A number of senior military commanders, mainly from Guit, the home county of the newly appointed First Vice President, Taban Deng Gai, in Unity region, have defected to the South Sudanese army (SPLA) under the leadership of President Salva Kiir.
Lt. Gen. Dor Manjuor, Gen. Liah Diu and Gen. Makal Kuol told Sudan Tribune in separate satellite phone interviews that they are no longer supporting former first vice president Riek Machar, adding they are part of the group allied to new South Sudan first vice president Taban Deng Gai.
Although the three Generals were reported last month to have defected to Gai with their bodyguards, Gen. Liah denied that he defected to Gand told Sudan Tribune he did not support the new South Sudan first vice president.
Gen. Liah indeed told Sudan Tribune he is not any longer loyal to Machar, a move which contradicted his earlier last month’s statement.
Gen. Manjuor, another army officer hailing from Gai’s home town, declared his allegiance to Gai, and claimed he joined Gai group in support of President Kiir to defend the country.
“What I want to tell you the whole of Guit county is for peace. We support the peace under President Salva Kiir and his deputy Taban Deng Gai,” he said.
The declaration came as the SPLA Chief of General Staff, Paul Malong Awan flew to Guit county with some senior officers including SPLA spokesperson, Brigadier Gen. Lul Ruai Koang.
The group claimed they have defected from the SPLA-IO to President Kiir’s SPLA with 11,000 troops currently allegedly stationed in Guit area, waiting for full integrations into the SPLA under the command of President Kiir.
However, Major Weirial Puok Baluang, press secretary for the opposition’s appointed governor of Unity state, has dismissed as “propaganda” the alleged number of troops that defected to President Kiir for integration.
He said the three Generals only defected with the total of 80 soldiers, describing the claim as “white lies” from desperate people in need of cash money from the regime of Juba.
SPLA begins drills
Meanwhile, SPLA will Monday hold multiple military drills of the rapid reaction forces.
The event, according to a statement from the army, will involve the use of different weapons as well as aircraft and helicopters in the drills which will be carried out at Gorom.
The recruits largely drawn by the ethnic group of President Salva Kiir and his army chief of general staff, Paul Malong Awan, according to Tribune, have been trained by foreign instructors from Egypt and neigbouring Uganda to perform airborne landing to seize an enemy’s airfield and retain it until the arrival of the main forces.
The recruits also received an advance reconnaissance detachment training about the Airborne Force held reconnaissance and tactics related to search operations, camouflage blocked and destroyed the command posts of illegal armed formations after seizing bridge-crossing sites in the area of responsibility of the rapid reaction collective forces.
“The SPLA GHQs has announced that the SPLA Military Academy in Gorom shall be conducting live fire exercise on Monday 22nd August from 0600 hours to 1100 hours. The drill is aimed at honing the assault intensity, precision, stability and speed of troops”, SPLA said in a statement.
It urged residents of Gorom to avoid the area for their own safety.
The direction of fire will be West and Northwest. It also urged the public not to panic.
The recruits shall be conducting the exercise using AK-47 assault rifles, PKM light machine guns and RPG launchers, the army’s statement further stressed.