By Dengdit Ayok, Cairo, Egypt
This is a biography of Comrade Kerbino Wol Agok, written in commemoration of his martyrdom about a year ago in a Lakes state, South Sudan.
He was born in Tonj District in 1982 as Wol Agok WolGeng. He later acquired a European church name (Kerbino), and his name became Kerbino Wol AgokWol. His mother, Mrs. Teresa Bensencio Ali, hails from Western Bahr el Ghazal State, from the largest family of a well-known South Sudanese politician, Ali Tamim Fartak. His father Agok Wol Geng joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, Sudan People’s Liberation Army, (SPLM/SPLA); in 1980s like many Sudanese who joined the movement in the early years of its inception in western Ethiopia.
Agok Wol Geng, now a veteran soldier, left TonjDistrict in Bar el Ghazal province with his family to western Ethiopia, and he then left his family in Itangrefugee camp, and joined one of the military training camps in Bilpam, and graduated as a soldier in JamusBattalion of the SPLA.
2. Joining the Red Army
In Ethiopia, Kerbino Wol joined the Red Army Battalion, a military division of child soldiers, aged twelve. The Red Army battalions were stationed in Itang, Panyodu, Dima and Abola areas inside the Ethiopian territory, in addition to the areas of Raad, Khor Chum, Jebel Boma, Palotaka, Kapoeta and Toritinside Sudan, and many of them left for America, Australia and Britain via Kenya, while some of them remained in Sudan. The Red Army (the rising generation) was an army built by the late leader John Garang as a future alternative army for the older generation personified in the SPLA, which was also called “Jesh Asuad”.
Kerbino Wol Agok returned to Sudan in the wake of the upheaval in Ethiopia, when the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) rebels took control of the country and entered the capital Addis Ababa from all sides in May 1991, and achieved victory against the “government of the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia” led by President Mengistu Haile Mariam.
3. Investment is an early idea of Kirubino
Kerbino Wol had an idea of investment earlier. He implemented the idea of trade and investment since 1990s, when he was still young, as he used to travel from his area of ‘Ngap Agok’ in Tonj to Wau town to fetch goods and sell them in the same area. Since that period, his abilities, wisdom and skills in managing that small business project were evident, despite the difficult conditions in which he worked.
4. An officer in Special Security Force
Kerbino received military training in the USA with the US Special Forces. He worked as an officer and a guard in the presidency of the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, within the security force that was known as ‘Special Branch’. He also worked as a bodyguard for Riek Machar and was part of the delegation led by Riek Machar to meet the leader of the Ugandan Lord’s Resistant Army, Joseph Kony, in Gramba forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo during the period from 2006 and 2008, as RiekMachar was represent the regional Government of Southern Sudan in brokering peace efforts between the LRA leader Joseph Kony and President YoweriMuseveni.
5. Entering the world of business, finance and entrepreneurship
In 2010, Kerbino Wol turned to the world of finance and business, after obtaining a discharge permit from his service at National Security Service (NSS). He founded Kerbino Agok for Security Services (KASS),and served as its Executive Director, headquartered in the capital, Juba. It is a company that has provided security guard services for state institutions, diplomatic offices, embassies, hotels and other facilities. And soon those institutions noticed the quality of his services, and so his company won their trust and achieved a good reputation. Through that company, Kerbino Wolwas able to create more than a thousand job opportunities for the people of this country. Its services expanded outside the country to include theneighboring countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Uganda, in addition to South Africa.
Kerbino also established a charitable organization, the Nile Foundation, through which he presented many ideas related to trade, investment and business and entrepreneurship management for youth. Wol Agokaspired to transform the country into a region that cares for youth, engages and activates them, to witnesseconomic growth and emerges as an economic pole in the region and contributes to the global economy in the twenty-first century. Kerbino provided many charitable works to the vulnerable people in the society, making the Nile Foundation a charitable window for him as a businessman and philanthropist.
From 2016 to 2018, the government in Juba faced international sanctions, as the United States of America and the international community imposed political and economic sanctions on the leaders and figures of the regime including military leaders, and the assets kept abroad by many corrupt regime officials were frozen and they were banned from traveling to the United States and some European countries.
In the meantime, the government saw the prosperity of Kerbino Wol’s business and investments, so they sent him their envoys that met him and asked him to be partners in his businesses. Their intentions were to exploit him and use his intelligence, abilities and skills to push their interests forward, but Kerbino turned down their requests, as he did not want the corrupt government to use him as an agent who would manage its businesses and become part of their corrupt schemes.
Kerbino was dissatisfied, like many South Sudanese, with the ongoing corruption in state institutions, and the way with which the ‘Liberators’ are running the state affairs, especially their responsibility in ignition of wars since December 2013. A source who was very closely to him in his life, says that Kerbino was angered by the battle that broke out in the Presidential Palace in July 2016, and made him lose faith in the SPLM and its members, the former revolutionaries, their ability to run the country and maintain its security and stability.
Kerbino Wol chose integrity, preserving his dignity and the reputation of his company. The government has repeatedly tried to win and recruit him to serve the interests of the regime through investment gateway, money and business, but he rejected all those attempts. The end result was that the government was furious with him.
Kerbino achieved great success and accumulated a huge fortune and became very wealthy. He establishedcontacts in the world of finance and entrepreneurship at home and abroad.
6. Accusation and arrest
On Friday, April 27, 2018, an officer in the NSS, Brigadier Gen. Geng Geng, met Kerbino Wol in one of the places he had frequently been to for work purposes in Juba. He informed him that the Director General urgently want him in office for an important matter – the Director General here, is the Director General of the National Security Service – Internal Security Bureau (ISB) – the officer then left.
After this summon, Kerbino Wol went with his driver to office of the Director General of the NSS, on the same day he was summoned. As soon as he arrived at the NSS headquarters, he entered the office of the Director-General, and his driver remained outside the building, then the security personnel asked the driver to leave. In the office, the Director General was seated, along with a number of senior officers, whose names we withhold.
The Director General began the interrogation by asking Kerbino: ‘’who are you? Tell us your name in full”. The accused replied, “My name in full is Kerbino Wol Agok Wol”. Kirubino knew that things were not going well, as the Director General asked him his full name, which he knows very well and knows his father and his family, and both of them hails from the same area of Tonj. Nonetheless, he obeyed the Director General, and answered his questions politely. In the interrogation which took place, the Director General accused Kerbino of planning a coup plot against the government. Kerbino replied in denial, and told him that he was following his investment and businessesand was not doing anything else. At the end of the interrogation, the Director General told him that he was under arrest, and he obeyed. He was also later accused of having links and connections with the rebels led by Riek Machar, and of supplying them with weapons, even though Riek Machar was at the time imprisoned in South Africa, and his forces did not have anymilitary operations against the government in those days.
Please see the report on the arrest and accusation in “Radio Tamazuj” dated May 4, 2018 titled: “National Security arrests the director of KASS security company in Juba’’.
The Director General and his senior officers walked out of the office, and Kerbino was left alone in the office. An hour, two hours, three, four and many hours sequentially went by, as he sat in the Director General’s office waiting in vain. Finally, he called one of the officers (name withheld) and told him that the Director General had called him and that he had interrogated him personally with a number of senior NSS officers and that he had informed him that he was under arrest and detention, then they left the office and leaving him in the office unaware of what is next.
7. Attempts for getting him out of prison for execution
He was later taken to prison inside the NSS headquarters at Jebel Kujur neighborhood. He was detained without a fair trial. Meanwhile, the news of his arrest was leaked, and the local media published it: ‘Businessman Kerubino Wol arrested on accusations of plotting a coup against the state’. The security authorities were unhappy that the news was leaked.
On May 12, 2018, an attempt was made to break the prison to forcibly get him out prison to be executed by soldiers affiliated with the NSS under orders from the higher authorities of the NSS. But Kerbino, who was endowed with great physical strength and a tall muscular body built through continuous exercise, resisted them at the prison door and succeeded in preventing them from getting him out from his isolated prison cell in which he was being held. After his arrest and detention, the government took control of his money, assets and his company through the NSS.
8. October-7 Incident
October 7, 2018, marked the second attempt ofbreaking into the prison to release Kerbino Wol and his colleagues for execution. The government did not intend to resolve the issue of accusing him of plotting a coup through the law in a court, but rather wanted to resolve the issue through the security apparatus, that isby eliminating him through the NSS.
In the hours of the night of October 6 until the early hours of the morning of October 7, 2018, a strange thing took place in the prison. The electricity was turned off in the NSS Building. Silence and darkness prevailed. This is a process that usually takes place when they want to release a prisoner from prison for execution, and it often takes place at quiet nights from time to another. It is a bloody action!
At that night when the electricity went out, deathwalked into prison, wearing facemasks. The messengers of death entered the prison carrying their night torches, which make the detainee; loses their sight if their lights are directed towards their faces, making the action of controlling them an easy task, without them seeing the faces of his hunters, the messengers of death.
When the electricity was turned off at that night, Kerbino Wol and his co-accused the junior National Security officers knew that something fishy was about to happen. Moments later, they heard footsteps of the messengers of death on the stairs of the building, so they decided to disperse and take defensive positions inside the prison, and then all the prisoners in the prison dispersed in terror.
And when the messengers of death finally entered the prison, about four people in number, according to the source (names withheld), they came and shed lights on the prisoners, so Kerbino and his colleagues attacked them as they did not know that they had taken defensive positions, and one of Kerbino’s colleagues managed to control a pistol that one of them was carrying. The prisoners triumphed and the messengers of death were threatened and three Kalashnikov automatic machine guns were seized from them. The prisoners successfully contained the messengers of death in a few moments after physical confrontations that ended up with them being locked up in the same prison where they had held Kerbino and his colleagues.
After they were released themselves, the prisoners seized the armory inside the NSS headquarters, and armed confrontations took place, which ended with the reinforcement of forces and the NSS Blue House Building was surrounded with tanks, and the prisoners eventually surrendered. Had they not surrendered, the gun store building would have been destroyed.
Trial sessions of Kerbino Wol and Peter Biar Ajak who was also arrested and accused of political agitation against the government, with five others subsequently took place in a Juba Court. The court sentenced Kerbino Wol to ten years imprisonment; on one hand, and sentenced Peter Biar Ajak two years imprisonment on June 11, 2019. But in a surprising development of events, President Salva Kiir Mayardit issued a presidential decree pardoning Kerbino Wol, Peter BiarAjak and twenty-eight other detainees on January 4, 2020.
Kerbino Wol and his colleagues named their movement “7-October” later, as they took control of the gunroomand the entire NSS Building with his colleagues, achieving a victory that forced the government to settle the issue through a court of law, after attempts to eliminate them through the security organ.
The government faced widespread criticism for totalitarianism through the National Security organ. It also received a summon to appear before the East African Court of Justice on March 25, 2019 due toarbitrary arrest of the young businessman and philanthropist Kerbino Wol, a summon that was greatly welcomed by Amnesty International at the time.
9. The birth of 7-October Movement
After the presidential decree which pardoned the prisoners, Kerbino Wol went to his house, but a firm idea came across his mind: formation of an armed movement to fight the government, for obvious reasons, arbitrary arrest, detention without a fair trial, the cruel treatment he was subjected to in prison, the injustice of closing his company and freezing his assets and businesses. It is clear that he was not alone. A number of his colleagues, the junior security officers with whom he worked together before in the NSS were with him. He left Juba for Rumbek after spending four months in Juba, where he declared the birth of their armed movement on June 05, 2020 through the Voice of America radio (VOA), on which he declared himself as the political leader and Commander-in-Chief of the new movement. When asked where he was, he said he was on South Sudan soil, but without disclosing his exact whereabouts for security reasons. Wol also claimed he had 1,000 fighters all over South Sudan.
10. The First and the Last Battle and Martyrdom
Kerbino Wol had contacts with young people inside the country, through which he was able to attract and winpeople like Monydiar Maker, who was killed by government troops four days before Kerbino was finally arrested, and executed by fire squad with Abraham Majak Maliab, Juma Atot Ater in AyenMayar village, east of Rumbek town, in Lakes State, a central state in the country. The government forces later killed Simon Dau, the youngest of them, in Mvolodistrict.
The 38-year-old leader of the 7-October Movement and the Commander-in-Chief of its army, Kerbino WolAgok Wol, met his martyrdom on Sunday, June 14, 2020. He died horribly, as he appeared in the pictures that were circulated on social media.
One of the photos showed him lying on the ground on grasses in the woods surrounded by men in military uniform, and in the same photo, a man who appears to be the leader of the group that killed him, was seen taking Wol’s picture with his smartphone, while his colleagues looks at him.
The other photo, a close-up shot of Kerbino’s face, showed a trace of the exit position of the bullet that tore his head off from the other side, and the bullet exit position was covered in blood on his left cheek, a very gruesome sight. These images angered the masses inside and outside the country. Those pictures showed the true image of the ruling regime, its tyranny and autocracy.
This is part of the story of Kerbino Wol, who never thought that this country, which he loved so dearly, would clamp down on him, accuse him of plotting a coup against it, arrest him and mistreat him in prison, squander his business, money and assets, force and push him to rebellion and finally kill him. His body was not honored by giving it to his family for a decent burial as a human being. Rather, it was cremated with the bodies of his colleagues.
The practice of cremating the bodies of opponents by making them permanently disappear is a new practice carried out by the security authorities in South Sudansince 2015 and January 2017, and the examples are many. The bodies of Peter Abdelrahman Sule, Dong Samuel Luak, Aggrey Edri Ezboni, in addition to Abraham Majak Maliab, Simon Dau, Kerbino Wol and Juma Atot Ater, and others like many sons of Aweilwho were eliminated in the wake of Gen. MalongAwan Anei’s political differences with the head of state in 2017.
This malevolent practice is intentional and its purpose is to get rid of opponents without graves in which they are supposed to be buried, for fear of the impact andthe example that they may leave behind, and that possibility of those graves to become memorial shrines. It is a process intended to erase any trace and memory of opponents, thus depriving them the right of burial in their own land! This is done by burning the corpses of opponents with benzene, diesel and chemicals to get rid of any trace of them.
A young man by the name of Bol Deng Miyan, whowas killed by the NSS bullets in November 2017, is one of the few victims who were buried, because he was gunned down in the city. In addition, the first martyr of pen, Isaiah Abraham (Chan Diing Awol), who was shot dead by the NSS in December 2012, and was buried in his hometown of Kongor, because hewas also killed in the city’s Gudele suburbs. Gen. George Athor Deng was also among the few who were buried in his hometown of Khor Fulus, after was killed in a pseudo battle in Morobo village in Central Equatoria State in December 2011.
According to the narration by one of Kerubino Wol’scolleagues, a survivor of Ayen Mayar village battle, a fierce battle took place and lasted for days, during which Kerbino and his colleagues run short of ammunition, and as they spent five days without eating, and they were tired and exhausted, the government forces managed to pursue them, besiege them and cordon off the area and they were captured, and all three were executed by fire squad. It is also believed that Kerbino was betrayed by a trusted person who had been in contact with him, a disguised member of the NSS, who sent the information regarding his whereabouts to NSS in Juba.
Days have passed, and indeed a whole year has passed since the time of his death, the date and the similar days in which he was killed came back again, bearing the memory of the day of his martyrdom at the hands of the Security Apparatus of a country that fought to restore freedom and dignity for its people, and when it has achieved her independence; it turned suppressive against her sons and daughters; killing some with the bullets of its National Security Service which does have national or patriotism. It slaughtered others with the knives and daggers of its butchers, and burned down villages to ashes for the sake of power struggle, and killed the innocent just because they belonged to a certain tribe, and placed those who disagreed with the government of the day under house arrest, and burned its dissident detainees and deprived them the right to burial, making them without traces, even the ashes of their combustion, has no way to be found.
The land is groaning under the grip of autocracy, and the masses of people who have refused to be submissive are constantly revolting, and so time passes and events repeat themselves in one way or another, and with that, victory shall certainly be achieved someday.
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