Lives At Stake, South Sudan During the Liberation Struggle

By Halle Jorn Hanssen
ISBN: 978-82-91385-61-7
© 2017 Skyline publishing

Book Review:
By Hakim Dario, PhD
Book Review Author contact: press@pdm-rss.org
Date: 14th February 2019

I read this book and kept going over it, gripped by the wealth of details, inside view
and revealing information that I never knew about before. I read the book several
times, found it to be motivating for action to bridge the deficit that is so well depicted
in what the liberation struggle leaders did not accomplish for their people.
The author Halle Jorn Hanssen, described the challenges that faced SPLM/A during the
struggle, and later the deficits in their leaders political will that emerged, and which
still persist to dash the aspirations for democracy development in South Sudan. I
recommend the book as a valuable resource to build knowledge and gain appreciation
of the context for critical challenges in the life of the new nation and needing to
navigate towards democracy and peace building.
We are indebted to Halle Hanssen for sharing and recording something of the SPLM/A
liberation struggle history in stories that shed light and increased knowledge of
contemporary South Sudanese and future posterity of what went on during the
liberation struggle. It clearly also said something about what still remains of the
struggle for “new democracy, development and social justice in the newest state” on
the continent.. Hanssen’s efforts to share his knowledge will not be in vain, as we all
take stock and pick up the pieces to try stitch things that have fallen apart together
again, to mend the broken social fabric in South Sudan, perhaps in the making of a
new democratic social contract that will hold the country together and prevent its
destruction by the liberators turned tribal kleptocrats.
Lives At Stake comes in a volume of 600 pages of narratives, inundated with many
stories by many of the actors who played a part in the act, in weaving together what
became the unique story of SPLM/A, their friends and partners in NPA and USAID,
the crucial roles they played in the liberation struggle, and the journey through the
early 1980s to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 and afterwards
reaching the promise land but then only to give it away. The book depicts how the
liberation struggle which held so much promise, quickly morphed into a
disappointing moral decay, the subsequent collapse of the SPLM from that decay
and with it, in the author’s view, the unthinkable destruction of the state of South
Sudan by none other than those same leaders who fought for its liberation.

controlled territories without the facilitation and services of NPA on the ground and
also in the air to fly in food, medical supplies, or VIP visitors who trekked to South
Sudan. Throughout NPA’s relief work on the ground, the freedom fighters were
provided a lifeline, knowing that there was medical care available in the event that
they were injured in the front lines and would be taken to hospital in Chukudum or
Yei for treatment.
The visitors on fact finding missions to the territories under SPLM/A control
included the US Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Mr. John Danforth,
Norway Minister for Development Cooperation and Human Rights, Hilde Frafjord
Johnson, Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation Jan Pronk, Executive Director
of US Committee on Refugees Roger Winter and later Assistant USAID
Administrator, the world-famous Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado,
amongst other celebrities.
John Garang’s enduring phone bills
The stories are not also without a lighter and humorous ring to them. One such
enduring story is that of John Garang’s satellite phone and payment of its bills,
which ran into millions of Norwegian Krona (NOK) at expense of the Norwegian
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (NMFA). At one point, John Garang’s phone was cut for
unpaid bills, and was barred from making further calls before nearly a 600,000 NOK
bill was paid, which was well beyond the cost of a few calls to Oslo. This cut or
disconnection occurred in the middle of a developing battle in the SPLA front lines,
which left the SPLA C-in-C furious and without communication to coordinate the
battle and give instructions to commanders in the middle of a large military
battlefield and operations as Garang protested! So NPA had to “pay the bill as fast as
possible”, considering the C-in-C was sure that the other party “NMFA” was the party
responsible for settling the bills but broke its promise.
The story had it that the phone could only be used in connection with peace
negotiations, and the NMFA reserved the right to turn it on and off, to which SPLM
agreed.
While otherwise usage by John Garang was not part of the terms and conditions of
the agreement for the phone, still NPA and NMFA had to be creative in settlement of
the phone bills running into a few (3 to 5) millions NOK, in solidarity and support
for the struggle of the people whose lives are at stake. The enduring rebel was able
to carry on using the sat phone unperturbed, and out with the terms and conditions,
with airtime cost still paid for at NMFA expense, or times at NPA’s expense.
In theory, the satellite phone was intended only for communication with NMFA
contacts in Norway for bilateral consultations related to peace negotiation initiative.
NMFA needed to consult with John Garang in the field on urgent issues or
developments, there was no other means to reach him without a satellite phone
paid for by NMFA, which ended up being used as a modern day Facebook and
essential tool of the C-in-C for field work as well as connectivity with the outside world.

The SPLM/A and its struggle is hugely indebted to the people of Norway and NPA in
particular, who were and still are the true friends of the peoples whose Lives are At
Stake.
Murderous business continuing in Juba, lives are at stake indeed
Paradoxically now lives are at stake from the systemic corruption, oppression and
kleptocratic rule of Salva Kiir’s regime in Juba. The book is very scathing about the
introduction of what the author described as Kiir’s regime fundamentally
undemocratic security laws that were approved by the Parliament in 2014, that
gave notorious security operatives in Kiir’s government a free hand to continue a
murderous business in Juba and South Sudan. This has cast dark clouds over the
new state, and the president is held responsible for the dangerous spiral of death
that is destroying the state of South Sudan.
The infamous Marial Nour Jok, a notorious security operative in Kiir’s government
merited a special appearance in the narrative, for his part in the 2013 massacre of
ethnic Nuers, with approval of the President, and many other disappearances and
gross human rights abuses committed by Marial Jok in Juba and during the
liberation struggle, including ordering execution of three catholic nuns in a school in
Akot accused to be spies, and who narrowly escaped death at his hands when
another commander was quickly dispatched (after an alert was raised) together
with Dan Eiffe2 to rescue the catholic nuns from execution the following morning.
Marial Nour Jok had dug holes in the ground for the three to stay over night with
only their heads left out for air awaiting their fate the following morning. Had the
execution of the nuns gone ahead, SPLM and the entire liberation struggle could
have been in tatters from the resulting condemnation of Marial Nour Jok’s
barbarism and unfettered brutality, which has continued to rear its ugly head under
the brutal regime of Salva Kiir. It is only in Kiir’s government that operatives with
such brutal record as Marial are not banished, but given a free hand to operate
outside of the rule of law and rewarded for their unrestrained, unfettered and
inconceivable impunity.
Standing in the way of building democratic institutions in the two Sudans
It’s not like there were no genuine efforts between 2005–2013 to develop
democratic institutions, the author noted. The NCP’s dictatorial Islamic state that
came to power in the 1989 coup ’de tat was not made for democratic reforms in the
country when it enacted the oppressive Press and Publications Act 2004, into law
just before the CPA was signed in 2005. The needed reforms to create the legal and
professional base for freedom of expression and independent media in the two
Sudans, which was non-existent, met with resistance and sabotage by highly placed The SPLM/A and its struggle is hugely indebted to the people of Norway and NPA in
particular, who were and still are the true friends of the peoples whose Lives are At
Stake.
Murderous business continuing in Juba, lives are at stake indeed
Paradoxically now lives are at stake from the systemic corruption, oppression and
kleptocratic rule of Salva Kiir’s regime in Juba. The book is very scathing about the
introduction of what the author described as Kiir’s regime fundamentally
undemocratic security laws that were approved by the Parliament in 2014, that
gave notorious security operatives in Kiir’s government a free hand to continue a
murderous business in Juba and South Sudan. This has cast dark clouds over the
new state, and the president is held responsible for the dangerous spiral of death
that is destroying the state of South Sudan.
The infamous Marial Nour Jok, a notorious security operative in Kiir’s government
merited a special appearance in the narrative, for his part in the 2013 massacre of
ethnic Nuers, with approval of the President, and many other disappearances and
gross human rights abuses committed by Marial Jok in Juba and during the
liberation struggle, including ordering execution of three catholic nuns in a school in
Akot accused to be spies, and who narrowly escaped death at his hands when
another commander was quickly dispatched (after an alert was raised) together
with Dan Eiffe2 to rescue the catholic nuns from execution the following morning.
Marial Nour Jok had dug holes in the ground for the three to stay over night with
only their heads left out for air awaiting their fate the following morning. Had the
execution of the nuns gone ahead, SPLM and the entire liberation struggle could
have been in tatters from the resulting condemnation of Marial Nour Jok’s
barbarism and unfettered brutality, which has continued to rear its ugly head under
the brutal regime of Salva Kiir. It is only in Kiir’s government that operatives with
such brutal record as Marial are not banished, but given a free hand to operate
outside of the rule of law and rewarded for their unrestrained, unfettered and
inconceivable impunity.
Standing in the way of building democratic institutions in the two Sudans
It’s not like there were no genuine efforts between 2005–2013 to develop
democratic institutions, the author noted. The NCP’s dictatorial Islamic state that
came to power in the 1989 coup ’de tat was not made for democratic reforms in the
country when it enacted the oppressive Press and Publications Act 2004, into law
just before the CPA was signed in 2005. The needed reforms to create the legal and
professional base for freedom of expression and independent media in the two
Sudans, which was non-existent, met with resistance and sabotage by highly placed The SPLM/A and its struggle is hugely indebted to the people of Norway and NPA in
particular, who were and still are the true friends of the peoples whose Lives are At
Stake.
Murderous business continuing in Juba, lives are at stake indeed
Paradoxically now lives are at stake from the systemic corruption, oppression and
kleptocratic rule of Salva Kiir’s regime in Juba. The book is very scathing about the
introduction of what the author described as Kiir’s regime fundamentally
undemocratic security laws that were approved by the Parliament in 2014, that
gave notorious security operatives in Kiir’s government a free hand to continue a
murderous business in Juba and South Sudan. This has cast dark clouds over the
new state, and the president is held responsible for the dangerous spiral of death
that is destroying the state of South Sudan.
The infamous Marial Nour Jok, a notorious security operative in Kiir’s government
merited a special appearance in the narrative, for his part in the 2013 massacre of
ethnic Nuers, with approval of the President, and many other disappearances and
gross human rights abuses committed by Marial Jok in Juba and during the
liberation struggle, including ordering execution of three catholic nuns in a school in
Akot accused to be spies, and who narrowly escaped death at his hands when
another commander was quickly dispatched (after an alert was raised) together
with Dan Eiffe2 to rescue the catholic nuns from execution the following morning.
Marial Nour Jok had dug holes in the ground for the three to stay over night with
only their heads left out for air awaiting their fate the following morning. Had the
execution of the nuns gone ahead, SPLM and the entire liberation struggle could
have been in tatters from the resulting condemnation of Marial Nour Jok’s
barbarism and unfettered brutality, which has continued to rear its ugly head under
the brutal regime of Salva Kiir. It is only in Kiir’s government that operatives with
such brutal record as Marial are not banished, but given a free hand to operate
outside of the rule of law and rewarded for their unrestrained, unfettered and
inconceivable impunity.
Standing in the way of building democratic institutions in the two Sudans
It’s not like there were no genuine efforts between 2005–2013 to develop
democratic institutions, the author noted. The NCP’s dictatorial Islamic state that
came to power in the 1989 coup ’de tat was not made for democratic reforms in the
country when it enacted the oppressive Press and Publications Act 2004, into law
just before the CPA was signed in 2005. The needed reforms to create the legal and
professional base for freedom of expression and independent media in the two
Sudans, which was non-existent, met with resistance and sabotage by highly placed

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