Ugandan President Museveni Assassinated Peace in South Sudan
December 23, 2011 (SSNA) — The military leaderships of four South Sudan liberation Movements, namely, South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army, South Sudan Liberation Movement/Army, South Sudan Defence Force, National Democratic Front (NDF), commanded by late Lt. Gen. George Athor, Maj. Gen. James Gai Yoach, Lt. Gen. Gordon Koang and Maj. Gen. Thomas Thiel respectively, convened an emergency meeting in Mankien, Unity State from December 21—22 to discuss the circumstances that led to the assassination of SSDM/A leader and the need to form a strong alliance to speed up liberation of South Sudan. The meeting was also attended by political leaders of different South Sudan political parties in order to ascertain how Lt. Gen. George Athor was assassinated and how to create a roadmap to launch effective military offensive in Unity State, Upper Nile, Jonglei and Warrap. The following points were agreed upon by all the political and military leaders.
1. The assassination of Lt. Gen. George Athor in Uganda
There is no question that it is President Yuweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, who assassinated Lt. Gen. George Athor and his adjutant Thomas Duoth Makuach, a naturalized US citizen, on December, 18, 2011. President Museveni talked with Lt. George Athor on Thursday, December, 15, 2011 on phone about the Ugandan initiative to sponsor a peace talk with the regime of Salva Kiir. President Museveni proposed to George Athor on phone that he would like to have a confidential meeting with him in Kampala prior to informing the government of South Sudan about his initiative for peace. President Museveni advised Athor that the meeting with him had to be kept confidential so that President Kiir would not think that Ugandan government was sympathetic to South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army prior to announcing his intention to sponsor a peace talk.
Lt. Gen. George Athor asked President Museveni whether he would accord him maximum security in Kampala given the fact that most family members of Kiir’s regime reside in the city. President Museveni, in no uncertain terms, assured George Athor that he would take care of his security in Kampala and should not have any concerns about that. He even joked on phone with Athor saying he would accord him a security protection team better than the team Ugandan government could provide to US President Barack Obama. With the assurances from President Museveni, Lt. Gen. George Athor agreed to go to Uganda to conduct confidential meeting with Ugandan head of state prior to any peace talks with Lt. Gen. Salva Kiir. President Museveni agreed to send a plane directly to the SSDM/A headquarters in Pigi County, South Sudan.
There was nothing to suspect that President Museveni was using the idea of peace to lure Lt. Gen. Athor to death because of many reasons. First, Athor and Museveni met twice in person prior to the signing of the CPA while he was in the company of late Dr. John Garang. They both developed personal relationship since President Museveni was militarily supporting the SPLM/A in its war against Khartoum regime back then. Second, President Museveni is a head of state of Uganda and there was nothing to suspect that a head of state would want to meet the leader of a liberation Movement in order to assassinate him. In the past, Dr. John Garang travelled in many African countries and met many heads of states without losing his life. Even after losing the support of Muamar Gaddafi in the 1980s, Dr. John Garang visited Tripoli in 1990s and met with Col. Gaddafi without being assassinated. Besides, John Garang visited many Arab states, including Egypt, at the time he was a rebel leader without being assassinated.
Lt. Gen. Athor knew that there was a cordial relationship between Uganda and South Sudan governments. However, that relationship could not be thought to lead Uganda to assassinate leader of SSDM/A on behalf of South Sudan government because such a thing had never happened in Africa before. Of course, Lt. Gen. George Athor knew assassinations which happened to many African leaders ranging from Samora Michel of Mozambique, Rwanda and Burundi’s Presidents in 1994, Laurent Kabila of DR Congo and the mysterious death of John Garang. But, there was no specific incident in the entire African continent whereby a head of state would invite a rebel leader to talk about peace and end up assassinating him. The assassination of Athor, by a head of state after being officially invited, is the first incident in African continent.
Third, discussions between President Museveni and George Athor commenced in Nairobi when the latter went there in November for a peace talk with Lt. Gen. Salva Kiir. President Museveni called George Athor on November, 20, 2011 requesting him to go to Kampala to talk with him about peace with the government of South Sudan. But Athor declined the offer because he wanted to go to SSDM/A headquarters to organize the army. Instead Athor advised President Museveni that they would discuss visiting Kampala in a later date.
After a deep and thorough analysis on December 16, one day after getting offer from President Museveni, the military leadership of SSDM/A decided that Lt. Gen. George Athor would go to Uganda as requested by President Museveni. The SSDM/A decided that he would go with Thomas Duoth Makuach who knew Uganda very well and had some friends within the Ugandan government whose advice was important on the security of Lt. Gen. Athor.
On Saturday, December, 17, 2011, a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter arrived at SSDM/A headquarters, approximately at 9:00 am to pick up Athor. Thomas Duoth Makuach accompanied him to board the helicopter, which took off at 9:55 am. At 2:00 pm, George Athor called James Nuot Puot and told him that they arrived safely in Kampala. He called again at 6:38pm to tell James Nuot that they were accommodated by President Museveni in a villa at the suburbs of Kampala. That was the last call from George Athor although he promised James Nuot that he would call him on Sunday evening after meeting President Museveni.
Sources within Ugandan intelligent community, who were in contact with members of SSDM/A after the death of Athor, revealed that President Museveni gave order to military officers to assassinate him at 10:20pm on Saturday. The Ugandan military intelligent officers, who were ordered to carry out the plot, waited until George Athor and Thomas Duoth went to bed. Approximately at 1:45 am, on December, 18, armed units busted into the rooms and shot each one of them on the head. After the assassinations were complete, they collected their bodies and took them to a military barrack outside Kampala. On Monday, December, 19, 2011, the bodies of Athor and Thomas Duoth were put in one pickup Toyota and taken to border near Morobo County of South Sudan. The Ugandan military intelligent officers handed them over to the SPLA military intelligent officer, Maj. Gen. Mach Paul. The Ugandans instructed the SPLA to announce in the media that Athor was captured while trying to recruit people in Morobo so that nobody would accuse Uganda of being behind his assassination.
In the press, the SPLA made while allegations which have no factual basis because Athor didn’t have recruits in Central Equatoria. Besides, it is an insult to the intelligence of a man like George Athor to be expected to travel to a territory like Morobo to recruit people while accompanied by one adjutant who was not armed. When they boarded Sikorsky S-76 helicopter on December, 17, they had no guns at all except their laptops and mobile phones. Athor didn’t take his bodyguards with him because President Museveni assured his security. Every SPLA soldier, who fought the war between 1983—2005, would dismiss allegations being circulated in the media that George Athor went to Morobo to recruit fighters. The story narrated by Salva Kiir’s assistant, Mr. Riek Machar, that Athor was killed with one bodyguard, showed that he was not in Morobo for recruitment as alleged. The SPLA talked about one person killed with Athor without showing the recruits or POWs in order to convince the world that there were recruits in the area. How could Athor ended up being killed with only one bodyguard? Where are the recruits and other bodyguards?
The true story is what is narrated above that Lt. Gen. Athor was lured to death by President Museveni. The story of SPLA and Kiir’s assistant, Mr. Riek Machar, doesn’t add up and cannot withstand facts. SSDM/A doesn’t have forces in Morobo and there was no reason for Athor to go there. Lt. Gen. George Athor was one of the best fighters of the SPLM/A and he is not somebody who could go to a place like Morobo without enough force with him. Mr. Riek Machar Teny should at least reconcile his story with facts and truth surrounding the assassination because the military record of George Athor is impeccable. Late Athor was a soldier who could not go to a dangerous zone to recruit fighters without enough force with him let alone traveling with one adjutant to recruit fighters in an area exclusively controlled by his enemies. Mr. Riek Machar in particular should be reminded about how George Athor resisted his Movement in 1990s around Malakal area without reinforcement from SPLM/A—Torit Faction. The heroic resistant he put up against Riek Machar’s Movement was based upon his skills of guerrilla warfare. The skills he acquired during the liberation struggle between 1983 and 2005 would not have permitted him to go to Morobo with one adjutant without guns at his disposal for self-defence.
2. No future peace talks with Salva Kiir’s government would be mediated by IGAD or African Union or any African country
The military and political leaders of SSDF, SSDM/A, SSLM/A and NDF have resolved that the assassination of Lt. Gen. George Athor Deng Dut is a big below to any future peace process in the region and will have serious repercussions in the entire African continent. The region that will face the consequences of that is the Horn of Africa whose countries experience internal conflicts. It has never happened before that a head of state of one of the Horn of Africa countries could invite a rebel leader to talk about peace and assassinate him in the process.
The revolutionary forces of South Sudan have come to logical conclusion that Kenya and Uganda are enemies of South Sudanese that should be targeted after the total liberation of the country from Salva Kiir Mayardit. The identification of Kenya as a state hostile to the freedom of the people of South Sudan was noted when Lt. Gen. George Athor attended peace talks in Nairobi between Nov, 14—23. After the collapse of peace talks between SSDM/A and Salva Kiir’s security agents, the Kenyan security personnel prevented Athor and his delegation from chartering a plane to SSDM/A Headquarters in Pigi County of Jonglei State. The Kenyan security chief told late George Athor that he should charter a plane to Juba instead. Athor and his delegation were able to leave Kenya on November 23rd because of the assistance of Ethiopian government and Geneva Peace Organization, which mediated between Salva Kiir and SSDM/A in Nairobi. Lt. Gen. Athor and his delegation were able to leave Nairobi by boarding Ethiopian airline to Addis Ababa, where they chartered a plane to South Sudan.
It is indeed disturbing that the countries of IGAD like Kenya and Uganda, which played a pivotal role in bringing about the CPA in 2005, would rather prefer assassinations and political blackmailing to resolve the ongoing civil war in South Sudan. Experience from CPA negotiation attests that the neighbouring countries must always be neutral in the conflict in order for them to play a role as impartial mediators. Assassinating rebel leaders is a wrong diplomacy ever employed in international politics. The Israeli assassinations of Palestinian political leaders throughout Europe in 1960s and 1970s did not end Palestinian struggle. Despite the assassinations of so many leaders of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), rebellion in Columbia continued unabated because there can never be peace without addressing popular grievances and frustrations of the people who took up arms to fight the ruling regime. The death of Lt. Gen. George Athor Deng Dut will more likely bring an upsurge in violent incidents against the SPLA, infrastructure and South Sudan society generally.
Although Hilde Johnson, the Special Representative of UN Secretary General in South Sudan is a long time friend of Salva Kiir and a spiritual member of the SPLM/A, we were surprised to see her celebrating the death of George Athor who was assassinated in a cold blood. As a UN representative, she should have been the first person to condemn the assassination because it violated the principles of international law that a head of state can invite the leader of a liberation Movement in order to kill him extra-judicially. The assassination of George Athor violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in which Uganda is a signatory, let alone the fact that Lt. Gen. Athor was not fighting Ugandan regime of Yuweri Kaguta Museveni.
President Museveni failed to notice that assassinating Athor increases the likelihood of political instability and domestic militarized conflict in South Sudan which will spill over Uganda. If South Sudan is in turmoil, Uganda too will experience the same. Assassinating Athor would not end political violence in South Sudan nor will it save northern Uganda from LRA. Besides, Museveni should not think that he is immune from assassination. What he did to Athor may happen to him sooner or later.
The revolutionary forces are wondering whether Yuweri Museveni thought about the safety of over 100,000 Ugandans in South Sudan when he decided to assassinate George Athor. Killing Athor in a cold blood would not settle well with the people of South Sudan and it is definite that Ugandans in South Sudan may experience backlash. We are aware that Museveni is a dictator who doesn’t have popular support in Uganda and we cannot hold innocent Ugandans responsible for the assassination of George Athor. However, the people of South Sudan who have been liberated by late Athor may bend their anger on Ugandans in South Sudan because this is the second time that a Southern leader died in Uganda. Dr. John Garang died in 2005 because he boarded Museveni’s helicopter. Again George Athor died because he boarded another Museveni’s helicopter which took him to Kampala to be assassinated. It is possible that Salva Kiir, who is now celebrating the assassination of Athor, may end up becoming a victim of Museveni.
The assassination of Lt. Gen. Athor is an end to future attempts to resolve ongoing civil war in South Sudan via peaceful means. No Movement in South Sudan would ever respond to any peace initiative of IGAD, AU or any African country because of the assassination of Athor. President Museveni set a very dangerous precedent that would affect the future generation of the Horn of Africa who will never have peace because no rational liberation Movement would accept the mediation of countries whose leaders engage in assassinating the rebel leaders they want to reconcile with the government. If what Museveni did to George Athor were to be the norm prior to the signing of the CPA, the SPLM/A could not have been persuaded to sign peace in Naivasha.
The assassination of Athor is a big below to IGAD that will find it difficult to persuade freedom fighters in South Sudan to accept peace talk mediated by an organization made up of leaders who assassinated Athor. Short-sighted Africans may not realize the repercussions of the assassination of Athor. But they will experience soon that few liberation Movements in Africa would yield to proposals of peace from African leaders because of the precedent Museveni set by killing Athor.
3. Formation of an alliance of South Sudan liberation Movements
The SSDF, SSDM/A, SSLM/A and NDF have agreed to form an alliance to liberate the people of South Sudan from corruption lords and ruling tourists in Juba. A committee headed by the representatives of four Movements shall workout the modalities to finalise the final text of the agreement as agreed upon by all including late George Athor. The committee will work on the Manifesto of the alliance, the Constitution and the Roadmap and shall report to the military and political leaders of all the Movements to announce the date of the declaration.
The assassination of Lt. Gen. George Athor will consolidate the resolve of the freedom fighters instead. Late Athor said on November, 20, that “people will have to die in order for South Sudan to have democracy”. Lt. Gen. Athor knew the sacrifices required to liberate our people. When one takes up arm to kill or be killed for democracy, there is no doubt in the mind of everyone that sacrifices start with the leaders of the Movement. Athor knew that anything could have happened to him when he boarded the plane to Uganda and his assassination is part of the sacrifice that he ascribed to in order to liberate his people. Lt. Gen. Athor is not surprised that he is dead because he was living with death since he decided to fight for democracy in 1983. He was assassinated in the course of struggle as he ascribed to and nothing would surprise him in the grave. What he wants is that the struggle must continue that will achieve his objective to see a democratic South in which everyone is treated equal.
The fundamental objective of the alliance of South Sudan liberation movements is to end oppression, tribalism, nepotism and corruption in South Sudan. The people of South Sudan are being denied their fundamental rights by the ruling tourists in Juba and need to be liberated. It is the belief of all that solidarity and cooperation among the oppressed peoples led by their respective forces is essential for realization of their common objectives of liberation. The alliance that shall be formed has to work towards unity of struggle among the oppressed peoples to counter the enemy schemes and reduce the cost of achieving their political objectives of liberation.