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Sudan Tribune

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South Sudan ex-rebel leader awaits integration of over 4,000 fighters into SPLA

May 27, 2012 (JUBA) – The leader of the former rebel group, the South Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SSPLM/A), Tong Lual Ayat, said on Sunday that arrangements to integrate over 4,000 of his troops will be completed within days.

Former SSPLA rebels, May 28, 2012 (ST)
Former SSPLA rebels, May 28, 2012 (ST)
This would make the SSPLA as large as South Sudan’s largest non-state militia, the Nuer White Army, which the Small Arms Survey’s April report estimated to be 4,000 strong.

It would also make the SSPLA much larger than its ex-coalition partners, the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA); which the Small Arms Survey estimate to have 2,500 troops. As the activities of the SSPLA’s have received little coverage, these claims appear to be inflated.

The SSPLM/A’s background is unclear. Ayat released a manifesto in July 2011 calling for South Sudan to once again be ruled from Khartoum. He issued a retraction soon after it was noted that this agenda was incompatible with the manifesto of coalition partner, the SSLA/M.

Sudan Tribune received an email in February from Ayat’s address, claiming to have evidence of an SSPLA/Iranian/Khartoum arms deal but Ayat went on to distance himself from the emails, claiming that his account had been hacked.

However, the SSPLA/M interpreted the emails as evidence that Ayat was operating as an agent of Juba – working to undermine the SSLA/M rebellion.

The SSLA claim that the SSPLA is insignificant and Ayat does not command popular support within its leadership. Requests for a response to Ayat’s claims remain unacknowledged by the normally vocal SSLA.

Former members of the SSPLA rebel groups await integration in the national army, May 28, 2012 (ST)
Former members of the SSPLA rebel groups await integration in the national army, May 28, 2012 (ST)
“We are just waiting approval from the office of the president to tell us where our forces should be assembled. They are ready”, Ayat told Sudan Tribune on Sunday.

Jonah Leff, Project Coordinator of the Small Arms Survey’s Sudan/South Sudan project told Sudan Tribune on Monday that the SSPLA/M is “have not adequately responded to accusations made against them, nor have they ever appeared to constitute a threat to South Sudan.”

Ayat joined South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in 1986, three years after the former rebel movement took to the bush to fight the Khartoum government.

Tong Lual Ayat, chairman of the South Sudan People's Liberation Movement speaks to ST, Juba, May 27, 2012 (ST)
Tong Lual Ayat, chairman of the South Sudan People’s Liberation Movement speaks to ST, Juba, May 27, 2012 (ST)
Sudan’s civil war ended in 2005 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which led in 2011 to the South Sudanese people to voting to seceded. Independence was declared 9 July 2011.

However, the overwhelming patriotic zeal which has been sustained by the SPLM’s role in establishing South Sudan’s statehood is waning; the prevalence of corruption in South Sudanese politics is becoming apparent. In May South Sudan’s anti-corruption commission said it had recovered US$60 million taken by top-level government officials.

Ayat’s opposition to the SPLM rule, like that of many of South Sudan’s rebels, is based upon their perceived corruption, continued underdevelopment in rural areas and tribalism.

He served as the secretary of finance when current minister of information and broadcast, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, was the official principal liaison officer to Southern African countries.

In 2009 he formed the United Democratic Party in opposition to the SPLM, accusing its chairman, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, of violating a number of the stipulations of the October 2010 resolution of the “All South Sudan Political Conference”, on forging unity and reconciliation. The UDP was amongst the opposition National Legislative Assembly not shared in the 2011 cabinet.

“We get our support across the country. My deputy comes from Yei County, Central Equatoria State. All secretariats are filled from members from different states of South Sudan. We are national party”, he said.