April 1, 2014 (KAMPALA) - South Sudanese MPs from Uror and Akobo county in Jonglei state, where rebels have been fighting the government since December, were forced to leave a meeting in Kampala after they were threatened and mocked by students from the Nuer tribe who were angry at the message they had delivered from president Salva Kiir.
Uror and Akobo counties are majority Nuer areas of Jonglei and have been controlled by rebels loyal to South Sudan’s former vice president Riek Machar for much of the the last three months.
The two MPs were part of a group which the president Kiir sent to encourage young South Sudanese in Uganda work for peace and not join the rebels.
At the meeting in Pacific Hotel in Kampala on Tuesday, the delegation repeated the government’s version of events around how the conflict began, asserting that soldiers loyal to Machar tried to overthrow Kiir in a coup attempt on December 15.
Machar denies the accusation. Many analysts do not believe the government has provided enough evidence to back up the claim. The African Union, which is normally quick to condemn coup attempts on the continent, has also not described the split in the army as a coup.
Gatluak Ruon MP, who represents Uror county in the South Sudanese national parliament in Juba, said that the government had admitted that security services were involved in the killing of Nuer civilians in Juba between the 15 and 20 December.
Large sections of the army defected in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile in the days after the fighting began. Armed Nuer civilians in Jonglei state, known as the White Army, also joined the rebellion, which itself has been accused of killings along ethnic lines.
“We know that a massive [number] of [people from the] Nuer tribe were murdered in Juba, but let us not join [the] rebels to fight the government, what we need is peace let’s forget about the past and begin a new chapter", said Ruon while opening the meeting at the Pacific Hotel in Kampala on Tuesday.
Barnaba Benjamin Marial, South Sudan’s foreign minister, himself a Nuer, has admitted that over 100 soldiers and other security officials have been arrested in connection with the violence.
Many of the Nuer students, after hearing the government’s acknowledgement that members of the South Sudanese security services had murdered Nuer civilians at the start of the conflict, stood up and shouted at the delegation.
"Devils whom do you think will support your ill-leaderships", one of them shouted.
"You are direly bloodshed sucker MP, who has nothing to do to his people but rather to follow government of money", shouted Jima Wituor Both, a student from Uror county who is studying in Kampala.
The officials were forced to leave the meetings after the extent of the student’s anger became clear.
Before they were forced to leave, the official said that they had been asked by president Kiir to meet students, mainly from the Nuer ethnic group, and persuade them not to support the rebellion.
They also warned that the conflict could become regionalised with countries from the East African bloc IGAD - the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.
Riek Machar claimed this week in an interview with Bloomberg that the deployment of IGAD forces to South Sudan will mean the colonisation of the country and its oil fields.
Gatluok Ruon MP was joined by Michael Ruot Mayian and Majok Gatluak Thor a former security officer, who are both from the Lou-Nuer group in Jonglei which forms the majority of the White Army - a group of armed civilians who have sided with Machar.
Despite the ethnic aspect to some of the conflict, the head of the South Sudanese army (SPLA) is a Nuer and many of those who have defected from the ruling (SPLM) to form to the SPLM/A in Opposition are from Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group.
South Sudanese students in Kampala told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday that the officials were trying to bride students to secure there support and prevent them joining the SPLM/A in Opposition.