The Opposition in South Sudan must either self-finance or perish!

BY: Samuel Atabi, South Sudanese, JAN/21/2018, SSN;

The African anti-colonial and independence movements fighting in 1950’s and 60’s were a lucky lot. There was a glut of military, financial and political support, coming mainly from the anti-capitalist socialist countries led by the Soviet Union and China.

Most of the post-independence African rebel groups were/are not that lucky; they had to struggle to get any support, not only from fellow Africans but also from beyond.

Among the post-independent strugglers for self-determination could be found our very own Anya-Nya, the separatist group that was first led by the Catholic priest, Fr. Saturnino Ohure.

The Anya-Nya had an uphill task of getting both recognition and funding. It was shunned by the newly-minted members of the Organization of African Union (OAU).

The OAU was against any group which sought to change the borders of the newly independent nations on the continent, as bequeathed by the departing colonial powers.

Further afield, the Anya-Nya message of separation from an Arab country elicited no sympathy: the national interests of the Western nations dictated them to side with the Arab north as petrodollars from the Arab Middle East were flowing into their financial market and economy.

The socialist nations, on the other hand, steered clear of the separatists as they negatively reminded them of their own separatist agitators back home (for example among the Tibetans and the Caucuses region).

Deserted by both fellow Africans and the world, the Anya-Nya was left to devise its own means to finance the war effort. It embraced trading with other ‘pariah’ movements like the Simba, a Katangese separatist outfit that was equally shunned by the world.

The Anya-Nya was able to batter ivory from our elephants, for guns and bullets which were supplied by the Simba.

But, the fortune of the Anya-Nya never remained bleak for ever, it changed dramatically, when, following the 1967 war between the Israelis and the Arabs, the former opted to give limited but crucial training support to the Anya-Nya.

Later, this limited relationship threatened to blossom into a very dangerous level (from the point of view of Khartoum) when General Idi Amin overthrew the government of Milton Obote of Uganda in 1971.

Obote was a fanatical believer in Pan Africanism, an OAU ideology that underpinned the inviolability of the colonial borders referred to above. He used to arrest and jail leaders of the Anya-Nya whenever they crossed into Uganda.

Amin was sympathetic to the cause of the Southern Sudanese and was therefore suspected of giving military support to the Anya-Nya. Amin was also very friendly to the Israeli.

Thus suddenly, the future looked bright for the Anya-Nya.

But then, the leaders in Khartoum saw this too and, to preempt any escalation in the war, it decided to make peace with the Anya-Nya. In 1972, the two sides to the war signed a peace agreement also known as Addis Ababa peace Agreement.

This proves one of the usually overlooked points about the leaders in Khartoum: they have the ability to recognize ripe moments for peace.

In 2005, they saw the writings on the wall and sued for peace, again.

The Addis Ababa agreement was shuttered in 1983, when the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (the SPLA) was launched to fight the Khartoum government. Like the Anya-Nya, the SPLA had no ready support on the continent, again for the same reasons.

However, this time, the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, who had overseen the Addis Ababa peace Agreement, was already deposed, and a ‘socialist’ government of Mengistu Haile Mariam was in-charge of the country.

At the time, Mengistu was embroiled in a war against a separatist insurgency in Eritrea. Ethiopia had suspected that Sudan was supporting the Eritrean insurgents.

This suspicion made it easier for Mengistu to support the SPLA but not before the SPLA publicly renounced separatism as its war objective. The Ethiopian support probably comprised mainly of territorial sanctuary, political cover and military training.

The real major military support for the SPLA is reputed to have come from the late Libyan leader, Col. Muamar Gaddafi.

The Libyan leader was known to be a generous military supporter of insurgent groups, particularly those fighting what he termed as imperialists.

He was accused of being the supporter of the Irish Republican Army, the IRA, which was battling the British in Northern Ireland to force the unity of the two Irelands.

In 1986, Gaddafi was reported to have supplied the IRA with a massive 105 tons of weaponry. On the ship which ferried the weaponry to Ireland were 40 general-purpose machine guns, 1,200 AK-47s, 130 revolvers, over a million rounds of ammunition, 20 heavy Russian-made DHSK machine guns, RPG-7 rocket launchers with grenades and a number of SAM-7 missiles (1).

The SPLA is believed to have received a similar amount of weaponry, from Gaddafi.

Financial support to the SPLA was and has been shrouded in secrecy, but is thought to have come from various sources including business adventurers, Arab sheiks, sales of illegal commodities (timber, gold, and diamonds) resale of relief goods and others.

Despite this support, the SPLA was unable, on its own, to force the Khartoum government to a negotiating table. This was basically because the SPLA system had lacked a coherent ideology and military discipline and was blighted by corruption.

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the SPLA and Khartoum was a result of pressure exerted on the latter by the US and the wider international community.

The corruption, indiscipline and lack of clear vision, among the ruling SPLA leaders, of how to develop the new nation of South Sudan, have led directly to the present internecine civil war among the people of South Sudan.

Since 2005, the SPLA leaders have pillaged and stolen from the state coffers with abandon and impunity. Many of the SPLA leaders both in government now and those in the exile are very rich people.

Some of these leaders have formed armed groups to fight their erstwhile colleagues in Juba.

Like the Anya-Nya and the SPLA before them, these myriads of small armies cannot attract external military and financial support. Yet, their leaders are not prepared to fund these guerilla armies using some parts of the stolen monies.

The autocratic government in Juba, on the other hand, now has complete freedom to plunder the oil dollars and spend them freely to obtain weapons.

The government is also aware of the dire financial strait the opposition is in and has now come up with a strategy to sit them out by refusing to accept meaningful dialogues.

This government strategy of attrition has been given a boost by the attitude and the stance of the Mediator (IGAD, Troika, and AU).

It is now obvious that by leaning hard on Sudan, a country originally suspected of supporting the SPLA-in-Opposition (SPLA-IO), members of the Mediation have effectively cut weapon and ammunition supply to the rebel.

Yet, the Mediator has failed to curtail supplies of arms to the government, which should have provided a balanced approach.

Furthermore, the Mediator has contrived to decapitate the opposition leadership when they decided to put the leader of the SPLA-IO under house arrest, far away from the theatre of the war.

Again, there is no an equivalent action taken by the Mediator against the leadership of the government in Juba.

When these moves are combined with unfair mediation practices shown by IGAD (e.g. the government also has a seat on mediating team), one can very clearly see the overall game plan: that of strengthening military, political and diplomatic position of the government to defeat the outgunned, poorly funded and leaderless opposition.

The shortsightedness of these maneuvers by the government and its supporters in the mediation team is obvious.

It is not useful to rehearse here what the deleterious consequences of these moves are, but it is important to reiterate the legendary resourcefulness of South Sudanese freedom fighters to overcome adversities as happened in the past.

The emerging new leaders of the freedom movements will turn these adversities into a virtue.

The protracted nature of the next phase of war, wrought about by the government and the mediator machinations, will help to entrench the ‘hatred’ of the oppressive system and of those implementing it among the fighters and the wider population.

This hatred will provide the ideological underpinning necessary for perseverance in the fight against the enemy until victory is achieved.

Additionally, the absence of any external support to the opposition will provide the incentive to develop a home-grown means of generating funds to buy the necessary equipment and armament to prosecute the protracted struggle.

The opposition will sell gold, diamond, and even uranium, to all comers for arms or cash. In extreme cases, the opposition and their followers will change their Christian faith for Islamic one if that will bring them freedom.

This is not as outlandish as it sounds because those ruling in some neighboring countries did convert to Islam in order to obtain military support.

Historically, thousands of Jews, when being persecuted by the Nazi, had to accept Christian baptism to gain freedom (2). One cannot blame them for this.

It is not yet too late to solve the South Sudanese problem. END

References: 1. Ed Moloney (2002). A Secret History of the IRA. Penguin.
2. Giles MacDonogh (2009) 1938 Hitler’s Gamble. Constable.


  1. info@southsudannation says:

    Mr. Atabi,
    You got the point. There must be absolute unanimity and coordination among all these anti-kiir opposition groups.
    On the other hand, Machar must cede power and if need be, let him hand over to Angelina the money and other resources but she can only a vice to another leader.
    Importantly, all these anti-kiir forces in the bushes unite as fast as they can.

  2. Elhag Paul says:

    Great piece!! Everything has its time and our time will certainly come whether with external support or internal mobilisation.

  3. mading says:

    Editor. Your rebels are led by their tribe men who see members of other tribes as weak, not to mentioned that no body from those rebel groups who will take his tribe men, and give them to other tribe man who will make him his deputy. His tribe men will not take it at all, also some of those rebels leaders are just hotels rebels in foreign countries, they don’t have foot soldiers, they like of Nyandeng, Majak Agoot, Joseph Bangesi, Pagan, Lam Akol, Thomas Crillo.

  4. No matter whether the rebel group is led by tribe, yes of course, Riek Machar, is from Nuer and his field commanders are also from the same tribe, is because South Sudan is hosting minority tribes which is 64 sections but commander’s currently in some other fields operations just from Dinka’s and the rests are from Equatoria.

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