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South Sudan Leaders Can't Control Their Troops, Former Defense Official Says

A military tank is seen in Juba. South Sudan's former deputy minister of defense says intervention by the international community to restore peace in the capital. (Courtesy photo)

President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar are not in control of their troops, according to South Sudan's former deputy minister of defense.

Majak D'Agoot said some individuals within the South Sudan Army have taken advantage of the confusion to create insecurity in Juba, and insisted that South Sudan needs urgent intervention by the international community to restore peace in the capital.

D'Agoot said Kiir and Machar as much as admitted they were not in charge of their troops when fighting broke out near the presidential State House on Friday, when they were both inside.

"They said that when the shootout occurred in J-1 [presidential State House], within the very vicinity of their presence, they were saying that they didn't know what was taking place outside the walls of the palace. So basically it shows that these are leaders who are not in charge, even of their bodyguards, let alone the rest of the country," D’Agoot said. "So the country is basically, if I can put it in quotes, ‘leaderless’ at the moment, because leadership is all about command and control."

D'Agoot declared that both leaders had plunged the country into a total state of anarchy.

"I personally don't think they command the respect of their soldiers, or that they command the trust of the people of South Sudan. So I really don't think that anybody is going to listen," he said.

D'Agoot said he hopes for the best and that all the war lords who "now call the shots on both sides" will accept and adhere to the terms of the cease-fire.

D'Agoot added that he thinks the two leaders did the right thing Friday after the shootout when they both appealed for calm, but he said they have lost the respect of their own men and their own bodyguards.

"Nobody is listening to them," D'Agoot said, and that's the reason why the fighting resumed.

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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

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