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You are here: Opinion Articles Timeline South Sudan: The Evolutionary Phases of South Sudan’s Liberation Struggle (part 2)

Timeline South Sudan: The Evolutionary Phases of South Sudan’s Liberation Struggle (part 2)

“The South bears no grudge against any nation; it has no grudge against Great Britain, nor against the United Arab Republic [1]. With the former she hopes to share the benefits of the Commonwealth of free nations, and with the latter she is bound by the Nile. Neither have we in the South any ill-intentioned towards the North; we demand nothing short of self-determination, after which we shall be good friends.” –A quote from The Problem of the Southern Sudan (1963), by Joseph Oduho and William Deng Nhial.

By PaanLuel Wël, Washington DC, USA, Planet Earth

3. Anya Nya One Era

September 21, 2012 (SSNA) -- With the defeat [2] of the Southern Mutineers in Torit in 1955, the North shifted its attention to Southern Sudanese politicians in parliament who had refused to back the new constitution—the constitution could only be passed in a unanimous decision—and in the process, succeeded to paralyze PM Khalil’s government. In a grand conspiracy to neutralize and to rid the government of Southerners’ perceived undue influence, the North engineered a bloodless military coup against PM khalil’s government so as to get rid of parliament, and by extension Southern Sudanese’ political voice. Consequently, in 1958, General Abboud declared [3] a coup, dissolved parliament and installed himself as the new leader of government. In February 1964, the Abboud regime expelled [4] Christian Missionaries from Southern Sudan, accusing them of inciting Southern Intellectuals against the government of the Sudan. However, that was a pretext for the real reason for their expulsion was due to the education they were offering to Southern Sudanese that sharply contradicted and undermined Khartoum state policy [5] of Arabization and Islamization—Arabic was declared the state language and Islam the state religion while Christian Missionaries were teaching English and preaching Christianity in the South.

Soon after, Southern Sudanese politicians were harassed, suppressed, detained and humiliated for their political activities [6]. With political freedom curtailed within the country and with no ready army to fight for their interests, Southern Sudanese politicians led by Father Saturnino Lohure, Joseph Howaru Oduho and William Deng Nhial secretly left the country in a row into the neighboring countries where they regrouped and reorganized themselves into a formidable political and military force ready to instigate a revolutionary struggle to free South Sudan from the North. Among those Southern leaders [7] who emerged from this political sensitizations and organizations were: Father Saturnino Lohure, Joseph Oduho, Akuot Atem Atem, Aggrey Jaden, Gordon Muortat Mayen, William Deng Nhial, Marko Rume, Muorwel Malou and Joseph Lagu Yanga, to mention but just a few. The Sudan African Closed District Union (SACDU) [8] was formed thereafter by Father Saturnino Lohure (Patron), Joseph Oduho (chairperson), Marko Rume (Vice-Chairperson) and William Deng Nhial (Secretary General).

This was the beginning of the Anyanya One Movement that later signed the Addis Ababa Accord in 1972. SACDU started mobilizing Southern Sudanese politicians, students, civil servants and peasants in an effort to launch an effective military campaign against the Arab north. In 1967, the SACDU changed its official name to the Nile Provincial Government (NPG)—basically the government in the Anyanya One liberated areas—and Gordon Muortat was elected the new leader of the Movement. However, in 1969, Joseph Lagu—Muortat’s Chief of General Staff of the Anyanya Forces—staged a bloodless coup with the help of the Israelis and took over the Movement—again renamed as the South Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM), with Anyanya as its military wings. It was under the stewardship of Joseph Lagu, Joseph Oduho and Emmanuel Abuur Nhial that the Anyanya One Movement negotiated and signed the Addis Ababa Peace Accord in 1972.

And like its descendant—the SPLM/A, Anyanya One Movement was rocked by political infightings [9] and endless power struggles. There was a power struggle between Father Saturnino and Gordon Muortat, between Joseph Lagu and Joseph Oduho, between Father Saturnino and Joseph Oduho, between Joseph Lagu and Saturnino Lohure, between William Deng and Joseph Lagu and Joseph Oduho. Equally, Samuel Gai Tut and Akuot Atem Mayen were accused of corruption and insubordinations [10]. When distributing firearms and ammunitions secured from abroad, Father Saturnino was accused [11] of favoring Catholics and his Lotuho officers like Joseph Oduho as opposed to Protestant, Madi officers like Joseph Lagu. Father Saturnino was further accused of siphoning off money donated by Anya nya friends from the International community, chiefly the Vatican, by diverting the money into his personal bank without informing the rest. And there was even a coup [12] like the 1991 Nasir coup, staged by Joseph Lagu against Gordon Muortat Mayen. But unlike the failed Nasir coup [13], it succeeded to topple the leader, and brought about political stability that afforded the Anyanya forces to fight the Arab more effectively rather than dwelling on their internal issues.

The biggest setback for the Anyanya One Movement was when they lost Father Saturnino Lohure [14] on 22 January 1967. He was killed in Uganda near Kitgum on his way to Southern Sudan by the Ugandan forces. Politics and religion played a leading role in his death because there was a bitter power struggle between the Catholics and the Protestants in Uganda. Father Saturnino—an ordained Catholic Priest and a politician initiated into, and well versed in, the nitty-gritty of dirty politics—somehow found himself taking side [15] in the internal Ugandan power politics. That made it easier for the Arab North to influence the powers of the day in Uganda to eliminate him. The trend is strikingly scary—Dr. John Garang, George Athor Deng and Father Saturnino all died in mysterious circumstances in, or on their ways from, Uganda.

The Addis Ababa Agreement of 27 February, 1972

According to Ezboni Modiri [16], the head of Anyanya One Delegation to the Addis Ababa Peace Talks, the outsiders imposed the Addis Ababa Agreement on the SSLM. To be appreciated is the fact that the Anyanya One Movement had a strong diplomatic and the military backing of the Christian Missionaries in the West—who were bitter after their expulsion from the Sudan, and military support from Israel—a nation that was embroiled in a do-or-die conflict with the Arab Nations, Sudan included. However, by 1971, the Christian missionaries were already frustrated with the protracted war and the destruction it was causing in the South. Moreover, they were duped [17] by Khartoum government that had appeared to be Pro-west and ready to settle the war in the South if only the West, and Christian Missionaries in particular, would rein in the Anyanya One Rebel. Instead of continuing to arm the rebels, Christian Missionaries started campaigning for political settlement through peaceful negotiation between the government of the Sudan and the rebel of the SSLM.

And in a similar deceptive move the NCP tricked [18] Dr. Riek Machar to sign the Khartoum Peace Agreement of 1997, the government in Khartoum was sending out false feelers and duplicitous indications to the West that it was ready and willing to end the war and gave Southerners their political demands. Israel too was beginning to relax their military and training support to the rebels. Confronted with a situation of losing all allies that had been arming and training them, the Anyanya One Movement under Joseph Lagu [19] acquiesced to the demand of the Christian Missionaries and entered into a Peace Process with the North in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. As Arop Madut-Arop succinctly explains, Southerners were caught up in the proverbial catch-22 situation: “to go back to the devil—their supposed enemy, or plunge into the deep blue sea—the denial of the material support [from their allies in the West and Israel] in case they refuse being herded back into the enemy camp” [20].

Abel Alier Kwai (as the Vice-President of the Sudan) and Dr. Mansour Khalid ( as the Foreign Affairs Minister) led the delegates from the government of the Sudan while Ezboni Mondiri Gwonza led the delegates from the rebel sides [21]. The delegates to the Peace Process from the Anyanya One Movement were: Ezboni Mondiri (leader) Dr. Lawrence Wol Wol (S.G), Mading de Garang (Spokesperson), Colonel Frederick Brian Maggot (special military Rep.), Oliver Batali Albino (member), Anelo Voga Morjan (member), Rev. Paul Puot (member), and Job Adier de Jok (member). The negotiation process began in January 1972 and the agreement was signed on February 27, 1972.

The substances of the 1972 Addis Ababa Accord were the same as those of the 2005 CPA [22] except that there was no standing army of South Sudan—the South was granted political autonomy with an elected regional assembly and a regional president based in Juba. The president of Southern Sudan was, just like during the CPA transitional period, automatically the Vice-President of the Republic of the Sudan in Khartoum. The only conspicuous differences between the 1972 Addis Ababa Accord and the 2005 CPA was that the CPA guaranteed a fully funded Southern Army composed entirely of the SPLM/A rebels and the referendum clause on self-determination.

4. The Post-Addis Ababa Accord Era

Although the Addis Ababa Agreement was signed in February 1972, it was not until on March 27, 1972 [23] that it was finally ratified by the SSLM. This was mainly due to the opposition by some members [24] of the Anyanya Forces that led to the deferment of the ratification process that was initially scheduled on March 12, 1972: lack of a Southern standing army to protect and to enforce the full implementation of the Addis Accord led some members of the Anyanya One Movement to oppose the agreement. Known as the Progressive Group, these military officers felt that the Agreement was rushed, that the Anyanya One Forces were poorly trained and ill-prepared for integration and that the North could not be trusted to adhere to the stipulations of the agreement without the presence of a strong Southern Armed Forces. Moreover, they strongly felt that the agreement was an embarrassing anticlimax to the goal of their armed rebellion—full independence of South Sudan from the North, a topic the Addis Ababa Accord never broached.

Emmanuel Abuur Nhial led this Progressive Group and its members included the following Anyanya One military officers [25]: Emmanuel Abuur Nhial, Alison Manani Magaya, Afred Deng Aluk, Stephen Madut Baak, Paul Awel, Camilo Odongi, Habakkuk Soro, Disan Ojwe Olweny, Albino Akol Akol and Captain John Garang. A letter [26] and leaflets were written and circulated to all the Anyanya Camps in which the Progressive Group called for the total rejection of the Addis Ababa Accord, committed themselves to resist its implementation, recommended the detention of Joseph Lagu and agreed to appoint a new leader to continue with the war. But Saturnino Ariha—the Anyanya Commander of Eastern Equatoria—leaked their plot to Joseph Lagu [27] before it was executed. Immediately, Camilo Odongi and Disan Ojwe Olweny were arrested and the group went underground.

In his 1987 interview with the Heritage Foundation, Dr. John Garang rationalized their actions by saying the following: “We calculated that the clique in Khartoum would erode the government in Juba because its basis for the Agreement was first to absorb the Anyanya into the National Army, second to integrate it after absorption and third to destroy it. So you have the process of achieving a cheap victory over the Anyanya forces” [28]. After the ratification of the Accord, Abel Alier Kwai—the then Vice President of the Sudan—was appointed as the first President of the High Executive Council: the autonomous government of the South. Joseph Lagu and his high-ranking members of the Anyanya Forces were promoted, absorbed and integrated into the National Army. The rest of the Anyanya forces such as William Nyuon Bany [29], who later emerged as a leading member of the SPLM/A, were absorbed and integrated as foot soldiers.

On the political front, there were a lot of power struggle and political infighting [30] within the High Executive Council—the Juba-based Southern government. Tribalism and the hidden hand of President Nimeiri played the leading role in the struggle for power in Juba: President Nimiri was keen, and did succeed, to play one Southern leader against the other. For example, Joseph Lagu was accusing Abel Alier and Bona Malwal of fostering tribalism and Dinka domination of the High Executive Council. On the other hand, Clement Mboro and Abel Alier were accusing Joseph Lagu, Joseph Tombura and their Equatoria backers of siding with Nimeiri to divide and to weaken Southerners through the redivision of the South into three regions—the so-called Kokora.

It was a messy, self-destructive political maneuvering that delighted President Nimeiri and benefited the North at the expenses of the South. So when President Nimeiri finally discarded the Addis Ababa Agreement, it was a smooth walk in the park for him for there was no credible opposition to his decree since he had done decisively with both the army and the politicians in the South. Abel Alier and Joseph Lagu, through their ceaseless, self-defeating political squabbling, gave him the free ride he needed to breach the agreement. One is left wondering with whom they thought they were dealing with?

The situation was not less contentious on the military front too. The absorption and integration process of the Anyanya Forces into the National Army was a full-fledged game of cat and mouse between the two forces. It appeared each knew what the other party hidden agenda was and each was therefore fully prepared to pre-empt and to impose their plan on the other. The Anyanya Battalions [31] knew that the absorption and integration exercise was a charade meant to dilute their power, to transfer them to the north and then to disintegrate them through well-coordinated retirement process. By all means and intents, that was only going to happen over their dead bodies. The Khartoum government, on the other end, also knew that they would never have full control of the entire country, especially the South, with Anyanya Battalions still intact and fully armed in the South. The solution was to absorb, integrate, transfer and then to retire them—lest the goal of Islamization and Arabization would never see the light of the day in the South. But the well-armed, fully-organized and highly-alerted Anyanya Forces were widely suspicious of and openly hostile to all policies recommended by the Khartoum government [32].

Matters were worsened by the presence and sustained agitation of the Underground Movement within the Anyanya Forces—those military officers who had been opposed to the Addis Ababa Accord led by Emmanuel Abuur Nhial, popularly known as Abuur Matuong. For instance, when the integration process began in Malek, Upper Nile, it was abruptly abandoned “when a young officer, Captain John Garang de Mabior, put forward a request before the Technical Committee for Absorption to suspend the process of reintegration in Upper Nile for the time being until such a time that it was conducive to make the absorption work. The head of the absorption team, Brigadier Mirghani Suleiman, was stunned that a junior officer could speak on behalf of his senior commanders” [33].

But Captain Garang, the brain behind the Underground Movement, was not done yet, for he went on to write leaflets instructing Anyanya Forces in Equatoria to resist integration [34]. Joseph Lagu wrote that “around May-June, a leaflet appeared in Torit District asking the Anya Nya to refuse integration with the Sudanese army…The leaflet…originated in Bor…It was masterminded by John Garang…Following the appearance of the leaflet, I sent for Captain John Garang to report to Juba without delay and he came as ordered. His prompt response softened my feelings. I showed him the leaflet and asked if he were the author. He looked down, then raised his brows and said “yes.” I admired his courage and honesty, I decided to build rather than destroy him” [35].

But it was in Bussere, Bahr el Ghazal, after Joseph Lagu transferred him there for instigating troubles in Malakal, that Captain John Garang had his biggest impact. Most of his buddies in the Underground Movement were stationed there. Upon his arrival, Captain John Garang “organized the officers and taught classes on Economics and radical sociology and political theories…[the Addis Ababa] Agreement was radically analyzed and interpreted by this group as hollow and a palliative use to disarm the Anya Nya through a facade of peace Agreement” [36]. According to Joseph Lagu, “a series of problems started there following his arrival” [37]. When the Nimeiri government sent Joseph Lagu to Bussere to calm down his rebellious forces, Lagu was jeered and declared a traitor by the soldiers. Lagu left swiftly dismissing the group as a tribal army—over 90% of the battalion were Dinkas led by Lt. Colonel Afred Deng, Lt. Colonel Joseph Kuol Amuom, Major Stephen Madut Baak, Major Albino Akol Akol, Major Thomas Dhol, Major Santino Ajing Dau and Captain John Garang. A delegation sent from Khartoum to arrest Captain John Garang left empty handed after the Battalion threatened to rebel should the Captain be detained [38]. Thereafter, the young restless Captain was a sent to abroad on a government scholarship, thus, ending his trouble-making in the army.

But it was not only Captain John Garang who was causing lots of headache to the government. As the country was commemorating the third anniversary of the Addis Ababa Agreement in March 1975, a military unit of Southern soldiers mutinied in Akobo, killing their commander—Colonel Abel Chol, in the process. The mutiny was triggered by a rumor that they were about to be disarmed and disbanded. While most soldiers in the group were arrested and disarmed, the ringleaders led by Lt. Vincent Kuany and Corporal James Bol Kur marched to Ethiopia where they founded the Anyanya Two Movement on February 20, 1977, in Bilpam. Similarly, in 1976, there was another mutiny in Wau led by Captain Afred Agwet Awan, allegedly sparked by a letter written by Benjamin Bol Akok from Juba to Joseph Oduho and Malath Joseph Lueth in which Bol was “informing Oduho and Lueth that time was opportune to start the war for total liberation of South Sudan” [39]. Brigadier Emmanuel Abuur Nhial—the most senior Southerner in the army by then—was killed while pursuing Afred Agwet Awan [40] to persuade him to come back to town.

When, in 1973, the government requested Peter Cyrillo, a former Anyanya Officer, to transfer Battalion 116 from Juba to a new location, Cyrillo was “beaten up and arrested by his own trooped” [41] till an assurance was given that there was no such plan anymore. In 1974, the same Battalion 116, under the command of Habakkuk Soro, forcefully occupied Juba airport and wholly sealed off Juba city when a rumor, supposedly spread by two southern students at the university of Khartoum—Lual Achuek and Walter Kunijwok Ayoker—reached them that there was an imminent coup against President Nimeiri. Interestingly, by this time, Nimeiri was the darling of the South. Sometimes, even individual soldiers were brave enough to stage their own rebellion: in 1982, Bol Madut “single-handedly shot his way into the bush hoping that the rest of [his] Battalion 110” [42] in Aweil would follow him to start the revolutionary struggle.

To fully capture and appreciate the general mood in the South by that time is to think of the Jews during the birth of Jesus of Narareth in the 6-7 B.C. The South was in a grip of an imminent war and every Anyanya officer thought he could be the first to trigger it much the same way that the Jews were expecting the birth of the Promised Messiah and every family thought they were the one to bring Him forth. The image conjuring up from all these incidents is that rebellions, mutinies and the threat of war were the order of the day by the late 1970s and early 1980s.

So when Kerubino Kuanyin rebelled on May 16, 1983 [43], it didn’t come as a big surprise to anyone. But little did the Khartoum government thought that it would blossom into an all-out war that would culminate in the permanent breakup of the Sudan. To most observers, it was just one of those crazy occurrences that had come and gone with everything remaining business as usual. In fact, even among the Underground Movement coordinated by Dr. John Garang after the unfortunate death of Abuur Matuong at the hand of his fellow Southerner and Anyanya One colleague—Afred Agwet Awan, the scheme to launch the armed insurrection was scheduled to begin on August 18, 1983 in homage to the 1955 Torit Mutiny that had occurred on August 18.

[1] A defunct union between Egypt and Syria

[2] Scopas Poggo, “The First Sudanese Civil War: Africans, Arabs, and Israelis in the Southern Sudan, 1955-1972” [2008].

[3] Bona Malwal, “People & Power in Sudan: The Struggle for National Stability” [1981].

[4] Douglas Johnson, “The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil Wars: Peace Or Truce” [2011].

[5] Richard Gray, “A history of the Southern Sudan 1839-1889” [1961].

[6] William Deng Nhial’s Letter to Dr. Richard Gray [1962]

[7] Joseph Lagu Yanga, “Sudan: Odyssey Through a State (From Ruin To Hope)” [2006].

[8] Abel Alier Kwai, “Southern Sudan: Too Many Agreements Dishonoured” [1992]

[9] Joseph Lagu Yanga, “Sudan: Odyssey through a state: from ruin to hope.” [2006]

[10] Arop Madut-Arop, “Sudan’s Painful Road To Peace: A Full Story of the Founding and Development of SPLM/SPLA.” [2006]

[11] Joseph Lagu Yanga, “Sudan: Odyssey through a state: from ruin to hope.” [2006]

[12] Arop Madut-Arop, “Sudan’s Painful Road To Peace: A Full Story of the Founding and Development of SPLM/SPLA.” [2006]

[13] Peter Adwok Nyaba, “The Politics of Liberation in South Sudan” [1996]

[14] Steve Paterno, “The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure: A Roman Catholic Priest Turned Rebel, the South Sudan Experience” [2007]

[15] Scopas Poggo, “The First Sudanese Civil War: Africans, Arabs, and Israelis in the Southern Sudan, 1955-1972” [2008].

[16] Arop Madut-Arop, “Sudan’s Painful Road To Peace: A Full Story of the Founding and Development of SPLM/SPLA.” [2006]

[17] Yosa Wawa, “The Southern Sudanese Pursuits of Self-Determination: Documents in Political History” [2005]

[18] Mansour Khalid, “War and Peace in the Sudan: A Tale of Two Countries” [2003]

[19] Joseph Lagu Yanga, “Sudan: Odyssey through a state: from ruin to hope.” [2006]

[20] Arop Madut-Arop, “Sudan’s Painful Road To Peace: A Full Story of the Founding and Development of SPLM/SPLA.” [2006]

[21] Abel Alier Kwai, “Southern Sudan: Too Many Agreements Dishonoured” [1992]

[22] Steven Wondu, “From Bush to Bush. Journey to Liberty in South Sudan” [2011]

[23] Bona Malwal, “People & Power in Sudan: The Struggle for National Stability” [1981].

[24] Dr. John Garang, “Captain John Garang’s Letter to Gen. Joseph Lagu of Anyanya One” [1972]

[25] Arop Madut-Arop, “Sudan’s Painful Road To Peace: A Full Story of the Founding and Development of SPLM/SPLA.” [2006]

[26] Arop Madut-Arop, “Sudan’s Painful Road To Peace: A Full Story of the Founding and Development of SPLM/SPLA.” [2006]

[27] Joseph Lagu Yanga, “Sudan: Odyssey through a state: from ruin to hope.” [2006]

[28] Dr. John Garang’s 1987 Heritage Interview with Arop Madut, “Colonel Dr. John Garang Speaks To Heritage On War and Peace in the Sudan, Nov. 2, 1987.” [1987]

[29] Arop Madut-Arop, “Sudan’s Painful Road To Peace: A Full Story of the Founding and Development of SPLM/SPLA.” [2006]

[30] Joseph Lagu Yanga, “Sudan: Odyssey through a state: from ruin to hope.” [2006]

[31] Arop Madut-Arop, “Sudan’s Painful Road To Peace: A Full Story of the Founding and Development of SPLM/SPLA.” [2006]

[32] Abel Alier Kwai, “Southern Sudan: Too Many Agreements Dishonoured” [1992]

[33] Arop Madut-Arop, “Sudan’s Painful Road To Peace: A Full Story of the Founding and Development of SPLM/SPLA.” [2006]

[34] Joseph Lagu Yanga, “Sudan: Odyssey Through a State (From Ruin To Hope)” [2006]

[35] Joseph Lagu Yanga, “Sudan: Odyssey Through a State (From Ruin To Hope)” [2006]

[36] Arop Madut-Arop, “Sudan’s Painful Road To Peace: A Full Story of the Founding and Development of SPLM/SPLA.” [2006]

[37] Joseph Lagu Yanga, “Sudan: Odyssey Through a State (From Ruin To Hope)” [2006]

[38] Arop Madut-Arop, “Sudan’s Painful Road To Peace: A Full Story of the Founding and Development of SPLM/SPLA.” [2006]

[39] Arop Madut-Arop, “Sudan’s Painful Road To Peace: A Full Story of the Founding and Development of SPLM/SPLA.” [2006]

[40] Joseph Lagu Yanga, “Sudan: Odyssey Through a State (From Ruin To Hope)” [2006]

[41] Arop Madut-Arop, “Sudan’s Painful Road To Peace: A Full Story of the Founding and Development of SPLM/SPLA.” [2006]

[42] Arop Madut-Arop, “Sudan’s Painful Road To Peace: A Full Story of the Founding and Development of SPLM/SPLA.” [2006]

[43] Gabriel Achuoth Deng, “Wars and a new vision for the Sudan: (a political lesson)” [2005]

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