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Defection of General Peter Gadet is a South Sudan army


By Ngor Arol Garang

March 27, 2011 (WAU) – South Sudan’s army (SPLA) was not able to confirm on Sunday reports and allegations suggesting that Major General Peter Gadet Yak, had broke away to form a rebellion against the southern government.

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Maj. Gen Peter Gadet addresses troops in Abyei. 4 June 2008 (Reuters)

The SPLA was the military wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) during the South’s second civil war (1983-2005). However since the signing of the 2005 peace agreement it is now the South Sudan official army.

As the region approaches full independence in July following a referendum earlier this year the South is increasingly troubled by armed rebellions, some of which are by former members of the SPLA.

The army’s spokesman, Colonel Philip Aguer Panyang, in an interview with Sudan Tribune from Juba on Sunday said reports that Gadet had started a new rebellion were only rumours.

"Yes, we have heard of these allegations. We are told he is in Khartoum but we do not know what he is doing there. We cannot confirm anything now. They remain rumors."

The military spokesman said Gadet had received official permission to visit Nairobi but had instead travelled to Sudan’s capital. He said they do not know what caused his change of itinerary and believe he is still in Khartoum.

Attempts to reach him by phone after the rumours emerged had failed, Aguer said on Sunday.

This comes a week after former southern presidential advisor, Abdel Bagi Ayii Akol Agany, announced the launch of a rebellion against the government of South Sudan, accusing President Salva Kiir of constantly refusing to listen to him on issues of common interest. He also demanded 30 percent representation for Muslims in South Sudan’s government and formation of an equitable power sharing government with other political parties.

In January the South voted overwhelmingly in a plebiscite, agreed to in a 2005 peace with Khartoum, to secede from the north. The oil-producing region is already home to rebel groups formed by disgruntled SPLA members and civilians after lasts year’s 2010 April elections.

Fighting between the rebellions and the SPLA has killed hundreds since the referendum results in February despite attempts at peaceful negotiations. Both the SPLA and militias have been accused of killing civilians.

Although initially formed out of localized grievances three of the rebel groups now in the South now appear to be operating under the loose umbrella of former SPLA General George Athor, who took to the bush 30 April 2010 after he failed to win the governorship of the volatile Jonglei state.

Athor is the most senior of the rebels having been close to the SPLM/A’s late chairman, John Garang, operating as a zonal commander during the civil war and at one point being a minister in the southern government.

Forced to contest the gubernatorial race for Jonglei State as an independent after failing to secure approval of his candidature by the SPLM political bureau, the highest organ in the SPLM, Athor claimed that the vote was rigged against him.

His main rival, incumbent Governor Kuol Manyang Juuk, was re-elected and since then there have been repeated clashes between armed elements apparently loyal to him and the SPLA in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile.

The motives behind the other rebellions differ and it is not clear the extent of coordination between the groups.

In Unity state the rebellion of Gatluk Gai was, like Athor, triggered by the 2010 election results. Gai is a supporter of failed Unity state gubernatorial candidate Angelina Teny, the wife of Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar.

Also in Jonglei state, David Yauyau, who was not SPLA, started his rebellion after the election but this has been attributed to the internal politics of the Murle tribe as well as his failure to win a seat as a local MP.

In Upper Nile, a leader known so far only as Oliny, launched an attack on the town of Malakal in March. He is also claimed to be in collusion with Athor. Although the SPLA and senior SPLM figure Pagan Amum have alleged that Oliny is aligned to southern opposition leader Lam Akol who heads SPLM-DC, the largest opposition group in the southern parliament.

Akol, a former foreign minister of Sudan, who split from the SPLM in 2009 says he will take Amum to court over the allegation that SPLM-DC is affiliated to any armed group.

In 1991 at the height of the civil war Akol and Gadet split from the SPLA along with Riek Machar, now the South’s deputy leader. The attempt to wrestle power from John Garang failed with only generals from Machar’s Nuer ethnic group joining the breakaway group with notable exceptions such as Akol who is from the Shilluk tribe in Upper Nile.

Machar, Akol and Gadet all received support from Khartoum during what became known as “the split”, causing tribal and political fault lines that still remain, in many ways, 20 years on.

Akol and Machar both rejoined the SPLA ahead of the 2005 peace agreement but Gadet remained outside the movement until after the Juba Declaration of 2006 that required all other armed groups in South Sudan to either join the SPLA, disarm.

In 2007 Gadet, joined other military figures on the pay role of US private investment group Jarch Management which claim rights over oil concessions in a large area of southern Sudan.

In the cases of all the recent rebellions the SPLM accuses Khartoum of supporting the rebels, despite the local causes of the conflicts, which despite their number are relatively localized.

"The government in Khartoum is behind all these uprisings and skirmishes in the south. They are the ones financing and arming all these activities through militia", said Bol Makueng, the SPLM Secretary for information, culture and communications, told Sudan Tribune from Juba on Sunday.

"They do not need the south to go. They have tried it several times including attempts to buy votes from south Sudanese during referendum without success .They unsuccessfully tried it but still they did not give it up completely. They are trying day and night", said Makueng, before adding they have shifted strategies to internal rebellions.

"The National Congress Party has shifted strategies aimed at keeping Sudan united to internal rebellions. They are the ones supporting all these internal rebellion in Jonglei, Unity and more recently fighting which broke out Malakal town, capital of Upper Nile State. All these are tactics from the National Congress Party meant to show the world that south Sudanese are not capable of managing their own affairs through disgruntled individuals in the south", said Makueng.