January 20, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudanese rebels have squarely blamed the ongoing protracted violence on president Salva Kiir whom they accused of imposing the war on them as a “short cut” to try and avoid democratic political processes that would have threatened his leadership in the 2015 elections.
- South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, who rarely appears in military fatigues, addresses the nation in December 16, 2013 (Reuters)
In a statement to Sudan Tribune on Sunday, James Gatdet Dak, the spokesperson for the former vice-president, Riek Machar said that the violence did not come as a surprise given the “dictatorial tendencies” Kiir had been unleashing, particularly in the months leading to the 15 December 2013 violence.
He claimed the outbreak of violence was directly orchestrated by the South Sudanese leader when he allegedly ordered for the disarmament of the Nuer elements within the presidential guards.
“The mayhem started when Salva Kiir on 15 December directed the commander of the presidential guards division, Maj. Gen. Marial Chinuor, to disarm the Nuer elements, and leave with arms their Dinka colleagues", Dak narrated.
This was the cause of the suspicion among the presidential guards that led to the serious misunderstanding and the clashes, he added.
He said President Kiir was probably moved to issue the directive to disarm the Nuer when an unidentified person reportedly shot a bullet in the air near the promises of the Nyakuron Cultural Centre in Juba while he and his “elements” of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) were conducting their second day National Liberation Council meeting in the afternoon of 15 December.
“Kiir’s next move after achieving to disarm the Nuer in his presidential guards was not known. Perhaps he wanted to arrest Riek Machar and some of his colleagues whom he has actually now arrested and in detention in Juba,” Dak further explained.
He said intelligence sources, that evening of the clashes, immediately informed the former vice-president that the president was planning to immediately arrest him, prompting Machar to leave Juba.
But pro-Kiir sources maintained that Machar knew of the coup attempt and that made him to escape as the violence started.
Dak, however, said what is now called a “rebellion” was imposed on the party leaders who were simply seeking for peaceful democratic political processes in the new nation.
“Machar and his pro-democracy group within the SPLM were only planning for a peaceful political rally on 21 December in order to speak out about the shortcomings in the party leadership", said Machar’s spokesperson.
"There was no coup planned and this was the reason Salva Kiir’s security agents could easily arrest Machar’s colleagues who were innocently sleeping in their houses, because they knew nothing about the faked coup,” he added.
KIIR DEVELOPED ETHNIC DIMENSION OF THE WAR
Dak also blamed President Kiir and his “dictatorial group” for developing the violent incident in the presidential units into its current ethnic dimension with Dinka vs Nuer.
With the 11 political leaders detained by government and accused of the “fake” coup attempt, only 2 are from the Nuer ethnic group, he said, wondering why President Kiir allegedly decided to unleash his forces against the Nuer and killing dozens of close relatives of Nuer leaders, some of who still serve in his government.
When the Dinka elements of the presidential guards were dislodged from the barrack on 15 December, Dak said it was the army’s chief of general staff, Gen James Hoth Mai, a Nuer, who mobilized forces including Nuer to recapture the barrack from the other Nuer elements of the presidential guards, but yet the president continued to target the Nuer.
He further alleged that President Kiir recruited thousands of his militiamen exclusively from his tribe and brought them to the nation’s capital, Juba, as presidential guards with the purpose to "carry out an ethnic-genocide".
“First of all Salva Kiir recruited and prematurely trained 4,000 militia group from his tribe and brought them to Juba in the name of presidential guards. These were the soldiers who attempted to disarm the Nuer among the guards,” he said, adding that the "same militia men were largely responsible for the massacre of Nuer civilians in Juba, going from house to house looking for vulnerable unarmed Nuer".
Dak further claimed that the “senseless massacre of the Nuer” ensued from Monday, 16 December, when President Kiir appeared at a press conference clad in his military uniform.
If it was something to do with politics among members in the senior leadership of the party, he stressed, there would have been no reason to "target innocent civilians from one ethnic group by a president who was supposed to be for all his citizens".
He, however, said the now “imposed war” is between the two forces of pro-democracy, represented by Machar and anti-democracy, represented by Kiir, saying the latter has failed the nation in many ways and had to leave.
But President Kiir on several occasions claimed that the violence was an attempted coup by Machar and his group, a claim which has been rejected by a number of western countries, including the United States of America.
The rift between Kiir and Machar came to light in March 2013 when the former declared his intention to contest for the party chairmanship in a 2013 national convention, which would also provide him with the party ticket for the 2015 presidential elections.
Machar was sacked in July from the vice-presidency position, but remained at large as Kiir’s deputy in the ruling party.
UGANDAN LEADER SPEAKS ON SPLM WRANGLES
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said power struggles with South Sudan’s ruling party (SPLM) caused the current crisis in the country, urging dissatisfied party members to quit and form their own parties.
"What is clear is that the problem started within the SPLM, the ruling party, as a power struggle. You detect ideological, organizational and discipline issues in this situation", asked Museveni while addressing International Conference on the Great Lakes Region in the Angolan capital, Luanda on Wednesday.
"Why should there be sectarian undertones or overtones in a political debate?"
He also stressed that those dissatisfied with the SPLM should go out and form another party and that government should neither stop nor impede party opposition.
The Ugandan leader, a close ally of South Sudan’s Salva Kiir, said members of the SPLM should have resolved their disagreements within the set structures, rather than going public.
“Why should intraparty matters go public before they are resolved within the party?” he asked, adding is was "unacceptable" to turn a political problem into a military one.