Dr. John Garang, the SPLM and the question of unity: A rebuttal to Mr. Elhag Paul

(Perth, Australia) - In the course of human affairs it is a rarity to come across obtuse slanderous remarks from a seemingly learned man of reason. I unequivocally, have no problems whatsoever with a person or people expressing their opinion, however what is outrageous, absurd and warrants universal condemnation is distortion and manufacturing of facts to malign a particular person and or community or communities. Even worse universally, speaking ill of the dead is an abhorrent and a tasteless culture, which is unfortunately condoned, encouraged and has taken root in South Sudan.

In a distasteful disregard for cultural etiquettes, journalistic professionalism and standards, The Sudan Tribune on the 29th of September 2011 published an opinion piece, which was, blatantly aimed at assassinating the character of the late Dr. John Garang. In a rumbling monologue of vengeful, distorted and sugarcoated facts and unsubstantiated allegations, Mr. Elhag Paul accused the late Dr. Garang, his widow Madam Nyandeng, his family, his people the Dinka, the People’s Movement, the SPLM and by that extension a significant proportion of South Sudanese of being hypocritical. Mr. Paul’s long allegations can be summarised as follows:

Dr. Garang does not deserve to be called the father of South Sudan nation, because he always was an advocate for a united Sudan. I know this because he said so in ‘John Garang Speakers’. Madame Nyandeng, his family, his people, the SPLM/A and anyone who claims otherwise and mentions him as a hero and champion of South Sudanese independence is a liar because Dr. Garang always advocated for a democratic united secular Sudan. I know this because he wrote about it. He was dead set on unity because he killed all those who advocated for separation like Mr. Samuel Gai Tut and Mr. Akot Atem Mayen because they were separatist. I know this because Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba wrote about it. Living in Sudan as a communist during Nimeiri’s terror was better than living in the liberated areas because Claire Short spoke about it in the British Parliament.”

He further insinuated that the President of the Republic, a Lieutenant General and the Commander-in-Chief of the Army whom he reduced to a rank of a “Sergeant Kiir” was a murderous dog at the disposal of the late Dr. Garang - “Garang’s Rottweiler.” He went on to question national fidelity of Dr. Benjamin the Minister of Information and hinted that he was serving his tribe and not the nation. Such utter disrespect for the office (I am not saying the individuals but the office) of the President is astonishing. Having said that, I would like to point out and correct some historical fabrications, misconceptions and outright lies in Mr. Paul’s article. I am not going to write in defence of the President or the Honourable Minister but in that of the defenceless Dr. Garang and the People’s Movement, the SPLM.

It appears that Mr. Paul either has selective amnesia or does not want to acknowledge the fact that Dr. Garang was not a village idiot but a cunning political and military tactician who was a master of political games, trickery and theatre. I am wondering whether Mr. Paul knows or has considered the possibility that perhaps Dr. Garang was employing Machiavellian intelligence in his unwavering advocacy of a democratic united secular Sudan to achieve unknown agenda, which has eventuated and has become apparent to some who do not think and see things in plain black and white.

Mr. Paul’s revisionism and negation of history is disturbing. Distorting the writings of the esteemed Dr. Peter Adwok Nyaba is alarming. I do not dispute the facts following the death of Mr. Samuel Gai Tut but I find it preposterous and completely reject in its entirety the insinuation that his death was personally sanctioned by Dr. Garang or SPLM/A because he was an advocate for South Sudan separation. This is a manufactured perception of raved faculties. It was and still is a common knowledge among the rank and file of the People’s Army that in the early days of the People’s Movement in 80s, Anyanya 2, of Commander Gordon Koang Chuol, Mr. Tut and Mr. Mayen was hostile to SPLA/M and that its leadership had ignored repeated warnings from SPLA/M to cease attacks on their recruits. It is highly probable and highly likely that as a consequent Mr. Samuel was killed in one of these confrontations with the SPLA as a result of SPLA feeling its warnings were not being heeded.

Following Mr. Tut’s death nobody knows why Commander Kerubino Kuanyin Bol did what he did notwithstanding the fact that he was a maverick with occasionally deranged tendencies. Whether it was to punish Mr. Tut or whether it was a form of psychological warfare to demoralise Anyanya 2, nobody can answer that except Commander Kerubino but to present mere speculations, fantasies and distortions as facts is unscrupulous. This has been the fundamental foundation of Mr. Paul’s argument that those Southerners who were killed were meted the fate of death because they were separatist or that they were imprisoned because they advocated such ideas.

In addition, a sensationalist claim that living in the Sudan as a communist during Nimeiri’s tyranny was of an equal measure to living in the liberated areas is a personal insult to any of the people who lived in Nasir, Kapoeta, Boma and other liberated areas. Although I was a young boy, I never heard then or know of anyone among all those who were executed by firing squads, anyone and I repeat anyone who was executed for being an exponent of an independent Southern Sudan.

Perhaps the most telling and remarkable were the slanderous claims that self-determination was an alien concept to Dr. Garang and the SPLM until 1991 when Nasir plotters forced it upon them. This clearly shows that the author is lacking in capacity and his superficial and crammed understanding of South Sudan’s history is illusionary. Thirty years before the landmark Declaration of Principles of 1994, there existed a political party called the Southern Front, which was formed inside Sudan after what was known as the October Revolution of 1964 that toppled military rule of Abud. Late Uncle Clement Umboro led it and the objective of that southern party was SELF DETERMINTION while SANU, the other southern party was aiming at FEDERAL SYSTEM in Sudan, led by late William Deng Nhial and late Joseph Oduho. Southerners in the Round Table Conference of March 1965 presented those two positions, and referendum for Southerners for self-determination was proposed in that Conference. Hence self-determination was never a new notion to Dr. Garang or the SPLM/A to be said to have been invented by Nasir splitters. This is a historical crime to distort facts known to all.

The 1991 failed opportunists, chief among them Dr. Lam Akol who hasn’t learned from history, can attest that the 24th of March 1986 Koka Dam Declaration signed by then Lt. Col Kerubino Kuanyin Bol were a culmination of negotiations spanning 1985 to 1986 where SPLA/M was represented by Commander Kerubino and Commander Arok Thon Arok. At the conference self-determination was discussed and this desire for self-determination was clearly demonstrated in the context of Article 2(d) which called for the “adoption of the 1956 Constitution as amended in 1964 with incorporation of ‘Regional Government’ and all other such matters on which a consensus opinion of all the political forces shall be reached.” In addition the Koka Dam Declaration aimed to (a) repeal September 1983 sharia laws and (b) dissolve the government, and called for new general elections and formation of a coalition government that would include SPLM/A. However, these agreed points were never taken up because Sadiq al-Mahdi took power and was never keen on resolving the war.

Mr. Paul also shamelessly contradicts himself by partially correctly stating that self-determination was discussed at the Abuja 1 and 2 Peace Negotiations but then goes on to say that it was off the agenda in early 2000s until the people in diaspora put pressure on SPLM and the NCP. What a laughable joke! Abuja 1 and 2 Peace Negotiations, which  Elijah Malok Aleng and the late Dr. Justin Yac Arop and late Commander William Nyuon Bany were the SPLM representatives certainly discussed self-determination however, it was not forced upon the People’s Movement as insinuated. It was rather because the Southerners felt a need to present a united front and they had nothing in common except to see a free Southern Sudan. Mind you there was still heavy fighting between the SPLM and the Nasir plotters and the NIF at that time. Also the idea that self-determination was off the agenda in early 2000s is a blatant lie. SPLM/A and NIF had already committed themselves to the “Declaration of Principles” on the 20th of July 1994 where the most significant point was Article 2. It said:

the right of self-determination of the people of south Sudan to determine their future status through a referendum must be affirmed.” 

Dr. Garang is unquestionably the father of South Sudan, the champion of its independence and its greatest hero. His vision and the fundamental pillars of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) were formulated way back before the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement was concluded on the 27th of March 1972. Dr. Garang wrote a remarkable letter to General Joseph Lagu on the 24th of January 1972. The letter is presented here in its entirety to dispel any doubts that I am quoting favourable parts to my argument.


Khartoum – Anyanya

Negotiation: Guidelines.


The General Headquarters

Anyanya National Armed Forces

South Sudan

January 24, 1972


The Commander in chief

Anyanya National Armed Forces

Leader of the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement

Members of the Anyanya SSLM Negotiation Committee


Dear compatriots:


That we are strong, growing in force and power to be reckoned with in Sudanese politics. Status and future is evidenced by the fact that the Khartoum administration is now interested in negotiating a peace settlement directly with the Anyanya.


We must take a firm stand all the way in the coming talks. The Numeiry regime is a sick administration ripe to collapse any time. We must not be tricked into committing suicide to lay down our instruments of liberation, arms, by a withering and dying regime just for the purpose of lengthening its own days of breath or just that some opportunistic Southerners find a means of employment in the blood of our people.


We are already at war and we are growing stronger everyday while sooner or later the Numeiry regime will go, but nothing will ever defeat us if we persist in the war. Let no one among you or among the enemy have the mistaken and opportunist’s view that these talks are the last chance of peace for Southern Sudanese people. Let no one have incorrect view that if these talks collapse and fail war will break out. We are already at war for the last nine to seventeen years. The Anyanya and Southern Sudanese people are capable and ready to fight on for another nine years or more if no correct and acceptable solution is found.


Any solution within the context of a New United Sudan must first and foremost recognize the Anyanya as the legitimate army of the Southern Sudanese people. The implementation of whatever degree of merging agreed by the negotiating armies and administrations to the United New Sudan must take not less then ten years ; during this time the two armies and administrations must maintain separate identities while conditions for their gradual merging into United New Sudan are being created by both sides. This is the only procedure that guarantees the future and interests of the Southern Sudanese people in a United New Sudan and the objective indication that both sides are sincere in seeking the cessation of belligerency, peaceful settlement and life in a United Sudan.


Following is a more comprehensive presentation of guidelines to the spirit, objectives and strategy which should be adopted at the talks and which, if followed, could possibly lead to a solution acceptable to the rank-and-file of the Anyanya and the Southern Sudanese People.


  1. The Central Problem in the Sudanese war is the dominance of Arab Nationalism. It is historically a universal law that in whatever multi-nationality country where one of the nationalities is economically and politically (and therefore socially and culturally) dominant over other nationalities, that country is pregnant with instability, discontent and crisis eventually erupting in warfare. Such has been the case in the Sudan.

  1. The Southern Sudanese people, in conformity with historical necessity, took up arms against the glaring oppression and neglect meted on them by  the forces of Arab Nationalism, an oppression and neglect which were as glaring as they were cruel , rackless and raking as they were arrogant. It was only  after the virtual exhaustion of all peaceful constitutional possibilities of multi-national coexistence with a United Progressive Sudan that the disaffection and indignation of the Southern Sudanese People reached their human boundaries and war broke out, war had to break out.

  1. Constitutional guarantees against exactions and barbarities of Arab Nationalism, accommodations and adjustments to the mal-practices of Arab Chauvinism have all failed the past to be respected and to meet the aspirations of the Southern Sudanese People. This is why war had to break out in the first place.

  1. There is no reason, absolutely no objective reason for clearheaded Southerners and Northerners alike to believe after eight years and more of continuous warfare and the repeated failures of some forms of constitutional guarantees that paper constitutional guarantees are now going to solve the war in the Sudan. Any Southerner who holds the mistaken view that Arab Nationalism now sincere, now means good business, now gives the South local autonomy in good faith and that this autonomy will  be guaranteed by a few phrases scribbled on some sheets of paper stapled and bound together and christened “ The Constitution”, that Southerner either suffers from acute historical myopia or else advocates the treasonable stand of opportunism, national subjugation and continued Arab Chauvinism and domination; in short, such Southerner calls for surrender in a camouflaged form.

  1. It is historically evident that unless a correct consistent Social Democratic solution is found to the Central Question, i.e., to the problem of economic and political domination of Arab Nationalism over other nationalities, then, any attempts at solving the war in Sudan, no matter how refined and logical on paper, will always end in certain failure.

  1. There is no objective indication that the Khartoum-based Arab nationalist administration are capable of concluding a consistent social democratic solution to the National Question in the Sudan. Arab Nationalism in the Sudan, consistent with its predatory nature, proposes and declares solutions such as “local autonomy” within the context of a United Arab Sudan. Such muddle-headedness returns us back to 1963 and1955 and is an objective indication that the necessary mutation which would enable ruling Northerners to face up to the objective realities of the Sudan has not yet taken root.

  1. There are only two possible ways for resolving the Sudanese crises: The birth of two nation-states out of the present (geographical) Sudan or political autonomy for both the South and the North (and/or any other part that so demands) in a federated United New Sudan. Political Autonomy in this usage means that the autonomous regions have adequate political power, in terms of armed forces, to protect the region against the encroachment by the federation or by one of the regions in the federation, and, furthermore, that a region retains the right to secede from the federation if its interests are not adequately served by the federation. (It must be clear to Southerners that the retention of the right to secede from such a federation must be guaranteed by the federal constitution and by the existence of a physical Southern Armed Forces.)

  1. We can not dwell on the status of matters regarding the super-structure such as judicial system, fundamental rights and freedoms, personal liberty, freedom of religion and conscience, freedom of minority to use their language and develop their culture, education, tele-communications, census , etc, etc.(all contained in Mading de Garang’s proposed constitution for the democratic republic of Sudan). The status of these and others will ultimately depend on either the solution is two nation-states or political autonomy (as defined above) for the two regions (or more) in a federated (NEW) Sudan. These peripheral issues must not be allowed to detract the deliberations of the talks, nota bene para VII above.




It is imperative that the basis and necessary conditions be created and for these basis and conditions to be developed and mature so as to objectively arrive at a United (NEW) and lasting peace. This approach is to start from the objective realities of the Sudan. It is chauvinistic and naive to start with assumption of a United (ARAB) Sudan and then turn around and try to force the contradictory objective realities to conform to the subjective naïve assumption and wishes of a United Arab Sudan. Hence it follows from the objective facts in section (A) that for a United New Sudan the following conditions must be met:

  1. Arab Nationalism in the Sudan must be categorically renounced. This concretely means that Arab Nationalism must no longer be neither an internal (therefore) nor an external policy and practice in the United New Sudan.

  1. There at present two armies, the Anyany and the army of the Khartoum administration; these armies are now at war in the Sudan. This point we hope is recognized by all  as an objective existence for that is precisely why there are negotiations. Well, if the Sudan is to be a one United Country, if this is the interests of both Northerners and Southerners, then, which of these two warring armies will be the army of the New Sudan the Anyanya, the army of the Khartoum administration or both and how and/or why?

  1. The Anyanya thus must firstly be accepted by the Khartoum administration as the arm of the South Sudan. Failure to recognize the Anyanya the legitimate army of the South would amount to denial or refusal to admit a physical existence, and the result of such naïveté would be the inevitable collapse of the negotiations and the continuation of the war whether anybody likes it or not.

  1. The solution to the war and for the United NEW Sudan must be viewed as a synthesis of two armies (the Anyanya and the army of the Khartoum rulers) and the formation of a new type of army consistent with the particularity of the NEW Sudan. The solution must not be looked at or hoped to be (as is always the case) the ABSORPTION of one army the Anyanya into other (the army of the Khartoum Arab Administration), but rather as we said as a SYNTHESIS of two warring armies. Whether such synthesis is possible depends on whether the necessary mutation within the forces of the Arab Nationalism and within the Anyanya exists. I am not aware that there has been such an objective necessary mutation, but I am only assuming its implied existence for otherwise there would be no objective grounds for the negotiations! And the originators of these negotiations could legitimately be charged with treasonable political scheming and racketeering against the beloved people.

  1. A minimum period of five years must initially be allowed for the creation and maturation of necessary conditions and mutations required by the merging of the two belligerent armies and administrations into the New Sudan divorced of belligerency and of the basic cause of belligerence, Arab Nationalism. The armies and administrations of the Anyanya and of the Khartoum dictatorship must maintain separate identities during these five years of groundwork of conditions for Unity.

  1. After the first initial five years of groundwork another minimum period of five years must be allowed for the actualization of the agreed degree of merging by the two armies and administrations. Merging and the actual objective formation of the NEW Sudan will be rapid in the second five years period, since the necessary conditions and mutations for a United NEW Sudan will have been created in the first five years of groundwork.

  1. We have made the above recommendations (guidelines) after a brief presentation of the objective political realities of the Sudan, nota bene Section (A) above. We have made these recommendations without fear of intimidation and with sincerity, objectivity and to the best interests of the Peoples of South Sudan, Africa and the world. We strongly believe that a United NEW Sudan and lasting peace and progress can be arrived at only through ACTION and not through PAPER declarations, resolutions and mechanical scheming. If the solution is sought within the spirit and logic of the above facts and recommendations, then, peace, progress and a United (NEW) Sudan are possible objectives to realize. But if, on the contrary hand, a solution is sought within the spirit of Arab Nationalism and the context of a United Arab Sudan, then, gentlemen of the negotiations, instability, crisis and continued warfare are the only invited options and the Anyanya consistent with its historical and historic task of African liberation will take these options so mercilessly and mercifully placed upon its shoulders by blood thirsty Arab Chauvinism.


This letter is a proof beyond reasonable doubt that Dr. Garang was an advocate of Southern Sudanese autonomy in whatever form and outlines the critical structures of C.P.A which are (a) separate armies (b) self-government during the interim period (c) referendum for Southerners


Reflecting on Mr. Paul’s article there are few things that indicate the following:

  1. Writer’s lack of in-depth knowledge of the History of South Sudan which he claims to be defending but is consciously and maliciously distorting.

  1. The author thought that by cleverly disguising his anti-SPLM rhetoric and tribalist animosity towards the Dinka he would be taken as a serious intellectual.

  1. The author is lacking in critical thinking because of his simplistic interpretation of Dr. Garang and SPLM’s political ideology.


If any lessons are to be drawn from this, they would be that Sudan Tribune’s editorial and journalistic standards have descended lower into the gutters to allow the publication of an article that insults and calls the President of the Republic, a Rottweiler (that is a breed of a butcher’s dog).


It is clear that Mr. Paul needs to read more since he does not understand various tactics including the Machiavellian intelligence employed by Dr. Garang and SPLM/A to achieve the independence of South Sudan. Just because Dr. Garang, SPLM/A or any Southerner advocated for a democratic united secular Sudan does not mean that their minds were set in a perpetual immobile granitic slab and deaf to the manifest calls for separation. The notion that because Dr. Garang called for a democratic united secular Sudan disqualifies him from his rightful place in our nation is insulting. The man deserves his dignified place as the father of our nation and deserves much more than the respect we are showing his legacy for he went above and beyond the call of duty for his people, the South Sudanese.

Deng Dekuek is a South Sudanese Geologist and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Dear Reader,

The author would like to make a correction on some historical oversight in the article. In the original article the author made an error which has now been removed. The author stated that Mr. Samuel Gai Tut and Mr. Akuot Atem Mayen were the leaders of National Action Movement (N.A.M) and that it was hostile to SPLA/M. This is NOT the case although they were symbolically members they were not active and did not participate in the political activities of N.A.M. The N.A.M was founded in Juba in late 70s by Atem Garang (the current government Chief Whip,) Daniel Abudhok (at present an SPLA colonel), Edward Lino (a renown SPLM ideologue,) late Kosta Secondo (whose house became a regular meeting place), late Sir Anei Kelueeljang, Philip Pallet Gadin (currently a Deputy Minister), Marko Chol Maciec, (a well known SPLM/A senior cadre), Mayom Kuoc Malek (now a deputy minister) and Amon Wantok who was in Wau among few others. Some prominent Southern Sudanese politicians whom were seen as radical patriots were contacted and put as symbolic leaders, i.e. late Matthew Obour, late Akuot Atem, late Samuiel Gai, late Zackariah Bol Akok. They were unarmed socialist movement that were uncomfortable with the policies of Sudanese Communist Party (S.C.P) which they regarded to have woven principles of socialism with the Arab Nationalism, and also were opposed to those of Gen. Lagu and Abel Alier's style of leadership in the South which they deemed to have not been firm in its opposition to Nimeiri's repeated violations of Addis Ababa Peace Agreement. By early 80s some of their members in the regions had been arrested and put on trial and some had left Juba. Therefore, by the time SPLM/A was formed in 1983 N.A.M had been wounded up and most of its founders joined the SPLM/A since their objectives and principles were identical to the fundamentals of the SPLM/A ideology so there was no longer any reason to maintain an under ground movement, hence NAM could not have been an armed opposition to the SPLA/M in the mid-80s. Mr. Tut and Mr. Mayen fought under the umbrella of Anyanya 2.

Kind regards,

Deng A. Dekuek

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