Meet the man who helped establish South Sudan elite forces
He speaks softly, his brows furrows deeper with soft smile and a well-kept smooth hairless scalp. Maintains a smile most of the time. He does not smoke nor drink alcohol. A staunched catholic. That is just a piece of Major General Stephen Buay Rolnyang.
In the army circles, the former army commander is known to be a fearless officer. It is this bold trait that endeared the Commander-in-Chief, to entrust him to lead the 5th infantry Division and other assignments in the SPLA now SSPDF.
Buay’s associates and those who have worked with him in the army describe him as a humble man and remember him as a good soldier.
The Chief of Defense Forces, Gabriel Jok Riak, also described Buay on the day of his dismissal as a dedicated soldier.
Early life and Education
Buay was born in November 1968 in Tuocloka, Mayom West County. He attended Ajakwach primary school in Bar-el-gazal and Wangkei primary school where he earned his primary living certificate before joining Intermediate in Khartoum Bhari, Nahdi El Umaal.
Later Buay joins St. Augustine Seminary before joining Cambridge International College in Juba where he earned a certificate of Human Resource Management.
In 2009, he joined Kyambogo University in Uganda for a Bachelor of Management Science where he graduated in 2014.
Stephen Buay Rolnyang joined the Anyanya two in May 1982, and then later to the Sudan People Liberation Army under Dr. John Garang De Mabior.
In 1986, Buay was commissioned by the SPLA as 2nd Lieutenant, at a time he was serving as a radio operator in the communication and electronic warfare against Sudan Armed Force.
In 1991, he was assigned to the General Intelligence Service officer, in which he serves up to 1997 before he was shifted and assigned as SPLA third front acting Chief of Operation where he was deployed at the border between western Upper Nile and Bhar-el-Ghazal region.
In 2002, Buay was deployed as chief of logistics in the third front in the Bhar-el-Ghazal region, under the direct command of General Salva Kiir Mayardit who was then SPLA Chief of General Staff.
Buay was later assigned as chief of Administration at Western Upper Nile Command from 2002 to 2003 before he was deployed as commander of the SPLA mobile force in Kapoeta, Torit and Magwi areas of operation in 2006 and 2007.
In 2006, Stephen Buay spearheaded the formation of the elite SPLA special force that comprises of the Commando Brigade of four battalions approximately 3,500 strong forces that graduated in New Cush – SPLA military training ground in former Eastern Equatoria state.
In mid-2007, the force was deployed as an independent unit, on specialist tasks, by the end of the same year, in 2008, Buay was assigned as commander of the SPLA military police and Commando unit now known as the Special Forces at the SSPDF general headquarters in Bilpam.
In 2013, Buay was assigned as the commander of the SPLA now SSPDF fist infantry Division in Renk northern Upper Nile State.
Buay was deployed as the commander of the 4th infantry Division in Unity State-Bentiu in 2014 before he was assigned as Director-General of Procurement at the ministry of defense and veteran affairs at the military head-quarter in Bilpam.
In 2017, Mr. Buay was reinstated as the commander of the SSPDF 4th Infantry division in Bentiu, former Unity State.
Buay was moved to lead the 5th infantry division in 2018 in Wau and Lol State and that is the last official assignment of Stephen Buay before his arrest that lead to his demotion and dismissal from the SSPDF.
During his tenure as one of the longest-serving officers, he is mostly remembered for his role in safeguarding the oil field during the SPLA – IO and the SSPDF war.
His close associate says his courageous enable him to safeguard the oil field from the opposition.
In early 2016, the Small Arms Survey wrote that the Division stationed in Renk, under the command of Stephen Buay was widely regarded as one of the best fighting forces in the country.
He was reassigned after months of rumors that he was planning to desert and join the SPLA–IO, following tensions with the administration in the Upper Nile state.
Arrest Detention and Verdict
In May 2018, Buay took permission from his senior to visit his home town in Mayom to see his family.
However, his trip was met with resistance from commanded of special forces stationed in Mayom, Gen. Mathew Puljang, which led to fierce fighting between forces commanded by Gen. Mathew Puljang and a group of soldiers allied to General Stephen Buay Rolnyang in Mayom.
Buay was captured later by government forces commanded by Gen. Mathew Puljang during fighting in Mayom and after he was accused of rebelling against the Kiir administration.
After Buay arrest, he was flown to Juba on the 31st of May.
A special military court was constituted to prosecute Stephen Buay in January this year but the defense team of Buay rejected the judicial panel saying the court was wrongly constituted by the Chief of Defense Forces.
The army spokesman said the concerns were forwarded to his Excellency President Salva Kiir Mayardit, in his capacity as the commander in chief of the SPLA and now SSPDF.
After the defense team requested the judicial panel to be reconstituted – President Salva Kiir, the commander in chief of the armed forces – agreed to change the judges.
In a decree, the C-in-C appointed a six-team judicial panel headed up by Maj.-Gen. Thiik Achiek Hol, the president of General court-martial.
The other members are Maj.-Gen. Atem Duot Atem; Maj.-Gen. Peter Gatwech Gai; Maj.-Gen. Akuei Ajou Akuei; Maj.-Gen. Isaiah Paul Lotole; and Brig. Gen. Abubakar Mohamed Romadan.
The men were sworn-in and the hearing kicked off in April.
Early this year, Buay was charged with treason, rebellion, and offenses during operations, disobedience of lawful orders and violation of standing orders according to articles 61, 67 and 69 of the SPLA Act, 2009.
In August, a military court found him guilty as charged, and stripped of ranks and dismissed him from the army and sentenced him to a year in jail.
This was protested by his lawyer Philip Anyang, who appealed to President Salva Kiir to finalize the case – citing a deteriorating health condition for his client.
Buay has often argued that his charges were fabricated by military and community leaders who allegedly have personal problems with him dating back to the 1990s.
These, he said, include the incumbent Chief of Defense Forces, Gen. Gabriel Jok Riak, and military and political leaders from his community, notably Tut Gatluak, presidential advisor on security affairs.
In February Buay pleaded not guilty at a military court in Juba for treason and other.
During his testimony at the court-martial, Buay denied all the charges.
He told the court that the charges are politically motivated since he has personal problems with some leaders dating back from 1998 to today.
This includes the incumbent chief of defense forces and military and political leaders from his community.
Stephen Buay was recently stripped of his ranks of a Major General, demoted to a private and finally “disgracefully” discharged in a ceremony held at the army headquarters in Juba.
Letter to the President
The former SSPDF General wrote an open letter to President Salva Kiir, saying he will remain a “humble and loyal citizen”.
Buay reiterated that he holds no grudges against anyone who may have implicated him during his ordeal.
He said he harbors no ill-feelings towards those he perceived to have had a hand in his dismissal.
The former army General said after he was released from military detention, he received many calls from people asking him not to rebel.
“I got different calls from many people that Stephen now you are dismiss don’t go in the bush,” said the former SSPDF General.
“I will prove them wrong for those who think I will rebel, even for those who think I want to create another rebel group.”
“I want to assure everybody that I am not going anywhere,” said Buay.
Mr. Stephen Buay Rolnyang has been seen in public gatherings preaching peace and reconciliation.
Now, a civilian, Buay seems to be living a simple life after he was discharged from the army he had served with passion.
Recently, he posted a photo on his Facebook page that he was taking a ride on a rickshaw heading to the University of Juba to register for a Master class in Peace and Security studies.
He was seen in Hai Thora roundabout boarding a rickshaw to the University of Juba-custom Campus for Registration for a master In peace and security studies.
One of his friends, Mayen Piol Dau described Buay as a freedom fighter.
“We haven’t known you today, but right in the bush. You’re a freedom fighter, humble, modest & an extraordinary leader. God will guide you to your desires, although the opportunists tried to defame you they will never succeed because history is never hidden,” said Piol
Originally posted on Eye Radio