January 3, 2012 (LONDON) - South Sudan’s newest rebel movement has told Sudan Tribune that it plans attack the capital Juba within the month and denies it is backed by Khartoum.
The leader of the South Sudan People Liberation Movement/Army (SSPLM/A), Tong Lual Ayat, claims to have a force of 5,000 soldiers and plans to double that figure with new recruits and defections from the South Sudanese military (SPLA).
Ayat, a former member of South Sudan’s ruling party - the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) - said that he had begun his rebellion because of the corrupt and ineffective way the country is being governed by President Salva Kiir.
South Sudan became independent in July 2011 under Kiir’s leadership, as part of a 2005 peace deal with north Sudan.
Like other rebellions in South Sudan the new group state corruption, bad governance and lack of human rights and freedoms as some of the reasons for their insurgency.
But in a departure from the aims of other rebels the SSPLM/A declared in its manifesto at the end of December that it wanted to South Sudan to revert being governed by Khartoum under a confederation.
However, following the "negative reactions" to the announcement the nascent movement scrapped the idea just days later.
The Unity and Jonglei state-based South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), the country’s most active rebel group, shortly after the original announcement said that they opposed confederation.
"The people of South Sudan voted overwhelmingly for separation and nobody can reverse that. The democratic choice of the people of South Sudan has to be respected" the SSLA’s Bapiny Monytuil told Sudan Tribune.
The SSLA warned Ayat that if he did not change his manifesto other southern rebels would not cooperate with him.
The hastily dropped proposal, Ayat said, was for the two Sudan’s to create a European or East African Community type system.
Ayat said that because of these concerns the article had been dropped and replaced with a statement calling for "regime change in Juba."
"Any inconvenience caused by this article is sincerely regretted", the group said in a 1 January press release.
In 2009 Ayat left the ruling SPLM and formed the United Democratic Party (UDP) but claims he was arrested for starting the new party and subsequently his party did not join the government after the 2010 elections.
In a email to Sudan Tribune on 1 January, Ayat said that South Sudanese were fed up with the current government and the country needed an alternative. The SSPLM/A’s planned attack on Juba will be called "Rescue South Sudan from Oppressors", he said.
Ayat says that he has no connection with Khartoum and is trying to form a coalition with other rebel and opposition groups in South Sudan as well as encourage defections from the army.
Juba and Khartoum have routinely accused each other of backing the rebel groups in each others territory.
The new rebels claim to be based in Renk in Upper Nile state near the border with north Sudan.
Renk and Juba are at other ends of the country, with Juba close to the border with Uganda. The SSPLM/A would have to travel around 800km through difficult terrain to reach Juba.
Similar warnings, given by other rebel groups that they were going imminently attack and take control of major towns in South Sudan have, so far, not transpired.