Bol Nyawan: Lest We Forget

By Brian Adeba

Today is South Sudan’s independence day. I want to tell you the story of Bol Nyawan, a man you have probably never heard of.

The discovery of oil in Bentiu in 1974 brought together the predatory forces that have robbed South Sudan, starting from the Turkiya, into action once more. In this case, two oil ministers of the Nimeri era, Abdel Latif Widatallah and the Umma party turncoat, Dr. Shariff El Tuhami, on one hand, and the Chevron oil company on the other hand.

Widatallah never even bothered to involve the South Sudan regional government in the contract discussions with Chevron, despite the fact that the oil was in South Sudan. It was Chevron that insisted that they visit Juba, only to discover that Abel Alier was unaware of the details of the agreement. El Tuhami did the same in the late 1970s.

As Mansour Khalid notes, El Tuhami, who played a key role in excluding the regional government “was not only insensitive to the anxieties of southerners, he was disdainful of all things southern.”

By the early ‘80s, slights such as the unilateral abrogation of the Addis Ababa Agreement and the imposition of Islamic Shariah in the South Sudan, incentivized the formation of insurgent groups, in the South to push back the onslaught.

By February 1984, plans for the oil sector were created to benefit people in other areas of Sudan rather than South Sudan. E.G the building of a refinery in Kosti rather than in Bentiu.

Chevron increasingly began to be seen by South Sudanese as a complicit actor in the proposed looting of South Sudanese resources. The Southern Regional Assembly issued a resolution in the late 1970s condemning Chevron for this complicity.

Enter Bol Nyawan, a local Anyanya II commander in Western Upper Nile. In February 1984, he and his men could no longer take the BS of the ruling elites in Khartoum and Chevron.

One dark night, he led the one significant attack on the Chevron base in Rubukona that halted oil production in Sudan until more than 10 years later. #LestWeForget

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