Lt Gen Joseph Lagu (Rtd), who led the Anya-nya, the freedom fighters of South Sudan, in their fight against the Arab-led Khartoum government, in the first stage, which ran from 1955 to 1972, of the recent phase of the armed struggle , from 1983 to 2005, states in his book ‘ Sudan – Odyssey through a state – From ruin to hope’, quoting from The Anya-nya Manifesto, on family and ethnicity, as follows :-
The enemy is waging a war of annihilation against us; he wants
to destroy us completely so that he can take over our country
for himself. For generations past he was trying to do this, even
carrying away our women and children to sell them as slaves in
On culture and traditions the Manifesto states :-
The enemy looks down upon our customs and traditions. He
believes his Arab cultures and traditions are superior and
should therefore be imposed on us, if necessary by force. This
is just another way, on the spiritual level, of destroying us as
a people. Our answer to this kind of attack is simple: You Arabs
keep your Arab culture and traditions and let us Africans keep ours.
and if you try to impose on us your ways by force, you will
be met by force.
From the African nationalist/Pan-Africanist perspective, on defending Africa, Lagu said :-
Our brothers and sisters in East Africa must realize that
ever since the first Arabs reached Malakal, Juba and Wau,
we, the people of South Sudan, have been defending not only
ourselves but also them from the onslaught of Arab Colonialism.
We have never ceased the struggle against those barbarians and
we never shall until we triumph. The harder and more successfully
we struggle the more our neighbours will recognize the vital
importance of our struggle to them and the more ready they will
be to support us…..Therefore we, the African people and soldiers
of South Sudan, must keep bringing these facts to the attention
and consciousness of Black Africans all over the continent
Speaking on objectives :-
The goal of our struggle is clear and straightforward – the
right of self-determination of our people.
On fighting offensively :-
The Anya-nya Armed Forces are conducting a guerrilla war,
which means a small war. Our enemy is a professional modern
army equipped with everything including tanks, heavy guns and
an air-force. We have only light weapons. If we try to beat the
enemy in battle in the open field, we would do exactly what the
enemy wants us to do because then we would be defeated quickly
by his superior weapons. To avoid this, we chose the guerrilla
method of war which gives us many advantages while placing
the Arabs at disadvantage. And as long as we fight this kind
of war, the enemy will never be able to defeat us.
Summing up Lt -Gen Joseph Lagu (Rtd) advised the Anya-nya liberation Armed Forces of South Sudan :-
That our specifically African – as distinct from Arab – identity
and the common aspirations which unite all our tribes in a common
struggle fully qualify us for nationhood and the right of self-
That by rejecting the attempted Arabization of South Sudan
and by adhering to our African identity and heritage we exercise
a basic human right which is bound to be recognized by
everybody sooner or later..
The extensive use of quotations from the Anya-nya document of Major-General Joseph Lagu, who lead the armed struggle of South Sudan to the Addis Abba Peace Agreement of Febuary 1972, with the Arab led Khartoum government, makes it clear that the armed struggle was not about religious convictions. It was unambiguously about culture/race. Class was not mentioned in the pamphlet as Anya-nya was not guided by Left ideology. In the Darfur conflict of the 21st century the Islamists in Khartoum have sort to expel the Moslem African groups, such as the Fur, Masaleit and Zaghawa from their traditional lands, in order to change the demography of Darfur, by settling in those lands Moslem African groups, who are more Arabised, such as Taouregs from west Africa.
Reference is made to page 572 of Lagu’s book, which quotes from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/SPLM) Leaflet of the 18th November 1983, quoting the Late Col John Garang de Mabior, Chairman, Provisional Executive Committee of the SPLM and Commander-in-Chief, SPLA at Paragraph III :-
The SPLA irrevocably believes in the unity of the Sudanese people
…we therefore make it very clear in the SPLA/SPLM Manifesto
that our struggle can neither be racial nor religious in any way.
At Paragraph VIII Garang is quoted as saying :-
Because of the oneness of the Sudanese people and unity and
integrity of the Sudan, the armed struggle in the South must
of necessity eventually engulf the whole of Sudan
The decolonization of South Sudan, which cost over two million Southern lives, and which may lead to it becoming self-governing, depending on the outcome of the 2011 Referendum, bears striking resemblance to the obtaining of majority government in Namibia and South Africa. In these countries power was held by a minority, which imposed its language and culture on the majority. In the Afro-Arab Borderlands stretching from Mauritania on the Atlantic to Sudan on the Red Sea, an Arabised/Islamised minority rule and enslave an African majority, imposing Arab culture and Islam, effectively denationalizing the majority population. It is this denial of African nationality which differentiates the Borderlands from Southern Africa, where Africans were able to keep their cultural identity. Both types of colonialism were/are of the settler- type. However that in the Borderlands dates back well over a millennium, whereas that in Southern Africa was some 500 years old. It is these realities which make change, progress and peace in places like Sudan, be it South Sudan, Darfur, Nubia, Blue Mountains etc, slow, complex and difficult.
B.F.Bankie, former Researcher at the Kush Institution, Juba, South Sudan
This article also published in New Era, Windhoek, Namibia