Northern Liech State’s Minister of Youths and Sports and a former minister in the same position in Unity State are now defunct. Former president of the National Youths of South Sudan as well former chairperson of South Sudan’s Artists Association and a founder of Miss Malikia of South Sudan and Talent Success of South Sudan.
Asara: Who is Lam Tungwar?
Hon. Lam Tungwar: In simple terms – Lam is my home name. I don’t have a well-known Christian name, such as Peter. Lam was the name given to me by my parents. I’m from Bentiu.
Asara: You were a musician?
Hon. Lam Tungwar: I am a musician – music is part of me. It is a skill, a talent, and it is something that I’m passionate about. I’m famous among our people because of my expertise in music, and I used that as a platform for doing activist work. I did many performances as well. Also, I had the opportunity to visit foreign countries where I met many faces and inspiring individuals with whom I shared the history of our struggle I was among those who were tasked with the purpose of highlighting and informing the world about why South Sudan should be the country of South Sudan. Sudan should be the separate country of Sudan. That is a good reason why we should be divided. We were the voices of the people of South Sudan, representing them through music, talking, and meeting people who did not know us. We disseminated our cause.
Asara: What was it like to be a minister during the conflict?
Hon. Lam Tungwar: That was tough because the conflict had broken a lot of the social fabric, you know, from family to family. Like right now, for example, my elder brother and I, we are in different camps. Our politics do not match, and it is because of the conflict. It was in a time when tribal tendency had reached different heights as a result of the 2013 conflicts. The tribal trend comes out of everybody’s heart, and social media made it worse. When people see you working with the government, people branded me and themselves. Social media poisoned us. There were a lot of dirty things. Tribal hatred and so many other animosities had re-surfaced.
It is not suitable for our generation, especially our youth. I was appointed when there was an ongoing fight between the government of South Sudan and the rebels. All the warring parties were fighting to overtake the government. I didn’t support those who stood up against the system that was set-up by all of us. I’m one of those who didn’t like fighting, but I was battling most of those who defected and took sides with the rebels, although I did share ethnicity in terms of the tribe, not ideology.
There have been so many personal attacks on me, especially on social media. People talk about things that are not okay, and they try to discourage you and your cause, and what you are doing. I believe among the sixty-four tribes; there is no lesser tribe among them. All of them are better and equal. The Republic of South Sudan’s constitution was set by all of us and a president elected by all of us. So it wasn’t time for us to engage in another conflict. After all, we had just liberated ourselves from Sudan after decades of civil wars. We should be telling our people that “because of your wishes” and the idea that your tribe will back you up, shouldn’t be the pretext of starting a conflict.
It appointed at the time of the war had brought a lot of devastation to me at a personal level and my work. It is hard to make people understand when they grow up with a lot of hate in them. So it is a severe cause, to make some of them understand what others think about. It is about individuals who polarize for their interests, their gain and confuse others by saying that the conflict was a tribal war, which it is not a tribal war. It is just a function of disagreement.
Asara: Who was the most difficult person you’ve dealt with? How did you manage the situation?
Hon. Lam Tungwar: I was in the middle. I dealt with relevant issues, multiple relevant issues. Not one person, but chiefs, government, military, and militias. There are multi-groups whom I dealt with, but you see how tough it is to convince somebody full of hate, who is tribal in his own heart. His own heart, or character, believes others shouldn’t exist. That was the “most challenging part,” but we have to make sure that we make them understand that the cause is there. It is not a common thing. It is not about you, me, or about not hating and killing children, burning houses; these are not things we want to encourage in South Sudan. South Sudan has come a long way. We have had twenty-one years of war.
Asara: Can you name someone who had a significant impact on you as a leader?
Hon. Lam Tungwar: Yes. I have multiple people who have had an effect on me, and they have that impact because of the substance they carry with them, and that has changed my life. One of those people is my father. My father is a very excellent man. He has been chief since 1936 and up to now. He is an 87-year-old paramount chief and still going strong. He knows the government from day one, since the independence of Sudan, colonial time, and until the liberation by the SPLA/M of 1983. He is aware of everything. He knows very well what the government looks like and what it does. My father is my inspiration.
Another person is Dr. John Garang, the founder of the SPLA. He had some different ideas, but he understood the movement, understood the South Sudanese. John understood every tribe in South Sudan. He had learned from each of us as an educated man, which is one of the things that inspired me the most about Dr. John Garang. When he was in Kapoeta with lower the villagers, Garang would lower himself. He would be like them. If he went to another area, he would go into the rural areas and meet the average person, discuss things at their level, and not at his level. He was a person who understood a lot about our people. A good example was when he appointed governors; he made sure that if you were from Nuer, he would send you to Kapoeta. If you were a Dinka, you might be sent somewhere else. If it had been John Garang continuing to lead us, the system of governors could have been different. He believed anyone could help manage somewhere. You don’t have to be from Jonglei to manage Jonglei or from Kuacjok, Wau, or elsewhere. He was the guy who had a lot for the unity of South Sudan.
Asara: Tell us about your music career?
Hon. Lam Tungwar: I believe you and Emmanuel Jal were in one band sometime back in Kenya? Hon: Lam Tungwar: Yes, He was my guy. We were in a group.
Asara: How did you link up with Emmanuel Jal?
Hon. Lam Tungwar: Emmanuel, me, and another guy called Matthew were in a band together. The three of us started out in Kenya. We were branded lost boys of Sudan. We were the Red Army, and the Red Army was scattered over many areas. Some of us were in Pinyudio, Itang, and Duma, Plataka, Narus, and, later on, Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, but we were the people of Pinyudo and others were from Duma. Most of the Red Army were brought to Kukama. So Jal and I met first in Kukama, and later on, we met in school in Nairobi. He and I are relatives. His father and my father are from Nhiladau in the former Unity State in the Upper Nile region. Our fathers had been close friends for a long time, even during the liberation struggle, and they knew each other. So when we came together, we had the same ideas for writing, like writing poems. Jal, of course, is the guy who loves to sing. I like writing drama, staging things, acting and all that. We found out that we had some things in common that we could do.
We talked about the history of the lost boys, the Red Army, and we went ahead and wrote about it. I think that was where the ideas came from. Someone like Matthew was with us as a part of the band, and he wasn’t a child-soldier like us. But he came to love the story of the child-soldier and the lost boys. He sees himself in the category of a young man who, from thin and sticks, survived in the Jungle and arrived safely. With that, our music is conscious, although it has changed over time. I don’t know how Jal is doing now. But the music then was about peace, unity, and about South Sudanese who should have the right to live and shouldn’t be chased out of their territories, shouldn’t be killed. The South Sudanese need opportunities for everything – health, education, and the right to live their lives. Our music was very much about social issues, the practical social issues we face. We were the people who were boosting the morale behind the Sudan People Liberation Army/Movement, who were fighting on the frontline. The SPLA was fighting for the right causes, good ideas, and the safety of our people. Jal and I were very much there in that environment.
Asara: Tell me about how you met LL Cool J?
Hon. Lam Tungwar: Well, I met LL Cool J, TI, Steven Spielberg, and several other inspiring folks through the U.S. State Department. Especially LLCool J, I met him in Los Angeles. We talked about the need to support Africa and South Sudan in particular. He said to me, “Lam, I have this massive heart for humanity, and the only problem is – how do I get to help you guys, and how do I reach you? What can I do?” To my surprise, this is the guy who had learned about us even before we met him. I think his public relations team had explained much about us to him.
So I asked him if he could come to South Sudan? He told me, “Lam, I wouldn’t be able to go to South Sudan. I can only come to South Africa or Europe, which are the places where you can get more crowds to attend concerts. You can raise enough money for the suffering children in South Sudan.” That was the first thing we touched upon. We talked a lot about humanity, and he talked a lot about how he needs to help humankind in whatever capacity he can. He dedicated two percent of his music career to people around the world who are vulnerable. This connection with him was through the U.S. State Department, and that was how I met Mr. LLCool J. It was a pleasure to meet him, and up to today, we are still in contact, but due to conflict, everything fell apart. Otherwise, whatever we discussed could have had yielded tangible results. Currently, LL Cool J and I are still communicating. He sometimes checks on me, asks about the situation and how things are coming along because he keeps hearing about the continuation of the conflict in the country.
Asara: How did you meet Mandela in Washington?
Hon. Lam Tungwar: Yes, through Young African Leadership. I was there for two events, which were in Washington, D.C. I went for young African leaders, and I did civic education and leadership through various universities in the USA. My education was about how US politics evolved. Two hundred plus years and the US had come a long way, and how there are still challenges right now as compared to South Sudan, which is just four years old from its independence.
Asara: Which country in this world has two armies? Who are those guys with arms?
Hon. Lam Tungwar: It is difficult, but this revitalized accord is a completely united factor where Dr. Riek Machar will come and serve under the leadership of TGNU just like anyone, and that will be the same for the military generals. Those generals will serve in the Army under the guidance of President Salva Kiir Mayardit.
Everybody in their quarter will have to follow one order in one system. This revitalizes, and also stimulates a lot. Now it is time for the South Sudanese to be done with rebellion, especially running out and coming back. That one is not making sense. So far, they are tired, and it should be time to do politics instead of war.
Salva Kiir Mayardit spearheaded this revitalized peace, and he is working hard to make sure it works out well. He is monitoring it day and night, and I believe it will work because our people are tired of war, and they know very well there should be no reason to continue to fight each other. Innocent people suffered tremendously, and there is no reason to subject people to such heinous pain in the first place.
Interview by Asara Bullen – Guest Reporter
Asara Bullen grew up in Eldoret, Kenya (Where she felt she didn’t quite fit in) and graduated from Kenya Methodist University. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. ‘I had always felt like I could make a great lawyer because I don’t lose in an argument most of the time, and at the same time, I saw myself as a great diplomat that woman with a beautiful white-collar job sure of herself. But Journalism stole my heart, I love adrenaline and most of all I love to be the voice of that one woman hidden, this isn’t the only reason I took this career though, I want to be a world’s renowned journalist one day’.
Asara’s world is diverse from a journalist to a model. She is the founder and C.E.O of Black Amira (black Princess) a Fashion line invented on 22nd of November 2016 inspired by African prints and isn’t shy to get inspired from the west. She was also crowned as Miss STA 2016(South Theatre Academy) a youth organization that looks out to nurture talents in East Africa.
She has taken part in Kenyan’s most prestigious runways (Kenya’s Fashion Bloggers Runway Show) She also took part in Miss World South Sudan 2017 ‘I have so many wild dreams and among them was to get Miss World Crown not just MWSS. However, my height let me down, that’s spilt milk though I still see myself wearing Miss Earth Sash’.
Currently, she is based in Juba, working with Target Media Group.