By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
March 30, 2011 (BENTIU) - Unity state’s spokesman for state government Gideon Gatpan Thaor confirmed to the state citizens on Wednesday that Maj.General Peter Gatdet has left South Sudan’s official army (SPLA) in an apparent rebellion against the southern government.
The state official condemned the move saying that resorting to violence is not the right way to resolve South Sudan’s differences.
The defection of Peter Gatdet Yaka from the southern sudan army is added to the growing list of rebels taking up arms against Juba government ahead of independence in July.
Thaor said that the Unity state government condemned Gatdet’s saying that the South should be looking to embrace peace and harmony ahead of the regions secession after the overwhelming vote for seperation in January.
The spokesmen said that any grievances should be achieved through a negotiated settlement.
Peter Gatdet was the deputy SPLA divisional commander in Northern Bahr el Ghazal before his defection but has a long history of switching sides.
During the Sudan’s second civil war (1983-2005), he became militia leader under Paulino Matip’s top commander in the battles for Unity state and its oilfields. Nonetheless in 1999, he then returned to the SPLA before defecting back to the Khartoum government’s side in 2002.
His defections during the war always drastically shifted the balance of power over who controlled Unity state. Since 2005, he was used by the SPLA as a field commander both in Abyei clashes in 2008 and the clashes in Malakal with forces loyal to Gabriel Tanginye in 2009.
According to SPLA spokesman Philip Aguer, Peter Gatdet took an official leave to Nairobi for medical treatment, but once arrived there, he took a plane to Khartoum. Since he did not respond to SPLA attempts to contact him.
The SPLA accuses the Sudanese Armed Forces of being responsible for his flight to Khartoum, but SAF Spokesman Al Sawarmi Khalid has denied General Gatdet is in the northern capital. It is assumed that the renegade commander will try to mobilize forces in his home area of Unity state, where he fought throughout the war.
It is not clear if he will join hands with other rebels in the state – Gatluak Gai, Bapiny Monytuel and Gai Yaoch, all of whom also fought under Paulino Matip during the war. That rebel force are thought to currently be led on the ground by Matthew Puol Jang. Matip has not defected and still retains his position of Deputy Commander in Chief of the SPLA, which he gained in 2006 when his forces merged with SPLA after the 2005 peace deal with Khartoum.
Thaor said that the Unity state’s security organs have established contact with Gatdet’s close allies, who acknowledged their defection but have refused to disclose the intentions of their rebellion.
Thaor added that General Gatdet is known as a charismatic leader and talented mobilizer, and the state hopes he chooses other means to express his discontent. The state spokesman said that these issues should be addressed through national consensus and constitutional means instead of violence.
The political situation remains tense in Unity state since April 2010. Many citizens rejected the election of Governor Taban Deng Gai, believing that the vote was rigged against his main rival Angelina Teny the wife of South Sudan vice president Riek Machar.
Gadet joins a growing group of rebels across South Sudan, which appears to be forming a coalition under the leadership of former SPLA deputy chief of staff George Athor, who accuses the government of rigging last year’s elections.