South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Wednesday met the leader of Agwelek Forces, Gen. Johnson Olony Thabo, and his delegation and appreciated them for responding positively and embracing peace, a statement from the office of the president said.
The president assured Olony’s group that he is committed to peace.
“We are happy that you have accepted to come to Juba to join the peace process,” Kiir said. “We want peace and we are ready and committed to pulling the country into the trajectory of peace and stability.”
He challenged Gen. Olony’s outfit to be steadfast in pursuing peace to end the suffering of the people.
“If you have come for peace, please come with the hearts of peace,” Kiir said. “We do not want to see anyone going back to the bush because South Sudan is too big and it has enough to cater for all of us.”
President Kiir directed all security officials and institutions to expedite the incorporation of the Agwelek Forces into the national army as per the Khartoum Agreement signed between the Agwelek Forces and the government in January 2022.
On his part, Gen. Olony appreciated the warm reception and reassured the president that his group is for peace.
“We are happy to meet you today, and we want to truly tell you Mr. President, that we have wholeheartedly come for peace and we do not want other people in the middle to spoil this peace,” he said.
Meanwhile, Presidential Affairs Minister Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin said the coming of Gen. Olony signifies the importance of peace and unity for the country.
Gen. Olony arrived in Juba on 14 May after months of protracted negotiations with loyalists of President Salva Kiir according to sources.
He came with 200 soldiers and at the time said he had returned to Juba for peace, affirming his commitment to the agreement with President Salva Kiir.
The Khartoum Peace Agreement (KPA) Between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Government (SPLM-IG) and the Agwelek Forces was signed on 16 January 2022 and stipulated a cessation of hostilities.
It was signed by Akol Koor Kuc, Director General Internal Security Bureau-NSS and Gen. Marshal Stephen Babanen, the SSPDF Chief of Military Intelligence on the part of the government, and Gen. Johnson Olony, Chairman of the Agwelek Forces.
The peace agreement which acts as a ceasefire between the SPLM-IG and Agwelek splinter group of the SPLM-IO has provisions on land boundaries in Upper Nile, return of assets, merger of Agwelek forces into SSPDF, and political representation among others
Gen. Olony initially defected from the government and went back to rebellion to fight to protect the land of the Chollo (Shilluk) people in Upper Nile State. He, however, eventually joined Dr. Riek Machar’s SPLM/A-IO.
Olony would later be nominated governor of Upper Nile State by Dr. Machar under the 2018 revitalized peace agreement. President Kiir, however, rejected his nomination on account of Olony being a “warmonger”.
In August 2021, Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual issued a communiqué following a meeting of SPLA-IO commanders in Kit-Gwang in Magenis, a northern-most town bordering Sudan, declaring that they had ousted Dr. Machar as the leader of the SPLM/A-IO. In what has since come to be known as the Kit-Gwang Declaration, Gatwech declared himself the new leader and appointed Gen. Olony as his number two.
In January 2022, the SPLA-IO Kit-Gwang faction signed a peace agreement in Khartoum with President Kiir’s government. The Agwelek forces led by General Olony also signed a separate agreement with the government at the same time. The Kit-Gwang faction, however, became disillusioned months after the signing of the peace deal and blamed the government for not implementing it.
Gatwech and Olony later fell out and the former fired the latter as his deputy and their forces clashed severally. Olony would later say that he was for peace and willing to go to Juba.
Additional Reporting by Radio Tamazuj