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South Sudan General Announces New Rebel Group

FILE - Government soldiers follow orders to raise their guns during a military parade in Juba, South Sudan, April 14, 2016.

A senior South Sudanese military official who resigned last month said he has formed a new rebel group to fight President Salva Kiir.

General Thomas Cirillo Swaka released a statement Monday, declaring himself chairman and commander-in-chief of the National Salvation Front.

It was not immediately clear how strong the group might be, or if it will ally with the Sudan People's Liberation Army-in-Opposition (SPLA-IO), the rebel group that has battled the Kiir administration for more than three years.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir addresses the second session of the Transitional Government of National Unity at the Parliament in Juba, Feb. 21, 2017.
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir addresses the second session of the Transitional Government of National Unity at the Parliament in Juba, Feb. 21, 2017.

VOA's South Sudan in Focus obtained a copy of Cirillo's mission statement, which accuses the Kiir administration of seizing power and property for his own Dinka tribe at the expense of other ethnic groups that supported the country's liberation war against Sudan.

"The Regime has created a highly selfish class that ensures its continued existence for the singular purpose of illicitly amassing personal and family wealth, and imposing tribal hegemony on the country," it said.

Other sections accused the administration of corruption, failing to provide basic services and neglecting agriculture, the last a major issue in a country where conflict and drought have left millions short of food.

South Sudanese Defense Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk downplayed Cirillo's accusations, saying they are inconsistent with what he called the government's progress in implementing an August 2015 peace deal and ongoing work to bring peace to the country.

He said Cirillo's resignation from the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) has been blown out of proportion.

"There are so many people in the army so three or four people, they don't matter," he said. "The army continues to go on. The place vacated will be filled by those who are there."

The South Sudan war, which erupted in December 2013, has killed tens of thousands and displaced more than 2 million people from their homes.

Kiir's government has been promoting a "national dialogue" to resolve the country's issues, and Manyang said if Cirillo is willing to participate, he [Cirillo] will be given a chance to address his concerns.

Cirillo was active during the liberation war with Sudan and is believed to command respect among his former army colleagues. He held various senior positions in the army and was deputy chief of staff for operations before resigning in February.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the  South Sudan In Focus radio program.
    Before joining VOA, John worked in Nairobi, Kenya where he established the first independent radio station (Sudan Radio Service) for the people of Sudan. He has covered several civil wars both in Sudan and South Sudan and has been engaged in the production of civic education materials for creating awareness about post conflict issues facing Sudanese and South Sudanese. John has interviewed South Sudan President Salva Kiir, former Vice President Riek Machar, Vice President Wani Igga, leader of Sudan’s Umma Party Sadiq Al Mahdi in addition to other senior United Nations and U.S government officials in South Sudan and Washington. His travels have taken him across to Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, DRC Congo and parts East Africa where he reported on the South Sudanese diaspora and the challenges facing them.
    A South Sudanese national, John enjoys listening to music from all over the world, reads academic books, watches documentaries and listens to various radio stations on the internet.  You can follow John on Twitter at @Abusukon