ØYSTEIN H. ROLANDSEN a1 c1*
a1 Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Historians usually trace the start of the first civil war in the
Southern Sudan to the Torit mutiny of 1955. However, organized
political violence did not reach the level of civil war until 1963.
This article argues that 1955–62 was a period of increasing political
tension, local low-intensity violence, and social and economic
stagnation. It shows how these conditions influenced the attitudes of
government officials, informed the policies that they pursued, and
made a Southern insurgency likely. This historical analysis helps
explain why a full-scale civil war began in late 1963 and why it was
Key Words: Sudan; civil wars; postcolonial
Correspondence: c1 Author’s email: oystein.rolandsen.
* Research for this article has been supported by the Research Council
of Norway and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For comments
and assistance on earlier drafts I thank Martin Daly, Cherry Leonardi,
Lynn Nygaard, Helge Pharo, Endre Stiansen, anonymous reviewers, and
participants in the Micro-Macro Issues in Peace Building project’s
Khartoum workshop in November 2007. Leonardi generously shared notes
from the Khartoum National Record Office.
When John Garang, the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation
Movement/Army, formally brought the second civil war in the Southern
Sudan (1983–2005) to an end, he stated that ‘the war we are ending
today first broke out in Torit on 18 August 1955’.1 Although there was
a relatively peaceful interlude between the first and the second civil
wars, from 1972 to 1983, few would disagree with Garang that the two
civil wars might be seen as two acts in a continuous conflict.
Moreover, in today’s political discourse, as Garang’s speech
exemplifies, the 1955 disturbances in Torit are commonly regarded as
the beginning of the first civil war. Historical sources from the
period between 1956 and 1962, however, indicate that few people, if
any, believed that a state of civil war existed. As scholars have
already documented, the Southern Sudan did not experience violence
during that period at the level of civil war.2
Understanding why the Southern Sudan has gone through two civil wars
and is now on the path to independence requires analysis of the
crucial but neglected period of 1956–62. Why, despite overwhelming
evidence to the contrary, is 1955 commonly regarded as the start of
the first civil war? What actually happened in 1955, and what were the
consequences for the Southern Sudan? This article argues that, in 1955
– the year before the Sudan became independent from its British and
Egyptian rulers – civil war was not inevitable. The Torit mutiny set
off an unprecedented round of urban violence – what in retrospect we
call the ‘1955 disturbances’. The mutiny quickly spread to other towns
in Equatoria, and hundreds were killed in two weeks of frantic
violence. Although the mutiny was soon suppressed, the status quo ante
was not restored. Southern society neither returned to ‘normal’ nor
was it at war. In the following years, the Southern Sudan experienced
increasing violence, political tension and little economic
Government policy is an essential factor in explaining this
development: in order to bring the situation back to normal and avoid
renewed rebellion, the government – dominated by the Khartoum elite –
decided to focus on public security, while forestalling democratic
reforms and curtailing social and economic development. This
perception of exceptional circumstances served to justify the
government’s lowering of the threshold for resorting to violence and
exacting punishment. The perceived threat of further large-scale
violence affected the conception, formulation, and implementation of
policy, as well as the attitudes and actions of individuals. These in
turn created conditions that provided both the opportunity and the
motive for rebellion. The period 1956–62 was therefore one of
reversible escalation that culminated in the start of the first civil
war in 1963–64.
General analyses of civil war ‘onset’ have been dominated by a search
for the structural factors that make societies prone to conflict;
processes of escalating violence constitute a sub-field deserving
closer scrutiny.3 Structural factors are of course relevant, and we
need to know more about when and how these factors contribute to civil
war.4 But the Southern Sudan in the period 1956–62 is an example of
how, in an attempt to suppress an incipient rebellion, a government
ended up provoking one. This suggests that one important factor in
explaining why unstable situations deteriorate into civil war is
government reaction to challenges to authority.
Indeed, analysis of events and processes within such periods of
escalation may produce more convincing explanations of civil wars than
the search for structural ‘root’ causes.
THE POLITICS OF CIVIL WAR HISTORIOGRAPHY IN THE SUDAN
In conflict studies, it is common to stipulate that the term ‘civil
war’ should be used only when a certain level of sustained violence
has been attained (for instance, a specified threshold of annual
casualties), and where armed opposition is organized and has an
official political programme.5 Such criteria were not met in the
Southern Sudan in 1956–62. It is sometimes difficult, however, to
determine the ‘onset’ of civil war. Unlike inter-state wars, civil
wars often do not start with a formal declaration. Rebels begin with
small, often symbolic, attacks and develop military strength over time
while expanding areas of operation.6 The Sudanese case deviates
somewhat from this pattern: linkages between violence in 1956–62 and
in the subsequent civil war are tenuous; mutineers released from
prison in the early 1960s were more important in starting the civil
war than those who had remained at large. Yet the activities of the
latter are often regarded as the link between the 1955 mutiny and the
Anya-Nya rebellion, as the violence of the 1960s can be called,
Anya-Nya being a widely used term for the insurgents. Why then are the
1955 disturbances regarded as the start of the civil war, and the
period 1956–62 as part of it? There are three reasons. First, the
general public, politicians, and historians alike expect that wars
have unambiguous starting points: the 1955 disturbances – a sudden
outbreak of massive violence and subsequent state of emergency – seem
a serviceable dividing line between war and peace. Identifying the
months-long escalation of violence in the period September
1963–January 1964 as the starting point would be more accurate, but
the dramatic moment of the mutiny lends itself better to political and
Second, the period 1956–62 has been conflated with that of the
subsequent civil war because of the lack of access to sources. The
literature consists mostly of foreign journalism and partisan
overviews by Northern or Southern intellectuals, with very little
access to primary sources and adhering to varying standards of
academic rigor. This makes it possible to perpetuate politically
convenient interpretations of the period – and to stifle divergent
interpretations. The early literature on the first civil war, perhaps
because of its proximity in time to the events discussed, makes a
clearer distinction between the periods 1956–62 and 1963–72. Mohamed
Omer Beshir’s The Southern Sudan: Background to Conflict treats the
period 1956–62 as the prelude to war.7 Oliver Albino’s equally
partisan The Sudan: A Southern Viewpoint asserts that ‘guerrilla
warfare … did in fact break out in at least three attacks by
Southerners during Abboud’s regime [1958–64]. The first and second of
these took place on 9 and 19 September 1963.’8 Similar points are made
by academic observers. Howell states:
The idea of a ‘Seventeen Years War’ (1955–72) is something of a myth;
and the rebels in the early years of the Abboud regime represented
nothing more than a small number of the ex-mutineers eking out
subsistence in the forest.9
But these are exceptions; most analyses of the first civil war are
placed in the context of accounts of the second, or in general
discussions of developments since independence, and little of these
analyses is rooted in empirical sources.
Finally, political expediency plays a role in analyses of the period.
Khartoum elites have found it opportune to date the start of the war
to 1955, when the Sudan was nominally still an Anglo-Egyptian
Condominium.10 The impetus to blame colonial policies for the civil
war was already evident during the Round Table Conference in 1965,
when the caretaker prime minister, Sirr al-Khatim al-Khalifa,11 an
educator who had served in the South, stated that:
these natural [North–South] differences would not have led to the
appearance of corresponding political differences had it not been for
the evil colonial policies inflicted upon the country by the British
administrators during half a century and had it not been for the
grotesquely unjust campaign which enormously exaggerated the role of
our ancestors both Northerners and Southerners in the slave trade.12
Political expediency is also a reason why Southern intellectuals and
politicians likewise consider 1955 the starting point for the civil
war. In this perspective, a unitary Sudan was doomed from the
outset.13 Despite a lack of historical evidence, posterity has
therefore found it opportune to regard the Torit mutiny as the start
of the civil war, and attempts to rectify the record will be
ill-received by those with a stake in perpetuating this myth.
THE 1955 DISTURBANCES
Southern Sudan was relatively peaceful from the early 1930s to 1955,
but this peace was sustained by the threat of violence and collective
fines.14 In the countryside in particular, the system of government
chiefs was a weak, but still important, extension of the state’s
authority. During the period of Sudanese self-government that led up
to independence, administrators and civil servants who had been
trained by the British assumed power in Khartoum.15 That they were
nationalists opposed to foreign domination did not imply disparagement
of colonial methods.16 However, this philosophy of governance was
unsuited to the changed circumstances of the postcolonial era. In some
areas people had come to expect rudimentary education, health care,
and employment. Since the late 1940s, a regional Southern identity had
started to take root, different from the Arab-Islamic nationalism of
the Northern elite. Christianity, English, and the notion of the
Southern Sudan as a territorial concept had provided educated
Southerners with an identity that transcended the differences between
them, while making those between Northerners and themselves more
prominent.17 Some Southerners therefore saw the influx of Northern
administrators and traders in the 1950s as internal colonization.18
Northerners’ demeaning of Christianity, and their expectation that
command of written Arabic was necessary to a civil service career,
further estranged educated Southerners.
Educated Southerners demanded a share of positions and power in the
new government, and expected opportunities within the bureaucracy. But
Sudanization was carried out in such a way that British administrators
were succeeded almost exclusively by Northern Sudanese.19 While for
most Southerners such personnel changes had little immediate effect,
disaffection arose among employees in civil branches of the
government, police, prison guards, game wardens, and soldiers of the
Equatoria Corps, many of whom supported some kind of autonomy for the
South. Egyptians, in an attempt to win support for future union with
the Sudan, stoked fears of Northern domination among Southerners.20
Friction and uncertainty culminated in violent clashes in Juba and
Western Equatoria in July and August 1955; several Southerners were
killed. These incidents prepared the ground for the initial mutiny in
Torit and ensuing disturbances.21
Khartoum had been warned in early August 1955 that rebellion was
brewing among Southern soldiers at Torit. The disturbances began with
the mutiny of the Second Company of the Equatoria Corps in Torit, and
soon spread; Northern Sudanese officials, officers, and merchants were
targeted.22 Most of the violence took place in Equatoria. The fact
that it spread so rapidly testifies to the explosive political
atmosphere in the towns. Troops from the North regained control within
a few weeks, with the official death toll in the disturbances being
261 Northerners and 75 Southerners.23 Some Northern Sudanese have
blamed the mutiny on the connivance of Southern politicians, British
administrators, and European missionaries,24 but it was largely
precipitated by personal grievances and uncertainty upon the sudden
departure of the British.25 However, while the extent to which
Southern politicians conspired with the mutineers needs further
investigation, Northerners’ suspicions were not completely unfounded.
Even though some missionaries and Southern politicians, including
future rebel leaders, helped Northern authorities to limit the
disturbances, the commission of inquiry discovered subversive
activities by Egyptian agents and Southern politicians, but this was
not disclosed in the final report.26
It is difficult to determine the extent of Northern ‘revenge’ upon
Southerners assumed to have participated in the disturbances. Alexis
Yangu relates with graphic detail executions, torture, burning of
villages, and widespread imprisonments at Juba, Yei, Yambio, Malakal,
and Wau in the months following the mutiny.27 Although a visiting
British diplomat concluded that Northern officials fully endorsed the
official policy of forgive and forget,28 there is little other
evidence that Khartoum’s reaction was lenient.29 All 1,400 Southern
troops in Equatoria were regarded as mutineers. By 19 September, 461
had surrendered, ‘roughly’ 140 had fled to Uganda, and about 780 were
unaccounted for.30 By 15 December, some 147 people had been sentenced
to death; 121 of these sentences were confirmed. A majority of those
condemned were police officers, while the rest were civilians and
soldiers.31 Interviews with ex-convicts indicate that members of the
Equatoria Corps were convicted wholesale and that sentences correlated
with rank.32 In 1957 the district commissioner (DC)33 at Torit, M. A.
Nur, stated that Head Chief Lapponya was sentenced to four years in
prison, later reduced to two, even though Nur believed that Lapponya
had done ‘very well during the first 3 days [of the disturbances] and
it was he who saved the whole Government money and sent it to Isoke
for safe custody’.34 Wau, the headquarters of Bahr el-Ghazal, was
hardly affected by the disturbances. But government intelligence
reports indicate that
when the Authorities felt secure enough[,] prosecutions for all those
who showed mutinous attitudes and committed breaches of the peace were
started, and from the number of such cases it is evident from what
disasters Bahr El Ghazal was saved.35
These events created deep mistrust and resentment among both
Northerners governing the South and Southerners associated with or
living close to the centres of government power.
THE DISTURBANCES’ IMPACT ON PUBLIC SECURITY
During the second half of the 1950s, a small number of mutineers
remained at large in remote areas of Equatoria and were perceived by
the government, and possibly chiefs and commoners, as threats to
public security. An important aspect of the Torit mutiny myth is the
notion that these mutineers maintained armed resistance against the
government.36 Despite occasional attacks on police patrols or
outposts, however, DCs’ reports, information from politicians in
exile, and other sources indicate that only eastern parts of Equatoria
witnessed insurgent activity worth mentioning during the period
1956–62, and even there on a very limited scale.37 It is indeed
unclear how many mutineers lived as ‘outlaws’, with a few hangers-on,
rather than simply returning quietly to their villages.38 Mutineers
appear to have constituted no significant threat even in their own
vicinity, let alone to overall security in the Southern Sudan. Rather,
mutineer activities and the government’s ham-fisted efforts in dealing
with perceived threats illustrate how the South remained in limbo
between peace and war.
The boundaries between banditry and local resistance were blurred, and
government reports from this period do not distinguish clearly between
cattle raiders and mutineers, but it seems that the main threat to
public security stemmed from inter-community clashes in which the
government assumed the colonial-era role of ‘neutral’ arbitrator.
Nevertheless, the mutineers hindered the return to normality because
their sporadic attacks and mere presence in the bush were seen as a
challenge that, if unchecked, could become the vanguard of another
uprising. There was an intense hunt for mutineers throughout Equatoria
in 1956. By 1957 the search was concentrated in Eastern Equatoria,
where a few groups of former mutineers remained, presumably in their
areas of origin, and where government retaliation in the months after
the disturbances was apparently most severe.
In the period 1956–60 the best-known group, led by Lance-Corporal
Latada Hillir and Chief Lomilluk Lohide, had its base in the mountains
near Isoke,39 where it ambushed government vehicles and in one
incident killed two chiefs as ‘collaborators’.40 A police station in
the Torit area was attacked on 16 March 1959, and two northern
policemen were killed.41 The role of Chief Lomiluk has not been widely
reported, but Simonse paints a convincing picture of his central
position in the Latada group.42 Sovronio Okilan Atari, a participant
in the Torit mutiny, mentions Lomiluk’s influence on Southern soldiers
prior to the mutiny.43 The government regarded him as important enough
for an offer of amnesty if he abandoned Latada: Chief Lollik Lado was
to convey to Lomiluk that ‘the Government has no ill-feelings towards
him and encourage him to settle in peace’.44 Latada and Lomiluk both
died during 1959–60 and their group dissolved.45
Paul Yosia at Kajo-Keji and Lasuba Tadajo at Yei have been identified
as ‘resistance’ leaders in other parts of Equatoria. It appears that
Lasuba Tadajo was a policeman who avoided capture after the 1955
disturbances and operated alone. He was allegedly betrayed by his wife
and killed by police in March 1957. An official reported that this
‘put an end to the life of an outlaw who had been a menace to security
in Yei District for quite a long time’; a schoolmaster called Lasuba a
‘gallant martyr’.46 Whatever he was, there is little evidence that
Lasuba or anyone else managed to form an insurgent group or
destabilize the areas where they hid. And the Upper Nile and Bahr
el-Ghazal provinces apparently experienced no insurgency until the
mid-1960s.47 An exception was eastern Upper Nile, where the military
used harsh methods to control movement and arms sales across the
The apparent lack of organization behind the 1955 disturbances, and
the accompanying atrocities, confirmed Northern prejudices that
Southerners were ‘half-civilized’ and could be kept in order only
through force.49 One government measure immediately following the
disturbances was to dissolve the Equatoria Corps, which was replaced
by Northern units. This seems to have contributed to increased
Southern disaffection: the Northern soldiers were unfamiliar with the
area and were assumed to be inimical to Southerners.50 One former
Southern rebel later recalled that:
it was like living under foreign occupation and we knew that somebody
was constantly watching us … These soldiers were behaving like
criminals … and we had to leave for the bush to join the Anyanya as
that was the only way to escape the humiliation the Arab soldiers were
bringing upon us.51
The behaviour of the soldiers and their officers probably varied, but
introducing soldiers from elsewhere undoubtedly hindered
communication, increased the probability of misunderstandings, and
Although the threat to public security posed by ‘outlaws’ was limited,
the government used methods previously employed by the Condominium
government when searching for mutineers and civilians suspected of
abetting them. These included large military manoeuvres in the
countryside and collective punishments such as confiscation of cattle
and the burning of crops and villages.52 There were at least four
instances of entire villages burned by government troops during the
period 1956–9: one in Yei District and three in Torit.53 Public
executions were reintroduced even though, as recently as mid-1955, a
Northern Sudanese DC had concluded that these were ‘out of keeping
with modern life’.54 But while an intelligence report explained that
public executions would be perceived as signs of government
strength,55 a Southern source indicates that executions further
distanced the public from the government.56 During the early 1960s
commoners started to flee to neighbouring countries, notably Uganda,
Congo, and Ethiopia.
The system of government chiefs was also crucial in attempts to
suppress local security threats, both for gathering information and
for mobilizing the police and ‘civilians’ for patrols. The motive for
participating in these patrols appears, however, to have been fairly
parochial, and the line between vigilantism and policing seems to have
been blurred. Available sources make it difficult to separate
insurgency from non-political violence. In some instances inter-tribal
raiding – rather than Southern hostility to Northern rule – may
explain the actions and survival strategies of both ‘outlaws’ and
those ‘collaborating’ with the government. For instance, in March 1960
‘outlaw Marchello’ of Torit district reportedly attacked the Didinga
village of Manita, ‘robbed a few cattle camps’, and left one Didinga
dead after an exchange of fire.57 Such outrages may explain some
Southerners’ willingness to participate in the government’s ‘fighting
Another example is from the remote south-east corner of the Sudan. The
district report for April 1959 mentions an exchange of fire with an
‘outlaw’ named Loinet who had crossed the border from Ethiopia with
stolen cattle, and a skirmish with ‘Marco and his gang’ in which
stolen cattle were brought back to the Toposa and ammunition was
confiscated. Tribal police under Chief Soghan of Riwoto reportedly
shot and killed one of Marco’s men, a certain Lopir, who with four
others had come to assassinate him. Another was arrested, and two
escaped.58 June 1959 witnessed several more encounters with
‘outlaws’.59 The DC organized three ‘fighting patrols’ against them.
The Toposa of Lomayen section, armed with rifles, went to hunt Marco’s
‘gang’, found them at Nabatokol near Pibor on 10 June, and in a fight
lasting six hours killed Marco and three of his men; the others
escaped without their weapons. On 18 June, another patrol went after
the ‘outlaw’ Itawo Lochoroni, who had been seen at Korkomje cattle
camp. Four followers were arrested. Itawo escaped, but was later
caught and publicly executed at Kapoeta in September 1959, reportedly
to the delight of the locals who attended.60 The DC was enthusiastic
in praise of the chiefs, who had not only secured their region but had
also been meticulous in paying their taxes.
Without corroborative sources it is difficult to establish either the
motives of those involved in local violence or their background, but
it is likewise difficult to interpret these events as evidence of
organized insurgency. Even though the high level of local violence
hardly testifies to a harmonious and peaceful society, monthly reports
from the Eastern District during 1959–60 indicate that educational
activities and provision of health services were not affected by
‘outlaw’ activities.61 Another indication that ‘outlaws’ posed little
security risk is the ability of local government officials in both
Torit and Eastern districts to go out on monthly treks, inspect public
works, consult chiefs, and collect taxes;62 while visitors from the
Northern Sudan and abroad continued to tour the area, hunt, and engage
in other pastimes without incident.63
During the early 1960s a more serious security threat arose. Southern
soldiers, policemen, and civilians jailed in the aftermath of the
Torit mutiny were released from Northern imprisonment in 1961–3, most
of them routinely at the end of their sentences.64 The result was that
Southerners with military training but no employment – and nursing
grievances against the government – returned to the South. Some had
apparently already decided to become insurgents and fled immediately
to Ethiopia, Uganda, and the Congo. Others seem to have attempted to
settle down, but went into exile after harassment by Northerners in
the police and the army, or after persuasion by Southern politicians
in exile.65 Co-operating with politicians and defectors from
government posts, the ex-convicts began organizing insurgent groups in
border areas. Incidents in Eastern Equatoria in 1961–2 appear to have
been the work of ex-mutineers who had been released from prison and
were led by ex-Lieutenant Emilio Taffeng.66 There was an attack on a
police station near the border town of Kajo-Keji in November 1962.67
In the wake of these incidents more villages were burned, and refugees
poured into neighbouring countries. It is possible to surmise a
pattern of intensified government violence following rebel attacks, in
particular the burning of villages and killing and ill-treatment of
chiefs.68 Loosely co-ordinated Anya-Nya groups attacked in Equatoria
in September 1963 and largely locally organized groups stormed
Pochalla in October that same year. With the failed assault on Wau in
January 1964 a state of civil war had been reached, although violence
continued to escalate throughout the 1960s.
IMPACT ON POLITICS AND ADMINISTRATION IN THE SOUTH
Official accounts of governance in the Southern Sudan in the years
after the 1955 disturbances sought to create a positive contrast to
both the Condominium and the succeeding military dictatorship of
General Ibrahim Abboud (1958–64):
The National Government at the time [1956–58] did not wish to confine
its efforts to the maintenance of law and order and continued working
for the execution of positive plans which had been made before the
[Torit] Mutiny took place for the purpose of correcting the injustices
which the Sudan inherited from the Imperialistic administration,
especially in connection with the levelling up of wages and salaries
as between Southerners and Northerners, in the economic development of
the South and the levelling up of education, health and other social
This characterization departs sharply from contemporary and later
assessments by Southerners and foreign sympathizers. These claim that
the government set out on a massive campaign to subdue and assimilate
the Southerners into the Northern cultural and religious sphere, while
abandoning any attempt at social and economic development. Government
records and other primary sources confirm that the Southern
opposition’s description of the situation is more accurate than that
of the government. Under the pretext of ill-defined special
circumstances, Northern officials did in fact prioritize policing and
public security over freedom of worship, education, and economic
development. But the desire to maintain control and forestall new
uprisings was perhaps a more important motive for these policies than
After the 1955 disturbances, the Northern and Southern elites were
driven apart at the national political level. Although it is likely
that this would have happened even if the 1955 disturbances had never
taken place,70 the radicalization of politics in the South and fear of
another uprising increased the urgency and intensity of government
action. The disturbances profoundly influenced Khartoum’s attitude
towards the South, and the independent government maintained that the
time was not right for modernizing local government and
administration. The colonial Closed District Ordinance remained in
effect throughout the period 1956–62, and the state of emergency
imposed after the disturbances was apparently never officially
The impact of the 1955 disturbances is evident in the record of a
meeting of the governor of Equatoria and his district commissioners in
December 1955. This opened with a minute’s silence for ‘the lives of
the Northern officials and merchants who were brutally murdered during
the sorrowful disturbances’. Southern victims were not mentioned. The
governor charged that Southern politicians and foreign missionaries
had been the main sources of trouble; ‘the man in the bush’ had no
interest in politics and should be ‘protected from harmful
influences’. Regarding social services, the meeting agreed that
‘enormous expansion’ should ‘be checked or even curtailed in certain
spheres until life becomes normal again’. The province was ‘not yet
ready for Local Government at least in most parts. The introduction of
existing councils [had] weakened Chiefs in particular and
administration in general.’ The meeting resolved to cut government
spending except for the building of police stations and jails and
improving roads. And it was ‘high time to start a proper intelligence
service for the three Southern Provinces with headquarters at Juba and
branches in other places’.72 These statements echoed an earlier
British philosophy of ‘care and maintenance’.73
In the second half of the 1950s, the political climate in the Southern
Sudan was characterized by mistrust and antagonism. Since the 1940s,
Southern politicians and the educated elite had come into their own as
intermediaries between ordinary Southerners and the often distant
government.74 Seen from Khartoum, Southern politicians were agitators
opposed to the new Sudanese nation and possibly in league with
foreigners. Fear of another uprising contributed to suspicion and
alienation of the educated elite, the very Southerners who were
potential allies in expanding a sense of Sudanese nationalism. Except
for a short period before the 1958 parliamentary elections, there was
a steady deterioration of Southerners’ opportunities to participate in
national politics. Mistrust made Southern politicians’ demands for
federalism even less acceptable to Northern opinion than they had been
before independence; it was feared that a federal system would
obstruct cultural assimilation and inevitably lead to secession.75
Many Southern politicians in turn became more antagonistic towards the
Northern elite. Southerners regarded the repressive measures taken in
the aftermath of the 1955 disturbances as confirmation of their views
about ‘internal colonialism’ and their status as second-class
citizens.76 A degree of radicalization among Southerners during the
period 1955–8 is also related to other measures taken to avoid
perceived threats to public security. Minutes from a meeting that the
governor of Equatoria, Ali Baldo, held with DCs on 29 March 1958
illustrate the point. Baldo explained that the arrest of a Southern
led to the discovery of some documents of a serious nature which
indicates the existence of a vicious conspiracy which aims at
realizing the Federal Status through the incitement of the public and
the use of violence. This is now being investigated and until such
investigation is concluded nobody can definitely say whether it is
something imaginary or an actual plan which is going to be put into
The assistant governor, the Southerner Clement Mboro, warned against
overreacting and worsening the estrangement between the government and
the public. To this, Ali Baldo replied that the government could take
Even before the Abboud coup, relations between Southern politicians
and the government had deteriorated. Contemporary correspondence
between the government in Juba and leaders of the Liberal Party (a
purely Southern entity) shows that politicians had to apply for
permission for every meeting they wanted to hold, publish donors’
names, and refrain from door-to-door and marketplace solicitation of
funds.78 After the 1958 elections, further restrictions were imposed.
In Equatoria these began even before Abboud’s coup: the arrest of a
Southern politician mentioned above led to a complete ban on political
meetings and the collection of funds.79 Ali Baldo told the DCs that
such contributions were ‘likely to be used in feeding subversive
activities especially after it was reported to him that the approval
he had previously issued to the Liberal Party was greatly abused’.80
DCs were further reminded that chiefs were government officials,
should report ‘activities leading to breaches of the peace’, and must
not ‘indulge in politics’.81
Following the 1958 coup, the radicalization of Southern politicians
accelerated significantly. The new regime immediately banned political
parties and dissolved parliament. For Southern politicians this was a
personal blow because they depended on their positions for income and
they lacked the Khartoum elite’s informal channels to influence the
new regime. Abboud and his ministers were even more hostile to the
idea of a federal Sudan than the Northern politicians of previous
governments. Several Southern officials who had been posted to the
North after the disturbances formed secret cells that collected money,
shared news, and, in the period 1961–4, provided support to
politicians in exile. Southern politics went underground and into
exile.82 This development increased the government’s fear of another
uprising in the South and resulted in tighter control over and more
harassment of those of the educated elite remaining in the Sudan.
The drive to propagate Islam and Arabic in the South has often been
ascribed to the intolerance of the Northern elite. It is, however,
important to consider both the anti-colonial and nationalist aspects
of this policy and also its internal security dimension. Arabic and
Islam were twin pillars of the Northern Sudanese nationalism that had
developed during the 1930s and 1940s, while secularism, Christianity,
and English came to be associated with colonialism and foreign
dominance.83 In the aftermath of the 1955 disturbances, assimilation
of the South and ensuring Southerners’ allegiance to the central
government therefore appeared to be matters of national unity and
state security. Curtailing the activities of Christian missionaries
was seen as a crucial element in the effort to reduce ‘foreign’
influence in the South; allegations of subversion were a prominent
element in official propaganda against the missionaries.84 Christian
proselytizing and congregational affairs were increasingly subjected
to new regulations administered by uncooperative bureaucrats. Under
Abboud’s rule, a policy of expelling the missionaries entirely was
introduced, which was completed in early 1964.85 Southern politicians,
aware that the missions had some political leverage in the US,
Britain, and Italy, took advantage of that interest to draw attention
to their demand for self-determination;86 and the treatment of
missionaries further alienated educated Southerners, many of whom were
Christians and even more of whom had attended missionary schools.87
Within the education sector in general, effects of the 1955
disturbances were felt immediately. Primary and intermediate schools
in the South were closed for a year. The activities of the three
Southern secondary schools – Rumbek, Juba Commercial, and the Maridi
Teachers’ Training College – were temporarily transferred to
Khartoum.88 The government took steps to limit instruction in
Christianity and English, and in 1957 the missionary schools in the
South were nationalized.89 Since private schools in the North and
Islamic schools in the South were not subject to this takeover, it was
clear that this was intended not only to unify the education system
but also to limit the operation of the missionaries. Although the
government boasted of the increased number of schools since
independence, the quality of education deteriorated.90
Government expansion of educational services concentrated on primary
schools, religious education, sports, and vocational skills.91
Although this strategy may have conformed with Northern disdain for
Southerners’ academic abilities,92 it was also motivated by suspicions
of subversion: just as the British had found the effendiyya the source
of nationalist opposition to colonial rule, so now Southerners with
higher education were seen as those most likely to rebel against a
government dominated by Northerners.93 Applying the British strategy
of closing off the area to cultural and religious competition while
focusing on education and proselytizing seemed the best means towards
this end.94 Several schools, in particular Rumbek Secondary, became
places of intense political activity and opposition to the government.
During the absence of formal political activity after the Abboud coup,
two strikes took place among secondary and intermediate students: the
first, in 1960, was occasioned by the government’s changing the day of
rest in the South from Sunday to Friday. After the larger and more
momentous strike of 1962 many students quit school and fled the
country, and some subsequently became involved in diaspora politics
and insurgency activities.95 As G. N. Sanderson and L. M. Passmore
Sanderson forcefully conclude: ‘educational policy [in the South since
1957] can be seen as the central and crucial Southern grievance; it
was resented and resisted with corresponding bitterness and
Government policy gave public security priority over general economic
improvement in the South. After independence most of the development
projects initiated during the 1940s – notably the comprehensive Zande
Scheme – stagnated and were eventually abandoned.97 In the districts
of Torit and Yei the government and Northern traders attempted to
introduce cash crops such as cotton, coffee, and tobacco, but met with
only limited success.98 However, the extension of the national railway
to Wau through Aweil in the early 1960s had an important strategic
aspect: it improved the government’s ability to move men and equipment
to areas of the South less accessible by river transport.
Political instability had not brought the South’s economy to a
standstill. As late as November 1962, an official of the British
embassy in Khartoum toured Equatoria, assessing commercial
opportunities within agriculture and processing industries.99 Although
he mentioned Southern discontent and the recent school strikes, his
report was fairly optimistic. Retrospectively, however, the social and
economic stagnation which was abetted by lack of government
intervention and lack of normalization was evident.
The impact of the 1955 disturbances and the new government policy
towards the South was also felt in local governance. During the late
1940s and early 1950s the Condominium government had undertaken a
series of reforms.100 Native administration – the system adopted in
the 1920s, whereby political control would be maintained indirectly
through tribal chiefs – had proven increasingly incapable of meeting
modern challenges and anachronistically inconsonant with
representative government. The British had therefore decided to
introduce elected councils at the province, district, and, in some
cases, town and village levels, but these reforms were still in their
infancy when the Condominium ended.101 The new independent
government’s decision to reverse local governance reforms was partly
motivated by the 1955 disturbances and the desire to control the
population in the South. But this tendency of reversing elected
councils started earlier. The provincial council in Equatoria –
consisting mainly of chiefs, supplemented with some educated
Southerners and Northern administrators – which had been established
in 1948, had its last meeting in March 1954.102
Bolstering the chiefs was advantageous for short-term security
purposes, as this was a low-cost system and an adequate extension of
government power into the local community as long as ambitions for
governance and development were minimal. During the early 1950s rural
district councils had also been established. These continued after
independence, but were first and foremost part of the local
administration. They were hardly devices for local democracy, since
chiefs retained dominant positions in the councils and remained their
communities’ main intermediaries with district commissioners. A letter
from Chief Justice Abu Rannat, dated 18 March 1957, directed governors
to implement recommendations of the ministerial committee for the
affairs of the South, specifically to warrant ‘wider administrative
and legal powers [to the chiefs] under supervision of the District
Commissioners’.103 This appears to have resulted in few practical
changes in the Southern Sudan, where reform of the autocratic system
of DCs and chiefs with a goal of participatory democracy and
modernization of the administration had already been put on hold
Northern politicians’ and administrators’ prejudice and paternalistic
attitude towards the Southerners may also have contributed towards the
reversal of the policy of modernizing and democratizing local
government. The DC of Eastern District wrote in 1956 that the people
of his district, ‘primitive as they are’, were ‘below the standard of
any form of Local Government’; it would be a ‘waste of time and money’
to institute local government among them.105 The DC at Torit chimed in
with a Sudanese version of the White Man’s Burden:
The South is still an ignorant and blind community which has to be
taken by the hand until it passes the dark stage in which the British
wanted it to stay for ever. The South, though a part of a whole, is a
grave trust placed on our shoulders since the Independence Day; and we
will be betraying that trust if for cheap propaganda or for winning a
handful of M.P.s we impose a system which we know before hand [sic]
that it [sic] is not even suitable for the north.106
It is, however, difficult to determine to what extent Northern
administrators’ misguided assessments of Southerners’ ability to
govern their own affairs motivated the reversal of reforms of native
administration or whether these assessments masked an unwillingness to
invest in modernization and risk losing control.
It is often claimed that the Northern elite’s exclusivist vision of
the Sudan as an independent state – and its perception of the Southern
Sudan, its history, and people as inferior – was the reason the
government was unable to find a solution to the national problem
acceptable to all parties. The 1955 disturbances might have been seen
by decision-makers in Khartoum as a signal that the policy of
integrating the South had been implemented too rapidly. But instead
the violence of the 1955 disturbances, the desire to return to
‘normality’, and the fear of another uprising reduced the willingness
to compromise. These circumstances fortified Northern administrators’
prejudices, justified ill-advised reforms, and resulted in
counter-productive actions. If the Northern Sudanese who controlled
the state in 1956 had pursued a conciliatory approach in the aftermath
of the 1955 disturbances and had chosen different policies in the
following years – or at least slowed down the integration policy – the
Southern Sudan might not have descended into civil war. A fully
fledged civil war cannot be considered an inevitable outcome of the
1955 disturbances. In the wake of the mutiny, the actions and
counter-actions of the government and militant Southerners generated a
spiral of violence in the period 1956–65. That violence fomented a
conflict that continued into the period of the Addis Ababa Peace and
was taken to new extremes during the second civil war. An independent
Southern Sudan has grown out of opposition to the North; now the
rulers of Juba are tasked with cultivating a Southern identity and
government authority that is already challenged. History never repeats
itself, but one may still have a strong sense of déjà vu.
1 ‘Speech at the signing ceremony of Comprehensive Peace Agreement’, 9
Jan. 2005, reproduced in Sudan Tribune,
http://www.sudantribune.com/article.php3?id_article=7476 (consulted 1
2 See, for example, J. Howell, ‘Political leadership and organization
in the Southern Sudan’ (unpublished PhD thesis, Reading University,
1978); D. H. Johnson, The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil Wars (Oxford,
2003). For the historiography of the first civil war, see Ø. H.
Rolandsen, ‘Civil war society: political processes, social groups and
conflict intensity in the Southern Sudan, 1955–2005’ (unpublished PhD
thesis, University of Oslo, 2010).
3 Sambanis, N., ‘Using case studies to expand economic models of civil
war’, Perspectives on Politics, 2:2 (2004), 259–79 [OpenURL Query
Data] [CrossRef] [CJO Abstract] [Google Scholar]; R. Jackson, ‘The
social construction of internal war’, in R. Jackson (ed.),
(Re)Constructing Cultures of Violence and Peace (Amsterdam, 2004),
4 C. Clapham, ‘Introduction’, in C. Clapham (ed.), African Guerrillas
(Oxford, 1998), 5–6.
5 C. Cramer, Civil War is Not a Stupid Thing: Accounting for Violence
in Developing Countries (London, 2006); Sambanis, N., ‘What is civil
war?’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 48:6 (2004): 814–58 [OpenURL
Query Data] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar].
6 See, for example, cases in Clapham, African Guerrillas; Cramer,
Civil War, 139–44.
7 M. O. Beshir, The Southern Sudan: Background to Conflict (New York, 1968).
8 O. Albino, The Sudan: A Southern Viewpoint (London, 1970), 47.
9 Howell, ‘Political leadership’, 187–8.
10 This line resonates in recent northern Sudanese academic writing.
See, for example, A. A. G. Ali, ‘Sudan’s civil war: why has it
prevailed for so long?’, in P. Collier and N. Sambanis (eds.),
Understanding Civil War: Evidence and Analysis (Washington, DC, 2005),
11 The Conference was an attempt to mediate an end to the conflict in
the South: M. M. Vambheim, ‘Making peace while waging war: a
peacemaking effort in the Sudanese civil war, 1965–1966’ (unpublished
MA thesis, University of Bergen, 2007). See also Beshir, Southern
Sudan, passim; D. M. Wai, The African–Arab Conflict in the Sudan (New
York, 1981), 97–105.
12 Sirr al-Khatim al-Khalifa, ‘Nature and development of [the]
Southern Problem: Africanism, Arabism and new policy’, in Abd al-Rahim
(ed.), Fourteen Documents on the Problem of the Southern Sudan
(Khartoum, 1965), 42. The editor presents a critique of British
policy, including references to contemporary debates in British
newspapers on colonial policy: see ‘Part 1: The legacy of British
colonial administration’, in ibid. 1–32.
13 Wai, African–Arab Conflict, 65. Wai later states that ‘between 1955
and 1963 there was mere tension without serious open violence’ (90).
Another example is B. Yongo-Bure, ‘The underdevelopment of the
Southern Sudan since independence’, in M. W. Daly and A. A. Sikainga
(eds.), Civil War in the Sudan (London, 1993), 51–77.
14 M. W. Daly, Imperial Sudan: The Anglo-Egyptian Condominium,
1934–1956 (Cambridge, 1991), 398–9; Johnson, Root Causes, 9–19;
Willis, J., ‘Violence, authority, and the state in the Nuba Mountains
of Condominium Sudan,’ Historical Journal, 46:1 (2003), 89–114
[OpenURL Query Data] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar].
15 H. Sharkey, Living with Colonialism: Nationalism and Culture in the
Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (Berkeley, 2003).
16 Cf. Burton, A. and Jennings, M., ‘Introduction: the emperor’s new
clothes? Continuities in governance in late colonial and early
postcolonial East Africa’, International Journal of African Historical
Studies, 40:1 (2007), 1–25 [OpenURL Query Data] [Google Scholar].
17 L. M. Passmore Sanderson and G. N. Sanderson, Education, Religion &
Politics in Southern Sudan, 1899–1964 (London, 1981), 421, 430–1; J.
Howell, ‘Political leaders in the Southern Sudan’, unpublished paper
presented at the 8th annual conference of the Social Science Council
of East African Universities, Nairobi, 1972, 2–3.
18 Wai, African–Arab Conflict, 85.
19 Johnson, Root Causes, 26–7.
20 Sanderson and Sanderson, Education, 342–3. See also note 26 below.
21 Details of the mutiny are chronicled and analysed, not without
political bias, in Report of the Commission of Enquiry into the
Disturbances in Southern Sudan during August 1955 (Khartoum, 1956);
and later reproduced (often with limited source criticism) in numerous
publications. Important exceptions: Daly, Imperial Sudan, 384–8;
Howell, ‘Political leadership’, 104–51; Sanderson and Sanderson,
Education, 325–46. See also, The National Archives, Kew, United
Kingdom (TNA) FO 371/113614, no. 116, ‘Inward telegram no 192 from W.
H. Luce to FO reporting early signs of unrest in Torit’, reproduced in
D. H. Johnson (ed.), British Documents on the End of Empire: Sudan
(London, 1998), 427–9; R. O. Collins, Shadows in the Grass: Britain in
the Southern Sudan, 1918–1956 (New Haven, 1983), 454–6. Evidence of
Southern political sentiments may be found in the letters by Southern
politicians and barely literate police officers, civil servants,
chiefs, teachers, and others reproduced in Y. Wawa, The Southern
Sudanese Pursuits of Self-determination: Documents in Political
History (Kampala, 2005), 23–149.
22 In Equatoria, Kapoeta, Kateri, Terakeka, Yei, Loka, Maridi, and
Yambio/Nzara, as well as Torit, were severely affected; in the Upper
Nile, Malakal; and in Bahr al-Ghazal, Wau. Commission of Enquiry,
‘Southern Sudan’, 47–77.
23 Ibid. 80.
24 For example, the Southern Record Office, Juba (SRO), EP/TOR/16.C.1,
Sudan Ministry of the Interior, ‘Memorandum’, 9, and ‘Minutes’;
Beshir, Southern Sudan, 73. See also M. A. al-Rahim, Imperialism and
Nationalism in the Sudan: A Study in Constitutional and Political
Development, 1899–1956 (Oxford, 1969), 267–8.
25 Johnson, Root Causes, 28–9; Sanderson and Sanderson, Education, 343–5.
26 P. Woodward, Condominium and Sudanese Nationalism (London, 1980),
147–56; Sanderson and Sanderson, Education, 343–6, 352–3, 378 n. 4;
Report of the Commission of Enquiry, 53, 71–6; Sudan Archive of the
University of Durham (SAD) 830/1/92, ‘The Southern Mutiny – August,
27 A. Yangu, The Nile Turns Red: Azanians Chose Freedom Against Arab
Bondage (New York, 1966), 43–9. This polemic must be treated with
caution. See also S. S. Poggo, ‘War and conflict in the Southern
Sudan, 1955–1972’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of California,
Santa Barbara, 1999), 335–7, referring to interviews by John Ukec and
Ben Lou Poggo.
28 TNA, PRO FO 371/125962/no. 26, ‘Southern Sudan: report on tour made
by Sir E. Chapman-Andrews between the 1st and 21st April ’, 2.
29 Cf. Johnson, Root Causes, 28; Wai, African–Arab Conflict, 65; SAD
890/1/38, H. P. Logali, ‘Autobiography’ (unpublished); S. Fuli Boki
Tombe Ga’le, Shaping a Free Southern Sudan: Memoirs of Our Struggle,
1934–1985 (Limuru, 2002), 187–93; Sanderson and Sanderson, Education,
352, 378 n.2.
30 The Equatoria Corps numbered 1,146 at Torit, including 380 ‘boys’
(very young cadets), and 234 in the rest of the region. At Torit, 425
(including 11 ‘boys’) surrendered, and 36 in the rest of Equatoria,
TNA, PRO FO 371/113701, no. 139, ‘Letter from Sir K. Helm to C. A. E.
Shuckburgh reporting the political situation in the Sudan’, reproduced
in Johnson, British Documents, 471–3.
31 Daly, Imperial Sudan, 387.
32 Interviews with Sovronio Okilan Atari and Korino Ite Ocho, Torit, 3
33 The title of the highest-ranking official at the district level
varies across the period investigated, but for simplicity the title
‘district commissioner’ is used throughout.
34 SRO, TD 1, ‘Appointment of H/Chief to Ikotos Local Govt. Centre’,
M. A. Nur to Governor Equatoria Province, 9 Apr. 1957.
35 National Record Office, Khartoum (NRO), UNP 1/20/168, Intelligence
Reports Other Provinces, El Tahir, ‘Bahr el-Ghazal Intelligence Report
1 September – 30 November 1955’.
36 S. S. Poggo, The First Sudanese Civil War: Africans, Arabs and
Israelis in the Southern Sudan, 1955–1972 (New York, 2009), 60–2.
37 Sudan African National Union (SANU), ‘The memorandum presented by
the Sudan African National Union to the Commission of the Organisation
of African Unity for Refugees’ (Kampala, November 1964) strengthens
this impression; since it was in SANU’s interest to report incidents
of government suppression and injustice, it is probable that the
security situation was no worse than it reported. Poggo, ‘War’,
357–61, provides information from interviews in the Yei area and from
John Ukec Lueth, an ex-Anya-Nya officer, in ‘A manuscript of the rise
of the Anya-Nya movement’. Ukec interviewed a number of veterans from
the Anya-Nya in the early 1980s. S. Simonse, Kings of Disaster:
Dualism, Centralism, and the Scapegoat King in Southeastern Sudan
(Leiden, 1992), 313, by mentioning an SRO file entitled ‘Southern
corps mutiny’, indicates the existence of a more extensive compendium
on the disturbances and later events.
38 SAD (Collins), 919/6/96, ‘The elections of 1958 and the army coup’.
This is part of a larger draft manuscript by Storrs McCall (SAD
919/6/85–153, hereafter ‘SAD (Collins)’).
39 Simonse, Kings, 357, referring to Akec’s account, mentions Madok
mountain as the location of Latada’s camp. A government intelligence
report corroborates his operations ‘8 miles from Kiyala’, NRO, UNP
1/20/168, S. K. M. Ahmed, ‘EP HMIR 16·8–15.9.57’. When the author
visited in 2007, ‘Jebel Latada’ (Latada Mountain) was pointed out.
40 SAD (Collins), 919/6/96, ‘Elections’. According to the US embassy
in Khartoum, the DC at Torit was the target, but he was not in the
car: National Archieves and Records Administration, College Park,
United States (NARA), RG 59/1955–59 Central Decimal
File/745W.00/3–2359 (Box 3250), ‘Unrest in the South’, US Embassy,
Khartoum to Department of State, Washington, 23 March 1959.
42 Simonse, Kings, 311–14.
43 Interview with Sovronio Okilan Atari.
44 NRO, UNP 1/20/168, Ahmed, ‘EP HMIR 1–15.12.57’ and Ahmed, ‘EP MIR
45 Most sources agree that Latada died in 1960; the cause of death is
disputed: compare Poggo, ‘War’, 358, with SAD (Collins) 919/6/117,
‘The rise of the Anya-Nya/Eastern Equatoria’.
46 NRO, UNP 1/20/168, Ali Baldo ‘EP HMIR for 1st half of March 57’.
See also SAD (Collins), 919/6/96v, ‘Elections’; Poggo, ‘War’, 340–1.
47 In the Bahr el-Ghazal, a certain Madut Chan, a Dinka former
non-commissioned officer in the Equatoria Corps was supposedly active.
48 Sanderson and Sanderson, Education, 427–8.
49 See Ibid. 429; F. M. Deng, War of Visions (Washington, DC, 1995), 136.
50 The Southern opposition in exile reported that Northern soldiers
cuckolded Southerners and shot children, allegedly because they
thought that they were monkeys: SANU, ‘Memorandum’, 9, 11, 42–3.
51 J. M. Jok, War and Slavery in Sudan (Philadelphia, 2001), 60.
52 SANU, ‘Memorandum’, passim; Yangu, Nile, 49–50. District reports
and province intelligence reports corroborate these observations: for
example, ‘38 huts in which the natives were harbouring that mutineer
[sic] were burnt. They have [sic] been abandoned by the natives one
day before the incident as they knew what was going to happen …
[Following a different incident,] special military operations were
launched and extensive general searches were carried out in the
surrounding neighbourhood but the mutineers involved entered Uganda.
Two civilians were killed on their attempt to spear search parties’.
NRO, UNP 1/20/168, MAT Malik (for Gov), ‘EP MIR Aug–Oct 56’.
53 NRO, UNP 1/20/168, A/Gov Saied, ‘Equatoria Province Intelligence
Report July/Aug 56’, reports that villages in Yei district were burnt
in July or August 1956. Other sources erroneously mention 1957, such
as K. D. D. Henderson, Sudan Republic (New York, 1965), 185–6. The
SANU ‘Memorandum’, 20, also reports the burning of Lobira village in
September 1957. The burning of Maiji and Haifourere was supposed to
have taken place in September 1959: SANU, ‘Memorandum’, 17–20. The
villagers of Haifourere were forcibly resettled at a new site on the
Torit–Kapoeta road: SRO, 24/B/1, Ministry of Local Government, ‘Torit
rural council: monthly reports for the month of April 1960’.
54 SRO, EP/57.E.3/1–1954/1955, Freigoun to Governor Equatoria
Province, ‘Annual report – Eastern District’, 18 July 1955.
55 NRO, UNP 1/20/168, S. K. M. Ahmed for A/Gov, ‘Equatoria Province
MIR 1–31 July 1957’.
56 SANU ‘Memorandum’, 27, 29–30.
57 SRO, Pibor District/57.C.3, ‘Monthly diary – Eastern District for
58 These monthly reports were written for the DCs’ superiors, and
their rendering of local events would be biased by Northern officials’
general outlook and by their need to please these superiors (see p.
59 SRO, Pibor District/57.C.3, ‘Eastern District monthly diary for the
month [of] June 1959’. (Cf. Poggo, ‘War’, 357–8).
60 SRO, Pibor District/57.C.3, ‘Kapoeta monthly diary for September, 1959’.
61 Based on: SRO, Pibor District/57.C.3, Eastern District monthly
diaries, March 1959–April 1960; SRO, Ministry of Local Government,
24/B/1, Torit rural council monthly reports January 1954–August 1961.
62 For example, SRO, Ministry of Local Government, 24/B/1, ‘Monthly
report for June 1960’.
63 SRO, Ministry of Local Government 24/B/1/195, 202, 244, 249.
64 Sanderson and Sanderson, Education, 369, 402; Poggo, ‘War’, 360–1.
65 Interview with ‘Alusjo’ Louis Ohoro Loyie, Torit, 26 Feb. 2006;
interview with Sovronio Okilan Atari; Voice of Southern Sudan, 1:2
(1963). See also Rolandsen, ‘Civil war society’, 109–39.
66 Taffeng, a veteran of the Equatoria Corps and one of three
Southerners promoted to officer rank shortly before the 1955
disturbances, was perhaps the most prominent leader of the Anya-Nya
rebellion during the first five years, but was increasingly
marginalized by Joseph Lagu in the late 1960s.
67 Wai, African–Arab Conflict, 92.
68 SANU, ‘Memorandum’.
69 Sirr al-Khatim al-Khalifa, ‘Nature’, 44.
70 Sanderson and Sanderson, Education, 293–4, 297–301, 310–11.
71 Some measures seem to have been relaxed during 1956–7: TNA, FO
371/125962/no. 26, ‘Southern Sudan’.
72 SRO, EP/SCR/16.C.2/11–21, ‘Minutes of the District Commissioners’
meeting held in Juba on 6th–9th December 1955’.
73 Daly, Imperial Sudan, 25–45 et passim.
74 C. Leonardi, ‘Knowing authority: colonial governance and local
community in Equatoria Province, Sudan, 1900–1956’ (unpublished PhD
thesis, University of Durham, 2005), 151–61.
75 Howell, ‘Political leadership’, 152–3.
76 E.g. Deng, War, 211–16; Wai, African–Arab Conflict, 85.
77 SRO, EP/SCR/16.C.2/25–30, ‘Minutes of District Commissioners’
meeting held on 29th March 1958 at 10.30 a.m. at Governor’s
residence’, 8 April 1958.
78 SRO, SCR/EP/10.B.23/69–70, Baldo to Asst. Governor Juba District
(‘Permission for collection of donations’ attached).
79 See below; Sanderson and Sanderson, Education, 356–7.
80 SRO, EP/SCR/16.C.2/25–30, ‘Minutes’.
81 Ibid. See also SRO, TD/1, Kn. P/SCR/1.A.1, Governor of Kordofan to
Permanent Under Secretary, Ministry of Interior, 23 Dec. 1956;
MI/SCR/1.F.1, Minister of Interior to Governor Kordofan Province, 30
Dec. 1956; EP/SCR/1.F.12, Governor Equatoria to DCs, 5 Jan. 1957.
82 For a comprehensive analysis, see Rolandsen, ‘Civil war society’.
83 Sharkey, H. J., ‘Arab identity and ideology in Sudan: the politics
of language, ethnicity and race’, African Affairs, 107:426 (2007),
21–43 [OpenURL Query Data] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar].
84 Sudan Ministry of the Interior, Memorandum on Reasons That Led to
the Expulsion of Foreign Missionaries and Priests from the Southern
Provinces of the Sudan, 5 March 1964, 16–17; R. Gray, ‘Some
reflections on Christian involvement 1955–1972’, in Y. F. Hasan and R.
Gray, Religion and Conflict in Sudan (Nairobi, 2002); Sanderson and
Sanderson, Education, 367.
85 [Verona Fathers' Mission], Sudan Government Secret Plans Against
Christian Missions in the South … During the Years 1957–1960 (n.p.,
1965?); Verona Fathers’ Mission, The Black Book of the Sudan on the
Expulsion of the Missionaries from Southern Sudan: An Answer (Milan,
1964), 62–86 and passim.
86 See Sudan African Closed Districts National Union (SACDNU),
Petition to the United Nations (1963); J. Oduho and W. Deng, The
Problem of the Southern Sudan (London, 1963), 59–60.
87 See, for example, Deng and Oduho, Problem, 55–8; J. J. Akol, I Will
Go the Distance: The Story of a ‘Lost’ Sudanese Boy of the Sixties
(Nairobi, 2005), 177–80. See also Gray, ‘Reflections’.
88 Sanderson and Sanderson, Education, 336, 362; Albino, Sudan, 81.
89 R. O. Collins, The Southern Sudan in Historical Perspective (New
Brunswick, NJ, 1975; 2nd edn 2006), 75; SACDNU, ‘Petition’, 10–11; SAD
(Collins), 919/6/99v–100, ‘Elections’.
90 Pupils above village school level numbered 16,985 in 1953–4 and
30,908 in 1961–2: Sanderson and Sanderson, Education, 361–77. See also
Wai, African–Arab Conflict, 203 n. 22; Akol, I Will Go, 178–9.
91 Sanderson and Sanderson, Education, 337–9; Howell, ‘Political
92 This attitude was not limited to Northern officials. In 1957 the
British ambassador made this observation: ‘The Northerner is quite
unlike the marissa [beer]-drinking, banana-eating, lazy, immoral,
squat black forest people who seem to live for little but the Saturday
night dance’: TNA, FO 371/125962/no. 26, ‘Southern Sudan’, 3.
93 Sanderson and Sanderson, Education, 364.
94 Ibid. 357–69; Deng, War, 135–6.
95 On the 1960 and 1962 strikes, see Sanderson and Sanderson, Education, 368–9.
96 Ibid. 377.
97 Collins, Shadows, in particular 293–364. Se also C. C. Reining, The
Zande Scheme: An Anthropological Case Study of Economic Development in
Africa (Evanston, IL, 1966); Southern Front, ‘The Southern Front
memorandum to O.A.U. on Afro-Arab conflict in the Sudan, Accra, Oct.
1965’ ([Khartoum], 1965).
98 SRO, TD/1.G/60, ‘Agriculture in Torit District’, 1959. In Yei there
was a labour shortage: SANU, ‘Memorandum’, 45. See also J. Cookson et
al., Area Handbook for the Republic of the Sudan (Washington, DC,
99 TNA, FO 371/165683, ‘Short Tour of Equatoria, October 28–November
6’, 4 Dec. 1962.
100 G. M. Salih, ‘The heritage of local government’, in J. Howell
(ed.), Local Government and Politics in the Sudan (Khartoum, 1974),
23–4; G. M. Salih and J. Howell, ‘Local government after
independence’, in Howell, Local Government, 33–44.
101 Leonardi, ‘Knowing authority’.
102 A set of minutes from council meetings in the period 1948/9–1954
is available in SRO, EP/1.C.1/3. See also Howell, ‘Political
103 SRO, TD/1 (JUD/A/10.B.1).
104 Wai, African–Arab Conflict, 83–4. See also M. El-Beshir, ‘The
political role of the local government officer’, in Howell, Local
105 SRO, TD/1 (SCR/ED/1.C.1/1), Freigoun to Governor Equatoria
Province, 24 March 1956.
106 SRO, TD/1, Basit to Governor Equatoria Province, 7 April 1956.
2. . The making of the Anya-Nya insurgency in the Southern Sudan, 1961-64
Øystein H. Rolandsen
Political tension, local violence and government suppression escalated
in the Southern Sudan in the late 1950s and early 1960s. During this
period of increasing international acceptance of ‘‘freedom fighters’’
and ‘‘wars of liberation’’, groups of politicians in exile together
with militarily trained Southerners progressively focused their
efforts towards launching a rebellion; in exile, they sought
international support and established political organisations. They
also founded the Anya-Nya rebel movement and built military power.
Their activities, combined with violent reprisals from the Government
of Sudan, explain how the Southern Sudan gradually entered a state of
civil war during 1963 and 1964. This process was fundamentally
influenced by contingencies, unfulfilled expectations, and a lack of
capacity and co-ordination, which preclude a formulaic and linear
account. This article contributes to a multi-faceted and empirically
grounded history of rebellion in the Southern Sudan, and challenges
the common assumption that the first civil war started in 1955. The
article exposes weaknesses related to a strict analytical dichotomy
between ‘‘war’’ and ‘‘peace’’. Theory-driven, comparative studies of
civil war need a clearer focus on the dynamics of escalating violence
and on individual and group agency.
In Journal of Eastern African Studies, Vol. 5, No. 2, May 2011, pp. 211-232.
May be downloaded from: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rjea20/current
but only if you pay for it.