Martyrs' Day: Commemorating Southern Sudanese and the SPLM Mystique


(Omaha Nebraska NSV) - Today millions will pause to honor the memory of Dr. John Garang de Mabior along with all the martyrs who fell before him—men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice by paying with their lives so that we could achieve the Comprehensive Peace Agreement now in its final throes.

As I was thinking about the memorial, one question got me in the most profound way.

The question was by New Sudan Vision’s Editor Mading Ngor who during a July 24 One-On-One interview with Southern Sudan Minister of the SPLA Affairs Lt. Gen. Nhial Deng Nhial, asked: “And finally, the last Martyrs' Day before possible independence next year, is coming up this month. As a son of the late hero, William Deng, and as someone who has fought for 22 years against injustice, how should this day be remembered?”

The most inspiring, in this instance, was the sheer weight of history contained in the question. While today is being remembered as a culmination of years of struggle during which stories of life, loss and liberation came to define us, it too will be remembered for its longevity—it has been 27 years since the people’s Movement was founded.

As I look back on the formative years of the SPLA, I’m reminded of the great generation that volunteered to fight the enemy in Khartoum that has had its grip on all the levers of power for far too long. Many of those soldiers never came back home.

When we look back, today will also be remembered for all the ubiquity of death and sounds of wailing families after families who would mourn for their loved ones, for example during the earliest battle of Kurmuk, plus many other historic places. Tears even became scarce after the war causality reached its staggering 2.5 million.

The journey these men set out on, at first, was akin to trying to drain the River Nile with a spoon, because of how entrenched the system of oppression and their purveyors were. But because of the gift and wisdom of a courageous leader and a multitude of infantry soldiers with the noble cause at heart, the SPLM has carried the day as we now know it.

In the immortal words of late John Garang, “Sudan will never be the same again.” Now Southern Sudan, Abyei, and our sisiter regions of Nuba Mountain, and Southern Blue Nile are on the verge of witnessing a historic self-determination through the exercises of Referendum and Popular Consultation, respectively.

And this brings me to SPLM mystique as one sure way this day will too be remembered. But what is this mystique? It is that inherently rare attribute of the movement that many of us will never be able to quantify or intelligibly put into words ---the glue that has held the marginalized people together against all odds.

There are many faces of the SPLM mystique. For me, it is in the very SPLM's name that has brought back Southern Sudanese after having joined the enemy, after inflicting incalculable damage on fellow Southerners in terms of loss of lives and property.

It is in all the ashes and the soils and the valleys and the hills carrying the bones of our martyrs---places that are still whispering of a history our generation must help record.

The SPLM mystique is that “Southern Sudanese woman”, who in the words of a young poet, “brought up her children amidst a savage war and hopeless hope; who consoled her husband after their only child starved to death.”

It is the name many have murmured in the bleakest of times, even during their last breath.

So as we look to the future, these times cry out for those alive to do more, and will be proper to first remind ourselves that there is need to reduce the amount of venom still spewing from few of us who think SPLM [isn't worthy of its name]. The martyrs deserve respect from us. No less!

And if we ever think of honoring them in a more meaningful way, starting next year, Southern Sudan can embark on Project22: A Campaign for Southern Sudan's Future--one that will commit us to 22 years of hardwork---the same number of years it took us to fight for freedom—by working hard to build Southern Sudan into a decent place fit for every man, woman or child to live and dream.

And by so doing, we will have delivered on the sacred promise of our nation to all those who gave selflessly of themselves---the martyrs to whom this day belongs.

*Joseph Deng Garang is the President of The New Sudan Vision. He can be reached atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


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