April 3, 2012 (BOR) - South Sudan’s vice president, Riek Machar, confirmed his apology for his 1991 defection from Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M), which led to the killing of thousands of people from Dinka Bor ethnic group.
- South Sudan’s VP, Riek Machar (left) and Jonglei state governor, Kuol Manyang (right) leaving Bor conference hall, Jonglei, April 3, 2012 (ST)
“So those, of us, who have survived and who seen painful things during the war, we need to kick off the process of national reconciliation”, Machar said in Bor on Tuesday during a peace workshop held to reconcile the warring ethnic groups in Jonglei state
Before a 2005 peace deal, which led to the establishment of the state of South Sudan in July 2011, the SPLA were a rebel group fighting Khartoum. They were led by the late John Garang, who died in helicopter crash in 2005.
In 1991 there was disagreement between Garang and Machar and Lam Akol, who held senior positions in the rebel group. In August that year the two formed SPLA-Nasir - after the area where they were based - with the intention of becoming the main faction of the SPLA and deposing Garang.
Despite attempting to attract support from across South Sudan the splinter group on managed to attract significant support from Machar’s Nuer tribe as well as some other smaller groups including Akol’s Shilluk tribe in Upper Nile.
On 15 November 1991 Machar’s forces attacked the Bor area of Jonglei, the home of John Garang’s Dinka Bor ethnic group, in what became known as the Bor massacre, with hundreds reportedly killed and thousands displaced.
Machar rejoined the SPLA/M in 2002 and in 2005 after Garang’s death he was appointed to the Vice President of South Sudan by Salva Kiir who had been the number two in the movement up to that point.
Machar first apologised for his part in the Bor Massacre in August 2011 when addressing community leaders in Juba on the 20 year anniversary of his defection to form SPLA-Nasir.
Machar said that his apology would bring unity to the Dinka and Nuer tribes. Tribalism is still a major issues in South Sudan, illustrated recently with clashes between Dinka students and those from Central Equatoria at Juba University last week.
“Giving an apology is the best way of bringing in peace. We don’t want to pass these painful things to our children. We want them to be living in a peaceful and democratic state in South Sudan,” said Machar.
The main conflict in Jonglei since 2005 has been between the Nuer and Murle ethnic groups, with the Dinka reportedly taking part in the recent raids against the Murle alongside the Nuer.
In January the UN estimated that from December 2011 the conflict caused the displacement of 120,000 people.