January 4, 2014 (JUBA) - The South Sudanese army (SPLA) said Thursday that it had the strength, ability and determination to contain the spiraling rebellions in the country’s key and strategic areas, despite ongoing ceasefire talks.
- Chief of Staff of South Sudan’s army, General James Hoth Mai speaks during a media update with regards to the current fighting with rebels in north of the country, in Juba January 2, 2014 (REUTERS/James Akena)
“We will confidently, fiercely and consistently continue to defend this country against anybody trying to undermine peace and stability. The vileness of the crimes that have been committed should not be ignored. No matter what motivated these acts, there can be no justification for crimes against civilians, particularly against innocent women and children", said army chief of staff, James Hoth Mai.
"We did not fight to liberate this country so that it could be returned to square one again. We have had enough and we do not need to go for another war," he added during an interview with Sudan Tribune on the country’s security situation.
The army, according to Mai, remains fully independent and committed to defend the constitution as part of its mandate.
"This is our first assurance which you in the media need to convey in a professional manner. Don’t add, don’t subtract and don’t distort. This is an answer to questions about the duty and mandate of the SPLA”, he stressed.
The senior army official was reacting to questions regarding the circumstances under which the SPLA prevented rebels from taking control of Bor, the capital of the country’s largest state last week.
"[Bor] It will be recaptured from the rebel forces within 24 hours", he assured, adding that government forces were ready to take the town from “anytime soon”.
“We ask our people to just wait and be patience. It is just a matter of time".
The army chief also warned civilians to stay away from the conflict after it emerged that some people had also become part of the fighting either forcefully or without knowing its causes.
“There are still some civilians around Bor. Some of these civilians are young people who do not know what they are fighting for. If you ask any of them now they will not tell you. They just joined when they saw people moving with guns. They think that carrying a gun is a prestige", Mai said,
"They are young people whose future should not be destroyed. The rebel uses them but as the national army, we recognise that they are children", he added.
The army on Friday dismissed reports that rebels, led by former vice-president Riek Machar, were moving towards the capital, Juba, saying they were instead retreating.
Philip Aguer, the SPLA spokespersontold Sudan Tribune that the rebels "will be running [but] not advancing" adding that "There is no threat to Juba".
South Sudan has been in state of crisis since President Salva Kiir accused Machar and other senior members of his ruling Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) of attempting to oust his government in mid-December last year.
Infighting within the army on 15 December spread to other parts of the capital, while reports that civilians were targetted on the basis of their ethnicity led to parts of the army rebelling in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states.