By Sudan Tribune (ST)
July 29, 2011 (NAIROBI) – A South Sudanese opposition figure has overtly accused the country’s leader Salva Kiir Mayradit of liquidating rebel leader Gaultak Gai, warning that his death has antagonized the Nuer Community and curtailed any prospect for peace in the country.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir waves to his supporters as he arrives at the John Garang mausoleum before the Independence Day celebrations in the capital Juba, July 9, 2011 (REUTERS PICTURES) Gai, who had been leading a localized rebellion against the government of South Sudan in Unity State since his defection from the country’s army known as Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) following the announcement of elections results in April last year, was shot dead in mysterious circumstances on 23 July along with a number of his bodyguards in Koch County.
Three days before his demise, Gai signed a peace deal with the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) after six weeks of talks. Under the deal, he was meant to integrate his forces into the SPLA and given the rank of a Lieutenant-General in the SPLA.
The SPLA denied any involvement in Gai’s death, accusing his deputy, Marko Chuol Ruei, of opening fire on his leader following internal squabbles.
Ruei went on Bentiu radio to claim responsibility for the death of his commander, stressing that he now had command over the old rebel group and expressing his desire to see through the peace deal with the SPLA.
Gordon Buay, former Secretary-General of South Sudan Democratic Front (SSDF), on Saturday chided South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir over his "cowardice act to assassinate" Gai and warned that his death will spark a war.
"The assassination of Gatluak Gai is something unknown to Dinka and Nuer culture. In Nilotic culture, you cannot kill somebody who signed peace with you," Buay said in a letter seen by Sudan Tribune.
He went on to cite the example of how the late southern leader John Garang signed a peace deal with Riek Machar but did not kill him.
Buay warned that the entire Nuer community is "angry" and that even Nuer intellectuals will now be going to "the frontline" because what Kiir allegedly did "is something unknown in Nuer and Dinka culture."
"Very soon, the entire Warrap State will be on fire because of what you did to Gatluak Gai who wholeheartedly signed peace for the benefit of the people of South Sudan," he said.
The southern figure warned that peace in South Sudan was now "dead" with Gai. "You need to polish your AK-47 because from now on you will go to frontline if you are not a coward," Buay said in his address to Kiir.
Analysts have long been warned that South Sudan, which gained independence on 9 July, might descend into ethnic violence if the government’s focus does not shift towards addressing internal grievances.