Equal treatment of victims of massacres in 1992 when the SPLA attempted to capture Juba

By Dr. Jacob K. Lupai[i]

Associate Professor of Food Security

University of Juba

The modern history of South Sudan will show that the struggle for freedom was relentless. This was because colonialism had forcefully lumped together two regions of glaring irreversible diversities as one country. Things did not get better either when colonialism instituted separate development of the two regions, Northern and Southern Sudan. There was little binding the two regions together except the shared colonial rule. The post-colonial order also left borders unchanged and the government machinery at independence of Sudan, as one country, was handed over to the elite in the North. The people in Southern Sudan had not been adequately consulted nor integrated in the state structure. A sense of national belonging did not therefore exist in Southern Sudan. This was rooted in a history of plundering and slave trade by the people of Northern Sudan. As expected, the stage was set for rebellion and protracted armed struggle in which the people of Southern Sudan suffered massively, killed in massacres.

Two notable rebellions took place in Southern Sudan against the neo-colonial central government. The first started in 1955 that progressed into an armed struggle that lasted 17 years. The rebellion ended with an agreement that granted Southern Sudan a local autonomy. However, nearly 11 years later a second rebellion took place because of the unsatisfactory nature of the agreement. The agreement gave the neo-colonial central government uncontrolled powers to interfere in the affairs of Southern Sudan. The second rebellion took place in 1983 which saw the birth of Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). The main goal of the SPLA was to establish a country of equality, of social and economic justice, and for the country to recognize and respect human rights.

In the second rebellion as may be expected in any armed conflict, people of all walks of life suffered and became victims. Massacres of officers of organized forces in addition to innocent civilians were acts perpetrated with vengeance. However, it was interesting to note in Juba Monitor, an independent daily newspaper of Tuesday June, 09, 2020 in its front page that, ‘Officers killed in 1992 massacres to receive pension’. This was without mentioning civilians who had also suffered the same fate as the officers.

For an understanding, it is very important to note that the victims of massacres in 1992 were not only officers. Civilians were massacred too and they included government officials, students and the self-employed who were taken from either their offices or from their homes while others were simply captured in the streets only to end up in the notorious white house and other secret detention centres in Juba. Those detained in the white house and secret detention centres were tortured and killed without their bodies handed over to their families.

During the SPLA protracted armed struggle, Southerners were already suspected as fifth columnists by the government. When the SPLA attempted but failed to capture Juba in 1992, suspected Southerners were picked up from offices, homes and even from streets to be herded to their untimely deaths. Southerners in Khartoum were not spared either. The suspected ones were rounded up and brought to Juba and disappeared without their families being informed of their whereabouts. No family member was allowed to ask questions nor allowed to talk about the fate of their loved ones once taken by the security. There were no funeral rites allowed to be conducted. This all happened to families of officers and civilians alike who were the victims of massacres in 1992.

Now, it seems extraordinary that only the officers killed in 1992 massacres are mentioned and singled out for pension while civilians who were also killed in the same massacres are not mentioned at all. It is important to note that the officers’ human rights were violated by taking away their lives and equally the civilians’ human rights were also violated. It is, therefore, appropriate that officers and civilians killed in 1992 massacres should get equal treatment. This suggests that the civilians who lost their lives in 1992 massacres should also receive pension. For the self-employed and students who lost their lives in 1992 massacres, their families should receive compensation.

For officers and civilians killed in 1992 massacres the pension and compensation should come from the Government of Sudan in Khartoum. This is important to promote cordial and warm relations after the bitterness of the massacres in 1992 which are still fresh in the memories of the families and relatives of the victims. This will likely create an atmosphere conducive to forgive and forget atrocities committed by the North in the South for better times between the peoples of the two countries, South Sudan and Sudan.

In conclusion, civilians killed in 1992 massacres in Juba should be recognized and the Government of Sudan should consider paying pension and compensation promptly to the families of the officers and civilians killed in 1992 massacres in order to win the confidence of people of South Sudan.

[i] Dr. Lupai is also paralegal in human rights

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