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South Sudan rebels dismiss alleged fragmentation of the country

July 11, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese armed opposition group led by the country’s former vice president, Riek Machar, dismissed accusations that they were concentrating on power sharing only for the oil-rich greater Upper Nile region in a move that would fragment the nation on tribal or regional lines.

Face-to-face talks between the South Sudanese government and rebels get underway in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 13 January 2014 (Photo: AFP/Carl De Souza)

Officials of president Salva Kiir’s government have been attacking the peace proposal floated by the East African regional bloc, IGAD, which gives 53% of power sharing to the opposition faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) led by Machar, saying this was giving the ethnic Nuer community the power for the region.

Also an influential tribal group known as Jieng Council of Elders (JCE), which is composed of senior intellectuals and politicians from the ruling Dinka ethnic group chaired by the South Sudan’s former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and serves as a ‘think-tank’ for president Kiir’s government, issued a strong worded statement this week condemning IGAD for the proposal. They said this would divide the country into different entities.

But Machar’s rebel faction instead blamed the government for pushing IGAD into this type of proposal, saying the opposition faction had never proposed to only share power in the three greater Upper Nile states of Unity, Jonglei and Upper Nile.

“We have never in our peace position paper asked to share power only in the three states of the former greater Upper Nile region,” rebel leader’s press secretary, James Gatdet Dak, told Sudan Tribune on Saturday.

“We have been demanding power sharing across the country’s 10 or proposed 21 federal states,” Dak said.

He said it was a strong belief of the rebel movement that fundamental issues that needed reforms were across the country and should therefore be applied in the whole country but not exclusively for the current three states of greater Upper Nile region.

Dak blamed the government for attempting to narrow down the causes of the root causes of the crisis or change to only Upper Nile region, saying IGAD probably picked this idea of singling out the region from the similar arguments presented by the government on the negotiation table.

“For instance, the regime has been arguing that security arrangements should be confined to the three states of greater Upper Nile region. They denied the fact that other regions have similar grievances and that there is war already spreading to these two regions of Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria. The regime refused to share power with us in the two regions on the basis of this argument. So IGAD picked the idea and singled out Upper Nile region. It is the regime to blame for this,” he said.

He said the rebel position had clearly spelt out how the power sharing should be applied at the national executive and legislative organs as well as in all states of the country, adding he hoped the government will now come to terms with this proposed nationwide arrangement.

He further pointed out that the opposition leadership also rejected any move that would fragment the country into pieces.

The rebel leader’s spokesman said the rebel leadership also called on IGAD to review the proposal by applying power sharing ratios in all the states of the country, in addition to the power-sharing at the national level, in the executive and in the two houses of the national legislature.

Peace talks aimed to end the 19-month long civil war is expected to resume this mid-July in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, under a new mediation mechanism of IGAD-Plus which will involve countries and bodies beyond the African content.