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ADDIS ABABA - 27 Feb 2018

Cirillo says he won't return to Juba without new system of governance

General Thomas Cirillo Swaka. File photo/ Anadolu Agency
General Thomas Cirillo Swaka. File photo/ Anadolu Agency

Thomas Cirillo Swaka, a renowned South Sudanese rebel leader said he and the opposition group he leads will not return to Juba unless the warring parties agree on a proper system of governance in the country. He described federalism as a ‘demand’ of the people of South Sudan.

Federalism is a system of government in which state or regional governments hold their own exclusive powers, which the national government cannot interfere with.

South Sudan’s national government currently has wide-ranging powers over state governments including the ability to appoint and remove officials, direct spending, and set nationwide policies.

A federal system would devolve powers from the current national government in the capital Juba.

Lt. Gen. Swaka, formerly deputy head of logistics in the SPLA army, said in an exclusive interview with Radio Tamazuj today that he will never be part of the current government unless a new system of governance is adopted.

“I want to tell the people of South Sudan and the international community that I will never be part of a corrupt government. I cannot serve a government that kills its people and eliminates everything,” Cirillo said.

“I want a system of governance which can render services to our people. We want our people to govern themselves,” he added.

Cirillo said the people of South Sudan had largely been sidelined from power by the Kiir administration, while emphasizing the need for a proper system of government in the country.

 “We want power to return to our people. We want the people of South Sudan to have power to decide their system of governance, future and fate,” he said.

The top rebel general claimed that his group is fighting for the rights of ordinary citizens in South Sudan.” Kiir was my comrade during the liberation struggle. We had a dream to build the country, but he has now betrayed the people of South Sudan,” he said.

“Nearly half of the population is experiencing extreme hunger in refugee camps. Our people are suffering in displaced camps and various areas in the country. Our people are living without dignity and their dreams have been dashed,” he added.

The renegade general said he launched his rebel force because the government turned the military into a tribal army, accusations that the Juba government has previously denied.

Peace in South Sudan

Cirillo, who fought during South Sudan’s long wars with the Khartoum government, said that he wants to see a “just peace" in the world’s youngest nation.

“We want to bring about peace that will bring justice. We want a peace agreement that will make us equal before the law. We want a peace deal that will deliver services to our people,” he said.

The opposition official pledged readiness to participate with an open heart in the upcoming peace revitalization talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

He explained that his group had participated with an open heart in the second round of peace talks that ended without a peace deal.

Cirillo pointed out that the peace process should address the key issues to find radical solutions to the ongoing conflict in the country.” In the second round of the peace talks, the government wanted to offer positions to the opposition. We the in opposition we said that the ongoing civil war is bigger than just about government positions and power,” he said.

He accused the incumbent government in Juba of rejecting a proposal calling for federalism in South Sudan, describing the current system of governance as “obsolete.”

The army general added that South Sudanese are "fed up with violence and living in fear" and "hope for a political solution, for reconciliation and for harmony". 

He explained that South Sudan has been locked in a state of violence since 2013, calling upon the international community to put pressure on the government to accept a proper system of governance in South Sudan.

“I urge the civil society organizations and our elders to ask the government to accept what is needed by the people of South Sudan,” he said.

Rebel groups fight each other

Swaka, who is widely known as Cirillo, dismissed charges of ethnic bias in his rebel movement and blamed other rebel factions for stoking trouble in the bush. “The National Salvation Front represents all the people of South Sudan. If a solider or a politician wants to defect from us, he is free to do so, and I will not kill him,” he said.

The rebel leader claimed rebel fighters loyal to the country’s former first vice president turned rebel leader Riek Machar had attacked their forces and killed Commander Joseph Lokopir in Kapoeta.

Cirillo urged the opposition groups to cooperate and work together.

He also urged the people of South Sudan to be patient. “We want to tell the people of South Sudan that the opposition will never let you down,” he said.