President Salva Kiir Mayardit at SPLA Command- Council (net photo)
By Kidega Livingstone
SPLA Day is a public holiday in South Sudan celebrated annually on May 16th every year. It commemorates the formation of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
SPLA was formed during the Second Sudanese Civil War as a guerrilla movement, On May 16th, 1983, a group of mutineers from the Sudanese army opened fire in the barracks near the city of Bor. These mutineers formed the core of SPLA. Colonel John Garang de Mabior was sent to quell the rebellion, but instead he led the newly formed SPLA and began to recruit new soldiers.
SPLA mutinied against the sharia law imposed by the government of Sudan and military rule. Its armed struggle against the Islamic dominance lasted for more than two decades. Throughout the civil war, SPLA was led by Dr. John Garang. Garang died in 2005 in a helicopter crash, and Salva Kiir Mayardit became the new Commander-in-Chief. By that time, a peace agreement had already been signed.
When the Republic of South Sudan proclaimed its independence in 2011, SPLA became the country’s regular army. Therefore SPLA Day can also be considered the professional holiday of the South Sudanese military. As of 2013, SPLA was estimated to have about 210,000 active personnel, not counting the South Sudan Air Force.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) is a political party in South Sudan. It was initially founded as the political wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA, key protagonist of the Second Sudanese Civil War) in 1983.
On January 9th, 2005 the SPLA, SPLM and Government of Sudan signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, ending the civil war.
SPLM then obtained representation in the Government of Sudan, and was the main constituent of the Government of the then semi-autonomous Southern Sudan. When South Sudan became a sovereign state on the 9th July, 2011, SPLM became the ruling party of the new republic.
SPLM branches in Sudan separated themselves from SPLM, forming the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North.
Further factionalism appeared as a result of the 2013-2014 South Sudanese Civil War, with President Salva Kiir leading the SPLM-Juba and former Vice President Riek Machar leading the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition.