Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rebel Commander Rejects Separate Dialogue With South Sudan’s Gov’t
May 28, 2015 (JUBA) - A leading South Sudanese armed opposition commander allied to the former vice president, Riek Machar, has confirmed receiving messages and contacts from people in president Salva Kiir’s government proposing to him and his group to accept going into a parallel dialogue with the government.

Major General Dau Aturjong who commands rebel forces in Northern Bahr el Ghazla said he had been approached many times by government officials and agents to initiate a separate negotiation with him away from the Addis Ababa peace process.

“They have been trying to talk to us with the view that we get into separate negotiation from Addis [Ababa] with them. They want to localize our grievances but we have told them clearly that we are part of the national matters, which are being discussed in Addis by our team,”, General Aturjong told Sudan Tribune in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

The government, according to him, had been contacting him and his group through different categories of people and organizations to persuade them to make a separate arrangement with Juba.

“They have never stopped contacting us through different category of people. They are using relatives, religious leaders, my comrades in the army, police and security as well as business people,” he explained.

He also said his troops, which size is not known, have taken complete control of areas near the Sudanese border, but denied that he and his forces were getting support from the government of neighbouring Sudan.

His own headquarters, he said, has been 250 kilometers away from the common border with neighbouring Sudan in an area deeply inside South Sudanese territory since he moved to the region in 2014.

He dismissed allegations that his forces were stationed at disputed territories with Sudan and not inside South Sudan.

“Our forces are outside the disputed areas. We are not in Mile 14 area. We are inside South Sudan, far away from the disputed areas. If there is anybody who is looking for us, he will get us here,” he said.

General Aturjong was reacting to a question asking him to comment on reports that his forces had only taken advantage of the withdrawal of the government forces from the disputed territories and that he had been receiving military supplies, weapons and training from the Sudanese army in Abu Matareq in East Darfur state.

He appealed to the humanitarian organisations to go to the area, saying a lot of people had moved to areas under his control and were helping them to settle so that they could cultivate during this planting season.

People, he said, were running away from the government controlled areas to the opposition held territories, adding this was where they could find a way to cope with the situation.

“They say life in Aweil town and other areas is not easy. They are finding it extremely difficult. They cannot cultivate. But here, they can find a place to cultivate. There is a vast area for cultivation,” he claimed.

He further explained that the opposition appointed governor, Akol Madhan Akol, and his officials were working with the opposition leadership in Pagak to find ways in which humanitarian organisations could extend relief assistance to Northern Bahr el Ghazal state.

He said many vulnerable people were coming to the rebel controlled areas in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, adding they needed shelters, food and items like blankets, saucepans, mosquito net, hoes, axes and farming implements.

The rebel commander also commended Sudanese authorities for opening their gate to South Sudanese fleeing the conflict and other associated difficulties to states in Sudan in search of safety and security.


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