General Ibrahim Abboud (1958-1964): The Policies of Entanglement and the Idea of Reshaping Southern Image.
By Mawien Makol Arik
After the independent in January, 1956, the notion of rapidly Arabizing and Islamising the South Sudan became the key political position of both two prominent parties (the Umma and the PDP of Khatmiyya sect). The rapid Islamisation of the South was already beginning to be seen as the true solution to the southern problem. During1958, the Dept. of Religious Affairs with the budget for 1958-59 of over $173,000, began to emerge as a powerful official agency for the strengthening and propagation of Islam in the Southern Sudan. Missions were already being excluded from effective participation in the Southern education. On the other hand, Northern merchants were being encouraged to open more enterprises in the South with the view to spreading Islam and Arabic language among Southerners.
At independent, although Southern MPs enjoyed a relatively political freedom of expression in that short-lived democratic process of the Country, a manifesto drafted by Ezbon Mondiri Gwanza (of Federal Party) was clearly intolerable to Northern MPs. The draft demanded: federal constitution to Sudan, recognition of both Christianity and Islam as the State religions, and both English and Arabic as official languages of the Country; in addition, the South was also to have a separate civil service and its own educational system to be crowned by a Southern university. Lingering Northern politics against Southern MPs and Southern Sudan remains the obstacle to the complete recognition of the Southern unique position. As a result, the Federal party MPs and its sympathasisers from other Southern parliamentarians pulled out from parliament in June, 1958, was a clear sign of Southern political dissatisfaction.
The Military take over in 1958, was obviously an instance of the failure of political parties in the period around independent to give the people the government dedicated to the solution of the economic problems and the problem of national unity. There was wide spread believe that the military coup was arranged behind close doors in order to further deprive Southern rights of political participation and excluded it from the Government and possibly assimilated it into the North. All promises that were made in favor of the South after independent were now thwarted as a result of this Military intervention. The new regime set out to suppress opposition in the South and stepped up the spread of Arabic and Islam in the belief that this was the only way to achieve unity in the future. The Government policy on the South was loudly echoed by the military administrators in the South. A considerable number of Qoranic (Islamic) schools were quickly established in different districts of the South and Islamic preachers were appointed. Six intermediate Islamic institutes were opened in Juba, Kodok, Wau, Maridi, Yei, and Raga. A secondary Islamic institute was opened in Juba, and center for preaching and religious (Islamic) instruction for adults was also established. The military governors and civil administrators devoted much of their time and their energies to spreading Arabic language, culture, and Islam and to suppressing opposition. Southern intellectuals, a majority of whom were labeled as "fifth columns", were completely alienated and many fled the Country. Missionaries in the South were considered by the regime as "high valued" target to be dealt with. All forms of protests against injustices were ignored if not curtailed much to the indignation of Southerners. Infect Abboud's first policy statement at his successful coup made no reference to the Southern problem. His reappointment of Santino Deng Teng as minister of Animals Resources, a post he has held in the previous cabinet, underlined that there was no change of attitudes towards the South. The regime spurned the idea that there was a Southern problem to spend time on, blaming political parties for making it a problem, which required political solution; the whole problem was viewed as one of the law and order, largely instigated by the Christian Missionaries in the South who were, according to the regime, the source of all malice and evils.
Nevertheless, intensive Islamization and arabization continued in the South. In Upper Nile Province, where Missionaries were not numerous and the Christian communities were often small and poorly consolidated, the comparatively few schools of Mill Hill Fathers and American Presbyterian were rapidly transformed into Northern-type Arabic-medium schools. Teaching of Islam as subject compulsorily commenced. Missionaries began to be excluded from teaching religion (Christian) as a subject in schools, while Sudanese catechists were rejected as lacking the necessary educational qualifications for appointment. Access of Missionaries to schools for extra-curricula religion instruction for recognized Christian pupils was progressively restricted, and finally refused. Schools were often removed to sites remote from Mission stations; and these the Missionaries were forbidden to pay visits. In Equatoria, the nationalization and Islamization of schools was a less abrupt process and the process of removal was some times pursued with reckless disregard for its practical consequences. Even in Eastern Equatoria where Islamization pressure became very strong, the Verona Fathers appeared to have been able to give some catechist instructions in the schools until 1961. In Bahr al-Ghazal where the local commitment was certainly strong and the relentless efforts of Father Ireneus Dut (Bishop of Wau in 1960), the Catholic Mission was still highly active; even in 1962, some Missionary access to schools was still possible. The progressive denial of Missionary access to schools and the elimination of Missionary influence were accompanied by the attempt to transform the schools into positive instruments of Islamization. The objectives of this policy went beyond that of 'national integration'through the religious uniformity. Southern intelgentsia (educated), though, unwillingly recognized by the Government as Christian elite, were of much concerned from the Regime. It was therefore concluded that since this elite had been produced by the Mission schools, a similar Muslim elite would be more or less automatically produced by the exclusion of Missionaries and be replaced by Northern Sudanese Muslims in key positions in government- controlled schools. Southerners were often regarded as simple (primitive) people who could now be manipulated by the Government just as easily as they had previously been manipulated by the Missionaries. The techniques used in the attempt to produce a Muslim intelgentsia were therefore lacking in fineness and disastrously counter-productive.
In the areas of intensive Islamization, such as Kapoeta, intensive pressure was put upon local chiefs to declare themselves as Muslims; and through them, upon parents to register their children for educational purposes as Muslims, or at least not as Christians. Boys already in schools were also under strong pressure to convert to Islam. Once a significant number of officially Muslim pupils had thus been obtained, the Missions were informed that the school was now an Islamic establishment to which of course they were denied access and the Islamic religion became compulsory.
As the situation intensifies in educational sector as the grass root of Islamization and Arabicisation of the South, the military governors and Northern administrators were not at ease in the three Southern provinces. Governor Ali Baldo of Equatoria ordered Southerners to change their names to Islamic names. Chief Jambo of Moru tribe, whose name was changed to Ibrahim, asked surprisingly how his name had change overnight to a government name and that the government wind was blowing upon us so we have to ride with it. Other economically disadvantaged Southerners were promised for financial return if they become Muslims or at least change their original names to Islamic ones. Northern traders (Jallaba) in the South were being encouraged by the Northern administrators to exert economic influence on Southerners in order to convert. A Dinka from Yirol by the name Mamer Chuot, an itinerant trader, wondered how can he become a successful trader like Jallaba in Yirol at the time; he was simply told by Northern traders that no way on earth he could become a successful trader unless he convert to Islam which will then teach him the trading tips. Mamer willingly and profoundly interested in becoming a successful trader, was given the name "Ahmed"Mamer. With the Northern trader's number increased in the South following independent, their influence on Southerners became correspondingly inhanced. A network of Northerners (traders and administrators) in the South was to fulfill General Abboud's legacy of reshaping South Sudan unique identity for the sake of the so-called national integration. Their policies were echoed when Governor Ali Baldo of Equatoria formulated the idea of substituting Sunday with Friday as the day of rest in the South and presented it to the Government in Khartoum.
The Governor cited the following reasons to back his proposals: 1- that Northern percentage over "H" scale in the Government service in the South was more (about 277 Muslims compared to only 213 Southerners), than the Christians in Government service., 2- that there is no specific time for Christian to hold prayers, it can be perform any time, 3- that most Central departments based in the South were directly linked to their counter-part in Khartoum; and the constant contacts need to be maintained and therefore a unified rest day in whole Country was officially necessary, 4- and that it was important for the Government to make known that the Country was an Islamic nation and therefore Churches influences in the Southern part of the Country was completely unacceptable.
Upon the recommendation of Governor Ali Baldo of Equatoria and other recommendations from different parts of the Sudan, General Ibrahim Abboud abruptly declared in Feb.1960 the substitution of Sunday as a day of rest in the South for Friday. The decision quickly was made to the dismay of even other prominent Northern politicians. Some Northerners, those of Sir al- Khatim al-Khalifa, expressed their opposition to Friday as being a day of rest in the South. It evoked surprisingly widespread popular protest in the South and far more in the Western world. It was also a symbol potent enough to provoke pupil's strikes at Rumbek Secondary School, in most intermediate schools and in some elementary schools. The Government responded by arresting the strike's ringleaders at Rumbek for long-term imprisonments. Also imprisoned for alleged incitement, was distinguished Sudanese priest Fr. Paulino Dogalle.
Prior to that, already the 1955 Torit mutiny created constant suspicions on Southern politicians and Missionaries as behind the Torit mutiny. Towards the end of 1959, a Southern politician Dominic Mourwel Malou (against whom uncle Toby Mawien Ariik lost the Feb. 1958 Constituent Elections-Tonj constituent- and possibly ended his political ambitions) was arrested while attempting to leave the Country, apparently with the intention of founding a Southern political movement in exile. Mourwel was among other Southerners who were not satisfied with subsequent attempted agreements with the North. He therefore chose to stay in exile (in central Africa Republic) for the rest of his life till he died there.
By 1960 to 1962, after a serious of strikes, hundreds of students, administrators, and ex-MPs fled the Country to avoid arrests. A good number of them went to the neighboring countries, but some went directly to the bush. The year 1963, saw the emergence of a more effective Southern political organization in exile against the regime of General Abboud. In 1960, a large scale migration began out of Equatoria into Uganda and the Congo. Leading educated Southerners and ex-parliamentarians fled the Country.
These exile groups organized themselves into a political resistant movement against the Regime; firstly as Sudan Christian Association to Sudan African Closed Districts National Union (SACDNU). Financial and moral support was given by the churches.
SACDNU's leading members were;
1. Joseph H. Oduho, ex-MP (president) 2. Marko Rume, ex-MP (vice president) 3. William Deng Nhial ex-assistant District Commissioner, Kapoeta (secretary-general) 4. Saturino Lohure ex-MP and president of liberal party, ( member) 5. Ferdinand Adiang ex-MP (member) 6. James Wek Athian ex-MP (member) 7. Pancriaso Ocheng ex-Mp (treasurer) 8. Valerio Oregat (treasurer) 9. Aggrey Jaden ex-assistant District Commissioner, Wau (deputy secretary-general) 10. Akout Atem Mawien ( member) 11. Alexis Mbali Yango (member) 12. Philip Pedak Lueth (member) 13. Nathanial Oyet (member) 14. Basia Renzi ex-chief, (member)
SACDNU's activities consisted mainly on petitioning the United Nations, supplying informations on the events in the South to Journalists and organizations, and assisting the refugees. In 1963, SACDNU's name was changed to SANU.
Meanwhile, the control of Missionary movements became increasingly stringent; by 1962, Missionaries in Equatoria for instance had to notify all their movements at least seven days in advance. Moreover, it was made a rule that minors, including the children of Christian parents should not be baptized or be given religious instruction of any kind without an official witnessed attestation by their guardians. Missionaries on leave to their countries were not allowed re-entry. Missionaries who argued the restrictions were expelled; examples are two Mill Hill Fathers, Fr. Edward Sloan and Fr. Williams Duds and American Presbyterian Missionary, Rev. Charles Gordon. In 1962 the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces promulgated a new Missionary act. In Feb. 1962, the Minister of the Interior announced the expulsion of all Christian Missionaries working in Southern Sudan. Those Missionaries in the North were allowed to continue their educational and other activities. The decision of expulsion was based on the following: 1- Missionaries gone beyond the limits of their sacred mission, 2- they work against the stability and internal security of the Country, 3- they instigate the people in the Southern provinces against the Government, 4- they exploit the name of religion to impart hatred and implant fear and animosity in the mind of Southerners against their fellow countrymen in the North.
The indiscriminate expulsion of Missionaries was highly criticized by the Western press and critically condemned by the Vatican.
During the years 1963 and 1964, the security situation in the South continued to deteriorate. In 1963, the Any-nya (guerrilla movement) announced its existence as a resistant movement which denied the possibility of a mere political solution. Captain Amildo Tapeng, one of the 1955 Torit mutinees, headed the Any-nya.
As the political and military efforts of the Southern resistant became to take a good shape, the security situation in Southern provinces continued to worsen further. Killings and burning of houses of the so-called Any-nya sympathizers by the Government soldiers remain an order of the day.
In Oct. 1964, during the general security crisis which accompanied the fall of General Abboud, the schools in Bahr al-Ghazal and Equatoria, many of which had never fully recovered from the strikes of Oct. 1962, were now closed on the ground of security. In Oct. 1964, Abboud regime was ousted as a result of overall strikes in the Country. Abboud regime had thus ended and the Southern resistant went on.