Gordon Muortat Mayen

Gordon Muortat Mayen Maborjok (1922–2008) was a South Sudanese veteran politician and an advocate for the rights and freedom of the South Sudanese people. He was the President of the Nile Provisional Government (NPG) which led Anyanya I; Southern Sudan’s first armed resistance to Khartoum which started in 1955. Muortat also served as Vice-President of the Southern Front (SF) and Foreign Minister in the Southern Sudan Provisional Government (SSPG).[1]

Gordon Muortat Mayen
Personal details
Born 1922
Karagok (near Rumbek), Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, (Now South Sudan)
Died April 12, 2008 (aged 8586)
Rumbek, Sudan
Nationality South Sudanese
Occupation Politician & Freedom Fighter

. . . Gordon Muortat Mayen . . .

Gordon Muortat Mayen was born in 1922 at Karagok village 10 miles South East of Rumbek. His father was a local chief of Patiop Clan of the Agar Dinka. Muortat was educated at Akot elementary from 1936 to 1942. He then attended Loka Nugent Junior Secondary School in Western Equatoria from 1942 to 1945. In 1951 he was among the first Southern Sudanese to graduate from Sudan Police College and was commissioned to police inspector where he rose through the ranks to become Chief Inspector of Police.[2]

Gordon Muortat in police uniform

In 1957, Muortat was denied a transfer to the Southern Sudan, so he resigned his position and joined the Sudan Civil Administration. He was appointed assistant district commissioner and served in many places in the Bahr el-Ghazal and Upper Nile provinces. In 1965, under the transitional government of Prime Minister Sirr Al-Khatim Al-Khalifa, Muortat was appointed to be Minister of Works and Mineral Resources in his cabinet. However, when Prime Minister Muhammad Ahmad Mahjub came to office, Muortat was dismissed.[1]

In 1964, Gordon Muortat became one of the founders of the Southern Front (SF), a political party that would represent the rights of the people of Southern Sudan. He headed the Southern Front delegation in the Round Table Conference between the South and North in 1965 and is remembered for demanding that the South be given the right to self-determination.[3] He held this view due to the fact that Southern Sudanese were not involved in the politics which led to the so-called independence of the Sudan from the colonial power in 1956. He therefore argued that South Sudanese must be given the right to determine their political future in a referendum, to be carried out in the South which should be supervised and monitored internationally.[4][5] This view was also shared by other members of the Southern Front, namely Clement Mboro, Bona Malwal and Hilary Paul Logali. The great massacres of Juba, Wau and all over the South that were carried out by the Sudanese army in July 1965 convinced Gordon Muortat that the Northern Arab rulers were not interested in the peaceful resolution of the ‘South Sudan Question’. Thus in August 1965 at the meeting of the Southern Front executive committee, he proposed that the party should be dissolved and that the entire committee should move into exile with the objective of merging with the Anyanya political and military wings.[2]

President of NPG Gordon Muortat at the declaration and raising of the flag of the Nile State (Republic), 1969

Muortat joined the Anyanya 1 insurgency, fighting in the First Sudanese Civil War to liberate the territories of Southern Sudan in 1967 and was appointed foreign minister in the Southern Sudan Provisional Government (SSPG) under Aggrey Jaden. After the collapse of the SSPG due to internal political wrangling,[6] the second Anya-Nya One government, the Nile Provisional Government (NPG) was formed. Gordon Muortat Mayen was elected unanimously as president, with his army fighting a fully fledged war against the north, advocating for the complete independence of the South. During this time, Southern Sudan was renamed the Nile Republic with its citizens being referred to as Nileans. The name Southern Sudan was rejected by Muortat and his government due to the name being just a reference to a geographic zone which has little relevance to the people of the Southern Sudan. It is also a name which was used by colonial powers to inadequately describe the Nilotic and Nilo-Hamitic tribes living on the upper region of the river Nile, first by the Egyptians, and later by the British. Dr. John Garang de Mabior, future leader of the SPLA, was among the batches of Muortat’s soldiers sent to Israel for military training under the NPG.[4][7]

The NPG was dissolved in 1970, after the failure to restore Israeli arms shipments to their forces. The weapons were instead being diverted to Joseph Lagu who formed the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM) in January 1971 after staging a successful coup d’état against Muortat and his rebel government. At the time, Andrew Makur Thou, commander of the Anyanya forces under the NPG was willing to continue to fight under Muortat’s leadership and quell the coup attempt, however Gordon Muortat declined. In a 1999 interview, Muortat, talking on the dissolution of the NPG stated, “I went to the bush in order to fight for the liberation of the South Sudan. And since Lagu had managed to secure arms for the liberation of our people, I did not see any reason to continue with a parallel struggle. So I decided to stand down. Because it is my belief that South Sudan cannot be liberated from the Arabs unless all of the Africans in the South unite and fight as one people, for one goal, the independence of South Sudan”.[4][5] He encouraged all loyal forces to join Lagu and continue the fight against the Arab dominated government in the North. While Muortat was leader of the Southern movement, he declined offers of ceasefire with Khartoum as he was not willing to accept the terms Gaafar Nimeiry was offering; local autonomy for the region of Southern Sudan. He was only willing to enter peace talks if the succession of Southern Sudan was on the agenda. Shortly after Joseph Lagu had taken over power as the leader of the movement, the SSLM under Lagu, entered peace negotiations with Khartoum to form the Addis Ababa Agreement which accepted regional autonomy for the South.

In 1971, Gordon Muortat was elected president of the African National Front, which was one of the southern factions that were against the Addis Ababa negotiations and did not actively participate in them, however they sent a clear message to negotiators on how proceedings could move. This included; that talks ought to be held between North and Southern true Representatives i.e. those mandated and not opportunists acting on complicity with the Arabs and their agents. Talks ought to take place without any pre-condition like the Arabs imposition of Local Autonomy. The talks ought to take place under the auspices of impartial organisations like the UN or the OAU. The Arabs must know that what they are now committing in Addis Ababa will never help in defeating the Southern Sudan.[8] However, despite this, the Addis Ababa peace agreement was signed in 1972. Gordon Muortat did not agree with the contents and terms of the agreement, calling it a sell out and fraudulent.[9] He believed that the Southern people were not given the chance to self-determination and a return to civil war will be needed in order for South Sudanese to achieve their true unalienable rights. He continued the protest against the agreement and remained in exile moving to the UK.

. . . Gordon Muortat Mayen . . .

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. . . Gordon Muortat Mayen . . .

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