South Sudan rebel: more fighting after talks fail

AP News
Posted: Nov 20, 2011 11:50 AM
South Sudan rebel: more fighting after talks fail

A rebel leader in South Sudan said Sunday that more violence is likely after talks this week with the government broke down. Hundreds have died already this year in clashes between his forces and South Sudan government troops.

"People must die so we have peace, we have democracy," George Athor told journalists in the capital of neighboring Kenya. "Sacrifices have to be made."

Athor said that representatives from South Sudan's government met with him in Kenya this week but did not agree to compensate his people, develop their area, give his group representation in the government and hold new elections for the whole country. He said his group would be satisfied with two or three ministerial positions, until new elections. Unless his demands were met, more fighting was likely, he said.

"I believe you cannot make an omelet without breaking an egg or eggs," Athor said. "We have to defend ourselves of course because (the ruling party) SPLM will try to gain ground."

South Sudan became the world's newest country in July after citizens voted to leave northern Sudan. Athor had signed a peace deal with the government days before the January referendum, which was stipulated by a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war between the two sides.

But Athor's peace deal was broken after a few weeks and around 250 people were killed in fighting between his forces and government troops. Around 60 people were killed in August in fighting between Athor's forces and the South Sudan government, which accuses him of getting help from northern Sudan.

Athor, a former high-ranking officer in the southern army when it was fighting northern Sudan, launched an insurrection after losing his bid for governor of Jonglei state. He has consistently criticized the southern leadership and is known to have strong allies within the southern army.

On Sunday, he denied receiving help from Sudan's government, which frequently backed splinter rebel groups in the civil war with the south. He also denied receiving help from Eritrea, although initially he declined to comment on the matter.

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"If I ask you about your girlfriend, will you be happy to tell me?" he said to a journalist asking questions about Eritrea, indicating that he thought it was a private matter. "You cannot just go on the street telling people that I am a friend of so and so."

Hundreds of people have been killed in clashes in South Sudan this year. Some are cattle raiders, others are rebels and some died when northern Sudanese armed forces entered into disputed areas.

Analysts say South Sudan urgently needs to reform its security services to deal with the gunmen and rebel groups that roam its territory.