In a serious violation of the agreement between rival parties to demilitarize the national capital, Juba, pending arrival of First Vice President designate, Riek Machar, and formation of transitional government of national unity with President Salva Kiir, the government has been accused of sneaking into Juba on Saturday evening thousands of armed youth from the ruling ethnic Dinka of Bahr el Ghazal region.
Chairperson of the national committee for information and public relations in the armed opposition faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), Mabior Garang de Mabior, said reliable information indicated that the Chief of General Staff of the South Sudan’s army, General Paul Malong Awan, brought to Juba last evening troops from his home region in violation of the deal.
‘The leadership of the SPLM/SPLA in opposition condemns in the strongest terms, the subversive activities of the Chief of General Staff (CoGS) of the Government of South Sudan Forces – Gen. Paul Malong Awan. It has come to the attention of leadership of the SPLM/SPLA (in opposition); that the CoGS, has again mobilized a force outside of the regular army. It has also come to the attention of the SPLM/SPLA leadership, that eight lorries of troops have arrived this evening in Juba, in violation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS),” Mabior said in a press statement extended to Sudan Tribune..
“In addition, the CoGS has commandeered several helicopter gunships and has been attacking cantonment areas of the SPLM/SPLA (in opposition) in Western Bhar el Gazal,” he added.
Other sources within the government’s military establishment also confirmed to Sudan Tribune that a militia force loyal to Paul Malong has been transported to the capital, but added that the intention of the army chief was not known.
This new development raises serious concerns about the fate of the peace agreement and fear of military confrontations between rival forces, particularly that the army chief utters comments against the peace agreement and top leadership of the SPLM-IO who is scheduled to return to Juba on 18 April.
General Awan has also ordered his troops in Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria regions to attack the SPLA-IO opposition forces in the areas, denying them the option to assemble in cantonment areas per the agreement.
The situation escalated after the arrival of over 1,000 SPLA-IO troops in the capital, Juba, with observers interpreting it to have caused panic among some government’s senior political and military leaders, including Awan.
General Awan reportedly played a great role in mobilizing ethnic Dinka armed youth in 2013 in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state when he was governor and helped trained and transported them to Juba, where they participated in the massacre of ethnic Nuer civilians from 15 December 2013.
Military sources also said government forces for the past few days have been taking up positions around Juba, blocking all routes, nearer to the capital than the agreed 25km away.
Mabior said should anything happen in Juba or anywhere, the opposition forces have the right to fight back in self-defense.
“The SPLM/SPLA (in opposition) finds this situation unacceptable and reserves the natural right of self-defense,” he warned.
“The Movement once more, takes this opportunity to call on President Salva Kiir Mayardit to rein in on all the hard-liners in and out of the government and give peace a chance. The ARCISS is currently the popular will of the people of South Sudan, and a few negative elements cannot be allowed to derail the peace process,” he said.
Mabior also decried the comment of General Awan against the First Vice President designate, that he would never become president unless on his dead body.
“The SPLM/SPLA (in opposition) also condemns the statements of the CoGS, condemning the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS); and, his vow never to accept the First Vice President Designate, Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhourgon – acting as President in the absence of the President – Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit. These statements and aggressive posturing by the CoGS are becoming a threat to the implementation of the ARCISS and are a threat to national security in the Republic of South Sudan,” Mabior pointed out.
He also informed the people of South Sudan, the region and the world of the opposition faction’s fear in light of the imminent return of their top leader, Machar, to Juba on 18 April.
The government also passed a resolution after a cabinet meeting chaired by President Kiir, rejecting a proposed meeting between President Kiir and opposition leader, Machar, upon his arrival in Juba on 18 April.
The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), a body which oversees the implementation of the peace agreement, said it would facilitate a first face-to-face meeting between the two rival leaders before they could form a unity government.
Machar on his part said he was looking forward to meeting President Kiir. The two have not met in eight months since the signing of the peace agreement separately in Addis Ababa and in Juba in August last year.
The refusal by the government to meet Machar raises another concern of lack of commitment to reconcile.