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South Sudan army chief warns against involvement in politics


February 3, 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s army (SPLA) chief of general staff on Monday broke his long silence on the country’s six-week old conflict, warning the military against involvement in any political warfare.

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South Sudan’s former chief of staff army, General James Hoth Mai, speaks to the press in Juba on 2 January 2014 (Photo: Reuters/James Akena)

General Hoth Mai said the army should always remain neutral and that their participation in the political violence, which started in mid-December after a dispute among the presidential guards, increased threats of an all-out civil war.

He also warned the country’s politicians to avoid uttering inflammatory statements that could invoke ethnic emotions and lead to further escalation of violence.

According to the International Crisis Group (ICG), an estimated 10,000 people have died in the conflict, which started in Juba and spread to Jonglei, Unity and Upper Niles states as the army engaged defectors and armed civilians.

The split in the military followed a battle for control of South Sudan’s ruling party (SPLM) between President Salva Kiir - a Dinka - and his former deputy Riek Machar - a Nuer, which intensified after Kiir sacked the latter in July last year.

Both sides have been accused of abuses and in some instances the fighting has taken on a ethnic dimension, despite political supporters of both men being from the various ethnic groups in the country.

General Mai, himself a Nuer, is a military veteran from over two decades of conflict between the SPLA and the Sudanese government for the right to secede. South Sudan may have achieved its independence more than two years ago, but many still view the SPLA as a liberation army with no political structures.

The head of the army, however, said some South Sudanese politicians failed to understand the suffering of the 740,000 people displaced by the conflict.

"I spent all my life in guerrilla wars to achieve independence. I’m not happy seeing people of South Sudan suffering, which is what I see. The politicians don’t see it," said Mai in statements on multiple social media and news websites.

He advised South Sudan government and its rebels groups to strike a political deal seeking an end to the conflict, which nearly turned into a full-blown civil war.

"The military cannot solve the political problem that needs to be solved politically," said the senior military officer.

"We have given room for the politicians to solve this issue to serve the country," he added, stressing the importance of dialogue among the country’s warring parties.


Meanwhile, Gen. Mai also admitted the army still had some challenges that needed to be dealt with as the young nation’s army transforms into a professional force.

"Yes we have a problem. The SPLA is composed of different militias most of whom haven’t gone through training. They’re from the village and they can’t read or write; they don’t know anything but loyalty to their local commander who identifies with them," said the ex-graduate of South Africa’s University of Fort Hare.

He, however, observed that it was better for the army to "stay outside the political equation", emphasising the neutral role national armies play in protecting the country’s sovereignty.

The top army general also admitted that atrocities were committed by both sides during the conflict, but denied allegations that government forces looted several medical facilities when recapturing towns under rebel control.

"We have heard such reports and so we decided to form a committee to investigate these allegations," Gen. Mai told Sudan Tribune last week.

This committee is still conducting the investigation whose findings will be made public after completing the assignment, he added.


Various Church leaders in the country recently called for “urgent” reforms among the South Sudan’s organised forces, mainly the national army and police.

“Our army has grown in size since the signing of the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement] and has become a significant cost to our nation, at the expense of investment in development priorities. It lacks cohesion," partly reads last week’s joint statement issued by the Church leaders.

"We are conscious of the need to address reconciliation within the armed forces themselves. There is no longer any place for personal militias," it adds.

The clerics also said they wanted the national army name changed and that it should have no association with any of the country’s political entities.

“We believe our armed forces need urgent support and pastoral care. We also feel that our national army needs a new name, not associated with a single political party," further read the joint statement, adding "A professional army should never be involved in politics"


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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
  • 4 February 2014 08:17, by Wicdail

    After what gen? Nuer have been already slaughtered on your watch in Juba and you didn’t left a figure to save them.

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    • 4 February 2014 08:28, by Wicdail

      Your boss Kirr will never see the suffering of people as long as those who suffer are from the greater Upper Nile states. By the way, watch your back. Because Kirr and his thugs don’t want the truth to be told. Otherwise they will categorize you as Rick supporter or a rebel. Because they don’t appreciated what you have done to them. They are animals for sure.

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      • 4 February 2014 17:06, by Mapuor

        Hahahah its too early to cry.Getting positions through rebellions will be something of the past.Why are rebellions concentrated in one region?Nyagaatism will never be rewarded this time come what may.

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      • 4 February 2014 17:19, by Ahmed Chol

        If everybody was like James Hoth, South Sudan would have been a great country. I don’t put all the blame on all the Nuers for what happened. Stupid Gokrial and majority of Bhar el Ghazal are responsible for starting the killing in Juba. There is nothing good I expect from these people who prioritize alcohol and women and Kiir is the example in that direction.

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    • 4 February 2014 08:33, by omoni jr.

      According to Nyandeng De mabior, Lt Gen.james Hoth mai is also one way or another responsible for death Nuer, especially those soldiers who were disarmed by Hoth mai in order to saved their lives as mai claimed.

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      • 4 February 2014 08:45, by Wicdail

        Omoni jr,
        You said all. Hoth Mai has contributed 50% for the massacre of Nuers in Juba in one way or another, particularly those in uniforms including Dr. Rick bodyguards, police/prison, because he order them to lay down their arms thinking that they would’t kills.

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        • 4 February 2014 11:28, by Mi diit

          Gen Hoth is the early god-father who saved Kiir’s ass two days before the long time husband Museveni interfered in South Sudan’s affairs. Without Hoth and Museveni, Kiir would have been a gone history. So Hoth should not waste time talking these nonsense after his own relatives were killed by Kiir and said nothing. Shame on you Hoth.

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          • 4 February 2014 11:34, by Mi diit

            Gen James Hoth Mai has sold for money and power the Nuerland, its people including the blood of his close relatives such as Reath Thoan. He is a curse to the Nuer and I will not be surprised that God will strike him down together with his benydit Kiir. He has shamed the family Mai Nguth for good.

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    • 4 February 2014 09:36, by Bungachier 50

      Dear Gen. Hoth Mai, you are the future president of this Nation despite your tribe of origin. Keep talking the truth and the truth shall lead your ways in leadership.

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      • 4 February 2014 13:31, by Sudan virus

        Sure Bungachier!He talks responsible and caring lives of all South Sudanese!

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    • 4 February 2014 22:36, by parajok

      What an idiot. His senior officers gun down at Panpandiar, Many well known General join rebellion, Mr. Gathoth still warns against arm involvement. Gathoth and his both kir are out of their mind big times.

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    • 5 February 2014 02:42, by George Bol

      Nuear, you would remain loyal to Hoth mai instead of following food lover Riek machar who have been nyagat for more than 10 years.What will you get from that food lover who left in in 2002 in Khartoum and come to beg DR John Garang.Nuer, you will loses for nothing ,but one day you will understand the logic.Plse, try to learn, you provocation of conflict and latter surrender is not good.Nuer judge!

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    • 5 February 2014 11:22, by Johndumo14

      Dr Riek Machar must see the video of how his tribemen the White army were killed in battle in bor and other places and left being eaten by Hynas and vultures,he will notdream about to be a prsident of South sudan.The vultures are feeding on the thousands of death Nuer in Bor and around villages in Jongeli.The vultures are tired of eating the human flesh(meat) they are only eating the EYES!

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  • 4 February 2014 08:19, by Chol Mading

    Gen. Mai, what country’s sovereignty are you talking about? What a shame you and Kiir Kuerping has brought to this country...bringing Ugandan to fight our cousins Nuer? I couldn’t and will never believe that we went and bought Ugandan to come and kill our people. Who is the President of RSS and who’s the Chief of Staff of our forcess? You right..M7 and his General. Kiir is a big SHAME!!!!

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    • 4 February 2014 08:32, by Deng II

      I fear so much that South Sudan will be full an infected by AIDS virus soon than later. We have a short sight President who doesn’t see some things behind his nose.

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      • 4 February 2014 08:37, by omoni jr.

        Now you feel it after you already mobilizing Ugandans HIV positive gays and lesbians to come and spread their deadly virus across our cities. Imagine, they are now moving freely as if they are the citizens of this land.

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        • 4 February 2014 08:43, by Deng II

          It is better to be an infected by AIDS virus than Riek Machar to become President of SS.

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          • 4 February 2014 08:52, by omoni jr.

            Deng 11
            so why you cried like baby then if it is ok for you be HIV carrier, you are already positive anyway,just matter of time for you to go for testing. otherwise, you will collapse on the road.

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  • 4 February 2014 08:26, by Gat Gan Kiir

    The big fool has spoken. It has been said that when you are talking to fool you are wasting your time, it’s like when you are given a blind man a morrow. Hoth Mai is being informed by many relatives including his own nephew who was killed by Dinka militias because is Nuer to leave the Dinka Kingdom. But he refused, it’s too late mate, Nuer are being kill in front of you. We don’t need you either.

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    • 4 February 2014 08:36, by Deng II

      Gat Gan Kiir
      You full of shit, why you dirt mouth patriots General like that? One day, a Nuer patriot person like him will become SS president.

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      • 4 February 2014 08:40, by Deng II

        - Because of Dinka can let you sell yourself to Homo-el bashit to be hoop behind, like Riek Machar.

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        • 4 February 2014 08:48, by jijury

          Jame Hoth Mai is a traitor who was left in his house when the gencide took place. those who were responsible for the death 7500 Nuer civilians are as follow:
          1. Kuol Manyang
          2. Paul Malong who replaced James Hoth
          3. Marial Chuanong Yol
          4. Salva Mathok
          5. Aleu Aleu.

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    • 4 February 2014 08:47, by Toney Toney Matot

      Get Gan Kiir,
      What different will it make if general James Hoth Mai Joined the fools.what did Riek Brought to you Maroon Nuers after he defected and waged war against the government. The atrocities committed in Juba were carried out by Nuer themselves such that to anger those of James Hoth to Joined the rebellion.
      James is better off then joining stupid’s.

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      • 4 February 2014 09:04, by Paul Chadrack

        Jamese Hoth it is still not too late for you to join the forces fighting those greedy bhar el gazels, do it now or history will joined you togather with foolish, greedy and sub-human bhar el gazels. don’t be like those of bor south who’re now blind supporters of kiir.after kiir they will face the consequences of their actions.

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        • 4 February 2014 09:36, by wang

          Paul Chadrack
          It was too late for James Hoth brother, he has already done enough and completely damaged our image on face of this world. He always will be remember as traitors and food lovers

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      • 4 February 2014 09:30, by Wicdail

        Oh my God!
        the whole world must now know that we are dealing with irresponsible people. Imagine, What so call presidential spokesman the semi-blind man call TONEY TONEY MATOT is talking like a street child. What a country led by desperate thugs who only on what can keep them in power? You can even see how bitter he is on Hoth Mai. That’s what I have said above. they hate Nuers to death.

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        • 4 February 2014 11:03, by Toney Toney Matot

          Wicdail or whatever you call yourself,
          the corruption and thefts most of the Nuer have been talking about originated from Them.Nuer are so corrupt to the Core and to the extend that those who does not know of how to read and write pretend to be politician.what a shameless animals.Nuer intellectuals are like their primitives.no war can be won by one tribe.take this to your thick mind.

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          • 4 February 2014 12:41, by Wicdail

            You are lying Mr darkness/Toney Toney. Nuers has already won and defeats you fools. If you had hesitated to hired those foreign forces, you could have been in a different world not in SS. Don’t try to twist your own mess. Corruption and thefts is not in Nuer culture. In term of dignity and sincerity, those politicians who doesn’t have education, are three times better than you cowards.

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            • 4 February 2014 15:47, by Toney Toney Matot

              the infighting going on in the South was a political one not tribal as your inept may think.only fools like you are the one advocating for tribal war.Dinkas are smarter enough then Nuer stooge who does not know the out come of their barbaric actions.you are only good in looting and cattle rustling period.

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      • 4 February 2014 11:38, by Bentiu son

        James Gathoth,what military involvement are you talking about? Hoth Mai you had betrayed your own fellow Nuer and your own close relatives like Wakou Thoan n other important person murdered by your boss’militias Gelweng in Juba during the plotted conspiracy against Dr Machar and his team on 15/12/13.Hoth ya idiot,your name had alr gone down in Nuer History as traitor,coward,betrayer n slave-heart

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        • 4 February 2014 12:08, by Bentiu son

          person bought by Salva Kiir with your own Upper Nile State oil money.Ur godfather Kiir the puppet of Yoweri Museveni had brought big shame to strong SPLA soldiers by imported mercenaries from UPDF,Sudan’s rebels like JEM,SRF N SPLA-N to defense your genocidal regime rather than SPLA soldiers to do.Salva Kiir doesn’t trust SPLA but UPDF he paid in hard currencies.Hence,SPLA should join Dr Machar no

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  • 4 February 2014 09:10, by Bol Pur

    I did not have feeling to comment in this article but because of some ignorant writers make say something. Gen.James is telling the truth and he is crying. He was acting under orders are solider but he was not intending to kill any innocent people. True army should not take part in political issues as well as ethnic conflict or supporting leader because of tribe. Some politicians and generals are

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  • 4 February 2014 09:12, by Bol Pur

    speaking tribal language forgetting people suffering. There are those who speak of mighty and those who speak of what they will do next. Gen. James you are right and I hope you talk with generals who are under your command. I hope Riek will do the same.

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  • 4 February 2014 10:12, by Kalo

    I think James Hoth Mai is good leader since i was with him in 1990s,he didn’t involve in any rebellions in South Sudan,he is ever neutral,we expect all gens.to follow his example rather than involving in politics and ethnic issue what the shame to them while they are national army.

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  • 4 February 2014 11:26, by Jalaby

    General Hoth Mai said the army should always remain neutral

    Right Mr. Hoth but the south does not have an army but a based tribal militia that dominated by Dinka!
    Your statement is invalid since the south has no real army!
    You guys now are costing UN and the rest of the world a lot of money for nonsense!
    Just garbage country!!!

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  • 4 February 2014 16:40, by Awei-ngok

    What is he talking about when hs is being implicated in the attrocities that have been committed in Juba, Bor, Bentiu and Malakal? Is he pretending to have done good since 15th Dec.2013 to date or he is launcing and mobilising the military against Kiir so that the army seize power like it happened in Egypt when general Sisi took control of the Egyptian government?

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  • 4 February 2014 17:12, by Mapuor

    Hoth is for peaceful resolution yaa Nyagaats.Why insult him when he wants this senseless war to end.Innocent Nuers are dying of hunger,disease, etc.Its time to support the government and condemn rebels.Kiir is a charismatic leader and will rule for decades.

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  • 4 February 2014 18:44, by Gatluak

    Gat Nyakhor is making usless statement. I wish u know how much Nuer hated you. Why was you quiet? to tell us there were no way to handle the situation especially killing of your own brother Reath who runs all your business. You nothing to us. Remember what Peter Gatdeet told u in 2009 that he will be the to Kiil you. Am now proved Gatdeet right.

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  • 5 February 2014 00:54, by Dinka-Defender-General

    General James Hoth, you’re my hero. I will always respect and admire you. You’re a great leader and you’ll this South Sudan in years to come. I will dedicate myself to help you achieve that goal. Thank you for keeping cool and be patience. You always tell the truth and I will always admire on that. We, the South Sudanese will vote for you. Approve by DDG.

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  • 5 February 2014 07:33, by Odingo

    Fuck you Nyahoth Mai. You the one who killed innocent Nuer civilians in cold blood blood because of money. Saying that is not gonna save your life from Nuer Warriors and Dinka Kiir too. Very soon you will be killed by either Dinka Kiir or Nuer Warriors . Don’t even talk about the rebels because nobody from Nuer Warriors will never go back to live under your stupid leadership . Just talk about how

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  • 5 February 2014 07:33, by Odingo

    Fuck you Nyahoth Mai. You the one who killed innocent Nuer civilians in cold blood blood because of money. Saying that is not gonna save your life from Nuer Warriors and Dinka Kiir too. Very soon you will be killed by either Dinka Kiir or Nuer Warriors . Don’t even talk about the rebels because nobody from Nuer Warriors will never go back to live under your stupid leadership . Just talk about how

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