An opposition general apologizes to Aweil communities; promises to embrace peace
He has fought many wars, for the government and against the government.
His 37-year military career has seen him escape death many a time, and he is now preaching peace and asking for forgiveness.
Speaking to crowds at a peace rally in Wanyjok, a town tucked far away in South Sudan’s Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal, the former rebel, General Agany Abdel Bagi Ayii Akol, stands tall, expressing penitence.
“I apologize to the people because I blocked commercial routes, leading to a hike in the price of commodities here in the State,” said the remorseful commander.
Just a year after South Sudan gained independence, General Agany defected from the new country’s main military, forming an armed group with close to three thousand troops.
For the last five years, the general has led an armed opposition movement from his hometown in Mathol, causing fear in neighbouring communities, where residents say he carried out sporadic attacks and intermittently blocked main commercial routes from Sudan.
“Welcome back our brothers, welcome back home,” sang jubilant, ululating crowds, for whom the peace gesture comes as a relief, as they danced to traditional songs.
Led by the elderly General Agany, who still spotted camouflage military fatigues, those being welcomed back joined in dance, clicking their fingers and jabbing the air with their hands, to the rhythm of the songs.
“I am a patriotic citizen and I love my country,” said the commander, who is now waiting to be embraced into the country’s main army, the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces, as part of a peace agreement which will roll out reintegration timelines through various military cantonment processes.
“I am not going to the bush again,” he said in a humble voice to the keenly listening crowd. “I am asking the people of Aweil to forgive me for the harm I have inflicted on them,” he continued.
Having joined the military in 1982, at a tender age of 18, when southern Sudan was at war with its then northern foe, the commander’s life was, over the years, dotted with ensuring his survival, that of his followers, and those in higher ranks.
He is now taking advantage of a revitalized peace agreement – signed about six months ago – that aims to bring an end to South Sudan’s conflict, and he is extending an olive branch to tens of thousands who suffered death, displacement, insecurity and lack of infrastructural development among other issues.
Many of those who lived in fear of his troops rampaging through their homelands braved hot afternoon temperatures at the Mabil Freedom square to listen to him and others addressing a much-awaited unifying peace rally, where speaker after speaker spoke about the importance of silencing guns in the area.
“Peace has come, and everything will return to normal,” said the general, adding that both the government and the opposition “will join hands together, to bring back the country to normal.”
“My feelings are towards peace, and so I will embrace peace and I am committed to its implementation,” he declared.
Now almost 60, the general hopes this new-found unity will lead to development in the area, with crowds continuing to celebrate late into the nights as was seen during his return.