On January 28, 2023, the Radisson Blue Hotel in Nairobi played host to a significant event in the history of South Sudan as the South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A) announced a decision to engage in a homegrown dialogue with the revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (TRGoNU).
However, this announcement was not without controversy as it was also marked by the ousting of SSUF/A leader, General Paul Malong Awan, by 13 senior army officials and generals commanding various rebel troops.
The SSUF/A is a rebel group that was formed in 2017 by the now ousted General Paul Malong Awan, a former Chief in the South Sudanese army. The group has been active in the Equatoria region of South Sudan, where it has been fighting against the TRGoNU for control. Following the developments, Major General Dickson Gatluak Nyuot has now taking over as the Deputy Chief of General Staff for Administration and Finance (SSUF/A) and Chairman of the SSUF/A Nairobi Declaration. Maj. Gen Gatluok hails from the Upper Nile State, Maiwut County.
“We, the undersigned leaders and members of the South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A), recognize that there is no military solution to the crisis in South Sudan, and that a sustainable peace can be achieved only through inclusive political dialogue,” reads part of the statement Saturday evening.
The SSUF/A is a coalition of armed groups that have been fighting against the TRGoNU in South Sudan since 2013. The conflict, which began in 2013, has caused immense suffering for the people of South Sudan, with hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of people displaced. Despite several attempts at peace talks and agreements, the fighting has continued.
The decision to engage in a homegrown dialogue was seen as a positive step towards achieving peace and stability in the war-torn country of South Sudan. This approach emphasizes the importance of involving all parties in the conflict, including civil society and community leaders, in the dialogue. This is in contrast to previous peace talks, which have been led by external mediators and have not always included all relevant parties.
They say there is a need for bold decisions, in the interest of national reconciliation, that can guide the country to a new political dispensation and permanent constitutional order. The leaders recognized the importance of the prevailing Papal visit to the Republic of South Sudan as a sign of a new beginning towards the realization of a sustainable peace in the country.
The declaration of a homegrown solution is as a result of President Salva Kiir Mayardit message for the Chrismas and new year eve, when he reiterated that, “As a people emerging from the conflict situation, we all need to support peace by shunning violence in all forms and by choosing peaceful means to address our grievances whenever they arise.”
However, the announcement of the homegrown dialogue was marred by the ousting of General Paul Malong Awan. The 13 senior army officials and generals, who commanded various rebel troops, stated that they had lost confidence in General Malong’s leadership, citing a lack of vision and clarity towards achieving the SSUF/A’s vision. They also accused him of being unwilling to listen to the concerns of the other leaders and failing to provide clear direction for the movement.
In a statement, the officials said, “We have come to the difficult decision to remove General Paul Malong from his position as leader of the SSUF/A. We believe that a new leadership is needed to take the movement forward and to achieve our vision of peace and stability in South Sudan. We hope that this decision will not disrupt the peace process and that all parties will continue to work towards a lasting peace.”
They went on to say; “ We the undersigned leaders and members of the South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A)_ Nairobi declaration , would like to seize this golden opportunity to apprise the general public , predominantly South Sudanese at large that from today, the 28th January, 2023 henceforth, we have taken over the leadership of the South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A) and agreed to enormously to dismiss General Paul Malong Awan from the Movement and opted to embrace the spirit of homegrown political dialogue with the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity, under the leadership of H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit.”
The announcement of General Malong’s ousting was met with mixed reactions with some members of the SSUF/A expressed concern about the impact of the leadership change on the peace process. They feared that it could disrupt the dialogue and lead to further instability in the country.
From the onset, the leaders disclosed that they intended to have a total war or a total peace with the regime in Juba, but this has not been the case. General Malong is accused of being self-centered and failure to organize the movement and the members felt frustrated dur to lack of progress. They say he lacks vision and demonstrated incompetence. They noted that he is running the movement single handedly with limited capacity.
The imposed targeted sanctions by the U.S , Canada, UK and the United Nations Security Council on General Malong Awan for his direct command over private militia and expanding the conflicts in 2013,2014 has hindered their operations because of the travel ban and financial measures for years.
“Our former Chairman could not travel freely and have access to the military commanders on the ground. The South Sudan United Front/ Army is in an urgent need for a new face, with new ideas and energy to organize the movement as expected by the citizens, and the
In conclusion, the Radisson Blue Hotel in Nairobi played a crucial role in the history of South Sudan by hosting the SSUF/A’s announcement of their decision to engage in a homegrown dialogue with the TRGoNU.
The decision to translate the Rome Peace Initiative into engagement in a homegrown dialogue is seen as a positive step towards achieving peace and stability in the war-torn country of South Sudan, but the leadership change within SSUF/A raises concerns about the impact on the peace process. The international community, including the African Union and United Nations, have given their support to the peace process and hope that this leadership change will not disrupt the dialogue and lead to further instability in the country.
Major General James Ruach Dual is the Chairman and Commander in Chief, SSUF/A. He is from the Jonglei State, Akobo County. Brigadier General Buay Kandong Liem is henceforth the Chief of Security, Upper Nile Region, Nasir County. Also, Col. Phillip Deng Kuol from the Jonglei state serves as the Spokesperson, SSUF/A. Moreover, Hon. Guol Jal Bikot from Unity State, Mayom County is Secretary Agriculture.
Other officials Member of the SSUF/A who signed the Nairobi declaration are Nyagoa Tito Biel Chuor from Unity State, Mayiandit County. CDE Rambang Paul Giel (Jonglei State), Mrs. Nyakuma Thoan Teny (Unity State, Leer County), Cde. Ruach Wal Yat (Upper Nile State, Nasir County), Cde.William Chakuen Makuach (Jonglei State, Uror County), Cde. James Yien Dak (Jonglei State, Akobo County), Cde. Gatbel Chelak Nyoak (Upper Nile State, Maiwut County).
The leaders opined that their declaration is a response to Pope’s call for peace in South Sudan. That the ongoing initiative is between members of the SSUF/A Nairobi declaration opens a new leaf which General Malong had failed to follow through the implementation of the signed August 2022 Rome Communique which would have seen their members going back to the country last September.
Liech Community Chairman Dak Buoth Gabriel lauded the move saying, “These are trying times that the various warring factions in South Sudan return back home. The move will expedite the implementation of the 2018 agreement to avoid further extension.”
Kurian Musa, a Journalist and Public policy analyst, reports from East Africa