August 13, 2015 (JUBA) - South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar is in negotiations with some of the senior commanders with whom he had political and security disagreements over the approach to handle the talks with the government, revealed assistant press officer in the rebel camp.
- Riek Machar sits in his field office in a rebel controlled territory in Jonglei State February 1, 2014. (Photo/Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
Rebel commanders led by Peter Gatdet Yak, former deputy chief of general staff for operations in the rebel movement and Gathoth Gatkuoth, former deputy chief of general staff for logistics, both of whom were relieved from the positions last month by Machar, announced at a press conference in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on Tuesday to have” denounced and disowned” Machar from the leadership of the rebel movement.
It was not immediately clear how many officers attended the conference, although unverified reports indicated Maj. Gen. Gabriel Tanginye, Maj. Gen. Chuol Gakah, Maj. Gen. Gathoth Gatkuoth, Maj. Gen. Malith Gatluak and Brigadier Gen. Gatwec Puoc were among those who have declared their defection.
Five other politicians allegedly issued a separate statement announcing their support to the decision of the commanders in which they claimed to have dismissed Machar.
Former minister of youth, culture and sports, Gabriel Changson Chang, their ring leader, Timothy Tot Chol, Thomas Thoan Teny, Michael Mariew Dhuor and Gabriel Yoal Dok were said to have been among those who issued the statement denouncing the manner in which Machar had managed the leadership and the movement.
Several opposition figures have in response to the defection downplayed the significance of the decision of the rebel commanders and accused the government of having allegedly played a role to create a rift between the members of the opposition leadership using all means available at its disposal, including the use of monetary enticement by way of bribery to defecting officers and members of their families.
Dickson Gatluak Jock, who claimed to be assistant press secretary in the office of the armed opposition leader, Machar, said the press release denouncing his boss was not written and sent by the commanders but politicians wanting to pull the commanders out from the movement and against Machar in order to divert his vision, reduce his dignity from the entire Nuer community and South Sudan at large.
“This is to let him go. The sacrifices he made for the sake of his nation to go in vain. Their objectives are meant to spoil an anticipated peace agreement which may be signed in the coming 17th of this month”, said Jock in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Thursday.
The aide of the opposition leader, however, asserted that obstructing peace wouldn’t make sense because it’s the demand from the public in South Sudan rather than individual interest.
He said Machar had already sent a team to Khartoum to negotiate the return of the defected rebel commander, Peter Gatdet Yak.
"As I am writing, Peter Gatdet is in Khartoum, Sudan, engaging in negotiating with the team sent to him by the chairman of SPLM/A Dr. Riek Machar to get him back to Pagak as well as the Nuer elders over there,” he said.
He admitted that there were differences between Machar and commanders but these differences, he explained, could have been addressed in the recent consultative conference held at the headquarters of the opposition group inside South Sudanese territory at the border with neighbouring Ethiopia.
“Yes there were differences sometimes back when the two generals were relieved but the leadership in Pagak during the consultative meeting ironed out all these issues and resolved that the generals would be assigned to other positions with in the SPLA IO military headquarters. These are normal ways of making thing in the system,” he added.
“If they accept to dialogue and present their complaints to the leadership of the movement, then they will be reassigned”, he explained.
The rebel official charged that “elements that are running up and down to create division within the movement for their own personal interest would not be given room.”