South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir said on Friday he had pardoned two senior government officials and promised to release other political prisoners, as his rule faces surging resistance, warfare and famine.
“I did not come to speak politics. I have come to pardon Gen. Elias Waya and Gen. Andrea Dominic,” Kiir said at a gathering in the capital Juba.
“Any other political detainees, I will release them all tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.”
Waya is a former governor of Wau state in the country’s northwest and Dominic was his deputy. They were arrested in June 2016 and have since been detained at a military facility in Juba. Officials have never given a reason for their detention.
South Sudan, Africa’s youngest nation, was first plunged into war in December 2013 when a power struggle between Kiir and his then deputy Riek Machar turned into a military confrontation.
The ensuing two-year conflict was ended by a peace pact in August 2015. Nearly a year ago Machar returned to Juba and his old post, but lingering animus between the two men, who hail from rival tribes, exploded into fighting between their forces again in Juba in June.
War and lawlessness have since uprooted an estimated three million people and decimated the economy. Failed harvests in traditional food basket areas have triggered famine in a country rich in oil resources.
On Monday disaffected Lieutenant General Thomas Cirilo Swaka accused Kiir of turning the country’s military into a “tribal army”, launched a new rebel National Salvation Front and vowed to topple him.