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Monday, 16 May 2011

OSSA Remembers Joseph H. Oduho

This short background was prepared by Otuho-Speaking Students' Association (OSSA)

Joseph Oduho Haworu was born in Lobira village, which is about 42 miles east of Torit, the capital of Eastern Equatoria State (EES), in 1927. He is believed to have joined Isoke Catholic Diocese Elementary School, Ikotos County, in 1937.
He was admitted in Okaru Intermediate School from where he excelled to become one of Rumbek's Secondary School Pioneer Students. He attended a Post Secondary education in Nyapeya in Uganda. Later on, Oduho was admitted in Bakht Al Ruda Teacher's Institute from where he graduated with a Diploma in teaching in 1950. He worked in Maridi, Okaru and Palotaha Intermediate Schools as a headmaster. In Maridi he was arrested after the mutiny in Torit, accused of conspiracy and was sentenced to death by the authorities in Khartoum. He was released in a general amnesty that was issued immediately after independence on January 1st, 1956.
In December 1960, Oduho Fr. Saturnino Ohure, Ferdinand Adiang, William Deng, Alexis Bakumba and others crossed the border into Uganda and the Congo,
While in exile, Oduho and his colleagues formed Sudan African National Union (SANU) and became its first president. SANU is a short form of the Sudan African Closed Districts National Union (SACDNU) formed in 1962 under the leadership of Oduho. He amongst others was arrested by the Ugandan authorities after officially launching SANU in Uganda in 1963. He was released but did not abandon the struggle. He crisscrossed the world in search of friends who sympathized and supported the struggle of the South Sudanese people until the signing of Addis Ababa Agreement in 1972.
After the signing of the Addis Ababa agreement in 1972, Oduho was appointed Minister of Housing and Public Utilities in the first Regional Government of South Sudan called The High Executive Council (HEC). He was arrested by the Khartoum and Juba authorities in 1975, accused of plotting to breakaway the South from the North. He was released in 1976 in yet another amnesty issued by President Numayri in the success of the so-called Al Wifaq Al Watani or National Consensus (Reconciliation) between SSU and the other northern political parties. He stood for elections of 1977 and won his seat. He was reappointed Minister of Cooperative and Rural Development in 1978-1980. He was reappointed in another administration as Minister of Labour and Administrative Reforms 1980-1982. Oduho was also a member of the SSU Central Committee.
In 1982, there were discontents from all over the South, reactions to what became to be known as an exercise of tribalism in the HEC government. Equatorians and other minorities in the South called for decentralization of the South so that power could be devolved to the greater regions of Bahr Al Ghazal, Upper Nile and Equatoria. Oduho resisted this move, stressing to all South Sudanese, young and old, about the dangers of decentralization. He said if bought by all, the idea was aimed at weakening the South, which was emerging as a powerful democracy at the time. Oduho told others that decentralization was a self-destruct mechanism carefully designed by Numayri and Turabi. He was a member of the Committee for the Unification of the Southern Sudan. Again Khartoum and Juba authorities arrested him but they released him in 1983.
Having suffered under his government in the South and the authorities in Khartoum, Oduho believed that the country was not yet ready to coexist and prepared to leave. He was smuggled out of Torit by a Good Samaritan to Kenya from where he joined the Bor-Ayod Mutineers under the leaderships of Majors Kerubino Kuanyin Bol and William Nyuon Bany. He became the first SPLM politician to lead the Political and Foreign Affairs Committee of the SPLM. Oduho co-chaired the drafting of the Penal and Discipline Laws of the SPLA in 1984. He was arrested in 1984 after the return of the delegation which he led to Europe. The delegation was to enlighten the international community on the struggle of the South Sudanese people for freedom, justice and equality. He was briefly released in 1987 but with passport and other useful documents withdrawn from him by the SPLM/A.
He was rearrested in 1988-1989 only that this time he was kept in an isolated area on the mountain top of Jabal Boma or Boma Mountain. He was released in 1991 to come to his home village, Lobira, to bury his late son, Alt-Cdr. Kizito Omiluk Oduho. While in Lobira Oduho realised that he was still under surveillance and his Lobira villagers knew that and prepared to smuggle him out of the village. But before that happened, SPLA soldiers came to Lobira and ordered him down the Lobira Hill. He refused but SPLA soldiers opened fire on the Hill and many innocent lives were lost on both the SPLA and the villagers' sides. Oduho was then moved by the villagers to a border town called Madi-Opei between Sudan and Uganda.
While in Madi-Opei, he wrote a note to his son, Ohiyok Oduho, to help rescue him or he will be killed by SPLM/A whom, he said, attempted to kill him while in the Madi-Opei Catholic Missionary. Ohiyok Oduho called his maternal Uncle in Canada, Paul Odiong Dominic, to assist. Paul Odiong approached an old friend of the Late Joseph Oduho, Prof. Stores McCall, in Canada and asked him for assistance. McCall responded and about 1,000 USD was sent from Canada and Ohiyok Oduho contributed another 1,000 USD. to hire a Cessna Aircraft from Kenya which landed at Kitgum Airstrip. Ohiyok drove to Madi-Opei, about 27 miles North of Kitgum, and evacuated Joseph Oduho to Nairobi in February 1993.
On his arrival to Nairobi, was taken by his son, Ohiyok, to Nairobi Hospital where he was admitted to the Hospital's Intensive Care Unit (ICU). He had developed diabetes, and had a flat heart, which the Cardiologist Doctor, David Silverstein, said could have ceased from work up on the plane, had the flight extended for a little longer. He was released after four days of intensive care at the ICU.
As a veteran Sudanese politician, Oduho was approached in Nairobi, Kampala and beyond Africa by South Sudanese concerned with the situation at home. His son, Ohiyok Oduho, told him that it was time he retired from politics because politics in the South was becoming dirtier by the day. Oduho told his son that he was the only surviving founder of the South Sudanese struggle and could not feel happy to retire if he did not unite the people of the South for whom he had surrendered his life to. Oduho said it will be difficult to negotiate with Khartoum if there were more factions.
In order to fulfill his vision of reunifying the people of the South, Oduho, through the assistance of a Catholic organisation called People For Peace In Africa, organised a reunification conference in Nairobi in late February 1993. All factions were invited, including Torit Faction or the mainstream of the SPLM/A under the leadership of Dr John Garang. SPLM/A disassociated itself from this reunification conference and instead planned to destroy it. As the reunification conferees converged at Panyagor, in Jonglei State, to organise and announce the reunification of more than four factions that broke away from the SPLM/A mainstream, they were attacked by the SPLM/A mainstream. Oduho was caught alive by the SPLM/A and was executed there and then. The execution of Oduho was carried out on this date and month in 1993.
This information should not be misunderstood as being aimed at dividing the people of the South. The real aim of releasing this information as it is, however, is to correct the distorted information on surrounding Oduho's death. He wasn't a simple man and as such the people for whom he sacrificed his life ought to know how he died. His death was and continues to be both strength and loss to the people of South Sudan. Strength because he believed that he would one day die in the cause of the struggle and did not care whose bullet would get him first. Loss because the South needs people like him today to help unite and guide its people.
As heard and read from this short synopsis, Oduho died while trying to unite the struggling masses of South Sudan. OSSA therefore will do everything in its power to work and fight for the unity of the South Sudanese people and certainly cherish such legacy left by a hero this country will never forget for the contribution made by him, and fellow heroes like Fr. Saturnino Ohure, Ferdinand Adiang, William Deng, Aggrey Jaden, Alexis Bakumba and Dr John Garang, just to mention but a few of the many heroes the South and Sudan as a whole has produced.

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