The mess in South Sudan isn’t entirely Museveni’s fault: A caution to Gen. Thomas Cirillo

By: Samuel Atabi, MAR/03/2017, SSN;

The Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, is not politically a popular man among many in the ethnically divided South Sudan. The source of this political unpopularity can be divided into two main parts: among the non-Dinka group, Mr Museveni is accused of advising President Kiir to adopt dictatorial tendencies in order to advance a tribal hegemony over other non-Dinka tribes; and within the Dinka elite can be found those who hold Mr Museveni responsible for the death of Dr John Garang, the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

Garang died in a helicopter crash in 2005 after visiting with Museveni. This group of accusers asserts that Mr Museveni did not share the vision of a “New Sudan” that was espoused by Garang and, therefore, as a motive, he might have colluded with others who had similar view, to eliminate Garang.

In any case, Museveni was the “last man to see Garang alive,” as a criminal prosecutor might say. Together, the two groups are passionate in their belief although there is no incontrovertible evidence to support their positions.

The lingering doubt on the veracity of these accusations tends to support a view expressed by many non-South Sudanese, including two expat friends of mine, that “South Sudanese have the habit of blaming others for their own problems.”

Mr Museveni himself appears to defend himself when he was recently quoted in the media as saying that the main problem in South Sudan is lack of clear-headed leaders, and leaders who are bereft of ideology but who “push the pseudo-ideology of sectarianism of tribes that is detrimental to the people’s well-being.”

If there is no tangible evidence to support the charges against the Ugandan president, can one then hold a contrary view that he has always acted in the best interest of South Sudanese as a people?

In my opinion, the answer is yes, to a large extent. I will explain why.

In the mid-1980’s, the SPLA was some few years old but it was already embroiled in a quarrel arising from accusation that it was giving support to Ugandan rebels; these rebels were resisting the newly installed government of Museveni’s National Resistance Army/Movement (NRA/M).

Unsurprisingly, the NRA government was in turn accused of harboring some SPLA dissidents who had disagreed with Garang’s objective of fighting for “New Sudan;” the dissidents were separatists who favored secession from Sudan.

Among the dissident SPLA officers was a prominent Equatorian who became a close political friend of Museveni’s.

With time, the NRA government made it up with its rebels whose members were then absorbed in various posts in Uganda; but a group of rebels called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) held out and still exists to this day albeit at a much reduced fighting capacity.

Later, Sudan became the main supporter of the LRA; this in turn spurred Uganda to support Garang’s SPLA. The two leaders then became friends.

The friendship between Garang and Museveni appears not to have been completely consummated though, because there was, at the time, some evidence that Museveni did not share the vision of a united New Sudan as championed by Garang.

In one episode that confirms this claim, and which the author has an intimate knowledge, key Uganda government officials, apparently with a tacit permission from the top, supplied the senior Equatorian officer referred to earlier, with funds and military materiel apparently without the knowledge of Garang.

The purpose for this generosity was for the Equatorian to form a guerilla faction to fight for independence of South Sudan, outside the Garang-led SPLA.

Were this faction to prosper and grow into an effective insurgency, the celebrated support that Museveni was extending to the SPLA would have waned and stopped altogether. But this was not be because this new faction failed to take off as will be explained shortly.

There is another reason why SPLA continued to get support from Uganda. It is now publicly known that Uganda’s assistance to the SPLA was also motivated by the country’s leader’s deep emotional and ideological desire to free South Sudanese from the oppression of the Arab-and Islamic-dominated north Sudan.

Although South Sudan did gain its independence in 2011, Museveni must still remains disappointed by what is going on in our country and also with his erstwhile Equatorian ally.

As pointed out earlier, the logistical and financial support given to this ally was to enable him embark on the recruitment of South Sudanese from all ethnic groups to fight in the proposed faction.

Disappointingly, the man decided to recruit only from his own tribe in Equatoria!

Furthermore, there were no officers to lead these recruits. More distastefully, the funds and vehicles were diverted to promote business activities of the relatives of this officer.

Eventually, word of this monumental incompetence and corruption reached those who provided the assistance and, were it not for the intervention of a close relative of the Ugandan leader, this officer would have faced a military justice, which may have included facing a firing squad.

This is how the well-intentioned project of creating a faction to fight for independence came a cropper.

This debacle should act as a cautionary tale to my brother, Gen. Thomas Cirillo Swaka, the leader of the newly-created National Salvation Front (NAS). Like the failed officer, he is an Equatorian.

Furthermore, there is now a heightened expectation not only among the Equatorians but also among other South Sudanese that NAS might be the answer for the removal the terrible regime now in Juba. He must not fail and disappoint them.

General Swaka should resist the temptation to go tribal and to succumb to an abhorrent Jieng Council of Elders’ type of machination and maleficence that have destroyed the country.

He should remain firm against tribal-minded “expert” advisers and a Bari Council of Elders, if one (ever) exists.

To my fellow compatriots, South Sudanese, presidents and leaders do not have to follow advice given to them; they must first know what they want to achieve.

On this score, I will hesitate to blame Mr Museveni for the calamity now befalling us.

Samuel Atabi is a concerned South Sudanese and can be reached at:


  1. Chief Abiko! says:

    Dear: The Author Mr.Samuel Atabi

    The Uganda President Yoweri Museveni,is part of the problem for the ongoing crisis in the South Sudan government.If he is not part of the problem for the ongoing crisis in the South Sudan government,why he sent the troops before to fight against Dr.Riak Machar during episode of December 15,2013? Another thing is that why president Salva Kirr,is running to him in Uganda seeking his advice and his counselling in the South Sudan government problems???!!

    Remember that right now,his troops,are now stationing in western Equatoria State in Yambio in the South Sudan territory without clear reasons.They are eating the South Sudanese Tax payers bloods! He is using the Dinka leaders for his own interets and his own benefits!

    Sincere Killing Anger



  2. False Millionnaire says:

    What a short essaye,
    What a révélation,
    What à Warning,
    What a ray of light shining to reveal truth from the depth of MTN hunting ravaged equatoria?!!!

  3. Nikalongo says:

    I to disagree with you on the information about a clandestine Equatorian officer supported by Museveni during Garang’s reign of terror. If it is General you have in mine, then you are deadly wrong. Mamur was incacerated on flimsy accusations (colluding with Uganda and organising/recruiting for a clandestine movement in Equatoria) by Kiir and his gang of hooligans. South Sudan will be destroyed, but not by an Equatorian. Gen. Cirilo’s emergence is not about secession or Equatoria, it about a new political dispensation. It is a struggle to rejuvenate the glorious dreams for which generations of ancestors fought and died for. The Naath and Jieng are jeterry about TC’s NAS because of their false sense of invincibility. It is this kind of self-stupidity that will destroy South Sudan, not Gen. Cirilo.
    Atabi, Museveni’s supported Garang and is spporting the Juba regime without reservation. This support have everything to do with the politics of Uganda, not South Sudan. If you had done your homework correctly, you would know opposing Garang those days on the streets of Kampala (at all times), Adis (during Mengistu), Nairobi (at some stage) was like playing with fire. How many people were detained and had to be rescued by the UN agencies from Kampala, Nairobi and Adis and hurridly resettled to third countries during Garang’s time. The unlucky ones were arrested and transported to the liberated areas where summary execution awaited them. There are alive today in Canada, Australia, Norway, Denmark, USA, Sweden and New Zealand who can atest to what I am saying. Sudan Embassy in Nairobi on several occasions had to provide security and refuge to Garang’s opponents in Nairobi from the long arms of Garang.

    • Eastern says:


      I couldn’t agree more with your rebuttal. In addition, Museveni is not keen on having another visionery leader beside Museveni hence the crises in DR. Congo, South Sudan, etc.

  4. Deng Monymor says:


    Question: William Lacy Swing, currently director of Internationale Organization for Migration, went to Canada with a case that he ran away from South Sudan then not because of Civil war but because of Dinka, was he one of those you mentioned? If he is, why did he come back to South Sudan when the same Dinka he ran away due to is now running country?

    • Nikalongo Sanduksanduk says:

      In politics, nothing lasts forever. Where is Bashir and his gang of Jihadists? Gone and gone forever. Your time for agony will surely come. While I do not know about William Lacy Swing, I know people who went into exile because of the brutality of Garang and the SPLA. As you read this now, there are people going into exile because of Kiir and the SPLA. Others like your relatives from Aweil, Gogrial..etc are escaping Northward from famine. Kiir wants his lazy tribesmen to fight his war but will not buy food to fight them.
      Dinkaland and her people are worst off today than at any other time in her history. What a shame! African Presidents are known for building their villages/towns into things not seen there before. What is Kiir doing for the Jieng than sending thousands to die in a senseless war?

  5. Waleh Lo matat says:

    Dear Sam,

    We appreciate your valuable contribution on the current deplorable state of affairs in our country. But i just wonder why do you seem to believe that any resistance movement led by an Equatorian is likely to fail?! After all and I’m sure you are quiet aware that Gen. Joseph Lagu commanded and led a successful guerilla movement (Anya Anya-1) that culminated in the first Addis Ababa agreement. That agreement gave South Sudanese a 10 year window of peace and stability. Secondly, NAS has not blamed President Museveni or any regional power for that matter for the on-going crisis in South Sudan, if anything NAS is trying to reach out to the regional leaders to understand its vision and mission. NAS mission statement (hope you read it) is clearly advocating for a broader national resistance movement opened to all people of South Sudan without any discrimination to bring a lasting peace and stability in the country. Thus, I’m wondering where did you derived your idea that NAS may be starting on wrong tribal footing mimicking other tribal organizations in South Sudan. I’m not sure whether you are a Ugandan friend or a South Sudanese, i just hope you are not buying too much into the current wave of negative attacks by some confused Nuer compatriots and IO supporters who are determined to discredit NAS just because Gen. Thomas decided not to join IO but formed NAS. The best hope to the suffering people of South Sudan, is when IO, NAS and other resistance movements in the country work together to establish a grand formidable revolutionary movement that could easily topple the regime in Juba. Stay blessed.

  6. Samuel Atabi says:

    Dear lo Matat

    You are right in all aspects. The Museveni’s angle came about to provide a single antecedent as a basis for sounding a warning to brother Cirillo. Many movements fail because good people fail to provide early warning about possible pitfalls. I want NAS to succeed and applaud your call for the unity of all opposition forces. At this stage supporters of IO, NAS or any other group should be careful of their utterances towards each other. Words have been known to start wars. Stay blessed.

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