Col. Pal Ojulu Babuoth: SPLM/A is Curse to Gaat-jaak

South Sudan

Ethiopian Unity Patriots Army (EUPA) condemned the government of South Sudan of killing Ethiopian Gaat-jaak citizen in Gambella. South Sudan president Salva Kiir and Defense Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk bribed Murle for Gaat – Jaak mascre.

Uprising of Gaat–jaak against the SPLA with strong anger. Fight between Gaat-jaak & SPLA it was the cost of mistreated and tortured Gaat-jaak in their own land by SPLM/A due of Gaat-jaak to protect their land animals and cash crops not being takes by SPLM/A by force second , refused to be recruit by SPLM/A by force those who are Ethiopian.

It all began when a well-trained and equipped SPLA/M, which was not in need of the assistance of the Gaat-Jaak, attacked the army garrison at Malual Gahoth on November 17, 1983.

The SPLA success at Malual became so intoxicating that it (the SPLA) believed that it could strike right and left, and could fight many wars at the same time, including the unnecessary ones. This led to the movement’s begging Gaat-Jaak for a war that would last for four long years.

The first armed clash between the two groups took place at Lol-Deng in 1984 when an SPLA company attacked that village as a form of punishment against Tongyik Gil who was then a government army officer at Malual.

The SPLA claimed that Tongyik killed most of their soldiers during the attack on Malual. According to the SPLA way of thinking, his home village should therefore be punished for producing him. Unfortunately for the SPLA, all but one soldier out of the whole strong and well armed company was annihilated at the battle.

As a matter of fact, that soldier was a guy by the name ofGatluak Biel who is currently residing in the United States of America.

The second incident took place months after the incident at Lol-Deng (1984) when a company was sent to Yom after hearing that Jul Kiir Puor, an Anya-Nya II officer, passed through Yom on his way to the Anya-Nya II headquarters in central Upper Nile.

Unable to locate Jul, the SPLA decided to take it on the civilians for their failure to capture what they referred to as an enemy of the movement. A major battle took place at Mankwot with devastating results.

The third incident occurred when a company of soldiers camouflaging ran into Tongyik Koang Kier during the summer of 1984. They exchanged gun fires and one of the soldiers was killed. Later on, the SPLA wanted Tongyik for that killing, but could not get their hands on him. For that reason, the SPLA arrested Tongyik’s relative, Top Gatkuoth Kok whom they later executed in prison.

The fourth incident took place when SPLA soldiers coming from Itang on canoes filled with grain sacks ran into fishermen. They wanted to confiscate the fish, but the fishermen ran away from the soldiers who fired on the fleeing men. They killed Kurial Bol. An exchange of gunfires ensued between the fleeing civilians and the soldiers.

Another civilian by the name of Tongyik Theyang was wounded and later died from his gun shot wounds. Two soldiers were killed during that gunfire exchange. This incident became the straw that broke the camel’s back and sparked off an all out war between the SPLA and the Gaat-Jaak. The next day, the village of Palkoini was attacked by the SPLA.

After this incident, Commander Kerubino Kuanyin Bol started assembling a battalion at Makuach Luthchuor to smash the Gaat-Jack once and for all. Officials from Gambella were sent to meet Kerubino to help find a way to peacefully resolve the matter.

The commander never cooperated with the Gaat-Jaak officials, and officially declared war by firing a pistol into the air. There was nothing that they (officials) could do to persuade Kerubino to stop his warmongering attitude. By then, it was clear that a senseless war was just waiting to break out.

It was this attitude of Kerubino’s that prompted Thowath Pal Chay, the governor of Gambella and son of the area, to contact Commander Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon of the SPLA to join him as a fellow Nuer in averting the situation.

The pair went to Makuach and had a talk with Kerubino telling him to consider a peaceful resolution of the problem. The commander misleadingly agreed, and Thowath and Riek proceeded to the villages where they told the civilians that they had convinced the SPLA not to attack them. As a result, the civilians expressed happiness, and they let their guards down.

It was on the 4th day after the incident with the fishermen, and the night that Thowath and Riek spent at Teluuth that Kerubino ordered a surprise attack on the villages of Dorong and Badhiel.

Though shocked, the civilians were able to understand that Thowath and Riek had nothing to do with the attack, for there is no one in his or her right mind that would allow oneself to enter deep into an enemy territory with the knowledge that the enemy would be attacked while in its midst.

Therefore, they allowed the pair to go back safely to where they had come from. The attack killed hundreds of civilians (children, women, men, young and elderly); villages were burned to ashes; thousands of head of cattle were taken; thousands more were killed; and crops were destroyed.

After assessing the damage, the civilians came to a conclusion that they could no longer reasonably restrain themselves. They engaged the SPLA on that same day at the battle of Bargeer—one of the deadliest that the Gaat-Jaak fought against the SPLA. But, the civilians were decimated more, and more villages, cattle, and crops were destroyed. Nevertheless, they persisted and annihilated a battalion of the SPLA.

From the day of the battle at Bargeer, the SPLA officially launched a war of ethnic cleansing against the Gaat-Jaak Nuer that would last until 1987. With the cooperation from the Ethiopian government—especially General Mesfin who was heading the Ethiopian armed forces—the whole world was shut out of the Gaat-Jaak territory for almost four years, giving the SPLA a free hand to clean the territory of its civil population.

Mesfin’s lack of willingness to stop the SPLA from its genocidal war against the Gaat-Jaak generated a conflict between him and Thowath, resulting in the demotion of the General. It was that same year that the massacre at Man-Jangdit was carried out; and it was that same year that the massacre at Liet-Nyaruach was carried out; and it was also the same year that residents of Gueng were massacred.

Then, in 1986, similar attacks with similar devastating effects were carried out on such villages as Mading, Lol-Gungjaang, Jerusalem, Nguangkee, Torbaar, and many others. This was followed by massacres in 1987 in such villages as Borgaach-Lol, Nyaang, Pokete, Nyalonglong, Barekuich, and many others. In all these years, assets were stripped to starve the war survivors to death.

Killing the civilians during the attacks at night on villages was just one of the many ways that the SPLA employed against the Gaat-Jaak civilians. Another way of doing that was the assassination of chiefs, refugees in Itang, and students. The first chief to die in this way was Puot Yal.

Then, others such as Kang Wal Balok, Ruey Kir Jeny, Tharjiath Tung Chan (Tharjiath Thooch), and many others were savagely murdered. During that same period, Gaat-Jaak students at Itang and Gambella were also targeted.

The most vulnerable ones were those at Itang who were easily rounded up without UN protection. Some of these students and elders such as James Nhial Ruey, David Mach Kaang, John Chuol Toang, Dak Lul Bieyan, Gabriel Yien Kiir, Paul Puot Nyoak, Doyok Nyayul Rom, Koang Yot Yor, Peter Gatkuoth Gaak, Simon Duop Puk now working as Upper Nile State Education Minister and others were released to the UNHCR protection office.

The unfortunate ones whom the UNHCR protection office was not able to trace were executed. Among them were Tuach Chuol Thiep, Philip Okony Rut, Deng Puoch Goruop, Dideng Nyayul Rom, Kual Reat, and others.

During the period between 1984 and 1987, the Gaat-Jaak territory was littered with corpses of people and animals, both on land and in waters, as it was impossible for the living to burry all of the dead and for wild animals feeding on the dead to finish them.

Crops were destroyed; women and young girls were subjects of rape by soldiers; entire villages were destroyed; and cattle, goats, sheep, and chickens were either killed or taken.

For four long and painful years, the entire Gaat-Jaak territory was a Rwanda or Darfur of the 1980s in a South Sudan setting.


From the preceding sections, one can see that the Southern liberation movements rose from nothing to something, and that rise from nothing to something were always facilitated by civilian populations. It can also be seen that they went through a number of phases.

During the first phases of their organizations, the movements were vulnerable and in good relations with the civilians. Their dependency on the civilians for food and protection was absolute. Then things would begin to change when the fighters sensed their strength and turned on the people who once nurtured them during their infancies.

This situation in South Sudan is unlike any other situation in other parts of the world where guerrilla movements understand that their only backbone is the civilian population. In these parts of the world, the rebels forge a good relationship with civil population that lasts all the way to the day of final victory.

The rebels provide social services to the civilians as opposed to the way South Sudanese rebels expect the civilians to do it otherwise. Experience teaches us that good relationship with civilian population accelerates success of the rebellions. For example, the SPLA was unable to capture Jiokow until 1987 when it concluded peace settlement with the Gaat-Jaak.

One can also see that the contribution that the Gaat-Jaak civilians have made to the liberation struggle in South Sudan is matched only by a few, if any, communities in South Sudan. It was the Gaat-Jaak civilians who made themselves the SPLA’s first line of defense on March 3, 1985 when they confronted the government reinforcement led by Colonel Balaa 15 miles away from the SPLA line.

This was done despite the war of ethnic cleansing that the SPLA was fighting against them during that time. They did not do it to placate the SPLA as some of the SPLA officers might have thought at that time, but they did it out of patriotism. They recognized who the real enemy was, and knew that the time of madness would soon go away.

NOTE: the opinions expressed herein are entirely for the Author of this article. The Upper Nile Times have no responsibility on the contents published here.

The Upper Nile Times

COLONEL, PAL OJULU BABUOTH can be reached at (

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