Home | News    Wednesday 20 April 2011

S. Sudan army criticizes Peter Gadet over ‘Mayom’ defection declaration

By Julius N. Uma

April 20, 2011 (JUBA) - The spokesman for the southern army has openly criticized Major General Peter Yak Gatdet, its former officer-turned rebel leader over the latter’s recent ‘Mayom Declaration’ which claims to overthrow the Juba government and form an interim cabinet composed of all the political parties in the nascent state.

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Phillip Aguer, the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) spokesperson (Photo credit: www.gurtong.net)

Last week, the newly formed South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), in a statement entitled ‘The Mayom Declaration’ issued on April 11, said it was determined to bring down the government of Southern Sudan led by President Salva Kiir and replace it by a "national broad-based government agreed upon by all the South Sudan political parties".

The Declaration was signed also by Brigadier General Carlo Kol, Deputy Commander of Joint Integrated Units (JIUs) and Colonel Bol Gatkouth Kol, a former member of the South Sudan Legislative Assembly and a member of the South’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

However, Phillip Aguer, the spokesperson of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) – the South’s official army - has dismissed this declaration, describing it as baseless statements orchestrated by elements within the Khartoum regime under the pretext of liberating southerners.

“Firstly, the word Liberation is not a transient concept, but a philosophy that requires consistent sacrifice and well founded goals and objectives. South Sudan knows what it means since 1955 up to now,” Aguer told Sudan Tribune.

Even before Sudan’s independence from Anglo-Egyptian rule in 1956 armed southern groups began fighting against political and economic marginalization. Sudan’s second civil war began in 1983 when the SPLA was founded in response to the attempted Islamization of the mainly Christian South, undermining of a previous peace agreement and well as disputes over politics and natural resources.

He conflict ended in 2005 with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the SPLM/A and Khartoum’s National Congress Party, making the former rebels the ruling party and the official army. As part of the deal the South held a referendum in which it voted to secede from the North in July this year.

As part of the deal other armed groups, such those controlled by Peter Gatdet, who had spent much of the war backed by Khartoum fighting against the SPLA, had to join the SPLA as the South’s official army. Gatdet integrated his forces into the SPLA in 2006.

Acknowledging the declaration’s stand on the 2005 CPA, Aguer question how Major Gen. Gatdet’s SSLA could claim to have “set the country on the path of democratic transformation and respect of human rights”. The SPLA spokesperson said that under the SPLM’s stewardship there have been elections and plebiscite to gain the independence of the region.

“Transformation mean abandoning means of war in achieving political ends and adoption of democratic means which begin with elections and free political competition which South Sudan has just began last April to be followed by building institutions of democracy,” the SPLA spokesperson said.

He added, “In addition to this question, can Khartoum teach us democracy and transformation after [the South has fought] more than fifty years of war against slavery and persecution by the same Khartoum [governments]?”

Major Gen. Gatdet, Aguer said, has no authority to question the integrity of the southern army nor it’s mode of operation, saying the renegade officer failed to correct the wrongs he talked about with his own troops when he reportedly commanded a force of over 20,000 SPLA soldiers.

“If he [Major Gen. Gatdet] thinks there was corruption in the army, [then] what has he done to convince the 20,000 men and officers under him since 2006 that he is the man to heal the SPLA and the South Sudan of corruption,” Aguer asked.

The southern army, its spokesperson said, have always had their salaries paid promptly since 2005 based on what he called a consolidated pay policy, which caters for all institutions of the South Sudan government. The policy, he added, is being reviewed in the new financial year.

Aguer also challenged the former SPLA officer-turned rebel leader to name some of the soldiers he alleged never got any salaries since 2005, as proclaimed by the latter in the ‘Mayom declaration’.

Onyoti Adigo Nyikwec, the opposition leader in South Sudan parliament said much as he never had access to the details within the Mayom Declaration, it is important for the South’s ruling party to consider the views expressed by the other parties as the country prepares for its July independence.

"I cannot comment on a document that I have not seen or read. But if you asked me the way forward, I will say that for any government to succeed in its political transition, it must fully take in to account the views expressed by the other political forces. That is what democracy entails," Nyikwec, also a member of the opposition SPLM-DC, told Sudan Tribune by phone.

Gatdet is one of the rebellions currently ongoing against the South Sudan government. Most others started due to grievances caused by last years elections.