Colonel Dr. John Garang Speaks To Heritage On (War and Peace in the Sudan)–Last year Heritage interviewed leading personalities at home and abroad. The interview was a part of the paper’s contribution to the present search for peace in the country. First Heritage interviewed Comrade Mengistu Haile Mariam in Addis Ababa in December last year. Comrade Mengistu generously offered his views on the subject of peace and how it could be achieved. His was followed by Prime Minister Sadiq el Mahdi, who also gave his views about the subject, last April.
Then early last month our Editor Arop Madut who conducted the interviews with the two leaders, flew down to Nairobi where he had the chance to talk to the SPLM/SPLA leader, Col. Dr. John Garang de Mabior. Below is the full text of the interview. The rest will be serialised in the subsequent issues:
Q: 1 From what one has learned so far so you were not satisfied with the terms of the Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972 on the South:: yet you accepted to be absorbed into the Sudan Army. Your brief comment:
DR JOHN GARANG:
A: It is true that I was not satisfied with the terms of the Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972. It’s also true that I was absorbed into the Sudan National Army when the agreement was implemented. Not only was I dissatisfied with the Addis Ababa Agreement on the Southern Sudan, I was not satisfied with the objectives and the aims of the Anya Nya as a movement. This was because the Anya Nya at that time stood for the secession of southern Sudan to form a separate sovereign state. Before I joined the Anya Nya Movement, I went to the camp of General Joseph Lagu, the Commander of the Anya Nya to brief me about the objectives of his movement. From his briefings it was clear that his Movement was a separatist movement. I told him point blank that I was opposed to secession movements. I left in disappointment. I decided to go and continue with my graduate studies. After reconsidering my position after six months, I decided to join the Anya Nya Movement despite my disagreement!
With its objectives. These objectives, I thought, could not be changed unless one did participate in the movement itself. So as a matter of principle, I joined the Anya Nya with a view of making fundamental changes in its aims and objectives. I have, needless to say, been on record as early as 1970 about the terms of the unity of the country, which should therefore be on new basis. Our plans to make new changes in the Anya Nya movement were pre-empted by the Addis Ababa Agreement that ended the 17 years’ war that has been ranging in Southern Sudan since 1955. Our work to transform the Anya Nya Movement from a reactionary to a genuine revolutionary movement was thereby brought to a halt. Meanwhile the agreement was accepted by Southerners because jobs were given. The ruling clique in Khartoum had then realized that what the Janubiin (Southerners) wanted were jobs. So why not give them jobs? Joseph Lagu was therefore taken into the National Army as a Major General, Abel Alier as a Minister and I was absorbed into the Sudan Army.
Q: 2 Can you enlighten us as to why you were opposed to the Addis Ababa Agreement before you could see it operational?
A: We were opposed to the terms of the Addis Agreement because its basic terms and the basis for the Agreement were first to absorb the Anya Nya into the National Army, second to integrate it after absorption and third to destroy it. So you have a process were the main aim was to achieve a cheap victory over the Anya Nya forces. In brief the concrete basis for the Addis Ababa Agreement was to disarm the Anya Nya forces that had proved formidable in the battlefield through peace. All the other coding; vis-à-vis the regional self-government Act, the ministerial posts and all things connected with the local autonomy were only peripheral. The main objective to be exact was to pull out the armed component of the Anya Nya Movement, to neutralize it and finally destroy it.
Q: 3 since you said all the Anya Nya officers were aware about the harm and the strategic plans of the Sudan govt. in regard to the future of the Movement, why did you accept to be absorbed into the Sudan National Army?
A: We tried to oppose it but our voices were few and we realised that it was not going to be successful and opportune because the masses of the people in the south of Sudan were not prepared to support our move at that time to continue with the war. So we made the analysis of the situation. Late Brigadier Emmanuel Abur, Lewa (Major General) Joseph Kuol Amum – now with us, myself and many young officers, sat down, analysed the situation and decided to oppose the Agreement. After the meeting we circulated a document to that effect.
It was sent to all the Anya Nya major camps in Bahr El Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile Provinces. That Document should now be with the Sudan Military Intelligence office in Khartoum. As part of your journalistic research, you can try to find it. However, that document was betrayed by someone we use to call Giant (Saturnino). This man surrendered it to General Joseph Lagu in Juba and one of our officers Kamilo was arrested in Lobone. Gen. Lagu gave this document to the Military Intelligence Branch and I believe it is still in their file in Khartoum. This was we thought, going to be a futile opposition because the South, the springboard of our opposition was not prepared to back us. Many southern people were prepared for jobs than the continuation with the war.
The priority was rather who would get what jobs. Who would get PS, who would get a group VII, who would be a director, who would be a Minister? On our side in the Anya Nya Armed Forces, we were struggling for ranks. The atmosphere was therefore not conducive for the continuation with the war. We recognized that people wanted peace not another war. Any popular struggle, naturally must involve the people. So seeing that the people were not ready for the continuation of the war we thought it would be futile to fight on. We thus suspended our activities, and knowing the character of the Agreement we accepted to be absorbed into the national army. Of course we were aware that the contradictions and the conflicts.
Q: 4 Many people have been led to believe that the reasons that led to the rise of the SPLA/M was the division of the South into mini-regions and the subsequent introduction of the Islamic Sharia Laws in 1983. Would you agree with this assessment?
A: I would not agree with this assessment and you would definitely agree with me that it was not the ‘Kokora’ or the division of the South into small regions or the introduction of the Islamic Sharia laws that led to the rise of the SPLA/SPLM. Of course these factors did have some bearing on the said situation. What actually triggered off the rebellion was, not these issues. We went to the bush before the South was divided. Although the discussion about the division of the South had been going on for a long time the South was divided in May while the Sharia Law was introduced in September.
To be fair, what triggered off the rebellion was the plan to transfer the absorbed Nya Nya forces to the North and thereby integrating them all over the Sudanese armed forces where they would become individuals there and there thus eventually; through old age, premature pension, death and dismissals, the phenomenon of the Anya Nya force within the Sudanese army would disappear. This, in reality, was the main objective of Addis Ababa. This was why we precisely opposed the terms of the Addis Ababa Agreement. I had predicted it, and was proved right.
Q: 5 Do we understand that you were during your absence from the country in constant touch with those whom you believe would help you launch a revolutionary movement?
A: Definitely we were in frequent contact with each other. We were not only in contacts, we were active. We were even engaged in sabotage activities in places like Wau, Malakal and other places. We were active during the ten years between 1972-1982 planning to launch the Peoples Revolution.
Q: 6 Many people have been made to believe that the war you are waging in the South against the Khartoum govt. has been imposed on you by certain circumstances. Would you agree to this statement?
A: It depends on the connotation of war being imposed on me, or the SPLA. Essentially the war was not imposed on me but on the Sudanese people by certain circumstances. It has not been imposed on me as an individual. As an individual I cannot afford to fight the Sudan Government or the Sudan Army. There should be objective conditions that can make a people angry to force them fight a war.
Q: 7 What I meant by the war being imposed on you is that, you were on annual leave in Bor town when the battalion 105 mutiny took place that you took over when the commander of the rebel garrison Major Kerubino was wounded. In other words many people believe that you did not plan this war, you were just dragged into it?
A: It is not true that the war was imposed on me by the circumstances you have just described. This is what some people say to explain their arguments. It may be the timing to start the movement that might have been imposed on me by the said circumstances. For your information, the Bor incident of May 1983 was not a mutiny by Battalion 105 as it is being claimed in certain quarters. We have been planning to start this movement and Bor was not our primary target. Our plan was to move onto Juba, Capture it and make it our springboard to launch the movement. If the movement had started in Bor it was because Major General Siddiq Al Banna, the then commander of the Southern Command who wanted to pre-empt our move struck first. In reality, our plan to launch the present movement started in February 1983. At that time Comrade Chagai who is now our commander in Bil Pam and who was our runner came to Khartoum in February for consultation concerning our plan. On his arrival, we discussed the possibility and plans for me to come to Malakal in order to coordinate our activities. And because Salva Kiir was an intelligence Officer in Malakal, it was therefore possible for us to coordinate our activities.
After we had discussed our plans, Chagai returned to Malakal. On his arrival to Malakal, Salva Kiir sent an urgent telegram urging me to come to Malakal to attend the sickness of my brother whom he said was extremely sick. He said my presence in Malakal was a must. I took a seven-day leave to attend my brother’s sickness. Of course I did not have a brother in Malakal let alone the fact that he was sick. So I came to Malakal with William Abdalla Chuol, a member of our organization, and who had been living with me for three weeks, in my house at Haj Yousif in Khartoum. After several meetings in Malakal, we decided to send William Abdalla Chuol to Gordon Kong of the Anya Nya Two at Bill Pam so as to put all his forces on full alert for the impending assault on Juba in August 1983. Having coordinated our plans, I went back to Khartoum. Our plan was, that the Anya Nya Two forces were to assemble in Pachala and Waat areas. William Nyuon our present Chief of Staff was to command Waat and Kerubino Kuanyin to command Bor.
The operation was to be launched from Bor, with the forces in Pibor Pachala, Akobo and Waat giving support. We thought that if the assault on Juba failed we would have, at least, had some base to continue with the movement.
In May, Chagai came back to Khartoum with the information that the situation was deteriorating fast and that the assault on Juba planned for August was not going to be possible. So I took annual leave in order to go to Juba in order to see the exact situation. If the situation, in my assessment was not going to reach August, I would therefore proceed to Kapoeta to make sure that the Battalion 117, one of our strong support units support our move. Of course, in order to attack Juba we would need uprising in our garrisons, which were being transferred to the North. We knew of course that Battalions 117 in Kapoeta and 111 at Rumbek would be ready to join us. As for battalion 110 in Aweil, we could not count very much on it because most of the soldiers from this unit.
On my arrival to Juba I found that the situation was tense. There was the question of money for the soldiers, which was reported to have triggered off the rebellion in Bor, Pibor, Pachala and Akobo. This issue kept the people moving between Bor and Juba in effort to diffuse the situation. In my assessment, the situation had already reached a point where it could no longer be diffused. The attack on Bor was in fact imminent. I had sent my family ahead with instructions to proceed to Bor and that I would follow later. When I reached Juba on the 9th of May I put up with Peter Cirillo, who was Deputy to Siddiq el Banna, Commander of the Southern Command, “of course, when you are planning illegal or under-ground activities it is always best to be close to the Authority. So in Khartoum I was very close to Generals Yousif Ahmed Yousif and Sowar el Dahab. I was also very close to General Abu Kadok, the army top brass. We used to have dinners together. My calculation was that if there were intelligent reports about my activities, their reaction would be ……. “John waled kues wa mamumkin Yamoul Hajat zeeda…” John is a good boy, and it is not possible for him to do things like this. As I said before I put up with Peter Cyrillo the present Governor of Equatoria. I would dress up every morning and go to the office with him.
On the 12th of May, I went to the office of General Siddiq al Banna. On seeing me he said “John when did you come to Juba” “three days ago I replied. “What do you want here and where are you going to? (“Mashi Fi Eijaza syiatak’) I am going on leave sir,” I replied. He said, “Inta fi Eijaza….Inta men ayi mahal?” Are you on leave and where do you come from?” “From Bor,” I answered. I could see his face suddenly changed. John if I were you, I would not go to Bor. Why sir, I am an officer on leave and Bor is my home. I have officially been given leave by the General Headquarters, Khartoum. Moreover I have my agriculture project in Bor which I intend to organise”. I explained. He said, “If I were you John, I would not go to Bor. To be frank with you John, General Al Banna continued. Those of Kerubino have rebelled and as far as the Sudanese Army is concerned, Bor, Pachala and Pibor are no longer part of the Sudanese Army… They are rebels. If you go there and if they don’t kill you it means that you are with them.” I am very happy with your advice Sir. But what you have told me has made it very necessary for me to go to Bor. “Why”? He asked. “I have sent my family to Bor four days ago. My family came ahead of me and are in Bo,” I replied. So, with your permission, Sir, If I leave tomorrow for Bor, go and collect my family and come back the following day, will that be acceptable to you Sir? If you stick to that programme, if you go tomorrow and come back the next day, there will be no problem.
So, I said “thank you very much syiatak. You are really a senior officer. This is an advice a senior officer like you can give to his junior officers.” “But syiatak.” I continued. “I am happy because I am a senior officer in the Sudanese Army. I am also the Deputy Director of the Military Research Unit. If there is something of that nature, I should have not been given my leave in the first place. In the second place, I should have been briefed in Khartoum. I don’t blame you anyway but those of Khartoum who gave me leave without briefing me and allowed me to go to Bor where there are military operations. This is unbecoming. But nevertheless you have saved the situation ‘Syiatak’. That is why it is always necessary to have a good commander. You have briefed me about the situation in Bor. I will go to collect my family tomorrow. Thank you syiatak”. I gave him a salute and left the office.
Siddiq Al Banna might have been a big fool. He knew the exact situation. As a veteran soldier, he should have not allowed me to go to Bor. However, I left for Bor the following day. It was on the 13th of May when I reached Bor. On the 14th Salva Kiir Mayardit, one of our co-ordinators in Malakal sent us an urgent message. The message stated that Bor would be attacked within the next 48 hours. That the Buffalo-planes were transporting troops to Akobo. That troops were being massed in Akobo in order to attack Pibor and Pachala. That Bor would be attacked from Juba. From this message, we knew that the attack was coming and made preparations for it. We made the home of Dr. Lueth as an assembly place for discussing war plans. There was a Sudan Army company under a major at Langbar, north of Bor and the Battalion 105 at Malual-chaal south of Bor under Kerubino.
So we made a brief meeting about how to proceed with the war. I told Kerubino that since I was on leave I would go to Langbar to tie down the company there. I told him that if we were attacked from the rear at Langbar and attacked from Juba would be a disaster since it would dislodge us altogether.
So on May 14, I went to Langbar as planned, to be around as a senior officer. Abel Alier was there. And in order to make friends with the Commander at Langbar, we used to play cards with him and other officers. So on the morning of May 16, at 5 am the attack came from Juba as expected. I then sent Kerubino to command the troops of Battalion 105 and went to Langbar to save the situation from being attacked from the rear. At one time the Radio communication set of the attacking forces from Juba went off the air. So the commander of Langbar was ordered to send a force to Bor to see what was going on there. He gave me the message and asked me what he could do.
As a senior officer, I said, I advise that you do nothing. Because, I continued, “You are a company and if you send a platoon you would be left with only two platoons, and if the rebels come here they will over-run your camp. Moreover you have Sayed Abel Alier here. You have the white men of the Jonglei Projects and those of the De groot here. These are your responsibilities. What had happen to the Radio we do not know. But it could be some technical fault”. I assured him. “So let us sit and wait for two to three hours. There may come an answer from Juba informing us that they are on the air again”. So he listened to my advice and did not send any force. After three hours the reply came asking him not to send any force because the Radio set was on the air again. That was one occasion.
The second occasion, was when Kerubino was shot in the arm and was taken to Bor Hospital. The commander of Langbar received another message from the attacking forces that Kerubino was shot. The message ordered him to prepare a force to go to the Hospital. He gave me the message. I told him not to go to the Hospital because, I said, the people in Juba might not know what might be going on in Bor theatre of operations. I told him that Kerubino might have not come to the Hospital alone, may be with more than a company being aware that you have only a company here. He might have come with two companies. If he has a company you need three companies to attack him because the rebels are in a better position. They are better prepared and ready to repulse an attack on them than we are”. So I asked him to leave anything to me. I told him that I would diffuse the situation because I had been the commander of Battalion 105 before. I told him that, as their former commander, most of the rebels knew me and that they would not harm me if I go to them. I told him that I would go to the Hospital and if Kerubino was wounded and in the Hospital, if he was there, I would come back and give him the answer. I assured him that I would come back to decide what kind of action to take. He was happy!!!
So I went to the Hospital. We took Kerubino and sent him across the river. I then returned to Langbar and told the Company Commander that Kerubino was taken to the Hospital and that he should send the message to Juba that Kerubino was brought to the Hospital, treated and had been taken away by the rebels. He immediately sent the message. So from what I have just told you, you could see that the claim that the war was imposed on me by circumstances is not true. We have been planning since 1970s to launch this movement.
Heritage, Khartoum. Monday 9, Nov., 1987, pp4.
Q: 8 Can you brief us as to what at the onset led to the split in the SPLM, which gave birth to the Anya Nya II organization? What actually went wrog? How are you trying to resolve it?
A: This is another great misunderstanding that there was a split in the SPLM/SPLA movement that gave birth to Anya Nya Two organization. This is not true. These are two different organizations with totally different aims and objectives. Anya Nya Two started as a result of the Akobo mutiny in 1975 led by Lt. Vincent Kwany, in which Colonel Abel Chol was killed. The Akobo mutineers then organized themselves into Anya Nya Two whose aim was to revive the Anya Nya One Movement disbanded in 1972 following the Addis Ababa Agreement. The Anya Nya Two at that time was supported by Libya and Bil Pam was their guerrilla camp before we came.
When I was at the General Headquarters in Khartoum, we used to be briefed about Bil Pam. The reports we had is that Gordon Koang had 7,000 strong, that Yagoub Ismail was with several thousand men at arms and Abdalla Zakaria had many thousands…. So you can see the Anya Nya Two was already an existing movement before the birth of the SPLA. There is no question, therefore, of the split in the SPLM that gave birth to the rise of the Anya Nya Two Movement. In short, the Anya Nya Two Movement was formed eight years before the SPLA came into existence. The objective of the Anya Nya Two from the onset of its inception was again for the separation of the Southern Sudan from the rest of the country.
So when we came in 1983 we organized the SPLM/SPLA. The Anya Nya Two meanwhile continued as an independent movement. Our objective was therefore to influence the Anya Nya Two and to have them join us. The Anya Nya Two, on the other hand, was trying to influence us to join them. Thus at the start (1983), we had two movements with different objectives.
While the SPLM was for the unity of the Sudan, the Anya Nya two was for the separation of the Southern Sudan. Our immediate task after we formed the SPLM/SPLA was to try to regroup the scattered fighting forces that we found, politicise them, win their confidence and make them organic to the SPLA. It is worth to note here that the Anya Nya Two was not only confined to Upper Nile. It was stronger in Bahr El Ghazal.
So we succeeded in getting the whole of the Anya Nya Two of Bahr El Ghazal and thereby incorporated it into the SPLA. Most of the Anya Nya Two in Upper Nile were also incorporated into the SPLA. Some of them are now holding high ranks in the SPLA. Major John Kulang who is an alternate member of the SPLA/SPLM Military High Command was a member of the Anya Nya Two organization when he joined us.
So in reality, it was Anya Nya Two that was split; some of them the majority I should say, joined us while the rest remained with Gordon Koang and continued to maintain their separate identity. Some of the politicians who came with us following the Bor incident notably Samuel Gai Tut, Akuot Atem and Gabriel Gany who essentially opted for separatism joined Anya Nya Two and managed to take over its leadership. These politicians had assumed that since the Nuer nationality was at the Ethiopian Sudanese border, they would keep away anybody coming to join us. This strategy led, sadly to say, to the deaths of many people who were coming from Bahr El Ghazal in Fangak.
So it was our failure to win all of the Anya Nya Two that led to the continuation of the Anya Nya Two as a movement. The failure of the Anya Nya Two, on the other hand to get us into their movement, let to the existence of two movements.
Later on Anya Nya Two, which was a genuine movement fighting for the separation of Southern Sudan, was transformed into a government militia. The brainchild of this tribal militia was Daniel Koat Matthews, the then Governor of Upper Nile. We have now in our file the copy of the letter addressed to His Excellency President Nimeiri.
The content of that letter was aimed at the destruction of the SPLM/SPLA by organising tribal militias. The Anya Nya Two was thus superseded by the SPLM, so to speak. From thence on the Anya Nya Two through Daniel Koat Mathew’s agitation, became a government militia just like the Murahelin forces of Southern Kordofan, like the Mundari militia, like the Ismail Konyi Militia and like the Fertit militia of Western Bahr El Ghazal. It therefore became the aim of the SPLA movement never to allow or give free hand to these militiamen to divert the people’s revolution. The policy of organising tribal militias needless to say, was started by Nimeiri and Daniel Koat, continued by Sowar El Dahab and is being promoted by Sadiq El Mahdi, It is therefore the aim of the SPLM do deny Sadiq El Mahdi or whoever is in Khartoum to continue to use these militias. We shall try and struggle to influence them. We have more and better arguments for them to join us than for them to join the Sudanese Army. The militias are beginning now to realise that, they have been deceived by the government for quite a long time. Good example is that Gordon Koang at one time was promised that he would be appointed the commander of the Southern Command and the Anya Nya Two the Government of the Southern Sudan (HEC) if his movement could succeed to defeat the SPLM/SPLA.
But then as the governments in Khartoum came and went these promises were not honoured, Gordon Koang did not become the commander of the Southern Command with the rank of Major General as promised nor did the Anya Nya Two become the regional Government in Juba. At the end the Anya Nya Two started to realise that they were being taken for a rough ride. We have explained to them these things from time to time. They have at last realised these false promises, which are now crucial to the present ongoing reconciliation process. As I have said before these are politicians who take advantage of the name of Anya Nya Two in order to make money in Khartoum, Nairobi or other place
Q: 9 What about the claim that the quarrel between the SPLA and the Anya Nya II started in Addis Ababa when you arrived there in 1983. It was alleged that you held election as to who should have been the chairman of the movement. The report had it that Akuot Atem was elected the first chairman of the SPLM, that Samuel Gai Tut was to be the commander in chief and you the chief of staff. It was alleged that the split came as a result of leadership as well as ideological differences. What is your brief comment on these allegations?
A: This is not true. There were no elections held and there would have not been any elections since we did not have constituencies to hold some sort of election. A simple explanation is that the SPLA was formed in side the Sudan, and by the soldiers who defected from the Sudanese Army. Whereas, the Anya Nya Two was a movement that was already in existence by the time we formed the SPLM/SPLA.
The question which arose at the time we arrived there was whether the new comers that where pouring out of the country were going to identify themselves with the SPLA or with Anya Nya Two. Of course it was a matter of choice and those of Akuot Atem, Samuel Gai Tut and Gabriel Gany decided to join Anya Nya Two. In fact everyone was free to join any of the two Movements without any quarrel.
The quarrel only erupted, when the Anya Nya Two was transformed into a government militia by Daniel Koat. Otherwise there were no conflicts between the two organisations before the transformation of Anya Nya Two from a genuine secessionist Movement to a government militia.
Q: 10 It is now four years since you launched SPLA movement. Looking back today, would you say the objectives for which it was launched are being realised?
A: Looking at the four years of our struggle, I would say, yes, the objectives are being realised. The Primary objective is of course the unity of the Sudan, which should be on new basis. We are trying to build a new Sudan free of religious and racial discrimination, a Sudan that is free from the two families rule. We want to build a new Sudan devoid of all kinds of sectarianism. In the past our people used to talk about north and the southern conflict.
Now I am glad to say, the Sudanese are no longer talking about the solution of the so called problem of the Southern Sudan but that of the Sudan as a whole.
Q: 11 The Prime Minister Sadiq el Mahdi has been quoted as saying that your forces have been meeting tremendous difficulties in the battle fields against the strong Sudanese army. That they are being pushed back every time they try to take to offensive. What is the situation in the battlefields?
A: That might be Sadiq’s wish that the SPLA forces are suffering in the battle fields. But facts are there for anybody to see.
The true picture about the situation is that when we met with Sadiq in July last year it was clear that he was going to launch a massive military offensive against the SPLA having achieved the type of peace he wanted. This was obvious from his face. I even told him, Mr. Prime Minister don’t go and do what I see in your eyes. Don’t go and launch a military offensive against the SPLA. Don’t try this because you will not be able to defeat the SPLA. I told him further that if he wanted to defeat it, he should go and recruit six hundred thousand new recruits. Then he would be able to attack us. But I cautioned him that if he recruited six hundred thousand he would definitely recruit them from the south, the east and the west of Sudan. These are the areas of recruitment into the Sudanese Army.
Mr. Prime Minister, I assure you that six hundred thousand this would be good for the SPLA. Because, you will recruit them, train them, arm them and then deploy them against us. When you deeply deploy them against us one third of these recruits will defect to us”. I warned the Prime Minister. This is how the SPLA was formed and this is how it thrives. Two hundred thousand out of the six hundred thousand will surely join us. I wanted to warn him, that in order for a conventional army to fight these two who would then be guerrillas, you need a ratio of one to ten. To fight the two hundred thousand of your own creation which will defect to us in addition to the existing SPLA forces, you need another army of Two ‘Million’. This will go on indefinitely. So Mr. Prime Minister don’t attempt to do this”. I concluded.
He did not listen to my advice. In stead he went and launched a massive military operation against us. He was even quoted as boasting that he would celebrate the 1987 Intafadha (April Uprising) in Buma our Headquarters. So, we took the Prime Minister’s challenge very seriously, took all the necessary measures and effectively repulsed his offensive. We did not only repulse the massive military offensive but the Prime Minister did not celebrate the Al Intifadha in Buma. In stead we captured the strategic town of Pibor which is not very far from Buma and which we still hold. We also captured another strategic town of Jekou, which we are still holding. Most recently we captured Mayom in Bentiu area, which we also are holding.
We have now extended the war to Western Equatoria Province where we were not there before. Major James Wani Igga Alternate member of the SPLA/SPLM Political-Military High Command is now on the Zairian border. We have also extended the war to Southern Kordofan and Major Yousif Kuwa Mekki Alternate member of the SPLA/SPLM is the Zonal Commander there. We have also extended the war to Southern Blue Nile.
So, to come to your question, the Prime Minister’s massive military offensive has effectively been halted. On the contrary, the SPLA is on the move. The situation on the ground is therefore very favourable to the SPLM/SPLA. That the SPLA is on the move is not a claim by us, but a truth. We have more than 200 prisoners of war and they are in our POW camps. Lt. Colonel Salim Saed former commander of Jekou himself talked over Radio SPLA. It was very clear from Colonel Salim’s speech, as a man who had been in a trench for a long time, and who knows the heat of the battle, that the situation is in our favour. He is, in fact, a better authority to speak the truth about what is going on in War Zone One, than Sadiq. The army in the South knows better how the war is going on there, not Sadiq who has never been in a trench. On my part, I spent eight hours in a trench during the capture of Jekou. I am therefore in a better position to know what is actually going on in the South. Prime Minister Sadiq has never been to the war theatre. He is either not being well briefed by his commanders or he deliberately ignores the facts.
Q: 12 Certain quarters inside and outside the Sudan do claim that foreign hands are behind the SPLA successes in the battlefields against the Sudanese army. They point accusing fingers at Ethiopia, USSR, Cuba, GDR, as being on the top of the lists. What is your reaction to these accusations?
A: This is a complete nonsense. We have never had a single foreigner fighting on our side in the battles we have been engaged in ever since the war started in 1983: and we will not in the future accept any foreigners to fight on our side. This is a Sudanese war and therefore a purely internal affairs. It originated within the Sudanese body-politic. It is a known fact that the first soldiers of the SPLA were from battalion 105 and 104, and does not need any expert explanation. So, there are no foreign personnel in our army. The charge that there are foreigners helping us are just mere malicious propaganda. However, all the Sudanese public is all aware that there are no foreigners in our forces.
Before we launched the SPLM/SPLA, I was a Colonel in the Sudanese Army not in the Ethiopian, GDR, or Cuban Army, I was in Khartoum and many officers, like Kerubino Kwanyin, William Nyuon, Arok Thon, Daniel Awet, Bona Baang and many others were in the Sudanese Army. Other officers were in the Sudanese civil service or other sectors of Sudanese life. Dr. Lam Akol and Dr. Riek Machar were lecturers at the University of Khartoum. James Wani Igga was working in Juba. Kuol Manyang was the Director of the Multi-Purpose Training Centre in Juba. John Kulang was in the Sudanese Army. These officers are members in the SPLA/SPLM Political-Military High Command.
There is absolutely no foreigners fighting on our side. On the contrary, it is Sadiq Al Mahdi who used foreigners. He invaded the Sudan in 1976 with murtazagha (mercenaries). The murtazagha forces were crushed simply because they were foreigners or at least there were foreign elements in that force. The Sudanese Army took it as a challenge that foreigners were invading the Sudan. Where as we have been able to maintain our ground, made gains and consolidate our positions for the last four years. If we did not base our movement on the Sudanese people we would have been dislodged a long time ago.
Q: 13 In regards to logistics, where do you get your arms and ammunitions?
A: When we launched the movement in 1983, we started with the arms and ammunitions of Battalion 104/105. In 1984 we got a windfall of armaments and ammunitions from Libya. A lot of people say we got our arms and ammunitions from Ethiopia. This is not true. Others think that we get our arms from the Soviet Union. This is also not true. The only foreign country that helped us was Libya. I was in Tripoli for eleven days in April 1984. At that time we had mutual hostility against Nimeiri. “An enemy of your enemy is your friend!” So goes the saying. We reached a good understanding with Ghaddafi and so he gave us lots of arms and ammunitions including anti-aircraft missiles. We knew of course that this would be a temporary support because once Nimeiri was overthrown this support would come to an end. So, we stockpiled a lot of arms and ammunitions. Having received these arms we became very strong and began over running enemy camps, making many ambushes and virtually annihilating military convoys and taking all their arms. The annihilation of Sudanese Para-troopers between Bor and Juba in 1985 is a case in point. The armaments we got when our forces captured Pibor enabled us to arm two battalions.
To sum up, our initial sources of armaments were battalions 104/105. We had a foreign source of armaments, which was Libya. Now all our arms procurement comes from the Sudanese Army. We are getting more arms and ammunitions overrun army garrison after army garrison. We are indeed making ambushes and are getting lots of armaments daily.
Heritage, Khartoum, Monday, Nov., 16, 1987, pp4.
Q 14. On the ongoing war, the SPLM leadership is being accused of using food relief as a weapon aimed at attempting to win public support to your side? What is your brief comment?
- Definitely, I don’t agree with this accusation. For how can we use food relief as a weapon? And what is the argument in support of this accusation?
Q: 15 The argument in support of this accusation is that when the international relief agencies wanted to airlift food to the famine-stricken Southern Sudan in the middle of 1986 through “Operation Rainbow,” the SPLA threatened to shoot down any plane that would fly over the areas you control; thus making it difficult for the food to reach the people that needed it. This is the charge.
A: When I was fighting in Kapoeta, Mike Wooldrige of the BBC came to me and told me that Sadiq El Mahdi had agreed that the international relief organisations could work with the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (SRRA) the humanitarian Branch of the SPLM, provided that, he added, the SPLM allow food convoys by air and by land to go to the government control towns. My answer was in the affirmative. We agreed that the SRRA, the international relief organisations and the Sudan Government Relief Agency to sit down and provide modalities, ways and means whereby food could reach the targeted populations in the towns and in the countryside, provided that the food was not used either by the Sudanese Army or by the SPLA soldiers. This would mean that the operations be monitored by the three parties concerned.
So, Mr Bradley of the “Operation Rainbow” came and asked whether we were serious. As an element of goodwill he requested us to allow a few flights so that the process was seen to be working. So, we allowed few flights. Then, he went to the Sudan Government side and requested that it allowed a few flights to the SPLM control areas to distribute some food there. The Sudan Government rejected the request. We turned down Mr. Bradley’s request because we believed that the Sudan Government’s intention was to send the relief aid to the towns under its control while the majority of the people living in the countryside and who were badly in need of the relief were left without help.
We therefore interpreted the Sudan Government’s rejection of Mr. Bradley’s proposal as hostile, for if it was not, Sadiq El Mahdi would have accepted it.
So we said that any aircraft which would attempt to come to the Southern Sudan would be considered as hostile. This was however another area of misunderstanding in regard to the ‘Operation Rainbow’. This misunderstanding was a result of agitation from Khartoum.
As regards to the allegation that we were the ones who refused the “Operation Rainbow” to fly food to the hunger stricken in War Zone One, I would say that this is not true. It was not us who refused the said Operation. It was Sadiq El Mahdi who frustrated the efforts of the International Relief Agencies to airlift food to the hungry people in the south after publicly he had been on the record that he would accept the International Relief Organisations to work with us. However, our side of goodwill was implemented while the Sudan Government side of goodwill was not. We were not in anyway obliged to accept food to be taken to the towns under Sudan Government control. Our move to prevent food to be taken to the towns was justified because we were getting reliable reports that, this food was being used by the Sudan Government Army.
If the Sudan Government side had agreed and allowed the Relief Agencies to work on both sides to the conflict, the next stage would have been to develop a mechanism whereby the three sides, namely the SPLA, the Sudan Government and the International Community would monitor how food was to be used on both sides to the conflict.
In brief, the Khartoum authorities completely refused the monitoring process. They were interviewed by the BBC, and they flatly said they would not accept the monitoring of food distribution.
Q: 16 What do you propose to be done in this connection while the war goes on?
A: Now that there is drought in the south, the most affected areas by the war, it extremely becomes very necessary to get food to the needy. In this connection, we would hold to the same formula that the SRRA, our humanitarian wing; the International Community and the Sudan Government humanitarian wing to sit down and device ways and means to get food to the affected areas both in the towns and in the countryside and to monitor its distribution so that it is not used either, by the Sudan Government troops or by the SPLA forces.
The three parties namely the SPLA, the Sudan Government and the International Community can form a committee to monitor the transport and distribution of this food. We can assign our own personnel to the government control towns if the Sudan Govt. guarantees to their security. We would also give security to the Sudan Govt. personnel who would be monitoring food distribution in the areas under our control. This, is in our opinion, would be a way out of this misunderstanding.
On my part as a leader of the SPLM, I will have no opposition to the formation of this committee. Rather, I bless and encourage it because there is going to be famine this year. Our people are going to suffer and they will die if nothing is done urgently.
At this juncture, I appeal to the concerned relief agencies to reactivate the relief operations to the areas affected by the droughts.
Q: 17 The SPLA/SPLM pledge that it is fighting to liberate the whole Sudan is being ridiculed by some individuals both from the north and the south. The northerners say to liberate the Sudan from who? The southerners on the other hand say, they do not want to shed their blood to liberate the Arab portion of Sudan. What would you tell these compatriots?
A: This question to liberate the Sudan from who has for a long time been asked by the people who are interested in perpetuating differences between the north and south of the Sudan that have been imposed by certain circumstances and promoted by their clique regimes in Khartoum. In fact, when these compatriots say to liberate the Sudan from who; the answer they expect is from the Arabs. This is the context of their agitation. What I would tell these compatriots is that I had been on record and I am saying this again that when we in the SPLM speak about the liberation of the Sudan, we use it in a broader sense.
As far as the SPLM philosophy is concerned the question that arises is not to liberate the Sudan from who but to liberate it from what? In my speech to the people of my village sometimes back, I demonstrated this point very clearly. I told them that during the dry season the women of the village have to walk 15 miles to get water from a well. If we reduce that distance from 15 miles to one mile or zero mile, if we locate the well in the village you will have essentially liberated these women from walking 15 miles. This is what we mean to liberate a person from what not from Who? I explained to them. Looking at it in this context, we mean to liberate the people from neglect. In our Sudanese situation, the whole countryside has completely been neglected by those that have been in power in Khartoum since independence.
The successive regimes in Khartoum have been putting all our foreign reserves on air coolers, on refrigerators, on television-sets, on good cars and all kinds of comfort. Whereas, our foreign reserves should have been spent on things like bore wells in the villages, haffirs and life-saving drugs for rural people just to mention but a few. This is what when we refer to the term ‘liberation from what’.
Another good example to demonstrate the misinterpretation of the term liberation is that before Nimeiri was overthrown, Sadiq’s wife was quoted in one of her talks with our people in London as saying….. “Ya jama’a , izza intum ta shill al ‘L’ da” If you can take away this ‘Letter L’ so as to read The Sudan Peoples’ Movement, we shall all join this Movement. But to say, “The Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement…. To liberate the Sudan from who?” She asked.
This is the context in which the agitators in Khartoum would like to use the word liberation so as to distort it to mean a small thing that would mean the liberation of Sudan from the people. This is not how we use it. We in the SPLM use it in the sense that we want to liberate the Sudan from circumstances: the circumstances of oppression, of exploitation, of neglect which the majority of Sudanese find themselves in not only in the south, but all over the country, including Khartoum the capital of the whole country.
If for instance the tens of thousands of our people living in the carton huts in Khartoum are resettled in some decent places, if we make shelters at least for these people, we will have liberated them from these carton houses. This is our concept of the liberation. To come to the point the term Liberation is being ridiculed from that perspective by the people from the north because they want to associate it with racism.
On the other hand, some people from Southern Sudan ridicule the term by saying…. “Why should Southern Sudanese shed their blood in liberating the whole of the Sudan!”?
“Here again, this comes through sheer ignorance as to what the term liberation is all about or they deliberately want to distort it with the aim of ridiculing the Movement. These are the same southerners who claim that they would join the SPLA if it was fighting for the liberation of the southern Sudan. They insist that they would join the SPLA/SPLM if we change our manifesto to speak about the liberation of the south.
This is rubbish.
Okay, let us speak about those who want to liberate the south. If they are going to liberate the south what method are they going to use? If they are going to liberate the south through fighting, then they need not to be told that the liberation of the south and of the whole Sudan involves fighting.
So, we invite those who want to liberate the south to come. Let them come. Nimule is still under the Army of Khartoum. Let them start fighting the Sudan army from there. When they reach what in their calculation, is the end of southern Sudan, let them stop. We will have a territorial army. We will have a home guard. We will deploy them on the Zairian border, on the Ugandan border, on the Kenyan border and on the Ethiopian border. In the meantime, the rest of us who would want to continue up to Khartoum and to Wadi Halfa will continue.
Secondly and most fundamentally, I would like to say that both the southerners and the northerners who make these ridicules do not completely understand the dynamics of how the liberation is going to take place. Those who make these ridicules from the north think that a southern army will eventually march into the north. The southerners who think that southerners should not shed their blood in order to liberate the whole Sudan think that a southern army will march to the north. This is not how we see things as happening.
We see things as happening through the process of northerners themselves being involved in the struggle.
Now our forces are in southern Kordofan. We have lots and lots of recruits from southern Kordofan. The force that is in southern Kordofan, half of it is composed of the citizens of the area. So the process of liberating the whole country will involve the northerners in the fighting. They will not be standing in the dark watching the liberation going on. This is of course a very mechanical way of looking at social reality. Indeed as the war engulfs the whole country, it will mean the involvement of all the people in the liberation.
To be specific the people of southern Kordofan are already involved and their own son Major Yousif Kuwa Mekki is their commander in southern Kordofan. The same is happening in the southern Blue Nile. We have Malik Agar. He is the son of the area and he is fighting there. So, there is no question, you see, of southerners going to shed their blood while the northerners just fold their hands and wait for their liberation to take place. That is not how it will work.
There is no question of northerners thinking that a southern Sudanese army is going to invade their part of the country. This is a complete misunderstanding of reality, either innocently or deliberately construed in order to distort our objectives and ridicule them for political purposes.
Q: 18 Some Sudanese describe the SPLA/SPLM as a regional movement. What have you done so as to give it a national character?
A: In the first place, SPLM is not a regional movement. It is true, it started from a certain region which happens to be the southern Sudan.