Brig. General Kawac Deng Kawac, a Servant Leader from Within: An Obituary

By Aken ‘PanKon’ Tong

"I think there is one higher office than president and I would call that patriot" Gary Hart.

March 25, 2014 (SSNA) — On 12th of March 2014, the nation was shocked out of their complacency by the deplorable news of Brigadier General Kawac Deng Kawac’s assassination, a man whose contributions in the liberation struggle to secure South Sudan’s statehood expand beyond the scope of any literary approbation. A man whose existence has been a blessing for the institutions he worked for, given his unparalleled bravery and precision in many fronts. As a loyal commander with unrivalled talents, he led his men and women under him in one of the most difficult and dangerous operations with rectitude and a focused mind. It can be recalled that General Kawac never lost any of his assignments since he joined the army, and served loyally until his last breath. In the words of Minister of Defence, Gen. Kuol Manyang Juuk: ‘…the late Gen. Kawac was a man whose leadership and forgiving attitude has been remarkable’. This has contributed to peace efforts the nation has been spearheading harmoniously with renegades across the country. Gen. Kuol articulated that he had the honour of working with late General and made reference to the peace effort currently underway in Pibor County. General Kawac had been the commander of Pibor County under whose peace efforts currently afoot is the brain child, something that has been echoed by General Santino Deng Wol, the commander of Division three where Gen Kawac once worked.

The governor of Northern Bahr El Ghazal State, Gen. Paul Malong Awan on his part, eulogized a man who he once appointed county commissioner of Aweil East and managed to achieve more in diminutive period. He described him further as a military strategist and a high achiever in correlation with the wars he fought across South Sudan and the leadership potential he has portrayed at different levels.

The late General Childhood friend, Honourable Tong Akeen Ngor, a former Member of Parliament in the South Sudan Legislative Assembly spoke highly of the man whose leadership is a testament to his upbringing. According to Hon. Tong, the late was an embodiment of friendship and hard work, driven by his insistence to achieve more.  A man who has shown a great deal of respect to whomever he found irrespective of the status in life. Gen. Kawac, according to Tong, was a servant leader, a brother and above all a patriot.

The masses across Northern Bahr El Ghazal State mourned the death of General Kawac, a man they called a brotherly-leader and as someone who worked for the greater good of all in the society irrespective of their social status in life.

These positive appraisals are indicative of what a man he was, a rare gem and a gift to South Sudanese people and their country.  

But who really is General Kawac Deng Kawac?

Late Gen. Kawac was born on the 1st January 1962 In Aweil town, the current capital of Northern Bahr El Ghazal State. He is a son of Aker Kuac Kuac, and Deng Kawac Aguot. His father, the late Deng Kawac Aguot, was a veteran of the Anya-Nya Movement, who, like his son, was killed in defence of the aspiration of South Sudanese people. A man who many believe was the inspiration behind Kawac’s love for his country and a declaration to service. General Kawac is a graduate of Tonj Intermediate School in 1975, and went on to finish the Sudan School Certificate of Education three years after. As the patriot he was, General Kawac started military career at age 16 in 1978 and marched all the way to Port Sudan as part of Sudan Armed Forces in its Air Defence Force Division. He served with conviction and allegiance to the country he called his. He, along with other patriotic Sudanese at the time, were sent to support the ailing regime of Hassan Habre of Chad whose government was under direct threats from rebels supported by the Libyan government in 1980. This is a clear demonstration of a relic partnership in a rebellion now being revived by current president of Chad, Idris Debby and his counterparts, Omer Al Bashir. In the fierce battle famously known as ‘Kulbos battle’ along the Sudanese-Chadian border, General Kawac became the first Sudanese officer to down Libyan’s fighter jet at an age where Sudan had never technologized its defence sector.

With the growing discomfort of the marginalised Sudanese and the repressive regime of President Mohammed Numeri, young Kawac relinquished his military career and became a taxation officer under the ministry of finance in 1981/2. Following the political dispensation of the Southern States, a dogma President Jaffar Mohammed Numeri introduced and midwifed, General Kawac was promoted under the auspices of the then Walaya Northern Bahr El Ghazal as the state’s senior inspector in the Council of Ministers’ docket in 1994. In the correlative, he got elected chairman of the Popular Committee, representing an area in Aweil called Maderia in 1994—and as a person who accentuated on something peaceful, a man whose heart mirrored adoration, he was appointed deputy Secretary General of the National Congress Party in the State few months as a chairperson of the Popular Committee.

As the old adage has it that: “never go to a fight with a lion while its offshoot is in sight”. In conformity, General Kawac risked his life and became an active member of the SPLM/A in the Sudanese government, popularly known as “SPLM/A secret cell from within” on the eve of the civil war between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the government at its inception. In this position, the members of the ‘secret cell’ did have an obligation to neutralise the policies that had painfully endorsed the killing of whomever was accused of exercising espionage as a matter of elevating the rebels’ quest for greater conquest. The cell remained the conduit through which classified information of military and other policies considered hostile to the plight of South Sudanese people were leaked to strengthen SPLM/A’s resolve to leverage their operations politically as well as militarily despite the risks involved. 

In 1997, General Kawac officially joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army, SPLM/A, denouncing links to the Sudanese government. The following year, his forces got reabsorbed into the SPLM/A and became part and parcel of the Movement he served for a decade as an active member within the government, he became an alternate Commander. Following his denunciation of government of Sudan, he was deployed to Yieth-Kuel in Tonj in 1998 along with his retinue. Yieth-Kueth was a logistics base-designate of the SPLA at the time. General Kawac became a commander for logistics. As someone whose talents are revered, he chose to lead one of the intricate operations against Alok which housed an adjacent military garrison on the Wau-Aweil road; and there he finally captured the territory fair and square.  In continuance to his extraordinary service, the late General, along with his fellow operation commanders, launched a ferocious battle against Raja in Western Bahr el Ghazal in 2000 where they victoriously captured it.

As his profile continued gyrating, General Kawac joined hands with the current governor of Northern Bahr El Ghazal State in 2001, the abled and plucky Generals set to work to successfully defend and defeat numerous battalions sent to capture SPLA barracks outside Aweil town with limited manpower and ammunitions in the known Tit-cok Mareng war that lasted for seven hours. How they did it- no one knows to this day. General Kawac and those who knew him lost count of the victories and strides he made against the Sudan Armed Forces. In history, he has never lost any battle under his direct supervision. His undying originality and flawless validation of how dexterous, and a military strategist he was!

After the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005, General Kawac became the deputy Commander of Join Integrated Units, JIUs, stationed in Upper Nile State, Malakal town. He had had the honour to guide the illusive peace where Khartoum Militias under Gabriel Tangkenyang made numerous sabotages in an attempt to dislodge SPLA forces out of Malakal town. General Kawac exercised his military and leadership acumen to quell the straitened circumstances of the time and guaranteed the prevalence of peace. As his service became extremely exigent, he was called back by his community to help in the State reconstruction drive. He became the chairman of the Referendum Committee in 2011 which saw about 99.99% of Aweil people casting votes in favour of an independent South Sudan.  

In 2011, General Kawac became a commissioner of Aweil East Country, where he left behind remarkable developmental strategies among which are infrastructure, peaceful coexistence, corruption relegation and an education strategy among others. This is where the writer of this obituary had the honour of meeting him as he was pursuing research project in the county the late General was its commissioner. As great a man he was, his leadership and selfless attitude were always on display given the way he enunciated information to people under him, a culture he helped nurture based on complementarity, all-encompassing, all-embracing of different ideas from people irrespective of their influence in the society.

Being someone who loves doing great things for the nation, in 2012, he decided to voluntarily vacate his ‘commissionership’ position and returned to the military despite the disservice and growing corruption that has skyrocketed the national institution. He was sent to the Upper Nile State and later to Pibor to command a fractured army against the growing insurgences in the area. He however, used his leadership well by cultivating the culture of peace and patriotism among the forces whose allegiances could only be found in the context of their tribal inclination, and this has given South Sudan the last best hope to see peace returned to Pibor. A military man who used diplomacy to turn things around for the greater good of the country he endeavoured to serve at a tender age.

For such an accomplished individual to be assassinated without just cause within the capital (a place which is considered to be at relative peace) by a member of the security force, is a cause for concern. The nation has yet again lost an asset, a military strategist, a gifted leader and above all, a loyal commander. The late General is survived by his 21 children and number of wives. General Kawac, the country that you helped protect will continue to miss your unsurpassed aptitudes and patriotism. May your soul rest in perfect peace.

Aken ‘PanKon’ Tong is an activist, humanitarian worker and a Student studying in Johannesburg, South Africa. He can be reached at [email protected].

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