Who's Who: Significant People and Organisations
Beja Congress | National Democratic Alliance | National Islamic Front

Sudan Alliance Forces | Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement

SPLA/M - Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement

Northern Sudanese recognition of the leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), Dr John Garang, took an important step in October 1996 when he was appointed chairman of the military command of the seven groups affiliated with the National Democratic Alliance. The military wings of various opposition groups had previously operated separately in the conflict .

The SPLA was formed in 1983, and has since fought against the governments of Nimeiri, Sadiq al-Mahdi and President Omar Bashir. It is largely but not exclusively southern and Christian, and its declared aims are the establishment of a secular, democratic Sudan. Although many southerners would prefer independence, it has talked primarily of unity within a confederal system. Its leader, John Garang, holds a doctorate and was militarily trained in the USA. He is from the Dinka, Sudan's largest ethnic group.

The earliest and most prominent Northern Sudanese member of the SPLM/SPLA is Dr Mansour Khalid, author of "Nimeiri and the Revolution of Dis-May" and UN environment program consultant. As Nimeiri's foreign minister in the 1970s, Mansour Khalid clashed with more Arab-oriented ministers, saying the incorporation of Europeans in the "breadbasket" food production plans was essential because they could help with technology.

Mansour Khalid insisted that the multinational conglomerate Lonrho be given shares in the ambitious Kenana sugar factory, the world's largest cane plantation, with an annual output of 320,000 tons.

Critics now say Lonrho and the European partners have increased local costs, and have benefited the Western manufacturers of sugar machinery at the expense of local needs. Lonrho's founder, Tiny Rowland, subsequently extended hospitality and assistance not only to John Garang's SPLA, but also to the commanders who attempted to depose Garang and eventually sided with the NIF, when he judged the time to be right.

A number of former SPLA commanders broke with Garang in the early 1990s and eventually signed a separate peace agreement with Khartoum in April 1997.

Riek Machar
As leader of the breakaway Southern Sudan Independence Movement, Riek Machar signed a provisional peace treaty with Khartoum in April 1996. He went on television after SPLA-NDA attacks on the eastern towns of Kurmuk and Geissan in January 1997, pledging his troops to fight alongside the government.

Machar said the SPLA-NDA offensive was aimed at undermining the peace process in which his group and that of Kerubino Kwanyin Bol, who also signed the 1996 peace accord, were involved.

"The political charter ... stipulates we should all defend the homeland," Machar said. His support for the government is considered vital because his troops, mainly from the Nuer people, control the areas around the oil-rich Adar-Yale field in Upper Nile.

In mid-January 1998 President Bashir appointed former SPLA guerrilla commander Maj-Gen Kerubino Kwanyin Bol as deputy president and minister for local government and public security in southern Sudan.

It is believed Bashir offered the job to Kerubino to placate his rivalry with another ex-guerrilla, Riek Machar, president of Khartoum's Southern Coordinating Council.

In 1983 Kerubino, then a lieutenant-colonel, led the mutiny in the southern town of Bor which sparked the current insurgency. For several years he was the number two in the SPLA led by John Garang, but the two men - who belong to different branches of the Dinka group - fell out in 1987. Garang imprisoned Kerubino after disagreements over the SPLA's alleged dictatorial tendencies. Kerubino escaped in 1992 and fled to Uganda and then to Kenya.

Kerubino's base is in Gogrial, northern Bahr al-Ghazal, where in military terms his volatile and highly destructive role as a warlord has been crucial to the government's success in countering the SPLA.

In January 1998 Defence Minister Lt-Gen Hassan Abd al-Rahman Ali praised Kerubino for orchestrating mass defections of rebel SPLA troops in the Bahr al-Ghazal region. But it turned out to be a Trojan Horse operation: once inside the regional capital, Wau, the returnees began capturing the town for the SPLA. Kerubino had changed sides again. The implications for security in the southwest are serious, since the government has lost an important buffer force between SPLA territory and the oilfields.

Lam Akol
Former University of Khartoum lecturer Lam Akol has an MSc in petroleum engineering and a PhD in copper extraction. He was the architect, together with Riek Machar, of the 1991 split in the SPLA, which began as an attempt to replace John Garang as leader. He later fell out with Riek, was reduced to leading a force of his Shilluk kinsfolk - ironically called SPLA-United - and after prolonged pressure eventually signed up to Khartoum's Peace Agreement. Since the re-defection of Kerubino Kwanyin in Wau, Lam Akol has kept a low profile in Khartoum.