South Sudan rebel group lays down arms

South Sudan has signed a ceasefire with the largest of several rebel groups, the government said on Tuesday.

Juba: South Sudan has signed a ceasefire with
the largest of several rebel groups which threaten the
stability of the world`s newest nation, the government said
on Tuesday.

The deal to integrate an estimated 1,800 guerrilla
fighters into the South`s army comes after rebel chief and
renegade general George Athor was killed by government forces
in December.

"The Republic of South Sudan has signed an agreement with
the former rebels of George Athor, in which they have agreed
to the amnesty laid down by President Salva Kiir," Information
Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said.

The pact was signed yesterday in Pigi county, a rebel base
in the troubled eastern state of Jonglei.

"They immediately declared a ceasefire after the signing,"
Benjamin added.

Rebel spokesman James Nuot said their forces would
integrate into the South`s army after leaders were promised
senior positions in the government and military, without
giving further details.

"We reached agreement because we decided to reconcile with
the government, and because the government accepted what we
need from them," Nuot said.

South Sudan had accused Athor of acting on behalf of Sudan
in a bid to destabilise the country, which won independence in
July after the end of a two-decade civil war with Khartoum.

Despite a peaceful split, both nations accuse each other
of funding proxy rebel groups across their borders. South
Sudan has long claimed that the north backed Athor, a charge
he denied.

"This is the biggest of South Sudan`s rebel groups, and
they will not be used by Khartoum any longer to destabilise
South Sudan," Benjamin said.

Athor rebelled in April 2010 after claiming that electoral
fraud cheated him out of the governor`s post in Jonglei.

"Our forces were not funded by Khartoum, we get our own
things differently," Nuot said, without elaborating.

Kiir`s amnesty has encouraged several groups to end their
rebellions but Athor`s militia, the South Sudan Democratic
Movement/Army (SSDM/A), had long been the grand prize for
South Sudan.