A group of senior SPLA-IO officers said they defected from rebel leader Riek Machar, claiming to have formed a new armed movement comprised of field commanders.
Spokesman of the defectors, James Lony, told Radio Tamazuj that rebel commander Peter Gatdet and a group of other senior officers and supporters have denounced SPLM/A-IO leader, Machar.
He pointed out that Machar accepted to work with Salva Kiir and the SPLM Former Detainees faction in Juba.
The defectors accused their former boss of working for his own interest, “forgetting the main purpose for which we took up arms”.
For his part, SPLM-IO head of external affairs, Dhieu Mathok, downplayed the statement made by the field commanders.
He accused Salva Kiir’s government of fabricating the statement in order to obstruct the ongoing peace talks in Addis Ababa.
He denied any signature bearing the name of former SPLA-IO deputy chief of staff for operations, Peter Gatdet Yaak.
Former rebel officials want Machar out
Officials from a rebel group have declared their support to Gatdet, a former deputy chief of staff for operations in the SPLM-In Opposition and Gathoth Gatkuoth, former deputy chief of staff for logistics.
Some unverified media reports claim that Gabriel Tanginye, Chuol Gaka, Gathoth Gatkuoth, Malith Gatluak and Gatwec Puoc were among those who have declared their intention to defect.
Five politicians issued a separate statement announcing their support to the commanders for dismissing Machar.
Former ministers of Youth, Culture and Sports, Gabriel Changson Chang, Timothy Tot Chol, Thomas Thoan Teny, Michael Mariew Dhuor and Gabriel Yoal Dok were among those who issued a statement denouncing the ways in which Machar has managed the leadership and the opposition movement.
“We strongly support and stand behind the bold and brave decision taken against Dr. Riek Machar by our senior officers and men of the SPLM/A-IO and appeal and urge all the officers and men of the SPLM/A-IO to rally behind their senior officers and comrades in arms,” the statement reads, which is accessible below.
What is at stake?
The timing of split within the SPLM-in Opposition is meant to delay the peace process, a political analyst, Dr. James Okuk, told Eye Radio.
He says the development comes at a time when the warring parties are close to a peace agreement.
“They don’t want Dr. Riek to be their leader, but Dr. Riek wants to agree with President Salva Kiir to remain as President of the country…..and this is very complicated,” Dr Okuk told Eye Radio.