3 August 2013

Sudan: Juba, Ex-Rebels in Talks to Integrate Over 5,000 Fighters

Photo: Hannah McNeish/IRIN
People displaced by clashes in South Sudan'’s Jonglei State wait for a food distribution in Pibor.

Juba — South Sudan has started talks with its former rebels who recently responded to amnesty calls from the country's leader, Salva Kiir.

The leadership of South Sudan Liberation Army, South Sudan Democratic Army and South Sudan Defense Forces declared peace with the government of South Sudan, effective 26 April.

As a result, 5,000 SSLA forces moved to Unity state's Mayom county as part of the peace process, a few days after Kiir issued amnesty to all rebels to facilitate peace in the country.

The president, in his appeal, vowed to pardon all rebels commanders and their soldiers, regardless of the crimes they may have committed during the rebellion.

Military officials told Sudan Tribune that discussions on how to integrate over the 5,000 ex-fighters, which began on 2 August, is another milestone in peace efforts.

Kiir recently formed a committee headed by Thomas Cirilo to look into demands from these ex-rebels and negotiate integration modalities. Five other senior officers from South Sudan army (SPLA) sit on the same committee.

The ex-rebels are represented by Johnson Uliny, Carlo Kuol, Tut Gatluak, Gordon Buay, Chol Nyawilo, John Odok and Louise Gol.

A proposal, a copy of which Sudan Tribune accessed, seeks to ensure that former combatants from the ex-rebels groups become part of the army and police forces after the integration mordalities have been ironed out.

"Yes, it is true we started the process yesterday [Friday]. We received their demands and it is being studied by the general command. They have a lot of officers, 2, 652 officers. They have 6 Lieutenant Generals, 18 Major Generals, 34 Brigadier Generals, 122 Colonels and 128 Lieutenant Colonels", a senior military officer said.

It is a huge force, which will definitely require an honest dialogue and understanding to make reduction, added the officer, who preferred anonymity.

The committee will, according to military sources, submit their finding to the army chief of general staff, who will then forward it to the president, once discussions are concluded.

Analysts have described the move to integrate ex-rebels into the military as a way of attaining last peace and stability in the oil-producing nation, with an estimated 12 million people.

Meanwhile, Gordon Buay, who identified himself as the official spokesperson for the two ex-rebel groups, confirmed that discussions had indeed started with government.

"We have given the government our proposal. They will study [it] and return with the response, which we will come and see whether it has met our demands. So our demands are subject for discussions", Buay told Sudan Tribune on Saturday.

"We bargain with them as you exchange positions. This is how it will work", he added.

Buay, during the interview, also confirmed the number of former fighters within their ranks, but stressed that nine politicians within the group will have to be absorbed into government as part of the comprehensive conflict resolution deal.

"We have five politicians from Baping Monytuil's group and four from Johnson's camp. There are therefore nine politicians in total. They do not have separate demands. Their demands have been included in the proposal, which has been given to the government and we are waiting for the response", he said.

It is not clear what kind of positions the ex-rebels demand, given the current government's preference of a lean cabinet within its austerity budget.

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