June 29, 2014 (JUBA) – A South Sudanese army general who switched allegiance and joined rebel forces under the leadership of the former vice-president Riek Machar said he had rejected separate peace talks with the government.
- General Dau Aturjong (ST)
General Dau Aturjong Nyuol announced that he was defecting last month, calling on the South Sudanese people to join the fight to remove president Salva Kiir from power on the grounds that he had failed to properly manage the affairs of the country.
“They (the government) have continued to approach me for separate peace talks, using people they think would convince me,” Nyuol told Sudan Tribune in an exclusive interview on Sunday.
“They do not only want to localise the grievances for which I decided to resume [an] armed struggle, but it is a clear demonstration that they want to divide our leadership ... So I rejected it and asked them to go to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that is where peace talks are [being] held,” he added.
Nyuol claimed the Kiir-led government was on the verge of collapse, saying the national army (SPLA) was in disarray.
“Until we decided to resume [an] armed struggle, our people were made to believe that certain people are untouchable ... They (the government) made our people believe certain people are the problem of the country and the failure of the leadership,” he said.
“But today our people can say it openly: the real problem for our country and for us as South Sudanese are not the mutual political differences between individuals, the real problem now [is] the clique who decided to sit on the necks of our people and continue to loot the country at will ... Today no citizen is free to talk freely, although the constitution provides freedom of expression and speech,” he added.
South Sudan has been mired in conflict since a political split in the ruling SPLM turned violent in mid-December last year.
The conflict has pitted government troops loyal to Kiir against rebel forces aligned with Machar, comprising largely of dissident soldiers and ethnic militia.
Nyuol said the only way to restore lasting peace in South Sudan was to remove the Kiir administration and the introduction of a federal system of governance that would support democratic ideals, justice and freedom.
“For South Sudan to move forward, the regime of Salva Kiir and his friends must be dismantled,” he said.
“There is a real need to construct a new Republic of South Sudan. The country must change because the world has changed,” he added.
He accused the government of being motivated solely by self-interest, claiming the leadership had failed the South Sudanese people and brought shame on the country.
“They must go. This regime must be dismantled and thrown away to the trash. Our people don’t want it anymore. It actually brought us a shame these days to say you come from South Sudan,” he said.
There is growing support across Sudan for a federal system of governance, but the government has cautioned against ongoing debate on the matter, saying restoring peace and social harmony should be the country’s first priority.
Presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny told Sudan Tribune last Tuesday that the question of governance should be determined by citizens in a referendum once stability had been restored.
Kiir recently alleged that Machar advancing federalism as a strategy to split the position of the government.