Contributor's Opinion

Making sense of the fighting that took place in Juba in the first week of July 2016.

By Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak

August 14, 2016

A gunship seen hovering over South Sudan capital while fighting resumes(Photo: file)
A gunship seen hovering over South Sudan capital while fighting resumes(Photo: file)

August 14, 2016(Nyamilepedia) —– This paper is exploring the confrontation, which took place in Juba in the first week of July 2016. Initially, the incident that had happened, was not unexpected. Since the return of the SPLM/A-IO guards to Juba, tension began to develop day after day. The atmosphere was an awaiting iceberg which explosion was ticking bit by bit! Immediately before all Dr. Riek Machar bodyguards could finish arriving Juba, Paul Malong Awan: the chief of general staffs of the government forces, shuttled to Bhar El Ghazal to bring 7, 000 additional militias to already militarized Juba as a signal of preparing for an anticipated war. As both SPLM/A-IG and IO forces congregated in Juba suburbs, many political thinkers began to predict, violence will not absence once Dr. Riek Machar has returned to Juba. This wild prediction that seemed to be a wish, came to reality when indeed two peace partners resorted back to hostility in the first week of July. In this article, the writer try to make sense of what had taken place when clashes between Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar forces occurred. Below is the reality and the beginning of the incident, which culminated as the result of multiple systematical actions taken by the regime that does not believe in peaceful coexistence rather than murdering its own citizens cold-bloodily. Bear with the author as he walks you the reader through series of violations that resulted into the military clashes which seriously had jeopardized the Compromise Peace Agreement and trashed its implementation.

The process of peace violation started slowly when the government made it a habit to look for ways to harass SPLM/A-IO members wanting them to be furious and react negatively so that they would be seen as peace violators.  Right after Riek Machar arrived Juba and the nonfunctional transitional government of national unity was formed, the government engaged in an infringement activities aiming of dismantling the peace.   The first alarming incident befallen few weeks during Dr. Riek stay in Juba when his motorcade were stopped by Salva Kiir security personnel while he was going to work in the morning. Second, on May 6, 2016, at the first council of ministers’ meeting after the formation of the Transitional Government of national Unity, Dr. Riek’s young eloquent minister Mabior Garang De Mabior was expelled out of the meeting, and the reason behind the expulsion was that he dressed inappropriately, which was not the case, Mabior was well dressed with a suite and a bow tie. However, Salva Kiir wanted to humiliate him.  Oftentimes, Mabior is regularly seen wearing bow ties in many public events both inside South Sudan and outside of the country and had never been expelled. If the matter was the bow tie he wore that day, how come he was prevented from getting back into the room after he has switched the tie?

The third incident was when Dr. Riek guards’ motorcades were shoot at, in that shooting, only one car’s tire was hit by bullet, people were unharmed. Following bodyguards motorcade shootout, SPLA-IO were dismayed and disappointed with the government forces’ perpetual harassment and intimidation of their members whenever they are travelling in Juba. Although they were not responding negatively, tension has increased because government denied establishment of security arrangement where joint patrol police would have been set up to provide security in the city. Article 5: 1.3 in Compromise Peace Agreement indicated, “Joint integrated police shall be deployed to protect civilians.” Instead of forming join integration police as stipulated in the peace document, Salva Kiir’s government had decided to set up checkpoints around Juba checking everybody including Dr. Riek forces who should be their partner in carrying out such a duty. Due to the establishment of these checkpoints, many SPLA-IO security personnel were detained and their where about was unknown by their comrades. Even though the above mentioned intimidations were inflicted, SPLA-IO was tenacious in avoiding returning evil for an evil and Salva Kiir’s security did not stop inflicting wounds on them.

Notwithstanding, on July 2, 2016, the government security forces had decided to kill George Gismalla and Domach Koat for no other reason than to scare opposition forces from commuting in Juba. The death of these two SPLA-IO members fueled the already fragile security situation and the two side were only waiting for trigger to be ignited. Then on Thursday July 7 around 8:00 PM, a group of SPLA-IO soldiers were going to the town to bring food to their fellow comrades who spend the night at First Vice President’s office as they do every evening. When they were approaching a checkpoint at Lou Clinic in Gudele, government security forces stopped them and blocked them from entering the town. While the opposition group of ten try to resist, the government soldiers begin to fire at them and at the same manner SPLA-IO soldiers return the trigger. That confrontation ended with two wounded from the SPLA-IO side and five pronoun dead on the government side. After these skirmishes, the two side retreated back to their camps blaming each other for triggering the squad. During that night, tension was so skyrocketing and the government security forces began to detain and arrest anybody from the Nuer ethnicity including Nuer-Wew who remain on the government side since 2013 when the war started. They don’t carry whether you are a Nuer who support them or not!

Then, on July 8, 2016 in the early evening before sunset on Friday, heavy gunfire that involved artillery broke out outside of the presidential Palace in Juba while Salva Kiir, Riek Machar, Wani Igga and some of their bodyguards and those who attended the function were in the room. The shooting started suddenly outside J1 and spread around Juba, Kiir, Machar and Wani claimed inside the room that they all have no idea about the cause of the clashes. Is it true Kiir did not know the cause of the confrontation outside his Palace? Not sure about you, this author is very skeptical doubting the authenticity and the truthfulness of his claims. If you as a reader would go back and read three leaders’ body language, some of you may agree with me Kiir’s body language showing he was fully informed and has full knowledge of what was taken place outside of his Palace, only Wani and Riek seemed to have no idea about the incident. Up to the moment, people still do not have clear information of what had taken place, which prompted the question below. What is the cause of the fighting in J1?

If we all remember or may recall correctly, we could assert the incident was not given a name until on Monday July 11, when Kiir and Malong ordered their troop to bomb Dr. Riek residency at Jebel Kujur aiming to eliminate him for good. On that Monday, Juba had invented the name of the confrontation as a coup or Dr. Riek bodyguards ignited the shooting outside the Palace. The same term was picked up by some of the regime sycophantic ambassadors in England, Kenya, and those in Washington D.C. Some went even further that, there are Ngundeng elements within Dr. Riek Machar forces who want to perpetuate the war and reject the peace.  Would any person who think intellectually in their right-mind agree with them (those individuals) who believe Dr. Riek had truly staged a coup d’état or ordered his bodyguards to ignite skirmishes when they had converged at presidential Palace in Juba? One do not think so and readers are the judges of this shallow puzzle.

Precisely, the following voices are evidence of what had taken place in J1, especially the leaked UN memo published by the Inner City Press. To them, the confrontation started when a huge force coming from the direction of Paul Malong Awan residency joined up with President Kiir’s tiger force and opened fire on Dr. Riek Machar’s bodyguards who were standing not very far from Kiir and Wani bodyguards outside of the Palace. Similarly, in the deposition of one Wani Igga’s bodyguard, who was announced to have been killed in the fighting that day and the news of his dismay prompted one of his relative living closer to this author to call and verified his wellbeing, this fellow indicated, “the fighting was not ignited by Riek Machar’s bodyguards; it started when four vehicles came from somewhere in the city and opened fire to Riek Machar guards.”  Moreover, Dr.Riek Machar’s bodyguards who survived slaughtering outside J1, stated the same thing that “four vehicles full with soldiers came from direction of Paul Malong and start shooting at them when they arrive the Palace.” Some of the bodyguards even went further to say, “during the startup of the press conference, Paul Malong Awan was in the room with the leadership and asked Riek to reveal the names of his soldiers who had killed five SPLM/A-IG serve-members the night before—-otherwise Riek will not leave J1 and Paul Malong exited the room; few minutes later the gunfire had started.”  Base on the above witnesses’ dispositions, we can infer the incident was well planned and was made to start while Riek is in a known place. Why would the government and its sympathizers distorted this very clear assassination attempt and the cause of the war and relinquish it with deceitful and flaw fallacious synonyms coup?

Well, this is not the first time for them to falsified an incidence, it’s the same dejavu of falsification government officials had invented in 2013, when Salva ordered his presidential guards to arrest Dr. Riek and all former government officials Kiir had fired in July that year. After the arrest has resulted into the fighting, Salva and his cohorts came out on December 16, 2013 and described the cause of the violence like one of Riek supporter was coming from Nyakuroun Cultural Center and began the shooting. He went on to assert his forces had just repulsed coup plotters.

Similarly, the narrative in that year, is exactly the same as this year narrative, they again blaming Riek and his guards to have started the shootout this year. This falsification has sickening citizens and friends of the country who wish the country well, given the fact that, the government is promoting lies and cover up as the right way of running politic rather than practicing truthfulness and honesty. If someone would like to verify what this author is talking about here, let them Google President Kiir, Michael Makuei Lueth, Ateny Wek Ateny, Buay Malek and their likes’ video clips verbatim, you will be amused to learn that South Sudan government is being run by a bunch of liars.

In actual fact, there is no reason at all that, Riek Machar who went to Juba with 1370 strong force carrying only light machine guns, could stage a coup in a city that is full with thousands of soldiers which include 7, 000 militias Paul Malong Awan had brought to Juba during the arrival of Riek Machar bodyguards. The government claim does not make any sense at all. Furthermore, it would be worth mentioning that, anywhere in the world, coup plotters plan a coup when they know their forces can overrun the power holder forces. At this juncture, Riek does not have enough soldiers that could prompted him to stage a coup. Also in Salva Kiir’s own words, he and some of his bodyguards escorted Dr. Riek Machar to his residency to Jebel Kujur and told Riek to call him (Kiir) after he arrives his residential area which Kiir stated Dr. Riek did. For heaven sake, can you escorted a person who is staging a political coup against you to the safe place, or would you just arrest him? This shows the lack of truthfulness on the side of the government. It also made it very clear to anybody that, Salva Kiir and his followers in Juba do not have right phrases and vocabularies to describe the cause of their action which resulted into the death of hundreds of soldiers and civilians.

Another peace violation by Kiir is the appointment of Taban Deng Gai to the first vice presidency position after Riek and his forces are pushed out from Juba. President Salva Kiir and his cronies are interpreting provisions of the peace agreement to favour their interest.  They appoint Taban to divide the Nuer while the rightful person who should occupy the seat in temporary absence of the First Vice President is Lado Gore. Taban acceptance indicated he and some IO Hotel dwellers were part of the conspiracy to assassinate Dr. Riek. His backers in some point are reasoning that, two Equatorians cannot follow each other. This is inconceivable reasoning. For more than twenty years, we have been led by John Garang deputized by either Kerubino or Kiir and nobody had ever complained. That made their argument incoherent.

Last but not least, Salva Kiir is not for peace implementation given the reason that, he says this today and change it with another one tomorrow. For instance, when he, Riek and Wani met and agreed to review the 28 states issue, they came up with the idea that, the number of States and their boundaries will be reviewed within 30 days started from the day 15 members committees are formed, two days later Ateny Wek Ateny rejected the proposal saying 28 States will not be changed. The government could only agree to add more States. The same goes to the resolution of establishment of cantonment areas for the forces of SPLM/A-IO in Greater Equatoria and Greater Bahr el Ghazal. At first, the government had agreed the Joint Monitoring Ceasefire Committee (JMCC) could assess the level of the SPLA-IO forces and determine to establish cantonment sites, instead of making this happened, the government planned to attack opposition positions in Western Bahr el Ghazal, Bentiu and Western Equatoria. These were evil plans that contributed to the ways they are derailing the implementation of the peace.

Currently, the regime has find itself in a hot spot, due to the undergoing dialogue by the regional and international community regarding the deployment of the third party to the country. They know this is the end of their terror regime. Third party will not allow their regular tricks, it will be a forces that prevent genocide and mass killings. The force of 4,000 strong army is going to South Sudan to save life but most importantly, to enforce the peace implementation. The argument of sovereign State they usually pronounced will not work this time around. The rape of innocent young girls, women, torturing of individuals and participation in crimes and political conspiracy or citizen intimidations will no longer be practiced by the regime. The only exit strategy for the government is to cooperate with IGAD, AU and their international community partners. The rejection of third party deployment is worsening than its welcoming. Despite the fact that, the war this time will not be the same as two years ago when only Upper Nile region was burning. Now is a time for the peace loving South Sudanese people to rely on the third party forces deployment and reject the regime stand against the said force deployment.

In summing, since the formation of Transitional Government of National Unity, SPLM/A-IG had worked really hard to derail the peace. It has been very difficult for the government to solve some contentious issues ranging from 28 States, cantonment sites, and the establishment of security arrangement where joint patrol police would have been set up to provide security in the city. These violations generated by the government triggered the fighting in the country. SPLA-IO did not plan a coup! Instead, Salva Kiir, his commanders and some elements within opposition planned an assassination attempt to the First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar. This came after Salva called for a meeting of the presidency in his office with Dr. Machar and Vice President James Wani Igga. The purpose of the meeting turned out to be a setup to harm or arrest Dr. Riek. Had his bodyguards managed to fight vigorously and rescued him, Dr. Riek would have been murdered. The lies government fed the world with that Dr. Riek and his forces had staged a political coup, are baseless fabrications. They thought they could blind foul the world to agree with their cheap propagandas similar to 2013 falsification. For them to remain on power, younger generations of South Sudan will inherent lying, better for them to go so that the country political culture can be turned around and the truth will be practiced.

Very respectively

Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak

The author is a political commentator: he can be reach at lulgatluak09@gmail.com or simonlul2000@yahoo.com.

Related posts

The Root Causes of the December 2013 Crisis in South Sudan


Opinion: An Open Letter to President Salva Kiir Mayardit.


1991 Has Become a Source of Employment for Regime’s Supporters


Tell us what you think

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: