From: Equatorian Leaders in the Diaspora
1. We condemn in the strongest possible terms, the remarks made by President Salva Kiir while addressing SPLM-IG party members at Freedom Hall on 19 October 2016. In the remarks President Kiir displayed an incredible insensitivity, divisive, and disrespect towards Equatorians members of his own government. These includes the Vice President James Wani Igga and the Speaker of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly Mr. Anthony Lino Makana, who were present at the event.
2. The remarks amount to incitement to violence against Equatorians. We are horrified that the international community failed to condemn these statements. Precedent shown that whenever statements are made by President Kiir, tragic consequences have always followed. One such example was President Kiir’s threat to journalists in August 2015. This is widely understood to have inspired the murder of journalist Mr Peter Julius Moi, a few days later.
3. We believe that the remarks provide further confirmation that President Kiir is not a national leader. Instead, President Kiir acts in a manner akin to that of a tribal leader. As such, we are forced to conclude that he is unfit to rule a country which is as ethnically and culturally diverse as South Sudan.
4. We take this opportunity to remind the people that Kiir’s government is the true cause of insecurity and chaos that currently plagues our country. Thousands have died as a consequence of the irresponsible strategies pursued by Kiir’s government. To date, there has been no meaningful contrition for the human suffering inflicted on the citizens of South Sudan.
5. For two years the people of Equatoria refused to take part in the civil war. They sought to mediate and championed a peaceful settlement through dialogue and compromise. It is unfortunate that Kiir’s government refused to acknowledge this effort. Instead they carried the war to Equatoria. It is our firm belief that the people of Equatoria are only responding in self-defence against combatants who made it clear through their actions that they make no distinction between resistance forces operating in Equatoria and unarmed civilians who call Equatoria their home. The consequences have been tragic. Uganda is now home to the fourth largest refugee population in the world. Thousands of families have fled their country in search of sanctuary from indiscriminate aggression and brutality of their own government and its forces.
6. We noted the continued rejection of the UN mandated Regional Protection Force by Kiir’s government. This is clearly intended to keep an open window of opportunity, so that government forces may have free reign in the dry season to wage war against the people of Equatoria. We are also aware, that President Kiir and his government invited the Uganda Police to engage in joint security operations within Equatoria, in response to allegations of ethnically motivated roadside killings in Equatoria. The introduction of these foreign forces will only escalate an already deteriorating situation. It will add to the number of armed actors operating in a heavily destabilised region, thereby increasing instead of reducing the likelihood of more violence. Such joint operations are indicative of a failing government no longer able to secure its own territory, and is propped up by foreign powers. They exposed rabble rousing appeals to state sovereignty as a cynical sham.
7. We noted President Kiir’s admission that the SPLA has been recruiting along ethnic lines and that the SPLA is considered a Dinka army by a significant proportion of South Sudanese. This confirm remarks made by General Paul Malong, the Chief of General Staff, in Aweil East earlier this month during the graduation of 5,000 SPLA soldiers. General Malong praised the area as the “most productive in terms of recruits”.
8. President Kiir is aware that discriminatory practices within the SPLA and all other organized forces are not a recent occurrence. We received regular reports of Equatorian officers and soldiers, many joined the SPLA during the Liberation War, witnessing their careers purposely stalled whilst lesser qualified candidates are promoted on the basis of ethnicity. Many have been retired or subjected to demotion on spurious grounds. Likewise, able Equatorian recruits have been passed up in favour of recruits from President Kiir’s own Dinka community. Institutional discrimination and overt barriers to inclusion existed before the civil war began in 2013. They served to deter Equatorians from joining an institution which they know is unwelcoming and in which they feel unfairly marginalised. This should come as no surprise to President Kiir.
9. We are obligated to remind President Kiir, that whether he decides to relocate to Yei, as a threat or whether he remains ensconced in Juba, that he is Commander-in-Chief of the SPLA and its allied militias. As such, he holds command responsibility and ultimate accountability for all atrocities and crimes against humanity committed by his forces.
10. We are cognisant that the peace process has stalled in large part due to the government’s refusal to compromise and its deliberate exclusion of key stakeholders. We urge President Kiir, and his government, to recommit to an inclusive peace process. We urge him to engage in meaningful dialogue with all actors so as to achieve a real ceasefire in our country.
11. Finally, we ask our fellow Equatorians and other regional countrymen and women serving in the government, the civil service and the security forces to deeply search their consciences. We urge them to consider whether they should remain a part of a government that thrives on exclusion and so evidently disrespects them and their respective communities. This government survives in its current discriminatory and predatory form because of your support. It will not reform itself unless you are prepared to take a principled stand and demonstrate your commitment to the long suffering people of South Sudan by withdrawing from it.
The Equatoria leaders in diaspora:
Issued: 31th October 2016
Mr. Federico Vuni, Equatorian Community Leader in the UK
Mr. Kwaje Lasu, Equatorian Community Leader in the USA
Mr. Joseph Modi, Equatorian Community Leader in Canada
Mr. William Orule, Equatorian Community Leader in Australia
For correspondence: Mr. Federico Awi Vuni; email@example.com