Many find it difficult to accept the root causes of the last phase of the protracted war in South Sudan , which ran from 1955 to 1972 and from 1983 to 2005. In order to establish the causes, the book of Lt Gen Joseph Lagu (Rtd), entitled ‘Sudan – Odyssey through a state – From ruin to hope’ is drawn upon. The key to understanding Afro-Arab relations, past and present and the relevance of South Sudan is found in the reasons for the conflict.
Lagu, who is alive and well, spending a good part of his time in Juba, South Sudan, in his pamphlet ‘ Anya-nya Armed Forces – South Sudan Liberation Movement; what we fight for’, issued to fighters in his then capacity of Major-General and Commander-in-Chief of the Anya-nya Armed Forces (A.N.A.F) in January 1972, goes straight to the point and says, amongst other things :-
When in 1954 the British and Egyptians decided to end their condominium rule of the Sudan and grant this country independence, our political leaders clearly foresaw that the South was facing domination by the North. They therefore asked at once for guarantees that would safeguard the interest of the South. Both the British and Egyptians, however, disregarded this reasonable demand because it conflicted with their own interests. Thus was the future of the South recklessly gambled with and the seeds of trouble foolishly sown.
Lagu goes on to state : -
As the British started leaving the South, their administrative posts and
business firms were taken up by Northern Sudanese who previously
had not been allowed to work or settle in the South. The Southerners
began to feel more and more strongly that their country was being
colonized by Arabs and that their great expectations from independence
boiled down to the replacement of one master by another. The Northern
officials looked down upon the Southerners, openly discriminating
against them and on the whole treated them as subject people. Their
arrogance and contempt towards the Southerners soon became
unbearable. They kept on insulting and abusing us, often using the
word ‘abeed’ (slaves) when referring to Southerners.
Further on Lagu says that whilst the British Governor-General and British troops were still in Khartoum and Southern soldiers of the Equatoria Corps had rebelled, the northern Prime Minister of Sudan at the time refused to intervene, so the British were requested to intercede. This was accepted but :-
There was no investigation and no justice. Instead, after the
Southerners laid down their arms, Northern troops were let loose
on them by (the Prime Minister) while the last of the British left
Sudan for good. There followed a blood-bath in which many
Southern soldiers, policemen and warders were killed and the
remainder taken to the North to serve long terms of imprisonment.
…there came the systematic Neo-colonialist and Imperialist
robbing of our country; a genocidal campaign of mass murder,
looting, rape abduction, setting on fire of villages and crops.
Hundreds of thousands of our people including many leaders
either took to the bush or fled to neighbouring countries where
they live as refugees
Commenting on the eight years which passed from 1955 to 1963, Major-General Lagu said :-
Only one thing stood out clearly and this was what the Arabs
themselves wanted then, as they do now: to dominate and
colonize the South. To achieve this they try to impose on us
Africans their religion, language and customs. By this method
they want to turn us into Arabs and thereby conquer our
country for good.
On the rise of the Anya-nya Major-General Lagu stated :-
At the beginning we had to depend on our native weapons –
spears, bows and arrows, but during 1964-65 the bad winds
which blew over the Congo blew good over South Sudan.
Arms belonging to the Congolese rebels passed into Anya-nya
hands and our operations against the Arab enemy soon
became more numerous and more effective. Enemy units
ambushed by the Anya-nya provided us with more weapons
and ammunition. We grew stronger and grew quicker.
The experience of the Southern Sudanese, Darfuri, Nubians and other people of Sudan, marginalized by the Khartoum government and other people living in the broad band of Africa running from Mauritania on the Atlantic through Mali, Niger and Tchad, through to Sudan on the Red Sea, is in many ways similar to the oppression the people of southern Africa underwent before they achieved self-government, when apartheid South Africa held sway in the southern Africa region. The main difference is that whereas settler hegemony and racism in Southern Africa lasted some five hundred years, Arab domination in the Afro-Arab borderlands has existed over a thousand years and continues today, with demographic change and ethnic cleansing going on in Darfur, where a genocide is in continuing implementation.
B.F.Bankie, former Researcher at the Kush Institution in Juba, South Sudan