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South Sudan commemorates SPLA day

May 16, 2012 (BOR/BENTUI) - The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) commemorated it’s 29th anniversary with events across South Sudan, celebrating the formation of the former rebel group - now the national army of independent South Sudan - on 16 May 1983.

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SPLA soldiers celebrating May 16 Anniversary in Bor. 27 May 2011 (ST)

The founding of the SPLA triggered the second Sudanese civil war, which lasted for over two decades, killed over two million people and displaced four million but led to the independence of South Sudan last year as part of a 2005 peace deal.

At around 5am on 16 May 1983 a small group of troops from the Sudanese army’s 105 Garrison in Malualchat, five miles outside Jonglei’s capital Bor along Juba-Bor road headed by then major, Karbino Kuanyin Bol, mutinied and opened fire on northern troops stationed there.

This mutiny was followed by 104 garrisons in Ayod, Akobo and Pachalla later in the day. The defections dismantled the 1972 Addis Ababa agreement, which had been dishonoured by former Sudanese President Gaafar Neimeiry.

Colonel John Garang de Mabior, who had been sent to quell the rebellion, assumed leadership of the SPLA, becoming its Chairman until his death in 2005 after signing the landmark peace deal that allowed South Sudan to secede in 2011.

SPLA pledge to protect South Sudan

On 9 July 2011 the SPLA became South Sudan’s national army but still has a long way to go to become a modern national military.

In Juba, where the anniversary was attended by thousands of South Sudanese, SPLA leaders pledged to continue fighting for South Sudan’s dignity and equal rights of all South Sudan’s many ethnic groups.

SPLA spokesman, Colonel Philip Aguer Panyang told the celebrators that South Sudan moved away from the state of Sudan as Khartoum did not respect the equality of its people.

"This an important day because our people after all bitter struggle and the misery of war for 21 years, South Sudan moved away from the state that did not recognise the equal importance of its people," said Aguer.

“We have been fighting for equality rights and dignity of our people and that is the significance of this day”, he added.

He urged the youth to preserve the sovereignty of South Sudan to promote it economically.

“The next phase of liberation is positive peace; positive peace is economic development”, he said.

SPLA chief of staff, James Hoth Mai, said they are working hard to transform the SPLA into a professional and effective force. He said this week that within months antiaircraft missiles would be provided to the army so it could respond to cross-border bombings from the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF).

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SPLA military hardware displayed in Bor during the SPLA anniversary. 16 May 2012 (ST)

Failure to resolve post-partition issues resulted in an intense border conflict over disputed oil-producing areas in April.

“We are committed to build the SPLA to a professional, affordable, accountable and operational effective military”, Mai said.

SPLA calls for peace in Jonglei

Speaking during the celebration in Bor, the head of the disarmament operation in Jonglei, General Kuol Deim Kuol, called upon the state’s communities to stick to the peace deal that was signed in the state on Saturday 6 May.

“Let me give thanks to the state’s citizen[s] for the little that was signed in Bor. Every problem has a solution and so the problem in Jonglei will come to an end”, said Kuol.

He said the was army committed to defending the civilian population from any attack.

“SPLA soldiers are ready to give up their lives in the course of defence against any attack”, said Kuol.

The state governor of Jonglei State, Kuol Manyang told those celebrating SPLA day that peace is the only way to end the current food insecurity and poor health conditions.

“In the conflict, we lost our people through fighting, others died of disease and hunger. The only way is accept peace so that we work for development”, Kuol said.

Jonglei inhabitants celebrate 29th anniversary day

Thousands gathered at the SPLA’s State General Secretariat headquarters to celebrate anniversary, which was attended by various levels of the state government and armed forces.

On midnight Tuesday random celebratory shooting into air occurred, apparently by the army and police services. Kuol publicly apologised to Jonglei State inhabitants for the unlawfully shooting and ordered an investigation.

“Nobody give orders for shooting – instead we are at stage austerity measures which one bullet cost 100 SSP - I apologised for this and I do hereby order immediate all organised forces to investigates act of shooting lawfully,” Kuol said.

South Sudan is cutting government spending as it has halted oil production over a fee dispute with Khartoum. Oil revenues had accounted for 98% of the budget.

Kuol Manyang Juuk, the Governor of Jonglei state urged residents to adopt a hard working lifestyle instead of being idol.

SPLA Day Celebrations in Unity State

Unity State governor Taban Deng Gai expresses his gratitude to the people of Republic of South Sudan while in remembering the SPLA’s struggle which brought South Sudan’s independence last year.

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Unity State governor Taban Deng Gai speaking at the SPLA celebrate 16 May in Unity State 16 May 2012 (ST)

The 4th division of the SPLA, which is based in Unity State is sometimes referred to locally as the “Petrol SPLA” due to the location of oil fields in the state which borders Sudan.

Deng while addressing SPLA members and citizens in Unity state made it clear that South Sudanese should be proud of those who died in the conflict that led to secession.

"Today 16 May is very special day, this is the day when rebellion started in Bor, and this rebellion was not out of reasons, it was because so many reasons that created objectives reasons for rebellions to start, it is a special because this is the day that we have decided to fight it out so that we have to achieved objectives and democratic for our people."

He encouraged the women and children who lost their mothers and fathers during the war with various Khartoum governments to be proud of their relatives as they had brought freedom to the Republic of South Sudan.

“Was it not because of the blood of our heroes who die during struggle, we would not have a freedom at last as people of South Sudanese,” Deng added.

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SPLA celebrate 16 May in Unity State. 16 May 2012 (ST)

Liah Puot a citizen of Unity state said that without the events if 16 May 1983 South Sudan would not now be an independent republic.

Angelina Nyakan Babuoth, a 23-year-old told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday that young people were proud of the SPLA struggle that brought secession from Sudan.

Despite the recent fighting between Sudan and South Sudan over their undemarcated borders many appreciate the work done by the SPLA to defend South Sudan during the recent border conflict.

On Wednesday many citizens across the streets of Bentiu town waved SPLA flags to boost the moral of army by saying "SPLA Oyee!! SPLA Oyee!! SPLA Oyee!!", while dancing and yelling.