July 8, 2014 (JUBA) – A senior South Sudanese army (SPLA) officer has broken his silence, explaining why he has been reluctant to join the ongoing rebellion seeking to dislodge president Salva Kiir from power.
- Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirino Swaka, the ex-SPLA deputy chief of general staff for training (youtube photo)
Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirino Swaka, the army’s deputy chief of general staff for training, said he never wanted to repeat mistakes made when he quit the Sudanese army to join the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which now governs the young nation.
“People have been coming to me and asked what I have become. They asked what I have been thinking. Some of them have a reached a point that they accused in the local gathering of being a bought son of Equatoria,” Swaka told a delegation of community leaders and elders who visited him at his Juba residence last week.
He said both senior government officials and prominent community leaders approached him to know what he was up to in light of the rebellion, which has seen thousands of people killed and over a million displaced.
“Some of them have come with you and they are here now. They asked me what I am still doing in the army that had disarmed some of us; just the same way they started with us,” said the senior army officer.
“I have never responded, but I will not hesitate to respond today, because those who have come, represents the greater Equatoria region, which is good for you hear why I have refused to rebel,” he added.
The top SPLA official said he wanted to avoid the 1992 massacre of people from his region, which occurred immediately after he defected from the Sudanese army to join fellow southerners in the bush.
“In 1992, when I decided with other colleagues to rebel from the Sudanese army here in Juba and joined the rebel movement, you, the people of the greater Equatoria, especially those of who remained behind witnessed what happened after I left. You where exposed to jeopardy and slaughter like chickens and goats by the government forces because you were not able to protect yourselves,” Swaka said.
“Is this what you want to be repeated? Tell me, I want to hear from you now. What I know is that if I decided to rebel now against this Dinka government as it is called to fight for you as seems to be the desire, more than you were exterminated in 1992,” he added.
Swaka also acknowledged that several people were killed during the armed struggled in Juba, stressing that joining rebellion was not the best option.
“You know now that most senior government officials and intellectual lost their lives. This time it will be worse simply you are still powerless to protect yourselves like what the Nuer did,” he told the visiting delegation.
The army officer’s remarks come barely a week after Central Equatoria state governor Clement Wani Konga accused the major rival tribes in the country of allegedly having negative attitudes towards his region.
Konga, while addressing reporters last week, claimed there were indications that people from his region serving in the police and army were allegedly being mistreated, while some had already been disarmed.
“If our frankness is being disliked then there is something wrong. We are not afraid. And nobody can sit on my head. Nobody can sit on the head of Equatoria. We are all equal. What goodness will you get by killing your brother in cool blood? And all these activities have indicated, have shown themselves,” the governor told reporters in Juba.
He also accused the government of carrying out disarmament of the suspected soldiers and officers from army and police service, on the ground of loyalty to the former environment minister-turned rebel, Alfred Lado Gore.
“There is disarming going on now against the Equatoria, those in the police, those who are in the army. Can one tribe or two tribes make a nation? No. South Sudan is for us all and all of us contributed in kind even those who were on the government side,” Konga said.
“As for us Equatorians, we have kept president Salva [Kiir]. It is us who protect him since my return from Germany in 2012. It is not the Dinka who are keeping the president in power. It is us the Equatoria and if we are being disliked because of our frankness then there is something wrong,” he added.
However, he went on to clarify that the region was not in any way ready to join the fight but that they were ready to defend themselves, should anybody attempt to move into the area without their knowledge.
“My duty as governor is to mobilise people so as to protect this country. So not all the blames have to be pushed to Wani [Igga], we have to share it. The defection taking place is it caused by me,” he said.