June 18, 2024

South Sudan leader quits Nairobi talks after assassination attempt

4 min read
South Sudan leader quits Nairobi talks after assassination attempt

Gen Buoy, a South Sudan leader requests to withdraw from Nairobi peace talks citing an assassination attempt

Gen Buoy, a South Sudan leader requests to withdraw from Nairobi peace talks citing an assassination attempt.

South Sudan opposition leader General Stephen Buay Rolnyang has withdrawn from ongoing peace talks in Nairobi, accusing the South Sudanese government of attempting to assassinate him.

In a letter to mediators today, Buay, head of the South Sudan People’s Movement (SSPM), said security agents loyal to presidential security advisor Tut Gatluak approached him at his hotel with the intention of harming him. 

Buay alleged Gatluak paid a significant sum of money for the assassination attempt.

“On 15/5/2024, we received urgent intelligence from Juba that Tut Keaw Gatluak the presidential security advisor sent a team of security agents to Nairobi with the mission to hunt me down and assassinate me in Nairobi,” Buay wrote in the letter.

The South Sudan leader further claimed he spotted suspicious individuals matching the description of the security agents and reported them to hotel security and mediators. 

He also recounted an encounter with a man identified as John Top Nyerew, a man he said was sent by Gatluak to assassinate him in 2022 but who ultimately refused due to their familial connection.

“On 16/5/2024, the Juba security agents employed Kenyan agents wearing dark glass eyes and came to the Ole Sereni hotel where they kept hiding near the hotel toilets in the evening carrying some pictures in their hands definitely which might be my picture. I noticed them and I returned to my room and immediately alerted the security. I reported it to you the following morning in the meeting hall which Hon. Makuei Lueth refuted in front of everybody,” he wrote. “Yesterday on 19/5/2024, John Top Nyerew, the one whom Tut Gatluak sent came in person looking for me in the hotel and found me sitting with my two officers eating supper, he came and greeted me and sat near me because we have known each other.”

Nyerew, according to Buay, admitted to being sent by Gatluak again and claimed to have just arrived from the United States, which Buay dismissed as a lie. 

Gen. Buoy added:  “He started talking by himself without even being asked to do so and explained he was sent by Tut in 2022 to look for me in Addis Ababa to assassinate me, but ‘I told Tut that Gen Stephen Buay married our daughter, I should not be the one to assassinate him’ and he continued narrating a lot of stories all about how Tut is using plenty of money to assassinate me, then I asked him where he came from now.”

Security personnel intervened upon Buay’s request, leading to a confrontation with members of the South Sudanese delegation.

Nyerew has reportedly been linked to the kidnapping and killing of South Sudanese activists Dong Samuel and Aggrey Idris in Nairobi in 2018.

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Citing the alleged assassination attempt, Buay asserted that the South Sudanese government is not committed to peace talks and demanded safe passage out of Kenya for himself and his delegation.

“Considering the above security concerns, Juba is not ready for any peace talks. Their objective is to lure the opposition to Kenya and assassinate them one by one,” Buay wrote. “I, therefore, request your esteemed office that the SSPM/A/SSUNA team withdraw from the talks, and needs immediate evacuation from Nairobi back to where we came from.”

The motivations behind the alleged assassination attempt remain unclear.

However, Buay’s forces were responsible for the death of Gatluak’s brother, Mayom County Commissioner Maj. Gen. Chuol Gatluak, in a 2021 attack on the county headquarters.

The latest incident in Nairobi follows the deportation and subsequent killings of opposition figures allied to Gatluak in 2022, including the burning alive of a Buay commander that sparked outrage.

Buay’s participation in the talks, which began this month, was contingent on security assurances provided by Kenyan mediators.

Kenya has a history of being an unsafe haven for dissidents of the South Sudanese government. Several South Sudanese government critics have faced repercussions in Kenya.

In 2018, Dong Samuel Luak and Aggri Iddri were deported and subsequently killed. 

Opposition leader Riek Machar’s press secretary, James Gatdet Dak, was also deported from Kenya and imprisoned for two years until his release in late 2019.

Civil society activist Moris Garang, currently detained in Juba, was deported from Kenya in 2023.

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