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South Sudan says rebel leader seeking support from Sudan

August 18, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan said rebels group under the leadership of former vice-president Riek Machar are continuing to seek support from Sudan.

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President Omer al-Bashir receives South Sudanese former vice-president and leader of the SPLM-in-Opposition, Riek Machar and his wife Angelina Teny in Khartoum on 10 August 2014 (ST)

South Sudanese deputy education minister Bol Makueng, who spoke on behalf of the governing Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), said Machar had divided the efforts of the country’s long liberation struggle at the height of the civil war with the north when the then guerrilla movement had almost liberated much of what constitutes present day South Sudan.

“The struggle for justice, freedom, respect for human dignity and other basic rights was started before us. The struggle started way back in 1947 here in Juba and [the] 1955 Torit mutiny. The leaders of this struggle were South Sudanese from across this country,” he said.

He said Joseph Lagu had later picked up the struggle followed by SPLM founder Dr John Garang together with president Salva Kiir Mayardit, however, he accused Machar of sabotaging those efforts in 1991.

“He went to Khartoum and the Government of Sudan [and] used the division as the opportunity to consolidate its strategy and efforts against our people. He has now gone again to the very government which gave him the support. Guess what will happen this time. He is expecting the same support from Sudan. You know that he was there recently but I think things will be different this time because the leadership in Sudan has learned from the past,” Makueng told journalists while making a statement marking the 59th anniversary of the Torit mutiny on Sunday.

Makueng, who maintains his party position in the ruling party as head of information, was speaking on behalf of the government as it spokesperson.

His comments follow calls from South Sudan urging the government of neighbouring Sudan, from which the South seceded in 2011, to sever all ties with pro-Machar rebels.

However, Sudan has denied it is providing military support to South Sudanese rebels who have been engaged in an armed struggle with the government since mid-December last year when conflict erupted following a political dispute in the SPLM.

The spokesperson for the Sudanese army (SAF), al-Sawarmi Khaled, maintained last week that a recent two-day visit by the rebel leader to Khartoum came within the framework of Sudan’s mediation efforts aimed at ending the crisis.

The South Sudanese government has stopped short of directly accusing Sudan of supporting rebel forces, describing it as one of the key players in the ongoing peace process.

“What we are saying is that it should encourage Riek [Machar] and his group to stop the war and accept to give peaceful dialogue a chance,” South Sudan’s foreign affairs minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, told Sudan Tribune during an exclusive interview on Sunday.

“The government of Sudan has a big role to play in the peace process if it can sever ties with this group, especially if there are invisible hands within the government who are dealing with them, they should be encouraged to stop,” Benjamin added.