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Family member blames Unity State government for former rebel leader’s death

Bonifacio Taban
The family of Gatluak Gai has blamed the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) for involvement in the killing of the former rebel leader, who had signed a peace deal with South Sudan’s military only five days earlier.
27.07.2011  |  Bentiu
John Nguanyeat Gai Gatwich Kuey, brother of Gen. Gatluak Gai, who was killed Saturday.
John Nguanyeat Gai Gatwich Kuey, brother of Gen. Gatluak Gai, who was killed Saturday.

Marko Chuol Ruei, second in command of the renegade South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), has claimed responsibility for the death of his boss, Gatluak Gai, who would have been integrated into the national military as part of the peace agreement.

During a radio interview the day after Gai’s death, his deputy expressed willingness to re-establish peace negotiations with the SPLA.  

According to Ruei, Gai instructed his troops on 22 July to dishonour the agreement, refuse integration into the SPLA and join northern Sudanese forces to attack the newly independent South Sudan.

Reached in Bentiu, Nguanyeat Gai Kuey denied allegations that his brother had a plan to stage another rebellion in the region, saying the Unity State government had a hand in the former rebel’s killing.  

Nguanyeat Gai said his brother was attacked because of his promotion to the rank of Lieutenant General in the SPLA, which angered his comrades.   

The exact circumstances of Gai’s killing have not been verified. Nguanyeat claims his brother was ambushed in Pakur, Koch County, after his deputy had separate talks with the SPLA.

Nyalony Tod Weal, Gai’s widow, said a group of women hauling water early Saturday encountered a group of SPLA and rebel militia troops who had surrounded the rebels’ barracks.   

Her husband’s bodyguard, she went on, advised him and his family to escape from the area. Once they were about 100 meters away, they heard gunfire. At that point, Gai went in a different direction from his children and was then shot, she said.  

The Khartoum government has been widely believed to support rebel groups in South Sudan. Ruei claims the SSLA had been in contact with Khartoum for munitions supply. However, this assistance was contingent on the SSLA joining forces with other militias headed by Peter Gatdet and Bapiny Monytuel.

Ruei said the SSLA, under his command, is now truly committed” to peace. He denied claims that the SPLA killed Gatluak Gai.

The SSLA’s localised rebellion began after Angelina Teny, the wife of South Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar, defeated Taban Deng Gai in the gubernatorial election of April 2010. Gatluak Gai reportedly wanted a position as county commissioner under Taban Deng Gai.

Gai was believed to be in his 50s and is survived by many children.

It is unclear how many other rebel leaders will respond to President Salva Kiir’s offer of amnesty, which he reiterated on South Sudan’s day of independence.