8 March 2017

South Sudan: Renegade General Calls for Overthrow of Kiir

(file photo).

A renegade South Sudanese general says President Salva Kiir is destroying the East African nation and must be overthrown.

General Thomas Cirillo Swaka spoke to VOA's South Sudan in Focus from an undisclosed location Monday, soon after announcing the launch of a new rebel group, the National Salvation Front.

"Kiir is killing our people, Kiir has betrayed the aspiration, the hope of our people," he said. "So it is a must for the people of South Sudan ... to come out at this historical juncture to see into it that Kiir is not there."

South Sudan has been mired in war since fighting between pro- and anti-Kiir factions broke out at the end of 2013. The war has displaced more than two million people from their homes and triggered ongoing food shortages in many areas.

Cirillo said his group will "use every means possible" to bring down Kiir, but was evasive about the size of his forces.

"My army is our people who love peace. My army is our people who love to be together, who love to be in unity," he said.

Cirillo, a veteran of South Sudan's two-decade battle for independence from Sudan, was the army's deputy chief of staff for logistics before resigning his position last month. In a manifesto released Monday, he accused the Kiir administration of seizing power and property for the president's own Dinka tribe at the expense of other ethnic groups.

Cirillo said he holds other opposition leaders in high regard and expressed hope they can come together to, in his words, "rescue the nation."

Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar signed a peace deal in August 2015, but the agreement has made little progress since fighting in the capital, Juba, last July killed 300 people and forced Machar to flee the country.

The power struggle between President Kiir and his former deputy Machar broke out in December 2013, after the president accused Machar and 10 others of attempting a coup d'etat.

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