January 15, 2014 (KAMPALA) – Unity state rebel commander Maj. Gen. James Koang Chuol said current conflict in South Sudan should not be viewed as a tribal war, describing it as a struggle against dictatorship.
He has strongly condemned those framing the violence as a war against the Nuer and Dinka tribes.
Chuol , who last month defected from the South Sudanese army (SPLA), accuses president Salva Kiir of intentionally inflaming tribal tensions, saying he lacked leadership skills.
The SPLA’s former fourth division commander in Unity state blames the Kiir administration for the deaths of nearly 2,000 members of the Nuer tribe.
However, Chuol refutes suggestions the rebellion against the government was motivated by tribal loyalties, saying it had been instigated to restore democracy in the new nation.
“Our war has nothing to do with tribal line, but we are committed to eliminate Kiir out in order for South Sudan to become a free nation”, Chuol said in a phone interview with Sudan Tribune.
Chuol further accused Kiir of betraying those who had fought for independence during the more than two-decade-long civil war with the north.
He has urged other tribes in South Sudan to participate in what he described as the struggle to bring change in the country.
TROOP DEPLOYMENT “REGRETTABLE”
Chuol has described the Ugandan government’s decision to deploy troops to fight alongside government forces as “regrettable”, but maintained rebel fighters would not be intimidated.
“[The] Ugandan UPDF is nothing to our forces ... we are ready to clear them out one by one. In some days to come you will hear [that] the government troops will [be] run out of Bentiu town”, said Chuol.
Chuol has backed the preconditions set by former vice-president-turned rebel leader Riek Machar, who has insisted on the release of political prisoners and the withdrawal of foreign troops before negotiations on a ceasefire.
The rebel commander said government troops who attempted to mount an offensive in Guit county on Wednesday had been driven back to the capital, Bentiu.
Rumours have been circulating that rebel fighters are mobilising as part of a massive military campaign to recapture Bentiu from government forces.
However, Chuol denied any mobilisation of civilians, stressing that soldiers under his command would liberate the town soon.
Government troops recaptured the capital of the oil-rich state earlier this month after it fell under rebel control following an alleged failed coup attempt last month, which Kiir accuses Machar of masterminding.
Violence erupted in the South Sudanese capital, Juba, on 15 December after clashes between Nuer and Dinka members of the presidential guards.
The violence has spread throughout the country, with government troops loyal to Kiir and forces aligned with Machar fighting for control of strategic areas.
The violence has halted most of South Sudan’s oil production