Book Review: Warriors from Abyei in the Liberation of South Sudan By Francis Mading Deng

Updated: Dec 11, 2021

It was my privilege to read, Warriors from Abyei in the Liberation of South Sudan, a gripping and deeply moving account of the South Sudanese War of Independence. This book is well presented with true stories of the main characters narrated in their own words, which makes it an emotional and deeply impactful read.

Right from the beginning, the editor Francis Mading Deng clearly sets out the landscape and layout of the book. In addition to the Introduction, the book is divided into four main sections, each covering the four experiences (2 males and 2 females) of the war heroes. The ‘Introduction’ section provides a clear and concise overview of what the reader can expect from the chapters to follow. In the fifth and final part of the book, the editor provides his own perspectives with a main comparison to the South African struggle against apartheid and to Nelson Mandela as the leading figure.

While the book provides a much-required historical perspective of the rebellion, it also details the inner rivalries, intrigues of the Movement, as well as post-war struggles of the leadership for long-term sustainable peace. It is an extremely moving account of not only the main characters but also of many other individuals, they encounter on their journey to freedom.

Although the book focuses upon the struggles and chronicles of the four main individuals (Gen. Pieng Deng, the Awuors, Nyenagwek Kuol and Raphael Tikley), who were at the forefront of the revolution as warriors, it also interweaves the contributions of the editor to the same cause, in his capacity as a diplomat and a government servant.

My favourite part of the book is, of course, when each character accomplishes their goal, as everyone is extremely inspiring for their valour and dedication to the purpose. Gen. Pieng, however, stands out, not only as a commander at the forefront of the war but also as a peacemaker, negotiator as well as a very wise individual who is able to avoid serious confrontations and revolts through his extraordinary negotiating skills and timely interventions. His account is that of a true leader. Multi-faceted; as it illustrates planning, execution, management and mobilization of resources, training of personnel as well as advising leadership and looking after the welfare of his soldiers and protecting the civilians.

This book provides several details of the atrocities and brutalities committed against the South Sudanese people and some accounts are not easy to read due to the vivid descriptions of the crimes committed. For me, however, one of the most emotional experiences was that of Awuor Deng at school. I felt deeply for her!! Awuor is also my favourite for her courage, inner strength, commitment, and resolve. Having said that, I must acknowledge that I was also inspired by Raphael Tikley, not only because of his young age but also because of the many hardships he and his fellow fighters faced bravely.

Although every character was either provoked or compelled to join the rebellion for different personal reasons, they all shared similar experiences of injustice and atrocities committed largely against the South Sudanese people. It is remarkable how the editor has brought together these four experiences of five individuals and his own and made it into a very compelling volume. Certainly, freedom has a heavy price and come with a lot of pain and suffering. This is what Francis Mading questions at the end of the book. In his conclusive remarks which are worth quoting again and again, he asks a painful and deep question that why does a ‘solution that is obvious at the outset gets negotiated and accepted only after so much suffering, bloodshed, and sometimes genocidal atrocities’. In my opinion this is the essence and message of the book. This thought-provoking quote will remain with me forever!

Submitted by: Dr. Umneea A. Khan

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