TUESDAY 7 APRIL 2015
Ethiopian opposition leader denies supporting South Sudan against rebels
April 6, 2015 (JUBA) – The leader of an Ethiopian rebel movement,
known as the Ethiopia United Patriots Front (EUPF), has dismissed as
“baseless” reports alleging that his forces were being hosted in South
Sudan and fought alongside president Salva Kiir’s government against
the armed opposition faction led by former vice-president Riek Machar.
EUPF leader Thowath Pal Chay (FILE)
The rebel faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO)
last week said it had evidence indicating that Ethiopian rebels in
Gambella region of the western part of Ethiopia were being hosted,
trained and armed by Juba’s government to fight against Addis Ababa.
They also said the foreign rebels interfered in the internal conflict
when they allegedly took part in the recent government’s offensive
against Machar’s forces in eastern Upper Nile state, particularly
around Guelguk area.
SPLM-IO further said the aim was to make an advance towards the
Ethiopian border and cross into Gambella region to attack the regional
The current governor of Gambella region, Gatluak Tut Khot, could not
however confirm at the time that Ethiopian rebels were being hosted in
However, the Ethiopian rebel leader, Thowath Pal Chay, broke his
silence by dismissing the accusations, asserting that his movement did
not support policy of interference in internal affairs of another
country or organisation.
Chay who is an Ethiopian Nuer and leads the EUPF rebel faction in
Ethiopia, in a statement dated 30 March 2015, extended to Sudan
Tribune, said the accusation was a propaganda aimed at tarnishing his
name and political standing among the Nuer community in both
He charged that Machar’s opposition group did it to gain sympathy from
the Ethiopian ruling party to get military and political support by
accusing him of collaborating with president Kiir.
The Ethiopian ex-official further explained that he helped in
formation of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/SPLA)
in 1983 under the leadership of its late founder John Garang de
Mabior, adding he would not involve in the internal killings among
“brothers” within the organisation he personally helped formed.
“I am not interested in killing among brothers who fought for their
freedom with our support,” he said in the statement.
“I cannot interfere in their affairs for the killing of innocent
people in the name of tribal enmity which can destroy the patriotic
and national spirit of the republic of South Sudan and its people,” he
Chay was the Gambella regional governor in Ethiopia and also doubled
as chief security official in the region during the Derg regime of the
former president, Mengistu Haile Mariam.
A very close ally to former president, Haile Mariam, he was entrusted
to facilitate and coordinate establishment of the SPLM/SPLA in the
Ethiopian territory in 1983.
Hailing from the Gaajaak section of the Jikany-Nuer community in
Ethiopia, he helped late Garang, a Dinka, to dislodge the
Nuer-dominated Anya-nya Two leadership and forces from Bilpam, a South
Sudanese military base in Ethiopia which was established in 1974 in a
Nuer inhabited territory after the collapse of Addis Ababa peace
agreement of 1972.
Chay also in 1984 authorised establishment of major refugee camps for
the South Sudanese refugees which included Itang, Pinyudo and Dimma,
all under the jurisdiction of Gambella region.
“Therefore, I have both moral obligation and authority to both
Ethiopians and South Sudanese to live in peace and harmony among
themselves,” he said.
A political socialist, Chay’s regime influenced the SPLM/A officials
to initially base their ideology on socialism and united Sudan, as
Ethiopia was equally fighting against secessionist movements from
Eritrea in 1980s and vowed to preserve unity of Ethiopia.
He however reaffirmed his historical support to the SPLM/A despite
splitting from the rest of Sudan without particularly indicating which
faction he continued to support after the organisation had now split
into four SPLMs of SPLM-in government, SPLM-IO, SPLM-DC and SPLM-FD
He cautioned regional governments against taking sides in the current
internal conflict in South Sudan, saying this would cause
“geopolitical problems” in the region.
The Ethiopian rebel leader whose members are mainly from Anyuak, Nuer
and Oromo ethnic groups in western Ethiopia said he was not leading a
secessionist or sectarian movement but against the policy in Ethiopia
by the current government which he said divided the country into
He said he was for the unity of Ethiopia, accusing the government of
giving constitutional right to ethnic secession, which he said
resulted to dismemberment of Ethiopia and division of the country into
Ethiopia and Eritrea.
He claimed that as a result the division of the country in 1993
further “caused the war between the people of Ethiopia in the name of
Ethiopia and Eritrea.”
In 1993, after deposing former president Haile Mariam, the Ethiopian
government allowed Eritrea to vote in a referendum which resulted to
an overwhelming vote in favour of independence.
But Chay criticised that the current constitution of Ethiopia that
provides ethnicities or regions with the right to secede was a threat
to the unity of Ethiopia, which he said his group had to resist.
“That was why EUPF mobilised Ethiopians out of ethnicity to preserve
Ethiopian unity, integrity and sovereignty of Ethiopia,” he said.
He further claimed that his movement does not share any political
ideology with some of the Ethiopian rebel groups such as Oromo
Liberation Front (OLF), Sidamo Liberation Front (SLF), Ogadanian
National Liberation Front (ONLF) and Gambella Liberation Front (GLF).
Pal’s rebel movement, which mainly does political activism, is however
inactive militarily and has not so far posed a significant security
threat since its formation a decade ago despite alleged support he
obtained from Eritrea.
Based in exile, the rebel leader said his group was committed to
reaching a peaceful solution to the conflict with the Ethiopian
government, although past attempts to reconcile with Addis Ababa
“We are still committed to round table peace talks with the government
of Ethiopia to resolve our differences in order to bring national
healing and reconciliation among Ethiopians for prosperous, peaceful
and united Ethiopia,” he said.
Received on Wed Apr 08 2015 - 05:18:51 EDT