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JUBA - 14 May 2023

‘I have returned to Juba with 200 soldiers’- Gen. Olony

SPLA-IO Kit-Gwang faction leader and renegade General Johnson Olony speaking to reporters upon his arrival at Juba Airport on Sunday, May 14, 2023 (Radio Tamazuj)
SPLA-IO Kit-Gwang faction leader and renegade General Johnson Olony speaking to reporters upon his arrival at Juba Airport on Sunday, May 14, 2023 (Radio Tamazuj)

SPLA-IO Kit-Gwang faction leader and renegade General Johnson Olony says he returned to Juba for peace, affirming his commitment to the agreement with President Salva Kiir.

Gen. Olony, who is also the commander of the Agwelek militia, arrived in Juba on Sunday afternoon on a plane from Malakal town, the capital of restive Upper Nile State.

"I am happy to be back and happy with the warm reception. I came back because of the peace agreement we signed. The agreement had no other witnesses except Tut Gatluak, Akol Koor, President Salva Kiir Mayardit and myself," Gen. Olony said while addressing the media at Juba Airport.

"I am here for peace. I was supposed to come back in the past few days, but I was a bit busy handling some things. Salva Kiir has allowed me to come to Juba with 200 soldiers. If I were not serious about peace, he would not have allowed me to come with 200 soldiers, so I came back with 200 soldiers,” he added.

The former rebel commander promised to mobilize citizens in Upper Nile to support the peace process. "I grew up here in Juba, and it is a city for all of us. I have come to join hands with President Salva Kiir to work together, and God willing; the country will not return to war again,” he said.

“I have come with my deputy Gen. Thomas Mabor, Beny Moun and other senior officers. Hopefully, after five days, we will return to Malakal and mobilize the youth and other citizens so that we work with the state and national governments so that Malakal also grows like Juba,” he added.

Gen. Olony then departed from the airport toward the Jebel area of the city, where he is expected to be accommodated.

He was received on behalf of the government by Presidential Advisor on National Security Affairs, Tut Gatluak Manime.

Addressing reporters at the airport upon General Johnson Olony’s arrival, Advisor Tut Gatluak said: “Today, Johnson Olony and his officers are back to Juba on the invitation of President Salva Kiir. He is in Juba to meet the president and follow up on the security arrangements and the peace agreement.”

“We want to tell our people in Upper Nile State that Upper Nile is now peaceful and all those who are in refugee and IDP camps can now go back to Upper Nile and rebuild their lives. We are committed to the implementation of the peace agreement,” he concluded.

Olony’s background

He initially defected from the government and went back to rebellion to fight to protect the land of the Chollo (Shilluk) people in Upper Nile State. He, however, eventually joined Dr. Riek Machar’s SPLM/A-IO. Olony was nominated to be governor of Upper Nile State by Dr. Machar when governors were being appointed under the 2018 revitalized peace agreement.  

President Salva Kiir, however, rejected his nomination by the SPLM-IO on account of Olony being a “warmonger”. 

In August 2021, Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual issued a communiqué following a meeting of SPLA-IO commanders in Kit-Gwang in Magenis, a northern-most town bordering Sudan, declaring that they had ousted Dr. Machar as the leader of the SPLM/A-IO. In what has since come to be known as the Kit-Gwang Declaration, Gatwech declared himself the new leader and appointed Gen. Olony as his number two.

In January 2022, the SPLA-IO Kit-Gwang faction signed a peace agreement in Khartoum with President Kiir’s government. The Agwelek forces led by General Olony also signed a separate agreement with the government at the same time. The Kit-Gwang faction, however, became disillusioned months after the signing of the peace deal and blamed the government for not implementing it.

Gatwech and Olony later fell out and the former fired the latter as his deputy and their forces clashed severally. Olony would later say that he was for peace and willing to go to Juba.

Gen. Olony’s arrival in Juba is the result of months of protracted negotiations with loyalists of President Salva Kiir, according to informed sources.