Two S. Sudan gov’t officials defect to rebels
Source: World Bulletin/ News DeskMembers of South Sudanese army joking in Juba before the current crisis(Photo: zagrava)
March 19, 2014 (Addis Ababa) — Two senior South Sudanese government officials, including a former presidential adviser, joined rebel forces loyal to sacked vice president Riek Machar on Tuesday, blaming President Salva Kiir for the nascent country’s three-month-old conflict.
Speaking at a press conference in Addis Ababa, former South Sudanese presidential advisor Tijwog Hather Agwet and Gwado J. Ador, former research director at the Information Ministry, announced they had joined the rebel camp.
“Kiir failed to unite the nation and stop the bloodshed. The best way for him is to go,” the officials said in a joint press statement read out at the conference.
South Sudan has been shaken by violence since mid-December, when Kiir accused Machar of attempting to overthrow his regime.
“What happened on December 15/16 2013 was uncalled for. It was in fact a plot carefully designed to crack down on opponents and silence them,” said the two men.
The conflict, they added, had “left a scar on our conscience that will not go anytime soon; a situation that spawned a climate of fear and hatred among the people.”
The violence has already claimed more than 10,000 lives, with the U.N. estimating that some 3.7 million South Sudanese are “severely food insecure” while more than 867,000 have been displaced by the violence. The two defectors accused Kiir of using Ugandan troops to secure his presidency against the will of his own people.
“Kiir started the war and invited foreign troops to support him. Uganda is striving to keep Kiir in power, but not to save the people,” they said.”We are fighting against mercenaries,” the two men asserted.
“His [Kiir’s] main interest is to stay in power for many years in South Sudan, like Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni.”
Uganda deployed troops to South Sudan last December with the stated aim of evacuating Ugandan nationals from the war-ravaged country.
The troops were later asked to secure the Juba airport and other vital strategic facilities. Last week, Juba agreed on the deployment of military forces from member states of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African trade bloc, to replace departing Ugandan forces.
Chief government negotiator Nhial Deng Nhial has said the deployment of regional forces was aimed at safeguarding the monitoring and verification mechanisms of an IGAD-brokered cessation of hostilities deal signed in January.