The leadership of the South Sudanese political group Federal Democratic Party (FDP) say that General Peter Gatdet, previously named as top commander of their armed wing, the South Sudan Armed Forces (SSAF), has “jumped off the ship” along with several other commanders.
In the wake of the defections, FDP/SSAF have reaffirmed their previous provisional chairman Gabriel Changson Chang as provisional leader while also claiming the continuing loyalty of General Gabriel Gatwech Chan, a commander popularly known as “Tang Ginye,” according to a press release issued Thursday in the name of Thamson Thoan Teny, a member of the ‘Provisional Political Committee’ of the group,
Tang Ginye is named in the statement as Provisional General Chief of Staff of FDP/SSAF.
The press release points out that some generals whom FDP/SSAF had previously considered part of the group, namely Gen. Gathoth Gatkuoth, Gen. James Malith Gatluak and Brig. Gabriel Gatwech Puoch, joined the government in Juba in February 2016.
Gathoth’s defection was confirmed by state-run TV in Juba, on which he appeared alongside government officials. FDP/SSAF, whose leadership is based in exile, said these generals went to Juba as part of an “unnegotiated and unsigned peace agreement.”
Gathoth was previously the top commander in Upper Nile State for the SPLM-IO headed by Riek Machar. General Gatdet, as well as Changson, were also formerly members of SPLM-IO before breaking away ahead of the signing of the Addis Ababa peace deal in August 2015.
According to FDP’s press release Thursday, General Gatdet is considered no longer associated to the movement because he formed his own group called the “National Defence Alliance (NDA).”
The statement accuses him of unilaterally deciding to change the name of FDP/SSAF to National Defence Alliance (NDA) “without consulting other leaders of FDP/SSAF (both political & military).”
“We again respect his decision and wish him well in his new movement,” reads the FDP/SSAF statement.
Additionally, the statement insists that the group of generals who went to Juba, namely those of Gathoth, were dismissed from the movement in January this year and “cannot claim the name of the organization from which they were dismissed.”
“Gen. Gathoth and his three colleagues the MPs (Hon. Timothy Tot Chol, Hon. Gabriel Yoal Dok and Hon. Michael Mario Dhuor) have now gone back to their mother party the SPLM – IG [in Government] and have been reinstated in the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and Council of States as members of SPLM-IG,” notes the statement.
Following the generals’ defection to the government, Changson and other remaining FDP/SSAF leaders “carried out a series of consultative meetings” on the way forward. They say that they plan to hold another consultative conference before the end of this month with FDP/SSAF members.