Home | Comment & Analysis    Saturday 16 February 2008

Remembering Maj. Gen. Samuel Abujohn Kabbashi


By Manasseh Zindo,

February 15, 2008 — DEATH has occurred of Maj. Gen. Samuel Abujohn Kabbashi (80), the governor of Western Equatoria State in Southern Sudan. It’s with deep sorrow that I put down this few words to evoke my epoch with him following the demise of my Governor, Samuel Abujohn, who passed away in Yambio, on Thursday 14th 2008. I first saw him, in March 1993 upon my return from exile in Central Africa Republic, and Samuel Abujohn was the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), High Commander in Yambio, my birth place, now the capital of Western Equatoria State (WES).

Since that first encounter till over three days ago, I interacted with him on several occasions both as a journalist and as a family friend or homeboy, and our relationship went on, considering the fact that he married two of my aunties, both preceded him in death. They were Mama Dina, and Hon. Constance Nako. I can’t say who among them was my favorite, because they were friends of mine who supported me during our days in the bush.

The last time we talked and discussed a number of issues with this great hero, was on Jan 26, 2008 when Anthony Makana, GOSS Minister of Commerce, Trade & Supply who is also our Member of Parliament and I paid him, a courtesy call when he was preparing to leave for South Africa. Below is then Commander Samuel Abujohn (Center), and Catholic Bishop, Joseph Gasi of Tambura-Yambio Diocese plus Commander Jedalla of the SPLA, viewing the remaining of the late Bishop Daniel Zindo, former Acting Primate of ECS in Yambio in 1998, who was also my Dad.

Samuel Abujohn Kabbashi is leaving behind a wealth legacy. He was born to Azande parents around 1927, but he was born a leader and succeeded King Gbudue as the undisputed leader of the Azande people. In his own words, he was the first Southerner (Black Sudanese), to join military college in 1955, and later join the first rebellion (Anya-Nya One) to fight for the rights of South Sudan. He escaped death several times and returned as a government official after the signing of the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement in 1972. In the picture below, Abujohn and I are seen sharing a light moment in Nairobi in 1999.

Samuel Abujohn went on to serve the Government of Sudan in different portfolios and following his retirement from the army in the late 80’s, he made history as the one of the Azande leading figure to join the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), in 1990, which was headed by the late Dr. John Garang de Mabior. Abujohn’s inclusion in the SPLA ranks boosted the movement’s consolidation in Zandeland and then Equatoria Region, now Western Equatoria State along-side other great Equatorians like Maj. Gen James Wani Igga, Today’s Speaker of the National Legislative Assembly in Juba.

Abujohn, was a baptized Anglican, and in one of our talks at his Atarabara Home in Juba, in 2006, he told me that he was a true son of God and confessed that God has been good to him throughout his life, because there has been no day as long as he could recollect that he has doubted on what to eat the next day. In the above picture, H.E Samuel Abujohn is seen greeting Bishop Peter Munde, of ECS Yambio after a Church service in Yambio, in 2001.

Following the signing of the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement, ending 22 years of the SPLA armed struggle against the regime in Khartoum, with the formation of the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS), Abujohn was appointed as the Adviser to the President of Southern Sudan, on State Affairs, and was the senior GOSS official sent to Kampala, to attend the requiem Mass for Ugandan personnel who were killed alongside Dr. John Garang in a Ugandan Chopper crash, on 30 July 2005, that robbed South Sudan of a man who fought for his people.

In the picture below, Abujohn and I are seen relaxing outside his hotel room in Khartoum, in July 2005, after attending the swearing-in of Dr, John Garang as the First Vice President of the Republic of Sudan and President of the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS).

In August 2006, Abujohn was appointed by the President of GOSS, Salva Kiir Maryadit as the Governor of Western Equatoria State (WES), replacing Col. Patrick Zamoi and he has been the governor of WES until his death on Thursday 14. Feb, 2008. He lived a memorable life among his people, he loved them and has died in their midst. He was a party animal, kind but his eyes would scare you for the rest of your life if you were born a coward and very few would dare to confront him. Following the death of his wife Col. Constance Nako, in May 2007, while he himself was undergoing surgery at Kampala International Hospital, Abujohn was diagnosed with terminal cancer and he has been in and out of the hospital fighting the battle of his life.

He knew that he would not live for long but he soldiered on. When I visited him shortly after being discharged from KIH, as he awaited his travel to South Africa where he was referred, he said: “If they (Doctors) think going to South Africa would make me feel better, why not,” but his South African Doctor, Em Taban told me that if he had been to South Africa, a year ago he would have lived a little bit longer. In the picture below, Abujohn is seen with his late wife, Col. Constance Nako during their happy days together in Yambio, in April 2001.

Uncle Abujohn, as he was commonly known was a friend of mine and I will miss him dearly. Despite our age differences, we always shared light moments together and would discuss any topic with him. During his days in the bush, he would come to Kampala, and would ask me to drive him around and once in a while to Nairobi, the last being in July 2005 before the end of the civil war when I drove him to Nairobi, in his capacity as the Governor of Equatoria Region and we were only three in my car.

His critics accuse him of hanging on to leadership despite his poor health and old age, but I believe his stay in power was worth it. I was among those who received him in critical condition on Saturday Feb 9, 2008, when he was flown from South Africa, to Entebbe Uganda en-route to Yambio, after Doctors there said he be flown home and according to his aids he wanted to die among his people. This time round, we could not talk but little did I knew that I was seeing him for the last time and though the inevitable was going to happen, I did not expect it to happen so soon

My deepest condolence to his two wives, nine children among them my good friends and several grandchildren. We the people of Western Equatoria State have lost a leader in the person of Maj. Gen. Samuel Abujohn Kabbashi. I extend my condolence to the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS), headed by our President, Salva Kiir Mayardit whom I know, is troubled by sad news of Abujohn’s death, his governor for Western Equatoria State and a comrade in the struggle!

Uncle Abujohn was lager than life and we the Azande people will cherish his love for us. Long live his legacy. Love live Western Equatoria State (WES) and Love live Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)!

May God rest his soul in Peace!

The author is Sudanese Journalist, based in Kampala Uganda. He can be reached at manassehz@yahoo.com

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  • 17 February 2008 02:31, by Deng Magot Riem

    IT is regreteabble that cdr Samuel lost his life this time of crises. His services will still be remembered in The Sudan and the southern Sudan in particular. As a member of the SPLM/A May his spirit ever guide the south as he was while living.

    repondre message

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