WASS – I want to thank you very much for agreeing to talk to us. Please tell us a bit about yourself: your background, childhood, education, early political life.
My name is Angelo Bangbaru Beda. Because people have difficulty with pronouncing my middle name, they generally refer to me as Angelo Beda. I was born in a village called Akpa, In Tombura. I started my education in 1950 in a bush school established by the missionaries. After spending 2 years there, I went to the main missionary school in Ngboko. After completing my studies at Ngboko, I was admitted to Busere Intermediate School. From Busere I went to study at Juba Commercial.
WASS – So how and why did you join the Anyaya rebellion?
Angelo Bangbaru Beda (ABB) -The Anyanya was an embodiment of the frustration and hopelessness of Southern Sudanese. Southern Sudanese were frustrated with the inability of the Arabs to keep their promises made in 1947 that they will give the idea of federation ‘due consideration’. Southern chose Federation because there were cultural, religious and educational differences between the South and the North of the country, that unfairly disadvantaged Southern. They wanted to be given an opportunity to develop at their own pace and then later join the Arabs when they will be able to relate on an equal basis. But the Arabs refused. In the Constitutive Assembly of 1954 it became clear to Southerners that the Arabs have moved away from the Federation and that if the Southerner did not react appropriately to this broken promise, they will be forever second citizens in their own country.
I left my studies and joined the rebellion to defend the integrity of my people. After I joined, the leadership of the Anyanya decided that those of us who were enrolled in universities should be allowed to go and complete our studies. The leadership reasoned that once victory was declared, Southern will need qualified people to govern them and those fighting now could continue in the army. So, I went to Zaire and after completing six month of language course, I decided to go to Nigeria and completed my studies at the University of Ibadan. When I return to Sudan in 1973, the Anyanya had reached an Agreement with the Government.
WASS – Some people say that the war in South Sudan now is a struggle for power using ethnicity as a vehicle. Was this the same during the Anyanya struggle?
ABB – The Anyanya fought for how Sudan should be governed and not who should govern it. So, within the Southerners, the division was more an ideological one. The discussion was about choosing between federation and local autonomy. The two main ideologue groups were the Sudan African National Union and the Southern Front. As I told you, Aggrey Jaden, an Equatorian from Equatoria had no problem at all working with William Deng, a Dinka. In the Southern Front you found all the tribes in Southern Sudan and it was the same things with SANU. There was nothing like Dinka or Nuer or who was the majority or the minority tribe. Members of the two groups were even friends, there was no quarrel between the 2 groups. When the Anyanya signed the 1972 Agreement under the leadership of Joseph Lago they decided to hand over the governance of Southern Sudan to politicians. Abel Alier was not part of Anyanya 1. So, it was not tribe, but competence and character that mattered. That is why the Anyanya handed the government to the Southerners who were inside and who knew how to run the government.
At least two things differentiate the Anyanya from the SPLA and what is happening today. First, during the Anyanya, what mattered was Southernism. Secondly, the Anyanya fought a nationalistic war. When they achieved their modest goal, whatever little success they had in Addis Ababa in 1972, they had to return it to the politicians to manage the country on behalf of all Southerners.
WASS – So, are you suggesting that this is where the SPLA started to get it wrong?