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Military defections could hurt South Sudan peace accord

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EAST AFRICA 25 APR 2020

Political analysts in South Sudan are warning that the ongoing political and military defections by parties that constitute the Revitalised Unity Government could hurt the peace agreement implementation process.

However, in an exclusive interview with The EastAfrican, in Juba on Wednesday, a senior military officer who defected together with SPLA-IO Deputy Chief of Staff for Administration and Finance, Lt Gen James Koang, defended the move saying:

“We defected from SPLM/A-IO because of the way the party is being controlled and managed. It is controlled by the chairman and his spouse like private property and they are not taking advice from others. We didn’t fight for such. If this persists, the party will not go far.”

Sources who asked for anonymity said there are more than 1,000 soldiers under Lt Gen Koang in Wunliet and more than 2,000 soldiers in different military camps who have defected to work under the SPLM leadership for the peace accord to be implemented.

In March, Lt Gen Koang together with three other generals, abandoned Vice President Riek Machar and joined President Salva Kiir’s camp, while two senior government officials including Telar Riiny abandoned President Kiir for Dr Machar’s SPLM-IO.

Lt Gen Koang also led a group of others including the former governor of Upper Nile state, Dak Duop Bichiok, Dabuol Lualweng, Yien Thiang Luong and Thomas Maluit Hoth.

Such defections, according to Kuol Nyuon, an assistant professor of Political Science at the Department of Political Science in the University of Juba, could ruin the spirit of the peace agreement.

“Such defections are really unfortunate because the country doesn’t need such right now.

We have only one government, which the people expect to deliver services, such defections shouldn’t be encouraged by peace parties.

“These defections will affect implementation of security arrangements as it will be difficult to assess which soldiers belonged to SPLA-IO and those who defected to the government. It is a step backward for the peace accord” said Prof Kuol.

However, Diing Zekeriah, an analyst at Sudd Institute Research Centre said the defections will cause less harm, citing that South Sudan is experiencing war fatigue, especially its the military wing.

“The impact depends on whether the generals leaving had forces who are loyal to them, and I think that may not be the case,” he said.

Speaking to a local media station last week on Monday, Defense Minister Angelina Teny, who is also a senior official in the SPLM-IO said the defections will have no significant impact on the peace deal, stressing that the army will soon be under one command headed by the transitional government of national unity.

“The defections won’t matter because we already have forces in training centres and they will be deployed under one command. If the defectors are for peace, we welcome that, but they should not interrupt the implementation process. The people of South Sudan are tired of war,” said the minister.

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