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ADDIS ABABA - 24 Mar 2014

Politics: More defections to Machar group

Several former officials of the South Sudanese government have announced joining the SPLM/A faction led by Riek Machar, the country’s ousted vice president.

Tijwok Agwet Athar, former advisor to the president on religious affairs, alongside another Shilluk official Gwado Ador, former research director at the Information Ministry, made their move to the Machar group in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

One of the members of the SPLM/A Machar faction negotiating team, Puot Kang Chol, confirmed the move, as well as Athar himself.

“We did join the SPLM/A-in-Opposition,” the former presidential advisor told Radio Tamazuj, saying the move was officially declared on 18 March.

He has called for the release of political detainees in keeping with the agreement signed in Addis Ababa on 24 January, saying that the December arrests of Shilluk politicians Pag’an Amum, Oyai Deng and Adwok Nyaba appeared tribally motivated.

Another politician from Equatoria, Wani Tombe, announced separately joining the SPLM/A group led by Machar. In a 22 March press statement, Tombe declared the formation of the ‘Greater Equatoria Council of Rights (GRECOR),’ saying it will join the armed opposition group in ongoing negotiations in the Ethiopian capital.

Tombe’s statement called for Equatorians to rally behind the leadership of Riek Machar, saying the political programme of Machar is “consistent with the comprehensive and detailed aspirations of the peoples of the Equatoria region.”

Support for Equatorian leadership

Former Presidential Advisor Tijwok Agwet argues that neither Machar nor President Kiir should be president of the country. “We the Nilotics have failed; give chance to Equatorians to try,” he wrote in a statement on 6 February, referring to the Nuer and Dinka tribes, as well as his own, the Shilluk, which are considered Nilotic.

Agwet argues that leaders of the Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile regions failed the country and “are to be advised to leave the idea of becoming Presidents for the Republic of South Sudan at the moment till election time.

“People of Greater Equatoria, being the most peaceful in the Republic of South Sudan, are to be advised to come out with candidates for presidency and the chief of general staff of the army (SPLA). They will put the army and governance systems in order. And will conduct a fair, peaceful and just election for whoever would want to contest for presidency,” he said.

“The other regions are urge to rally behind them with the same loyalty they had for us all these years… The new leadership must be given 2-3 years,” he emphasized, adding that those who lead in the interim period should not contest for political positions thereafter.

File photo: Members of the SPLM/A in Opposition at the opening of peace talks in Addis Ababa, 4 January 2014 (Reuters)