Is the SPLM/A 16th/May/1983 still a celebratory day in South Sudan?

BY: Bol Khan, SOUTH SUDAN, MAY/15/2018, SSN;

Should the South Sudanese people continue celebrating the official date of SPLM/A foundation on 16th May of 1983 every year, even after the independence of South Sudan? I repeatedly, on some few occasions, put this question to several South Sudanese citizens since May 2011.

Of course, there were both YES and NO groups of people from those that I asked. However, the vindications and answers the YES group would give me were in some ways ambiguous and contradictory.

They would tell me that 16th May was SPLM/A’s inception day; some say it was the day the SPLM/A’s Founder, Dr. John Garang de Mabior, rebelled against Khartoum, some would say it was the day Keribino Kuanyin, William Nyuon and others mutinied in Ayod, others would say NO, 16th May was the day on which Southern Sudanese people shot the first bullet in a fight for total independence of South Sudan from Khartoum’s successive regimes …etc.

Hence, they all believed that 16th May was a national day which people in South Sudan should celebrate every year, even after independence.

Now, it has been exactly seven (7) years down the line —after South Sudan’s independence, 2011. Therefore, today, I would like to bring up a similar question as I did in 2011: Is 16th May still a celebratory day in South Sudan?

Our recent past observations evinced that majority of South Sudanese citizens, including the SPLM/A members have developed a very huge apathy towards 16th May, that’s it’s less important after South Sudan got its independence from Sudan.

Since then, the expected turnout of ordinary people was increasingly becoming low right from 2012-2016. In May 2017, the day was entirely not celebrated/commemorated at all and as this one of 2018.

This tremendous disinterest developed by the people towards 16th May remembrance day did not come out of the blue. Below are varieties of moral and legal reasons identified to be the main causes:

First, after South Sudan’s independence in 2011, the name “Sudan People Liberation Movement” (SPLM/A) morally and lawfully appeared outdated — it bears the name of another country (Sudan).

Therefore, the Transitional Constitution of Republic of South Sudan talked of both military and political transformation and reform of the Sudan People Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).

Now, there in the constitution, the ‘Sudan People Liberation Army’ (SPLA) was changed to be ‘South Sudan Armed Forces’ (SSAF). And the SPLM political wing was set to change its name in 2013 National Convention that turned into the 2013 National Carnage.

Again, President Salva Kiir Mayardit, on 16th May 2017, restructured the army and changed the “Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA)—to South Sudan Defense Force (SSDF). All these were legal and constitutional names transformation South Sudan should have used (instead of SPLA) since 9th July 2011 and 16th May 2017 respectively.

Why, because anything enshrined in supreme law of the land or announced by the President in the name of the nation needs to be implemented as long as it is the populace aspiration.

The current SPLM/A’s factionalism are: (1) SPLM/A-N (which is the real SPLM/A without mentioning North Sudan), (2) SPLM/A-IG, (3) SPLM/A-IO and (4) SPLM-FD. Among all these factions, the only faction which took the lead in transforming itself and erasing the name was the SPLM-DC of Dr. Lam Akol.

Perhaps, the SPLM-IO of Dr. Riek Machar was going to change its name in Juba, either in late 2016 or early 2017 (but failed). SPLM/A is plainly extraneous in the Republic of South Sudan.

Secondly, given the past and current events, South Sudanese people have realized that the SPLM/A is a flagrant, hooliganistic and predatory movement which only feigned a war for dictatorship and global terrorism in the name of freedom and democracy.

Historically, the SPLM/A’s ideology is full of hatred, antagonism, blood & loss of lives which are always caused by the ambiguity of its visions and missions!

For instance, going back to those deadly splits that occurred among separatists and unionists in 1983, 1991 and again in 2013, all those events could describe the SPLM/A’s principles in details.

The people of South Sudan are now with such a great dislike of not only seeing the SPLM/A (with all its factions) as ruling party gone but also want to depose its existence in the Republic of South Sudan.

Thirdly, the war and struggle for Independence of South Sudan wasn’t started first on 16th May 1983. The SPLM/A was taking on the same objective which the already existent Southern Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SSLM/A—Anyanya 1 & 2) of those of nationalists Gai Tut and Akot Atem were fighting for.

Sadly, it was SPLM/A founder, Dr. John Garang and current president Salva Kiir Mayardit who colluded and killed these true nationalists in Bilpham, Ethiopia, the name ironically given to the SPLA Headquarters in Juba.

History is a higher mountain of facts!!


The South Sudanese people from all walks of life have lost appetite and moral support (not interested any more) to continue celebrating the 16th May 1983 after the independence of South Sudan.

The nation now looks up to the day it will officially integrate the 16th May celebrations into the real day. What is the real day which the nation supposes to be celebrated yearly?

That is your delicious food for thought! So, 16th May 1983 is not a celebratory and popular day in South Sudan.

The author is a South Sudanese freelance Writer. He can be reached for comments on


  1. Mor-amook says:

    Dear Author, thanks for your analysis.
    16th May is an important day because it’s remind us of when we started journey to freedom. I know the journey to freedom started way back 1955 but was muted by 10 years peace agreement. We need to recognize this day because it has already entered to history of our country.

    It is important because it was the day the first bullet was fired by Kerbino & William Nyuon after the muted Torit mutiny in 1955.

  2. Bol Khan says:

    Dear Mor Amook,
    Thanks you too, for your acknowledgment of the facts, though you’ve contradicted yourself by saying ” 16th May remind us of when we started journey to freedom” and again you said “I know the journey to freedom started way back 1955” Which is which now?
    Anyway, do you really know that so many bullets were fired (by Officers & soldiers of SSLM/A-Anyanya 2) between what you mentioned as muted 10 years 1972-1983? Haven’t you heard of 1975? How can you call that one of 1983 as the second (though you still called it the first) after Torit mutiny of 1955? You also said “It (16th May) is important because it was the day the first bullet was fired by Kerbino & William Nyuon”, to me in one way or another, it is indeed important but it cannot be recognized or celebrate separately. How many similar days do have in history of our South Sudan’s war and struggle for independence?

    Should we also recognize and celebrate separately the days on which James Wani, Lam Akol, Salva Kiir, Thomas Cirilo, Riek Machar, Awet Akot, Lado Gore and the rest fired the bullets or rebelled against the Khartoum?

    To me, instead for us South Sudanese people to celebrate all those days separately, we can just pick and do the first day because any history (martyrs or whatever name you give) worldwide is a combination of all important days in ONE.

    Thank you once again for recognizing 1955 as the first year in which the first bullet was fired in the history of our struggle: Why don’t we go for it?

  3. Lokosang says:

    Dear brother Bol Khan, in any country there is a historical Calender that people celebrate historical events. EG Torit mutiny of 1955 which let to creation of Any-Anya 1movement, Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972, Anya-Nya II Mutiny of 1976, SPLM/A inception on 16 May 1983, CPA 2005 and Independence Day 2011.
    In regard to your question as to whether 16 May 1983 is still a celebratory Day or not? my answer is yes it is still a celebratory day because it is the day that the marginalized people of the Sudan took up arms to struggle for their rights. It doesn’t matter who shot the first bullet, but what matter is that SPLM as a liberation movement supported by our people in every corner of the then Sudan agreed that May 16 should be recognised as the celebratory day.
    To me there should be no political party in South Sudan bearing the name of SPLM, but SPLM/A as a revolutionary movement should remain as a historical name that struggled for the fundamental Rights of South Sudanese including other marginalized people of Sudan.

    • Bol Khan says:

      Dear Lokosang,

      Thanks for your comments. My first question: Why did they Southern Sudanese (not South Sudanese) rebel in 1955, 1975 and 1983? I think their rebellions in all those years aimed at one (1) objective, which was the total liberation (Independence) of today South Sudan. If so, why do you want us to celebrate those dates separately? In any history of struggle worldwide, you don’t commemorate the last blood SACRIFICED but the first blood PAID because there is no END without BEGINNING.

      Yes, I can agree with you if you say let’s combine them in ONE, to be celebrated on 9th July 2011. But if you want us to remember or celebrate the rebellion dates or martyrs day, then we have to celebrate 18th August 1955 not 16th May 1983. This is to set the history right, unless 1983’s objective is not the same with that of 1955.

      You said “my answer is yes it (16 May 1983) is still a celebratory day because it is the day that the marginalized people of the Sudan took up arms to struggle for their rights”. I agree with you in this, and I could even support it while we still in Sudan. In other words, the SPLM/A 16th May should be celebratory in Sudan but not anymore in the Republic of South Sudan since 2011. Are we part of Sudan, any longer, as we speak?

      I think we are not any longer there, and this was the reason why I said above that the only people who have logical right to continue celebrating 16th May 1983 or SPLMA/A date are those of Malik Agar, Yaser Arman, Abdel Aziz Adam Elulwa….name them who .now in Sudan.

      You again said “To me there should be no political party in South Sudan bearing the name of SPLM, but SPLM/A as a revolutionary movement should remain as a historical name that struggled for the fundamental Rights of South Sudanese”. How contradictory are you in this? That it is good not to have in South Sudan a party names “SPLM, but SPLM/A” should remained because it is historical? What is a different here, Mr. Lokosang? Historical in South Sudan or in Sudan? Yes, partly the SPLM/A fought for (some of) Fundamental Rights of Southern Sudanese but what about SSLM/A which fought for (comprehensive and ) Fundamental Rights of Southern Sudanese people?

      Dear Lokossang,
      The whole war of struggles that led to South Sudan’s Independence has a famous BEGINNING and the END as well! So, I don’t know what kind of history (on earth planet) starts from the END and not from the BEGINNING?

  4. J. Malooma says:

    Bol Khan, you have said it all. But, Mor-amook and likes would never see your logics because these guys have internally been contaminated by tribalism. Yes 16 May 1983 was parts of a long journey but would never been reconsidered as the beginning of the struggle for an independence of the people of South Sudan. It’s also important to understand that whenever the SPLA extremist talks about 16 May something, they should only tells their audience about SPLA history and its “New Sudan something- – – !”
    Who does not know that the second rebellion after 1972 AAA, was started in Akoba 1975 three years after the ceaseion of hostilities? I wouldn’t even called it an agreement anyway!
    Again, SPLA has lost credibility and legitimacy no doubt about that.

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