Home | Comment & Analysis    Sunday 26 April 2020

Tribute to comrade Edward Lino Wuor Abyei


By Gordon Lam

I learned with a heavy heart the untimely demise of comrade Edward Lino Wuor Abyei. Those who knew him at Sudan’s People Liberation (SPLAM), frontlines will lower their heads in tears with extreme heartbreaking and sadness. The departure of comrade Edward Lino on 15 April 2020, after a long illness, left a setback to the chain of history and trajectory of a struggle for freedom. Edward Lino was liberal and social liberator who is the greatest sense offered his entire life for freedom, justice, equality and democracy. He would be remembered as a great patriot and an icon of our liberation struggle who tirelessly devoted his lifetimes for the right cause, fighting for liberty, justice and independence of South Sudan.

As an insider, this tribute is a brief narrative of his contribution at the various frontline in former Bright Star Campaign (BSC) – The SPLA, Commando. I would like to shed some light his personal involvement in the liberation wars and sacrifices he offered in several battlefields like any other compatriots during the 21 years’ revolutionary wars. The SPLA, which waged a war of national liberation sprouted in 1983, ushered hundreds of thousands of mass mobilization fighting the revolutionary wars and directed arms confrontation with the Sudanese successive regimes.

The Revolution was imbued with countless intrigues and upsurge in human suffering during the arms struggle and heavily inflicted mass suffering on civil population in South Sudan. Personally, I knew the late Edward Lino during difficult times in the liberation struggle. He was a brave commander who would be listed on the chains of national patriots who sacrificed their life for search of justice, liberty and freedom. It must be recalled that comrade Edward Lino, was a credible trusted comrade with tremendous kindness, high spirit of morale making, was an independent thinker and systemic freedom fighter for the rights of the oppressed.

I was among the early children who walked on foot from Western Upper Nile villages to Ethiopia like other comrades who travelled the same route from other regions in South Sudan to Ethiopia. In 1985 he became a Child Soldier popularly known as the ‘‘Red Army’’, was trained in Bunga SPLA- Military Training Camp in Ethiopia and later went to several frontlines including the Bright Star Campaign (BSC) - Commando. Just like other comrades in struggle who offered maximum sacrifices for the freedom of our peoples at a young age during the war against Khartoum, the SPLA- BSC, where he was a member and witnessed the systemic contribution of late Edward Lino during the liberation wars since 1983-2005.

The late Edward Lino has dedicated his life for the liberation of his people in the SPLA/SPLM. He made tremendous sacrifices and would be remembered as an icon among other heroes and heroines who died in the wars of liberation and his name shall remain in the history of liberation wars or national liberation monument.

As child Soldier by then, I knew Comrade Edward Lino, in the liberation struggle and deep difficulties at the faced by SPLA-Commando where we moved on foot from Ethiopia to Western Equatoria in June 1990. Many countless comrades paid maximum sacrifices for freedom, in the wars. While we lost several comrades, some of us sustained guns wounds from direct battles with the enemy during the liberation struggle. For examples, this writer was wounded twice on 7th June 1992 during the combat in the Operations Jungle Storms (OJS) with the Sudanese Arms Forces (SAF).

The BSC Phase Three Western Equatoria Sector was implemented by the SPLA-Commando which was regarded as the strongest forces, well trained and disciplined SPLA-HQs of the Late Dr John Garang de Mabior, the former Chairman and Commander in Chief of the SPLA/SPLM. The then BSC was composed of all tribes of New Sudan, under the overall Command of CDR James Hoth Mai, deputized by late A/CDR Majok Mach Aloung (Abuju). This SPLA Commando was the strong force which broke the horns of SAF in the l990s.

All military operations were coordinated and supervised by CDR Commander James Hoth Mai who was with tremendous patience despite the military setback and other fronts; he managed military operations and general administration of BSC- Commando and was reporting to Commander in Chief (C.IN.C), late Dr John Garang De Mabior. In October –December 1990, the late Dr Garang ordered the Commando forces to march to Western Equatoria. This operation led to the fall of Mardi, Yambio, Anzara, Mapowe, Ezo, Sourcsyubu, Tambuara and Negaro and defeated all SAF and associated militias in Western Equatoria. The combined enemies’ troops were pushed to Boo Bridge by the SPLA- BSC-Commando closely supervised by CDR James Hoth Mai with the guidance of late hero Dr John Garang.

There I met the Late Edward Lino in mid-1990, at the peak of the onslaught against the proletariats in South Sudan by the Sudanese arms forces using various means maiming civilians including the systemic use of air forces, land and River combats. However, waves of bellicosity and direct battles confrontation between the northern Sudanese troops and SPLA–Commando at the Boo Bridge was the liberation conduit’s toughest war I have ever witnessed as Child Soldiers during the BSC phase three. The operation Commander was the former SPLA Chief of General Staff Gen. James Hoth Mai, who is currently a Minister of Labor in the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity–(R-TGONU).

While our military situation was a guerrilla-style of war, exist in the Commando battalion, without other support means to execute military offensives as opposed to conventional and mechanized offensive; the late Edward Lino articulated the liberation objectives and mandate of the SPLA/SPLM. He explained to the front lines as to why the SPLA took up arms and waged wars of resistant against the successive regimes in Khartoum.

In many occasions, the BSC-Commando was faced with harsh realities of frontline and difficulties at the frontline. Our survival was through very basic military means, tights logistics and bush means and wild fruits. The late Edward Lino, arrived at the frontlines at a critical time when a big number of wounded soldiers were in dire need seeking evacuation to a safe zone in liberated areas for medical treatment.

At the same time, regular soldiers want BSC-Commando leadership at that time to balance the level of our military power and political morale. When late Edward arrived, in the morning, we were rejuvenated at frontlines even though we were in close ranges with the enemy troops at Boo Bridge. Edward Lino was exceedingly an active morale booster; he promoted the army’s morale in the SPLA- BSC’s troops fighting the Sudanese army in several battles fields.

After having scored the victory in Western Equatoria, we entered the year 1991, faced with a heavy confrontation with the Sudanese Army Forces (SAF), as they wanted to retakes all our liberated areas, a strategy to weaken and undo the victory scored at the end of 1990. Like many other revolutionary wars, we offered maximum sacrifices. Comrade Edward urged us not to feel the suffering but, we must focus on the mission and objectives of the struggle.

The late Edward displayed several political reasons as to why the BSC – Commando must win and what lay ahead for us to enjoy when we achieved the independent. He said all citizens would enjoy freedom, justice, equality and became the first-class citizen, as asserted by Dr John Garang de Mabior in serval political orientation talks.

The 1st January 1991, we were ordered by Commander James Hoth Mai of BSC to lead a siege to intercept SAF’s convoy. The ambushed was laid in L shape between Boo Bridge and Wau in order to reinforce a maximum halt to defused the motives of advancing Sudanese Army Forces (SAF) to SPLA/SPLM’s liberated areas in Western Equatoria.

In the early morning, we clashed with Sudanese arms forces on the main road leading to Boo bridge. Our position was penetrated by the enemy and we retreat back. We spent the first few months in the frontline with heavy casualties on both sides. Our military forces were now becoming weak. We got exhausted and tired as the main supply route of the SPLA was cut off by the rains and poor roads. We experienced an extreme lack of basic human necessities but we maintained our military power and defeated several enemy’s convoys and shrunken their ability to set foot to our liberated areas.

Then late Edward vehemently came to our defensive line and offered political morale with a political speech he himself prepared and recorded asking the SAF to withdraw from their defensive line at Boo Bridge in October 1991 and bravely warned the SAF to leave Boo Bridge with immediate effect.

Remarkable action which remains in our liberation memories at BSC-Commando were selfless contribution of Comrade Edward Lino to the successes of war; he courageously visited us at frontline in order to balance our military power with media propaganda and unreservedly directed support to the ground combat at the stiff defensive frontline for the BSC-Commando to win the war further. In October 1991, he appeared with great enthusiasm to us at the battlefield in Boo Bridge –what is now part of Negero County part of Tambura County. The Bright Star Campaign (BSC), stronghold and the defensive line was closed to the Sudanese army in Boo Bright for nearly 12 months.

At the battlefield, comrade Lino issued a stern warning to Sudanese Military defensive line at Boo Bridge where we stationed for nearly 2 years after the SPLA BSC–Commando has captured the entire western Equatoria towns of Maridi, Yambio, Ezo, Anzara, Mapowe, Tombura and other SAF’s garrisons.

On 21 April 1992, Commando Forces destroyed a military convoy, code name (Hakim Elgaba). We pursued the enemy until our Commander James Hoth Mai was told by the late Dr John Garang de Mabior to move the force to central Equatoria to attack Juba and leave some forces around Boo Bridge. Operation Jungle Storms (OJS), was launched against Juba in June 1992.

Late Dr Garang halted the military confrontation between the SPLA and the Sudanese army forces in Boo Bridge. When we inquired as to why the order was issued, we were told that the enemy was preparing for an estrangement which wouldn’t further be advanced to SPLA territories, but the BSC must close their supply routes from Wau to Boo Bridge. By doing so the enemy would retreat back to Wau. In difficult time such good memories must be remembered.

Late Edward proposed that a radio tap which he prepared in Yambio be brought to us and be broadcasted to send a warning to Sudanese Army Forces (SAF) so they can leave their defensive line at Boo bridge and retreat to Wau. In those difficult days, late Edward Lino asked Commander James Hoth Mai that his speech which he recorded contained series of political warning to the enemy be broadcast on big stereo radio and it must be carried to BSC’s defensive line –Boo Bridge. Then a radio tap mounted with loudspeakers was carried to our stiff defensive lines. The Panasonic radio was brought closer to military bunkers and was switched on for enemy troops to hear the warning message.

In the taps late Edward Lino explained recorded message to the SAF for an hour while the enemies soldier was listening to the content of the warning message, our position was in a constant state of alertness ready to counter any eventualities from the enemy. In response to the speech, after 10 minutes during the warning message, the enemy decided to launched an artilleries guns’ fire with all bombers’ shelling the Commando defend positions.

Heavy guns fire was heard everywhere throughout the night. Although this type of warning message was needed, I asked myself while inside the bunker, would a recorded warning make the enemy to retreat to Wau? The enemy forces didn’t retreat immediately, they have suffered a blow due to round of sieges by SPLA-Commando along the Boo Brdge and Wau road.

The late Edward bravely spoked about the cause of liberation struggle and why the SPLA/SPLM was waging war against the Sudanese Army Forces (SAF) and displayed options for peace and democracy in the Sudan and why the SAF must leave or surrender to the SPLA - Commando.

He then narrated 3 choices to the enemy’s troops while they listen through the loudest microphone which was hanged on top of a tree by our Squad. The main Stereo radio was placed inside the bunker to avoid it being hit by the enemy bullet. This was to make sure that the enemy can hear the warning message prepared for them by the late Edward Lino who was the head of the political department, (Political Commissar).

He issued the following warning to SAF:
• He asserted to all the Majideen (SAF) must withdraw and leave for Wau within 72 hours. if they respect and honour 72 hours’ deadline, then Bright Star Campaign will respect and guide their orderly movement and escorts them peacefully without any firefight in Boo Bridge.

• If they did not respect the deadline, the SPLA Bright Star Campaign –Commando would march to Boo – Bridge and annihilates them and their future would be doom.

• He lastly offered the enemy troops a choice to either surrender to the SPLA with an immediate effect or be merged with the SPLA–BSC troops and faced the regime together for the freedom of Sudanese peoples.

Upon SAF hearing the stern warning, we spent the night in constant alertness looking forward to the heavy confrontation with SAF. Early daybreak, we spent another 13 hours until another reinforcement came over to the defensive lines. We moved behind slowly until we arrived at the base- operations HQ that was 3 km away from our defensive lines.

On our way back footing with boots, we met the BSC-Commando artilleries were prepared for heavy shelling to Boo Bridge if the SAF failed to heed the warning. This experience was a remarkable lesson in the liberation struggle where the late Edward Lino contributed to BSC frontline strategy for defeating the enemy at Boo Bridge, along Wau, Tambura road.

Although he passed on, he will be remembered as a hero who bravely sacrificed his life and unchallenged vision for liberty, justice, equality, freedom and prosperity of our nation.

The author is a former member of SPLA- Bright Star Campaign (BSC-Commando) He is currently a human rights advocate and Executive Director at Dialogue and Research Institute (DRI). He can reach at blairkhor@gmail.com

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