Former Minister for Education in South Sudan Stephen Par Kuol speaking during the interview on December 23, 2013.
A pointman of South Sudan’s fugitive former Vice President Riek Machar has accused President Salva Kiir of not being honest in calling for talks to end the crisis in Africa’s youngest nation.
Mr Stephen Kuol, a Minister in the troubled Jonglei State of South Sudan told the Drive Hot Blog on Monday that President Kiir is “not serious” about talks because those he should be talking with have either been scared away or have been put in custody.
“Salva Kiir was just under pressure from the region, from south Sudanese themselves and the international community to accept dialogue. It wasn’t his initiative and up to now I don’t think he is serious,” Mr Kuol said in an interview in Nairobi.
“There is an agreement that there should be dialogue. What is not clear now is whether President Salva Kiir will release political prisoners. The way forward is this: Salva Kiir must release all political prisoners so that they participate in the dialogue. It should not even be a contest between Riek Machar and Salva Kiir.”
The said political prisoners are top politicians in the SPLM, the ruling party, who Kiir accused of influencing a mutiny supposedly engineered by Machar. But Kiir terms them as ‘rebels’ who should be put away as per the law.
“Those who may want to take the law into their hands, the long arm of the government will get them,” Kiir said last week.
“Those who have killed a person or persons will be taken to court and face the law. It's right of every South Sudanese to be protected,” said Kirr.
Mr Kuol is the minister for Education in Jonglei State, even though the area has now fallen under the control of rebels loyal to Machar.
South Sudan has been in chaos for the last one week when soldiers allied to Machar fought the army under President Salva Kiir. Kiir later announced that it had been a failed coup attempt but still offered to hold talks with his opponent.
But the conflict has since morphed into what looks like a tribal contest between Dinka and Nuer, communities that dominate South Sudanese politics, leaving a humanitarian crisis in its wake.
Thousands of South Sudanese citizens have been seeking refuge at UN missions around the country while foreign countries have been evacuating their citizens.
On Saturday, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the Kenya Defence Forces to evacuate more than 1,600 Kenyans stranded in Juba.
Foreign Affairs PS Karanja Kibicho on Monday said the government will increase flights to three starting Tuesday to evacuate Kenyans stranded in South Sudan as the situation there remains volatile.
On Monday, Medical charity organization Doctors without Borders (MSF) announced that it was taking the situation in South Sudan “very seriously” and had sent more emergency medics to help.
But the situation in other parts mainly controlled by the rebels remains uncertain. Kenyans caught in trouble in far-flung parts of South Sudan continued to cry for help on Monday.
Ms Jane Owino told the Nation she has been trapped in a humanitarian camp in Bentiu, Unity State but were running out of supplies.
“We have been here for the past five days. The UN mission here has been giving protection, but there is no water and food is scarce,” she said adding she was in the company of about 200 people many of who are Kenyans.
Ms Owino who said she has been a clothes dealer in South Sudan since 2011 is a frequent traveler between Juba where she lives and the Unity State.
“Right now, we can’t leave because there is no transport and it doesn’t look safe because there has been fighting in this area.”
Bentiu is about 900 kilometres north of Juba and the South Sudanese government has admitted that it was no longer controlling Unity State meaning there was no guarantee for safety of those stranded there.
“Bentiu is not currently in our hands. It is in the hands of a commander who has declared support for Machar,” a Spokesman for the South Sudan government tweeted.
Although the Kenyan government ordered the military to evacuate stranded Kenyans in South Sudan, the mission was mainly limited to Juba and emergency support for those in accessible UN Mission camps. On Sunday, another group of Kenyans claimed they had been trapped at Yirol after escaping Jonglei via a boat.
“We have been stuck here for the past five days and we are running out of water. We have been surviving on biscuits and there are no vehicles,” Mr Martin Wabweni told the Drive Hot on phone from Yirol, a town about 300km north of Juba.“The vehicle drivers refused to continue fearing for their safety. Since then, the number has increased. We are about 80 Kenyans but the whole group is about 180 people. We have been accommodated at Comboni missionary centre here but we are afraid it may get worse,” he said