South Sudanese politicians from Equatoria region including the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Peter Bashir Gbandi have denied authoring a letter calling for autonomy and protection from the United Nations.
The letter, widely circulated on social media, contained signatures from leading political leaders from Central, Eastern and Western Equatoria states.
In the document there are calls for autonomous status from the Juba government and a protection force of 18,000 troops to be provided by UN.
However, Minister Gbandi and several MPs from Equatoria region have distanced themselves from the letter and questioned its authenticity, with Gbandi, who is also the lawmaker representing Maridi in Western Equatoria state, saying the letter surprised him.
“My name happens to be in the list of people who wrote that letter but I did not take it serious because these [authors] are key spoilers of peace,” said Gbandi.
The Parliamentary Affairs minister described himself as a ‘fighter for peace’.
“And it is challenging to see that [I am] being featured in an opposite set-up,” he further added.
David Mayo, an MP representing Budi County in Eastern Equatoria state said: “We the Equatoria leaders listed in the letter did not write such a letter. This was a very serious document, very treacherous that it must have been done by people who want to wreck this country apart.”
Mayo openly protested in the national assembly and declared his innocence. “I did not attend any meeting to discuss those issues raised in the letter,” he added.
Active rebellion is taking place in Equatoria region for the first time since conflict erupted in South Sudan in 2013, with both warring factions accused of committing atrocities.
Though the said letter was dismissed as ‘fake’ by politicians, analysts say prolonged war could disintegrate the nation along regional or ethnic lines.