KHARTOUM — A group of South Sudanese rebels formerly linked to militia leader Peter Gadet, who agreed to a ceasefire this week, accused him on Thursday of taking government bribes and rejected the peace deal.
Gadet, one of the fledgling country's most powerful rebel leaders, returned to Juba on Wednesday, after secret talks with South Sudanese officials in Nairobi, to accept an amnesty offered by President Salva Kiir, his spokesman Bol Gatkouth said.
But in a statement signed by six rebels claiming to represent the high command of Gadet's South Sudan Liberation Movement/Army, the splinter faction disowned his accord with the government, adding that it had not affected the group, which remained "well organised with 780 officers and a force of 5,000."
"We the undersigned members of the SSLM/A High Command are hereby alerting the people of South Sudan and international community that no ceasefire has ever been declared between our movement and government in Juba."
The rebels said Gadet only agreed to the ceasefire after he was offered $3 million (2.1 million euros) and a villa in Nairobi's suburbs, in return for his assistance in neutralising a planned coup against the president.
Gatkouth, Gadet's spokesman, dismissed the claims and accusations of the group, which he said had nothing to do with the SSLA.
He suggested they were "Nuer elements" within the Sudanese army, referring to one of South Sudan's main ethnic groups, and that they were supported by political opponents in Khartoum and by Sudan's military intelligence.
Juba has traditionally accused Khartoum of supporting the different southern rebel groups in a bid to destabilise the country, as it did during the devastating 1983-2005 civil war, claims rejected by the north.
The rebels, in their statement, said the original reasons for them taking up arms against the government remained.
"We took up arms because we realised that our nation had groomed a monster that would swallow generation after generation in terms of bad leadership and extreme level of corruption which poisons our values and tradition."
The group, led by James Gai Yoach and claiming to be based in Mayom County, in oil-rich Unity state, Gadet's stronghold, called for the formation of a legitimate broad-based government as a necessary condition for order and stability.
The newly independent country faces a host of daunting challenges, among the greatest of which are rampant corruption, which the president has vowed to confront, and the security threat from the numerous militias operating within its borders.
Hundreds of people have been killed in clashes between the army and different rebel groups in states across South Sudan so far this year.
In a further sign of the potential fragility of any peace accord like the one agreed on Wednesday, rebel leader Gatluak Gai, who was also based in Unity state, was shot dead last month shortly after reneging on a ceasefire agreement.
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