GUEST COLUMN: COMMEMORATING AND CONGRATULATING ‘THE UNSUNG HEROES’ OF THE LIBERATION STRUGGLE (Part II)
DEAR READERS: Kur Garang has done it again! This time on a vivid remembrance of the battle that led to the capture of Ikotos. No, my interest is not about Ikotos as a liberated town of that day, it is the way he has heaped all the praises and honour to our heroes who are no longer with us here. In fact, if all our writers, leaders and government were keeping our heroes at that respect, their widows, widowers and orphans would be happy today, and moreover, the martyrs themselves would have blessed our nation with peace and prosperity. My fear is that we are still in problem because we have just forgotten our history and the historicals. Have a nice read as follows:
As it used to be our norm in our SPLA liberation times, I salute you with Revolutionary Greetings. This is also a reminder to my comrades and others that all our letters and communications used to begin with revolutionary greetings and salutations, which is no longer relevant nowadays.
Having covered Part 1 of the series in the previous article on 26 Sept. 2014, this is another historical day I can still remember and have to put in record.
This time, it is about the fall of Ikotos, now a county in Eastern Equatoria, bordering northern Uganda. It is preceded by Tsertenya on the south, the way to Uganda, Imatong Mountains on the west, Isoke on the mountainous north-west, Hiyala on the north and Romla on the east.
Today, October 7, 2014, falls on the same day in 1988 when the town fell to SPLA’s brigade of Bright Star Campaign (BSC Phase 1) Commando. The Commando was commanded by Capt. William Kong Tut, who earned the nickname ‘Young General’ (RIP).
The siege attack of the town was staged on 1st day of October 1988, just 4 days after the capture of Hiyala as explained in Part 1 of this ‘Unsung Heroes’ series.
The enemy forces were not the real Jalaba (Arabs) from the North but our own Southern trained militia which subscribed to Khartoum regime against the SPLA. They were under the command of the former Anya-nya I fighter in the name of Lokurdek, a son from the local area. Those who were with us in the late 80s would remember the dance and song performed in the ridicule of ‘Lokurdek Militia’ around the Lotuko and Acholi areas of Eastern Equatoria of those days.
The funny piece of this operation was that Lokurdek sent a propaganda message to Khartoum through Torit and Juba that he had cleared all the SPLA’s senior commanders of BSC all this time, and only left with the last man standing. That was the only head of the Movement, the C-in-C, remaining with the few forces for him to capture. However, this could only happen on one condition: if the regime could reinforce him with enough logistics. In response, the regime accepted to send all the logistics that Lokurdek requested and promised to lift him from Sergeant Major to Major General and assign him the position of a second command of the Southern forces in Juba. He was to be promoted and taken to stay at Giyada (regional headquarters) in Juba.
Unfortunately, the message was intercepted by our gallant signalist, 2nd Lt. Akim Muorwel (a son from Rumbek) who relayed the message to the C-in-C. On hearing it, Dr. John responded to the lies of Lokurdek with his usual jokes to the commando parade, “Lokurdek claimed that he would crash you and capture me alive to mark the end of the movement, are you ready for that?” The commando jumped up in fury and prepared for the attack, which swept off Lokurdek and his Khartoum-friendly ‘Maraseen’.
Being an old experienced soldier, Sergeant Major (Rekieb al Awel in local Arabic ranking) Lokurdek disturbed our Commando forces in the contention with his tactics of plank attack using the local fighters, who were acquainted with the geography and terrain of the area. With Dr. John Garang being the overall commander of the operations, he ordered for a reinforcement of two mobile task forces, which just arrived from Bahr al Ghazal region. Both were under fierce commanders namely: Capt. Garang Mading Agok, now a brigadier general in the SPLA and just graduated with a bachelors’ degree in the University of Juba, and Capt. Aleer Awan Chiengkuach (RIP). Dr. John ordered them to lay an ambush to counter Lokurdek’s plank. This was successful to the relief of our commando who had besieged Ikotos.
The offensives on Ikotos lasted 5 days, and the garrison fell on October 7, 1988. The assault took the best time of the afternoon and by 7.30PM, Sgt. Maj. Lokurdek fled with his forces to Uganda border. Taking the Tsertenya route, he took a right turn and handed himself with his militia over to Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) at Agoro.
As usual, the Khartoum Regime under Sadig al Mahdi attempted in vain to reinforce the local militia of Lokurdek in Ikotos. The Sudan government forces sent an Antonov bomber to rescue the militia by dropping food and arms but, alas, the fate worked against them! The first airdrop consignment was shared equally between the Lokurdek forces and our commando. The second drop was also commandeered by half by the Commando. And, finally, the last drop on October 7 was delivered wholesale by the Antonov to our side, with only one bundle of sugar on the garrison side of Sgt. Maj. Lokurdek and his fighters. With our heavy shelling from our artillery and air defence units coupled with no arms and enough foodstuffs to sustain Lokurdek group’s resistance, they took off after a fierce fire power that evening, leaving behind their wounded fighters to engage our forces, which overpowered them at 7.30PM. And Ikotos was our town all along!
As usual, my appreciation goes first to our local population of the area. The natives who gave us support that time were two tribes of Lango and the Dongatongo (please, check the local spellings). As per my local knowledge, those two were the local ethnic supporters of the operations…apologies for typos and in case I have forgotten other contributors. And that is the reason why such records should be kept alive and accurate to show who made this nation.
Again, I cannot end this piece without recognizing the people of Homa village, who provided a conducive home to the operation Headquarters of Dr. John Garang, the Commander-in-Chief of the SPLA and Chairman of SPLM, who also doubled as the overall commander of the operations BSC (Phase 1). It is impossible to forget the contribution of the local people who sustained our operations with the supplies of honey and local foodstuffs. The honey served as energizer (energy giving food) and medicine to the soldiers at the same time. Wow, the miracles of our revolution struggle will never fade!
I can also remember the support given to us by Khartoum regime by carelessness of dropping us food and ammunitions. We also depended on their lack of experience of the area and our super will of fighting for our rights, giving us the upper hand of capturing most of their war machinery and logistics for our own use against them.
In conclusion, knowing that most of our comrades have fallen in action and thereafter, I still believe some of my colleagues who are alive might have clearer memories of this piece of our history. However, I have taken it as part of my duty to keep the records of heroism for our youth and children who were not there. I also challenge my comrades who are still alive to pick up the history challenge and leave their brains behind for our tomorrow’s generation and nation. We need this fresh and own history for our children’s schools.
Therefore, for my colleagues, both the fallen heroes and the survivors, I salute and congratulate you. To the fallen martyrs, I salute and inform you, wherever you are in forms of souls and skeletons out there, that what you donated your precious lives for is now here. It was bitter roots those days but is now is sweet fruits in the symbolic honey the people of Ikotos donated that time to the liberation fighters of this nation. I congratulate you in the name of the Sudanese peoples’ liberation struggle, and most proudly, in the name of the Republic of South Sudan.
- God bless the SPLA/SPLM
- God Bless Dr. John Garang de Mabior’s soul and all the freedom fighters
- God bless the peoples of South/Sudan.
- Long Live the Republic of South Sudan.
By Mr. Kur Garang Deng
The writer is currently a diplomat in the Embassy of South Sudan in Kenya, and a student of MA in Diplomacy (IDIS) University of Nairobi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at “Kur Garang Deng”.
FOOTNOTE: To my esteemed readers, the theme of this piece of writing is to recognize the job well done by our heroes and encourage my colleagues to do likewise. Therefore, it is my humble request that any errors, whether factual, chronological or syntactic should be pardoned as I am not writing for pride of my being part of them, but as a duty for us as surviving citizens to our nation.