File Photo: Mr Chris Trott, the UK Ambassador to South Sudan
By Lotole Lo Luri
I came across the statement by Mr Chris Trott, the UK Ambassador to South Sudan, condemning the National Salvation Front (NAS) for the recent ambush carried out by its forces against Vice Presidential guards in Lo’bonok area of the Central Equatoria State. That clash claimed the lives of 6 soldiers who were the bodyguards of Vice President Dr James Wani Igga. Ambassador Trott went on to claim that it was a violation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) that was signed in December 2017, and the Rome Declaration and Resolution that came into force in January and February 2020 respectively.
It must be assumed that Ambassador Trott knows the details of the CoHA and is familiar with its terms. Among them are, I quote:
- (2) under Article 1 reads – ‘All forces shall immediately freeze in their locations, except for movements authorized by Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) for logistical and administrative purposes.’
- (b) under Article 3 talks about prohibited acts which include- ‘reconnaissance operations against each other. And in No. 3 ‘Unauthorized movement of forces, ammunition resupply, and other activities that could be viewed as confrontational.’
In light of the above, it could be argued that NAS forces indeed acted in self-defence in line with the provisions of the CoHA. Those who think otherwise would struggle to explain the kind of activities the Vice Presidential bodyguards were doing close to NAS positions other than hostile actions. Moreover, this comes against the backdrop of previous unreasonable and offensive comments uttered by Wani Igga against NAS like the time when he called the Movement a terrorist organization. Of course, such utterances as far as NAS is concerned would not emanate from a friendly entity but rather from an enemy. As such, it’s justifiable to deal with any actions coming from Wani Igga’s bodyguards the same way people usually ward off their adversaries.
Additionally, outsiders may not know the fact that there’s no love lost between Wani Igga and his community. Some had openly expressed disappointment that he was not in the vehicle when the attack took place. To many of them, he’s nothing but a sellout coward.
Beginning from February through March to April 2020, the South Sudan People’s Defence Force (SSPDF), the Mathiang Anyoor militia, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) launched a large-scale joint offensive on NAS positions in Central Equatoria State. The aim was to deliver a significant blow to NAS forces to the point of uprooting or making them irrelevant. However, the attacking troops also targeted the local civilians in the form of killings, rape, looting, and massive displacements.
We have all seen the poor folks under the trees seeking shelter, food, and protection. Ironically, these are people who never left their homes and villages during the colonial era and the entire liberation wars. Now, they had to flee their homes and be internally displaced in their own country after independence!
Ambassador Chris Trott must have, witnessed the above events live through the video clips provided by the team of the brave Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan’s Central Equatoria Province, Dr Paul Yogusuk that attracted sympathy from South Sudanese and foreigners all over the world. Mr Trott kept quiet and did not condemn the government’s acts that were clearly in contravention of the CoHA. Similarly, the CTSAMVM, the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC), and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) were mute, and no condemnation was levelled against the government.
Almost back-to-back, another crisis arose in Jonglei and the Greater Pibor Administrative area (GPAA). For over a month the Bor and the Lou Nuer youths embarked on mobilization to attack the Murle people in the GPAA. Their preparations were never interrupted nor halted by the government. They then launched a concerted attack on the Murle while the government continued to be aloof. The Bor youths went as far as imposing a ‘No-fly zone’ in the area. Despite having a garrison in Pibor town, Kiir’s regime came up with no response and carried out no action to avert the crisis. Now, does the above not make it plausible that the government was indeed in cahoots with the Bor youths? Where in the world that a mere tribal militia imposes a ‘No-fly zone’ within a sovereign state and get away with it?!
In April 2017, while visiting the region, the UK then Secretary for International Development, Priti Patel said ‘genocide was slowly taking shape in South Sudan.’ Now, suppose the Murle were unarmed like many communities in greater Equatoria and Western Bahr Ghazal, would the joint attacks by the Bor and the Lou Nuer youths not result in a genocide?
Given the above, it’s a surprise to many that Ambassador Chris Trott didn’t utter a word regarding the violent events in Jonglei state which are ongoing as we speak. Regrettably, he has chosen to condemn NAS which has shown time and again a tendency to protect the civilian population, than to denounce a regime that was accused of genocide by his government three years ago.
As for the ordinary South Sudanese who had been displaced from his home and now living under a tree, or has been residing in the Protection of Civilians Sites (POC) for years, or still had fled the homeland into the refugee camps in the neighbouring countries nothing could surprise him or her anymore. It’s a matter of being aware that some of the “fading” superpowers have already lost the moral high ground. They are hypocritical to the core on the one hand and pursuing a double-standard policy on the other.
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