Memory of Brigadier General
Abraham Jongroor Deng
“The morale is high and we are going to retake the [Bor] town.”
General Jongroor Deng, Jan 5, 2014
______________________1960 – 2014_______________________
On December of 15th, 2013, South Sudan was tested in what the government officials described as a “legitimate coup” against the “democratically elected government.” On the contrary, the members of the opposition – or in rebellion - have denied this narrative and labeled it as a move to water down the “voices of reforms” in the country. Regardless of which account is true, we have a country to restore law and order while mindful of our loved ones who lost their lives due to this political crisis.
Brigadier General Abraham Jongroor Deng was one of our people who fell on January 5th, 2014 in the line of national duty while on a mission to restore law and order in the Jonglei State capital, Bor. This effort was deemed necessary by the government after the “alleged failure” of Riek Machar’s “attempted coup” in the nation’s capital, Juba, morphed into a full-blown war after the SPLA forces under the command of Peter Gadet switched sides, and captured Bor. Brigadier Gen. Abraham Jongroor was then commissioned to Bor and asked to quell the rebellion. Unfortunately, he fell into an ambush in Pariak town, just few kilometers from the capital, Bor. In the pursuing battle, he was killed with a number of his bodyguards.
In order to document his life and contributions to our country, our panel members, mainly from Makuac Payam, felt the need to acknowledge a member of our community, and most importantly, a South Sudanese, who served with such an honorary distinction in military service, not only from the beginning of wars of liberation, but also from the daunting task of protecting and sustaining the viability of the nascent Republic of South Sudan as a new and sovereign entity. It is a testament to note that Brig. Gen. Jongroor was one of the finest military leaders who sacrificed above the realms of self in defending and protecting all avenues of peaceful coexistence, human rights, justice, and the rule of law in the country whose independence was procured with the blood of millions of our people.
This short biography will first and foremost highlight his childhood, family, education, and his contributions in the Sudan People Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M), values and legacy. Finally, we will take a brief moment, as concerned citizens, in the light of the circumstances that led to his killing, displacement of our civilians, destruction of properties, and calls for an immediate peace across South Sudan.
2. Family and Childhood
Brigadier General Abraham Jongroor Deng was born in 1960 at Abek village of Kapat Boma, Bor County, in Jonglei State. He was a son of Akuol Chiengkou Ngang and Deng Jongroor. Akuol Chiengkou is the second wife of Deng Jongroor. She had three children: Yook Deng (Mayola), the first child, Abraham Jongroor Deng (second) and Adau Deng (third).Jongroor’s father, Deng Jongroor, was a sub-chief (Magak) of Ayol sub-section of Koch clan who would normally report to the head chief (Alama). He was also a cattle camp headman (beny wur/wut). Deng Jongroor served under the following prominent Chiefs: Athieu Madol Anyar (father to Lt. General. Wal Athieu Madol), Kelei Magot Madol and Lueth Chaath Ayol. Deng Jongroor was known for his immense wisdom and integrity in all aspects of leadership to his people. He was a role model in his community and beyond. He was also known for his strong advocacy for peace and harmony among his people in times of peace and communal conflict. He was also a Chief Advisor to the Chiefs he numerously served and to the entire Juorkoch community. These leadership roles and vast wisdoms earned him respect among his people and those who knew him. Deng Jongroor had four wives: Akoor Jok (first), Akuol Chiengkou (second), Athou Anoon (third), and Akoi Dut Yaak (fourth). Brig. Gen. Jongroor’s mother, Akuol Chiengkou Ngang, hails from Deer clan of Makuac Payam in Bor County.
Late Gen. Abraham Jongroor has six wives. Their names are as follow in no particular order: Awan Angok Liei from Thon sub-clan of Twic Bol Chol in Gogrial, Warrap State, Achol Ajang Jurkuc from Adiang sub-clan of Twic Bol Chol in Gogrial, Warrap State, Abuk Maluk Deng from Biong section of Baidit Payam in Bor County, Jonglei State, Nyaluk Roc Mathiang from Pajiek in Yirol, Lake State, Akur Mabor Ayiga from Kuek sub-clan of Chiec in Yirol, Lakes State, and Athiek Gai Nhial from Atet sub-clan of Makuac Payam in Bor County, Jonglei State. Abraham Jongroor Deng is a father of twenty-five children, eighteen sons and seven adorable daughters.
According to the memories of his military colleagues, friends and relatives, General Jongroor is best described as a caliber of his father, Deng Jongroor.
He was a person of strong personality, great leadership skills, integrity, caring and passionate about his people in service. He was also an eloquent speaker, a gifted problem solver, and a promising leader in the Sudan People Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) and Bor community. He was particularly known and remembered for his abilities to diffuse communal tensions in Bor, particularly, in Jurkoch community. For instance, he intervened in finding a solution to Koch - Ater communal fighting over Jarchaa (or Jalchak) cattle camp in Bor. He was also instrumental in a case between Deer and Koch clans of Makuac Payam, Bor County, in which his cousin, Awuou Alier Jongroor, was killed in Kakuma Refugee Camp. He intervened and diffused the tension between these two communities and advocated for a compensation settlement rather than revenge, which often led to more killings and communal tensions. In addition, General Jongroor was a warmhearted custodian of Dinka cultures and history. He was known for his extensive narrations of great songs ever composed across Dinkaland and famous communal wrestling ever conducted among the people of Bor, Twi, Gogrial, Nyarweng, Hol, Aliab, Mundari, Agaar, Chiec, and Atuot. He was a committed Christian.
During his spare time, he loves listening to traditional and military songs, reading, listening to cultural stories, and had an unending admiration for cattle – the lifeblood of the Dinka tribe. On sports, he loves football, traditional wrestling, Chess, Arabathashar (14 cards) and Dominos.
Abraham Jongroor began his formal education immediately after the signing of the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement in 1972. This peace accord, between Sudan and the then semi-autonomous region of Southern Sudan, ended a decade-long civil war in the country. As a young boy in the late 1960s, Brigadier Gen. Jongroor Deng was chosen on the advice of the late Justice and Commander Martin Majier Gai Ayuel, a maternal cousin, to be one of the first children in Deng Jongroor’s family to go to school. Justice Martin Majier Gai Ayuel was a well-respected lawyer and a prominent politician who represented Bor South Constituency as a Member of Parliament and served as Minister of Legal Affairs in the government of Joseph Lagu. Gen. Jongroor’s enrolment in school was a significant break from the Dinka Bor’s long-held tradition where a male child automatically assumes the duties of rearing animals. He first attended Mangala primary school from 1973 to1975. He later transferred to Malek Primary School and studied from 1975 to1977. Upon his successful completion of his studies at Malek Primary School, he then enrolled at Bor Intermediate School, also known as Bor-Benin, from 1978 to1981. After his intermediate education, he was accepted at the famed Malek Senior Secondary School in Bor, from 1981 to early 1983. However, his studies were interrupted by the May 16th Mutiny of 1983 in the historic town of Bor, which ultimately led to what would become the Africa’s longest civil war that culminated in the secession of South Sudan through a referendum in 2011. The civil war brought to a halt all elements of socio-economic development in the Sudan and thus Jongroor could not proceed to complete his post-secondary education at Malek Senior Secondary School. He joined the Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) few months after the Mutiny in Bor.
After the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on January 9th, 2005, Brigadier Jongroor Deng seized the opportunity during this period of relative peace to continue with his unwavering thirst for enlightenment through further education. He enrolled at the University of Juba to pursue a Diploma in Public Administration and Management from 2010 to 2013. He later enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts in Administration and Management at Cavendish University, Juba Campus in the same year.
In his early school days, Brigadier Jongroor has been described as an outgoing, articulate, thoughtful, and compassionate young man who took learning to heart. He met several friends in Kur Nyiel Kur, Kon Thongboor, Magot Jongkuch Kur, Herjok Apech Herjok, Mabior Malet Ajok and Ayuen Achiek. He has numerous classmates in Deng Kuol-mayak Jongroor, Dr. Majak Agoot Atem, Kur-Mayar Nyiel Kur, Lual Manyang Jok, Kur-Aguet Nyiel Kur,Kon Thongboor, and countless friends in the army.
In the words of his longtime friend, Mabior Malet Ajok, General Jongroor was a brilliant student. In his early school days, Mabior recalled that Jongroor would either top his class or comes second in performance. He was known as an extensive reader of both academic and non-academic literature. It was such performance that earned him various school nominations; as a Student Leader, Class Prefect, and Moderator at Bor Intermediate and Junior Secondary Schools, respectively.
Late Brigadier Jongroor Deng was an inspirational learner as shown by his dedication to study in the face of his ever-taxing military obligations. He was that kind of a learner who took learning seriously despites his national obligations and other competing commitments. Our investigation learned that Brig. Gen. Jongroor Deng finished his examinations on December 21st, 2013 at the SPLA Headquarters in Juba, just six days after the December 15th, 2013 political turmoil. Immediately after his examinations, General Jongroor was commissioned to quell the Mutiny that started in the capital Juba and quickly spilt to Bor and other major towns. In this great man, we have learned the unyielding level of commitment to inspire those striving for knowledge amid insuperable odds.
4. Military Career and Life in the SPLA
Brigadier General Abraham Jongroor’s life as a career soldier began in August of 1983, shortly after the formation of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) following the events of the May 16th 1983 Mutiny in Bor. He joined the SPLA and trained at the newly established military training camp at Bonga in Ethiopia in the same year. He became one of the youngest pioneers of SPLM/A who dropped out of schools and joined the liberation struggle to fight for a just, comprehensive and democratic Sudan.In Bonga, Jongroor graduated as a Sergeant with Jamus battalion in 1984.Jamus battalion was one of the first batches of the SPLA military Divisions, which also included 104/105, Tiger, Timsah and Koriom. Upon his successful completion of his training in 1984, he was deployed as a military signal officer and strategic communication personnel in Signal Unit (SU) in Bahr el Ghazal under SPLA Zonal Commander, Lt. Colonel Kawach Makuei and Lt. Colonel Ayuen Alier Jongroor (now a Lt. General). Besides his duties as a Signal Officer, Abraham Jongroor was also instrumental in the recruitment of Muormuor Division in 1984.
In accordance with the SPLA military procedures and guidelines for effective and professional training, Gen. Jongroor was again selected to attend a Cadet training at Bonga in Ethiopia. He successfully completed his training and graduated in September of 1985 as 2nd Lieutenant. He was immediately commissioned to Neran Battalion under the then Zonal Commander Tahir Bior Lueth Ajak (now a Major General) and Bee Battalion under the then Commander Martin Manyiel Ayuel as a strategic Military Signal Officer (MISO) during the SPLA operations of 1985 in Kapoeta. Both Neran and Bee battalions were later transferred from Kapoeta to the greater Bhar el Ghazal region towards the end of 1985 under the then Zonal Commander Daniel Awet Akot as SPLA offensive became increasingly intensified in the region.
In commensurate with this rise in ranks and customary in the SPLA, Brig. Gen. Jongroor immediately commenced commanding forces in action at various battlefields in his area of deployment in the greater Bahr el Ghazal and across Sudan.In 1989, he was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant, capable of commanding a platoon (comprising 35 soldiers) following his successful military operations and leadership capabilities. In 1992/3, he was promoted to Captain, capable of commanding a company (3 platoons). In 2000, he was promoted to the rank of Alternate Commander and deployed to Jonglei state. Lastly, in 2005/2006, Jongroor was promoted as a Brigadier General when the military ranks of the SPLA were conventionalized. From November of 2010 to June of 2013, Brigadier General Abraham Jongroor Deng, was commissioned as the commander of the SPLA elite forces of Commando Division. He was later commissioned to assess the need for the disarmament of civil population in the Jonglei to ensure stability following sporadic episodes of gun violence and cattle rustling in the state.On May 19, 2013, General Jongroor Deng and his commandos helped in recapturing the strategic town of Boma and quelled the rebellion led by David Yau Yau in Jonglei State.
On December 24th, 2013, Brigadier General Jongroor Deng, Major General Mabior Lual Machar and Major General Tuor Alier successfully commanded the Sudan People Liberation forces and recaptured the town of Bor from the rebels. He remained in active SPLA military operations until his death in the line of duty on Sunday, January 5, 2014, just few kilometers from Bor town, his place of birth. In his last interview with a South Sudanese Journalist, Mading Ngor Akech of BBC, General Jongroor was unequivocal about his upcoming offensive in Bor, “The morale is high and we are going to retake the town.” He was true to his words when Bortown was recaptured from rebels by his forces under the command of Lt. General Malual Ayom Door.
Like many of his colleagues who joined the SPLA during the early days of the guerrilla moment, General Jongroor had been in the battlefield to liberate the people of South Sudan from marginalization and all forms of exclusion by the Northern Sudan. He and many of his comrades in the SPLA envisioned that the destiny of the marginalized South Sudanese depended on an outright victory in the battlefield. Choosing the battlefields as a pathway for South Sudanese freedom demanded men of his unwavering commitment to achieve the daunting task of the struggle for a just Sudan. So much so, he made military glory the utmost object of his motivation, especially, if it serves the objectives of setting the oppressed people of South Sudan to their freedom. His various victories in the battlefields are true testaments of a great career soldier he was and will ever be in the Sudan People Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M).
Although much of the SPLA military performance and particularly that of its generals are not well-documented in public domains, or in the dearth of SPLA annals, he is fondly remembered by his comrades as one of the SPLA’s military tactician who had never lost a battle he placed his heart to. In fact some accounts of his recent history in the battlefields are apparent and demonstrably vindicate his admirers and show us the stellar soldier and general that was once and will always be Abraham Jongroor Deng. For simplicity, we decided to summarize his military roles in key battles into three broad sections, notably: Pre-Comprehensive Peace Agreement, Post Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and December 15th “alleged” Coup battles.
A. PRE-Comprehensive Peace Agreement Battles
B. POST - Comprehensive Peace Agreement Battles
C. December 15th, 2013: Riek Machar Rebellion
5. Legacy and Values
As a soldier, Brigadier Gen. Jongroor Deng exemplified ideals and values worth admiration and emulation in every essence of public service. He lived a life of altruistic service by putting the interest of our nation, the army and that of his subordinates before his own. In serving our country, Gen. Jongroor and many of his colleagues gave up so much since the inception of the Sudan People Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) for the freedom of our people. Although he tragically lost his life as a result of this conflict, the greatest reward to him and his fellow comrades who embodied and sacrificed the most during decades of the struggle for independence, is to reconcile as a nation and publicly declare that such a tragedy would never happen again in our history. He categorically wanted to see a non-tribal and non-politically aligned SPLA that is well trained and equipped to effectively meet the challenges of defending our national borders from external aggressions as well as safeguarding the lives of all citizens regardless of their tribes, or regions. Brig. Gen. Jongroor would symbolically be remembered as one of the greatest “agents of change”, “defender of freedom”, and a person whose personality inspired those who will continue to serve in our armed forces for the ultimate objective of rising above the noble and ever complex challenges of protecting and building a stronger South Sudan we all envisioned.
6. South Sudan after General Jongroor Deng
The death of Brigadier Gen. Abraham Jongroor Deng in this conflict was tragic and unfortunate given the circumstances that led to this crisis. As documented above, South Sudan independence came through an enduring costs and sacrifices by many men and women like him. He and his comrades gave up so much so we can have a country where freedom, liberty, order and peaceful coexistence could truly prevail. And the fact that General Jongroor, Major General Ajak Yen Alier and many others had to die in this war is something we should all think and make serious reflection on the future of our country we wish to have.
This panel, like many South Sudanese, in the wake of this conflict, condemns the horrendous acts of violence meted out against the very civilians and their properties that General Jongroor was commissioned to protect. We call upon the government of South Sudan to investigate these crimes and to hold those responsible accountable in accordance with the law enshrined in our constitution. Any inaction to punish these crimes amounts to rewarding intolerance and must be discouraged in order to forge a mutual coexistence among our people henceforth. We, the members of this panel believe in the laws of our land, and for this reason, we are calling upon the peace loving citizens in our country to denounce any form of incitement to violence. South Sudan is a nation we founded together; with pride, great expectations and dreams, where all its citizens must live in peace, unity, respect and universal protection of all aspects of human rights. It is on this basis that we are calling upon every citizen, in South Sudan and abroad, whether in government or opposition, to join hands in efforts leading to peace and reconciliation. Doing so would allow us to start the demanding task of building and developing our beloved republic undivided. While the tasks of reconciliation, displaced repatriation and justice for those killed wouldn’t be easy, we recommend a heightened patience and mutual dialogue among our peace loving people to work together no matter how frustrating the process might be in the years to come.
7. Conclusion: To the Family and Friends of Gen. Jongroor
We are saddened by the tragic loss of Brigadier Gen. Abraham Jongroor Deng and the circumstances, which led to his killing and his colleagues, especially, Major General Ajak Yen Alier. On behalf of Bor Community and South Sudan, we are extending our deepest and heartfelt condolences to all those affected by these tragedies as we mark the first anniversary of their death. We are mindful about your loss and wish to share our grief with you. May this short biography of Gen. Jongroor Deng, especially; his military contributions to the people of South Sudan brings comfort to your family and friends as we commemorate the life of this great man.
To the people of South Sudan: We must take a moment to celebrate General Jongroor’s life and honor the legacy of his commitment, family values and dedication in every possible way he served his people till his last days. To honor him is not a reward. It’s the best way to inspire our future cadets to embrace the meaningful role of the army in a nation. Like many South Sudanese, he made a selfless contribution in changing the dynamics and narratives of injustice in the Sudan in order for South Sudan to be an independent republic for all to enjoy and cherish. And for those values to make a meaningful foundation in our country, a new beginning must be charted. This transition must begin from the need to unify and focus on the fundamentals of peace as a basic structure that binds our efforts to collectivity and urgency in order to foster a bright future for our children and the generations thereafter. A future where all South Sudanese, young and old, have equal destiny on what life has to offer in abundance peace. This is the only way through which the promise of a prosperous South Sudan could be harnessed to benefit those who fought for it and will continue to defend it. We must shoulder on and rise above the turbulences of nation building, of differences, of frustrations, and build South Sudan on a philosophy of one success at a time in our agreed terms.
Such was a short life of a great soldier, who left of a footprint of service, from the early days of the Sudan People Liberation Arm/Movement (SPLA/M) to the task of putting our struggles to a unified corridor of peace and stability, regardless of our backgrounds and differences. Gen. Jongroor will continue to be a source of inspiration to the next generation of patriots, cadets and leaders in our army to serve and defend a nation who love and cherish.
As you have noted, we have categorically refrained from pointing fingers to any particular individual, group or community regarding Jongroor’s death and we have no intentions to do so hereafter. We therefore strongly deplore any opinion that would incite hate as a result of the views expressed herein. We recommend serious reservations and respect for Brigadier General Jongroor and his family should there be such opinions.May peace prevail once again, may we work together as a country and people to build our unity to work for us, may his legacy inspire the true essence of patriotism, and may he rest in peace and bliss.
We wish to single out General Jongroor’s family for granting us the permission to proceed with this long project. They accorded us with unrelenting support and encouragement to get personal information required to complete this project. Thanks to Akau Machar Jongroor, Aluong Madhoor Alier, Madit Gai Angeth and Garang Kuol Jongroor for their suggestions during this project.
Our special thanks go to Lt. General Ayuen Alier Jongroor and Lt. General Wal Athiu Madol for sharing their wealth of key information about General Jongroor’s Military career through series of interviews. Your interviews led to the successful completion of this biography, especially, on aspects related to General Jongroor’s key dates and military assignments.
To everyone who has contributed indirectly towards the completion of this project, and most importantly, those whose names have not been acknowledged, we cannot thank you sufficiently for your valued encouragement to accomplish this short biography. Your ideas and suggestions were greatly valued and appreciated.
And to the most outstanding and courageous members of Jongroor’s Biography Committee, it was a grand honor and gratifying privilege to work with each one of you during the eleven months of investigation and research to complete this important assignment. There were setbacks along the way, but you never gave in. It was special task you all signed on willingly and you all accomplished it as you expected.
Thank you! Thank you!
You are the best!
Chol Dhoor Riak
All thoughtful corrections are appreciated.
For additional information, please contact:
Chol Dhoor Riak
Happy New Year
== 2015 ==