As we said elsewhere in the week, how far back in time should we go – in order to better understand the current armed standoff in the Sudan (Khartoum)? To the Sudan which is mentioned in all books of antiquity? To the 12th Pharaonic Dynasty in Egypt – which was black and Sudanese?
We have decided to share highlights of our paper on the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement/Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLM/SPLA) – which we presented to a Pan African meeting in Kampala in February 1998. This is our entry point to the current conversation. It provides another backdrop to comprehending the current situation in Khartoum.
… the SPLM/SPLA is most decidedly not a freak, incidental or inconsequential factor in the Sudanese body politic. It has emerged as a major player, actor and driving force in the search for a national democratic consensus, of a just and permanent peace …
Conversely, the SPLM/SPLA cannot be understood without an appreciation of the overall reality within which it emerged, has existed and developed. To the extent that the SPLM/SPLA is a microcosm of the overall Sudanese reality – to that extent that reality has imparted inescapable fault lines into the SPLM/SPLA …
Our task, in all, can only be to mark pointers and indicators of main and general directions of development – given past and present reality. To attempt to do more, would to be extremely presumptuous.
In presenting this short overview, we run the risk of being accused of of partiality, of presenting an SPLM/SPLA-centric view of the Sudanese problem. This could very well be the case – for how can one live 12 years in the middle of a war and not be passionate about the issues or influenced one way or other? That said, is there a middle ground between justice and injustice? Objectivity would not necessarily be compromised – for truth is after all, concrete.
BACKGROUND TO THE PRESENT CONFLICT:
The Sudan has been at war with itself for 31 out of its 42 (February 1998) years of independence.The ‘first war’ – the Anyanya war – lasted 17 years: from the Torit mutiny of 1955 (shortly before independence), to the Addis Ababa Agreement . It was during this period when the phrase and concept of ‘the Southern problem’ gained currency.
The Southern Sudanese elite then translated the immediate causes of the Torit mutiny (perceived racial intolerance, discrimination, conditions and terms of public service, etc) into a program of secession and independence for Southern Sudan. The ‘Arab – jalaba or mundukuru’ was the ‘enemy’.
Before the advent to power of Jaafar Muhammad Nimeiri in 1969, the only serious attempt to deliver a political settlement of the conflict came in the wake of the intifada (popular uprising) of 1964/1965, and the institution of the so-called 12 Man Committee – to look into ways and means of achieving a ‘just and permanent peace’. Elections and the short premiership of Sadiq el Mahdi and his Umma (the people) party, scuttled this process.
It was left to Nimeiri and his Sudan Socialist Union to propose a solution of regional autonomy for the South. The Anyanya signed for ‘peace’, and Gen. Joseph Lagu became head of the regional Government in Juba, and a Vice President of the central Government in Khartoum. About half of the Anyanya fighters were absorbed into the Sudan Army – including the younger people like John Garang de Mabior and Salva Kiir Mayardit.
Unfortunately, the much celebrated ‘peace’ of 1972 turned out to be but a brief respite from war. On 16th May 1983, Battalions 104 and 105 of the Sudan Army – commanded by Majors Kerubino Kwanyin Bol and William Nyuon Bany – rebelled in separate incidents in Bor, Ayod, and Pachalla in Upper Nile Province of Southern Sudan. Col. Dr. John Garang de Mabior – who had been one of the leaders quietly planning and and coordinating preparations for the new revolt, moved South from Khartoum to take command in the bush. Capt. Salva Kiir Mayardit, from the Intelligence Corps of the Sudan Army, was part of the leadership. The new war – prosecuted by the SPLM/SPLA – had began.
THE SPLM/SPLA SELF VIEW AND REALITY IN 1983: