[ Today in History ] Long live our martyr, Fr. Saturnino Lohure! – 22 JAN 1967

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Saturnino Ohure Hilangi, or Saturnino Lohure (c. 1921 – 22 January 1967), a prominent catholic priest and politician was born in 1921 in the village of Loronyo, north of Torit, South Sudan. Fr. Saturnino was baptized into the Catholic Church in 1931 and thereafter entered the Okaru Seminary. In 1946, he was ordained as a priest and served at the Lirya mission. Considered among the staunchest supporters for the independence of Southern Sudan from Sudan, during the first general elections held in Torit, Fr. Saturnino made his political interests known and became an elected official.

In 1958, he was elected to Parliament and led the Southern Bloc (a group of 25 Southern Sudanese MPs advocating for a federation state to be formed in Southern Sudan). The Foreign Minister of Sudan, Mohammed Mahgoub, announced during a parliamentary session that the Sudan government had “given the Southern claim for federation very serious consideration, and found that it could not work in this country.” Upon hearing this, the Southern Sudanese MPs including Fr. Saturnino walked out of the Parliament.

On June 16th, the Southern Sudanese MPs returned briefly to the Parliament and had Fr. Saturnino speak on their behalf. Fr. Saturnino state; “Mr. President Sir, the South has no ill-intentions whatsoever towards the North; the South simply claims to run its own local affairs in a united Sudan. The South has no intentions of separating from the North for had that been the case nothing on earth would have prevented the demand for separation. The South claims to federate with the North, a right that the South undoubtedly possesses as a consequence of the principle of free self-determination which reason and democracy grant to a free people. The South will at any moment separate from the North if and when the North desires, directly or indirectly, through political, social and economic subjection of the South.” The speech given by Fr. Saturlino had a great impact on the population in Southern and Northern Sudan. The issues it addressed influenced the political crisis that ensued in the country that year.

Due to the unrelenting political climate in Sudan particularly during the Abboud regime, Fr. Saturnino alongside other Southern Sudanese politicians escaped to Uganda in December 1960. As a result, Fr. Saturnino, Joseph Oduho and William Deng formed the political party, Sudan African National Union (SANU). In 1961, the three leaders visited various African countries to advocate for the cause of Southern Sudan. In January 1962, Fr. Saturnino and Oduho attended the all African People’s Congress in Lagos (the ‘Monrovia Group’), where they were not allowed to present a petition but met African heads of state and held a press conference.

When the Anya-Nya guerilla movement emerged in Southern Sudan to fight against the Sudan government for the sovereignty of the Southern region, Fr. Saturnino was among the primary supporters of the guerilla movement. He began raising funds and planning alongside the guerilla fighters’ military strategies to defeat the Sudan army. The series of attacks carried out by the Anya-Nya guerilla movement with the support of Fr. Saturnino included the attacks on the Sudan army in September 1963 in Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria and Upper Nile. Fr. Saturnino continued to support the cause of the Anya-Nya guerilla movement in Southern Sudan by supplying military arms and equipment. In 1961, informed of his imminent arrest he fled to Uganda together with other ex-parlamentarians where he helped and counselled Sudanese refugees. In one of his travels in this connection he was killed by a Ugandan soldier near Kitgum on January 22, 1967.

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In January 2009 his body was exhumed from its grave in Kitgum and transported to Torit for reburial.

As the new generation of South Sudanese, may we not forget the great sacrifice of Fr. Saturnino. Long live our martyr, Fr. Saturnino Lohure!

(REPOST from Miss Equatoria Uganda Beauty Pageant@Facebook & Dictionary of African Christian Biography)

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