Brief Reflection of the Past: A Reminiscent of the former Red Army of the SPLM-SPLA

Posted: June 12, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan, Pal Chol Nyan

By Pal Chol Nyan, Juba, South Sudan

Tuesday, June 12, 2018 (PW) — I was a member of the red army, who after the fall of the Derg Regime in 1990, came and settled in Nasir. We were a group of what UNICEF later called “Unaccompanied Minors”.

We built our tukuls in the swampy areas of Ketbek adjacent to the SPLM/A Nasir Faction Headquarters. On arrival from Ethiopia, we were at Torpuot, later moved to Pananyang before coming to settle finally at Ketbek. We were known as K-Minors. UNICEF started to open schools for the minors.

I was a both a minor and a primary school teacher, the youngest teacher at the time. This spectacularly brought me close to the UNICEF senior staff, prominent of whom was Prof Magne Raudalen, a Norwegian Professor of Psychology whose main task focused on trauma therapy and counselling.

Trauma is a mental condition that begets behavioral changes. It is also a physical harm inflicted with the use of blunt or sharp objects. Prof Magne made me his interpreter when interviewing the minors about their experiences. It was not easy but it was a task I could not turn down because most of the minors were speaking Arabic and local languages.

As you would recall, the red army consisted of teenagers recruited from Bahr el Ghazal, Nuba Mountains, Equatoria and Upper Nile. They had trekked all the way to Ethiopia, a journey of three to four months, arriving there only as skeletons.

They were based in Itang, Pinyudo and Dimma. We were trained as soldiers while schooling, though improper because it used to be interrupted for reasons known to all of us. We had teachers. We also had caretakers who cater for us; appointed and assigned by the SPLM/A Leadership.

During the long trek to Ethiopia, many of these teenagers did not make it to the destination. They felt prey to the wild beasts, succumbed to death as a result of snakes’ bites, got drowned while crossing rivers, ate up by crocodiles, starved to death, died of thirst and felt into the ambushes of the Murahaleen and some tribal armed groups.

With time, the survivors got traumatized. They would scream in dreams about the worst experiences they had gone through. UNICEF introduced the program of psychosocial trauma therapy to help the minors cope with these experiences and disturbing nightmares.

One day, I was hosted by the UNICEF Film Crew where I had to narrate my life experiences which was also part of trauma therapy.

I hope the SPLM/A commanders wouldn’t deny that they picked and dispatched some of us to war; Zal Zal two consisted mainly of the red army. General Pieng is a living witness to this fact.

They have fallen in many battles. Some of our colleagues who managed to go to Kakuma in Kenya and Pinyudo in Ethiopia immigrated to US through UNCHR initiated program of resettlement.

They are the ones calling themselves “Lost Boys”. The term red army was SPLM/A jargon for child soldiers. We were picked from our homes under the pretext of going to school in Ethiopia, when, in actual fact, it was a conscription because the parents who opposed would face fines in forms of cattle. I can state here clearly that most of the red army undertook specialized military trainings.

They became signalists and Combat Intelligence officers (GIS) as it used to be called. The first group of the red army sent to Cuba for education and military trainings at Youth Island became professionals in many disciplines.

The survivors of the red army are now in their late 40s.They can lead and do what others do. South Sudan has great minds and skilled manpower but who have no chance of utilizing these skills due to the SPLM power war.

The author, Pal Chol Nyan, is a Graduate from the College of Radiological Medical Sciences from Sudan University of Sciences and Technology. He also holds a Diploma in Teaching Methodology and a Diploma in General Medical Sciences. He was a red army soldier, a former Primary school teacher, currently serving as a General Medical Practitioner in Juba Teaching Hospital in Juba, South Sudan. He is a columnist with local newspapers in Juba/South Sudan and contributes in many websites about social, security and economic. You can reach him via his email: or

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 Media (PW) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

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