By Bona Malwal
Khartoum, Friday 4th April 2008
For a country like Southern Sudan, where matters are not as normal as they should be, it is not only tempting to want to talk straight; it is indeed an obligation and duty to talk straight. This is exactly what I am going to do. And I ask for your individual indulgence in advance.
I stand before you with very mixed feelings on this very momentous occasion, because seeing the turn of events in our Southern Sudan Community today; it is very difficult for me to say with clear heart, that my teacher and political mentor, Joseph Oduho, has not died in vain. He spent his entire life struggling and in the end, he died in the hands of Southern Sudanese. We must believe and pray that his blessed soul is now in heaven.
After struggling for the cause of Southern Sudan for so long; escaping death in the hands of the true enemies of the cause of Southern Sudan; escaping the Kangaroo death sentence passed on him by the kangaroo courts of Northern Sudan after the Torit uprising of August 1955, Ustaz Joseph Oduho was gunned down in cold blood on 28th March 1993 by the hand of his own Southern Sudanese children, using the guns Joseph Oduho himself may have helped provide to these children for the liberation of our people from the tyranny imposed on the South by Northern Sudan.
It is impossible, as I stand before you, participating in this glorious occasion, marking the death of Joseph Oduho, to escape the thought that this great hero of the cause of Southern Sudan may just have died in vain.
As we remember Joseph Oduho, we must not forget that without freedom for all who are still alive in Southern Sudan; without total freedom from fear of any kind; especially fear from the rampant lynchmanship in Southern Sudan, in the hands of some of our own; without pride in the way the government of Southern Sudan conducts the affairs of Southern Sudan today, it will be difficult to avoid the bitter conclusion that Joseph Oduho and all the fallen heroes of Southern Sudan have died in vain.
It would be dishonorable for those of us, who witnessed the political life of Southern Sudanese heroes like Joseph Oduho, to see so much that is going wrong in our community today; to see the squandering of the well earned political power of the people of Southern Sudan and the resources of the ever heroic people of Southern Sudan being used for causes that are not of the people of Southern Sudan and not say that things are not well in our society today.
We all need to work together, to correct those who believe that the power of Southern Sudan is their power and authority for them alone, over the people of Southern Sudan. The would be authorities of Southern Sudan today, seem to think that they have the right to use that power unjustly and unfairly against any member of the community of Southern Sudanese. All of us need to stand up straight and firm to be counted against internal hegemony, political bigotry and internal tyranny.
It is not enough anymore, for us to be fed with the falsehood that it is Northern Sudan that is preventing rehabilitation and progress in Southern Sudan. It is not true that Northern Sudan is any more responsible for the mal administration of Southern Sudan since July 2005, since when the present government of Southern Sudan was formed. The current government of Southern Sudan is totally autonomous from the North, almost independent from the North, in its decisions and in its processes.
The North may not be giving the South its total fifty per cent share of the oil revenues from the oil wells of the South. I do not know about that, because if the North is not transparent with the government of Southern Sudan about the transfer of oil revenue to the South, then how transparent is the government of Southern Sudan with its people about how it spends what ever percentage of the fifty percent oil revenue it receives from the North? Are we only entitled, as Southern Sudanese, to know what Northern Sudan is not doing for us and we are not entitled to know what the government of Southern Sudan is doing with our resources for us?
I say these things on this occasion, because I know that Joseph Oduho would not have expected from me anything less. He was always an outspoken frank man. As my teacher in the formative years of my life, I hope I have learned something about frankness from Joseph Oduho. I am proud of that.
Joseph Oduho died struggling for the cause of Southern Sudan. It is ironic that he eventually died in the hands of his own community; a community he so struggled for. It is a great shame on us as Southern Sudanese, that Joseph Oduho did not die in the hands of the enemy of Southern Sudan, who wished him dead on so many occasions in his life.
Joseph Oduho was sentenced to death in absentia in 1955, following the Torit Uprising of August of that year. This is in spite of the fact that Joseph Oduho was a civilian, a teacher and was not even in Torit at the time of the uprising to have been an accomplice.
Joseph Oduho was elected to the 1957 Parliament from Torit as one of the members of Parliament from Southern Sudan. He sought from the floor of the National Parliament in Khartoum, to hold Northern Sudan accountable to the promise of federation, on the basis of which, members of parliament from Southern Sudan voted for an independent Sudan on 19 December 1955.
When Northern Sudan handed power to General Ibrahim Aboud in November 1958, to avoid answering the Southern Sudan demand for federation and in order to let the military repress the South, rather than concede Federation to the South, Joseph Oduho was one of the team of Southern Sudanese parliamentarians who joined the Anya-Nya Liberation Movement, to continue the struggle for the cause of the South. He and other Southern Sudanese did so, rather than to submit to the Northern Sudanese military machinations.
Together with other similar heroes who fell for the cause, like Reverend Father Saturnino Lohure, the Anya-Nya cause delivered autonomy for Southern Sudan under the 1972 Addis Abba Agreement. Joseph Oduho took part in the political and the government leadership of the South under the Addis Ababa Agreement. In the end, the North abrogated the Addis Ababa Agreement in 1983.
It is important for many of you young Southern Sudanese here gathered today, to know that as much as Ustaz Joseph Oduho was a Southern Sudanese separatist par excellence, he was also an unswerving Southern Sudanese Unionist. During the great KOKORA debate in Equatoria, in the early1980s, Joseph Oduho led the crusade for unity of Southern Sudan amongst Equatorians. He and a small, but brave number of leaders from Equatoria, who stood so steadfastly for the unity of the people of Southern Sudan, were treated almost as traitors to Equatoria. Joseph Oduho was undaunted by such classifications.
In 1984, only one year into the SPLA led war against the North, because this was only one year after KOKORA succeeded to split Southern Sudan, most Equatorians saw the SPLM/SPLA as a reaction to KOKORA and stayed away from it. In an open letter to Equatoria, Joseph Oduho implored Equatoria to join the SPLA, not because there was shortage in the personnel fighting the war, but because he saw that history was being made for Southern Sudan. He thought it was important for Equatoria to be part of that history. Equatoria heeded Joseph Oduho’s advice and joined the SPLA in droves.
The yesterday’s leaders of KOKORA are today the leaders of the SPLM/SPLA. It is ironic that the leaders of KOKORA of yesterday are not just the leaders of a united Southern Sudan today; some of them are currently the advocates of the idea of “A New Sudan”.
As a perpetual struggler for the cause of Southern Sudan, even though he was already in an advancing age, Joseph Oduho saw no choice for himself but to join the SPLM/SPLA in 1983, at its foundation, to continue the struggle. It is ironic that he remained a prisoner in the hands of his own people, until he met his death at Panyagor, in Jonglei, in 1993, in the hands of his own children. He was killed at the age of 67, while on a peace mission, trying to reconcile the warring factions of the SPLA
It is impossible to speculate how providence judges atrocities like the death of Joseph Oduho. But I am tempted by my human failing to believe that the always fair Almighty God has put the soul of Joseph Oduho into heaven.
If Joseph Oduho died a tragic death the way he did, it is almost inescapable to believe that Joseph Oduho would love the Machakos Protocol of 2o July 2002, which is the first Protocol of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which gives the people of Southern Sudan a referendum on Self-determination, in the year 2011, to be successfully carried out. Southern Sudan must not allow that noble right of Self-determination, to be subverted by those we currently see usurping the rights of the people of the Southern Sudan for their own anti- Southern Sudan causes.
As a pupil of Joseph Oduho, I am privileged and proud to stand before you here gathered today, to hold those who are responsible for the implementation of the CPA, to carry out Self-determination referendum as the final act of the CPA without deviation.
Joseph Oduho was my teacher and protector at a very young age for me. After completing Rumbek Secondary School, Joseph Oduho became an intermediate school teacher at St. Anthony’s Bussere Intermediate School in 1951. He joined and taught me in my second year intermediate school. He was a great footballer and became our sports teacher. He played in our school team, many times matching us youngsters against his old team of Rumbek Secondary School. He always protected us against older football opponents from elsewhere. He once put us into a football pitch battle in Wau town, because one of our young team mates was kicked in the stomach by an older player. He physically knocked down the offender player and kicked him in the stomach. We became engulfed in football pitch warfare with the Wau town crowd, with Joseph Oduho as our protector.
The Need for Truth & Reconciliation
It is a well known fact of life that in any war situation, there occurs excesses and war atrocities. Southern Sudan was no exception to this. What is important, is how a traumatized society, like the Southern Sudan society, deals with these issues at the end of the war. It is important to tell the truth about who did what against whom, during the war and to reconcile the society before it forgives the excesses of the war and then move on. South Africa and Mozambique have led us in this. Rwanda is going on with the same process at the moment in a very impressive way. With so much internal atrocity against each other during the war, Southern Sudan cannot avoid telling its truth to each other and then to reconcile. It is impossible to assume that leaders like Joseph Oduho have died the way they did and that nobody responsible in Southern Sudan cares to make public how they died.
It is necessary for the Government of Southern Sudan, therefore, led by the SPLM/A that was largely responsible for the war atrocities within Southern Sudan, to now establish a truth and reconciliation commission, to lay to rest the ghosts of war and to enable the society to reconcile and to move on.
Southern Sudan cannot afford to have lost heroes like Joseph Oduho in vain and as we falter from the paths and principles for which Joseph Oduho and others lived and died, let us remember that Southern Sudan cannot afford to fail. May Almighty God rest the soul of Joseph Oduho in eternal peace?