South Sudan: SPLA-IO Receives Eight Defectors from Gen. Olony’s Kit-Gwang Faction

The opposition SPLA-IO under First Vice President Riek Machar on Monday received eight army officers who defected from Gen. Johnson Olony’s SPLA-IO Kit-Gwang faction, an armed group technically integrated into the army.

The defecting group was led by Lt. Col. Kuol Thon Kur.

Lt. Col. Thon said on Monday evening that he abandoned his base near Malakal, where he was deployed at the army’s intelligence unit over poor administration.

“I defected and decided to join SPLA-IO in Jonglei State because we had some administrative differences. Again, the talk in Juba is that people are for peace and that we have been integrated into the army but we don’t see it that way on the ground,” Thon said. “I decided to join SPLA-IO because everyone chooses where they feel comfortable.”

For his part, Brig. Gen. Peter Gatkek Tolchek, the SPLA-IO’s sector three brigade commander, said they had received the defectors.

 “We have received an army lieutenant colonel with seven soldiers. We welcomed him because he may have seen something bad there and now he feels comfortable with us,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Khor Nyang Mabor, the SPLA-IO sector tree spokesperson, said arrangements are going on to have the defectors reintegrated into the SPLA-IO. “He left a base in Owac and came all the way through Malakal road and he is now with us at the headquarters in Langkien. We welcomed him,” he said.

This development highlights the complexities of the ongoing integration efforts within South Sudan’s military landscape.

Under the September 2018 peace agreement, South Sudan is supposed to train, graduate and deploy 83,000 personnel from the various armed forces to take charge of security during the current transitional period.

Koch Madut