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Tribute to Cdr. Elijah Hon Top, a revolutionary hero and a leader

The 20th anniversary of the physical disappearance of Elijah Hon Top

By Moses Jal Elijah, revised by Deng Elijah

Oct 28, 2020(Nyamilepedia)October 28, 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Elijah Hon Top aka “Pernyang” in Khartoum, Sudan. Cdr. Elijah, a well-known freedom fighter and a founding member of our glorious SPLM/A since its inception in 1983, was a prominent political leader, a gifted orator, a theologian, a nationally known revolutionary activist and a relentless fighter for the independence of South Sudan.

Founders of the SPLM/A, L-R, Captain(Cdr.) Elijah Hon Top[far left] and Major(Cdr). William Nyuon Bany of 105 & 105 Batalion, who rebelled in Ayod town, on June 6th, 1983 met with Col. (Cdr) Dr. John Garang De Mabior, Maj. (Cdr) Kerbino Kuanyin Bol of Jamus Batalion. who rebelled in Bor town on May 16th, 1983 and Capt ( Cdr) Salva Kiir Mayardit, somewhere in Jonglei State, 1983(Photo credit: SPLM/A Library/supplied/Nyamilepedia)
Founders of the SPLM/A, L-R, Captain(Cdr.) Elijah Hon Top[far left] and Major(Cdr.) William Nyuon Bany of 104 & 105 Batalion, who mutinied from Ayod town on June 6th, 1983 meeting with Col (Cdr.) Dr. John Garang De Mabior and Maj (Cdr.) Kerbino Kuanyin Bol of Jamus Batalion, who mutinied from Bor town on May 16th, 1983 and joined by Capt ( Cdr.) Salva Kiir Mayardit, somewhere in Jonglei State, 1983(Photo credit: SPLM/A Library/supplied/Nyamilepedia)
Before the formation of the SPLM/A, he surreptitiously participated in the organization of the movement and memorably, he was one of the leading think tanks and revolutionists behind the historic Ayod Mutiny of June 6, 1983.  The Ayod uprising, which served as the rescue mission to the Bor Mutiny of May 16, 1983, laid a historic foundation to the formation of the SPLM/A.

The Ayod uprising did not only rescue the remnants of the Bor Mutiny, who were aggressively pursued by the government troops throughout the Jonglei province, but authoritatively declared that the Southerners had had enough. That echo was stronger than anything else the Arab regimes had heard at the time. The mutiny in Ayod saw hundreds of NIF troops buried in a big mass grave that became a historic site locally known as “Inbar” and that sent the loudest message to the Khartoum governments – that the Southerners had revolted.

Cdr. Elijah, who was the former commissioner of the Gawaar Administrative County, a well-trained theologian and a scholar, had a long working experience in the area and that became very instrumental in the efficient organization of the insurgency in Ayod. His vast knowledge and dedication were later utilized to recruit and transition troops from Ayod through neighboring areas to the military training sites at Sudan-Ethiopian border.

Coming from the second largest Nuer tribe and with a college degree from Beirut, Lebanon, under his belt at that time, Cdr. Elijah became a very crucial asset on both sides of the movement: first, as one of the senior organizers of the first historic batch contingent 104/5  battalion and secondly as one of the formerly well-trained soldiers and commissioners that rebelled the Sudanese government. This political-military experience and the fact that he was a senior evangelist from the Presbyterian Church of Sudan at the time, put him at the forefront to try to mediate differences between various groups of South Sudanese leaders; unfortunately, the differences were huge which ended-up with the breakaway of the Anya Nya 2 under the leadership of Hon. Akout Atem and Samuel Gai Tut. Fortuitously, the internal divisions led to the formation of SPLM/A under the leadership of Dr. John Garang de Mabior.

From 1983, Elijah committed to leadership training center in BONGA which is located in the mountainous region of the present days Gambella, Ethiopia. He became one of the first political trainees of the movement known as the “Above Shield”. Upon completion of the training, Elijah was deployed to Bahr El Ghazal region as one of the leaders of the Jamus battalion in a recruitment spree of the heroic Muor Muor battalion. This new assignment opened many doors and of course promotions and success, politically and militarily.

Late Cdr. Elijah Hon Top Rak, founding member of SPLM/A, passed on on October 28, 2020(Photo credit: courtesy image/family)
Late Cdr. Elijah Hon Top Rak, founding member of SPLM/A, passed on on October 28, 2020(Photo credit: courtesy image/family)

Comrade Elijah steadily developed and climbed into a higher chain of commands within the Jamus battalion, as well as in the movement. Immediately after his return to the headquarters in Ethiopia, the movement leadership sent him to a diplomatic trip to Europe in pursuit to persuade the European nations to support SPLM and to sympathize with the objectives and goals of the newly founded military struggle, SPLM/SPLA.

Fast-forward, during the split of the SPLM/A in early 1990, Cde Elijah joined the Nasir faction under the leadership of Dr. Riek Machar Teny, who led the SPLM/A-United and later the South Sudan Independent Movement that signed the historic  Khartoum Peace Agreement(KPA), which became the blueprint to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ultimately led to the independence of South Sudan.

Throughout his time in SPLM/A United, Cdr. Elijah was the Zonal commander of the Central Upper Nile and after the restructuring of the South Sudan Independence Movement/ Army (SSIM/A), he became the military governor of Phow State, a position he occupied until his promotion to the post of Chief of Staff under the Khartoum Peace Agreement. When the peace agreement failed in the early 2000, and following the abrupt withdrawal of chairman of the SSIM/A, Commander Elijah Hon Top was temporarily nominated the spokesperson of the South Sudan Defense Forces (SSDF). Unfortunately, on the day of his confirmation to assume the position of the SSDF chairmanship, he inexplicably died in Khartoum.

Without a doubt his military and political accomplishments have highlighted an important part of his personal achievements but more importantly his dedication and hard work in the Presbyterian church of Sudan certainly highlighted an essential chapter of his developments. At an early age, he devoted a big portion of his time and energy in the church and community in Phow, Malakal, Ayod and everywhere where his services were needed. Such efforts allowed him to be a senior member of the Presbyterian church at the young age and undeniably rendered him a scholarship to the American College in Beirut, Lebanon. There, he studied theology and language, and by the end of 1970s he graduated and returned home to work and support his family.

Death is a physical disappearance of the corpse which in some extent triggers sorrow, anguish, and agony but with time we recover our strengths, pick up the legacies of those who have inspired us and continue the journey. To the extraordinary heroes and heroines who have sacrificed their precious lives for the independence of our beloved South Sudan and to those who sacrificed their energy, time, and lives for us to have a Republic and this flag flown full mast internationally, we salute you.

These heroes and heroines deserve equal recognition because their unselfishness dedications and efforts safeguarded a whole nation and not specific tribes in South Sudan.

20 years since you departed from this world, your legacy lives, and it has always and will always be remembered by our family and closest friends throughout the course of our existence. Despite the silence of your colleagues and former friends, we will keep your legacy alive because your exceptional deeds will never die in vain. We are living in a critical era in the history of our nascent nation where plagiarism, denial and the exclusion of facts is the word of the day. An unethical and disgrace to the memory of the fallen heroes and heroines of our glorious movement.

In the middle of hasty high-tech revolutions around the world, South Sudanese must derail from the old-fashioned habits of portraying realities. It is a time for a swift and radical change, and to join the race for sustainable development. Growth and development will help us to eradicate tribalism and the widespread impoverishment of our people and indeed advance our nation to closer range with the most developed countries in Africa and the World.

To many of us who have been part of this struggle, our greatest desire is to be able to see a free, democratic and united South Sudan and to live in a country that our predecessor fought and died for, with their dreams fulfilled to the fullest.

I dedicated these lines to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of my father, Elijah Hon Top. I salute and honour the members of the heroic Jamus battalion, Mut battalion and to all fallen comrades during our liberation movement.

Until we meet again,

For more information, you can reach Moses Jal Elijah through email at mjelijah@yahoo.ca. 

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