Juba — South Sudanese president Salva Kiir has for the first time directly criticised the people of Greater Equatoria region over their growing demands for a federal system of governance, saying they were "setup" by rebels led by his former deputy, Riek Machar.
Salva Kiir attends the signing of the standard gauge railway agreement with China in Nairobi, Kenya, on 11 May 2014 (Photo: AP/Thomas Mukoya)
In a frustrated tone while addressing the national parliament on Thursday in the new nation's capital, Juba, Kiir said the rebels introduced the federal system of governance in order to win support from the Equatorians whom he said "are diehards for federalism for some reasons."
In his speech to the lawmakers he criticized the people of Greater Equatoria for speaking loud about the rebels' demand for federalism as if they were the first or only Southerners who demanded the system from northern Sudan in 1947.
He said rebel leader Machar introduced federalism as a strategy to split the position of the government.
"Now the rebels have introduced another setup to the effect that I am opposed to the introduction of federal system of government in South Sudan. This time they are doing it to gain support of our people in Equatoria, Greater Equatoria, whom they believe are diehards for federalism for some reasons," Kiir told the assembly.
"This is a policy of divide and rule," he added.
Southerners, he argued, demanded for federalism between them and northerners, implying that the system was not meant to be applicable in an independent South Sudan.
"And I said many times that the request for federalism was not an issue of Equatorians when it was presented in 1947 here in Juba. All southerners were here and they all demanded federation not among themselves, they demanded federation between them and northern Sudan," he further explained.
"Now [in] 1955 again they demanded it here, southerners demanded it in Juba. It was not only the Equtorians who were calling for it."
President Kiir was reacting to the recent announcements by all the governors of the three states of Greater Equatoria region who declared that their governments and people are in full support of the federal system of governance.
Prominent Greater Upper Nile region leaders, including Machar and the main opposition leader in government, Lam Akol are in support of federalism.
The agenda on which system of governance to be applied in ending the six-month old crisis is on the table for negotiations in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, between the rival parties and other South Sudanese stakeholders.
Kiir also told the parliamentarians that the rebels call to restructure the state and dissolve and reinstitute the legislative and executive memberships would cost them their jobs and that this should not be allowed to happen.
The president also vowed that he would "never" accept to step down as demanded by the rebels in the formation of the proposed interim government.
He further said the first step in the national building is writing of permanent constitution as "the first layer."
"We have to be firm and stand together as leaders in the interest of our people and our country. I promise to be in the front and I call upon you to support me in this endeavour," Kiir told lawmakers.