GUEST COLUMN: COMMEMORATING ‘THE UNSUNG HEROES’ OF SOUTH SUDAN
If all our former freedom fighters could write their memoirs like Mr. Kur Garang Deng has done, then we would have something to be proud of for our country and posterity. Unfortunately, most of our leaders are preoccupied with the current politics, forgetting the journey they have taken to reach this time of Independence. The following article explores the richness of our ‘living history’ and makes me wish I were a native of Hiyala village in Eastern Equatoria. With the promise of launching a series of such serious flashback in history, I commend and recommend Big Bro, Kur Garang, for giving us the best example in this best sample of using our past fire up our future. Please, read this for your balanced weekend. I am proud to be publishing this ‘Unsung Heroes’ on the Guest Column as from Kur’s Facebook Timeline.
REMEMBERING AND CONGRATULATING ‘THE UNSUNG HEROES’ OF THE REVOLUTION AND LIBERATION STRUGGLE
Today, 26 Sept. 2014, is a historical day I have to put in record as the day when the SPLA’s Bright Star Campaign (BSC) captured Hiyala. Hiyala (sometimes pronounced ‘Kiyala’ by the SPLA) is a strategic rural town 24 miles from Torit, the capital of Eastern Equatoria, on Torit-Kapoeta road.
The town fell to the SPLA at 10:14PM on 26 September 1988, after long siege that lasted 55 days. The forces, the commanders and fallen heroes for whom this theme is a dedication should be remembered today are as follows.
In the first place, I thank God for making most of us survived that battle and series of others, and live to see the fruits of that revolutionary struggle on this day! For example, I remember on 20th of September when we accompanied Bior-Asuod (Gen. Bior Ajang) with comrade Kuol Majak, Chol Akoi and myself into the trenches seven metres away from the enemy’s line, the distance that can only be accessed at night. Therefore, I am proud to start this series of historical flashback by personally congratulating and commemorating the heroes of SPLA Bright State Campaign (BSC), Phase I, who carried out operations around that area in the late 1980s.
The operations of Hiyala in 1988 was under the following commanders, as a few to mention:
– Dr. John Garang de Mabior, Chairman of SPLM and Commander-in-Chief of the SPLA, was the Overall Commander of Operations Bright Star Campaign.
– Gen. Oyai Deng Ajak, Operation Commander of BSC, Phase I.
– Gen. Bior Ajang Duot (Alternate Commander that time), current Undersecretary of Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs was the Head of Logistics and Deputy Operations Commander in the frontline.
– Gen. Gier Chuang Aluong (A/Cdr) was the head of Signal Unit (Jahaz). Communications department was very vital during the operations. For this reason, the Signal Unit was also referred to as the ‘Backbone of the Moment’.
– Capt. Anyar Apiu Anyar (RIP), Head of Air Defence Unit.
– Maj. Gen. Dr. Dau Aleer (Formerly Captain), Head of BSC Medical Corps of the operation.
– Capt. Gatluak (RIP), Head of Artillery Unit, one of the officers who had pinned down the enemy in the contention for more than 6 months before BSC Operations took it.
– Brig. Gen. Patrick Hiteng (then Captain). He was a helicopter pilot, one of the few pilots who humbled themselves to join the liberation movement, and worked tirelessly in mobilizing the local population around the area, earning himself a nickname of ‘Haforeria’, one of the local villages he hails from. He has now been transferred to civil service as Director-General in the Ministry of Roads and Transport in Juba.
– Brig. Gen. Ateny Mayen Jok (formerly Captain), Head of Taskforce that laid siege on Hiyala for more than two months. He currently works in the administration department in the SPLA General Headquarters, Bilpam.
– Brig. Gen. Deng Atem Apet (Captain by then) was also head of taskforce like Capt. Ateny. He is now a Brig. Gen. in Prisons Service.
– Capt. Deng Aguang Atem (RIP) was Head of General Intelligence Unit (GIS, now known as MI), based at the Operations Centre.
– Maj. Gen. Marial Nuor Jok (now Director for Military Intelligence) was 1st lieutenant and Head of the Guards Unit in the C-in-C Headquarters.
– Capt. William Kong Tut (RIP), aka, ‘Young General’ of Shield 1 was the Commander of Commando (Rear Base).
– Brig. Gen. Mou Manasseh Maalak (cameraman). Who said there was no journalism during the liberation war? This man, then a Shield II 1st Lt. Mou was the only brave video cameraman who used to carry a camera in his right hand and an AK47 in his left during the assault. Most of the video tapes of the SPLA operations seen on SSTV today can be credited to Brig. Gen. Mou, who now works with the SPLA’s CJMC in Juba.
– This operation was specifically attributed to the commanders of Koryom Taskforce who executed the attacks and capture of the garrison of Hiyala that day. Koryom Taskforce was commanded by Capt. Kon Anyieth Mabil (RIP) of Shield 1, also known by his colleagues as ‘Abu-kodos’. The other three officers were 1st Lt. Santo Lemi Logwang (shield 3), currently a Major-General in police and Director of CID, 1st Lt. Morwel (shield 3), and 1st Lt. Majur Dau Arok of Shield 3 (RIP). The strange part of this assault was that the garrison fell within 7 minutes of the raid, with 17 of our heroes taken out of action (killed) and 23 wounded within Koryom Taskforce.
– The Jalaba Forces (NIF) that these gallant guerrilla freedom fighters condoned off and annihilated were under Col. Mohammad Saif-a-Dola, who was killed in action when the town was captured that day.
Of course, who can forget the power of the local people? Referred to as the backbone of New Sudan by Dr. John, the civil population’s contribution in terms of manpower, food, guides, information, morale boosting, etc. led to the success not only of the of the Liberation Movement but also of the independence of this country. Therefore, special appreciation goes to the Wulek, the local force comprising mainly the sons of the Lotuho area, originating from the ‘munyimuji’ (local spellings not so accurate).
The local hero areas include the following villages: Hiyala, Oguruny (used to be known as ‘Loguruny’), chalamini, Iloli (the operation-base), Haforeria, Mura-Hatiha, Loming, Ilou (the then headquarters of C-in-C), which was communicating and coordinating the operations day and night, Tirangore, and others. These places are being mentioned by name because the natives inhabiting the area played a major role, giving Dr. John (C-in-C) to place the civil population of the New Sudan in the heart of the Liberation Project. Without their cooperation, we would not succeed in our operations in their area. Therefore, this day, Sept. 26, 2014 (1988) is a special dedication to them as a witness that they participated in the liberation of this country.
Besides the villagers and active combatants, appreciation goes to all the NCOs (non-commissioned officers), especially the Movement’s drivers who volunteered their skills and lives to work day and night to see into it that the operations succeeded.
Since that day, Hiyala had never fallen back into the hands of the enemy, despite the fact that Torit and Kapoeta were at times recaptured and controlled by the regime forces. This operation (Bright Star Campaign) was important because it was to clear not only a strategic way to Kenya but Torit is an historical town of the first liberation struggle, which needed to be captured and secured by all cost.
In conclusion, it should be noted that at the least rank of a lance corporal (Wikhil Ariff), I was not any significant officer though, but it touched my heart not to let our history go into oblivion with very courageous heroes who gave their lives for this nation. Among all the liberation fighters of BSC, both who lost their lives and those still alive, though not mentioned here all, I bow for you! This piece carries the theme of congratulating you for the job well done.
Also, it is our moral duty to remind all our liberation colleagues to remember such events and also help us write down their own memoirs of the so many battles for the sake of our children who are coming behind. As this is the first of my ‘Unsung Heroes’ series, I invite my readers to watch out for the next article on another event. To my comrades who are not with us today, I am proud to inform you in absentia (in your graves) that the mission that took your lives has now become the Republic of South Sudan! For this reason, I light the candle for you on this day in my house.
Long Live The Revolutionary Struggle of the Peoples of Sudan!
Long Live the SPLA/SPLM!
Long Live the undying Spirits of the Heroes of our Liberation Movement!
Long Live the Republic of South Sudan!
By Mr. Kur Garang Deng:
Then a Lance Corporal of Commando, now in the non-active rank of Major, the writer is currently a diplomat serving in the level of Counsellor, in the Embassy of the Republic of South Sudan in Kenya, and also doing his MA in Diplomacy (Semester III), University of Nairobi, with three of other South Sudanese colleagues that he would like to mention by names: Lt. Col. Abraham Ket, Mr. Kasimiro, a former diplomat in Sudan and currently working with UN in Nairobi, in the level of Chief of Staff for UNEP, and my colleague in the South Sudan Embassy here, one of the bright and respected diplomats, Second Secretary Mr. Gideon Bingo.