Kiir’s statement followed criticism from human rights groups who accused his forces of committing massive atrocities including murder, looting of property of civilians and sexual violence.
Kiir said he has directed SPLA commanders to immediately take action against those found guilty. Kiir unveiled his move to improve discipline on August 15, while addressing law makers in Juba.
“With respect to military code of ethics and policy, the military will commence a broad educational campaign on military conduct with the general public,” Kiir said.
“Before any military assignment, officers and soldiers will be briefed on proper conduct and behaviour,” he said. “Any abrasion will be reported immediately and dealt with accordingly. Failure to report will be considered a breach of command responsibility,” Kiir said.
Kiir said the military leadership of the army would punish all forces found guilty of involvement in rights’ abuses.
“The military will form a tribunal headed by a general to oversee the implementation of this policy,” he said. “All abuses and sexual assaults allegations and incidents involving military personnel will be investigated.”
The former guerrilla movement, the SPLA, has faced serious criticism on a number of occasions from within the country and from international commentators since South Sudan gained independence five years ago.
It is not the first time the President has vowed to take punitive measures against ill-disciplined soldiers, meaning that it is as yet unclear whether his move will yield positive results.
Kiir and several of his top army officials have spoken out on disciplining the army in the past, but few soldiers have been tried and convicted.
The Human Rights Watch report accuses both Kiir’s and former Vice President Riek Machar’s forces of committing crimes – not only last month but already since the conflict broke out in late 2013.
Kiir’s army spokesman Brigadier Lul Ruai Koang neither admits nor denies involvement of the SPLA soldiers in committing atrocities during last month combat in Juba. “We are taking the accusation seriously however we would like to register this concern that we have not received any single complaint from the alleged victims of rape,” Koang said. “We are calling upon Human Rights Watch to come forward with the evidence.”
Though Ruai says 19 army officers so far have been arrested over allegations of involvement in rights abuses, it is yet to be seen what measures the SPLA leadership will take against them.
SPLA-IO Spokesman Major Dickson Gatluak has denied any accusation by the Human Rights Watch that forces loyal to Machar were involved in the crimes. “This is not true. They (right groups) should not be accusing our forces for something which actually SPLA-IO was not involved in,” he said. “We were outside of the town actually to avoid further confrontation with the government.”