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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Oduho and the founding of the SPLM/A in 1983

(From other perspectives – follow the link at the end of this document)

"Garang, the son of my mother, have you come? Take over the command from here. Chagai, my work is finished: give me something to drink and let's celebrate the start of the Revolution," Kerubino Kuanyin de Bol, May 13th, 1983.

Background to the Bor Uprising, May 16th, 1983

In fact, the politics that preceded the SPLA war in 1983 were that of dismantling of the Addis Ababa Agreement by the May Regime and attempts being made by the people of the Southern Sudan to maintain it (1972-1982). The struggle between the May Regime and the regional government unfortunately led to widespread discontent throughout the Southern Sudan. This discontent soon led to the formation of many underground insurrections each mobilizing the people of the South Sudan for the resumption of the war of liberating their region, a liberation struggle brought to a halt by the May Regime in 1972, when the south was given portions that fell from the high tables of the northern political elite which they euphemistically called regional self rules. Basically, some of the main effective underground cells were, the National Action Movement (NAM) led by veteran politicians, Joseph Oduho, Akuot Atem de Mayen; Benjamin Bol Akok and Samuel Gai Tut just to mention a few. There was also the Movement for the Total Liberation of Southern Sudan, headed by students movement mainly in Equatoria and SOSSA student organisation based in Egypt. The most important and effective rebel cell was the Anya-Nya Absorbed Forces Underground Movement that had notoriously been active through the ten years of peace in the Southern Region. 

This underground cell was born and bred by veteran Anya Nya Absorbed Forces who were opposed to the Addis Ababa Agreement. Some of these officers who were initially opposed to the Addis Ababa Agreement right from the start and who were mainly from Bahr al Ghazal Region, were located in Bussere (Camp some 12 miles South of Wau Town). Though the leader of this underground cell was Colonel Emmanuel Abuur Nhial, the brain behind it was three officers: Captain John Garang de Mabior, Lt. Colonel Stephen Madut Baak, Lt Colonel Joseph Kuol Amoum, Lt Colonel Deng Aluk and Major Albino Akol Akol. This movement did also have membership in Upper Nile and Equatoria.

The Adura (Thiajak), Bukteng and Bilpam Camps

Following the Bor Uprising many of the leaders of various insurrections mentioned earlier started moving toward Ethiopia. The First to arrive were two of the leaders of the National Action Movement (NAM), Samuel Gai Tut and Akuot Atem de Mayen who made Bukteng Village there command post.
On arrival on the borders with Ethiopia, the two leaders contacted Gordon Kaong Chol, the leader of the Anya Nya Two Movement at his Command Head Quarters at Bilpam. It is to be recalled that Anya Nya Two was founded in 1977 by Vincent Kuany and James Bol Alangjok, the leaders of the failed Any Nya absorbed forces uprising in Akobo in 1975.

Gai and Akuot instead of waiting for the various rebels groups that had already started moving to Ethiopia after which they would launch one united movement apparently after reaching consensus, put a proposal that, Gordon Kaong would be the leader of the military wing and (they) Gai and Akuot would lead the political wing of the Movement about to be launched. Apparently Kaong may have been aware of the coming of John Garang group that has been in touch with him for a long time turned down the proposal. By the end of May the Ethiopian authorities have cited the Sudanese rebel Colonel John Garang de Mabior and his group and located them to a village called Adura.

Sooner than later the news about the outbreak of war in the south attracted hundreds of thousands of Southern Sudanese who began in earnest pouring into Western Ethiopia in order to join the revolution that was being launched. These refugees went to one of the three refugee main camps according to their choices. The three main camps were Bilpam under Gordon Kaong Chol, Bukteng under Samuel Gai Tut and Akuot Atem and Adura Camp under John Garang de Mabior, Joseph Oduho, Martin Majer Gai and others. It is to be noted that Gambela Region is inhabited by the people of Southern Sudanese origins, Gajaak and Gajok Nuer and the Anyuak.

Early in June Lt Colonel Francis, Captain Salva Kiir Mayardit arrived and joined the Adura Camp. It is to be remembered that following the uprising in Bor, Ayod, Waat, Pibor, Fosalla and Akobo, Francis and Salva had attempted to take over Malakal and failing to do so left for Ethiopia where they were directed to their colleagues in the Underground revolution. Sometime later two leaders of the Abyei Liberation Front; Deng Alor Kuol and Chol Deng Alaak arrived. They too were directed by the Ethiopian authorities to the Adura Camp.

The Third Group that joined the Adura Camp was the Student Revolutionary Group headed by Pagan Amum Okiech, Nyachigag Nyachiluk and Lado Lokurnyang and Oyai Deng Ajak. Finally the leaders of the battalions 105, 104 that revolted in Bor, Ayod, Pachalla, Pibor and Waat led by Kerubino Kuanyin Bol and William Nyuon Bany arrived in Ethiopia. They too joined the Adura Camp.
The formation of the SPLM/SPLA and the leadership question
Following the arrival of hundreds of refugees, it was time for the leadership to meet and decide first the question of who would lead a united movement. This was very necessary because they should meet the Ethiopian authorities as one group in order to seek political and financial support. Importantly they would need logistics for effective launch of the Movement.

But before various groups could meet to elect the leader of the group, Akuot Atem, after receiving reports that the Ethiopian authorities were already in contact with Colonel John Garang and suspicious that the Ethiopians may impose Garang on the refugees as the leader suggested that a government be formed before meeting the Ethiopian authorities. Despite the fact that most of the people thought that it was not yet time to do so, Akuot assuming that he had the majority of the refugees went ahead and formed his cabinet. He made himself Chairman, his friend Samuel Gai Tut Minister of Defense, Joseph Oduho Foreign Affairs; Martin Majier, Legal Affairs and Justice and John Garang Chief of Staff. In order to meet the Ethiopian authorities to enable them launch their Movement and despite sensitivities already expressed by Akuot Atem behaviour, the Sudanese met and a delegation headed by Akuot Atem de Mayen was formed and in the membership of Joseph Oduho, Colonel Dr John Garang de Mabior, Samuel Gai Tut and Captain Salva Kiir Mayadit. The meeting was then arranged in order to meet the Ethiopian Chief of Staff General Mesfin who would subsequently arrange for the group to meet Chairman Megistu Haile Mariam to sanction the launch of the Movement. 

General Mesfin asked the group to write its manifesto as a precondition of meeting Mengistu. The group came back and Chairman Akuot Atem was asked to write the position paper which he did. Akuot's paper contained the following conditions: That the Movement was a socialist oriented Movement fighting for the total liberation of the Southern Sudan. When Akuot paper was presented to General Mesfin it was turned down. The group was told in no uncertain term that the Socialist Ethiopia would never favour the breakup of a sisterly state as stipulated in the African Unity Charter. The Group went back to the main refugee camp of Itang dumfounded and unable to comprehend what the Ethiopian wanted them to do as a precondition for soliciting support from her. The most elderly Joseph Oduho made special appeal to Colonel John Garang to write a position paper that would be acceptable to the Ethiopian authorities. Colonel Garang accepted and wrote the paper that later became the SPLM Manifesto.

The Politico-Military High Command:

1. Colonel Dr John Grang de Mabior Chairman and Commander in Chief of SPLA;
2. Major Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, promoted to Lt. Colonel was appointed Deputy Chairman and Deputy Commander In Chief so as to bring him nearer to Colonel John Garang in military hierarchy;
3. Major William Nyuon Bany was promoted to Lt. Colonel and appointed Chief of General Staff of the SPLM;
4. Captain Salva Kiir Mayardit was promoted to the rank of Major and appointed Deputy Chief of Staff for Security and military operations; and
5. Nyachigag Nyachiluk was given a military rank of Major and appointed alternate Member of Politico-Military High Command.

It was in this light that the struggle whose manifestations were to haunt the South Sudan liberation struggle throughout the Campaigns (1983-2005) thus started as two antagonistic movements contrary to what others say it was one movement that split up into two. This was made clear by Dr John Garang in an interview with the author of the Sudan's Painful Road to Peace in 1986 that: Our objective was to convince the Anya-Nya II to join us. The Anya-Nya II also attempted to convince us to join them. The failure of the two groups to join together as one organization, unfortunately led to the start of the war as two movements that brought untold sufferings and setbacks to the people of Southern Sudan they had wanted to liberate.

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