The Sudanese Peopleâ€™s Liberation Movement/Army appointed a governor, Abu-John Samuel of Equatoria region in Sudan. The New Visionâ€™s Emmy Allio interviewed him and below are the excerpts.
QUESTION: How much do you know about Joseph Kony and his Lordâ€™s Resistance Army rebels?
ANSWER: Kony operates in Juba and Torit zones which are under my jurisdiction. He was nurtured and is still being protected by the National Islamic Front (NIF) government of Omar Bashir. Late last month, he raided villages around Juba and rustled about 3000 heads of cattle from the Bari tribe. Moving with their cattle, they entered our territory. We fought them for three days and recovered most of the cattle. Many of the cows died in the cross-fire, we ate others and many others scattered in the bush. We killed 86 LRA fighters. Our commander Mohamur Obutu did a good job because he forced the Ugandan rebels to flee in disarray. Konyâ€™s victims are the cattle-keeping Bari and Lotuko tribes. Of course the Ugandan rebels lack food that is why they go on raiding villages for food.
Why does the SPLA allow Kony to operate and live in southern Sudan?
We do not keep Kony or allow him to operate there. He finds parts of southern Sudan a soft ground where he goes to hide, away from us. Currently, if we hit him hard, he will run west of Juba which is under Sudan government control. Kony lives among the Lulubo tribe on the mountains west of Juba.
Do you think the Sudan government is sincere when it says it is now fighting Kony?
You cannot say that Omar Bashirâ€™s government does not know about Kony. They know very much about Kony. Without Sudan government support, Kony rebels would have been finished long ago by the Ugandan army. Kony continues to get supplies from Khartoum. I do not accept the blame Bashirâ€™s government often heaps on local commanders in southern Sudan for arms supplies. As far as I know, Konyâ€™s arms supplies come straight from Khartoum to the local commanders. Since every soldier on the ground has one gun, where do Bashirâ€™s soldiers on the ground get extra guns to give to Kony? That means that the extra guns come from somewhere. And where is that somewhere? It is Khartoum.
How do you assess Konyâ€™s behaviour?
LRA kills our people, cooks them and makes the captured people eat the cooked flesh of their relatives. My people are undergoing a horrible experience. If Kony is fighting for his people, why should he then kill the very people he wants to rule? I donâ€™t think this is how you treat the people. Even fellow tribesmen, the Acholi, in Sudan are being killed by him. No human being can act like the way Kony does. SPLA is a rebel group but we do not behave like Kony.
What is the main source of SPLAâ€™s guns?
The world is wide and they are on open market. But our main source of arms is the Sudan government. When they attack, we fight and defeat them. We get a lot of guns from them. One of the issues at our peace talks with the Sudan government in Kenya, is how to share the oil wealth. The oil wealth has been used to buy arms to fight us
Do you have high hopes that the peace talks in Kenya will succeed?
To be honest, on the face of it, peace appears to be coming. The problem will begin if we are intimidated. Before the referendum anything can happen. You know money is another problem and poverty is another. Those who have the money will start buying others to change so that when the referendum comes, people will say â€˜noâ€™ when they are supposed to say â€˜yes.â€™ The north has a lot of money and may want to bribe our people to vote contrary to the ideals the SPLM/A fought for. If we find that dirty tricks are being used, then problems could start. But I am sure that all the southern Sudanese have learnt the lesson through suffering. The north knows that a lot of their people sent to war fronts in the south have died. So it will be a good thing for us all to come to peace, honourable peace, and preserve it until the referendum. It is now for our people to say â€˜noâ€™ to separation or â€˜yesâ€™ to separation. But then that will also depend on the behaviour of the government of Sudan during this time of six years for the referendum.
Do you see the end of Kony and his LRA coming when the Sudan Peace agreement is signed?
Konyâ€™s fate is tied to the peace talks in Kenya. The way Kony is treating our people is very bad. We have declared war on him. Even Konyâ€™s former allies, the Equatoria defence Forces (EDF) are fighting the LRA. Kony and EDF were friends but because of killing the Acholi, Langi and Lotuko tribes, the EDF is now fighting him. Because of being hated by all groups in Sudan, Kony rebels are now hidding at Upper Talanga and Imotong hills. These hills have many caves which SPLA used to use. Kony is now using them as stores. But Kony rebels will not survive long on those hills since they will need food from the population. I am quite sure Konyâ€™s end is approaching slowly and surely. Take it from me, Kony will be history in the near future.
How is Yei?
Yei is fine. It has changed a lot since 1997 when we captured it from the government forces. A lot of development and reconstruction is going on. The roads within the town and leading to Rumbek and Koboko in Uganda are okay. The 46km from Yei to Koboko now takes two hours instead of over five hours it used to take. More shops are being built and opened.
Is there trade going on between the Sudanese and Ugandans?
Most traders plying Koboko-Yei route are Ugandans. But almost every manufactured item entering Yei is from Uganda. Even the Ugandan shilling is the main currency in use in Yei and in most of southern Sudan.
How large is the territory under your jurisdiction?
Juba is the main town of Equatorial region. But of course it is occupied by the ruling NIF government of President Omar Bashir. SPLM/A has its temporary headquarters at Yei.
What were you doing before becoming a governor?
I was one of the first black Sudanese to enter the prestigious Sudan military college in 1952 and graduated as a lieutenant in 1954. I have been in and out of the Sudan government army. I first quit the army in the 1960s to join Anyanya revolt and then I rejoined and finally retired in 1978. I served as the minister of communication in the then Southern Sudan government.
Is your family living with you in the war zone?
I am a married man with 21 children, some of them are in America, Europe, Dubai, Cairo, Khartoum, Juba and here Uganda. You see, we are all scattered.
I Insist Sudan Still Arms Kony â€“ SPLA