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South Sudan army vows to back peaceful protests against Kiir

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Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers take a break during a military assault drill in Nzara on the outskirts of Yambio November 29, 2013. (Reuters Photo)

March 25, 2021 (JUBA) - The South Sudanese army (SSPDF) will not suppress peaceful protests calling upon President Salva Kiir to step down, a high-ranking military officer said on Wednesday.

The officer, in an interview with Sudan Tribune, said the army is mandated to protecting the lives of citizens as well as their properties.

“Everything has a beginning and an end. People are tired and fed up. They need a change, and the army cannot stand in the way. That it is not the mandate of the army. The mandate of the army is to protect people and the country against foreign aggression and to secure the territorial integrity of the country,” explained the officer.

"The rest is the work of other organs," he added.

The officer said the army will protect those who protest peacefully against Kiir.

“Those who will come out against them, to kill our brothers and sisters, who are paying the same price of the current situation like ourselves, going into the same markets, same schools and struggling each day to bring food to the table. If you raise a hand against them to protect individual interests, we will not allow that,” he said.

“We fought to liberate them, and we cannot turn around to turn guns against them”, added the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The high-ranking officer said the army, in a March 17, 2021 letter to the president, showed sentiments, citing neglect of the soldiers.

In the letter, the army argued that Kiir has departed way too far from the established path and vision and was “technically drifting alone in the sea with no idea how to get the ship back ashore in safety”.

“We have keenly observed growing frustrations among ordinary South Sudanese people, and we cannot sit and turn a blind eye on these frustrations as if they are none of our concerns,” partly reads the letter addressed to Kiir, also commander-in-chief of the army.

The authors of the letter claimed the South Sudanese leader was no longer the man they followed, sacrificing lives under his command.

“If Salva Kiir of 2005 meets the present-day Salva Kiir, he would execute him by a fire-squad for betraying people’s cause and for strangling democratic progress and peace. Even the National Dialogue process, which brought unity among the people of South Sudan, and it was a national endeavour you commissioned, you have now shelved it because it asks for your exit with Dr Riek Machar from power,” further explained the army’s letter to the president.

"You [Kiir] have betrayed the people of South Sudan who spoke in no uncertain terms during the dialogue about what they want for their country," he said.

The group also accused Kiir of allegedly using domestic challenges such as the war to essentially evade responsibility and prey on ordinary South Sudanese and mortgaged the country with chosen clique by borrowing money outside the confines of the law and siphoning public resources for personal pleasure and appeasement of men who betrayed our liberation struggle.

“We successfully defended you and your government from attempts by internal and external enemies to use unconstitutional means to take power, yet you turned around to betray us by signing an Agreement that considers a national army a militia,” notes the letter.

It adds, “Our sense of pride is greatly insulted by such appointments which are deeply regrettable. We urge you to untangle yourself from these elements before it is too late”.

The letter was written by officers identifying themselves as a collection of various units in the army, national security service, police and the country’s reserve forces.

Last week, senior presidential adviser Kuol Manyang Juuk accused the Juba government of destroying what was left after the country’s civil war instead of rebuilding it.

(ST)

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