Voice of America (Washington, DC)

13 April 2014

South Sudan: Govt Free to Purchase Weapons Says Army Spokesman

The spokesman for South Sudan's national army says President Salva Kiir's government has no restrictions to purchase weapons from its international partners to protect lives and property as enshrined in the country's constitution.

Colonel Philip Aguer says the army will protect unarmed civilians in the country's conflict to enable officials of the government to continue with peace negotiations with the rebels to resolve the crisis.

"The government is capable of interacting with any political entity in the world including Egypt. But the procurement is the business of the government so wherever they get the weapons should not be an accusation," said Aguer. "The government is capable of getting weapons from anywhere. There [are] no restrictions on the government of South Sudan on where to buy and where to get weapons."

His comments came after rebels allied to former vice president Riek Machar accused neighboring Egypt of providing military support to the government in Juba. They contend that Egypt's military support could regionalize the conflict and exacerbate the crisis.

The rebels say the government in Juba appears to be disinterested in the ongoing peace negotiations to resolve the conflict by seeking military support from Egypt. But Aguer disagreed.

"The government is entitled to protect and provide the security of the citizens and the integrity of the republic of South Sudan," said Aguer. "It is when the rebels get weapons when it should be questioned because the rebels have no legal mandate to get weapons elsewhere. However, we have not talked about weapons their sources of weapons. We know they are dealing with some [people] around the region."

Aguer declined to name the entities he says supply weapons to the rebels. He admits, however that the rebels could get their arms supply from the black market.

But the rebels say the government lacks goodwill in the peace negotiations by seeking military support to combat allies of the former vice president.

Aguer disagreed. He says the national army needs the supply of weapons to carry out its duties.

"The duty and constitutional responsibility of the army is to provide protection to the integrity of South Sudan to the people and their property. If we need weapons to do that constitutional mandate then we do that while the government negotiates political settlement," said Aguer. "We are sure the conflict is a political issue that was taken very far. The politicians should have resolved the political problem away from violence."

Some South Sudanese have called for more targeted sanctions on both sides of the conflict following President Barack Obama's recent executive order that paved the way for U.S. sanctions on anyone threatening the stability of South Sudan, as well as those committing human-rights abuses.

Aguer says the army is not to blame for the country's crisis.

"The rebels have rejected the cessation of hostilities and they have continued attacking Malakal attacking Duke County with the interest to capture the oil fields [and] that is direct rejection of peace," said Aguer. "Why do you look for other people that are obstructing peace if somebody announcing that they are not for cessation of hostilities?"

Aguer says the government is committed to the peace talks as the army continues to protect civilians from rebel attacks.

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