Iowa. The late honorable Elijah Malok Aleng passed away on October 30th, 2014 at the hospital in Nairobi, Kenya after months of battling kidney failure. He was 77 years old.
An estimated 450 South Sudanese from all over the United States gathered Saturday evening at Zion Lutheran Church in Des Moines to honor the late South Sudanese political icon with prayer service and short speeches. Uncle Malokdit, as he is reverently called, was remembered as a true South Sudanese statesman and someone whose timeless wisdom helped in guiding the late Dr. John Garang de Mabior during the 21 long years of the liberation struggle for freedom and human dignity.
Present at the memorial was the invited guest of honor, former Secretary General of the SPLM, Mr. Pagan Amum, who spoke very movingly about the life and legacy of late Elijah Malok, calling him “a great man of integrity who spent his entire life in pursuit of a dream---a dream that we shall have a nation.”
The pursuit of that dream in fact prompted the late Elijah Malokdit to join the liberation struggle at a younger age. According to the impressive biography of him, which was read by Deng Akur Mabior, one of the family members, late Elijah Malokdit joined the Anyanya movement, in the 60s, right after his studies from the Kisangani University in Zaire, the present day Democratic Republic of Congo. But he was later redirected by mentors “who saw potential in him and persuaded him to go to school.”
The wisdom in that persuasion resulted in uncle Malokdit obtaining not one but two masters degrees in economics---one from Fribourg Catholic University in Switzerland and the second from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. His return upon finishing graduate studies placed him in key professional positions well before and during the 1983-2005 liberation struggle, including the last position he held as Governor of the Central Bank of South Sudan until 2011.
“Elijah Malok Aleng will go down in history as the founding father of our central bank,” declared Mr. Pagan Mum, former Secretary General of the SPLM during his remarks at the memorial.
Mr. Pagan said he was privileged to have worked with the late Elijah Malokdit and hastened to present the other side him, especially during their time in the bush, describing him as a humble and honest person; as a mentor and a disciplined former commander. Mr. Pagan described Malokdit as a very deliberative leader, a democrat with strong views who would go with the majority despite his personal views to the contrary. Mr. Pagan said that during the 31 years he had known the late Elijah Malokdit, he learned from him the importance of discipline and how to exercise daily in order to keep healthy.
Although the memorial was taking place half the world away from our ancestral homeland, the senseless war happening in South Sudan was not lost on everyone who attended. Admittedly, with South Sudan in shambles, people said the loss of a legendary figure like Elijah Malok created a huge void. His loss was and still is being felt by a nation, they said, especially in times of crises like these, where his wisdom would have helped. Mr. Pagan was quick to add that “if the late Elijah Malok was not unwell, the war of December 2013 might not have happened.” He said Malokdit could have intervened and maybe, just maybe, this whole debacle could have been averted. Mr. Pagan was not alone in surmising what would have happened had Malokdit not been battling the sickness which ultimately took his life, because he was known for his outspoken leadership---a knack for telling the truth all the time--a phenomenon best captured in a poetic tribute by the young South Sudanese poet and author, Kuir E Garang, whose poem, “Truth at All Cost,” was featured in the memorial brochure that day. “We’ll not cry tears now for you left a legacy,” read the opening words of the poem. “Your words and ideals were loud to fight a fallacy,” it added. At times, Malokdit’s fearlessness in speaking the truth did not sit well with some people. But he was not fazed by that as long as he believed that what he was saying was the right thing.
It was a typical winter day which was divided into two sessions: prayers and speeches. Of course the prayers came first, with the major highlights by reverend Lual Arok, whose message of forgiveness and reconciliation echoed the tragic reality of the war going on in South Sudan. “Our country needs forgiveness and reconciliation,” said Pastor Lual Arok, whose selected scripture was from the Book of Matthews 18 verse 21 to the last.
Pastor Lual Arok , in light of the savage killing happening in South Sudan, reminded the memorial attendees that South Sudan is at the crossroads because of the wicked ways of her people. He said South Sudanese are doing things antithetical to God’s plans and that the only way they might find real lasting peace is to turn to God and make Him their refuge and sanctuary. He ultimately called on all South Sudanese to make forgiveness and reconciliation their cause célèbre.
Those who spoke after him picked up on his message of forgiveness and reconciliation and urged the people of South Sudan and their leaders to reflect collectively as a nation. Dr. Henry, who spoke on behalf of Greater Equatoria region called for forgiveness and reconciliation in South Sudan. “We need to develop a new narrative as a country…a narrative of peace,” he eloquently said.
The memorial, organized by the Awulian Community in the U.S. under the leadership of Gabriel Garang Mapior and with the guidance from their community elder, CDR, and Ustaz Mabior Nhial Mabior, was the third following the first one which was organized by the family back in South Sudan, where the late Elijah Malok Aleng now lays in rest at his ancestral home in Lual Ajok-bil. The one in South Sudan was huge and was attended by many prominent South Sudanese, including the country’s president, Salva Kiir. The second memorial was organized by the relatives as well as South Sudanese living in Australia.
From the reading of his impressive biography down to the personal testimonies shared by friends and relatives, people remembered Uncle Elijah Malok for his great family and how family values came to shape, and inform his outlook on life as well as his views on politics. Born in 1937 to a Dinka family, the late Elijah Malok was one of 7 children of chief Aleng Mayen Aleng and Agoot Kur Yout. His father, Aleng Mayen Aleng, was one of the chiefs of Awulian clan in the present day Twic East County.
The late Elijah Malok was indeed remembered as a rare politician, who in the course of his long and arduous political career, found time to model his children and model them really well---instilling discipline and life’s lessons as well as community values in their great upbringing. Kwai Akec Kwai said “there was no doubt about uncle Malokdit’s children and their futures, because he taught them very well.” Uncle Malokdit is survived by his two wives and 13 children.
Kwai Akec Kwai, the son of the late chief/executive officer Rekeboam Akec Kwai, spoke very movingly about uncle Malokdit and the value of close knit families. He spoke at length about the great personal relationship and strong bond of friendship that those two legendary men had, which has existed between their families to this day. Akec Kwai and Malokdit were maternal cousins. Kwai narrated how his dad and Malokdit were best friends, adding that his dad encouraged Malokdit to go to school and get an education. It was also his dad who counseled against Malokdit joining the Anyanya movement because he had seen the potential in the future Lt. General and Central Bank chief. Mr. Kwai Akec also relayed greetings from mama Asunta, the wife of Malokdit, who is in Africa.
Agok Manyang Agok, who spoke on behalf of Bor County leadership in the U.S., extended his heart-felt condolences to the Awulian Community and thanked the community leadership for organizing the memorial service, calling it “a well-deserved recognition to Malokdit whose loss will be felt…for his wisdom in guiding Dr. John Garang.” Mr. Agok Manyang, during his metaphorical passing of the torch speech, acknowledged that while the “legacy of Malokdit will live on in us,” a greater challenge still remained: “Will this generation of leaders load the torch with new batteries or will they just pass an empty torch to the next generation?” he asked. “How will you be remembered,” Mr. Agok Manyang added.
Mabeny Kuot Deng, who represented Twic East County USA leadership, asked those in attendance as well as the entire South Sudanese populace whether people will do the same great things Elijah Malok did during his time with us. “Are we up to the task? He asked. “It is up us to follow his footsteps,” Mr. Mabeny later added.
Throughout history and during his lifetime, the late Elijah Malok demonstrated that to serve people and serve them well, one must be true to oneself; he was the embodiment of the the principle that says if a public servant wants to make a lasting impact, that person must know one’s people very well and to do that one must also forge long and lasting personal relationships. And without a doubt, those who spoke at the memorial service said Malokdit accomplished those things, both in his personal as well as in professional life. Uncle Malokdit knew a lot of South Sudanese. He made many friends during his selfless and heroic service in the revolutionary struggles.
“He was a bridge of two wars,” said Dr. Henry, referring to the Anyanya One and 1983-2005 Civil Wars in which Malokdit was a part of.
In the end, it was those virtuous traits: great character, the courage of conviction, integrity and an uncanny ability to tell the truth that permeated speech after speech as speakers took turns to remember and celebrate the life and legacy of Uncle Elijah Malok, hoping the principles and the legacy that he has left behind as a father, a patriarch of the movement, in the SRRA, and in establishing South Sudan’s Central Bank, including the historic introduction of our currency, might inspire the next generation of leaders that South Sudan sorely needs.