The biography of the South Sudanese patriot and politician, Malath Joseph Lueth

Posted: September 28, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan

By Mangar Marial Amerdid, Juba, South Sudan

Friday, September 28, 2018 (PW) — Few people inspire and leave an inedible mark on history as did the South Sudanese patriot and politician, Malath Joseph Lueth. Born in the village of Atiaba, Rumbek East in Western Lakes State, Malath’s father was a cattle herder and his mother a homemaker, neither having attained an education. Noted for being “ahead of his time” and seen as a perceptive child by his family and peers, Malath realized from an early age the significance of education and how it could alter the course of one’s life. He thus strove to excel academically. At the heels of political upheaval when the region of Southern Sudan was transitioning from British colonial rule and Sudan was gaining independence; Malath enrolled at Rumbek Elementary School for his sedimentary education, then attended Mundri Intermediate and later graduated from Juba Commercial Secondary School in 1962.

By this period, a volatile relationship had developed between the population of Southern Sudan and the Sudan government. The heavy-handedness of the Sudan government in the way it treated Southern Sudan was gaining worldwide attention. The Sudan government’s actions of abuse, torture and killing of innocent Southerners with impunity brought great resentment and resulted in Southerners forming the Anya-Nya guerilla movement to retaliate and seek a sovereign state for the Southern region. When the Sudan government took a drastic step and instituted a policy to eliminate Southerners they deemed educated or politically astute, Malath fled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Forced to abandon his country, Malath utilized the opportunity to further his education and attain skills that would one day benefit his people. Thus, he enrolled in the faculties of Economics and Political Science at Haile Selassie I University.

In 1969, while at the University, Malath founded the Southern Sudan Student Association becoming its first elected President. The association became a hub for intellectual discourse and a platform to address social and political issues impacting Southerners in Ethiopia and at home. It also offered Malath and the Southern student body the opening to become politically engaged with the Ethiopian government about the political issues unfolding back home. After graduating with dual degrees in 1970, Malath was in the process of returning to Southern Sudan when the escalation of conflict became intense and unrelenting. The Soviet Union aided the Sudan government in its fight against Southerners by providing manpower in the form of advisors, pilots and technicians. They also offered military arsenal in the form of Mig-21 fighter-planes, Mi-8 helicopters, Antonov 24 bombers and ground rockets. By this time, thousands of Southerners were seeking refuge in neighboring countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Ethiopia. Malath relocated to Kenya where he taught students at a secondary school. When the Addis Ababa Agreement was signed in 1972 between the political wing of the Anya-Nya guerilla movement, the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM) and Sudan government under the auspices of Emperor Haile Sellasi, it marked an end to the conflict in Sudan. This resulted in Southerners returning home including Malath. He settled in Juba and joined the Regional Ministry of Commerce and Supply working as its assistant director. Disillusioned by the execution of the peace accord, Malath resigned from the Ministry, returned to Rumbek and joined politics.

Possessing a personable disposition, charisma and intellectual fortitude, Malath gained wide adulation and support from students at Rumbek Secondary School who helped bolster his political mission and objective. This enabled him to defeat the veteran politician Samuel Arub Bol and win a seat in the People’s Regional Assembly. He joined the parliament in Juba and became a staunch advocate for separation of Southern Sudan from Sudan. Malath also addressed the plight many Southerners faced and the innate right of each person to live a dignified life not fraught with fear and death. Along with his close friend and politician, Joseph Oduho, Malath was falsely accused of attempting to overthrow the government of Pres. Gafaar Nimeiri on February 2, 1977. As a result, Malath, Oduho and Benjamin Bol Akok were imprisoned in Juba then later sent to Kober Prison in Khartoum. A committee was formed to investigate the politicians. They found no credible proof of their involvement in the coup or an adverse behavior that would warrant their imprisonment; nonetheless, Malath, Oduho and Bol Akok remained in detention. When Pres. Nimeiri took the conciliatory position by extending a peace accord to political dissidents and prisoners, Malath and his colleagues were released.

In 1978, Malath returned to Rumbek to contest for his parliamentary seat. He lost the seat that year and also in 1980. By 1982, he won and regained his parliamentary seat. As a member of parliament, he strongly opposed the redivision of Southern Sudan during the period Kokora which would adversely fragment the society into tribal institutions. By this time, the Addis Ababa Agreement was collapsing and tension was brewing between Southern Sudan and the Sudan government. Malath began traveling across the Southern region to organize for the impending rebellion that would lead to the formation of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in 1983. He then joined the SPLM/A and held the position of captain of Shell III and was also chairman of the Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (SRRA) at Boma, Southern Sudan.

In 1986, the movement sent Malath to Ethiopia and sought to utilize the network he had established while a student in the country. Additionally, the fact that Malath was fluent in the Ethiopian dialects of Amharic and Tigrinya was beneficial to the movement. Thus, with a number of his former classmate now working as officials in the Ethiopian government and having a keen understanding of Ethiopia’s political system, Malath delved into establishing a cooperative relationship between the Ethiopian government and the SPLM/A. He also played a critical role in establishing contact with the Red Cross and sought assistance for Southerners who had fled Sudan. Malath was also instrumental in setting up the SRRA office is Addis Ababa. Additionally, he helped form of SPLA radio in Ethiopia which broadcasted news and information about the conflict and ongoing negotiations between the SPLM/A and the Sudan government.

The movement recalled Malath to Southern Sudan and sent him to the frontlines under Arok Thon Arok. He fought in the battles in the Akobo area. While in the frontlines, Malath voiced his concern about the political stance and direction of the movement. His opinions did not sit well with some. In alliance with Joseph Oduho and Martin Majier Gai, Malath called for the establishment of democratic structures within the movement. This led to his imprisonment in 1987. He was imprisoned for 5 years and was killed while in detention in Moroto Kajo Keji county in Eastern Equatoria.

Malath is survived by 3 wives (1 wife having passed away) and 21 children. The country and people of South Sudan lost an astute and nationalist figure, who was a beacon of hope to many. May his soul rest in peace.

© Copyright, Hon. Mangar Amerdid

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