JUBA: South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has pardoned several key political rivals and rebels, a number of whom were accused of having received backing from old civil war foes Sudan, the government said Tuesday.
Key amongst those pardoned is opposition leader Lam Akol, a former warlord who fought on both sides during Sudan's 1983-2005 civil war, and Kiir's biggest critic since he split from the ruling party in 2009.
The move is seen as a way for Kiir to bolster political support from old rivals, and follows a reshuffle of government, including the sacking of the powerful former vice-president, Riek Machar.
"There are no conditions attached to it," said Abdon Agau, South Sudan's top civil servant. "But it is generally assumed that if you had been in trouble and you are forgiven, you must now behave yourself."
Akol, who challenged Kiir in 2010 elections, was accused of backing a rebellion with troops armed by Khartoum, claims both Akol and Sudan have always denied.
Peter Abdel Rahaman Sule, who heads the United Democratic Front (UDF) party, was also pardoned for encouraging rebellion.
Other rebel commanders pardoned -- some of whom have already been integrated back into the army -- include warlord Gabriel Tanginye, who in 2011 fought bitter battles with military in the northern Upper Nile state.