REFLECTION ON THE CONTRIBUTORS THROUGH THE 34 YEARS OF OUR LIBERATION
HERE WE GO AGAIN with the best history memories by the SPLA young veteran, Kur Garang Deng.
Thank God for some of us, who have survived to tell this story. It is a story of my fallen comrades who have donated their precious lives for this nation of ours, the Republic of South Sudan.
In this piece, I congratulate my heroes and acknowledge the great work they have accomplished for us. These are our freedom fighters, revolutionaries, compatriots, liberators and other contributors to this great day and nation of the South Sudanese people under the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army/Movement. The SPLA/M was started today 34 years ago! As we used to sing: SPLA Noor a Sha’ab Sudan (SPLA the Light to the People of the Sudan).
It was not an easy task. That is why we must always commemorate and celebrate the lives of our great leaders and men and women of history since May 16, 1983. I am proudly humbled to be one of them today. Not me alone but with my other colleagues, both alive and dead. But heroes do not die.
Since I joined the Movement when it was barely 7 months old when I was at the age of 16 years, I have been missing my compatriots every moment I reflect about our country and its bloody journey.
I want to acknowledge and salute my leaders from Axis 1 to Axis 5. Axes were the zones into which the liberation movement was chunked, as aligned here with the ranks of their commanders. Axis 1 was under the command of Col. Dr. John Garang de Mabior (C-in-C). Axis 2 was under Maj. Kerubino Kuanyin Bol. Axis 3 was under Maj. William Nyuon Bany Machar. Axis 4 was under Maj. Salva Kiir Mayardit (our current President and C-in-C), and Axis 5 was under Maj. Arok Thon Arok. Only Gen. Salva is alive to tell this story better today.
My other salutation goes to men and women of courage from Battalions 104 and 105; and down to the last battalion of the SPLA. Another goes to Shield 1 down to the last badge of the SPLA.
Of course, I cannot afford to push behind my favourite battalion, The Radio SPLA! SPLA Oyee! Uliliili…! Here we go with Radio SPLA for morale boosting and mobilization. I do not mean the radio as a machine as such, I am talking about the men and women of the voice. Those journalists and technocrats did us proud, though I may not list all their names here. We all know them in our audio clips that are out there.
Next here are all the gallant SPLA zonal and sectoral commanders, officers, NCOs, men and women of the liberation struggle. Remember, they live in us, they live among us, and they gave us this country!
Proudly, as a member of this great organization, I also invite your attention to the Bright Star Campaign, the BSC, from its Phase 1 down to the last of its several phases. This special force made us great, like our current national football team, the Bright Star. I like the BSC brand, name and contribution like my own!
In addition to BSC, let me mention a sample of other operation units that gave us victories during the liberation campaigns. I can remember OTB (Operation Thunderbolt) that liberated parts of Equatoria, ODN (Operation Deng Nhial) that cleared most of Bahr al Ghazal, OJS (Operation Jungle Storm) that was deployed around Juba, among others. I am obliged by history to mention these operations because we lost most of our men in command and operations.
There was this intellectual unit, the Political Commissars. They were the ones who instilled in us the doctrines of the SPLM/A, objectives discipline, morale orientation, among others.
Besides, I can recognize those men who fell in the services of CI (Combat Intelligence), later renamed GIS (General Intelligence Service), and other secret information services in the Movement. They were our eyes and ears for our safety and victories in the battles—in short the pathfinder torch of the Movement.
Yes, another important ingredient of the Movement were the Signalists or CQ. They were called ‘the Backbone of the Movement’. Without this negligible unit, we would not be here today. They were the most trusted and intelligent personnel who intercepted the movement of the enemy, kept our secrets secure from the enemy, and guided the operations as well as facilitated communications during the struggle. I remember how they used to suffer alongside us in the line of fire with manual radio gadgets on their backs and handsets together with triggers in their hands. They would sneak into the enemy line to direct their units’ fire to strategic sites. Imagine how courageous that young man who would shoot an enemy live with words, while others are using bullets! I honour and salute them.
Every unit was as important as the other, though I may not accommodate all of them here. For example, without the services of the Medical Unit during the woundeds evacuation and treatment, some fighters would not gather enough courage lest they were hurt and abandoned.
It was as vital as the Air Defence Unit that provided the roof to the fighters. People like Comrade Garang Akok Adut were a source of comfort and courage when around. I mentioned him as the first ever SAM-7 operator to shoot down a fighter jet at Malual-Gaoth in 1983. I can still say, ‘Mabruk’ like done that day!
Actually, we were not relieved by Garang Adut alone. I can remember of this unit the first group of Tiger And Tumsah battalion who were stationed at Adura, Thiaijak. It gave me a shocking courage as a conscript to witness our Movement had already acquired advanced weapons like that 14.5 two barrel anti-aircraft machine gun. My encouragement was these young men from secondary school manning such a life-saving machine! Unfortunately, most of these university and secondary school leavers are not alive today. Let us jointly salute them, also.
Last but not the least in my acknowledgement list are the civilians who bore the brunt of the dawn assault in Bor in the morning of today in 1983. The population in Bor, like the host communities in Lou and Jikany areas of Nuer, that extended to Western Ethiopia, did a great deal of the liberation caravans that they hosted and guided to their destinations. All the waystation communities all the way from Bahr al Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile regions that facilitated our caravans to Western Ethiopia and back to the field for over 30 years, are founders of this nation as well. Their hospitality has now changed into our nationalism.
Among these heroes are our elders of the nation, especially those who were present in Bor and those areas of the inception of the freedom struggle this day 34 years ago. The ranking elders who witnessed this history live are Maulana Abel Alier, John Garang de Mabior, Kerubino Kuanyin, Alier Mangardit, among other men and women of our history and today’s nation.
Not forgetting our women like Katipa Banat and the Red Army, who were in the camps of Bilpam, Tharpam, Panyidu, Itang, Dima, and Palotaka. Nicknamed ‘The Seeds of the Nation’, I encourage them today to continue multiplying as fruitful seeds through education and service providing to our young nation. This is the vision now realized as set forth by our founding fathers.
Still, as the saying goes, behind a great man is a woman. I say, behind a great nation are women. They took good care of the minors in the camps. Others went with ‘ambrei’ (dried kisra) to the trenches in the front lines, others offered miraculous prayers for battle victories, whereas others offered physical and psychological courage to the officers and soldiers, others commanded platoons, coys and other units. We are proud of our mothers. Hats off to them: SPLA Oyee!
By the way, it would be of disservice not to recognize our so-called ‘The Seventh Front’ as codenamed by our chairman, The late Dr. John. This is the diaspora group that supported our movement in various forms.
The last to remember on this page are rare heroes who were in private civil services but helped greatly in the foundation of the Movement. For example, those men of the Jonglei Canal Project, who were based in Panyagor, provided fuel to the car that was used by Dr. John Garang and the family. These gentlemen of that day are Abdon Agau Jok, Hon. Philip Thon Leek, Amb. Mariano Deng Ngor and Ustaz Atem Biar Diing. Without their nationalistic generosity, imagine what would have happened to the founder of our movement, now our nation, and his crew, who were under the Jallaba forces’ hot pursuit!
Did I tell you how Dr. John acquired that car in Bor? Not yet. The 110 Landrover evacuation car was offered to him by our medical doctors working in Bor Civil Hospital, namely: Dr. Lueth Garang Kuany (who passed away in March this year, 2017) and Uncle Abraham Kuchkoon Pach, who personally handed over the key to Dr. John for the escape. The car was later abandoned in the River Sobat swampy area of Nyanding, and the wreckage of that piece of history can still be located today at Ulang County (for the benefit of our archives researchers).
REMEMBERING THE HARDEST CONDITIONS WE ENDURED
As mentioned earlier on, I cannot conclude without showing you the weirdest conditions these men and women of our struggle passed through. Some of those alive may still have the scars of the scabies, jiggers, lice, mosquitoes, bees, wasps, thirst, hunger, disease, homesickness, fatigue from the long distance treks and the real battle injuries and deaths.
Besides, even the bush foodstuffs we used for survival were also as horrible as those conditions. These include wild leaves in their all varieties, wild roots like poisonous cassava; wild meat from weird animals like monkey, python, lizards, etc. which are taboo foods in some of our South Sudanese cultures. Thank God, by his divine providence, we lived and liberated our people on such foods.
Most importantly, let this history and our bush experiences unite all of us despite the ongoing circumstances. Since time cannot allow the whole of what you may want, let this reminder serves as our point of common reference and comradeship towards the success of our young nation. I leave you with a special recognition of our SPLA morale boosters (Singers Unit). As a sample, these inspiring songs have touched my heart from:
Amos Ajak: “Ana Sudani, Ana Efrikia…(I am a Sudanese, I am an African)”. So let us all celebrate our being South Sudanese, our being Africans.
We achieved this identity from our gallant singers like Comrade Magiir of Muormuor, who was killed at Mogiri near Juba, singing: “SPLA, let’s brace together in one heart. This country will be inherited by our children one day!”
Passionately, I sign out with this song of hope that we used to sing in Koryom Battalions: “Raan tong ci dong abi cool e rin ke Akuma den de SPLA.” In English, it means: “…Any survivor that remains behind will eventually be called by the name of our Government by the SPLA.”
FOOTNOTE: Being one of the eyewitnesses alive today, I was touched overnight to rush to the computer with this emotional message. It is not that I am perfection in narrating our history, I was just touched like any citizen. Therefore, I beg to own all the errors therein and urge my comrades alive to join in telling accurate tales of our current history, the only way we can pay back to our fallen heroes whose blood has cemented our national foundation.
The writer, Mr. Kur Garang Deng, Minister Plenipotentiary, is a former freedom fighter from Agreb Battalion of Koryom Division and currently a diplomat in the South Sudan Embassy to Kenya.
He can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org