May 31, 2014 (JUBA) – An attempt by South Sudan president, Salva Kiir to persuade an army general who recently defected to the country’s rebels has failed, a close aide told Sudan Tribune.
- File - South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir (Reuters)
President Kiir, the official said on Saturday, sent his press secretary, Ateny Wek Ateny to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi allegedly to convince Gen. Dau Aturjong to rescind his decision of join rebels.
“I am not aware of the official message the president had given Ateny Wek Ateny to carry to Dau Aturjong. I heard that it was Ateny because he used to share similar views with Dau and his group before his appointment as press secretary,” said the aide speaking on condition of anonymity.
“It was Ateny who proposed to the president that he would appreciate if allowed to go and talk to Dau and his group because he believes they would listen to him as one of their former friends and ally, so the president said okay”, he added.
It is remains unknown what message president Kiir had for the army general, with several government officials denying he sent a delegation, saying his spokesperson initiated the move.
Gen. Aturjong, the commander of the SPLA division 6, on Friday declared his defection to the opposition forces at a press conference he addressed in the Kenyan capital. He is a member of South Sudan’s largest community, the Dinka, and hails from Northern Bahr el Ghazal state,; the region with the biggest community population.
In 2010, however, the defected army commander contested for the gubernatorial seat to lead the state as an independent candidate and accused the SPLM-backed former governor, Gen Paul Malong Awan of allegedly rigging the votes in his favour to win.
The defection of the army official further underlines the growing political and the military challenges the regime grapples to address.
Ayii Ayii Akol, a former lawmaker who has now joined the rebels, confirmed that Gen. Aturjong indeed turned down Ateny’s request for a meeting in the Kenyan capital.
“We hear he had come and requested a meeting with us through agents, but we have refused the request because we are fully aware that nothing had come with him. We also know that nothing in the system has changed for him to come tell us,” said Akol.
“It is still the same system he used to criticise day and night when he was not appointed. So there is nothing that he would tell us”, he added.
Observers and analysts argue that the defection of such a high-profile figure from a community at the heart of the regime was a setback to president Kiir’s administration and could instigate more defections among junior officers and high-ranking soldiers.
“That would serve to weaken the security apparatus, but at the same time sharpen the sectarian nature of the conflict within Dinka community, the majority tribe in the country from which the president hails,” an analyst told Sudan Tribune.