South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar fired two of his senior military commanders, one of whom was sanctioned for repeated breaches of a truce during 19 months of civil war.
Major-General Peter Gadet, the deputy chief of general staff, and Gathoth Gatkuoth, the deputy chief of general staff for logistics, have been removed from their positions and not reassigned, spokesman Mabior Garang said in a statement posted on Twitter on Wednesday.
“This reshuffle is purely an administrative exercise which is normal in any organization, and should not be a source of trepidation for members of the movement,” he said.
Gadet previously commanded troops in Unity state and Gatkuoth in Upper Nile, two regions that have endured the brunt of fighting since the rebellion began in December 2013. Gadet was among six government and rebel leaders who had their assets frozen and travel banned by the United Nations Security Council earlier this month.
Major General James Koang replaced Gadet as deputy to Chief of Staff Simon Gadwich, Garang said. The resistance movement remains committed to peace talks mediated by African leaders to end the war and a complementary initiative to reunite a fractured ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, known as SPLM, he said.
In December 2013, President Salva Kiir accused fired deputy president Machar and allies of attempting a coup. A crackdown by loyalists targeted Machar’s Nuer ethnic group and led to the arrest of senior regime figures. Machar fled the capital, Juba, to head a rebellion that was joined by military commanders including Gadet and Gatkuoth. Over 2 million people have fled their homes and tens of thousands have died in the conflict.
Rebels are fighting for the “bigger objective” of removing Kiir’s government and for a future without the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, Gatkuoth said in an interview in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, on July 2. “We’re fighting in retaliation to the genocide on the Nuer ethnic group that were killed in Dec. 2013. We think that if peace should come it should come without Salva Kiir and SPLM party as they are the ones directly responsible for the killing of ethnic Nuer in Juba.”
Machar, Gadet and Gatkuoth at times fought with the Sudan-backed South Sudan Defense Forces against the SPLM during South Sudan’s liberation struggle that ended in 2005.