By Ijoo Bosco
January 8, 2013 (TORIT) - South Sudan’s Vice President James Wani Igga has called for a mass mobilisation and registration of youth and ex-combatants into the army to fight a rebellion against the government that began three weeks ago.
- South Sudan Vice President James Wani Igga speaking to the press on his arrival in Torit. 7 Jan 2014 (ST)
While visiting Eastern Equatoria, Igga said that the state needs to mobilise and register between 5,000 and 10,000 men to be trained to join the South Sudanese army (SPLA).
Following large scale mutinies over the last three weeks Igga said that the SPLA needed professional soldiers with a nationalistic heart to safeguard the country. Almost 200,000 people have been displaced and at least 1,000 people killed in the fighting since it began between members of the army in capital Juba.
Over the last three weeks a large-scale rebellion has broken out across the country with significant parts of the army defecting in Jonglei and oil-producing Unity state.
President Salva Kiir has accused his former deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup. This has been denied. Both sides have sent delegates to Ethiopia for talks to end hostilities.
“If these peace talks is not successful let’s defend our democracy” Igga said at a public rally in the Eastern Equatoria town of Torit, which was held to put across the government’s perspective about the current crisis.
Igga, who replaced Machar in August after he and rest of the cabinet was sacked in July, was greeted by the governor of Eastern Equatoria Luis Lobong Lojore and hundreds of citizens at Torit airstrip.
The Vice President said that Jonglei and Unity state would be back under government control in the coming days but added that he hoped negotiations in Addis Ababa would bring a ceasefire.
In meetings with intellectuals, religious leaders, leaders of political parties, state leaders among others Igga urges them to join hand with the government to realise peace in the world’s youngest nation.
Governor Lobong welcomed Igga’s first visit to Eastern Equatoria state since he was promoted from the position of speaker of the national parliament, which he held since 2005.
"We choose to be in peace simply because we believe in democracy and we believe in freedom" Lobong remarked in reference to the current conflict.
He warned that Eastern Equatoria was struggling to cope with the humanitarian situation caused by the internally displaced people (IDPs) fleeing the violence who are arriving in the southern state, which border troubled Jonglei state.
"We have limited resources in the hospitals; our markets are running out of food because of the influx of the IDPs. We ask our communities in Nimule and Nadapal to give a temporary camp not a permanent one for the displaced."
The Mayor of Torit municipal council, Stephen Osfaldo, said people in Torit were standing with the government and that the people of Eastern Equatoria condemned the alleged coup and those who have rebelled against the government.
Vice President Igga named some of the soldiers who had been killed in the last three weeks of fighting. He is questioned the validity of claims by some members of the ruling party (SPLM) who have lobbied against President Salva Kiir’s administration.
After the fighting broke out on 15 December eleven senior SPLM figures were arrested accused of being connected to the alleged coup attempt.
Igga told the gathering in Torit that, the cabinet and other positions they had previously held were not permanent.
"Our country is labeled as corrupt country. We needed a lean government so that we can deliver services to the citizens and we need a reform in the civil servants", he added.
South Sudan needs transformation, the Vice President said.
Since Riek Machar, Pagan Amum and Rebecca Nyandeng expressed their desire to challenge Kiir for the chairmanship of the SPLM in April last year a convention to elect the chairperson was been repeatedly postponed. The winner would be in the likely next president of South Sudan come the elections in 2015.
In early December these senior figures and others held a press conference in Juba complaining of Kiir’s "dictatorial tendencies".
A meeting of SPLM’s leadership was help in mid-December but Igga dismissed the issues that Machar and Amum attempted to raise.
"Riek came with six issues which he claims when he becomes president he will address. We in the convention questioned him, how could that be if you are the one leading the government for pass eight years?" Igga asked.
"And Pagan, how can you say SPLM lose vision if you have been administering the party affairs?" he continued.
Igga said the meeting on 14th and 15th passed party documents essential for the SPLM to become a registered party ahead of the 2015 elections.
During the meeting Igga said that eight of Riek’s group refused to vote on the 14th and six of them did not show up on the 15th.
"At night when the bullets started, in Juba Dr. Riek is my neighbour, immediately he rushed to 107 [an area of the capital often known in Arabic as miya saba] where he was commanding from until he ran away. If Riek is not into [a] coup why did he run away?"
Machar denies staging a coup but since fleeing Juba has assumed control of the sections of army that defected in Jonglei and then Unity states. South Sudan’s army has being trying wrestle control back from the rebels for the last two weeks.
Igga said that the government of South Sudan is committed to the peace negotiations in Addis Ababa but blamed Machar’s demand that all political detainees be released for delaying the progress of the talks.
"We say they will be released if they are proved innocent in the court of law not by anyone’s preconditions" Igga said.
The Vice President was accompanied by Lt Gen Marko Machek, a national member of parliament from Lake state who serves on South Sudan’s crime management committee, which Igga chairs.