It is May 16, again. We remember May 16, 1983, the beginning of Sudan’s Peoples Liberation Army’s (SPLA) struggle for the freedom and dignity of our people, a struggle that culminated in an independent South Sudan. Though our struggle didn’t begin there, we also mark the day of the Torit Mutiny, August 18, 1955. Our struggle even precedes that day, spans generations, and still continues in different forms.
This day is a personal legacy for so many whom we celebrate and remember. It is equally a collective legacy of our nation, South Sudan. This generation’s heritage and the pride of the next. SPLA, a name that once garnered so much awe and reverence in our people, has been battered beyond recognition. And though SPLA, through recent political strife, has been fractured and diminished time and again, I still choose to salute SPLA (the liberation war fighters), now and always.
Together we can preserve and pay tribute to the legacy of SPLA by retiring the word from use, be it in the names of current political parties and their armed groups, lest we tarnish it further. A political party/movement/army’s name is a rallying cry for action. I understand the political expediency of choosing a ready-made brand, a name with legacy. But every struggle needs its own name. It takes creativity to find a name with resonance and broad appeal. It is a task that needs not be further sidestepped by our political entities. Or are we still liberating Sudan?
As I take a moment to appreciate the sacrifices so many made for the love of country and people, I imagine that something propelled those young people towards concerted action on the day. Was it: Zeal? Fool-heartedness? Anger? Pride? Indignation? Marginalization? Discrimination? Mistreatment? Ambition? Coincidence? Circumstance? Perhaps, even a vision? Whatever their specific motivation, history judges them all heroes and heroines. They began a struggle that later included people from all over southern Sudan, Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, and further north of Sudan. Their struggle resulted in two Sudans, in which the history of their legacy is still in the making.
We mark the days, lest we forget. Yet we forget. We forget our veterans, widows, and orphans of fallen heroes and relegate them to destitution. We forget the slogans of the revolution and the promise to the people. We forget the vision and the cause of the countless sacrifices of life and limb. Lest we continue to forget, let us remember our shared pursuit for freedom and dignity and commit to creating the nation envisioned by our predecessors.
I salute our heroes and heroines, those who have transitioned and those still alive. And I charge you my brothers and sisters to “remember through works, not words!”
Happy May 16, South Sudan!
Happy SPLA Day, South Sudan!
** The featured image is a painting of an SPLA solider is by Abul Oyay.