South Sudan rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar are denying reports of a split in their ranks. This came as Gathoth Gatkuoth and Peter Gadet, top rebel commanders, announced Tuesday that they had split with Machar’s forces.
The two generals said they will now be fighting against both Machar’s rebels and the South Sudan army.
Rebel spokesman Stephen Par Kuol said there is no split in the rebel movement but rather a defection by what he calls two “disgruntled” generals who have been reshuffled out of the rebel command hierarchy.
“There is a difference between a split and defections. What we are seeing is defection of some disgruntled generals who have been reshuffled out of our command hierarchy. They have not been dismissed yet as members of the movement, but what we have seen from the way they talk, they irresponsibly issue statements, you have to call it defection not a split,” he said.
Maj. General Peter Gadet was one of two South Sudan generals sanctioned last May by the United States Treasury Department because of their roles in the ongoing civil war, which began December 2013.
The rebels fired Gadet and Gathkuoth last month, but Par Kuol said the sacking has nothing to do with the generals being sanctioned.
“This has nothing to do with that. We as a movement, we supported them; they have been part of our fighting force since December 2013, and we have not betrayed them. They are the ones who have betrayed the movement,” Par Kuol said.
The two renegade generals have accused rebel leader Machar of seeking power for himself. But Kuol said Machar launched the rebel movement for a better South Sudan.
“Dr. Riek Machar has never taking to the bush of South Sudan to seek power. He was dismissed as a vice president and he was calling for calm and harmony among the people of South Sudan until he was wrongfully accused of a coup which was eventually dismissed in court by the current dictator Salva Kiir Mayardit. Dr. Riek Machar has been seeking peace since then,” Kuol said.
He described as a “fairy tale” the announcement by the two renegade generals that they will now fight against both the government and rebel forces.
A new round of peace talks kicked off this month in Addis Ababa but this time under a mandate by once again under the regional eight-nation bloc the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to reach a deal by August 17.
Some of the key differences include demilitarization of the capital, Juba, and how much power each side will wield in a transitional government.
Gadet and Gathkuoth have also announced their rejection to any peace deal that will come out of the talks.
Par Kuol refused to predict a positive outcome.
“What you and your audience need to understand is that this is not a simple program designed by one person. This is a regional initiative to resolve the conflict in South Sudan,” Par Kuol said.