THE ROAD TO FREEDOM: THE CASE OF SOUTH SUDAN

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By Ambassador Peter Oyoyo Kleto
May 31, 2016

With more than 50 years of liberation struggle for freedom in Southern Sudan, it is the responsibility of South Sudan to make sure that citizens are equipped with the history of liberation struggle and should somehow by now have a clear picture of how we reach to the stage we are now in and to keep such memories and to pass them onto the next generations. The history of the liberation struggle in South Sudan needs to be put as priority issue by the academic institutions in the country. Universities and academicians should play the leading role in researching, writing, publishing and marketing this history. The purpose of gathering and making the information available to public is for the citizens to digest that way they will be able to pass the history onto others. This paper will briefly discuss about how our leaders planted the stone of liberation and how this stone continues to inspire us for more than 50 years till we got our independent in 2011.

Before 1955 Torit Mutiny led by Lt. Emedio Tafeng Odongi, in defiance to the orders by the successive regime in Khartoum to move Southern Battalions to North for them to be scattered all over North Sudan. The purpose of this was to break communication line between and amongst southern military cadres as the Khartoum government fear that if southerners are placed in one region, they would rebel against the government given the oppressive behavior of the ruling government in Khartoum. The South Sudanese master planners and politicians such as the lates Fr. Saturlino Ohure Hilangi, Uncle Joseph Oduho Haworu, William Deng Nhial began to politicize South Sudanese students at Juba commercial and Rumbek secondary school to strike against the government in response to their continues and extreme marginalization of South Sudanese in all spheres of Sudanese Society. These students include David Dogok Puoch Duach, David Koak Guok, and boys from Rumbek include Daniel Yick Diu, Peter Pal Panoum, the lates Samuel Gai Tut, Majiok Ayuen, Peter Biel, the late Dr. John Garang and others.

The majority of the students crossed the Ethiopian border between 1962- 1963 in the aftermath of the strike in fear of the unforeseen repercussions from the oppressive Islamic government in Khartoum. The late Dr. John Garang and others proceeded to Kenya, and later on proceeded to Tanzania along with Majok Ayuen , Jiekor Tual, this is where they got a chance to study in Tanzania. Meanwhile those who crossed into Ethiopia after several months in Ethiopia were convince by late Samuel Gai Tut to come back to the border to look for leftovers rifles from the Italian- Ethiopia War and also for native traditional weapons such as bows, spears. The purpose was to get as much weapons as they could to fight the government of Sudan. But this did not materialize as they failed to collect to the expectation.

The group of Gai Tut never met the group that cross into East Africa till 1971, when Garang return back from USA and was again met and welcome in Addis ababa by the Group in Ethiopia. Let me note here that the Addis ababa group took a very painful decision to meet Garang as they were under intense pressure from Dr. Lawrence Wol Wol from Gogrial and Mading De Garang from Bor that they should negotiate their grievances with the government of Sudan; Little did the two leaders know that former Anya Nya one commander in charge of Upper Nile Comrade Joseph Akwon and Dr. Garang have already told the group never to engage in any talk with the Sudanese government which the group were receptive to. It is also instructive to mention that Lt. Commander Samuel Gai Tut, Paul Awel and Joseph Akwon were hostile to the idea of negotiations and rather prefer to stay in bush than engaging in talk.

After the group including Garang discuss on the way forward; a proposal to meet the Anya Nya one leader Joseph Lagu in his headquarters in Owiny Kibul in Eastern Equatoria, state was put forward. Here came the question of who should be sent to meet Lagu; Dr. John Garang proposed himself and the reason given was that he has a United Nations Passport and air ticket which none of the members hold. He met Lagu, and had detail discussion with him about the proposed Peace talk between Lagu and the government. It is to be noted that in this meeting between Lag und the late Garang, the objective of the SSLA were discussed. Dr. John indicated his opposition to the talk.
Though Garang was opposed to the peace talk, Lagu as leader sent his delegation to Addis ababa to meet the government group to start negotiation; on the government side, Abel Alier was head of the delegation. The agreement was concluded and signed by the both parties. John Garang has no choice but to join as requested by Lagu. Joseph Oduho who was also opposed to the Addis ababa agreement joined. How did the Addis ababa agreement benefited Dr. John Garang?

After the conclusion of the Addis ababa agreement, Garang through recommendation of Joseph Oduho and Joseph Lagu was selected to go abroad for further studies with active file in military and was promoted to the Rank of Colonel. It is important to note that in addition to his education level, the rank of colonel has impressed the Ethiopian government alot and that was why they supported Garang. All ammunitions that were brought from Libya by David Puoch were directed to Dr. Garang and Joseph Oduho camp, the Adura, by the Ethiopian government.

Some of the leaders who were not happy with the idea of creating a united socialist democratic oriented Sudan fled to various countries including Lebanon for studies and asylum. After the collapse of the Addis ababa agreement and installation of Sharia law by Numeri, remnants of Anya nya one fighters who were from the beginning opposed to the agreement mutinied in Akobo in 1975 and this group was led by Lt. Vincent Kuany Latjor; the group fled to Ethiopia and settled in a place which came to be known as Bilpam and was training centre for SPLA under Dr. John Garang. It is also instructive to mention that most of the battles fought during Anya Nya one was in Equatoria and that was where rebellion started and spread to other parts of the country.

Having said the above, it is important at this moment to challenge dissenting views that have been coming from some politicians and intellectuals that the struggle for the liberation of South Sudan in particular and Sudan in general under the SPLM New Sudan project or vision or under the separatist union was only a contribution of a few. If this view continues to be fed, the future of this new born nation in my opinion is uncertain. Yes, it is true that we have largest tribes in South Sudan and it is true that they have contributed big numbers of soldiers during SPLA and Anya Nya Two inceptions. In looking on the other side of the coin, the first separatist movement was mostly dominated by the Latuka, not in leadership alone, but in number of boots on the ground. The first 400 volunteers engage in Torit mutiny of 1955, were all from Latuka tribe and brothers from other tribes started to join but in small numbers.

The objective of waging the war since 1955, according to Torit mutineers’ leadership was to create an independent Southern Sudan, which is free of oppression; the manifesto clearly stipulates that “state should be separate from religion” and both complement one another in shaping the country. Religion was to promote morality, and politic was to create unity and a sense of belonging through political identity. “We are South Sudanese”, identification of oneself through tribal lenses was seriously discourage by the Separatists’ leadership and this idea was kept and promoted by the late hero Dr. John Garang. Though his vision was for new Sudan, Garang kept on holding to the view that Sudan can continue to be one if all citizens irrespective of Race, religion, creed you name them were accorded equal rights, as indicated by the numerous speeches given by him, The late Hero Dr. John Garang had worked hard to bring unity among South Sudanese; he was however, disturbed by small group of people practicing tribalism in the movement and in the government as he thought that it is for the interest of Khartoum government to divide and rule the South through turning them against each other. The bitterness has caused the lost of many lives and untold suffering in South sudan. “Indeed the late Dr. John was right”

ENTRANCE OF SPLA INTO EQUATORIA:

As noted above that the first war started in Torit, present capital city of Eastern Equatoria State, in South Sudan, and majority of the movement’s army was drawn from the latuka tribe. It is very important to record in our minds that Lagu taking over of the South Sudan Liberation movement leadership in 1967 was as a result of the movement’s objective and preaching of love among ourselves and not to see us as South Sudanese divided through tribal line. People were taught to see each other as brothers. This mindset made Lagu to become leader without any tension from the army who were controlled by Latuka. This spirit of brotherhood promoted by Anya nya leadership continues to grow.

A classic example was the selection of the late Dr. John Garang by the late Uncle Joseph Oduho and Lagu for military promotion and for scholarships abroad. Many Southerners and Northerners were surprise as to why Lagu and Uncle Oduho love Dr. John so much to the extent of not selecting their own brothers and family members for opportunities abroad. These two leaders whenever opportunity comes and whenever something fell out of the high tables of Northern government first put Garang on top as priority and were willing to sacrifice their souls to make sure that at least Garang get the opportunity. The answer to those who could not understand the logic as to why they love Dr. John so much was that the leadership was not seeing things on tribal line like how some of us do. They just see him as a son, a brother and someone who may in future become an African icon which he indeed did become. He was smart and he dearly respect them as well.

Anya Nya Two, a continuation of the vision of Anya Nay one, but with different leadership and way of doing things rebelled in Akobo in 1975 and moved to the Ethiopian border as stated previously. It is very instructive to mention here that the movement was dominated by one tribe not because it was their intention but because of the same reason given in the brief analysis of the Torit mutiny above. Other groups later on joined.

Looking at SPLA uprising in Bor May 16, 1983 by battalions 105 led by late Major Kerubino Kuanyi Bol and 105 in Ayot and waat led by the late Major William Nyuon Bany. The first group graduated was Koriyom composed of 12 companies with different names such as Tiger, Bee, Rhino and so on. This group was if not all composed of Dinka especially from Bor. There seems to be a line in our liberation history whereby the tribal contribution is based on who is on top of the leadership hierarchy with the exception of the case of Joseph Lagu. This group first started fighting in other parts of South Sudan with the exception of Equatoria. It was important for Dr. John Garang to wait for soldiers from Equatoria to lead and direct SPLA into Equatoria. In late 1983, Letters were written by Joseph Oduho to Equatorians to joined the movement, the first letter was mainly calling specifically his tribe the Latuka to send men for training and this request was responded positively with thousands of Latukas walking into Ethiopia for training and other Equatoria joined as well.

The first incursion of SPLA in Equatoria was in 1985 by two battalions, bee and Niran under the overall command of Nyacigag Nyachulluk from Upper nile. Bee Battalion was commanded by Martin Manyiel from Bahr el Ghazal and Niran by Tahir Bior from Upper Nile. These Battalions fought but desserted to their original areas, this was not the expectation of Dr. John and the commanding officer as large numbers argue that they should go and liberate their own areas, an idea proposed before in 1983 by some commanders but rejected by Dr. John. Second Battalion was purely composed of Latuka, “Tingili”, and was commander by High Command Modi Galerio Wurynang and was active around Torit area. Few months after the arrival of Tingili came the Tafeng and Muksasa Battalions, Tafeng as many of us know was purely made up of Latuka men and Mukssasa was composed of Bari and other tribes from Central Equatoria and these two were under the command of Alfred Lado Gore who is now minister of interior.

We South Sudanese should very much appreciate and remember the dignified struggle of our heroes and heroines to bring about this nation. Specifically, the triple options proposed by Dr. John Garang and others (Unity first option, Confederation, second and Separation Last option) brought us to where we are now. As he said “Sudan will never be the same again” indeed it is not now and will continue to balkanize into more countries if all the pressing social issues in Sudan are left unchecked, South Sudan included. It is high time now for the pessimists to come to terms with the statement of Dr. John that he made “Sudan under the National Congress Party is too deformed to be reformed”. As the Mozamiquan used to announced in the liberation struggle Radio from Addis ababa , Ethiopia when they were still fighting to free themselves from the colonists in 1960s ‘that “the time will come” and this was indeed the dream of some of us if not all.’ I therefore urge South Sudanese to promote unity for the sake of development and also to love one another. Let not see or judge one another through tribal line but through the content of a person’s character.

Ambassador Peter Oyoyo Kleto,

SPLM/A Deputy Representative to the United Republic of Tanzania
Executive Director, African Descent Inc:

Senior Member of SPLM-IO

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