South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir. PHOTO/COURTESY
By The East African
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has said that seven years ago opposition leaders in Juba deceived the Kenyan government when it offered them political refuge after the country plunged into war.
In an interview with Citizen TV on Wednesday, President Kiir said Kenya’s Head of State Uhuru Kenyatta worked against him to rescue a group of politicians detained for trying to oust him in December 2013.
Now referred to us Former Political Detainees, and having a share in the unity government created after the 2018 revitalized peace deal, the group had initially been charged with treason and detained by Kiir’s government following the eruption of violence on December 15, 2013 after Kiir’s security forces clashed with forces loyal to then Vice President Riek Machar. This led to the spate of violence in Africa’s youngest nation, just two years after it got independence.
Kiir at the time claimed there had been a plot to remove him from power and started a series of arrests of politicians in the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) accused of wanting him out.
“President Uhuru is leading his country but he thinks [that] by appeasing the rebels in my country, that may pay him back good.”
“These people projected themselves as leaders of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and that they were the people who fought the war. It was not true,” said Kiir, referring to the country’s independence war with Sudan, which had lasted 21 years before the country attained self-rule in 2005, and independence in July 2011.
In 2013, Kiir detained senior officials including Deng Alor Kuol, Gier Chuang, Kosti Manibe, Chol Tong Mayay, Cirino Hiteng, Madut Biar Yel and John Luk Jok.
They were later handed over to Kenyan authorities in January 2014 and presented at State House. The Kenyan government would later grant them travel papers and host them at the Windsor for several weeks.
Others detained included Pag’an Amu, then secretary general of the ruling SPLM, Majak D’Agoot; Oyai Deng Ajak, Ezekiel Gatkuoth, former vice president Riek Machar, Taban Deng Gai, and Alfred Lado Gore. They all held senior positions in government.
The argument in Kenya at the time was to help remove the politicians from a possible clash point and enable the parties negotiate a political settlement. A few weeks later, they would sign two deals to cease fire and release the detainees.
On Wednesday, Kiir said the opposition group, which has since splintered into smaller groups but still earned positions back into the government of national unity, had tried to deceive every leader in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), except Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni.
“Museveni knew us when we were fighting,” he said, referring to Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, then a rebel group in Sudan led by John Garang. Kiir’s future nemesis Riek Machar would defect to Khartoum, before returning to the SPLM.