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South Sudan opposition leader returns from exile

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

South Sudan's controversial opposition leader Lam Akol returned home for first time in two years Saturday, after a presidential pardon cleared him of allegations of encouraging armed rebels.

Akol was a former warlord who fought on both sides during Sudan's 1983-2005 civil war, and the biggest critic of South Sudan's President Salva Kiir since splitting from the ruling party in 2009.

"I am extremely happy to be in South Sudan," Akol told reporters as he arrived in the airport from the capital Juba.

"This is the time for the people of South Sudan to come together and hold together."

Akol, who challenged Kiir in 2010 elections and heads the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-Democratic Change (SPLM-DC) party, was accused of backing a rebellion with troops armed by Khartoum, claims both Akol and Sudan have always denied.

Khartoum and Juba have traded accusations each is backing rebels on the other country's territory.

Since leaving South Sudan in November 2011, Akol spent much of his time in exile in Khartoum.

The presidential pardon last month -- which also included other political rivals and rebel commanders -- was seen as a way to trying to bolster political support and settle long running disputes that originated during the war decades ago.

It also follows a complete reshuffle of government, including the sacking of the powerful former vice-president, Riek Machar.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131102/south-sudan-opposition-leader-returns-exile