October 10, 2010 (BOR & JUBA) – Gen. George Athor Deng, a former chief of staff to the southern army, who rebelled against the southern government, after losing a bid to become governor of Jonglei state, has welcomed Wednesday’s presidential amnesty directed at him and other rebels.
Speaking to United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) sponsored Miraya
FM on Sunday, Gen. Athor said he will respect President Salva Kiir
Mayardit’s call for peaceful return and reintegration of his forces into the
south’s army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
Gen. Athor contested for Jonglei state gubernatorial post but lost to
incumbent governor Kuol Manyang Juuk of the Sudan People Liberation
Movement (SPLM)- the political wing of the SPLA.
Athor alledges that the SPLM, who have governed the southern region since a 2005 peace deal rigged April’s elections against him and chose to start an armed uprising in protest.
Since his forces first attacked Dollib Hills in Upper Nile state in May 2010,
which the SPLA blame on Athor forces, the regional army made several
attempts to demolish his forces in vain.
The government of southern Sudan (GoSS) initially rejected peace talks proposed by UNMIS and turned down several efforts by local community leaders for peaceful resolution.
Last week, President Kiir released a decree pardoning Gen. Athor, Gen.
Gabriel Tenginyang and others who rebelled against his government to
rejoin aftering disarming their forces.
Details from Athor’s acceptance are still sketchy.
The amnesty was welcomed on Saturday by John Kong Nyuon, a security adviser to the president of the government of southern Sudan.
On Wednesday, Salva Kiir Mayardit, president of the government of southern Sudan and a commander in chief and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army issued an executive order pardoning the four millitary officers, Lieutentant General George Athor Deng, Major General Gabriel Tanginye, Robert Gwang and Colonel Gatluak Gai.
The executive order urged the officers to immediately join ranks and files of the SPLA forces and assured them they would be able to move freely in the region without any fear.
The pardon will not come into effect unless the officers lay down their ams without condition and return to rank and files of the regional army.
Speaking to Sudan Tribune on Saturday, Nyuon commended decision of the president and urged the officers to return.
“The decision taken by the president is an excellent […] wise and unifying decision,” said Nyuon.
The BBC noted that the report coincided with the visit of the United Nations Security Council and that the move could be seen as a way to show visiting diplomats the south’s seriousness to provide security ahead of the January’s referendum on southern independence.
Kiir issued the order following a meeting between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), who govern southern Sudan and representatives from other political parties to prepare for South-South dialogue conference, scheduled to take place on 13 October 2010.
The agenda of the conference is believed to include discussion about ways to reach consensus on the conduct of the referendum on self determination for the people of the region. It will also touch on post-referendum governance.
Under the 2005 peace deal signed between the two former warring parties the SPLA and Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party, citizens of South Sudan are expected to vote early next year to decide whether to remain part of a united Sudan or opt to become an independent nation.
General Athor and Colonel Gai have clashed several times with the SPLA after rebelling in protest of the outcome of April’s election results.
Athor attempted to win Jongeli state’s gubernatorial post as an independent candidate after he failed be endorsed by the SPLM.
The senior military officer was among the 340 SPLM members rejected for candidacy by the SPLM’s political bureau before the April elections.
Prior to his rebellion, Athor held many of the top military positions within the SPLA, the last of which was the position of the SPLA deputy chief of general staff for moral and politician orientation. He refused to concede defeat after losing to the official SPLM candidate and accused the government of rigging the vote.
In August, government of southern Sudan authorities said it captured an aircraft flying military weapons from Khartoum allegedly destined to areas under George Athor’s control. The south’s security services say the Russian owned helicopter was also carrying individuals loyal to Gen. George Athor, charges Khartoum denies.
Colonel Gatluak Gai also turned rebel after failing to become commissioner in one of the counties in Unity state, which was declared for the incumbent Governor Taban Deng Gai who beat Angelina Teny.
Teny, the wife of south Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar, was denied endorsement of her candidacy and disowned by the political bureau before the polls.
Like Athor, and other SPLM figures who failed to be endorsed, Teny went entered the election as an independent. Although she believed she was ahead in most polling stations, the national elections commission announced in favour of the SPLM candidate.
The Small Arms Survey said Gatluak who was not seen as a major player in s the before April 2010 elections, is accused of being close to Angelina Teny, wife of Vice-President Riek Machar who ran as an independent candidate for the Unity governorship.
The report further said this accusation pushed Juba government to take his threat seriously and decided to deploy more troops in the Unity state to fight him.