By Taban Henry
History tells that the Equatoria regime marked the roadmap for the South Sudan long journey to the South Sudan independence according to the governor’s press secretary.
The August 18 2022 marked 67 years since the first renowned liberation struggle of the South Sudanese began in Torit town of Eastern Equatoria State, famously referred to as the Torit mutiny.
In 1955, Southern Sudanese forces in the Sudanese army were mutinied against the largely dominated Sudanese army. The move was in protest by Southern Sudanese against the political and military domination of the Sudanese government.
It was also in protest to the lack of willingness by the then Sudan regime government, the British, and Egyptians to unilaterally place Southern region under the dominance of the northern Sudanese. The sacrifices of the Anyanya and subsequent war veterans is marked under, the War Veterans’ Day.
Speaking to No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper, the press secretary in the office of Governor Louis Lobong Lojore, Aliandro Lotok said the governor affirmed the Equatoria regime is the toss for the liberation struggle to the current Republic of South Sudan.
He however called on the people from across the State to remember the martyrs and the people who began the toss of the liberation struggle in peace, unity and denounce all sorts of conflict.
“I urge the people of Eastern Equatoria to remember the people who tossed the lead for the liberation struggle peacefully, being united and denounce all sorts of violence by making peace with one another and among communities as well as making Eastern Equatoria and South Sudan a better place to live in. live in peace among yourselves and with your neighbor’s,” he said.
He described the 18th of August as an important day to the lives of the people of Eastern Equatoria and of those of the South Sudanese citing that it marked as an eye opener for the people of South Sudan when they started the first bullet for the liberation of South Sudan that led to the independence of this country.
“The people of Eastern Equatoria will be observing the day in their various places, there will be no official celebration but everyone is directed to observe the day in their own style because this is the day we remember our fallen heroes and heroines when they shot the first bullet that shown eyes to the liberation struggle of South Sudan in the struggle for the independence of this country. It’s known in Eastern Equatoria calendar where each and everyone in the Bomas, Payams and counties will celebrate in their own ways,” Lotok said.
He added that the governor has told the people of Eastern Equatoria to celebrate the day to remember the history citing that with history they can then move forward.
Lotok however disclosed that there is no any official function but people from across the State will observe the day in their own styles.
“There are no hindrances that are making us not to celebrate this day; it is because the State government and the people are very busy. When you look at the situation in our State now it is an agricultural season. Eastern Equatoria declared that they will no longer buy food from outside but are committed to produce food locally for consumption and they will be able to sell the surplus to the other neighboring States in South Sudan,” he stated.
The press secretary in the office of the Governor said that they have chosen to celebrate the day that way to make people observe it either in their farms, houses or from their places wherever possible.
He hinted that coming to the freedom square is not the only way to celebrate occasions but they can do such thing in there various ways, known events people will be observing it in their known places throughout the day.
Meanwhile a war veteran commonly known as Adelino Oliha Olilir cited that the armed struggle for independence in South Sudan started in Torit by the Equatoria regime after the Arabs were intimidating, raping and killing people anyhow hence provoking the Equatorian soldiers to take up arms against the Arabs regime.
He however didn’t disclose the number of people killed during the Equatoria regime but cited that many people lost their lives during the rebellion, many others were imprisoned, filled into lorries and were killed in an area called Himodonge of which all their tombs still exist up to the present time in the area.
“This soldiers were convinced by the Arab soldiers after one of the soldiers called Orlando whom they promoted with a rank of one star (2nd Lt.) who was also one of the members of Equatoria force was later put on the helicopter to mobilize the Equatorian forces calling on the people across the villages telling the soldiers that the country was already peaceful and all the people came to Torit mobilized by Orlando. Orlando moved across all the villages. People came and those who came early were given money and they were allowed to take money to their wives that was why all people were convince to come from all the villages,” the veteran recounted.
Oliha lamented that others who rejected the message are the likes of Atada and Anyahuo who remained outside with their guns meanwhile Fr. Saturlino Ohure was in the parliament in Khartoum representing South Sudan particularly Equatoria Region who asked for human rights for those soldiers who were taken to work in Port Sudan, after those people were released, the Arabs sent away Saturlino from the parliament that he was supporting their people in 1957.
The veteran said after those labourers were released to their various villages, Saturlino became a priest in 1958 but he was mistreated in Yei after which he went for exile up to Gulu where he started mobilizing people who were released from the prison in order to fight the Sudan regime and that was how Fr. Saturlino reignited the war.
Birth of Anyanya 1
Oliha however revealed that after the killing of the Equatorians in Himodonge and those others who were released from Port Sudan on human right charges, the Anyanya 1 regime came to existence after a meeting held in Gulu.
“Fr. Saturlino brought all the commanders who escaped from Port Sudan the likes of Henry Jada, Arkulano Adiang from Peri including those of George Muras who went for exile to Uganda; they immediately started the Anyanya 1 rebellion in which they started buying guns in order to fight the Khartoum government. This marked the Anyanya One rebellion but however those were also the same Equatoria forces the few who were left were the very ones who started the Anyanya,” Oliha said.
According to him Joseph Lagu was a soldier with a rank of one star, (2nd Lt.) after the Anyanya one forces increase and becoming strong Lagu escaped from the town to join the Anyanya one forces under Fr. Saturlino. So thereafter Saturlino appointed Lagu as a commander in the army meanwhile Joseph Oduho in the political wing that is why Lagu was able to handle the responsibility of the army in the presence of Fr. Saturlino.
In 1967, 22 January Fr. Saturlino Ohure was killed by the Ugandan soldiers near Kitgum after he has accused of backing rebels in the South.
Fr. Saturlino Ohure is considered one of the founders of South Sudan liberation struggle.
Some founding members included Joseph Oduho, Esbon Monir, Aggry Jaden, Ferdinand Adiang, William Deng and Pangarasio
Ochen and Natalian Oyet. Others including George Muras and Samuel Oliha are still alive.
In the years that followed, the Anyanya had developed contacts to obtain weapons and supplies, and in turn took control of much of the southern countryside while the Sudanese government forces occupied the region’s major towns.
By 1970s, Joseph Lagu, who had become the leader of Anyanya announced the creation of a new name; the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement, although informally it continued to be known as Anyanya after the death of Fr. Saturlino Ohure.
The SSLM went on to establish civil administration throughout many areas in the then southern Sudan under their control of Anyanya, but at this time, President Jaffar Nimeiri still wields much power across Sudan.
It is said President Nimeiri believed he could stop the fighting and stabilize the Southern region by granting regional self-governance to the South Sudanese and launching several development projects in the south.
By October 1971, Nimeiri made contacts with Joseph Lagu through the SSLM, and by February 1972, a consultative conference between government and Anyanya delegations was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
During the talks, it is said the South Sudanese leaders demanded a federal and separate Southern government.
They also demanded a separate army that would directly be commanded by the leader of the Southern region, and only respond to orders of President Nimeiri in case of an external threat to Sudan.
The delegations disagreed severally, but with the help of Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie, they reached an agreement.
This was the birth of the Addis Ababa peace accord.
The Addis Ababa agreement guaranteed autonomy for a southern region.
This also was the birth of the three regions composed of Equatoria, Bahr al Ghazal, and Upper Nile regions, but all under a regional president appointed by President Jaffar Nimeiri on the recommendation of an elected Southern Regional Assembly.
The Southern leaders chose the then energetic and eloquent lawyer, Abel Alier Kwuai.
Joseph Lagu was endorsed to continue being the overall commander of the Anyanya forces of SSLM.
Moulana Abel would be responsible for all aspects of government in the region except such areas as defense, foreign affairs, currency and finance, economic, social planning, and interregional concerns.
Those responsibilities were retained by the national government in which southerners would be represented.
Southerners, including qualified 12,000 Anyanya veterans, would be incorporated into southern command of the Sudanese army under equal numbers of northern and southern officers.
The accords also recognized Arabic as Sudan’s official language, and English as the south’s principal language, which would be used in administration and would be taught in the schools.
The Addis Ababa agreement also enabled the formation of the High Executive Council or cabinet named by the Abel Alier.
It is said many SSLM leaders opposed the settlement agreement, but Lagu approved its terms and both sides agreed to a cease-fire.
The first Addis Ababa accord was signed on 27th of March, 1972. This day was celebrated in the Sudan as the National Unity Day.
Nimeiri issue a decree legalizing the Addis Ababa Agreement and creating an international armistice commission to ensure the well-being of returning southern refugees.
He also announced an amnesty, for all those who took arms against the government dating back to 1955. A 17 year ceasefire was observed.
However, the Addis Ababa agreement that ended the First Sudanese Civil War is believed to have failed to completely dispel the tensions and grievances that had originally caused it.
This was largely attributed to disregard of the agreement by various regimes in the Sudan.
This reignited another prolonged north-south conflict known as the Second Sudanese Civil War, championed by the SPLM/SPLA from 1983 to 2005.
The period between 1955 and 2005 is considered by many as a single conflict with an eleven-year ceasefire that separates two violent phases.
After the creation of an autonomous Southern Sudan and its government as a result of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Naivasha, President Salva Kiir in 2007 declared August 18th, as the official annual commemoration day of the War Veterans.
This day combined all veterans who fought for equality, freedom and justice for South Sudan dating back to 1940s.
In 2014, the first major event to mark the 59th anniversary of the War Veterans Day was celebrated at Dr. John Garang Mausoleum in Juba.
The theme was: “Veterans; the founders’ of our freedom”.
No other event to commemorate this day has been officially held.
This year, the governor of Eastern Equatoria state, says the day is being marked at individual levels.
Joseph Lagu who led the Anyanya 1 war and Abel Alier who led the first Southern Regional government are both still with us.