Athor’s spokesman to negotiate with South Sudan government

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By Ngor Arol Garang

April 28, 2011 (WAU) — Dok James Puok, spokesperson of the renegade George Athor Deng with senior members from the rebellion today broke away from their rebel group, saying he would form a separate faction to negotiate ways to resolve differences created by April elections with the Government of South Sudan (GoSS).

George Athor was one of the senior Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) members, who rebelled after losing the gubernatorial election to the incumbent Jonglei state governor, Kuol Manyang Juuk, in April 2010.

Since launching his rebellion, on 30 April 2010, accusing the SPLM of rigging elections in favour of his main competitor, forces loyal to him clashed on several occasions with forces belonging to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in his home county of Khorfulus, Jonglei state.

Secretary General for Information and Communications of the rebel South Sudan Democratic Movement (SSDM) said on Thursday he submitted his resignation to General Athor five days ago.

"I have resigned from the South Sudan Democratic Movement. The reasons for which I resigned from being official spokesman are what I have said earlier. I have resigned because of lack of strategic planning, lack of clear vision and lack of administrative reform within the movement since it came into existence", said Puok.

He said he would form another faction in the course of one week with other five SSDM members, to negotiate with GoSS on how to end differences created by last April’s elections.

"We will form a separate faction which shall be called South Sudan Democratic Movement for Reform (SSDMR). Our aims are reach peaceful settlement with the Government of South Sudan if they are ready to talk", said Puok.

He said he realised that enemies of peace and Southern stability have taken advantage of differences created by elections and that it is not his intention to go against the interests of people to South Sudan or to sabotage hoisting of flag of the new nation.

The resignation of the senior rebel movement coincided with the media reports that General Athor formed a government in which he said he would be the president and Abdel Bagi Ayii Akol as vice president. It was claimed that the new rebel government would rebel the SPLM led government in Juba. Several attempts by Sudan Tribune on Thursday to reach George Athor on his satellite phone in his hideout failed.

Atem Biar, a senior member of the SPLM, in an interview with Sudan Tribune from Juba described the rebel government as a worthless media stunt.

"These are just empty dream to draw only media attention. Where are they? Where are Athor and Abdel Bagi Ayii Akol at the moment? With whom can they form this imaginary government? Athor is on the run and hiding without single soldier left with him and so is Abdel Bagi, I am told none of his sons followed him," said Atem.

Puok was among the senior members of the movement who were negotiating the peace with GoSS before the two forces clashed in February and again in March 2011.

The South Sudan President in October 2010 issued an executive order pardoning him and his group. Forces of others dissidents including Gabriel Tanginye were also covered by the order. However, Athor asked the president to modify the order to cover the fate of his armed forces and political allies.

In December, the president issued another order forming peace committee led bishops of the Episcopal and Roman Catholic church of Sudan and armed generals to negotiate a way forward, to end the conflict in the area. The committee met and held meeting with Athor in his hideout and returned with recommendation containing his reservations to the president. Acting on the advice submitted by the committee, GoSS in January signed a ceasefire and agreed on the process to integrate forces of Athor into the SPLA.