By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
Sept. 1, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Gajaak Nuer community in Ethiopia have denounced the recent defection of South Sudan armed opposition officials to the Juba government.
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Taban Deng Gai addresses delegates after he was sworn-in as South Sudan FVP inside the Presidential Palace in the capital of Juba, July 26, 2016 (Photo Reuters/ Jok Solomun)
At a well attended meeting held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa on Tuesday, the community expressed their position on the current crisis in South Sudan.
The community members openly demonstrated their full support for the country’s former first Vice-President, Riek Machar.
The community members denounced some of opposition officials who defected from SPLM-IO along with the current first Vice President Taban Deng Gai shortly after the 8 July incident that forced the peace agreement to collapse between the rivals factions.
As well as Gai, the ethnic Gajaak opposition officials who defected to become part of the government in Juba included Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth and Bor Gatwech.
The meeting, which attracted over 600 members of the Gajaak community was attended by all Nuer community sub-sections, church leaders and representatives of SPLM-IO in Addis Ababa.
The meeting was opened with a ceremonial cake cutting, candle lighting and with ushering of South Sudan national anthem.
The Gajaak community leader in Ethiopia, Kunen Nyak Bol stressed that the decision by Gatkuoth, Gatwech and others do not literally represent the position of its population.
“They are acting on their own capacity as position seekers which are directly related to self-interests and opportunities” Kunen told Sudan Tribune.
He added that he had very long conversation with Gajaak Community all over the world through phone conferences.
He cited that the event denotes the final resolution of rejection of few “opportunists” who joined Kiir’s government.
“On behalf of Gajaak Community and on my own behalf, I would honestly like to declare our position that we’re still in full support of Dr. Riek Machar Teny”
“We, as a community strongly condemned the opportunists who are trying their best … day and night to fool the world that Gajaak, the largest Nuer section in Ethiopia with sizeable number at South Sudan are with Taban Deng, this is nightmare and unfounded truth. We’re not with him and we will never be with him at all”
Moreover, the Chair women of Gajaak Community in Addis Ababa Mrs Nyakong Kuon urged the entire Nuer Community to stand firm with Machar and to disregard the rumors from anti-peace elements.
One of the participants who preferred anonymity on stage said that Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth is an “opportunist” and “political prostitute”
In conclusive remarks SPLM-IO Representative to Ethiopia, Ambassador, Goi Jooyul Yol said that the movement under Dr. Machar is committed to work for peace although Juba is derailing the peace implementation process.
“I want to pass the greetings from our leader – Dr. Riek Machar Teny. He is well with his family and all our brave officers accompanying him”, stressed Yol.
Machar fled the capital Juba, some two month ago following fierce fighting with government troops which led to attempts to kill him. SPLM-IO officials claimed this was the second murder attempt he has survived after the one staged in mid-December 2013.
Machar reportedly fled the country along with his wife, Brigadier Simon Bangong and 100 soldiers. He vowed not to return to Juba unless a regional force was deployed.
It is not yet clear if Machar sill is in Khartoum where he went to receive medical treatment. Opposition officials have declined to disclose Machar’s current whereabouts.
However, opposition officials in Addis Ababa told Sudan Tribune they want their chairman to be relocated to Ethiopia where IGAD- which Ethiopia chairs – still recognizes him as the legitimate first vice-president of South Sudan