July 9, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudanese president Salva Kiir said the former political detainees were free to return and participate in efforts to end nearly seven months of conflict in the new nation.
- South Sudanese president Salva Kiir speaking at a press conference at Khartoum airport on 5 April 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdalla)
Speaking at the country’s third independence anniversary on Wednesday, Kiir said he had invited the former captives to the capital, Juba, but wondered why they did not respond, despite showing interests.
“I had wanted them to join us in Juba so that we come and celebrate this third anniversary together, but they have not responded in the way that we have expected”, remarked the president.
The South Sudanese leader said it was important for the former detainees to put aside any grievances and join struggles to maintain peace and stability.
“We want solutions. We don’t want problems to continue,” said Kiir.
Violence broke out in the young nation mid-December last year, killing thousands and displacing over a million people. A number of key politicians from the ruling party (SPLM), including its former secretary general, Pagan Amum were arrested, jailed and later bailed over allegations linked to a coup attempt in the country.
A number of former officials, who included former ministers, a governor and an ex-diplomat, were among those detained, but later freed in the aftermath of the violence that spread to three of the country’s 10 states.
KIIR APPEALS TO REBELS
President Kiir also urged his former deputy-turned rebel leader Riek Machar to reconsider his position on military campaigns and walk the path of peace.
“I am still renewing that call for Riek Machar to reconsider his position even if he thinks that he is militarily very strong and that he can defeat the government forces. He must consider that this fighting is costing us, taking a lot of people,” said Kiir.
He however stressed that government forces would not “remain in barracks and trenches” while being continuously attacked by opposition forces. The human costs, he stressed, were enormous and SPLM leaders must take responsibility to end the raging conflict.
The president, clad in his trademark hat, said he asked mediators from the regional bloc (IGAD) to deploy the monitoring and deterrent forces in the country.
“How long should my forces remain in the trenches? What will you [IGAD] do if I do the same (attack rebel forces) of Riek Machar and move out with my forces?” he asked.
The president said it was “wrong” for the mediators to blame the warring sides for ceasefire violations “when indeed government forces are being attacked.”
“There is nobody that can be insensitive to the call of peace of everybody in the world,” he said.
HOLD FEDERALISM DEBATE
Meanwhile, the president said the debate on federalism be put aside until peace was attained with the opposition. He also equated the proposed system of governance to what he described as the “Kokora” of 1993.
He recalled the division of South Sudan into Greater Upper Nile, Equatoria and Bar el Ghazal regions, where citizens were conditioned to live in provinces.
“Will this thing [division into provinces] not happen again?” asked president Kiir, stressing that people will decide after studying federalism.
“If you agree, I will put signature to it. It is your decision,” he said.
TOO MUCH WAR
Ugandan president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the only head of state at the occasion, said South Sudanese experienced too much war before independence.
“I am sure the people of South Sudan have learnt from their own experiences which they have gone through the period of liberation and after liberation,” he said.
President Museveni sent Ugandan troops to South Sudan at the onset of the conflict in December. The Ugandan forces have remained in the country, despite repeated demands by the rebel for their withdrawal.