Home | News    Wednesday 23 February 2011

UN offers mediation between renegade General Athor and South Sudan

By Ngor Arol Garang

February 22, 2011 (ABYEI) — Weeks after renewed armed clashes in the southern state of Jonglei between armed elements loyal to renegade General George Athor Deng and forces belonging to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in Fangak County, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) presented a proposal seeking to end the rebellion against the regional government.

SPLA Brig. Gen. Michael Majur, left, shakes hands with Abraham Thon, right, representative of rebel leader Lt. Gen. George Athor, after signing a ceasefire agreement in Juba, Jan. 5, 2011. (AP)

Athor, who was one of the senior SPLA generals and one of the zonal commanders close to the late SPLM/A leader John Garang, operating between three states of Greater Upper Nile States, during more than two decades of civil war, against the north, became a rebel commander operating against the Juba based government, after a losing a gubernatorial seat for Jonglei during the April 2010 general elections.

He was one of the senior SPLM members who contested the race independently, after failing to secure approval of their candidatures and disowned by political the bureau months prior to the elections.

Launching rebellion against the government of south Sudan after the results were announced in favour of the official nominee, incumbent Jonglei state Governor Kuol Manyang Juuk, Athor’s forces clashed several times with SPLA forces, resulting in a number of soldiers being killed and others sustaining serious injuries on both sides.

In October, just three months prior to the conduct of the January vote on self determination for the people of South Sudan, President Kiir issued an executive order pardoning Athor and his forces. The presidential order also covered other militia leaders including Gabriel Tanyinyang whose forces clashes several times in Malakal town, capital of the Upper Nile state, resulting into scores being killed and several others sustaining injuries.

The order which received remarkable welcome from the general public was meant to reconcile political differences among political leaders and factions, in order to forge a way forward to achieving peace and stability in the region. However, the decree included some reservations demanding armed elements loyal to Athor to lay down their arms before joining the SPLA - a demand Athor viewed as not protecting the fate of his forces. Athor requested that the president amend the decree in order cover the fate of his forces and some of his political supporters.

Additionally, the president formed a high level delegation committee compromising of two bishops and generals to discuss with him ways to end violence in the area. On 5 January 2011, the government signed the ceasefire with the SPLA allowing forces to withdraw from areas previously controlled by either side and recommended some of the sites as transitory assembly points.

However, on 9 February 2011 spokesman of the renegade group, Dok James Puok, in an interview with Sudan Tribune from Juba accused the SPLA of having staged an attack on three different locations controlled by forces loyal to them. A charge SPLA spokesman, Colonel Phillip Aguer, in a separate interview with Sudan Tribune was quick to deny and accused Athor to having initiated the attack that resulted in the killing of 211 and wounding of several others on both sides.

Speaking to Sudan Tribune on Monday night, Dok James Puok, who did not want to give his whereabouts, said they have been contacted by UNMIS with a proposal to mediate peace between them and the Government of South Sudan (GoSS).

"The United Nations Mission in Sudan has contacted us with a proposal to mediate peace and we accepted. We are open to peace. We have never rejected any peaceful dialogue because this is what our people want", said Puok.

Attempts made by Sudan Tribune on Monday to contact official spokesman of the GoSS, Marial Benjamin Bil, minister of information and broadcasting failed.