INTERVIEW: Gen. Olony says they are negotiating with President Kiir
General Johnson Olony, one of the leaders of the recently announced Kit-Gwang Declaration, a breakaway faction of the Sudan People Liberation Army In Opposition (SPLA-IO) led by Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual, says they are negotiating with President Salva Kiir to expedite the implementation of the security arrangements.
There have been reports of fighting in the Magenis area in Upper Nile State where the group is based in recent days.
In August, the SPLA-IO military leaders led by Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual, the former Chief of General Staff, and General Johnson Olony of the Agwelek Division announced Machar's ouster saying he no longer represented the interests of the group.
Gen. Olony, speaks to Radio Tamazuj about the general situation in the area and their plans going forward.
Q. What is the status of the Kit-Gwang Declaration?
A.When we announced the Kit-Gwang Declaration the intention was not against anyone, but we declared ourselves so that people could understand us and tell the public that the implementation of the peace agreement is not going on well. So we wanted to ask President Kiir and his First Vice President Riek Machar why the peace is not being implemented? They left us here in the bush for so long and we have kids that are not going to school. Machar has gone to Juba, assumed his position and he has not been in communication with us.
We intended to draw their attention to this and the full implementation of the peace agreement so that if something is missing, we can sit once again and allow us (military leaders) to join the government.
But in the end, the announcement was made and we declared our full support for the peace agreement. We decided to engage President Kiir through the Sudanese government. Shortly after our declaration, forces of Riek Machar launched several attacks on our position and we are still maintaining our defensive position because we are standing with the peace.
So, we want our South Sudanese citizens to know that we are in support of peace. We don’t want to see our country go back to war again. We need our people who are in the camps to return to their homes and get ready for the elections.
Q: There have been reports of fighting in Magenis over the past few days, how is the situation there now?
A: Forces of Riek have been launching attacks on our position in Magenis but we have a right to defend ourselves. Nowadays, they are quiet but they have been making announcements of launching another attack. We have never taken any step in attacking them. But nowadays things have cooled down.
Q: Now that you are in support of the peace agreement, what is going to happen exactly? Are you going to begin another negotiation with the government or join the government?
A: We don’t want to engage in a new peace negotiation but we need to revisit the revitalized peace agreement. After our declaration, President Kiir sent us a delegation from Juba headed by Abbot and Jockino to Khartoum and we told them clearly that we are for peace. So we are still waiting for the government so that we can sit and discuss how to go about the implementation of the peace agreement through the supervision of Sudan.
Q: That means you have already started negotiating with the government. During your meeting, what were your concerns, and what did the government say about that?
A: The government is in support of any efforts for peace, of course. They say we should continue negotiating. But since then, we have not seen anybody from Juba as well. We want President Kiir to send us a delegation to come to us in Magenis or Khartoum and we finalize everything. We don’t want to go to Addis Ababa or Rome for peace negotiations. We are military commanders so it makes it easy to reach an agreement.
Q: Machar is in Juba to implement the peace and you are now talking of implementing the same peace, what new thing do you intend to bring?
A: As you might have noticed, Machar neglected many of his supporters and appointed his relatives to the government. This made many of us annoyed. Our commander Gordon Kuong decided to join the government but I told him he would have waited and we began negotiating with the government. Up to now, the security arrangement has not been implemented. Forces are still in the training centers. We need this to be fully implemented so that we form a united force and a national army.
Q: There are unconfirmed reports that the government wanted to pull the Kit-Gwang group to join the government under Kiir. Can you confirm that?
A: If they are fully committed to the implementation of the security arrangement we will have a united force and we will all go back under the umbrella of the SPLA (SSPDF), including Riek, Gatwech Dual, and all of us in South Sudan, we are SPLA. We don’t have any major disagreement with President Kiir. It is Riek that is fighting for the position of Kiir but the rest of us are military officials.
Q: You announced a conference on 30 of this month, is the plan still in place despite insecurity around the area?
A: The whole leadership of Kit-Gwang and our interim chairman Simon Gatwech Dual, met and told them that since the beginning of the declaration, we have made it clear that we are a military group. We don’t want politicians to speak our military language.
We told our chairman yesterday that this conference should be suspended and we follow the route of peace implementation. We don’t want to engage Malong, Thomas, or anybody else. These individuals are fighting for the seat of the president. We only need the full implementation of the security arrangements and we form a national army and all of us will become SPLA (SSPDF). We don’t want to look back again.
If Malong wanted to continue to fight Salva, let him go to Bahr El Ghazal, there is IO there. If Thomas Cirillo wanted to fight with Kiir, let him go to Central Equatoria, the same applied to Henry Odwar, let him go to Imatong and fight the president. But we don’t want to see any renewed fighting in the Shilluk Kingdom. We will agree with the government because we don't want to keep on creating insecurity every now and then.
Q: It seems you didn’t agree in the beginning about this conference, Gatwech sent out invitations to generals, including Malong and Stephen Buai, and others. Is that correct?
A: We had not agreed. It was only yesterday that we met and I told him that I got this on the internet. Since the declaration of Kit-Gwang, we have not met with him.
Stephen Buai fought us. Malong also was fighting Olony and if they wanted to continue fighting they should go on their own.
Q: So, you want to tell us that there is no conference?
A: There will be no conference and anybody that comes to me has a different problem.
Q: What are your plans for the implementation of the peace agreement?
A: We are engaging the Juba government to send us a delegation to Khartoum and we sit to resolve issues related to the security arrangements. We need our forces to be graduated and the rest other political demands we will get from President Kiir later on.
We are even ready to divide the share of IO under Riek. If there is any fight, it will be between me and Riek but not Salva.
Q: In case the security arrangement is not fully implemented by the government, what are you going to do?
A: We will wait and see. We will tell the government to be in its position and we will also maintain our position and we see where South Sudan is going. We will never engage in another war again. They should also ask themselves why the peace is not being implemented. I have been fighting alongside SPLA since I was 13 up to now. But we support the peace and South Sudanese are waiting to see that implemented.
Q: When will the fighting in Magenis stop?
A: You see, forces who are attacking us now are my forces. I am the one who armed them and provided them with ammunition, but not Riek Machar. I don’t want to fight them because they are my children, forces, and my officers. If I wanted to fight them, that would not take me more than two hours. So I am talking to them to stop fighting and I hope they will understand and stop the fighting.