South Sudan celebrates Army Day amid challenges
JUBA (May 16, 2012) – South Sudan on Wednesday celebrated Army Day commemorating the 29th anniversary of the founding of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/SPLA) to spearhead the liberation of all the marginalized people of Sudan.
This was the first such celebration since South Sudan became an independent state in July last year after an internationally-monitored referendum in January in which southerners voted overwhelmingly to break away from the North.
It came as South Sudan’s national army, the SPLA, continued to face multiple challenges, with Sudan’s army testing the SPLA’s resolve and capacity to defend territories in Western Bahr El Ghazal, Unity, Upper Nile and Northern Bahr El Ghazal states.
The Sudanese army intensified its aggression against South Sudan in March when it began carrying out daily air raids and ground attacks on mostly civilian targets deep inside Sudanese territory.
The attacks promoted the SPLA in April to throw out the Sudanese army from Panthou (Heglig) before pulling out 10 days later following cries from the international community.
Speaking to thousands of people at the Dr. John Garang Mausoleum, President Salva Kiir said the army had received intelligence about an impending attack by the Sudanese army.
“They have assembled a big force at Jau,” he said. The President explained that the plan was to attack and occupy Unity State and declare a government run by South Sudanese puppets currently based in Khartoum.
He also referred to recent utterances by Sudanese President Omar El Bashir, claiming he could overthrow the government in Juba, something President Kiir dismissed as delusionary.
“This thing will never happen. Bashir is dreaming,” he pointed out.
The ease with which SPLA forces seized Panthou should be enough to convince Bashir and his henchmen that the SPLA has teeth that can bite and inflict pain, according to the South Sudanese leader.
The President also praised the patriotism of individuals who pretended to be serving the interests of Khartoum while quietly planning to dupe their Sudanese handlers.
He particularly singled out army officers Khartoum sent with a large force earlier this month to cut off the South Sudan-Ethiopia road and destabilize the country who decided to surrender to SPLA forces instead, bringing with them large quantities of military hardware.
President Kiir conceded that the loss of oil revenues after South Sudan halted production because of Sudan’s insistence on levying exorbitant transit tariffs and theft of South Sudan’s oil was causing hardship for the people, but said his government was trying hard to offset this.
“We should not give up,” he advised, adding that South Sudanese must also find ways to end their dependence on handouts. “We must not be addicted to free things,” the President warned.
Life could be a lot better if people try to work hard, according to President Kiir.
The government, he noted, would also continue to improve security, including carrying on with the disarmament of civilians across the country.