“SO IF NYALONG WERE MY DAUGHTER TODAY…”

By Chol Aweer

My issue with Nyalong’s marriage is different from everybody else’s raised concern so far. My issue is that, the leading suitors for Nyalong as determined by their wealth and personal profile were men who already had at least 5-8 wives and a long queue of kids, which is normally typical of South Sudanese generals, politicians and their business cronies. When South Sudanese generals, politicians and their business cronies acquire more wealth, all they think about is marrying a 7th, 8th or 9th wife, to paraphrase veteran South Sudanese journalist Nhial Bol Akeen.

Granted, polygamy is rooted in our culture and is not necessarily a bad thing. More wives, children and cattle always signalled wealth and were a source of prestige. Some of us were born from the family line of the 2nd or 3rd wife and wouldn’t be here today without polygamy but times have changed. Traditionally we had a cattle economy and polygamy worked with our agro-pastoralist lifestyle where not much was required from married couple than to ensure food was on the table for their kids. But today’s economy is money-based and we are part of a larger, more competitive and more open world where children are supposed to be provided for from when they are young, sent to school, their health insured among other needs. But what our today polygamous generals, politicians and their business counterparts do is marry and dump the wife somewhere with kids while only sending her occasional money for food and nothing else. This lifestyle isn’t preparing citizens that will be competent in our today’s world of dwindling resources and cut-throat competition for the scarce resources. Also children need their father to be present in their everyday life to have that father figure in their upbringing.

So if Nyalong were my daughter today and these suitors came to me, if there was a suitor that was unmarried or has only one wife and is young, even if he had the least amount of cattle and dowry money on offer but is organized with his life and looks ambitious, I would have married off my daughter to him and reject those of Kok Alat and Mayom Riak just to send a message to them and everybody looking to marry their 7th, 8th and 9th wife. These people that marry annually need to go back and carter for their wives and children at home before they can marry yet another wife. And, by evway, do folks observe the mess that results in such super polygamous families in the event that the husband dies? (God forbid!) As a community and a people, we need to start learning lessons from our bad experiences in today’s life instead of continuing to live backward just because a practice worked 100 years ago. We need to learn to adapt continuously to changing times.

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