JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN —
Some 800 rebels belonging to a group blamed for attacks in Upper Nile state over the past two years have accepted an amnesty offer from the South Sudanese government and are handing over their weapons, officials said Wednesday.
The surrender comes two months after some 5,000 fighters from the South Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM),
led by Brigadier General Bapiny Monytuel, took up the amnesty offer from South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.
"They have decided that enough is enough for the internal conflict, which has no real basis. So the best option is to make peace with the people and the government of South Sudan, and there are no conditions for that," South Sudan Army spokesman Philip Aguer said.
Under the amnesty offer, rebels who surrender cannot be prosecuted.
The rebels who surrendered Wednesday belong to a group led by Major General Johnson Olony, which, according to a 2011 Human Rights Watch report, was engaged in a series of battles in and around Malakal in the same year in which at least 65 civilians were killed.
The report by the rights group says 45 rebels and soldiers also died in the fighting.
Aguer said Olony's fighters have remained active since those attacks, operating out of bases in Sudan’s White Nile and South Kordofan states. Khartoum has repeatedly denied harboring or supporting rebel groups fighting in South Sudan.
The rebels' surrender indicates that the latest amnesty offer from Kiir is working, Aguer said.
"It is a victory to peace for the people of South Sudan, particularly in Upper Nile and Shilluk kingdom," Aguer said.
"That is the real peace that the people of South Sudan want so that they can focus on development and progress after a long, bitter struggle for freedom and equality."
Kiir first offered amnesty to rebel groups when he took office in 2011 and renewed the offer in April.
Among the most obstinate holdouts are rebels led by David Yau Yau, who are fighting government forces in Jonglei state.
Yau Yau has repeatedly said he is not interested
in the amnesty offer, which he has dismissed as a joke.
But Aguer said community leaders in Jonglei continue to negotiate with Yau Yau's fighters behind the scenes, to try to convince them to accept the president's offer and lay down arms.