Home | News    Tuesday 11 February 2014

South Sudan violence was not genocide: minister

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By Tom Law

February 10, 2014 (LONDON) - South Sudan’s foreign minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, said on Monday that there was no government order for the violence against civilians in the capital Juba in mid-December at the genesis of the seven-week-old conflict in the world’s youngest country.

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South Sudan’s foreign minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, pictured at Chatham House in London, where he was giving a speech on the current crisis on 10 February 2014 (Photo courtesy of Chatham House)

The minister said that peace talks would resume on Monday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, adding that he was “optimistic” that the warring parties would be able to “resolve our differences through dialogue”.

However, later in the day it emerged that the rebels had boycotted the talks over non-implementation of the ceasefire deal signed on 23 January. The main issues at stake are the release of four senior political prisoners in Juba and the withdrawal of Ugandan forces from South Sudan.

Speaking at a meeting in London, a member of the UK-based opposition United South Sudan Party urged Marial to “tell the truth” about what happened in the early days of the conflict and admit that president Salva Kiir was “personally responsible”.

Marial responded by saying that while there had been violence against civilians from the Nuer ethnic group in Juba, there were no government orders calling for the attacks, which included the targeting of people in their homes.

The perpetrators of the violence will be brought to justice through investigation teams in the South Sudanese army (SPLA) and the police, Marial said, adding that over 100 soldiers had already been arrested.

“Yes it [violence based on ethnicity] has happened but not like in Rwanda”, the foreign minister said, denying that any of the mass killings that occurred constituted genocide. Both sides have been accused of atrocities. The UN is currently being accused of delaying the publication of human rights report into the violence.

Marial accused former vice-president Riek Machar, who has assumed leadership of the rebel factions, of "playing the ethnic card" to mislead people that this is a war between Kiir’s Dinka tribe and Machar’s Nuer group.

Estimates vary greatly, but between 1,000 and 10,000 people are believed to have died and over 700,000 people displaced within the country, as well as over 120,000 who fled to neighbouring countries.

CHANGING THE NARRATIVE

South Sudan’s foreign minister was speaking at Chatham House, an independent think tank on international affairs, at the beginning of a week-long trip to London during which he hopes to convince international media and the UK government to accept Juba’s version of events over what triggered the conflict.

Marial said that although the events of 15 December have been given various names, the fighting between members of the presidential guard was a “coup attempt” and was not a spontaneous reaction to one group of soldiers being re-armed while others were deliberately excluded, as has been widely reported.

However, Douglas H. Johnson, a researcher and historian specialising in South Sudan affairs, told Sudan Tribune that too many details surrounding the events in Juba remain unclear or unaddressed.

“The narrative that we were given today about the somewhat accidental killing of people in Juba as a result of the fighting that broke out between the presidential guards, I think it is going to be very difficult for the international community to accept that as the full explanation of what happened”, he said.

Johnson said that he believed Kiir may have been acting “pre-emptively” as “the way in which the armed rebellion began does suggest that there was some network in existence between those commanders that got activated as a result of the incidence in Juba”.

Marial, who was promoted from his previous post as information minister last year after Kiir sacked his entire cabinet, criticised the international media for not reporting on the conflict as an attempt to seize power from a democratically elected government.

“There must be systems [in place so that] governments can no longer change hands in Africa through coup attempts”, he said, calling on Machar and his followers form their own party rather than continue to use the name of the ruling SPLM - the political wing of the former rebel movement that secured South Sudan’s independence in 2011.

However, Marial conceded that South Sudan army (SPLA), police and civil service needs urgent reforms to address ongoing human rights violations.

The current conflict has created “a need for reconciliation [...] based on the institutions we have built” since South Sudan was granted autonomy in a 2005 peace deal with the Sudanese government, he added.

MILITARY PRESENCE

Although rebels claim that talks could be undermined by the continued presence of the Ugandan military in South Sudan, Marial maintained that their presence would not be a hindrance to the peace process.

The foreign minister reiterated the government’s position that the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) has been deployed in South Sudan since 2008 to fight the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) - a Ugandan rebel group.

At South Sudan’s request, UPDF forces were redeployed from Western Equatoria state to Juba airport, allowing for the mass evacuation of foreign nationals to occur in the days after the conflict started, Marial said.

Marial made no mention of the additional Ugandan forces that have been deployed. The United States has led international calls for the UPDF to withdraw in order to aid the peace process.

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has admitted that the UPDF has fought alongside the SPLA, which has been battling for control of strategic towns in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile that were held by rebels throughout much of the conflict.

THE JUBA FOUR

As well as its demand for the withdrawal of Ugandan troops, the rebel delegation is also seeking the release of the four senior members of the ruling party - most notably the former SPLM secretary-general, Pagan Amum, who remains in detention in Juba.

Another seven detainees were released to Kenya last month, but have so far been prevented from travelling to Addis Ababa to take part in the talks.

President Kiir sacked Amum at the same time as Machar in July last year amid allegations of corruption and working against the interests of the party. Amum has since been banned from travelling or talking to the media, but was among the politicians who held a press conference at the beginning of December in Juba during which Kiir’s running of the country was described as “increasingly dictatorial”.

Marial said that those at the meeting at were welcome to return to the capital, where they could witness for themselves that “there are no bullets flying in Juba unlike Central Africa”, referring to the current crisis in the neighbouring African country.

In the days preceding the outbreak of fighting in Juba a meeting of the SPLM’s National Liberation Council failed to resolve the growing gulf between Kiir’s supporters and those aligned with Machar and Amum, who were both vying to replace Kiir as SPLM chairperson.

“NO BAD BLOOD”

Marial played down recent tension between his government and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which had at one point been accused of wanting to establish a “parallel government” by President Kiir.

The dispute arose when a senior politician was refused entry to the UN’s base in Bor, the scene of some of the worst fighting, because he was accompanied by armed bodyguards. UNMISS defended the decision, saying it had a policy of not allowing weapons inside its camps.

However, Marial stressed there was “no bad blood” only “only administrative differences” over how to manage the logistics of its mandate to protect civilians. Some 70,000 people have taken from the violence in UN bases across the country.

The foreign minister noted that South Sudan had agreed to increase the number of peacekeepers in the country to 12,500 troops and to boost police numbers to 1,323.

ROOTS OF THE CONFLICT

Marial defended the SPLM’s record in government, describing the ruling party as “pioneers”, considering the lack of infrastructure and functioning institutions in the country at the time of the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

In response to a question over whether the government’s nation-building efforts since independence had been sufficient to create a sense of national identity and unity, Marial said the SPLM had done “pretty well” considering the enormous challenges it faced.

“South Sudan will never be a failed state, we shall resolve our differences”, Marial said.

“We have a crisis. We will resolve it [...] What we have done since independence is amazing”, he said, emphasising South Sudan’s viability as a country and its rich natural resources.

Marial was also keen to share the historic background of South Sudan’s independence with his audience. Joseph Lagu, a veteran of the Anyanya movement, which fought for South Sudan separation from 1955 until 1972, was among Marial’s entourage.

Rosalind Marden, a former British ambassador to Sudan and until last year, the European Union’s special representative to Sudan and South Sudan, said that the EU and the so-called Troika group - UK, US and Norway – had worked hard on security reforms, but said that a lot more still needs to be done.

Grass roots reconciliation was needed to resolve the current crisis, she said, as well as a reinvigorated and inclusive constitutional review process.

Marial is also expected to hold talks with the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office about South Sudan joining the Commonwealth during his London visit.

(ST)

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  • 11 February 07:54, by Mi diit

    Barnaba Marial is a known congenital liar and a submissive stooge who has now lost his constituency of Uror county. Let him bark and exit together with Kiir soon.

    repondre message

    • 11 February 10:32, by Mapuor

      How Dinkas were killed by Nuers.Nuer massacres Dinkas in Akobo,Bentiu,Thajath,Rubkona,Malakal,Baliet,Nasir,Ulang,Maiwut,Ayod,Leer,Nyal etc.When it comes to numbers,those Dinkas killed by Nuers are 100 times more than Nuers who were killed by cross fire in Juba

      repondre message

    • 12 February 03:14, by Bentiu son

      Dr Marial Benjamin Bil did not learnt when Dinka Agaar rejected him to contest in their constituency.The Dinka Agaar told him to join his forefather kins Lou Nuer but despite all those embarrassment n discrimination against him yet he is weak hearted,yesman/submissiver who loyal to Dinkas who disowned him.What a slave hearted mongrel? Dr Marial regretted to join Nuer fully because he had been

      repondre message

      • 12 February 03:18, by Bentiu son

        Dinkanized.Those sellouts,betrayers,traitors Nuer boys are very people Dinkas want to represent Nuer Community in South Sudan.What a shame ya fake Nuer Drs for selling your fellow tribe alive to their foes with blood money from your rich ancestors’land ya liar Dr Riek Gai Kok,Dr Marial Benjamin Bil,Dr Nguen Monytuil Wecjang and Dr John Gai Yol. Those Nuer civilians who died in Juba on 15/12/13

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        • 12 February 03:35, by Bentiu son

          their precious souls will hunt you down one by one.Dr Marial must know that he is no longer representative of Uror County in Lou Nuer.He must go back and kiss the asses of Dinka Agaar who rejected him previously or naturalized among the barbaric Dinka Rek of Twic Mayardit.No place for him within Nuer Society because he is big liar in South Sudan after Makuei Ngooth.

          repondre message

  • 11 February 07:54, by Ross

    What happened in Juba should not be called violence as minister claimed, it is genocide, and this is clear from the statements of Kiir, especially when ever addressing the party. If you are reminding people of 1991 events on each occasion that’s mean you have an intension to take revenge as it is done by Special Forces of Kiir.

    repondre message

  • 11 February 07:54, by LL Reuben

    What do these rebels anticipate when they insist on the discharge and withdrawal of few UDPF forces from RSS as a condition foremost necessary before the peace talk is resumed? I hope the rebels are not severely stupid to think that the so-called international community, especially the cheerleaders of fake democracy like USA, Britain, and France along with their rear wipers will make their...

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    • 11 February 07:57, by LL Reuben

      dreams come to reality by bombing Salva out Juba so they can easily take over as it was done in Libya and places where a very fake democracy has been installed.

      repondre message

      • 11 February 08:23, by Bravo Nuer

        does a waste sewage tanker like Salva Kiir deserve being bombed like Gadaffi by US? Let UPDF go if you think Salva will talk louder again. withdrawal of UPDF is not entertained anymore by us because God has connected the exit of Museveni and his careless disciple kiir in unison. anyone has eye is to see and anyone has ear is to hear.

        repondre message

      • 11 February 09:30, by Malakal county Simon

        LL Reuben
        That’s will be what happens in few weeks, if Kiir keep refusing to implement those conditions....

        repondre message

  • 11 February 08:16, by Ross

    Kiir is not an elected president of South Sudan based on our Constitution; therefore we should not bark on that, He was elected during Interim period in which Sudan interim constitution still functioning. By the time South Sudan confirmed its new independence, than Kiir was appointed by the power of Party to take over presidency in front of President of Sudan.

    repondre message

  • 11 February 08:23, by 4Justice

    I remember the phrase "mukab kab" when someone is about to do something stupid.

    repondre message

    • 11 February 08:36, by Malakal county Simon

      Ross/Jaang
      You’re point above is not straight enough to compel any sound minded, and reasonable person’s.... As you said that Kiir was elected by the people’s of South Sudan, I agreed with you on that point....But When a leader betrayed and kills his own people’s who have been elected him/her to lead them, that’s president is no longer legitimate because is no longer for interest of the people’s

      repondre message

      • 11 February 13:44, by Ross

        Malakal County
        You may have understood me for sure, i’m not against you as you think, the point is that care should not be treated as an elected president since the election failed with the emerged of new Country.

        repondre message

      • 11 February 14:15, by Hardlinner

        Can you nuers clarified your position on riek?. Do you guys thinks riek have got any legitimacy left in himself to become president of south sudan and not nuer area?. Any person with reasoning capacity would say enough is enough for riek and therefore he should resign. Kiir also should not impose himself on south sudanese given his lack of interest to prosecute corrupt leaders.

        repondre message

  • 11 February 08:45, by Ayuiu Makuac Lam

    In-fact, it is a genocide but to investigate who created is a massacar in Juba and others parts of the country?
    Simply is Dr. Riak Mashar and should be held accountible. United South Sudan Party based London, can not threat government to hold the act. It is party exploited with rebels.

    repondre message

  • 11 February 09:17, by Gatluak

    Marial becomes the second of Kiir known to be a taught liar now. Go to Urol ur county an access its situation. Fuck you n ur father killer

    repondre message

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