July 17, 2016 (JUBA) – Official spokesperson of the South Sudanese First Vice President, Riek Machar, said they cannot trust President Salva Kiir to provide security and protection to their leadership in Juba, saying the president is not in control of incidents that happen around him.
- South Sudan President Salva Kiir (C) adresses a press conference together with FVP Riek Machar (R) and SVP James Wani at the State House on July 8, 2016 (Reuters Photo)
“No, we don’t trust President Salva Kiir and his assurances to provide protection to our leadership,” James Gatdet Dak, spokesperson of First Vice President, Riek Machar, told Sudan Tribune on Sunday.
He said majority of their officials of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), including a national minister, have fled to the United Nations protection of civilians (POCs) site in Juba in fear for their lives.
This, he said, occurred after the SPLM-IO’s Secretary General, Dhieu Mathok Diing, who is also the minister of Energy and Dams, was beaten inside his hotel and briefly detained by President Kiir’s security personnel on Friday despite Kiir’s assurances to protect them.
The opposition leader’s spokesperson was responding to renewed calls by President Kiir over the weekend, in which he called on Machar to resurface and return to Juba from his hiding, assuring to protect him, or even stay with him in his house.
"I have been ready to resume talks on the issues we were discussing before this thing [violence] erupted. We were left with few things to conclude the discussions so that we begin with the implementation [of the August 2015 peace agreement]," he added.
The president was speaking for the first time since his forces clashed at the presidential palace with those loyal to Machar last week, leaving more than 270 soldiers from the two sides dead, 37 of whom belonged to Machar’s forces, officials have confirmed.
President Kiir vowed he would provide protection to Machar and his forces, citing the amnesty he had issued after declaring ceasefire as a guarantee for the security of his deputy and his forces.
"Nobody is hunting for him [Machar] and his forces. If he comes, I will protect him. He will stay with me if [he] feels he is not safe staying alone," he said.
"I don’t want any more bloodshed in South Sudan," stated Kiir.
But Machar’s Press Secretary, James Gatdet Dak, said they wanted a “third party force” to be deployed in Juba to create a buffer between rival forces and ensure security in Juba, thus the protection of the leadership, saying they would not trust President Kiir’s assurances.
Dak said they believed that the incidence of fighting at the J1 palace was a plan to harm Machar in crossfire if he tried to leave the palace and run back to his base, which was about five kilometres away from the palace.
He said President Kiir either knew what was happening in the various incidents or was not in control of his forces.
“President Kiir is not in control of incidents that occur around him. He is not in control of his army commanders and other organized forces. So how do you trust protection from a leader who is not in control, or who might have been blessing violent actions of his commanders or security personnel?” he said.
Dak lamented that every time someone was killed or tortured by security personnel loyal to President Kiir, he would say he didn’t know how it happened and who did it.
“For instance, President Kiir’s military intelligence and national security personnel killed our officer, Lt. Colonel George Alex Gismala, and took his body to their military barrack, but the President said he didn’t know who did it. Our soldiers were fired at, resulting to the initial clash that saw the death of five of his soldiers on Gudele road on Thursday, July 7. He [Kiir] also said he didn’t know how it happened. On Friday, July 8, he called the First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar, for a meeting in his palace and suddenly his bodyguards teamed up with hundreds of his soldiers and began to shoot at Dr. Machar’s bodyguards and the clashes ensued. He also said he didn’t know about how it started,” Dak further said.
He further charged that on Sunday, 10 July, President Kiir’s forces launched several attacks on their base at Jebel and the residence of the First Vice President using tanks and helicopter gunship, indicating that they were after Machar.
He said if Machar did not remain in the palace during the 8 July clashes, he would have been killed by President Kiir’s forces outside the palace and the president would have said he didn’t know how it happened.
“President Kiir did not protect First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar. They happened to get stuck with each other inside the palace. Either of them did not want to leave the palace as the fighting was going on outside the palace,” he said.
He also said the bodyguards of the two leaders took a wise decision by not echoing the fighting inside the palace because each side knew that their leader was going to be targeted and risked getting killed.
“They got stuck inside the palace until a third party was involved in arranging and ensuring how the leaders were escorted to their respective residences at night,” Dak further clarified, adding, “President Kiir was also ensuring his own safety by being near to Dr. Riek Machar in the palace.”
He added there was need for a third force to be deployed in Juba to take charge of its security, further arguing that the opposition’s forces which are part of the integrated forces for the security arrangements in Juba - but remained behind – should also be transported to Juba.
There was supposed to be a total of 2,910 of the military and police force for the opposition fighters in Juba, but only 1,300 soldiers arrived with only light weapons as they were not allowed to bring in heavy weapons.
Dak accused President Kiir’s forces of planning to attack Machar and his forces where they have now been relocated to around Juba.
He said he had received information that President Kiir’s army had ordered their warplanes, helicopter gunships, to search for the whereabouts of Machar to bomb him and his forces.
He also said President Kiir’s faction wants to further dismantle the August 2015 peace agreement by seeking to illegally identify and appoint a “stooge official” from the SPLM-IO to replace Machar as First Vice President.