Home | News    Thursday 19 March 2015

S. Sudan rebels accuse government of backing Ethiopian rebels

March 18, 2015 (KAMPALA) – Officials of the opposition faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) led by former vice-president, Riek Machar, have accused president Salva Kiir’s government of backing new Ethiopian rebels against Addis Ababa.

President Salva Kiir (L) and rebel leader Riek Machar (R) attend the signing a ceasefire agreement during an IGAD summit on the South Sudan crisis in Addis Ababa on 1 February 2015 (Photo: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri)

“We have received reports on the ground that the dictatorial regime in Juba has now resorted to hosting, organising, training and arming Ethiopian rebels,” said Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak.

Dak told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday that SalvaKiir’s government has helped in recruiting Ethiopian rebel fighters from the communities of Oromo, Anyuak, Nuer and the South Sudanese community of Murle to destabilise the western region of Gambella.

The rebel official claimed a sizable number of the Ethiopian rebels reportedly also took part in the recent government’s offensive against positions of SPLM-IO in eastern Upper Nile state, which he said aimed to advance towards the Ethiopian border.

“The Ethiopian rebels took part in the recent offensive which the government launched from Guelguk. Their aim was to advance towards the Ethiopian border and cross into Gambella region to launch attacks against the Ethiopian government,” he further said.

Different sources said Ethiopian troops have started to deploy towards their common border with South Sudan in response to the possible attacks aiming to hamper the upcoming elections in Ethiopia.

Sudan Tribune could not reach the current governor of Gambella region, Gatluak Tut Khot, for comment. But unauthorised sources denied rebel accusations of Juba support to the Ethiopian rebels and their participation in the recent military clashes.

"Remember similar claims were made in the past about the involvement of Ugandan troops alongside government forces in Upper Nile and Unity states, but the reality is that Uganda has no ground forces in these places except air cover," a government official said under the cover of anonymity.

The new Ethiopian rebel group is said to be led by the former Gambella regional governor Thowat Pal Chai, who played a great role in establishing camps for the SPLM/A in 1983 during the 21 years of civil war with Sudan.

Among the camps he helped established with the SPLM/A former leader John Garang included the military headquarters, Bilpam and refugee camps of Itang, Dimma and Pinyudo, all located within the territory of Gambella region.

Pal, who fled to exile since 1991, was serving under the former Ethiopian president Mengistu Haile Mariam who was overthrown by the present government.

Relationship between Juba and Addis Ababa has hit its all-time low as president Kiir’s government suspects Ethiopia to be supporting the opposition leader, Machar.

Kiir also in an interview last week with The East African suggested that Kenya was also supporting Machar’s group.

"The problem is that Igad is treating the coup plotters as innocent people who simply protested against the government, yet there was nothing wrong with the government," president Kiir told The East African.

Juba has also been accusing the Sudanese government of training and arming the South Sudanese rebels, an accusation Khartoum denies and instead accuses its southern neighbour of hosting and arming its various rebel groups.