The government of Southern Sudan is courting old enemies to try to create unity ahead of a crucial independence vote that could see Africa's largest country split in two.

Southern leaders are embracing adversaries that include rebel military commanders blamed for the deaths of scores of southern Sudanese during a two-decade civil war. The list includes Gabriel Tanginye, an ex-militia leader who defected from the southern army during the 21-year north-south civil war and is now serving in a senior position in the north's army.

The south's president pardoned Tanginye this month along with two other former members of the southern forces.

Southern Sudan holds its independence vote Jan. 9.