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South Sudanese president grants rebel leader amnesty

September 4, 2017 (JUBA) - South Sudan president Salva Kiir has granted amnesty to Thomas Cirilo Swaka, a former military general who quit the Juba government in March to form a rebel movement.

Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirilo Swaka, the ex-SPLA deputy chief of general staff for training (youtube photo)

The presidential adviser on military affairs, Daniel Awet Akot said it was now up to the Swaka to accept and respond to the pardon.

“Cirilo has been granted amnesty by the president and we hope he will respond. The issues he raised will be addressed through the national dialogue”, Akot said on Monday.

The aide further was the rebel leader was free to rejoin the country’s ruling party (SPLM) or form his political party as provided for in the constitution to “enhance pluralism and democracy in the country”.

In March, Swaka, a former deputy chief of staff for logistics, formed a new rebel group, opposed to the Juba regime under President Kiir.

Swaka, who now heads the National Salvation Front (NAS), quit the military, accusing its leadership of running the army on ethnic lines.

“The National Salvation Front (NAS) is convinced that to restore sanity and normalcy in our country, Kiir must go, he must vacate the office without further bloodshed,” he partly wrote in a six page letter.

The former army official vowed to ensure all means are used to restore law, order and ensure respect for human rights in the country.

“It is in this spirit of dedication to the cause of our people that I, General Thomas Cirillo Swaka, on behalf of the National Salvation Front, solemnly declare the launching of the National Salvation Front (NAS) on this 6th Day of March, 2017,” further noted Swaka’s letter.

He also claimed the country was dominated by Dinka tribe and the army turned into a tribal militia that "targets non-Dinka ethnicities".

Last month, South Sudan released at least 30 political prisoners following an amnesty President Kiir had declared in May to facilitate the national dialogue initiative created to reconcile warring parties.

Analysts say the move to free the former political detainees without any pre-condition demonstrated Kiir’s determination to resolve the country’s civil war.

South Sudan has experienced violence since December 2013 when political disagreements between President Kiir and the nation’s former First Vice-President saw the nation split along ethnic lines.

Tens of thousands of people have died and over two million displaced in South Sudan’s worst ever violence since its independence.