Celebrating the life of pioneer leader


ON Sunday the 28th August the people of Simbu celebrated the 50th anniversary of the death of Kondom Agaundo. The commemoration ceremony began at Daulo Pass where their great leader died in a car accident. The main celebration was held four days later on Thursday, at Wandi near Kundiawa in Simbu. The traditional celebration at Daulo Pass was significant for the people as 28th August was the day in 1965 when Kondom was killed on that very mountain.
The Simbu contingent which included the provincial administrator, officers from the Governor’s office, members of the organizing committee and Kondom’s family members from the Narku tribe
travelled to Daulo in eight truckloads. It had been prearranged so the Daulo,(Eastern Highlands) people were waiting all clad in mud as a sign of mourning and respect for the late leader. Lasi, a leader of the Daulo people who also owned the land where the crash site occurred the Simbu team.
The events of the day were; speeches by leaders, exchanges of pigs and garden foods, stories of the life of the great man and actual stories of people on site during the crash.
Provincial Administrator, Joe Kunda Naur, announced the erecting of a permanent monument and other infrastructures on the site of the car crash. He stressed the importance of maintaining friendship through the bondage Kondom had created. He said Kondom was not only a leader of Simbu and EHP people but was actually the first elected leader for the Central Highlands to the 2nd Legislative Council in 1961 and therefore the site is important for all peoples of the highlands. The place will be a stopover for all commuters on the Okuk Highway. He asked the people of Daulo to welcome everyone who visit the site.
The important traditional event of the day was the recalling of Kondom’s spirit back to Simbu. This traditional ritual of significance in the Simbu and highlands culture had not been performed at that time in 1965 until now – 50 years later. An elder of the Daulo tribe performed this ceremony and presented a tanget he used in the ritual to the family of Kondom, in this way signifying the
release of Kondom’s spirit back to his family. The plant was later planted at his grave yard at Wandi and it is believed that from then on the spirit of Kondom will always be among them at Wandi.
There was much emotion from both sides during this part of the ceremony as men and women clad in mud wept openly. Lasi’s wife said she was the mother of Kondom’s spirit and she believes that Kondom’s spirit is always around them.
Representing the Kondom family Paul Wagire said the fact that this vital ritual to bring back his spirit from Daulo Pass had not happened caused unhappiness for the family. He said many things the family attempted since his death had not worked out, including attempts to go into politics, education and business.
Kondom Agaundo was the son of a tribal fight leader, Agaundo of the Narku tribe. His mother, Singa, gave birth to him at Wandi village circa 1917.
Agaundo died when Kondom was still young and the boy grew up with his mother’s people at Koglai near Kundiawa. By the late 1940s, the young man was already outspoken and charismatic and much liked by his people.
In 1951, in his 30s, Kondom was appointed a Luluai (headman) and became the kiaps’ favourite among all the other Luluais of the area. He was a popular agent for the work of the administration and missionaries in Simbu, Eastern and Western Highlands. He assisted the kiaps to stop tribal fights and conduct peace settlements.
As a strategy to hasten the pacification of the Simbu people, the colonial administration took Kondom to visit many areas outside Simbu – to towns on the coast and overseas – to see how government and business was done.
When he returned from these trips, Kondom brought many new ideas about business, government and social services like roads, schools and health centres. He appealed to the people as a great heroic leader leading the way towards the new ways of the white men.
Kondom is remembered for many things including being the first person to bring coffee to Simbu. He planted his own coffee garden near his home at Wandi and from there distributed seeds to other villagers.
He also introduced cattle and goats to his village. In 1959, he was the first Simbu to own a semipermanent house (that house still stands today near his grave), owned a restaurant at Wandi, a coffee-hulling machine and he rode his own horse which made him an awesome figure among the Simbu people. Prior to that only missionaries and kiaps
rode horses.
In 1959 Kondom Agaundo was elected President of the Waiye Local Government Council. Waiye Council was the first in the highlands and was made up of the four tribes around Kundiawa – Kamaneku, Endugla, Naur and Narku.
In 1961, he was elected to the Second Legislative Council, a precursor to an elected parliament in PNG. Kondom was the first and only elected member from the highlands at the time. Among his early compatriots were Pita Lus from Maprik, Mathias Toliman from Rabaul and John Guise from Milne Bay.
On a visit to Australia in 1963, Kondom addressed an audience at Canberra with these famous words: “….In my village I am a chief among my people but today I stand in front of you like a child and when I try to speak in your language you laugh at my words. But tomorrow my son will come to you and he will talk to you in your language, and this time you will not laugh at him….”
During the first House of Assembly elections in 1964, Kondom Agaundo lost to Waiye Siune of Yongomugl. After that, he devoted his time to other areas of development like roads, schools, hospitals and business.
Kondom spent more time on coffee growing and assisted other areas of Simbu to also grow the crop. In 1964 he became the first Chairman of the Kundiawa Coffee Cooperative which in 1966 became Chimbu Coffee incorporating other coffee growers in the district. In August of that year, Kondom was returning from a meeting in Goroka when he was killed in a vehicle accident near the Daulo Pass summit.
The Simbu provincial headquarter building in Kundiawa, built in 1982, is named in honour of this great leader. In 2012 a new high school near his village at Wandi was named after him.
Today Kondom Agaundo is remembered as a great leader who championed the colonial transition to bring social development and economic prosperity to the people of Simbu and the highlands.

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