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The late Honorable Samuel Gai Tut was born in the 1940s, at Kurmayom village, Waat Payam, Nyirol County, in South Sudan. At school age, he began primary school at Wanglel and later attended Atar Intermediate School in Jonglei. In 1961 the late Samuel Gai entered Rumbek Secondary School, where he completed first and second year. In 1963 before beginning his third year at Rumbek Secondary School, Samuel Gai quit school and joined the South Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM) better known as Anya Nya (Daniel Wuor Joak, The Rise and Fall of SPLM/SPLA Leadership).
While in the Anya Nya movement, he rose to the rank of commander and conducted most of his operations like other Anya Nya field commanders in the Upper Nile Province of present-day South Sudan.
Late Samuel Gai Tut …
Late Samuel Gai was an accomplished, brave, true, and nationalistic leader who fought successive Arab occupying forces in southern Sudan during the 1960s and the early 1970s. During the Addis Ababa negotiations and subsequent agreement in 1972, he objected to the agreement, labeling it as a sellout. The late Samuel Gai accused his boss, Major General Joseph Lagu of compromising the overall interest of south Sudanese people in return for his own material gains from Arab rulers in the north.
Like some of his colleagues who rejected the Addis Ababa Agreement from the initial stage, the late Samuel Gai was eventually convinced by his other colleagues to accept the accord, which he did with hesitation. Being a skillful guerrilla fighter, he knew very well that the host country Ethiopia from where his forces operated was already in favor of the agreement. Consequently, if he decided to continue with the struggle singlehandedly without any external support, his forces would have had difficulty in maintaining their logistics. So he and his forces succumbed to the agreement but his position was already known by President Jaafar Nimeiri and General Joseph Lagu who headed the Anya Nya forces in the south.
This was why late Samuel Gai was demoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and put under strict supervision by Sudan Security Force, lest he instigates an uprising in southern Sudan. Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Gai was retired early from the Sudan Armed Forces in 1974. This occurred two years after the conclusion of the Addis Ababa Agreement because he objected to the amalgamation of the ex–Anya Nya fighters with the north Sudanese Arab soldiers, which led to open quarrels with his boss Major General Joseph Lagu, the commanding officer of the Sudan Armed Forces stationed in the southern Sudan region of Juba. As the head of the Sudan Armed Forces in the south, Major General Lagu recommended the early retirements of Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Gai along with his closest friend, Captain William Abdalla Chuol Deng, and immediately integrated them into civil service. Retired Lieutenant Colonel Gai Tut then became an executive director in local government.
In 1975, following the Akobo Mutiny by ex-Anya Nya forces under First Lieutenant Vincent Kuany Latjor (which resulted in the death of Lieutenant Colonel Abel Kol Ater, who was commanding the garrison), Samuel Gai was briefly detained by Sudan Intelligence Service because they accused him of being part of the mutiny.
After his release in 1978, Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Gai joined politics and contested a seat in the elections in the southern region. During that time, he captured his Waat constituency seat and was elected to the People’s Regional Assembly. From there he was appointed Minister of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism in the government headed by Retired Major General Joseph Lagu. Samuel Gai held this position and portfolio during the governments of major generals Joseph Lagu and Gismala Abdalla Rasas in 1978 and 1981 respectively. He was twice unopposed and elected to the southern Sudan Regional Assembly in 1978 and 1982.
In May 1983 Samuel Gai left his residence in Malakal and went to his village at Turok, Kurmayom, on his way to Ethiopia to join the southern Sudan rebellion movement. There he met late Colonel John Garang de Mabior at the Anya Nya II center at Marol in Nasir, from which they were later flown to Addis Ababa using military helicopter provided by the Ethiopian government. In July 1983 the prominent south Sudanese figures met at Itang Refugee Camp and formed the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/SPLA) under the overall chairmanship of veteran politician Akuot Atem de Mayen. This move was immediately objected to, however, by some south Sudanese army officers and politicians who advocated for the late Colonel Dr. John Garang to become the chairman instead of Akuot Atem.
This is how differences originated among the south Sudanese leaders and led to a split between the two factions of SPLM/SPLA led by Colonel John Garang on one hand and Anya Nya II headed by Akuot Atem and Samuel Gai Tut respectively. The late Samuel Gai Tut was unfortunately killed in action by SPLA forces stationed at Adura/Thiayjak on March 28, 1984, at 10.00 a.m. Sudan local time. Commander Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, then deputy chairman and commander in chief of SPLM/A ordered 50 slashes on Samuel Gai Tut’s dead body to prove his anger and frustration on a dead General. Unfortunately, Gai Tut met his untimely death at the hands of his fellow southerners in spite of the fact that he had dedicated his life for the cause of South Sudanese people.
He had sustained more than seven gunshot wounds during the Anya Nya war in the 1960s, including losing a finger on his right hand, which was injured by an enemy’s bullet. His death and the deaths of countless other national heroes whose fates are not remembered by our present leaders are very sad indeed.
Therefore, I am advocating for the name of the late Colonel Samuel Gai Tut to be put on the list of our national heroes and heroines whenever we commemorate them. I want to remind the readers of this book that the reason I took this opportunity to write the biography of the late Samuel Gai Tut is that I was physically there when the fight at Adura/Thiajak occurred. I was deeply saddened by the number of people who were killed that day. More than two hundred people were, sadly, killed by their own people instead of by the very enemy we all took up arms against. Southerners must learn to tolerate their differences and forgive themselves as one people with a common destiny. We have already achieved our ultimate goal—the independence of the Republic of South Sudan, which our forefathers, fathers, and the present generation fought for.
Now it is time to remember our national heroes and heroines and embark on developmental activities that will unite us all instead of looking at ourselves as enemies. Appreciations are due to all other south Sudanese fallen heroes and heroines who purposely sacrificed their precious lives for the cause of their oppressed people throughout the national struggles. The reason Samuel Gai is so important in this book is his willingness to stand for the liberation of South Sudan like others before him. Unfortunately, he lost his life at the hands of the wrong enemy—the SPLM/SPLA movement of Dr. John Garang de Mabior, who maliciously resisted the call for the liberation of an independent South Sudan state in favor of a united, secular, new Sudan, which he later abandoned.
The dreams of Samuel Gai and his colleagues who perished along with him, including Joseph Oduho, Benjamin Bol Akok, Akuot Atem de Mayen, William Chuol Deng, Martin Majier Gai, Lokurnyang Ladu, and numerous others, were later realized through a call for an internationally supervised referendum in South Sudan. This was advocated for by the Nasir Faction of the SPLM/SPLA led by Dr. Riek Machar Teny, Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin and Gordon Koang Chol on August 28, 1991, following the split within the SPLM/SPLA movement and with the subsequent signing of the CPA in 2005 between the SPLM/SPLA and the Sudan government, which recognized the rights of the people of South Sudan.
The independence of South Sudan, which was attained on July 9, 2011, came as a result of long and bitter struggles that cost the lives of nearly three million people from Anya Nya I, Anya Nya II, and SPLM/SPLA liberation wars against successive Arab regimes in Khartoum.
I personally took the death of Samuel Gai and others as a challenge to the south-south internal unity. I was there when Samuel Gai was killed in Adura—a small town situated along the Ethiopia/Sudan border on March 28, 1984, at the hands of SPLA forces who were specifically instructed to kill him. Samuel Gai was a tough Anya Nya freedom fighter, trained by Israeli agents during the first civil war that ended in 1972 with the signing of the Addis Ababa Accord, during which he was given the rank of lieutenant colonel.
In 1974 Samuel Gai was unceremoniously dismissed from the Sudan Armed Force by President Jaafar Mohammed Nimeiri and later detained following the Akobo uprising of 1975. After his release from detention, Samuel Gai was appointed executive director in the local government by the High Executive Council of Southern Sudan under the leadership of Abel Alier—a body that was formed in 1972 following the Addis Ababa Accord.
By 1978 Samuel Gai was elected unopposed to the People’s Regional Assembly as a Member of Parliament by his constituency stronghold of Waat rural area. Thereafter, he was appointed by Joseph Lagu to Minister of Wildlife, Conservation and Tourism. In 1983 Samuel Gai apparently defected from the government of Sudan and joined the Anya Nya II movement. Together with several thousand south Sudanese, he eventually formed the SPLM/SPLA under Akuot Atem de Mayen’s chairmanship.
As mentioned before, Colonel Dr. John Garang and his group vehemently rejected the nomination of Akuot Atem as the chairman of the newly formed movement, and he nominated himself instead. Samuel Gai was a true liberator, a father, a unifier, and nationalist south Sudanese leader who will always be remembered by generations in South Sudan’s history for his immense contributions and for being an advocate of South Sudan’s independence. His death was kept strictly secret for nearly two years by his ardent supporters, and it widely divided the people of southern Sudan along Dinka and Nuer ethnic lines for decades.
By late Daniel Wuor Joak: Daniel Wuor Joak is also the author of “The Rise and Fall of SPLM/SPLA Leadership”,