Revisiting the Past: The Founding of the Sudan African National Union (SANU) – Part 1

Posted: January 5, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in History, Junub Sudan, Mangar Amerdit, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Mangar Marial Amerdid, Juba, South Sudan

Founders of Anyanya one

Founders of Anyanya one – Father Saturnino Lohure (Patron), Joseph Oudho (President) and William Deng Nhial (Secretary General)

January 5, 2018 (SSB) — The creation of the Sudan African National Union (SANU) is among the oldest political parties that emerged from Southern Sudan. The party was founded by Fr. Saturnino Lohure, William Deng Nhial and Joseph Oduho. In 1961, the three leaders visited different African countries to advocate for the cause of the Southerners. In January 1962, Fr. Saturnino and Oduho attended the all African People’s Congress in Lagos (the ‘Monrovia Group’), where they were not allowed to present a petition but met African heads of state and held a press conference.

Returning to Leopoldville in February, they were joined by Deng and founded the ‘Sudan African Closed Districts National Union’ (SACDNU) with Oduho as president and Deng as Secretary General. This was not a secret organization but an open political movement; by June, all the well-known Southern politicians in exile had joined it.

After a lucky escape in Leopoldville in April when Oduho had avoided being deported back to the Sudan by jumping out the window of his hotel, he and Fr. Saturnino went on to several African countries including Congo Brazzaville and the Central African Republic. They then met up with Deng again in Europe, where Deng wrote a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and Oduho gave an interview which was reported in The Observer.

Deng’s letter was followed by a 28-page petition to the United Nations, presented when Deng was in New York in April 1963. This petition bears the names SACDNU; at some time not long after its presentation the simpler name Sudan African National Union (SANU) was adopted.

The two leaders returned to East Africa at different times between November 1962 and July 1963. Oduho who returned in January 1963 immediately began to organize not only the political but also the military side of SANU. Letters from Marko Rume, the vice president, had given warning of an imminent military invasion of the South, although all that in fact occurred in 1962 was an attack on a small police post at Kajo-keji. When Oduho heard of the attack, he immediately wrote to Rume to call off any future operations of this kind in which the participants were armed only with machetes.

But at the same time Oduho and Fr. Saturnino began planning much more serious military activities. They began with a series of attacks on September 1963 in Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria and Upper Nile. Although the SANU executive was very much involved in planning them, official disclaimers were issued which denied any knowledge of or sympathy for these operations.

Nevertheless, enough information leaked out to cause the Ugandan government to arrest Oduho on October 15th charging him with managing an unlawful society and raising an army. He was sentenced to 9 months and released in August 1964. Meanwhile, branches of SANU were being opened in many different countries.

In at least some cases these branches took the form of ‘plebiscite support’ unions – i.e. unions whose object it was to agitate for a referendum to be held in the South as the first step towards self-determination. In Ethiopia for example, the branch was known as ‘PSE’ (Plebiscite Support Union of Ethiopia). The first meeting of PSE was held in February 1963 following receipt of the letter from Deng. Other branches were reported to be named ‘PSK’ (Kenya), ‘PSC’ (Congo), ‘PSUK’ (Britain), etc.

In Ethiopia however, the real activities of the group lay not in agitation for a plebiscite but in planning military operations. At the time of the founding of the movement in exile, agreement and harmony seem to have characterized relationships among the three leaders.

But this state of affairs did not last. A split developed between William Deng and Fr. Saturnino which came out into the open at a SANU executive meeting in Aru, Congo on the 19th and 20th of February 1964.

To be continued…

The author, Hon. Mangar Amerdid, is the National Coordinator of Northern Corridor Integration Projects ( for South Sudan, the Chairman of SOS Children Villages International for the Republic of South Sudan, and the Founder of the Leadership Institute of New Sudan (LIONS). He graduated with Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance and a minor in Economics from University of Colorado, USA. You can reach him via his email:

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address, the city and the country you are writing from, plus a concise biography of yourself.

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