“Today marks 67 years since the Torit Mutiny took place when a group of Southern Sudanese soldiers of the Southern Equatoria Corps revolted against the Sudan government. The rebellion of August 18th, 1955 led to decades of armed conflict between South and North Sudan which ended when South Sudan gained its independence from North Sudan in July 2011,” The 67th anniversary of August 18, 1955, Torit Mutiny that launched the 50 years revolutionary struggle of South Sudanese against Khartoum, culminating in the independence of South Sudan in July 2011.
the situation in South Sudan before the Uprising
Saturday, August 18, 2018 (PW) — In order to understand the causes and events that led to the Uprising, a brief look at the situation obtained in Sudan, particularly Southern Sudan, both politically and administratively is necessary. Those were as follows:
Firstly, Sir Alexander Knox Helm, the British Governor General was still the supreme power in the country. Secondly, The British army was still in Sudan, in Khartoum and Port Sudan. Thirdly, Ismail El Azhari was the Prime Minister (PM) in charge of the Self-Government (Executive).
Fourthly, the National Unionist Party of PM El Azhari was the majority in the Parliament of 97 members. For Southern representation in the Parliament, there were 23 seats. Out of those 23, 11 were members of the Liberal Party while the other 12 were either Independents or members of Northern political parties, especially of PM El Azhari’s National Unionist Party.
Fifthly, the Sudanization of senior posts in the administration, police, military, and prisons had been completed. But Southerners were very disappointed with the outcome because, out of about 900 such posts, only four went to the South.
Sixthly, there was the battalion size Equatoria Corps, sometimes called Southern Corps, of the Sudan Defense Force, with its headquarters at Torit It was solely composed of Southerners with Northern officers, who had just replaced the British officers. The Equatoria Corps was composed of five companies deployed as follows: Headquarters and No. 2 Company in Torit; No 3 Company in Wau; No. 4 Company in Kapoeta; and No. 5 Company in Malakal. There were platoon-size units scattered in many parts of the South, e.g., Juba and Yambio. There however were a handful of Non-Commissioned Southern Officers from the ranks, such as Reynaldo Loleya, Ali Gbatala, Mändiri Onjekye, Taffeng Lodongi, Albino Tombe, Nyang Diu, and a few others.
Seventhly, also by now the administrators in the South, i.e., Governors, DCs, and Mamurs, were all Northerners, except for a handful of Southerners who were mostly Mamurs, junior administrators. The same situation goes for the police and prison forces.
Eighthly, politically the Southerners were angry and
disappointed with the connivance of the Egyptians and Northerners which excluded him from the Cairo Talks that prescribed the steps towards self-determination, Sudanization of posts, and thereafter independence. MP Benjamin Lwoki Chairman of the Liberal Party and Paul Logali, Chairman of the Juba Political Committee, respectively vehemently expressed this sentiment. Thus, Southerners were much against getting independence unprepared with Northerners, fearing that the Northerners would mistreat them and bring back the days of slavery. There, therefore, was much resentment against Northerners, especially in Equatoria, and great support for the federation of the South.
Ninthly, English was the official language in Southern Sudan used in Government offices and schools. Southerners, especially the government officials were alarmed when in December 1948, the Minister of Education Ali Abdel Rahman announced that Arabic would be the only official language in the government offices and therefore had to be taught in schools.
Significant events leading to the Uprising
By 1954, the demand for federation had grown and the need to prevent Sudan from getting independence by doing something practical was also increasing. Hence, clandestine groups, contacts, and meetings began between some members of the Southern Sudan Welfare Association (SSWA), the Liberal Party, and some elements of the Equatoria Corps in Torit, as to how to realize it. Several incidents, however, provided the prelude to the uprising
From early 1955 to July 1955
About the month of April/May, a telegram in cipher purportedly arrived at Juba post office. It was received by a Southern clerk who was on duty at the time. This man stole the key to the cipher from his Northern boss’ drawer and thereby obtained the original Arabic version. The content was translated into English by Fraser Ako. The telegram reportedly contained a directive from PM El Azhari to all Northern administrators in the South not to tolerate the childish complaint of Southerners about federation and also admonishing them to suppress/mistreat those who advocated for it.
The content of that telegram was widely circulated throughout the South by Danie
Jumi and Marko Rume, members of the Juba Secret Committee in Juba. For this, they were arrested. A crowd gathered to protest their arrest and it was dispersed by the police using tear gas. This incident heightened the nascent anti-North feeling among the officials and the general public. It is possible that a plot most have been hatched between the politicians in Juba and the soldiers in Torit, notably NCO Renaldo Loleya, Private Saturlino, and others
Earlier in the year, the Liberal Party called for an all-inclusive Southern Conference to be held in Juba in the month of July to discuss the demand for the federation of the South. PM Ismail El Azhari and the Northerners were very much alarmed to learn that their Southern NUP members were going to attend it. That made them realize that indeed, there was a real demand for federation among all Southerners, irrespective of party affiliation. They feared that if not arrested, it could delay the impending independence of Sudan; and therefore, they made up their minds to frustrate it
July 1955. Hence, in their own effort to show that the demand for federation was not supported by the people and their chiefs, the DC and ADC of Yambio called the Zande chiefs and falsely obtained their signatures in a document, dissociating themselves from the demand for federation, as was being articulated by the Liberal Party as well as by the educated Southerners. That document was telegraphically sent to Khartoum and the government made wide publicity about it. The content of the telegraph annoyed the Liberal Party, especially its member for Yambio, MP Eliya Kuze
In the same month, a telegram written in cipher arrived at the Juba post office. It was received by a
On 6 and 7 July, the Liberal Party Conference was duly held in Juba. Deliberations and resolutions of that Conference remain unknown
On 7 July, while the Liberal Party Conference was going on in Juba, MP Eliya Kuze called a meeting of 300-500 Zandes in Yambio. In the meeting, he condemned the chiefs for signing the letter that dissociated themselves from the federation, which he said was a popular demand of Southerners. He told the crowd that in view of that, all the chiefs who signed the letter should be removed. The chiefs reacted angrily at the suggestion of their removal and encouraged by the DC ordered the arrest of Eliya.
On 25 July, The
chiefs tried Eliya and sentenced him to two years imprisonment. When the verdict was announced, a crowd of 700 staged a demonstration outside the court. The police had to disperse it using tear gas. (Comment: indeed, the DC knew that Eliya as an MP could not be arrested and tried by such a very low court just like that and without his parliamentary immunity being removed. But he allowed it to go on. However, later the Chief Justice in Khartoum ordered a re-trial and he was released.)
On 26 July, the very next day, the workers at the Spinning and Weaving Factory at Nzara staged a demonstration over two main issues: the dismissal of 300 of their colleagues; and the demand for federation. They shouted anti-North slogans at their senior members of the management who were Northerners. The few policemen at Nzara could not handle the situation and so the management called for help from the army unit at Yambio. The army arrived and when the crowd refused to disperse, the Northern officer in charge, Muatassim Abdel Rahman, ordered the army to open fire and 14 persons were shot dead. Those were the first Southern lives to be lost in the struggle with the North. The news of the killing of the workers traveled far and wide, especially in Equatoria, and heightened the already existing tension and resentment of Northerners. With this and by the end of July, the stage was set for a full-scale rebellion in Equatoria
On 06 August in Torit, Private Saturlino Oboyo shot at a man with an arrow, who he mistook to be one of the Northern officers. He was arrested and his house was searched. In the search several documents were found, indicating the plan to kill all Northern officers and taking over Torit and possibly Juba. The document indicated that Private Saturlino, who styled himself as “President of the Southern Corps”, was in contact with some Liberal Party members in Juba. Other names found in the documents were of Non-Commissioned Officers Reynaldo Loleya, Taffeng Lodongi, and others. In fact, earlier and when he was in Juba with Reynaldo, Saturlino had wanted to start the action there and then, but Reynaldo dithered. It quite likely that the aim of the uprising was a last-ditch effort to either delay the impending independence of Sudan, which Southerners in general detested, or declare outright independence of Southern Sudan.
The information (plot) found in Saturlino’s house was relayed to Khartoum and in reaction, PM El Azhari's government took the following actions: neutralize the plot
To immediately decapitate the troops in Torit: So, on 08 August, Taffeng, who was reputed to be a soldier’s soldier, a good marksman, and a good leader was requested to go to Juba and to proceed to Khartoum, ostensibly for official duties. However, upon arriving at Juba, he was promptly arrested. Later, Reynaldo was also requested to go to Juba with some soldiers and upon arrival at Juba, he was also put under some semi arrest
To send Northern troops to Juba: Hence, Northern troops were ferried by the British Royal Air Force planes to Juba (first time since 1926) in order to protect Juba, since his government could no longer trust the Southern soldiers to obey orders.
To arrest collaborators: So, Daniel Jumi and Marko Rume of the SSWA and also of the Secret Committee in Juba were arrested
To remove the No. 2 Company in Torit: A stratagem was worked out to the effect that the No. 2 Company should go to Khartoum in order to participate in the celebrations, marking the departure of the British soldiers in Sudan. But that they were to go without their arms. The soldiers obviously found that very strange, since they argued, that they had always traveled from Juba to Khartoum with their arms. They were told that they would be issued their arms in Khartoum upon arrival. That did not satisfy them. Given the tense political situation, they felt that that was a ploy to get them away from the South and so they became very suspicious and openly expressed their unwillingness to go to Khartoum. As we shall see in the next paragraph, this stratagem, however, failed and it turned out to be the spark that started the first Southern uprising against a united Sudan and Northerners, in general, This uprising, though only in Equatoria, inspired the subsequent Southern resistance movement to Northern domination.
Thursday 18 August 1955 was the date for the departure of No. 2 Company for Juba and Khartoum. With their arms in the armory, they were paraded in the morning with lorries at the ready for them to mount and move to Juba. But when they were ordered to climb the lorries, they refused and repeated their concern about being sent to Khartoum without their arms. In the ensuing altercation, the officer commanding the parade, Captain Salah Abdel Magid who was to lead the convoy ordered his driver to enter the car, but the driver refused. Treating it as disobedience, Salah shot him dead and the parade broke up immediately. The soldiers ran amok and broke into the armory and began to kill their Northern officers as well as Northern civilians in Torit. Officer Salah, who shot the soldier, got into the car and fled to Juba
The news of the incident in Torit reached Juba between 9:00 -10:00 am and an attempt was also made to disarm the soldiers in Juba under NCO Ali Gbatala. They were paraded
in front of the Northern troops and were ordered to put down their weapons. But they also refused and the Northern troops fired on them. NCO Ali Gbatala and his men ran and escaped with their arms Those soldiers took their lorries and drove out of Juba, telling the people along the roads of Juba-Lainya-Yei and Lainya-Mundri-Maridi-Yambio that Northerners had shot and killed many people in Juba (the writer was then a pupil at Loka and saw those soldiers). In their anger, the people joined the rebellion and began to kill any Northerners they saw. Hence, Northerners were killed in Kapoeta, Katire, Torit, Loka West, Yei, Mundri, Tali, Amadi, Terekeka, Maridi, Ibba, Yambio, and Nzara. NCO Reynaldo Loleya also escaped back to Torit. So, for a whole month or so, the government in Juba and Khartoum lost control of Equatoria, except for Juba town. In view of that, the government brought more soldiers from the North to restore law and order. On the other hand, except for high tension, Upper Nile and Bahr El Ghazal were not affected and their people did not rise up against the government; nor did they kill any Northerners.
PM El Azhari’s Government requested the Governor General, Sir Alexander Knox Helm to intervene, as he was still the supreme head in Sudan. Subsequently, the Governor General got in touch with Reynaldo in Torit and put very strong pressure on him to surrender, giving him a false assurance. Reynaldo conveyed the Governor General’s message to Ali Gbatala. On 24 August, Ali strongly advised Reynaldo not to surrender. But despite that advice, on 28 August Reynaldo surrendered. He then was tasked by the Governor General to collect the soldiers and their arms. Using the Governor General’s false assurance, he convinced the ordinary soldiers and they began to surrender in droves. As a soldier, Reynaldo should have known that a court martial usually awaits any soldier who mutinies. But Reynaldo naively trusted the Governor General, just because he was British, just as many Southerners were wont to trust the British during those days. After having been used, he paid for this with his life
Repercussions and reprisals
In the meantime, more Northern troops were brought and deployed in all towns in Southern Sudan. In Equatoria, well-armed Northern troops were sent along Juba-Torit-Kapoeta; Juba-Yei; and Juba-Lainya-Mundri-Maridi-Yambio roads to restore
government presence in those towns. On their way, they beat up persons whom they suspected to be involved in the uprising, On Torit Road they not only beat up those they suspected to have been involved in the killing of Northerners but shot dead many ordinary persons. This aggravated the negative feeling against the Northerners and the government
As soon as the Northern troops had secured the towns and administration had been restored, the government set up a Commission of Inquiry to look into what it called the so-called ‘Southern Sudan Disturbances’. It also set up a Court Martial to try the soldiers and a ‘Special Court’ to try the police, prison staff, and civilians. Very briefly, below is what the courts dispensed
The Court Martials
Right away after the surrender, NCO Albino Tombe was arrested in Torit, tortured, and killed even before the court-martial. And after completing the task of collecting the soldiers and their arms, NCO Reynaldo was arrested, court-martialed, and executed, together with reportedly 200 others. NCOs Taffeng Lodongi, Mändiri Onjekye and others were tried and jailed in Port Sudan. While NCO Ali Gbatala escaped to the bush in Congo and ex-policeman Lutada Hillier escaped to the Imatong Mountains and both continued to fight the government.
The Special Courts
For the police and prison warders in Equatoria, all were disbanded, except for those in Juba. All those who were accused of conspiracy were tried and some were executed. For example, in Yambio police officers Placido Loboke and Marcelo Andal as well as prison officer Olympio Lako were tried and executed. For the rank-and-file police and warders, after disarmament, screened and most were dismissed with dishonor. The disarmament process, however, did not proceed smoothly. For example, at Yei and Amadi, the police were told to come and collect their salaries which they had missed for two months or so. They were paraded in front of Northern troops and fire was opened on them on the pretext that they were running away. Those shot dead at Yei reportedly were six at Amadi two were shot dead, Aleli and Eluzai Lomo. At Maridi, all policemen were arrested and tried some were imprisoned and others discharged. While others like Ädugä, Elikia Janga, Gorobe, and his son Alexander and others were executed over the killing of the ADC. It is also worth noting here that, when Ädugä was condemned and was taken to the firing squad, as a show of defiance, he refused to be blindfolded, telling his executioners that, when he shot
the ADC, the ADC was not blind-folded. His wish was granted and was shot while looking at the barrels of the guns. Ädugä was remembered for his bravery through locally composed songs. Similar treatment was meted out to the police in the Eastern Bank of Torit and Kapoeta
For the civilians, those who were alleged to have taken part in the uprising were arrested and many were tortured. Some of them were shot and others were imprisoned. In the trials at Maridi, those who were killed by firing squad to mention a few: Samuel Kajivora (Headmaster Mundri Elementary School) and William Ano (Book Seller) for the death of the Arabic teacher Bilal by the Torit soldiers. Joseph Oduho (Headmaster Mundri Intermediate School) was sentenced to death for the killing of Arabic teacher Bilal but was commuted to imprisonment Bullen Ngangi (Headmaster Maridi Elementary School) was executed for the death of the DC and assumed the office of the DC. In Tali, Natania Wajo was executed for the death of a Northern merchant in the town. In Yei, among the many others executed, was Michael Wata an Assistant Executive Officer
Those who were imprisoned included Lewis Lado Gore, Head Clerk, (Maridi), Chief Eliya Kundu of Lainya (Yei), and many more. In the other Districts of Equatoria, similar trials took place with similar results. Those were the people whose initial struggle and sacrifice eventually led to the struggle under SPLA/M I hope has given you a brief but full picture of that historical Uprising.
August 18th, 1955 Torit Mutiny, “Lest we forget”
By Hon. Peter O. Kleto Aharanya
Today August 18th, 1955, I am calling on all South Sudanese to pay tribute and respect to the martyrs who have sacrificed their dear lives to free the marginalized people of Sudan, specifically the black Africans from the chains of slavery, dictatorship, and corruption, racism, and anarchy. The govt of Ismail Al Azhari introduced a divide and rule policy.
The plan by the leadership in Khartoum which was designed in 1954 was to order all the Southern forces, especially those who were in the British King Rifle to be scattered in Northern Provinces so that they would only be individuals and would have no time to regroup or plan any insurrection against its oppressive and discriminatory policies against the black Southerners
As the leadership under Ismail Alzhari was planning its evil plan, the commanders from the British King Rifle unit in Torit namely, Commander Emedio Tafeng, Commander Oleyo, Cdr Latada, and others inspired by the late Roman Catholic Priest turned rebel, Hon.
Fr. Saturlino Ohure Hilangi organize a mutiny. The Torit mutiny was organized to take place on the evening of August 17th, 1955 at 11p.m Sudanese local time, but because the enemy intelligence was closely monitoring through the eyes of the traitors from within, the group decided to extend it to August 18th, 1955 and even change the time to around 6 pm.
When the Arab General Ali called for a military parade to implement the above evil plan, Cdr. Emedio Tafeng Odongi shot him immediately in the head leading to a heavy battle that lasted for a day and a half leaving the historic Town and land of the brave Otuho people smeared with blood and the Hinate River filled with blood as well.
The group withdrew from the town to the bushes and were joined by politicians who inspired them like the late Fr. Saturlino Ohure Hilangi in Mosingo (note Mozingo is a historic assembly area between South Sudan and Uganda Border). The amnesty which was offered by Khartoum was rejected.
This marks the beginning of the liberation struggle in our country and this mutiny inspired many South Sudanese to fight against the successive regimes in Khartoum, it inspired the Anya Nya two, it inspired the SPLM/A.
The battle to clear all the Torit mutineers who were assembled in Mosingo barrack was called the mother of the battles by the enemies. They fought for almost 15 days and the enemies were crushed with unaccounted numbers Otuho has sung a song in memory of that battle. Let me end this with that song.
“Inya Hire Ikiana Latada, Inya Hire Ikiana Lanyahuo Jihong, Taruhani Mosingo, yoo Kiyaha Yomo, Ining iyye Neringo tulo Ofifil *2). This song talks of how the vultures fed on the enemies' bodies after the battle which was commanded by late Hero Cdr. Latada.
Today is a great day and let us celebrate it, remember it, and pass this history to our coming Generations.
Thank you. May the souls of our heroes rest in peace and May God bless South Sudan.
By: Hon. Peter Oyoyo Kleto Aharanya.