October 20, 2016 (JUBA) – South Sudanese president, Salva Kiir, has been accused of behaving like a tribal chief, dividing the people of the nation on tribal lines and emotionally defending his community, the Dinka.
- South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir, seen in Addis Ababa on January 29, 2015 (Photo AFP Zacharias Abubeker)
This came after comments uttered by the President as he was addressing officials of his faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the Freedom Hall in Juba during the party’s registration on Wednesday.
President Kiir challenged Equatorian leaders in his government for not reigning in their Equatorian “people” who are currently rebelling against his government, adding that Riek Machar, his former deputy, an ethnic Nuer, has also taken his “Nuer people” with him.
The South Sudanese president made the comments in reaction to increasing rebellion against his government and the ongoing killings on roads targeting members of his ethnic group, the Dinka, in Equatoria region.
“Leaders of Equatoria, you have all the ability to stop all this nonsense on the roads. Because if you are in the government, there is no way that your people can go against the government you are in,” he said.
Responding to accusations that his army is a tribal army of the Dinka ethnic group from where he hails, President Kiir said it was not his fault and he had no choice because other tribes had allegedly deserted him.
“But where will I get people from if people of Equatoria have refused to join the army? Riek Machar has rebelled with his Nuer people,” he said.
The president complained against the lack of support from Equatorians and the Nuer tribe in the presence of his two deputies, Taban Deng Gai, and James Wani Igga, who hail from the Nuer tribe in Upper Nile region and from Bari tribe in Equatoria region, respectively.
The president also warned that he will personally command the war against armed elements causing insecurity in Equatoria region, saying he may relocate to Yei town and direct attacks against the local armed forces on the ground.
But the armed faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) led by Riek Machar said the comments confirmed that President Kiir had been behaving like a tribal leader and incited further violence against other tribes in the country.
“Such comments carrying negative tribal connotations and coming out from the lips of the President are an incitement for further tribal divisions and targeted killings in the country,” said James Gatdet Dak, official spokesperson for Riek Machar, leader of the SPLM-IO.
“The remarks have confirmed that President Kiir has always behaved like a tribal chief and has forgotten that he leads a nation of over 63 other tribes who elected him in 2010,” he told Sudan Tribune on Thursday.
He also said the remarks are an admission indicating that the president has lost support from the other tribes in the country.
The opposition leader’s spokesman said the President did not develop such emotions when his government’s forces targeted and killed members of other tribes, including unleashing his armed tribal militias of “Mathiang Anyoor and Dot Ku Beny” for the past three years who allegedly targeted and massacred thousands of innocent civilians from other tribes in Upper Nile, Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal regions, including in Juba.
Dak however said the opposition faction of the SPLM-IO condemned all sorts of targeted killings against innocent civilians no matter from which tribe they come, adding the president should not have been emotionally protective about one tribe he happens to come from.
He also lamented that it was unfortunate the president publicly declared he would personally direct violence against Equatorians, saying this was a message “indirectly” telling his armed tribal militias and armed forces to target the Equatorian civilians for revenge.
Fighting has escalated in Equatoria region as local youths have been reportedly joining the armed opposition faction against the government in several locations.
Civilians, mainly from the Dinka ethnic group, have been allegedly targeted on Juba-Yei and Juba-Nimule roads, recently with dozens reportedly killed.