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Mixed results for South Sudanese amnesty

JUBA - Some rebels have laid down arms following an amnesty from South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit. But more than a year after the president offered rebels an olive branch, violence continues and criticism of his plan is mounting.

Peter Gadet Yak returned to Juba for integration into the SPLA after he denounced rebellion.
© The Niles | Akim Mugisa

When South Sudan became a country in its own right, President Salva Kiir Mayardit pledged amnesty to rebels laying down their arms.
 
Now, almost 14 months later, some militias have voluntarily ceded their weapons but violence continues to flare in the border regions. The amnesty has failed to achieve its goals and critics say the government’s plan was not specific enough.
 
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Peter Gadet Yak of South Sudan’s Liberation Army (SSLA) that operated in Unity State was quick to respond to Kiir’s amnesty, laying down arms less than a month after the announcement.
 
After meeting emissaries of President Kiir in Nairobi, Gadet returned to Juba and joined the army as a Major General.
 
SSLA spokesperson Bol Gatkouth Kol said that the move was in response to the amnesty offered by the president.
 
Gatkouth explained that his group was interested in making peace with the government, arguing that “genuine” peace was possible with Juba authorities.
 
But last year’s amnesty has not always managed to quell the violence. Prior to Gadet’s surrender, another Unity State-based militia leader, Gatluak Gai, was killed under mysterious circumstances shortly after striking a deal with the government.

While his family blamed the government for his death, part of his group claimed responsibility as well, before appointing James Gai Yoach as their new leader.

In another sign of the amnesty’s mixed results, the surrender of militia head David Yau Yau and his fighters last year proved short-lived. He returned to the bush before South Sudan marked its first independence anniversary.

Jonglei State Governor, Koul Manyang Juuk blames Yau Yau for the attack on SPLA troops in Pibor County.
© The Niles | Akim Mugisa
Fighters loyal to the militia leader, on August 26, attacked Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) troops in Pibor County of Jonglei State killing 24 soldiers, wounding 12 others while more than 17 went missing.
 
The State Governor, Kuol Manyang Juuk, said the attackers included armed civilians believed to be from Yau Yau’s Murle ethnic tribe.
 
SPLA Spokesman, Philip Aguer Panyang confirmed the incident saying a force of 200 men was ambushed during a mission to verify reports on the presence of Yau Yau troops in Pibor.
 
“The attack on the SPLA force was conducted by elements of Khartoum based Yau Yau and was suspected to have been joined by some of the youth refusing to disarm,” says Aguer.
 
According to the army spokesman, the militia group infiltrated the borders of South Sudan in July and repeatedly clashed with the SPLA which managed to expel them from the Adar oil field.
 
He added that a decision to send troops to Pibor followed reports of recruitment and intimidation of locals refusing to cooperate with the rebels.
 
Col. Philip Aguer Panyang, South Sudan’s military Spokesman.
© The Niles | Akim Mugisa
Aguer disclosed that the SPLA suffered two causalities in early August after mercenaries reportedly backed by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) entered into Upper Nile and occupied a farm owned by a Sudanese man in Renk.
 
He said that the SPLA was refraining from pending settlement of border issues still on the negotiation table in Addis Ababa.
 
“Division One of the army is able to clear them. We also know Khartoum is in a conspiracy and is renewing identification cards of 700 South Sudanese who were in SAF,” Aguer remarked.
 
But among those sceptical of the amnesty, Executive Director for Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation, Edmund Yakani, argues that the offer will backfire as it lacks a clear time frame.
 
“Amnesties that have no specific period promote impunity. For example, I can come today to lay down weapons but later go back and continue committing atrocities,” said Yakani.
 
He noted that president Salva Kiir should reconsider the offer if war crimes and crimes against humanity are to be addressed.
 
Yakani emphasised that the government should tackle insecurity, as lack of peace was affecting the provision of basic social services in the country.
 
Barnaba Marial Benjamin, South Sudan Government Spokesperson and Minister for Information and Broadcasting.
© The Niles | Akim Mugisa
Government Spokseman, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, says South Sudan is concerned about rebel activities but the government sought to maintain a favourable environment to promote dialogue and peace.
 
Marial said the amnesty was still open and some groups had already shared their demands with the government. Although he did not disclose the demands, former groups insisted they were fighting what they termed as a corrupt and tribal government.
 
Marial reiterated that some militias had already benefited from the amnesty, including Yau Yau, who later defected again. “The process of achieving peace and reconciliation requires patience and confidence building among the parties,” said the government spokesman.
 
He accused the Khartoum government of trying to fan tensions in the South.
 
South Sudan and Sudan accuse each other of supporting rebels. A security plan has dominated talks facilitated by the African Union (AU) in Ethiopia.
 
While Juba blames Khartoum of harbouring, supporting and arming militias to destabilise the South, Sudan says its young neighbour backs Darfur’s Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) fighters.
 
Sudan also insists that SPLM-N rebels of Malik Agar in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states were receiving support from the government in South Sudan.


The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or opinions of the publishers of www.theniles.org

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