South Sudanese rebels split as peace talks continue in Ethiopia

Juba (dpa) - A South Sudanese rebel commander said on Wednesday he and other commanders had split from their leader Riek Machar, a move which was expected to make it more difficult to end the country's 19-month civil conflict.

"We the generals ... have lost confidence" in Machar, Peter Gadet said in a press release dated on August 10 which was distributed to local media on Wednesday.

A power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Machar turned violent mid-December 2013. The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives, displaced 2 million and sparked ethnically based atrocities.

Gadet said the renegade commanders would not recognize any peace deal sealed by Machar and Kiir in ongoing talks in Addis Ababa.

"The two leaders have become symbols of hate and conflict," the statement said, accusing Machar of "mismanaging and failing to unite the [rebel] movement."

Gadet did not say who the other commanders were, but the statement mentioned that Machar had earlier dismissed him and Gathoth Gatkuoth. The two have been active in the north and centre of the country. It is not clear how many men they command.

Months of peace talks in Ethiopia have produced a string of ceasefire agreements which failed to end the fighting. The talks restarted last week under international pressure to strike a deal by August 17.

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