Political and military reprisals in the aftermath of the 1955 Torit Uprising

Posted: June 15, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Anyanya, History, Junub Sudan, Mangar Amerdit

By Mangar Marial Amerdid, Juba, South Sudan

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Friday, June 15, 2018 (PW) — In 1955, following the August 18th revolt; it was not only the Torit mutineers who faced reprisal for the uprising they held. Many Southern Sudanese policemen, prison wardens and civilians were arrested, tortured and executed by Northern Sudan. Some of these Southerners were transported to prisons in Khartoum, never to be heard from again.

Also, many Southern villages were destroyed as they were indiscriminately attacked, huts burnt, livestock stolen or killed and elders, women and children faced torture or sudden death. The months following the Torit Mutiny were among the bloodiest in Southern Sudan history.

A survivor of the 1955 revolt from Upper Nile, James Kockweth talked of being arrested with nine other men by Northern soldiers. They were tied against poles and left to the elements for a period of two weeks. Every day, the Northern soldiers would lash them with ten strokes then spit on their wounds. Kockwech added that “It was not enough to suffer their whipping.

We had to kiss the whips and say ‘shukhran’ [thank you] to the Arab soldiers.” The torture Kockwech and the other men experienced were aimed at extracting confessions and breaking their spirits. Furthermore, a former police officer named Alexis Mbali Yangu recounts the ordeal he faced after the 1955 uprising and his arrest by the Northern soldiers. Yangu states,

“My turn [arrest] came in November, 1955, together with other thirty Wau policemen. The charges against us were “complicity with the revolution movements by disobeying orders” and “attempted revolt.” In the second week of December, 1955, Mr. Medani, the Arab police prosecuting officer, put before the court long statements full of ambiguities and lies against us.

As one of the suspected ringleaders in our group, I spent over forty days locked in a prison cell in chains before receiving the sentence of 4 ½ years imprisonment. Other policemen received prison sentences ranging from six to eighteen months.

Medani, an undersized man with a shriveled little monkey face and tiny cool eyes, prosecuted us before a resident magistrate court, presided over by a Pakistani judge, Mohamed Said. The judge himself revealed to me later in Khartoum that he was influenced by the Arab Governor Khalil Sabri to imprison those Southerners brought before him, on any charge, as part of the security measure in force under the emergency laws in the three Southern provinces.

The judge also added that he was assured by the Arab Governor that our indictment would not cause us to lose our police careers. But this was not so; the main reason for the dismissal from jobs was to increase unemployment and kill the South economically.

After completion of the trials, all the prisoners in Bahr el-Ghazal Province were gathered in Rumbek Prison, except the ones condemned to death. They were taken to Meridi and executed there. Rumbek had been a slave trade camp in the past, and we were a new generation of captives.

Among the exiled group was Deputy Governor Clement Mboro, who was hurriedly tried on fabricated charges and sentenced to eighteen months’ imprisonment. He was later flown to a Northern prison.

In all, we were 1, 114 prisoners crammed like sardines in small barracks. Very little daylight filtered in through the tiny windows, and the stench of the crowded bodies was unbearable. In the dark we recalled all the horrible episodes of Arab barbarism of which we had heard or read. We were also deprived of all contacts with our families and friends and the outside world.

Even such elementary things as toothbrushes and combs were not allowed. Books, pencils, and paper were strictly prohibited. The so-called prison rations were served twice a day: breakfast was half-cooked grain full of sand, and supper consisted of one pound of giraya (a native bread) and half a pint of thin, cold vegetable soup.

Failure to cope with work norms were punished by reducing these rations and sometimes with solitary confinement in the cells for weeks or months. Dysentery and the other diseases that flourish in undernourishment and filth were commonplace in our prison.

About two-thirds of the prison inmates, including myself, suffered from running sores and other visible evidence of broken health. We were also forced to carry and empty the latrine buckets of the township.

But I looked at all these tortures with the eyes of a 33-year-old whose father was once captured in an Arab slave raid. I was brought up in the traditional Arab slave-raid history, and I was optimistic about a better future for the Southern Sudanese people.

While I was lying on the hard cement floor, there was plenty of time for reflection on infinite possibilities of success. At times I could not avoid discouragement and doubt about what the future really held in store for us. But in it I also saw hidden the glorious flame of African spirit and the sharp edge of its energy. Africa will rise as the sleeping giant.”

The author, Hon. Mangar Amerdid, is the National Coordinator of Northern Corridor Integration Projects (http://www.nciprojects.org/) 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: mangaramerdid@gmail.com

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