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South Sudan

Two top South Sudanese army officials resign

A brigadier general and a colonel have resigned from the South Sundanese armed forces. Both have accused President Salva Kiir's government of corruption and protecting soldiers from his ethnic group.

Two top military officials overseeing South Sudan's military courts have resigned. Both are claiming that high-level interference made it impossible to discipline soldiers accused of rape and murder during the country's long-running civil war.

The resignations of Brigadier General Henry Oyay Nyago and Colonel Khalid Ono Loki follow the resignations of a highly respected general and the minister of labor earlier this week.

Waakhe Simon Wudu, a DW correspondent in Juba, said the frequency of resignations highlights a deep problem within the system. "The government may have reasons to worry, because these are top officials resigning, not the low level ones," he said.

Ethnic tensions

In his resignation letter, Khalid Ono Loki said the South Sudanese army is fractured along ethnic lines and high-level interference makes it impossible to discipline soldiers accused of rape and murder.

The statement also described the justice system as arbitrary and said it discriminates against those who are not members of President Kiir's ethnic Dinka majority group. 

"You have indeed brought shame and an unfamiliar ethos to South Sudan that will only lead the country to more calamities," Loki wrote. Kiir's spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, told the news agency AP that there were no tensions within the military.

In the letter addressed to the chief of army staff, Loki said soldiers were committing crimes without fear of punishment, particularly officers who were Dinka. "In your relentless endeavors to protect your own ethnicity, and founded on no single law, you always freeze and/or abolish court issuance and rulings even in cases of murder, rape and theft," he wrote.

Südsudan Malakal - Soldaten auf Truck (picture-alliance/Photoshot/G. Julius)

Loki accused the army of committing rape and murder with impunity

Brigadier General Nyago made similar accusations in his resignation letter.

"Your regime committed sundry war crimes; crimes against humanity; genocidal acts and ethnic cleansing," wrote Nyago.

Criticism dismissed 

Juba dismissed Loki's resignation as unimportant. A military spokesman, Brigadier General Lul Ruai Koang, said Loki had resigned last year but that the resignation had not been made public.

"These resignations won't have any negative bearing on the national army," he said.

Rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have alleged that the Kiir government turns a blind eye to gang-rape and murder carried out by soldiers. Loki's resignation corroborates such allegations. The UN has documented hundreds of accusations of rape involving soldiers in the capital alone.

General Thomas Cirillo Swaka, a respected commander in the army, also resigned last week, blaming favoritism and rampant abuse in the army. The Minister of Labor, Gabriel Duop Lam, resigned on Friday as well and announced allegiance to Kiir's rival, former deputy president and rebel leader Riek Machar, who is currently in exile in South Africa.  

South Sudan has been mired in ethnic war since 2013, when President Kiir, a Dinka, fired his deputy, Machar, who is a member of the ethnic Nuer minority. The fighting has fractured the oil-rich nation, which the UN warns is setting the grounds for genocide.

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