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No pomp and honor for Anyanya veterans, again

Author: Obaj Okuj | Published: Tuesday, August 18, 2020

File: Anyanya 1 leader, Joseph Lagu [Left] and his comrades during the first civil war in Sudan.

As South Sudanese individually mark and acknowledge the 65th anniversary of the first liberation struggle in the Sudanese history today, there have been no official celebrations or public statements issued by the highest offices in the country.

South Sudan is currently ruled by a President, five vice presidents and nine appointed governors.

But this is the sixth year in a row that the Veterans Day -mostly associated with the Anyanya war heroes and heroines – has not been marked by the national government.

It is also the third consecutive year that states, including Eastern Equatoria, have not honored the day publicly.

It is on this day in 1955 that South Sudanese started their first revolution in Torit town of Eastern Equatoria state.

The move was in protest against the political and military domination of the Sudanese government.

It is reported that the civil service and administration were placed increasingly in Northern Sudanese hands – largely excluding the Southern Sudanese from the government.

The Southern region was disregarded when it came to education and social upbringing.

The Southerners demanded representation in the Sudanese affairs and autonomy from the North through a federal system of governance.

So on 18 August, a unit known then as the Sudan Defence Force Equatoria Corps, composed mainly of southerners, disappeared into the bushes and hiding with their weapons after an attempt to arrest them.

Days later, more Southerners mutinied in Juba, Yei, and Maridi, hence officially beginning the first war in Sudan composed of former southern army officers, warrant officers, civilians and a small number of non-commissioned officers.

For 17 years, the Anyanya 1 was led by Joseph Lagu.

During the years of the civil war, it is reported that half a million people died.

The period between 1955 Anyanya wars and 1983 SPLM/SPLA war is considered by many as a single conflict with an eleven-year ceasefire that separates two violent phases.

Many of the founding members of the SPLM/SPLA were veterans of the Anyanya wars.

In 2007, President Salva Kiir declared August 18th as the official annual commemoration day of the War Veterans.

Since 2014, no public holiday or a national commemoration of the day has been held.

Today, there have been no official statements from the Office of the President, Office of the First Vice President or the other 4 vice presidents.

But Betty John, a woman leader with United Democratic Front or UDF said the Torit Mutiny and the Anyanya leaders played significant roles in the liberation and independence of South Sudan. 

“Today marks a date in the history for Eastern Equatoria and South Sudan in general,” she said. “Whenever the story of August 18th 1955 being narrated to me by an elder while pointing to where the mutiny took place, a sigh is witnessed as if to erase the memory from their minds.

It is reported that the Minister of Defense and Versant’s Affairs, Angelina Teny issued a statement today honouring the Veterans of Torit Mutiny. 

“Due to the coronavirus we are not able to organize a big celebration, ” said Colonel Lam Pual, Press Secretary in the office of Minister of Defense.

The Red Army Foundation was the only institution in Juba to organize a minor commemoration of the day at the SPLM House.

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