Eulogy of Gen. Gabriel Achuoth Deng: Celebrating the Life of Gen. Achuoth Deng Achuoth (Kärkäwään)

Posted: July 8, 2019 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Columnists, Featured Articles, History, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers, PaanLuel Wël, People

Tributes in Living Memory to Gen. Gabriel Achuoth Deng: Celebrating the Inspirational Life and Times of a South Sudanese Iconic Freedom Fighter and Veteran Politician, Gen. Achuoth Deng Achuoth (Kärkäwään)

By PaanLuel Wël, Juba, South Sudan

Eulogy of Gen. Gabriel Achuoth Deng: Celebrating the Life and Times of Gen. Achuoth Deng Achuoth (Kärkäwään)
Eulogy of Gen. Gabriel Achuoth Deng: Celebrating the Life and Times of Gen. Achuoth Deng Achuoth (Kärkäwään)

Monday, July 7, 2019 (PW) — On the 16th of May, 1983, when the war of liberation struggle broke out in Bor, Jonglei State, the leadership of the Underground Movement dispatched Gen. Gabriel Achuoth Deng Achuoth (Deng-Kärkäwään) to Khartoum to warn and enlighten their members in the north that the new armed revolutionary movement, occasioned by the mutiny in Bor, was not going to be the usual South Sudanese reactionary movement fixated on the ‘Southern Problem’ at the expenses of the rights, justice and freedom for the marginalized people of the Sudan. In his book, Wars and a New Vision for the Sudan: A Political Lesson, which was published in 2005, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään explained thus: “When John Garang withdrew from Bor for Ethiopia, it was the same time that I left for Khartoum. This was to come and explain to the forces of the revolution in that part of the country the objective of the new movement. That the new movement should not be mistaken as the usual Southern reactionary movement for the separation of the South.”[1]

The Underground Movement was established by progressive officers of the Anyanya One movement as a result of the fallout from the aborted coup d’état in Lobone against the leadership of Gen. Joseph Lagu in 1972 following the signing of the Addis Ababa Agreement. These progressive officers, on whose behalf Captain John Garang wrote his historical 1972 letter to Gen. Joseph Lagu, were bitterly opposed to the signing of the Addis Ababa Accord, in preference for the continuation of war for the total liberation and separation of South Sudan. After the failure of their coup against their boss, Gen. Joseph Lagu, and their subsequent absorption into the Sudanese army as per the stipulations of the 1972 peace accord, the progressive officers formed a clandestine organization, the Underground Movement, within the rank and file of the national army. Their first leader was Gen. Emmanuel Abuur Nhial (Abuur-Matuong) and then Gen. Albino Akol Akol after the killing of Gen. Emmanuel Abuur Nhial in 1976 and later by Col. John Garang after his return from the USA in 1982.

The founding members of the Underground Movement were senior progressive officers of the Anyanya Movement, namely, Gen. Emmanuel Abuur Nhial, Gen. Alison Manani Magaya, Gen. Alfred Deng Aluk, Gen. Stephen Madut Baak, Gen. Paul Awel Ruai, Gen. Camilo Odongi, Gen. Habakkuk Soro, Gen. Disan Ojwe Olweny, Gen. Albino Akol Akol, Captain John Garang, and Sergeant Chagai Atem Biar who was chosen as the courier to coordinate the clandestine activities of this secret cell with members stationed across the country. On the eve of Bor Uprising, the prominent members of the Underground Movement were Col. John Garang, Major Arok Thon Arok, Major Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, Major William Nyuon Bany, Captain Salva Kiir Mayardit, and Chagai Atem Biar, among numerous others, stationed across the country – both in the South and the North.

This was the context in which Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään, who was by then a core member of the clandestine group, found himself being sent to Khartoum to enlighten, mobilize and organize their members in the North, as his comrades were heading to Ethiopia to launch the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/SPLA), following the resumption of the war of liberation in Bor, on 16 May 1983. Once in Khartoum, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään briefed their members about the new development in Bor, the objective of the new movement that was being launched in Ethiopia, and the mass mobilization, recruitment and training of the new army for the liberation of the Sudan. “This explanation,” writes Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään in his book, “got understood and a coordination between the SPLM Khartoum office and the organization of the forces of the revolution in Khartoum were made with two people making the coordination; one lawyer representing the forces of the revolution and Dr. Lam Akol representing the SPLM Khartoum secret office.”

Once he was done with the sensitization, mobilization and organization of the members of the Underground Movement in Khartoum, he was again dispatched to Malakal, Upper Nile, to undertake the same assignment.  He accomplished that mission after three months. A standing committee of the members of the Underground Movement in Malakal was formed with “a Protestant priest” as the head, Meshack Ajang Alaak (who later founded Kakuma refugee camp with Jesh el-Amer in 1992) as secretary general and Martyr Captain Chir Nhial representing the armed forces in Malakal. However, the regime got reports of his clandestine activities. “I was advised to move away from Malakal as quickly as possible because the security had discovered the secret organization,” he later recalled in his book. “It was therefore decided in the presence of Lam Akol that I should go to Juba and join Comrade James Wani and with him work between Bor and Juba for sometime before I go finally to the movement,” in Ethiopia.

CDR Kuol Manyang Juuk, CDR Achuoth Deng Achuoth and Bishop Nathaniel Garang Anyieth during the war of liberation
CDR Kuol Manyang Juuk, CDR Achuoth Deng Achuoth (Karkawaan) and Bishop Nathaniel Garang Anyieth during the war of liberation

But his flight from Malakal to Juba was ill-fated. No sooner had he left Malakal town on February 12, 1984, when members of the secret standing committee of SPLM/SPLA in Malakal were all arrested by the national security, including Meshack Ajang Alaak and Captain Chir Nhial. And while their boat, full of civilians, was enroute to Juba via Bor from Malakal, the SPLM/SPLA’s Jamus Battalion received incorrect information that “a boat full with enemy troops was coming from Malakal towards Bor-Juba direction.” By that time in 1984, Jamus Battalion had been trained, graduated and dispatched to Bahr el Ghazal region, under the leadership of CDR Kawach Makwei and CDR Bol Ayuotnom, to conduct sensitization, mobilization and recruitment as well as to carry out strategic military operations against Khartoum regime. Based on that false message, forces from the Jamus Battalion laid a deadly ambush at Wathkech station, a small Nuer fishing village on the Eastern bank of the Nile where Jamus Battalion had stationed for the night before crossing to the Western bank on their way to Bahr el Ghazal.

As Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään explained, “The vessel arrived at the station at about 1am of February 12, 1984. According to the SPLA, they gave a signal warning, which, according to them, was replied by the enemy troops in the boat and both sides exchanged the firing, when the SPLA at once used its all arms against the boat, destroying it into pieces. It was estimated that about two thousand passengers were on board and was also estimated that half of the passengers drowned or were killed.” Fortunately, in that regrettable carnage, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään survived with serious injuries, which almost deformed his right leg, forcing him to use walking stick for the rest of his life. In the morning of the following day, Jamus forces realized that they had been shooting at a civilian boat and began rescuing the survivors. As an ardent communist activist and politician who gave President Nimeiri a hard time on numerous occasions, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään was both intrigued and impressed by one incident that occurred during the rescue process that morning.

He expounded:  “Now it was morning at about 7.30am; we saw people with canoes rowing towards our direction, coming from the eastern bank of the Nile where the boat had been destroyed. One SPLA soldier, as he was approaching us, called back to his comrades and said, ‘Comrades! Come! Come and see a fat bourgeoisie. Is he a judge or a merchant?’ I was fat and looked different from the rest of the people. I said to myself, ‘thank goodness! You SPLA have now known what a bourgeoisie is’? I was very much impressed with the great difference, which had happened to the SPLA. The soldiers calling me a bourgeoisie were, a few months ago, just Nuer villagers, as I could judge from their broken Arabic. Now they could measure and judge people based on their personal appearance of being fat and they could tell a bourgeoisie from the common man, which was a very high level of political consciousness that these poor peasants had reached within a very short time. They had been able to detect that people who were fat may have a lot of property and as such must have connection with capitalism. That kind of political consciousness made me convinced that the movement was going in a good direction…”

After being rescued, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään was taken to meet with CDR Kawach Makwei and CDR Bol Ayuotnom, both of whom apologized profusely for the loss of innocent life.

Eulogy of Gen. Gabriel Achuoth Deng: Celebrating the Life and Times of Gen. Achuoth Deng Achuoth (Kärkäwään)
Eulogy of Gen. Gabriel Achuoth Deng: Celebrating the Life and Times of Gen. Achuoth Deng Achuoth (Kärkäwään)

Gen. Gabriel Achuoth Deng Achuoth – popularly known as Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään – passed away on Wednesday, 3 July 2019, in Juba, surrounded by his family, after a short illness. “Hon. Gabriel Achuoth-dit was an excellent father, grandfather, uncle, and a historian who enjoys telling young South Sudanese stories about liberation struggle and nation building,” says the family. He was born in 1936 into a peasant Dinka family at Piombioor village in Kongor District, presently Kongor County of Jonglei State, Upper Nile Region of the historical Sudan. He was the third child of five children, three boys and two girls, born to Mzee Deng Achuoth Panyagor from Wut Kongor (Biordit, Anyang, Pan-Yong, Pan-Abeny) and Mama Akech Longar from Wut Adhiok (Mar-Ajok), both of Twi Dinka from the Greater Bor Dinka Community.

From his biological mother, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään had two brothers (Panyagor and Arok) and two sisters (Abeny and Akuach). His mother was the 1st wife among the three wives, and over eleven children (5 boys and 6 girls), of Mzee Dengdit D’Achuoth Panyagor Yong. The second wife of Mzee Dengdit D’Achuoth was Achok from Wut Kongor and her children are Nyandeng, Abany and Achuoth; while the third wife was Angeth Bol Chol from Wut Kongor (Pande Bioor), and her children were Abany, Adaau and Achuoth. Following in the footsteps of his father, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään was married to four wives and was blessed with twelve children – nine sons and three daughters, and survived by fifteen grandchildren – nine boys and six girls. His first wife, Rebecca Akuch Anyuon Nhial from Wut Juet (Jak), blessed him with six sons (Dengdit, late Panyagor, Anyuon, Yong, late Majok and Chol) and two daughters (Abeny and Akuach). Dengdit is currently a colonel in the national army, Panyagor was martyred as a captain in 1991, and Akuach is married to a white Canadian. His second wife is Riak Deng Jok from Wut Ajuong (Nyopiny) and her kid is Dengthii-1 Achuoth Deng; Third wife is Adiu Daau Magar from Wut Abek (Pagueng) and her kid is Dengthii-2 Achuoth Deng, while the fourth wife is Apajok Garang Bul from Wut Kongor (Pande Bioor) and her kids are Yong Achuoth Deng and Abany Achuoth Deng.

Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään went to Kongor Bush School in 1947 and then Malek Primary School in 1949. In 1953, he left for Khartoum in search of further studies, where he matriculated at Khartoum Technical Institute (KTI) for a 2-year clerical course. After graduation, he went to Malakal in 1957 where he got employed as a clerk at the department of veterinary services. Hardly had he started his job when he was arrested in 1957 and detained for eight months by security forces following the 1955 Torit mutiny, which had poisoned relationship between Khartoum regime and the South. After his detention, he returned to Khartoum in 1960 and enrolled in Journalism by correspondence, after which he became assistant editor of Advance Newspaper in 1964 and an active member of the Journalist Union, championing the rights and freedom of the South. That often put him at odds with the government of Prime Minister Mohammed Ahmed Magoub, which arrested him several times and eventually shut down his newspaper.

In the advent of 1968 general election, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään went to Bor to contest for the position of MP. The elections were politically charged with animosity between the Northerners and Southerners. As the result, the arrival of Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään in Bor in early 1967 coincided with the mass arrest and killing of 24 chiefs, including the Greater Bor Dinka Paramount Chief Ajang Duot Bior, father to Lt. Gen. Bior-asuot. “The elections became so risky because the candidates of the government were the northern merchants who had participated in the killing of the chiefs and were determined to defeat us if not to kill us,” Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään later revealed. Consequently, the elections were rigged in favor of local Jallaba traders in Bortown. Of the three positions for MPs – Bor South, Bor Center and Bor North constituencies – two were taken by Jallaba traders representing the National Unionist Party (NUP), while a third was taken by Elijah Ajith Mayom of the Liberal Party of Father Saturnino Lohure, the pioneering father of the South Sudanese liberation struggle. It was in these elections that William Deng Nhial was assassinated while on a campaign trail in 1968.

Gabriel Achuoth Deng, "Wars and a New Vision for the Sudan: A Political Lesson (2005)"
Gabriel Achuoth Deng, “Wars and a New Vision for the Sudan: A Political Lesson (2005)”

Dejected by the outcomes of the rigged elections and deeply appalled by the heinous massacre of 24 customary authorities, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään decided to return to Khartoum to continue with his political agitation. “While they were preparing to leave for Khartoum, they received complaint from the remnants of the chiefs and citizens of Bortown to the effect that they would be in danger from the security forces if they would leave. They told them that sometimes, the security people fear when politicians are around.” Thus, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään decided to remain in Bortown; he immediately embarked on bringing peaceful coexistence between the despised northern security forces and the terrorized local civil authorities. A meeting ensued and a joint peace committee was established to draw up and implement peace program.

Thereafter, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään left for Juba where he helped to organize and launch a national peace program under the chairmanship of the late Rev. Amusa Gama Provos of Juba Cathedral and with Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään as secretary general. The national peace organization was launched on August 18, 1967. Two days later, 20 August 1967, reports came from Bor that security forces had killed two prominent chiefs – Chief Ayom Door and Chief Alier Leek, both of Paleck section of the Bor Dinka community. Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään constituted a 3-person delegation in Juba and rushed back to Bor to investigate the circumstances of the killing, which occurred on the heels of the mass killing of 24 customary authorities. The investigation resulted in the arrest of three policemen who were charged with the murdered of two prominent chiefs.

As a candidate of the Southern Democratic Party, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään unsuccessfully contested the 1968 elections in Juba Constituency against the late Hilary Paul Logali of South Front. In 1970, following his illustrious performance in the national peace program, President Nimeiri nominated Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään to a High Committee representing the Sudan Peace Council. “The High Committee was charged with drafting of the National Charter for the revolutionary government” of President Nimeiri who had seized power in 1969. In May 1970, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään was elected a member of the World Peace Council in a world peace conference held in Budapest, Hungary, along with three other members representing the Sudan – the Joseph Garang, the late Shepia Mohammed el Shiek and the late Ambrose Wuol Dhal Wol.

However, following the failed communist-backed coup by Major Hashem el-Ata, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään, who was a passionate and ardent supporter of the communist party, was arrested on July 22, 1971 and detained for over a year. Following the failed military coup, President Nimeiri executed several leaders of the Sudan Communist Party, including Joseph Garang, the firebrand Marxist intellectual, who was the first South Sudanese to obtain a law degree from Khartoum University and who later became minister for Southern Affairs under Nimeiri regime before he was executed on July 28, 1971. Joseph Ukel Garang Wel is better known for his famous essay, The Dilemma of the Southern Intellectual: Is It Justified?, which he authored in 1971. Following the execution of the communist leaders, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään became a bitter enemy of President Nimeiri. Legend has it that “he was usually arrested before any planned visit of President Nimeri to Juba due to his Communist inclination.”

After the signing of the Addis Ababa Accord in 1972, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään was appointed by the regional government as assistant commissioner for rural development in Bor, and later promoted to the post of director of rural development in the Upper Nile region following the re-division of the South intro three mini-regions in 1984.

Gen. Gabriel Achuoth Deng Achuoth joined the SPLM/SPLA in 1984, and later rose within the rank and file of the movement to the highest rank of the movement – CDR – by 2005 when the comprehensive peace agreement was signed between Khartoum and the SPLM/SPLA. Because of his strong communist background, he was tasked by the leadership of the movement to establish diplomatic relations with, and open an SPLM/SPLA office in, Cuba in 1985. He later led the first batch of the SPLM/SPLA officers and soldiers to Cuba in 1986. He was the first SPLM/SPLA representatives – ambassador – to Cuba, where he led the office for three years. It has to be recalled that Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään joined the movement with his children who participated in the war of liberation and two of them fell in combat. Prominent among his children was 2nd Lt. Panyagoor Achuoth Deng (popularly known as Agoor) who fell in the battle of Domidola (Ethiopia), under the Command of CDR Salva Kiir Mayardit and CDR Majak Agoot Atem. His other children who participated in the movement are Colonel Dengdit Achuoth Deng, Dr. Yong Achuoth Deng, Anyuon Achuoth Deng, Dengthii Achuoth Deng, Akuach Achuoth Deng and Abany Achuoth Deng, all of whom were trained in Cuba.

Gabriel Achuoth Deng, "Wars and a New Vision for the Sudan: A Political Lesson (2005)"
Gabriel Achuoth Deng, “Wars and a New Vision for the Sudan: A Political Lesson (2005)”

In the aftermath of the 1991 Nasir coup, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään became the chairperson of the SPLM/SPLA Elders Committee after the previous chairperson, Lawrence Lual Lual, had given up the liberation struggle and surrendered himself to the NIF regime in Khartoum. In 1996, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään was instrumental in the failed attempt by Kongor community to reconcile and unite CDR Arok Thon Arok with CDR Dr. John Garang. His patriotic efforts were sabotaged by rogue elements within the movement who were not happy – felt threatened – by the potential return of CDR Arok Thon Arok to the movement. After the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the institution of the government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) in 2005, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään served as a member of Jonglei State Assembly from 2005 to 2010 after which he decided to retire from active politics.

During the requiem mass at Emmanuel Jieng Parish, Red Army officers who returned from Cuba carried his body in recognition of, and respect for, their former leader and comrade. On Saturday, 6 July 2019, President Kiir went to the airport to inspect the guard of honor for sending off his comrade. The plane then took his body to Kongor for burial, accompanied by prominent leaders from the government: Minister for Defense, Gen. Kuol Manyang Juuk; Chief of General Staff, Gabriel Jok Riak; Minister for Information, Michael Makwei Lueth; Legal Advisor to the President, Molana Majok Mading; Chairperson of the South Sudan’s National Bureau of Statistics and Census, Isaiah Chol Aruei (Chol-Amot), and Gen. Deng Garang Bany, among others

The beautiful military parades at the airport which was inspected by President Kiir as a farewell tribute, couple with the type of prominent leaders accompanying his body for burial in Kongor, is a great statement to, a recognition of, his immense contribution to the liberation struggle of the people of South Sudan, from his youth as a student political activist to his adult life as a prominent politicians, a firebrand communist member and a revolutionary freedom fighter for the liberation of South Sudan.

In life, Gen. Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään was a comrade-cum-rival-comrade to the late Gen Elijah Malok Aleng Mayen and a great friend to the late Gen. Chol Biowei. When the late Chol Biowei passed on, the late Elijah Malok was reported to have lamented that with the death of Chol Biowei, he was orphaned for Chol was the only “Bul” around he could gladly square it off with. Reportedly, Gen. Gabriel Achuoth feigned being offended for the statement had allegedly undermined his “bull-ness”, and Elijah Malokdit was reportedly compelled to apologize. The three leaders – Choldit, Malokdit and Achuothdit – who were legendary for their rivalries and friendships in life, must surely be excited to be reunited, once more, among the ancestors. R.I.P Gen. Gabriel Achuoth Deng Achuoth (Deng-Kärkäwään).

Postscript: The author would like to thank Yong Achuoth Deng-Kärkäwään for providing information on the family and appreciate Engineer Deng Diar Diing (Deng-Mayom) for editing the article.

PaanLuel Wël, the managing editor of PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website, graduated with a double major in Economics and Philosophy from The George Washington University, Washington D.C, USA, and currently works as a Project Coordinator for one of the international NGOs in South Sudan. He is the author of Pioocku Thuongjang: The Elementary Modern Standard Dinka (May, 2011), The A.B.C.D.: An Introductory Book into the English Alphabet (July, 2011) and Who Killed Dr. John Garang (July, 2015). He is also the Editor of The Genius of Dr. John Garang, vol. 1-3 (November, 2013), including Dr. John Garang’s Speeches on the War of Liberation (November, 2015) and Speeches on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (November, 2015), Salva Kiir Mayaardit: The Joshua of South Sudan (with Simon Yel Yel, February, 2011), as well as The Customary Laws of the Greater Bor Dinka Community: Legal and Basic Rules for Self-Administration (July, 2017).

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.

[1] Gabriel Achuoth Deng, Wars and a New Vision for the Sudan: A Political Lesson (2005)

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