Opinion| By Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak
June 4, 2020 (Thessherald)–The premature death of minister John Luk Jok had shocked many South Sudanese people around the world, for the reason that, John has no known sickness people would deemed as the cause of his demise. His close relatives communicated that his death should be linked to present global pandemic as they said he was unwell for few days until when he told them he wanted to take a nap but never wake up.
John was born in 1952 in Akobo, in Lou-Nuer community at Jonglei State in Greater Upper Nile region of South Sudan. He was one among the number of children in the family of Jock Ruach and Nyamai Wang Bidit. He was preceded in death by his parents, Jock and Nyamai.
John Luke was one of the few privilege children in South Sudan who acquired formal education in a period of limited educational opportunity. As he left high school, he entered Khartoum University in 1974-77 where he earned his (LLB) degree before he was sent for further study abroad In England. In the period of 1982-4, he entered London School of Economics and earned (LLM) degree. As a student, John was also a political activist. He was appointed as the deputy spokesperson of the SPLM chapter in U.K, a position he held until when he decided to go to Africa and participated in the movement.
When John has joint the movement, he was appointed the first spokesperson of the SPLM/A and held the position until the split of the SPLM/A in 1991. He decided to break away with the splinter group, the Nasir faction. In Nasir Faction, John Luk maintained the same position. This author had an opportunity to viewed him for the first time in Nairobi at a feedback meeting after the two fighting factions of the SPLM/A had just came back from a conference held in Washington D.C on Sudan in the period of October 20-22, 1993. John was the one who chaired the meeting that widely attended by Many South Sudanese including Dr. Riek Machar, Dr. Lam Akol, Arok Thon Arok and many other commanders.
In 1995, John Luk defected from Riek Machar led movement and went back to the SPLM/A of John Garang. In many peace talks with Khartoum Government, John is always visible on the forefront during the Torit faction press briefings.
Then in 2001, John Luk fell off with Garang. Garang dismissed him and ordered him to go back to his father cattle barn. In his respond, John Luk reminded John Garang that, all South Sudanese people have equal footing in the SPLM/A, thus, no one could dismiss who, given the fact that, all movement’s cadres were sacrificing their blood for the freedom of all South Sudanese not to serve few masters.
When South Sudan was granted self-autonomy after the conclusion of comprehensive Peace Agreement and subsequently became independence in 2011, John Luk has served in many capacities.
Few among many are, John was the first to be appointed as the minister of Culture, Youth and Sport (2005—2008) and also served as Minister of Petroleum, Energy and Mining (2008—2010).
During 2010 national election, John Luk lost election in Akobo West. Despite the failure to win the seat, President Salva Kiir appointed him as the Minister of Justice after the elections. He held the post until July 23, 2013 when Salva dissolved the government. As the minister of Justice, John Luk help drafted South Sudan interim-Constitution that concentrated absolute powers in the hands of the President.
When political differences broke loose or following the outbreak of the civil in South Sudan in 2013, John Luk was detained along with ten other political detainees. They were accused as they were plotting a coup because of a press conference they held on December 6 that year.
On January 29, 2014, South Sudan government agreed to release some political detainees. The status of the political detainees had been a major obstacle during the peace negotiation, which delay the progress. Juba refused to release the political detainees but out of IGAD and international pressure, IGAD mediators’ persuasion resulted into Juba freeing only seven out of the eleven detainees.
The seven political detainees who were ally with Dr. Riek Machar before the outbreak of the crisis had granted an asylum to Kenya under the guardian of Uhuru Kenyatta. The detainees were allowed to leave South Sudan because some people expressed serious concerns about their safety if they could continue to stay in the country. Thus, Uhuru Kenyatta promised them a full asylum stay in his country and would bring them back to South Sudan, whenever there is a need for further investigation especially if they later found out they have participated in planning a coup.
While they arrived Kenya, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta made an announcement at the State house telling the world that Juba had released seven men despite mounting pressure from the international community as mentioned. He praised Salva Kiir that the release of some detainees, is a sign of goodwill that will pave the way to ease next rounds of the talks and open up humanitarian corridors to create an atmosphere for displaced citizens to return home and rebuild their lives. President Kenyatta further emphasized that IGAD partners are expressing their support to the IGAD led peace process and have given assurances of facilitating efforts geared toward peaceful South Sudan.
We need to move quickly enough to secure the gains IGAD had made so far and move to the next phase of the peace talks. The seven men who were released to President Kenyatta’s custody included Deng Allor Kuol, Geir Chuang Aluong, Cirino Hiteng Ofuho, Kosti Manibe Ngai, John Luk Jock, Madut Biar Yel and Chol Tong Mayay. Those who remained in the detention were Pagan Amum Okeich former Secretary General of the SPLM Party, Oyai Deng Ajak former National Security Minister, Majak D’Agoot, former Deputy Defense minister and Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth former Ambassador to the United States.
The release of the seven detainees came while South Sudan government was in the process of imposing treason charges against all thirteen (13) politicians for 2013 power struggle that Kiir allegedly termed as a coup attempt against his government. After the seven detainees were release, the four who remained in custody were order to face trial while three others including Dr. Riek Machar, Lado Gore and Taban Deng Gai will be try in absentia. During the press conference in the State House in Nairobi, former political prisoners expressed regret that the country had fell backward and undergoing a painful experience even after gaining an independence. Former minister of Justice John Luk Jock who became the spoke person for the group stated, “We don’t feel bitter, we only feel sad that the crisis in our country is happening just after our independence; we don’t see our president as our enemy.” Furthermore, Jock had indicated that as leaders of the young country, we are ashamed of the quarreling over issues, which we could have been resolved peacefully, referring to the political struggle within the SPLM ruling party that led to the violence.
Following the SPLM Arusha reunification from January 8-19, 2015, John Luk and many former detainees decided to go back to Juba, John was appointed again as a minister of Transport, but still holding their secluded bloc as separate entity until current Revitalized Peace Agreement conclusion. The peace granted FDs) to take 02 ministers and John Luk was nominated by his colleague to take one of the ministerial post.
This past march, when ministers were arranged, John Luk became the minister of East African Affairs. A position he hold until his untimely fallen. John Luk has survived by his wife Mary James Gatluak and a number of children. John Luk demise is a great lost to all South Sudanese, Nuer Community and Lou-Nuer in which he halt. May the Good Lord rest his soul in enteral life and comfort his immediate family and those he has touched in life.
The writer is a concerned South Sudanese citizen and a political analyst, who currently lives in the United States.
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