December 26, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s national army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), should always be prepared to defend the country "without any prior notice," the country’s defence minister, Kuol Manyang Juuk has said.
- SPLA soldiers on patrol in the South capital, Juba, on 21 December 2013 (Photo: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
“You are no longer a guerrilla force. You are already a national army of an independent country, with responsibility to defend its territorial integrity and protect lives and property of the citizens from any physical threats and harms. Their safety is in your hands,’’ said Kuol Manyang Juuk said on Wednesday.
’’Now they know that there is a government with a national army when you took Bor,’’ the defence minister said in his first official visit to the town since it was retaken by government forces from rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar.
The visit was broadcast on national television and radio.
The minister urged the SPLA take control of the other areas still under the rebels to restore ‘‘complete law and order’’ in the country.
Bor, the Jonglei state capital was until recently under the control of renegade SPLA commander, Peter Gadet Yak who is loyal to Riek Machar.
Yak switched allegiance from the government on 18 December following eruption of fighting within presidential guard forces resulting into the loss of life, mainly civilians.
Observers say government forces made up of predominantly members of the Dinka ethnic group went amok after the violence and targeted members of the Nuer ethnic group whom they suspected of supporting Riek Machar, himself a Nuer.
President Salva Kiir accused Machar of masterminding the failed coup against his government. Machar denies the accusations.
Minister Juuk was accompanied to Bor by the national minister of information and broadcasting, Michael Makuei Lueth.
The state-owned SSTV also showed images of several other high level officials in the state, including the caretaker governor of Jonglei, General John Kong Nyuon.
“As an army, you must be ready by showing combat readiness. Your gun must always be ready bearing in mind that a war breaks out without any prior notice" Juuk said.
A soldier does not have to live far away from the gun and area of his deployment and command, he stressed.