South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has come out guns blazing against regional neighbors he accuses of helping to foment war in his country.
Singling out Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, the Sudanese leader said had back in 2013 betrayed his trust when Kenyatta backtracked on promise not to help suspects allegedly involved in a coup.
Kiir says that at the time President Kenyatta asked him to release coup leaders who would be given quiet exile in Kenya. While there, they would apparently not get involved in any political activities.
But when the coup plotters arrived in Kenya, Kiir says they were given red carpet welcome and given travel documents to continue their destabilizing activities.
President Kiir put out his frustration and disappointment with South Sudan’s neighborhood in a long interview with Kenyan Citizen Television aired Wednesday.
South Sudan is a part of of the six-member East African Community (EAC) bloc together with Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda. DR Congo has also applied to join – with a regional delegation currently reviewing its documents.
However, the bloc is in disarray. Rwanda and Uganda are in a state of near-war since 2019. Rwanda and Burundi have their own squabbles. Rwanda’s border with Uganda and Burundi have been closed for sometime.
Rwanda accuses Uganda of aiding armed opposition aimed at regime change in Kigali. Uganda also claims the same about Rwanda. Burundi also blames its troubles on Kigali, which also has same allegations against Gitega.
The Sudanese leader said the regional security grouping IGAD had mishandled the conflict in his country. He said he had warned IGAD leaders that what had happened in South Sudan would happen in their countries too. He says the same conflict is happening in Ethiopia.
“I am not happy with how IGAD leaders have handled the situation in South Sudan…Our situation can spread to any other country…I am not happy with Kenya because of events after the coup in 2013…” said Kiir.
He said Kenya’s President Kenyatta allowed to be lied to by rebels that they were the genuine leaders of the country’s independence movement the SPLM. He says other regional leaders have also been hoodwinked by the same opposition forces.
He said it was only Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni who knew the SPLM and could not be deceived by the opposition. “Uganda has been good to us,” said Kiir.
The South Sudanese President also said sanctions and arms embargo imposed by the UN and other international players were preventing the development of a national army and keeping the country poor.
President Kiir’s media interview was timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of independence on July 9. The country has not had any peace. A fragile peace deal forced Kiir to have five vice presidents including longtime foe Dr Riek Machar.
President Salva Kiir said: “We are celebrating 10 years of independence, but sanctions have made us poor… We have not prospered the way we would have wanted that is why we are not celebrating in the manner people would want us to…Our people are hungry”.
Put to him by the interviewee to step aside and walk away if he was unable to do anything about the country’s unending troubles, President Kiir said he couldn’t as part of the opposition’s agenda was to force him out. He also claimed to be the destabilizing factor.
Kiir cited a case when the opposition published fake news that he had died, which caused panic in the capital as people fled.
“People were saying ‘If he is dead, there is going to be chaos’….people were saying ‘he is the only person who doesn’t like killing people’…I had to move around Juba in open car to show people that I’m alive”.
He said those he branded as “bloodthirsty” are the ones determined to continue conflict.
“I do not know what would happen if I were not alive…” said Kiir, also repeatedly naming one of his Vice Presidents Dr Machar as the cause of conflicts right from the time when the SPLM was fighting for independence from Sudan.
South Sudan produces vast amounts of oil, but it has become a catalyst for more war.
“Oil has become a curse,” said President Kiir, also adding that the country is rich in other minerals whose development has been blocked by the opposition.