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South Sudan foreign minister continues London visit

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February 12, 2014 (LONDON) - South Sudan’s Foreign Minister did not endear himself to the international media in London on Wednesday when he only took four questions at a press conference organised on his behalf by the African Press Organization.

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South Sudan Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin speaking at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London on 11 Feb 2014 (Photo: IISS)

Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin gave no further details on the current conflict in South Sudan other than repeating statements given at previous events. He did, however, speak to young South Sudanese and others at the London School of Economics on Wednesday evening.

At the press conference Marial reiterated South Sudan’s position that Ugandan forces will only leave his country once they have completed the process of eliminating the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group from Central Africa.

The foreign minister has repeatedly said that the Ugandan soldiers who are fighting alongside the South Sudanese army (SPLA) against factions who have defected from the military were redeployed from positions in Western Equatoria, where the LRA had previously been active.

No mention was made of the new forces deployed by Kampala since the conflict began in mid-December.

Marial said that 100 Dinka army officers had been arrested for targeting Nuer civilians in Juba during the first days of the conflict. However, he maintained that any ethnic violence was confined to the SPLA and the rebels - who are mainly soldiers who have defected - rather than between South Sudanese civilians.

As he had in his previous public appearances he accused the rebels led by Riek Machar of playing the ethnic card and emphasised the government’s willingness to bring all those accused of killings to justice.

The two-month old conflict has killed an estimated 10,000 people and displaced nearly one million but the foreign minister was keen, as he has been throughout his trip, to highlight investment opportunities.

The United Nations has just graded South Sudan’s humanitarian situation in its highest category of alert, putting it on the same level as Syria.

On Wednesday Marial appeared on a panel to discuss the current situation in South Sudan at the International Institute for Strategic Studies with the BBC’s former Sudan and South Sudan correspondent James Copnall and political commentator Thomas Mawan Muortat.

With South Sudan coming under increased international scrutiny since independence in 2011, even before the current conflict began, Marial maintained that his government needed support and good will.

Muortat said that the way oil has been managed in South Sudan has been "a disaster", adding that there is an element of the government that is not well intentioned.

The foreign minister admitted that when former rebels like the SPLM take power, as they did in 2005 after a peace agreement with Khartoum, there can be mismanagement of oil revenue. Over $4 billion has gone missing in South Sudan but the government has learnt its lessons and now accounts for every dollar, he said.

COUP NARRATIVE

Throughout his trip, Marial has maintained that the fighting among the presidential guards that triggered the current conflict was a failed coup attempt and complained that many western government’s and international media have failed to use the same language.

The BBC’s James Copnall responded to this by pointing out that the African Union had also not condemned the fighting as a coup attempt and suggested that the international media, analysts and diplomats would need further evidence to convince them of the government’s narrative.

What happened on December 15 has been interpreted very differently by the people of South Sudan, Copnall said, meaning that what exactly occurred is extremely significant in terms of resolving the conflict.

PEACE PROCESS

Thomas Mawan Muortat told the meeting at IISS that a deal between President Salva Kiir, the rebels led by Riek Machar and other members of the political elite in South Sudan would not be enough to resolve the country’s underlying problems.

He called for the scope of those who can be involved in the peace process to be widened, adding that most South Sudanese were disenfranchised due to a justice system that does not function, high unemployed and illiteracy.

Copnall added that a peace deal based on the military balance of the moment would probably not address the wider issues in South Sudan and asked the minister whether President Kiir’s policy of amnesties and reintegrating rebel forces and other armed forces back into the army would continue.

THE BIG TENT IS STILL OPEN

Marial responded by saying that President Salva Kiir "has a big heart" and that "forgiveness" was not only in the Christian religion but was part of South Sudan’s traditions.

"The big tent is still there", he said, adding that Machar is welcome to contest for the South Sudanese presidency at the 2015 elections so long as his actions are based on democratic principles.

President Kiir is determined to address human rights issues and investigate all allegations of violence against civilians during the conflict, Marial said.

The South Sudanese government, he said, is committed to the peace process which is underway in Addis Ababa.

Seven senior SPLM politicians, who had been arrested in connection with the alleged coup attempt are due to arrive in Ethiopia on Thursday to participate at the talks. Juba released to Kenya at the end of January.

Marial, a former South Sudanese information minister, suggested that instead of describing the seven who have been released and the four who remain in custody as "political detainees" the media should refer to them as "suspected coup makers".

"There is a light at the end of the tunnel", Marial said, comparing situation to other African conflicts which have taken longer to resolve, pointing to the ceasefire deal sign on 23 January. The deal has failed to stop the fighting and has been violated by both sides.

At the London School of Economic Marial spent over two hours talking to students answering eight questions, which covered Dinka-Nuer relations after the ethnic violence of the last few weeks, as well as corruption.

The meeting, which was attended by representatives from South Sudan’s main opposition party the SPLM-DC, was chaired by Tim Allen the Head of LSE’s Department of International Development and a Professor of Anthropology who has worked in Sudan and South Sudan.

Allen only let South Sudanese people ask questions of the minister.

(ST)

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  • 13 February 08:27, by Tong dut

    A bagger from us the Dinkas, after that we loot it from the useless southerns,we control all animals in the wold.not human being with two legs.

    repondre message

    • 13 February 08:56, by Johndumo14

      TIME FOR COLONIAL IS OVER!!
      Washington must tell france to withdraw from African`s land.
      Not Uganda troops!!
      These countries have many things in common,Uganda and s.sudan
      In their border almost tribes from both countries speaks same dilects,infact is one country ,is only the thieves (British and france) who divided them in colonial times.

      repondre message

      • 13 February 10:29, by jubaone

        Ooh Dr. Marial,
        How stupid must one be mixing things up. UPDF´s incursion into S. Sudan is a different mandate than that put together by the US-UPDF-SPLA-DRC to combat LRA. Just another foolish and low class doctor.

        repondre message

  • 13 February 08:35, by Angelo Achuil

    In my opinion, the true South Sudan’s problem can NOT be solved by addressing the demands of the rebels now in Addis Ababa.The current problem is more about Riek Machar’s V Salva Kiir’s than about the normal citizen.
    The real issue is constitutional - and gov’t functions,and services that are ineffective, unjust, and fraudulent. Only review of constitutional powers will bring peace.

    repondre message

    • 14 February 01:57, by Gatluak

      South Sudanese problem will be resolved by telling one who cause it that u did wrong not by creating liars. We South Sudanese not Ugandan. If Nuer are fighting 63 tribes plus Uganda n the world panic that the situation will not be solves by war, it mean..we have a long go....wish Dinka & Nuer would be leave for 1week fighting n see who gonna die for life?....Nuer is a human of human..

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  • 13 February 08:44, by Joseph Canada

    I don’t see anything that make sense or truthful on this propagandist! It’s all lies and manipulations that he tries to express while the Whole World know who did what. Dr. Riek didn’t start the fight nor did he form the so called coup. Marial, you are too old to lie. Ugandan parliament approved the UPDF deployment as the World knows too. why lie? Western EQ is not Jongolei state or upper Nile!!!

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    • 13 February 08:49, by Joseph Canada

      This is a true example of a "DEAD DINKA IS THR TRUSTED DINKA" Even the old and the most educated that the Orphans in South Sudan should turn to for advice lie like nobody’s business. The man with a Doctorate!!! This is the true abuse of Education!!! I peaty those born on the line of the Dinka blood!!!

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      • 13 February 09:15, by denng

        Joseph just in case u didn’t know, Barnaba Marial Benjamin Is Nuer. So save your hate comments for another day faggot.

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      • 13 February 10:07, by Tut Tut

        Dr.Marial is truly dishonest as well as professional lair. His argument on the conflict is nonsense and he has been proved stupid when asked about the Ugandan statement that its arm forces did capture Bor instead of the SPLA.It was a clear insult to his intellect when the interviewer told him that either you or the Uganda must be telling the truth.Meaning, you are just s vicious liar.What a Shame!

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        • 13 February 15:13, by Tong dut

          The only trusted Dinka is the dead one,Even the dead one can kill or loot human creature.

          repondre message

    • 13 February 17:22, by moto

      PHOTO COPY CANADA DON,T YOU KNOW THAT PROPAGANDA SOME TIME ARE FACTS.

      repondre message

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