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SPLM-IO rebukes calls for Equatorians to join Bakasoro & Cirilo

August 2, 2018 (JUBA) - The spokesperson of the main armed opposition group has reprimanded Equatorians calling on SPLM-IO members from the greater Equatoria to join two groups led by opposition leader from the region and to quit Machar group.

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Lam Paul Gabriel

As the signing of a revitalized peace agreement is approaching, there are calls in the social media for Equatorians to join two groups led by two Equatrians: former governor Joseph Bangazi Bakasoro and former army General Thomas.

The calls claimed that the two leaders can better defend the interests of the region and its people while Machar was presented as concerned only by the Nuer interests.

SPLM-IO Deputy Spokesperson Lam Paul Gabriel who is from the Equatoria issued a strongly worded statement refuting such calls are not only "fallacy and hypocritical" but also "a blatant expression of inferiority complex".

He recalled that when the Equatoria youth rebelled against Juba in 2014 and joined the SPLM-IO Bakasoro and Cirilo were part of the regime and reiterated their unwavering support to President Salva Kiir.

"These all happened when the likes of Bakasoro and Thomas Cirillo were with Salva’s regime, fighting us in different ways including but not limited to calling us names such as bandits, criminals, disgrace to Equatoria, opportunists etc," he said adding. "We were hunted and some were captured, tortured and brutally killed by our Equatorian brothers who were and are in the Government".

The Equatorians even before the independence of South Sudan started to complain from unjustified attacks by the SPLA soldier who were generally from the Dinka tribe and land grabbing. Also, they suffered the lack of justice despite the widespread attacks by Dinka cattle herders.

Call by Riek Machar for democratic reforms including a federal system guaranteeing the right of local groups was seen as a good option to avoid the "ethnic domination" established by the tribal group of President Salva Kiir which also constitutes the majority of South Sudan population.

Gabriel further rejected the call to join Bakasoro and Cirillo because they are "the sons or daughters of Equatoria" saying their decision to join the SPLM-IO was their initiative not that of Machar.

"If you are able to look at Dr Machar as a Nuer, what’s the guarantee that you will not look at anyone as an Acholi, Zande, Bari etc? Tribal mindset is negative for politics and it is a source of corruption, nepotism, tribalism, etc which we in the SPLM/A-IO stand against," he stressed.

Bakasoro and Cirillo are part of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) but the important presence of Equatorians in the ranks of the main armed group weakens their positions for the power-sharing deal but also jeopardizes their political future.

The SPLM-IO, SSOA and FDs, three opposition groups in the revitalization process sought to coordinate their positions but with power-sharing and governance deal the coordination was broken and positions diverged.

The SPLM-IO accepted the deal and the other groups continue to reject the power-sharing deal particularly at the state level and call to give the referendum on the 32 states more time and create a conducive environment enabling them to carry out an awareness campaign in the country before the popular vote.