A group of South Sudanese high ranking rebel commanders who were relieved from their positions in a reshuffle by former vice president and the leader of armed opposition faction, Riek Machar, issued a statement on Tuesday, claiming to have denounced and disowned the latter from the leadership of the rebel movement.
“We denounce and disown Dr. Riek Machar as SPLM/A-IO (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition) chairman and commander in chief,” partly reads the statement signed by Major General Peter Gatdet Yaka and extended to Sudan Tribune on Tuesday shortly after allegedly holding a press conference in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
The generals, led by Peter Gatdet Yaka and Gathoth Gatkuoth, claimed that their cause of indifference with Machar was intolerance to blames and different views on number of leadership issues.
Other reasons for disowning the armed opposition leader, according to the statement, was to revive the regional led IGAD peace talks to exclude president Salva Kiir and Machar from participating in any transitional government of national unity, allegedly for having divided the nation.
“We reject any peace agreement that includes President Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar in the leadership of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGONU). The two leaders have become symbols of hate and conflict and are obstacles to peace as both leaders wrangle over who should lead”, the commanders said in a statement obtained by Sudan Tribune.
They claimed war has taken long because rivalry over leadership between Kiir and Machar has polarized the country to the extent that it made it difficult from either of the two major communities, Dinka and Nuer, to accept the top leadership of the country held by either side to the conflict.
“Similarly the two communities of Nuer and Dinka have become so polarized and divided to the extent that one community will reject the leadership of the other. Other sons and daughters of South Sudan should be allowed to lead during the transitional period and both President Kiir and Dr. Riek should wait for the next coming elections and contest for the presidency if they so desire,” it added.
The statement from the disgruntled rebel commanders further suggested that if their first suggestion was not acceptable, then a military-led transitional government comprising officers from both parties be formed until next elections are conducted.
They also reject reunification of ruling SPLM party, claiming it confirmed a return to status quo that plunged the country into the current civil war and took the country back to the dictatorial rule of SPLM.
“This means that there will be no political space for other political actors in South Sudan. The SPLM/SPLA-IO is a multi-party resistance movement comprising of political and military forces that are opposed to Juba regime which has turned its guns against innocent citizens,” it said.
The reunification of the SPLM, they said, may compromise democratic transformation, reforms and federal system and would encourage one party dictatorship.
The two senior generals, Gatdet and Gathoth, including their ring leader, Gabriel Changson Chang, have been relieved from their positions in the rebel movement. Observers said their relief might have triggered their public discontent against their former boss.
The defecting generals have not however declared their new organization, nor named their leader to lead their group.
REBELS DOWNPLAY STATEMENT
The opposition faction led by Machar however downplayed the statement of the generals and their claim to have removed Machar.
“We have read their statement which they issued in Khartoum today, Tuesday. I believe they are angry because they have been relieved from their positions. But they should have been patient and wait for redeployment to other capacities. Reshuffles are normal in political or military leaderships,” Machar’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, told Sudan Tribune when contacted for reaction on Tuesday.
He however said the opposition leadership was intact and the situation was calm and normal, adding that the leadership would make a statement in response to the allegations raised by the “angry” commanders.
Dak also blamed the defecting commanders for not showing up in the recent Pagak leadership meeting last week during which such complaints they raised would have been discussed internally.
He added that the movement was committed to the peace process to end the 20-month long civil war, adding that the leadership would be open for reconciliation with the disgruntled commanders should they accept to dialogue and present their complaints to the leadership of the movement.
DEFECTED GENERAL ACCUSES MACHAR OF BRIBES
In an earlier briefing to members of his community of Jikany-Nuer in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on Monday, Major General Gathoth Gatkuoth, who later on declared his defection on Tuesday in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, said he had five reasons for abandoning the movement under the leadership of Machar.
One of the reasons he alleged during a meeting with the youth leadership of the Jikany-Nuer community claimed that the Chinese government gave a hundred million US dollars to the rebel leader, Machar, as a bribe so as to prevent his troops from capturing the oilfields operated by company of the Chinese government.
Gat-hoth continued to say that the son of former vice president was also previously given a sum of 7 million [South Sudanese pounds] by Salva Kiir’s government, blaming Machar for allegedly running the party as a family property.
“Machar’s defection in 1991 has never benefited Nuer,” he said, adding that opposing ideas of military generals by the rebel leader was another reason for his defection.
Gathoth further revealed that the defectors were in the process of forming an independent movement that will work to unearth both president Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, from power, accusing them of fighting each other for 20 months since 15 December 2013.
He claimed they were soon going to receive military support from unnamed group or country that will oppose reinstatement of Kiir and Machar in IGAD peace proposal.
JIKANY-NUER COMMUNITY DISOWNS GATHOTH
Simon Bachuch, chairman of the Jikany-Nuer community in Kenya told Sudan Tribune that the whole community disagreed with Gatkuoth’s position, adding it was creating a “red-line” in an attempt to exclude Machar in the coming transitional government of national unity.
He accused Gathoth of prioritizing his own personal interests instead of the welfare of the community and the South Sudanese in general.
Bangoang Tongyik Lual, a member of Jikany-Nuer community who also attended the meeting with the defected commander, accused him of foiling a fake bribery allegation against Machar, describing Gathoth’s claims as “adultery politics.”
“Is there a tangible evident on this document presenting the said transactions, in references of his claims that Chinese and the others bribed Dr. Machar to cease war, suspend combatants to capture Paloich oilfield?” he asked.
They said the community distanced itself from their defected sons, whom they said were “were playing with fire and digging their own graves.”
The community leaders in Kenya said they were in support of the IGAD-Plus peace process to end the war in the country.