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Machar calls on South Sudan rebels to lay down their arms

December 25, 2011 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar Teny has called on all rebel groups in the newly established state to lay down their arms and help the development of their country.

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Vice President of South Sudan, Riek Machar.

Machar appealed to the rebels during Christmas Day celebrations on Sunday at the Nuer speaking congregation of the Presbyterian Church in the capital, Juba, attended by nearly four thousand members.

South Sudan’s government is fighting a number of rebel groups mainly in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity states. Last Monday the leader of the Jonglei based South Sudan Democratic Movement, George Athor Deng, was killed in Morobo county of Central Equatoria state. Last month, a rebel leader and former chairman of the United Democratic Front party, Peter Abdel Rahaman Sule, was captured in the bush while trying to establish a rebellion in Western Equatoria state.

Machar said South Sudan had achieved its independence, which was the main cause for rebellious wars in the region and that the next phase is to develop the nation and address issues through the power of the people in the already provided democratic space.

The Vice President’s Press Secretary, James Gatdet Dak, said that the government was committed to peace, adding that a deal had been reached with George Athor’s rebel movement in November in Nairobi, Kenya, prior to his demise this week.

The secret deal with Juba, gave Athor’s group a number of advisory positions in the national government and in the two states of Jonglei and Upper Nile and two ambassadorial positions. Also some 5,000 of his fighters will be reintegrated in the army.

However, Athor later denounced the deal and asked that a transitional government be formed to organise fresh general elections. Athor began his rebellion after he failed to win the gubernatorial election in Jonglei in April 2010.

He also demanded financial compensation for the inhabitants of the area where his group is based.

Machar further appealed to Athor’s followers to heed to the amnesty declared by President Salva Kiir Mayardit since 9 July this year and commit themselves to the agreement.

He also appealed to the other smaller rebel groups in Upper Nile and Unity states to abandon rebellion and join peace and development in "an independent South Sudan."

He also called on the fighting communities in Jonglei state to stop the violence and focus on the development and provision of basic services in their areas.

The Minister of Justice, John Luk Jok, and the Chief of General Staff of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), Gen. James Hoth Mai, who were also at the occasion echoed the call for peace and reconciliation in the region.