July 19, 2017 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s rebel leader, Riek Machar said the late Kawac Makuei Mayar, who died last Saturday, deserves a state burial for roles he played in the struggle for self-determination and the independence of South Sudan.
Machar said he learnt of the death of Mayar, a war veteran and one of the founding members of South Sudan’s 1983 rebel movement, with sadness.
He described the departed veteran politician as a committed nationalist who fought for self-determination and independence of South Sudan from neighbouring Sudan.
“He [Mayar] shall also be remembered for his courage, honesty and integrity. Above all, he was a friendly person,” said Machar on Wednesday.
“He shall be missed not only by his family but all. He was a towering figure in the political life of South Sudan that deserves state burial in recognition of his role”, he added.
Kawac died on Saturday morning in Juba on a return trip from Cairo, Egypt, where he sought medical attention. It was not clear what the illness with which he was battling and the level of severity that took him to Egypt for treatment, and whether or not the death is associated with the condition of his health. The family members have confirmed he died but did not release the detail to the public.
LEGACY OF THE LATE VETERAN COMMANDER
The veteran soldier became a towering figure after taking to the bush and fought in the first, second and third wars as a leader in the Anyanya one during the First Sudanese Civil War in 1955. When the first war ended in 1972 with the signing of the peace agreement in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, he decided to return to the bush in 1983 when peace could not meet the expectations of South Sudanese and became one of the founding members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
He, however, joined the Anyanya 1 movement between 1962 and 1963 and became a major by the time the Addis Ababa Accord of 1972 was signed. He did not integrate into the Sudanese army but served in the regional government brought by the peace agreement as a member of parliament in Juba. Kawac became Commander of the Jamus battalion in the SPLA, resulting into a successful operation into Wathkec, on the Mouth of the Jonglei Cana, in February 1984 as the commanding officer of Jamus brigade.
His military knowledge and experience reportedly resulted into successful military operations that opened up the way for recruits from Bahr el Ghazal, western and northern Upper Nile regions to pass to the military training camps in Ethiopia.
Kawac inspired and trekked with thousands of recruits from Bahr el Ghazal for a long walk to Ethiopia at the inception of the movement. He fell out with late John Garang, founding leader of the SPLM in September 1984 over the death of Benjamin Bol Akok, a former minister in the regional government in Juba. Late Akok whose death annoyed Kawac and protested it was the first SPLM official representative to the United Kingdom (UK) when the movement was founded. Akok was killed in Ethiopia on his way to London after visiting the headquarters of the SPLM at the Sudan and Ethiopia border. His death caused commotion, resulting in the arrest of commander Kawac in September 1984.
Garang, it is said, feared Kawac would mobilize men he recruited and who formed the majority of the rebel forces against the leadership of the movement in which he also arrested several other influential figures in the movement, centralizing leadership around him.
Kawac left the movement after the split in 1991 forced his release and on 21 April 1997 and he was among southern leaders who signed the Khartoum Peace Agreement of 1997, representing the Bahr al-Ghazal Independence Movement for Southern Sudan. The Agreement provided for self-governance of the south during a transitional period when a referendum would be held on the future form of government. That agreement was boycotted by the faction under the leadership of John Garang with whom he fell out and the left the movement.
He was appointed governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal State as part of the provisions of the peace agreement. In June 1998 an attack was made on his house, apparently by members of a rival pro-government militia. When the civil war ended in January 2005, Kawac Makuei was appointed Chairperson of the Southern Sudan War Veterans Commission by the Government of South Sudan.
In February 2010, he declared his candidacy for governorship of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, running on the United Democratic Salvation Front platform. In the April 2010 election, the incumbent Paul Malong Awan of the SPLM got 162,209, General Dau Aturjong Nyuol won 84,452 and Kawac Makuei Kawac trailed with 9,854 votes.