Pojulu lead participants in the struggle for independence for Southern Sudan

By Jacob K. Lupai


December 29, 2011 (SSNA) — Pojulu Youth Solidarity Initiative (PYSI), a community based organisation (CBO), organised an occasion to celebrate the birth of South Sudan as a new independent country and to recognise the appointments of sons and daughters of the Pojulu in the first Cabinet, Council of State and the first Parliament of the Republic of South Sudan. The occasion was organised under the theme of “Brighter Beginning towards a United and Prosperous South Sudan” and took place at Nyokuron Cultural Centre in Juba on 23 October 2011.

Unity of people of South Sudan

The theme of the occasion says a lot about the Pojulu contrary to how the occasion might have been perceived by others inclined to be negative. The occasion was above tribalism and was not intended to hype up hatred of others so as to sow a seed of disunity in the new Republic. It was the celebration of a brighter beginning towards a united and prosperous South Sudan for all. To confirm the occasion was not tribal in nature, the Guest of Honour was a non Pojulu and non Pojulu dignitaries were also invited and attended the occasion. This goes a long way to demonstrate the lead role of the Pojulu as pioneers in promoting togetherness and unity.

Culture and nationalism of Pojulu

The occasion kicked off with speeches eloquently presented by Pojulu intellectuals and politicians, punctuated by entertainments that included contemporary Pojulu songs, a well composed poem and a Pojulu dance that electrified the occasion to the enjoyment of all. People danced in happiness and in a festive mood unknown of before the declaration of South Sudan as an independent Republic. Speeches in recognition and in praise of the President of the Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, for his leadership in having led the people to the Promised Land added credence to the national theme of the occasion. The occasion brought the Pojulu of different political persuasions and parties together in an atmosphere of brotherliness. For the first time such a unifying occasion was held by the Pojulu in post independent South Sudan. The credit all went to the PYSI as a CBO, the organisers, and the sponsors without which the occasion might have been a miserable failure.

History of Pojulu and the start of struggle for independence

The occasion was an opportunity to highlight the history of Pojulu and their land. This included the lead role the Pojulu played in political development in old Sudan. Hon Thomas Wani Kundu, Member of South Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA) eloquently presented a brief history of Pojulu. However, it is important to highlight the history of Pojulu in the context of modern history of South Sudan since the 1940s. The history of struggle of South Sudan is now considered to have started in 1821. Arguably the struggle for independence started in 1947 when Northerners and Southerners formally sat down together to discuss issues pertinent to the future of Southern Sudan. Dissenting Southern voices against a hurried unity were heard and this should be seen as the genesis of the struggle by Southerners as a people for freedom and independence.

Political development in Southern Sudan

In 1946 Southern clerks and bookkeepers formed Southern Sudan Welfare Committee. The Committee was a social society which represented the aims and views of all Southern staff. However, the Committee later on assumed an active role in promoting the Southern cause. It acquired a political role and its members attended the Juba Conference of 1947 which Northern Sudanese tried to use to convince Southerners to accept the Sudan as a united country. The Year 1947 should therefore be seen as the bench mark of the beginning of the struggle of the people of the South for independence because people were sceptical if not suspicious of the Northern intentions as the minutes of the Conference seem to show.

Southern fears were confirmed when in 1953 Egypt and Britain signed an agreement which called upon the Sudanese to exercise their right to self-determination within a period of three years. The agreement, without Southern participation, stipulated that the two contracting governments (Egyptian and British) agreed that it was a fundamental principle of their common policy to maintain the unity of Sudan as a single territory (South and North). Southern reaction was swift when Southerners lost the little faith they had in Britain. There began the active involvement of Southerners by way of establishing a political movement which was later adopted as Southern Liberal Party.

Pojulu lead participants in the struggle for independence

There were a number of Pojulu as lead participants in the struggle for independence for Southern Sudan. With reference to the history of Pojulu, Aggrey Jaden, a Pojulu joined the Gordon Memorial College, now the University of Khartoum, in 1947 and was the first Southerner to graduate. As a student Aggrey Jaden was active in politics. He was active in such things as writing wall papers, newsletters and petitions. In Egypt, which was part of the condominium in ruling the Sudan, a military coup took place in 1952 and the new leadership of Egypt showed willingness to grant self-determination for the Sudan. The Northern political parties wasted no time and presented memoranda to the new leadership of Egypt with the Umma Party demanding independence for Sudan while the National Unionist Party demanded for union with Egypt. With pressure from the Sudanese masses the new leadership in Egypt agreed to grant independence for the Sudan.

Aggrey Jaden opposed what the Northern political parties aspired for because of the lack of representation for Southern Sudan. As an intellectual and more alert, Aggrey Jaden proficiently articulated the Southern viewpoint favouring a federal system of government for the Sudan. He even presented a memorandum to the colonial government for a delay in granting the Sudan independence until such time when proper arrangements were made for Southern Sudan. Unfortunately the colonial government rejected Aggrey’s petition and this showed the seed of defiance in Aggrey Jaden. It can be observed that the Pojulu started to play a lead role in the struggle for independence in earlier times.

In 1953 another Pojulu played a lead participatory role in Sudanese politics and precisely in the Southern Liberal Party. The Chairman of the Southern Liberal Party was Benjamin Lwoki, a Pojulu. The main objectives of the Southern Liberal Party were to secure a self-governing status for Southern Sudan in terms of a federal system of government. As Benjamin Lwoki provided charismatic leadership many Southern intellectuals supported the Party. When the Southern Liberal Party convened a meeting, echoes of secession, federation and independence were loudly heard. However, the final resolution passed was for the achievement of a federal status for Southern Sudan and Benjamin Lwoki stood firm for federation as an emancipation of Southerners from marginalisation in independent Sudan.

Aggrey Jaden never ceased to play a lead role in the struggle of the people of Southern Sudan for freedom and independence. In the 1960s when many Southern civil servants, politicians and students fled for life in exile because of the perceived Northern plot to arrest and even eliminate them, political activities were undertaken to champion the cause of Southern Sudan. At first Sudan African Closed Districts National Union (SACDNU) was formed. Here the Deputy Secretary General was a Pojulu, Aggrey Jaden. Shortly there after, SACDNU was changed into Sudan African National Union (SANU).

Aggrey Jaden became the Deputy President but, later on as a charismatic and popular individual, through an election he became the President of SANU. In the Round Table Conference of 1965 to address the problem of Southern Sudan Aggrey Jaden was the lead Southerner to call for self-determination, separation and independence as a solution to the marginalisation of the people of Southern Sudan, a reflection of what he had campaigned for in his days in the University of Khartoum. Aggrey Jaden set the ball of struggle for independence rolling until Southerners were to celebrate in styles on the 9th July 2011 what Aggrey Jaden, a Pojulu, had called and laboured for in all his prime life.

After graduation from the University of Khartoum in 1952 Aggrey Jaden was appointed an inspector of local government in 1953. In December 1955 the colonial government ordered all inspectors of local government to travel to Khartoum to witness the raising of the Sudanese flag on the 1st January 1956. However, Southern nationalism and the seed of defiance sowed in him by the colonial government, which favoured the Arabs, made Aggrey Jaden to decline to attend the flag raising ceremony for Sudanese independence. He also refused to come to get involved in any activity on the independence day. In his defiance Aggrey Jaden gave sickness as an excuse to avoid having to witness the raising of the Sudanese independence flag which in all cases had nothing new to offer to the people of Southern Sudan.

Not convinced the response of the colonial government to Aggrey’s defiance was to send a medical doctor to examine Aggrey in his house. The doctor who was obviously in the service of the colonial government declared Aggrey Jaden fit and well. As a disciplinary action Aggrey Jaden was demoted from the position of a local government inspector. After independence he was seen by the Arab dominated government as an equivalent of state enemy number one. Aware of the hostile environment Agree Jaden went into exile in Uganda where he became a lead participant in the struggle for independence for Southern Sudan.

The armed struggle for independence

The year preceding independence for the Sudan saw the first open armed rebellion by Southern soldiers of the Equatoria Corps against domination by the Arabs in the Sudan. It was precisely on 18 August 1955 when the Equatoria Corps based in Torit on the Eastern Bank of the Nile refused to be transferred to Northern Sudan and this triggered the rebellion. The first bullet of the rebellion killed a Pojulu, non commission officer (NCO), Banyaluka Yatta when he protested about the transfer to the North. As the first martyr who seems to have been hardly noticed, NCO Banyaluka Yatta was shot and killed by an Arab captain in the Equatoria Corps and this caused the rebellion to spread like wildfire in Southern Sudan. On 19 August the Pojulu took the lead when warriors in Pojululand sprang out spontaneously taking up arms though crude. The warriors armed themselves with spears, and bows and arrows. The warriors, led by Ladu Kundu popularly known as Bona Muje and Wani Wuroki, sealed off the Lainya-Yei main road.

The few Arabs in Pojululand including the headmaster of Rumbek Secondary School on transit had nowhere to escape. However, this was like a drop in the ocean compared to the massacres by the Arabs of tens of thousands of innocent Southerners in Juba and Wau in 1965, and between 1983 and 2005. In all over 2 million Southerners were murdered by the Arabs as the price for independence for Southern Sudan. Probably complacency got the better of the Pojulu warriors that they could not withdraw on time for their own safety when they were captured and summarily executed by the advancing Arab army of occupation. The act of the warriors, however, confirmed the lead participatory role of the Pojulu in the struggle for independence which many now enjoy in South Sudan.

When the highly organised Arab army of occupation crashed the rebellion and consolidated their grip on power, the programme of Arabisation and Islamisation of the people of Southern Sudan started in earnest. However, Southern Sudan did not go down quietly. The rebels of the Equatoria Corps who had withdrawn to the bushes of Southern Sudan began to reorganise and with the recruitment of volunteers and defectors from the Sudanese army and police, a formidable guerrilla army was formed. It is worth noting that before the guerrilla army became formidable, defiant acts of sabotage against the Arab army of occupation took place as hit and run by surviving individual soldiers of the Equatoria Corps. In the meantime Southerners in exile were organising both politically and militarily to challenge the Arab occupation army which was enabling the marginalisation and, the Arabisation and Islamisation of the people of Southern Sudan against their will.

Events turned for the better when a Southern officer in the Sudanese army heeded the call of his fellow Southerners to lead an armed struggle against Arab domination. The officer, an Equatorian, took the mantle of Southern nationalism and prosecuted the guerrilla war with the expected professionalism. Michael Lorwe, a Pojulu was one of the lead commanders in the armed struggle. In the theatre of operation Michael Lorwe did devastating damages to the enemy. He was indeed a very courageous individual in the armed struggle that eventually led to independence of Southern Sudan.

In the struggle for freedom and independence, the Pojulu continued to be lead participants. In the political arena when the struggle took another phase spearheaded by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the Pojulu again played a lead role. A Pojulu became the lead spokesperson of the SPLM. The Pojulu was Dr Samson Kwaje Lukare, a classmate of the author in Kator Elementary School in Juba. Dr Samson as he was popularly known by this name articulated eloquently the political and armed struggle of the people of Southern Sudan for freedom from marginalisation. He helped guarantee the position of Southern Sudan’s struggle on the map of the world. Dr Samson effectively nullified the enemy’s propaganda machine and made a lead contribution to the realisation of the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) between the SPLM and the Arabs in 2005 which ended a devastating 21-year war in Southern Sudan.

In its hour of need the morale of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) was boosted when a Pojulu also played a lead role in mobilisation. The Pojulu was Elioba James Surur who along with other nationalists from Equatoria went to refugee camps in Uganda to encourage and mobilise Equatoria youth who were previously disappointed by some reactionary elements in the frontline. The response was spectacular which saw the Equatoria youth in action in the SPLA until the realisation of the CPA and the subsequent independence for Southern Sudan.

The role played by the Pojulu in the Diaspora

In the Diaspora the Pojulu also played a lead role in the struggle for freedom of the people of Southern Sudan from marginalisation in the old Sudan. Dr Martin Elia Lomuro, a Pojulu, mounted a vigorous and sustained campaign for freedom from Arab domination. Like Aggrey Jaden before him, Dr Martin called for independence for Southern Sudan. He led the Southern Sudan Civic Forum in the United Kingdom and according to the Forum’s manifesto of July 26, 1994 “The primary objective of the Forum is to fight for the establishment of an independent, secular, democratic, federal and sovereign republic in the territory currently known as Southern Sudan”. Indeed Southern Sudan got its independence on 9 July 2011 to become the Republic of South Sudan.

Another Pojulu with a vast experience in trade union affairs also played a lead role in the struggle. The Pojulu is Carlo Elia Lomuro who participated in the conference of the National Democratic Alliance in 1995 in Asmara in Eritrea contributed effectively when the final communiqué endorsed the right of self-determination to the people of Southern Sudan. It can be seen that even in the Diaspora the Pojulu played a lead role in the struggle for freedom and independence. Although self-praise is no recommendation and it is uncharacteristic of the Pojulu to boast that could be mistaken as attention seeking, the participation of the Pojulu in the Diaspora in the struggle for freedom for Southern Sudan cannot be overlooked.

Pojulu background

A foreigner who is not familiar with Southern ethnic groups may wonder who the Pojulu are. A brief background of the Pojulu may therefore suffice. The Pojulu are an ethnic group predominantly in Central Equatoria State and mostly in Lainya County. They are Bari speakers and the main Bari speaking groups proper are the Bari, Kakwa, Kuku, Mundari, Nyangwara and the Pojulu. However, there are also some other Bari speaking groups although the groups have their own languages. Those other Bari speaking groups include the Keliko, Lokoya, Lugwara, Lulobo and Makaraka. Among the main Bari speaking group proper, the Bari of Eastern Logo have some ingenuity in how the Bari language could be modernised and spoken. They use letters in a word in the reverse when speaking among themselves probably when they do not want others to know what they are saying. It may not be to backbite others. For example, in Bari “Nan tu Juba” may mean “I am going to Juba”. However, the Bari of Eastern Logo may say something like “An ut Baju” as a way of verbal modernisation of the written Bari language.

Like the Bari of Eastern Logo the Mundari also seem to have a similar way of speaking but the letters in a word may not be in the reverse. Among them the Mundari use a language that may sound familiar to other Bari speakers probably like Latin to English speakers but a Pojulu may hardly understand what the Mundari may be saying. However, when the Mundari are among other Bari speakers they can easily revert to classical Bari for the convenience of all.

Location of Pojulu and characteristics

The Pojulu are predominantly in Lainya County which borders Juba County in the North, Yei County in the South, Morobo County in the South East, Kajo Keji County in the East and Mundri County in the West. In the celebrations of the birth of the new nation, the Republic of South Sudan, Hon Thomas Wani Kundu of the SSLA elaborated on the history of the Pojulu with highlights on their characteristics. The Pojulu are frank and straight forward and this could also be seen from their lead participation in the struggle, Hon Thomas elaborated. The Pojulu are prudent and tend to avoid something that may bring shame and like any sensible people, the Pojulu dread humiliation. Politically a Pojulu does not run after favours for personal gain because the Pojulu value their dignity and self-esteem above anything else although some unprincipled ones may do. A typical example of a Pojulu with principles is that of Aggrey Jaden who led the life of simplicity until the end even though he could have approached and begged others for alms or favours as some might have done and lived the life of glamour.

A Pojulu is self-reliant and could be individualistic, a characteristic that might be seen as the Pojulu were too selfish. However, the Pojulu are sociable and have confidence to mix freely with other ethnic groups but can easily part ways with people who are nuisance and unreliable. Because of their sociable nature the Pojulu hardly consider anybody in their midst an alien even though such a person may be outside the Pojulu ethnic group. The Pojulu easily intermarry with others and probably being sociable the male seem to have excellent communication skills that easily entice the opposite sex. In religion the Pojulu subscribe to the belief in the one Almighty God and in ancestral spirits to intercede on their behalf.

Generally the Pojulu are friendly and peaceful as opposed to being aggressive, and this has been shown by the absence of fights with neighbours in the adjoining counties. However, provoking a conflict may not go unchallenged because when a Pojulu takes a decision they are efficient in implementation. In all the Pojulu are creative and industrious, and have a taste for business. They are hard working and wouldn’t like to appear a laughing stock.

The challenge to Pojulu

At the moment the main challenge to the Pojulu is the issue of Wonduruba. Wonduruba is a multiple of villages along the main Lainy-Jambo road, and it is about 18 miles from Lainya and about 81 miles from Juba. The issue here is that Wonduruba is being contested either to be under the administration of Lainya or Juba County. It is to be recalled that during the colonial era Southern Sudan was divided into districts for administrative purposes where some ethnic groups were broken up by district administrative boundaries. The people in Wonduruba who are entirely Pojulu were no exception as Wonduruba fell under the administration of Juba District. On the other hand the Pojulu in Lainya fell under the administration of Yei River District.

In its strategic planning during the war the SPLM divided up the districts into counties for administrative purposes and service delivery to the people. In Central Equatoria the former Juba District was divided into two counties of Juba and Terekeka, and Yei River District into four counties of Kajo Keji, Lainya, Morobo and Yei. It was therefore inevitable that in dividing the districts into counties changes would occur in drawing up the county new boundaries because the old district boundaries would have become invalid. Juba County is predominantly inhabited by the Bari and Terekeka County predominantly inhabited by the Mundari.

Lainya County is predominantly inhabited by Pojulu and Wonduruba, which is adjacent to Lainya, is entirely inhabited by Pojulu as already mentioned above. However, a section of the Pojulu of Wonduruba, probably due to a hangover of the administrative linkage to the old Juba District, resents any idea of administrative linkage to Lainya County. The problem turned ugly when a minister narrowly missed being assassinated. This could have been an expression of defiance or rebellion to the new setup of counties as a replacement of the old districts. The problem is also compounded by the lack of formal directives by higher authorities as to which county Wondururba should be administratively linked with a clear understanding that there are no longer districts in independent South Sudan.

Advice from the Governor of Western Equatoria State

As the Guest of Honour, the Governor of Western Equatoria State, Joseph Bangasi Bakassoro was given an opportunity to say a word on the occasion of the celebration of the birth of the new nation, the Republic of South Sudan. When on the podium the Guest of Honour saluted all with admiration and expressed his profound gratitude to the organisers of the occasion for the invitation for him to attend such a memorable gathering. He expressed his delight for the birth of the Republic of South Sudan with a congratulatory word to Salva Kiir Mayardit, the President.

Turning to the Pojulu the Guest of Honour was delighted with the history eloquently presented by Hon Thomas Wani Kundu but expressed disappointment that the Pojulu could not reach an amicable solution to the problem of Wonduruba. The Guest of Honour advised the Pojulu to resolve the problem of Wonduruba through dialogue. He advised that administrative boundaries should not tear people apart especially those of the same ethnic group like the Pojulu. The Guest of Honour went on to advise that the coming of people together to dialogue was the key to resolving any problem.

I couldn’t have agreed more with the Guest of Honour, the Governor of Western Equatoria State, Joseph Bangasi Bakassoro. The two Pojulu sections in Wonduruba that are opposed to each other should open up a dialogue to reach a consensus for a peaceful co-existence. It is important to alley the fears of either section. The Pojulu in Wonduruba should look forward with confidence in working together as a team for a better Wonduruba. Pojulu intellectuals are duty bound to effect reconciliation in Wonduruba instead of using antagonistic and inflammatory language that only helps to fuel the problem. The failure of resolving the problem of Wonduruba will be a collective shame and miserable moral failure of the Pojulu ethnic group.


The Pojulu have made tremendous efforts as lead participants in the struggle for independence for Southern Sudan. This, however, does not mean in any way that others have insignificantly participated and worse have contributed nothing to the struggle. The President of the Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit might not have chosen members of the Pojulu ethnic group for his government on tribal basis because doing so would have been near impossible to form a government of all the ethnic groups in the Republic of South Sudan. It was definitely on merit that the Pojulu qualified for selection to be part of the Executive and Legislature in independent South Sudan. Also, it might have been an honour for the Pojulu lead participation in the struggle since the time of Aggrey Jaden in the University of Khartoum before many of us were born. Aggrey Jaden was an icon of the struggle for independence of Southern Sudan as Salva Kiir Mayardit is the icon of the struggle in leading the people ultimately to the Promised Land.

Those who have perceived the occasion organised by the Pojulu Youth Solidarity Initiative for the celebration of the birth of the new nation as Pojulu tribalism must now revise their perception or they may be paranoid of any ethnic group coming together. Such people may be insecure. The Pojulu have never been known to be tribalistic. A Pojulu may be more inclined to lend a helping hand to a non Pojulu rather than to their own in a perceived show of fairness. A Pojulu could also be seen to be rigid in application of rules and regulations not to favour a fellow Pojulu for fear of being seen as tribalistic. Nepotism among the Pojulu is rare. Entrusting a Pojulu with a responsibility is therefore not misplacement but may be a sure way of fairness for all in the society. The people of South Sudan are in need of those who can stand up for fairness for all for sustainable unity, peaceful co-existence and prosperity.

In conclusion, the near 100 per cent vote in the referendum in January 2011 for separation and subsequent independence for Southern Sudan was the greatest honour to Agree Jaden, who was the first person and the only one to have openly advocated independence for Southern Sudan in the Round Table Conference in Khartoum in 1965 while many shied away.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

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