Former A2 leader and member of SPLM/A’s PMHC, General Gordon Kong Chol dead aged nearly 80
Deng Vanang, Brussel, Belgium
Friday, January 07, 2022 (PW) — In the early evening hours of Thursday, 6th of January, 2022 Uncle Gordon Kong Chuol Kulang went to be with the Lord as the visionary man who in his political differences with comrades and colleagues was always at the end proved right by testing time and troubled history.
He was born at the Ethiopian border town of Tiergol with South Sudan nearly 80 years ago to the Eastern Nuer peasant family.
Despite his geographical location, Uncle Gordon identified himself as a South Sudanese national and joined Anyanya 1 movement in the 1960s as the youthful rebel fighter, a cause for which he forewent his happy youthful life in the village for the independence of South Sudan to be attained 50 years later in July 2011.
He was left-turned during the integration of A1 forces into the Sudanese Armed Forces, SAF in 1972 and went back to the village where he bided his time for the second phase of the liberation struggle. Akobo mutiny of March 1975 led by 2nd Lt. Vincent Kuany Latjor and Corporal James Bol Kur Ayang was the opportune spike he awaited.
He joined the rebel officers at Bilpam and formed A2, a successor of the A1 movement. He became the stabilizing and uniting factor in a nascent, rowdy and shadowy guerrilla group struggling to stamp its foot in revolutionary politics and cross border guerilla warfare against the Sudanese military stationed in the South and got entrusted with the position of Chief of General Staff.
That is until October 1983 when he with his group was dislodged into the Sudanese border from Bilpam by the newly established John Garang-led SPLM/A with the backing of the Ethiopian socialist government under Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam.
His group linked up in Lou Nuerland with Samuel Gai Tut – Akuot Atem De Mayen’s group that was equally dislodged from Itang Refugee Camp in September the same year of 1983 by the SPLM/A.
There the groups merged into an A2 outfit fighting with the backing of Sudan’s Jafaar Muhammed al-Nimeri regime against SPLMA. With Samuel Gai physically liquidate in April 1984 at Adura, an Ethiopian border town with Sudan in a foiled reconciliation attempt with SPLM/A, Akuot Atem getting eliminated by William Abdalaha Chuol Deng Luoth to become A2 strong man and his subsequent demise in the hands of SPLM/A in 1986, Gordon rose to the helm of undisputed leader of the movement.
His cold head and consultative leadership style super glued A2 rival factions of less than one thousand Nuer fighters in total squeezed into a narrow strip of land between Lou and East Jikany Nuers and without proper logistics supply line and under siege of well-armed, multi-battalion SPLM/A.
The ouster of Nimeri in 1985 and expiry of the transitional military government of General Abdel Rahman Suwar al-Dahab in 1986 that ceded power to the democratically elected civilian government of Sadiq al-Mahdi denied A2 a solid support base it desperately needed against the SPLM/A hugely growing in strength in all spheres of influence both at home and abroad.
Concerned by the destructive nature of an inter-factional feud between A2 and SPLM/A in Eastern Jikanyland, Dr Riek Machar, Nuer urban students and Eastern Jikany politicians in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia led by Uncle Daniel Koat Mathews and military officers among whom SPLA’s alternate field Commander James Hoth Mai was atop approached Gordon and his forces with peace and unity overture.
The national call to close ranks and wage a successful struggle against the common enemy, Khartoum matured into reality at the beginning of 1988 at the border point of Kuanylou, Ethiopia, with the integration of A2 forces into SPLM/A marred by A2 internal discrepancies.
Greater Bentiu and Fangak wings under the command of respectively Paulino Matip Nhial on the one hand and on the other Paul Ruot and Gabriel Tanginye refused to budge to the unity call against Gordon till 1991 when the groups from Khartoum’s hands slipped to unite with newly declared Nasir faction led by Dr Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon in his attempts to topple Dr John Garang De Mabior from SPLM/A’ leadership.
Gordon’s second in command, Commander Stephen Duol Chol, undermined his efforts through the toxic influence of Commander William Nyuon Bany, the SPLM/A Nuer leader holding the unity file, rendering him a lame duck with unity negotiations going improperly against his wishes.
Though Gordon maintained his seniority as the last in the rank of SPLM/A’s 14 man-Political Military High Command over Stephen, the latter wielded more influence in the SPLM/A and trust he garnered from his bosses than the former.
Gordon moreover ran into trouble with the Lou Nuer faction led by Chief negotiator David Bidiet Deng aggrieved by Eastern Jikany wing getting all the two topmost positions among others of an integrated A2 into SPLM/A’s leadership structure.
The unity saw most parts of South Sudan liberated from 1989 to 1991 including the garrison town of Nasir where he, Dr Lam Akol and Dr Riek Machar announced a creeping revolution against their boss, Garang with the independence of South Sudan as their objective opposed to that of Garang’s united secular democratic new Sudan.
Leaders of the 1991 Nasir Coup: Dr Riek Machar, Dr Lam Akol and Gen Gordon Koang Chol, Nasir, Aug 1991
In 1994 Gordon locked horns with his boss Machar over the cold blood murder of Lul Kuarduek, field coordinator of Nasir faction’s humanitarian wing in Ulang and Lou-Jikany Nuer catastrophic clan feud over the ownership of Sobat river Westbank the latter accused the former of partly fomenting among other officers of both sides.
While in detention till released, he denied all charges and put the blame squarely at Machar’s doorstep.
Gordon remained rock solid behind the 1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement Machar signed and abandoned in 1999 to return to the armed struggle against the Khartoum government.
Despite then Sudan’s First Vice President and President of an autonomous Southern region Salva Kiir Mayardit and his Vice President Dr Riek Machar’s request of Southern Sudan Defense Forces, SSDF under the hostile ambit of Khartoum government to join Juba, Gordon remained pessimistic about SPLM/A governance given his past experience in the bush, with his boss General Paulino Matip responding positively to unity call on 9th January 2006.
His doubts came to pass when General Paulino Matip died under mysterious circumstances and the ruling SPLM/A in the South committed the most heinous genocide against his Nuer tribe in December 2013 in the history of the world’s youngest Republic.
He then threw his lots behind SPLM/A-IO with his rag-tag forces stationed along with South Sudan -Sudan northern border of Upper Nile state.
Went into a disagreement with Machar’s SPLM/A-IO in 2015 alongside Gabriel Changson Chang’s newly established rebel Federal Democratic Party, FDP/South Sudan Armed Forces, SSAF of which he became a senior adviser on military affairs.
But broke ranks with Changson in April 2019 and held out while firmly holding onto
his undying promise of never to step foot on his motherland, South Sudan under SPLM/A’s rule till death yesterday evening.
You can reach the author, Deng Vanang, via his email: deng vanang <email@example.com>