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Saturday, 28 May 2011

South Sudan Independence Preparations Overshadow SPLM/A Anniversary

By Steve Paterno,
Author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel

Sudan Tribune, May 15th, 2011
In 1983, SPLM/A took up arms to start a war of liberation, the war that lasted for more than two decades. Thus far, the journey has been too long and torturous. Every time SPLM/A anniversary approaches, it is always different and unique, due to the surrounding circumstances and ensuing events. For example, the last time I attended SPLM/A anniversary ceremony in Sudan was in1992, in the town of Torit. I still vividly remember the speeches of Cdr. William Nyoun and that of Uncle Joseph Oduho at that event. At the time, SPLM/A was in shambles. It has already suffered a severe split; between SPLM-Torit faction and Nassir faction. The tide of war victory drastically shifted in favor of Khartoum armed forces. At the background of the colorful celebration, we could hear loud explosions of bombs from the advancing Khartoum armed forces, who were only miles away and posed to capture Torit town. Though jubilant, because of the celebration, we were actually bracing for the worse.
The situation within SPLM/A was tense and suspicions among the SPLM/A commanders were running very high. Certain elements were planting landmines in Torit town, in act of sabotage. The planted landmines killed several town folks and hit some vehicles. In his speech, Cdr. William Nyoun warned against those who were plotting against him. He asserted that he knew the people behind the landmines plot. That he was the intended target of those landmines.
Uncle Joseph Oduho was just fresh, out of a prolong detention. He was conditionally released to attend the funeral of his son who died a year earlier. Despite acknowledging his lack of military knowledge, Uncle Joseph Oduho tried his best to dispel some of the wild rumors, regarding Khartoum’s armed forces firepower superiority. Those rumors were already degrading the morals of the SPLA soldiers. Some of the rumors were that Khartoum’s armed forces possessed some lethal advanced arsenals and weaponry system that include chemical and biological agents, as well as some types of Iraqi missiles. People believed that the skin burn sustained by some soldiers during the battle as confirmations of the rumors. The rumors were even fueled more as people became frantic, after Khartoum dropped large parachutes in Torit town. Some people thought it was some type of Special Forces, airborne in the rear of frontline. I could hear people shouting, Iraqis! Iraqis! Iraqis! while fleeing in disarray. Anyways, the parachutes were shot down and they turned out to contain mere Khartoum’s propaganda leaflets, calling for surrender and peace.
Two months after celebrating the SPLM/A anniversary in Torit, we had to sadly evacuate the town. The SPLA gallant forces last stand was in the outskirt of the town, where they put a fierce fight, and then withdrew, allowing the enemy to enter the town, without firing a single bullet.
Unfortunately, few months later, both Cdr. William Nyoun and Uncle Joseph Oduho, would end up leaving the SPLM/A-Torit faction to join the Nassir faction. So, if SPLM/A was in a comma, now it is on life-support. A year later, Uncle Joseph Oduho met his ultimate death. This will follow by the demise of Cdr. William Nyoun few years later. Both died under mysterious circumstances and in South-South conflicts. Both of these men also seem to have had enemies within the movement that they were serving.
This year marks the last time SPLM/A members will celebrate the anniversary of the movement, before the birth of new nation. Next coming years are going to present different and new realities, which will also require different approaches and attitudes. It is not a secret that when the movement was founded, it took deadly South-South rivalries and in fights that robbed lives. This stigma establishes a precedent within the movement and retarded the progress of the struggle, because more often than not, the top echelon in the movement conspire and even kill each other. The suspicions among these top brass, exist to this day and must cease with the birth of new nation.
Moving forward, we must start by honoring the dead and acknowledging them for their sacrifices. The SPLM/A commanders must now assume different roles and throw away suspicions against each other, which they live with throughout the struggle. Those commanders in the military are now professionals with the duty and mandate to defend the Constitution of South Sudan, the integrity of the nation and its citizens. There should be no reason for these professional soldiers to look over their shoulders, because of the plots and counter-plots, coming from within. Those commanders who choose to enter into politics must understand the territory in which they are getting into. The political field is going to be a competitive one, testing ones popularity, power of persuasion, and humility of accepting defeat. In short, the new country should be a nation that has a room to accommodate all, a nation guided by its constitution and rule of law. Otherwise, the long struggle and sacrifices, will be worthless.,38918

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