August 1st, 2017(Nyamilepedia) —– A South Sudanese rebel general, John Kenyi Latio, who once command a battalion of rebel forces in Central Equatoria, has recently defected from SPLA-IO and later declared his allegiance to Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirilo.
Kenyi has now escaped Nyori and he is being pursued by the SPLA-IO for having attack their forces.
According to SPLA-IO Yei River Governor, Maj. Gen. Matata, who spoke to media today, Kenyi has tried to derail peace in Yei River State, creating a vacum for the “enemy” to penetrate into their territory.
While assuring medical services and care for the wounded bodyguards of Mr. Kenyi, the Military Governor warns that Kenyi will be brought to book. He calls on soldiers to return to their garrisons.
“This morning we sent our troops on a reconnaissance mission only to attack us, and good enough our troops did their best. They flushed him out, he has already gone into disarray. He is still at large. He escape toward Uganda, that is what we were told. We believe if he reaches Uganda he will be apprehended and handed back to us” Said Maj. Gen. Matata.
“We are all SPLA-IO under Dr. Riek Machar, and no body, I assure you no body in Yei River territory is under command of Gen. Thomas Cirilo” The military governor continued.
Although Gen. Kenyi claims to have defected with over 20, 000 from SPLA-IO mainstream, the armed opposition trashed his claims as rubbish saying that if they had 20, 000 troops in Central Equatoria in 2016 they would have captured the national capital, Juba, when their leader, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, sustained a 4-days fight with only 1, 372 bodyguards.
According to SPLA-IO Deputy Spokesman, Col. Lam Paul Gabriel, Kenyi’s forces have attacked their position on July 30th at around 7 Am in Nyori area where Gen. Kenyi was based.
“The SPLA IO reconnaissance unit of Division 2B under the command of Maj. Gen. John Mabieh came under the aggression of NAS forces commanded by Gen. John Kenyi Latio in Nyori yesterday morning of 30/07/2017 at about 7:00am.” Said Lam Paul Gabriel.
“The SPLA IO force repulsed the attackers and pursued them to Gen. Kenyi’s base in Nyori where his forces were scattered in disarray and Gen Kenyi is at large but some of his bodyguards have surrendered and have been welcomed back to our bases around Nyori.” Lam continued.
The SPLA-IO warns National Salvation Front to stop aggravating their positions in Equatoria as Dr. Lam Akol forces tried in Upper Nile.
According to SPLA-IO officers, IO and NAS are not enemies, their common enemy is Salva Kiir government.
“The SPLA IO would like to make it clear that our main enemy is the Juba government but not National Salvation Front” Lam said.
The SPLA-IO, however, calls on Gen. Kenyi to return their weapons and ammunitions that he was supplied with as SPLA-IO commander.
“all we need from Gen. Kenyi are the weapons he disarmed from our forces and the community and also the ammunitions given to him for protection while he was still SPLA IO sector 8 commander. This is administrative issues and not a war against NAS; we urge our civilians to remain calm and continue with their usual duties.” Lam said.
The main armed opposition also calls on NAS leadership to ask their permission if they wish to open up military camps within SPLA-IO strongholds.
“Secondly, the SPLA IO would like to inform NAS leadership that if they want to open a base in SPLA IO liberated areas” SPLA-IO warns.
“they should seek permission from our chairman and Commander in Chief Dr. Riek Machar Teny- Dhurgon; but grabbing our commanders, writing all sorts of insults against our chairman and illegally establishing a base in our territory, is a direct war against the SPLM/A IO which will not be tolerated anymore.” the deputy spokesman said.
SPLM/A-IO controls major parts of Equatoria and Upper Nile regions which give them dominant voice over other rebel groups.
Like NAS, all the other rebel groups were formed in East Africa and most of them remain in weak position to exert significant pressure on Salva Kiir government or to establish themselves in the war-torn nation.
The leader of the National Salvation Front, Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirillo, is held as one of the most influential Equatorian generals in South Sudan but Gen. Cirillo defected alone without a single bodyguard.
Unlike Dr. Machar and other influential figures, who mobilized huge defections from Kiir’s side and received regional and international recognition, Cirillo has not received any defection from the government side so far.
With a couple other defections from the SPLA-IO, the defection of Gen. Kenyi to Cirillo has raised morale of NAS supporters, however, the IO downplays the strength and significant of NAS to survive the struggle on its own.