December 17, 2013 (JUBA)- The eldest son of the founding leader of South Sudan’s governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), Mabior John Garang de Mabior, has called for the release of senior party officials held on suspicion of involvement in Sunday night’s “coup attempt” in Juba.
- Mabior John Garang de Mabior (File photo MC Clatchy Newspapers)
In a post on his Facebook page on Tuesday, Mabior said the continued detention of officials could plunge the country into a full-scale war.
He also accused president Salva Kiir’s administration of fermenting tribal rifts to strengthen his grip on power beyond 2015.
“The so called coup was an inside job designed to ferment tribal divisions”, Mabior wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday.
His views echo those expressed by his mother, Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior, herself a senior government official, who has repeatedly criticised Kiir’s management of the country’s affairs.
“The 13 political prisoners are the senior SPLM members that represent all the regions of the Republic of South Sudan. They are not Nuer politicians, as Salva Kiir’s propaganda is trying to depict”, he said.
Thirteen senior officials have been arrested over allegations they were behind a plot to overthrow the government, with Kiir blaming forces loyal to his former deputy, Riek Machar.
Machar’s whereabouts remains unknown, although the BBC reported on Tuesday that authorities are seeking to question him on the events.
The former vice-president’s house in Juba was yesterday shelled by presidential bodyguards, leaving much of the property destroyed.
The officials arrested, according to the government, include former ministers Oyay Deng Ajak, Gier Chuang Aluong, Majak D’ Agot, John Luk Jok, Cirino Hiteng, Kosti Manibe, Deng Alor and Madut Biar.
Also detained are former Lakes state governor Chol Tong Mayay and former ambassador Ezekiel Lul.
Mabior said Machar, a member of the Nuer tribe, was merely leading the group by virtue of his seniority in leadership and that those arrested are not his agents.
“They are led by Dr Riek as he is the most senior amongst the falsely accused. Oyay Deng Ajak is a Nuer. Dr Majak d’ Agoot is not a Nuer, General Gier is not a Nuer, Hon Alfred Lado Gore is not a Nuer. Professor Cirino Iteng is not a Nuer”, he said.
“Innocent South Sudanese citizens are currently being killed on the streets of Juba; being targeted for simply being a Nuer. This is being done under the command of our president”, Mabior added, saying the government should be condemned for its actions.
Medical sources quoted by various media say 60 soldiers have so far been killed in the clashes. The United Nations puts the number of those seeking shelter in its compounds in Juba at 13,000.
Mabior has called on the president to urgently free all political detainees and enter into national dialogue, saying the country was at risk of descending into chaos.
“The events currently taking place in Juba mark the end of the first Republic of South Sudan”, he said.
“We need to call urgently for the release of the 13 political prisoners and enter into a national dialogue to save our nation. A national convention of all social and political forces in the country [is needed], including those of Kiir, otherwise the alternative is civil war or worse”, he added.
However, the minister of cabinet affairs, Martin Elia Lomuro, and the speaker of the council of state, Joseph Bol Chan, refuted Mabior’s claims, saying that what had happened was the work of individuals with political interests and was not in any way tribal related.
“I want to call on our people to remain calm and stand behind the leadership of General Salva Kiir Mayardit. He is a humble man with this country at heart. He is a man of peace. We therefore need to support him to reconcile our nation and put aside personal ambition”, Lomuro said.
Bol Chan said those who want to use undemocratic means to seize power should not be tolerated.
“We are democratic country. Power should be transferred through peace political processes not violence. There is no short cut in democracy. If there are people who want to get to power through short cuts, we will not accept [it]”, Bol Chan told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, foreign affairs minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin has called on the population to resume work. Marial maintained the government was in control of the general security situation and that people should support the country’s leadership against those interested in using illegal means to ascend to power.
The clashes which began on Sunday were by Tuesday still showing no signs of ending despite assurances made by Kiir during a brief press conference on Monday that the government had restored order.