World News Is SPLA Day on its deathbed?

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Mamer Abraham

Is SPLA Day on its deathbed?
Some of the founding members of SPLM/A during the liberation struggle. [Photo: Courtesy]

May 16, 2022 marked 39 years since Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) was founded as a rebel movement. Almost four decades later, the SPLA Day, dubbed ‘‘16 Mayo’’ (May 16), now appeared to be a pale shadow of its old self.

Thousands of South Sudanese had expected a colourful event last Monday, to commemorate the day of the beginning of the liberation struggle. They were, however met with stuck reality and disappointment, as they later realised that there were no fanfare despite the government pumping resources to popularise the event that was gazetted as a public holiday.

In an interesting twist of events, President Salva Kiir left the country for the United Arab Emirates’ capital, Abu Dhabi, where he was expected to deliver his condolence message to the family of the late UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Back home, a semblance of a celebration was staged – casting a huge cloud on the SPLA Da, first marked in 1983. The movement was led by the late John Garang de Mabior as it’s Commander-in-Chief.

The gloomy holiday with little activities from the government elicited mixed reactions from the citizenry, especially on the social media platforms.

Last Sunday, Maj Gen Lul Ruai Koang, told The City Review that the government had not directed them on official celebrations. Instead, they were to celebrate the day in their own style in their respective places.

“No official celebrations at Bilpham. Our Chief of Defence Forces told me there was no directive from the political leadership on official celebrations. We are requested to celebrate the day at our respective places and in our ways,” said the South Sudan Defense Forces (SSPDF) initially SPLA,

Yesterday, the day was marked by the Red Army as they celebrated in Bilpham, the headquarters of South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) when many citizens expressed dismay for not seeing official celebrations.

The Minister for Information, Communication Technology and Postal Services, Michael Makuei, who is the official government spokesperson on several occasions, did not respond to phone calls to comment on the matter.

Some of the states were seen celebrating the event including Lakes and Jonglei states.

Its significance

The political analyst, Dr Abraham Kuol, however, told The City Review yesterday that the government needed to work hard so that this day could be celebrated, as a significant day.

“The current government are not seeing its significance, because they have seen the country has been liberated. They have declared it as a public holiday, but the government does not organise public rallies, which is something I think the government needs to improve on,” Dr Kuol said.

“If they don’t want to make public rallies, then there was no need of them declaring it as a public holiday.”

He maintained that May 16 should not be left for the army alone, but the president should be expected to address the nation on it.

“Every public holiday in the world is supposed to have the president addressing the nation and every institution, especially the governors should address their people, and even the county commissioners should even address the citizens,” the political activist complained.

“Seeing it as a military day is not right. With the help of the media, we need to educate the government that this day is very significant, and it should be celebrated like other days like the 9th of July, because, without 16 May, July 9 might not have existed.”

He lauded the government for considering the day but pointed out that the last time it was celebrated was in 2014.

“I have to appreciate the government this year, because you know some few years ago, I think the last time it was celebrated might be 2014,” he concluded.

“The recognition of this day this year as a public holiday is a great milestone towards achieving the goal of the government addressing the citizens, and tell people about its importance, and also tell people about the progress of the government with different programs.”

Warning against tribalism

Yesterday, the former deputy minister for water and irrigation, Mabior Garang de Mabior, told Eye Radio, that people should be careful when defining 16 May, so that it could not be diverted to a tribal day.

Mabior noted that SPLA Day was not a day of the start of the liberation struggle, but it was the day the Sudanese army attacked South Sudanese who had captured Bor because they were dissatisfied with the Addis Ababa agreement and wanted freedom of Southern Sudanese and a continuation of Anyanya Two.

Adieu Gai, yesterday claimed that the struggle had lost its value, but did not shed light on the matter.

Riak Machar Pathot claimed that if Dr John Garang de Mabior were resurrected, he would not be happy with the day not being celebrated.

SPLM acknowledges SPLA Day

The ruling party launched a rally in July on May 9, under the theme “SPLM Renaissance” to run until May 16, as the party strived to consolidate itself and mobilize members in readiness for 2023 elections.

This rally had been happening in all the ten states, geared towards the celebration of 16 May. In a rally on Friday at Zain Playground, the SPLM Interim Secretary-General listed 6 projects that SPLM would work upon.

The former presidential advisor on military affairs, Daniel Awet Akot, called on the politicians and the citizens to unite to confront challenges facing the nation, by shunning power struggle, misappropriation of resources and greed.

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