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Sunday, 29 May 2011

Human Rights Abuses Within the SPLA

Excerpts from Briefing Paper No. 2, May 1998
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...It perhaps follows on from Garang’s association with totalitarian politics that democracy and debate within the SPLA was clamped down upon very firmly. This intolerance dates back to the earliest days of the organisation. African Rights records, for example, that the initial political leadership of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) was made up of Southern politicians and former ministers such as Akuot Atem, Martin Maijer, Samuel Gai Tut and Joseph Oduho. 

John Garang was named the head of the military wing, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army. Samuel Gai Tut and Akuot Atem subsequently withdrew from the SPLM in the wake of attempts to interfere with democratic decisions and transferred their allegiance to a rival Southern opposition group: Samuel Gai Tut was subsequently killed by SPLA forces. Garang then took for himself the chairmanship of the SPLM as well as being the SPLA commander-in-chief. African Rights summed up the intolerance within the SPLA: 

 “It is hard to see how the SPLA could have become more authoritarian than it was in the 1980s”. African Rights records some of institutionalised human rights abuses: Southern intellectuals and politicians who wanted to join the SPLM were subordinated to the military… some of them were arrested and detained without trial...According to a liberal-democratic view, they were victims of human rights abuses because they challenged autocratic leadership. The shadow of these early violations still hangs over the Movement. Further abuses followed: Political discussion within the SPLA was curtailed. The two remaining civilian politicians on the SPLM’s original Provisional Executive Committee (PEC) - Joseph Oduho and Martin Majier - were imprisoned from 1985 to 1992… The PEC was turned into a ‘Political-Military High Command’ (PMHC) composed only of soldiers. Two of the five original members of the PMHC (Kerubino Kuanyin and Arok Thon) were then incarcerated because they acted independently of Garang.

Joseph Oduho, a respected, long-standing southern Sudanese political figure, was released and then murdered by the SPLA. Martin Majier, a judge and politician with considerable standing among the southern Bor Dinka, was also subsequently murdered by the SPLA. The SPLA claim he was shot while trying to escape. Other rival Southern opposition leaders were dealt with equally ruthlessly. Kawac Makuei was imprisoned in appalling circumstances from 1984 to 1992. Lakurnyang Lado, the chairman of the Front for the Liberation of South Sudan, was detained and publicly killed by the SPLA. African Rights also talks of “many allegations of other extra-judicial killings”. Southern Sudan had few enough political leaders of any substance and integrity. It is a simple matter of fact that the SPLA murdered most of them...

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