October 14, 2010 (JUBA) – A senior army general previously incorporated into the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), has arrived in Juba for the first time since 2006 to announce that he is joining the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which controls the South of the country.
Gabriel Tangginya who has been accused of inciting violence against the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS), announced his defection to the ex-Southern rebel group on Thursday after meetings with GoSS President Salva Kiir.
The surprise move followed last week’s amnesty extended by Kiir to Tangginya and other armed groups (OAGs) operating in south Sudan.
Dressed in a gray shirt, Tangginya pledged full commitment to the SPLM leadership, and urged southerners to work together for a common goal. He was accompanied by five of his aides.
Shortly after Tangginya’s arrival at Juba International Airport from Khartoum he visited the SPLA General Headquarters at Bilpam, about two miles away from Juba town, in an army convoy amidst tight security.
He held a press conference at the airport in which he informed the press that he was responding to the call by Kiir, and called on all the other armed groups to reconcile themselves with his government.
Kiir and Tangginya, hugged each other in a meeting at the Presidents office in a sign of reconciliation.
The former defector told journalists in Juba that he was impressed with the progress made by the southern government in the last five years since the north-south peace agreement.
According to Tangginya, troops loyal to him will soon be integrated into the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) - the former rebels who are now the official southern army.
However, he said that they are still in dialogue with GOSS/SPLA on how they can work together but stressed that he will not return to Khartoum.
His defection comes just days after another senior member of the NCP political bureau joined the SPLM together with other key figures from the Khartoum-based party headed by president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.
Alison Magaya, who previously served in various capacities within the Government of National Unity (GoNU), told journalists that he and others joined the NCP for a mission and that it has now been fulfilled.
Tangginya told the leaders of the southern political parties present that southern Sudanese needed to be united to face the challenges ahead in the referendum process for the common destiny of the region.
He underscored that the exercise of self-determination in the referendum by the people of southern Sudan should be conducted in an atmosphere of unity among the people so that it is not violated by Khartoum.
He also commended President Kiir for his declared amnesty to all the armed groups, assuring that all the other senior officers who have remained behind were in the process of reconciling themselves with the southern government.
Tangginye, who hails from Jonglei state like Gen. George Athor Deng, another rebelled senior SPLA officer, told the conference that both Gen. Athor and Gen. Gordon Koang Chol, had already voiced their readiness to come to Juba and rejoin the political system.
He said he was sent ahead to prepare the ground for their imminent arrival to Juba, adding that a committee has been set up between the SPLA and the OAGs for that purpose.
The former renegade who was accused twice of causing violence in Malakal town in 2006 and 2008, which left over 300 people dead, said his group was ready to leave behind all past differences and focus on the soon to be determined destiny of southern Sudan.
The leadership of GoSS has stepped up the effort to reconcile with all the southern Sudanese political parties and armed groups. It is aiming to create a unified voice for a secure, free, fair and transparent conduct of the referendum on independence of the region.
The recent surfacing of defected generals comes at a time when all the leaders of the Southern Sudan political parties as well as Southern Sudanese leaders in northern political parties converged in Juba to reach a consensus on the future of the region.
Around 25 political parties have taken part in the conference which was called for by the President, Salva Kiir, in what many observers described as the second most important gathering to that of Juba Convention of 1947.
A day before the convening of the all-party conference, the chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC), Lam Akol, met with with President Kiir, his rival during the April elections.
Akol said it was important to leave behind all the political differences and focus on achieving the destiny of the people of southern Sudan.
Chaired by the Vice President and SPLM Deputy Chairman, Riek Machar , the leaders of the 25 political parties at the conference on Wednesday and Thursday deliberated on their respective position papers.
The debates that follow may continue until Friday or Saturday, from which resolutions and recommendations shall be drawn as a political consensus on the referendum and post-referendum issues.
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