March 31, 2020 (Nyamilepedia) — South Sudan’s main armed opposition group, SPLA-IO, led by First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar, has downplayed the defection of senior military officers to President Salva Kiir’s side.
Early this month, SPLA-IO deputy chief of staff and former representative of the group to the Joint Defense Board (JDB), Gen. James Koang Chuol, decided – along with other officers – to defect to the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF).
Koang’s defection was followed by that of an infantry division commander of the SPLA-IO in Western Equatoria.
Major General James Nando Mark resigned citing marginalization and what he called failure by Machar’s leadership to recognize the military participation of the SPLA-IO branch in Western Equatoria.
Speaking to Nyamilepedia this afternoon, SPLA-IO deputy spokesman Col. Lam Paul Gabriel said the defection of the military officers will not affect the movement saying everyone was free to leave if they wish.
“You know, in this movement, there is freedom. You can leave anytime you want that’s your right,” Lam said.
“As these officers are departing, others are coming in. They are also creating opportunities for others who haven’t had the chance to serve,” he added.
Lam said the SPLA-IO division commander who defected to the government last week was commanding troops who were being trained as part of the unified forces and as such there were no SPLA-IO troops he took with him.
He further added that a meeting between the SPLA-IO and the SSPDF command had taken place and agreed that these officers who had just defected would not be allowed to jeopardize the peace process.
“We had a meeting with the high coand of the South Sudan Peoples Defense Forces (SSPDF) and they assured us that these people will on t be allowed to jeopardize the peace process and that ceasefire will remain respected,” Lam said.
“So, we don’t see any effect on the issue. We are in the implementation of the security arrangement and the president has appointed a committee to continue the process after the term of the NPTC [National Pre-transitional Committee] expired with the formation of the unity government,” Lam further added.