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Crisis as Machar’s Army General, Group of Soldiers Defect to Taban Faction

An Army General along with a group of 9 officers from the opposition faction of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) led by former Vice President, Riek Machar have defected to join the faction of First Vice President Taban Deng Gai.

The development was confirmed by SPLM-IO Taban faction Army spokesperson, Dickson Gatluak.

Gatluak  said Brigadier General, Okot David Awai and the 9 officers arrived in the capital, Juba, Thursday afternoon from Kampala when an Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane they boarded on touched down at Juba Airport around 11 pm local time.

Upon arrival, he said, the group of defectors were welcomed by Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, Minister of Petroleum and top Army officials.

Their defection, Gatluak said was in response to country’s call for peace.

The 10 defectors are mainly from the Acholi tribe.

The group of defectors will tomorrow meet FVP Deng in his office.

The latest defection comes as the youngest African nation struggles to bring about lasting peace and reconstitute the government and Taban faction armies under one unified command.

“Their return home demonstrates the level of commitment FVP Taban Deng attaches to the implementation of the compromised peace agreement,” Gatluak reportedly said.

FVP Taban Deng says his faction as a movement has duty and responsibility to bring back home all military officers and cadres who left the country following the civil war that erupted over 3 years ago.

“We urge all military commanders who took up arms against the government to return home and join the peace process,” said Gatkuak.

He said the return of the deserters is a major step forward for the nation to rejoice for peace and stability to prevail in war-torn South Sudan.

“It further boosts the morale of forces and will bring the Army of SPLM-IO and the entire Army in South Sudan”

General Okot is one of the well-known Generals within Machar faction’s Army.

Okot was a commander in charge of Magwi Brigade 9th in Anyanya division in Eastern Equatoria.

He was demoted and dismissed by Machar over allegations that the General had links with Juba.

Since South Sudan has fallen back into a bloody civil war in December 2013, some 1.8 million civilians fled to neighbouring countries.

UN chief, Antonio Guterres, Thursday urged South Sudanese leaders to end the war.

“South Sudan leaders haven’t deserved the people they have,” said Guterres after paying a visit to a refugee camp in northern Uganda.

He will participate in a UN-backed summit aimed at raising global awareness of South Sudan crisis in Kampala on Friday.

Uganda currently shelters around 900,000 South Sudan refugees most women and children who most arrived in the past year.

The UN said it needs USD 8 billion to help refugees and host communities over next four years.

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