May 7, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudan’s armed opposition faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), led by former vice president, Riek Machar, has denied allegations that it accused the regional governor of Gambella in Ethiopia of allegedly being bribed by president Salva Kiir’s government to support it against the rebels.
“We have not accused governor Gatluak Tut Kot, or his regional government in Gambella of anything,” rebel leader’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, told Sudan Tribune in reaction to the allegations.
Unnamed rebel sources on Friday accused the Ethiopian governor of allegedly agreeing to offer his regional territory to be used by Juba to launch attacks on the rebel positions at bordering towns of Pagak and Maiwut which the opposition forces control.
It further alleged that a sum of 3.5 million South Sudanese pounds ($1.1 million) was transferred to governor Gatluak as part of the deal.
The allegations came a day after Juba dispatched to the capital of Gambella region, also known as Gambella, a delegation composed of the displaced Upper Nile state’s governor, Simon Kun Puoch, and David Yau Yau, who administers the Jonglei state’s breakaway Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA) plus other neighbouring county commissioners to discuss cross-border issues.
This also comes days after county commissioners from the rebel-held territories that border Gambella region also had a similar cross-border joint meeting with their counter-parts from bordering woredas (districts) in Gambella.
But Machar’s spokesperson said the leadership had not condemned the move between the two governments.
“Our leadership has not condemned the joint meeting. We also want to distance ourselves from the alleged bribery between the two governments,” he said.
Dak further said the rebel group had not questioned the impartiality of the Ethiopian government as the lead mediator in the peace process with the government, saying it didn’t expect any decision by Ethiopia to militarily back president Salva Kiir’s government while at the same time conducting the mediation process to end the war.
Gambella regional officials close to the joint meeting in Gambella town also dismissed the allegations, saying the agenda for the meeting concentrated on border security and cooperation between the cross-border communities.
“The joint meeting discusses security issues at the common border and cooperation between the neighbouring communities,” an official in the office of the governor told Sudan Tribune .
He said Gambella regional government was concerned about cross-border cattle raiding by members of Murle community as well as alleged hosting and support provided to Ethiopian rebels by the South Sudanese government.
The two-day meeting which started on Thursday is expected to come out with resolutions on Friday.