ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Two top rebel generals have defected from South Sudan's rebel movement, a rebel official said Wednesday, as the country's warring factions negotiated in Ethiopia to secure a deal to end war in the world's newest country.
The rebel generals, identified as Peter Gadet and Gathoth Gatkuoth, defected and fled to Sudan after rebel leader Riek Machar removed them from their senior command positions, Puoch Riek told The Associated Press.
Puoch Riek, a member of the rebel delegation here, said no rebel fighters had defected with the generals and he insisted the rebel movement is still under the command of Machar, the former vice president whose dismissal in July 2013 sparked a political crisis that led to the rebellion against President Salva Kiir.
South Sudan's warring factions face international pressure to reach a comprehensive peace deal by Aug. 17, but several earlier negotiations have failed.
Kiir has made abrupt changes to the board of the national oil company, Nilepet, possibly "to cement his grip on this critical institution in advance of major political changes," the watchdog group Global Witness said Wednesday.
"Mismanagement of oil wealth has long been at the heart of violence and conflict in South Sudan," said Emma Vickers, a South Sudan campaigner with Global Witness. "It is extremely worrying that, at this critical moment in the peace negotiations, President Kiir is bringing in such sweeping changes to the board of this powerful oil company with no apparent justification."
Associated Press writer Rodney Muhumuza in Kampala, Uganda, contributed to this report.