Two high-ranking generals from Dr. Riek Machar’s SPLA-IO have defected to the SSPDF and the SPLM party led by President Salva Kiir.
The latest defection marks a significant shift in the everchanging political landscape of Jonglei State.
The switch of allegiance by Major-General Michael Wal Nyak and Major-General Samuel Both Tap was made in a declaration issued on Friday in the town of Waat in Nyirol County.
Maj. Gen. Michael Wal, who served as the acting SPLA-IO’s sector three commander in Jonglei, told Radio Tamazuj on Friday evening that his decision to abandon the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-Opposition (SPLA-IO) led by First Vice President Riek Machar and join the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) was in good faith.
“Major-General Both and I defected along with 300 soldiers to the SSPDF. We feel there is no reason to remain in the bush suffering under trees while Riek Machar has been in Juba for the last six years without even thinking about us,” Gen. Wal said. “Again, SSPDF is where I had left from as a brigadier-general, and it is my right to rejoin Bilpam for the sake of peace.”
Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Samuel Both, another top-ranking SPLA-IO officer, said their declaration was a gesture of peace. “Why would we remain in Juba when Riek is in Juba? So we must be in Juba, where the peace deal is being implemented. We are for peace, so we left without a single shot.”
Responding to the defection, Lt. Gen. Daniel Koang Chuol, the SPLA-IO’s sector three commander, admitted that the two generals abandoned his command.
“Gen. Michael Wal defected from one of our headquarters in Motot to Waat with only seven of his relatives plus Gen. Both. Their sons even refused to defect with them because they had no cause. Some individuals paid them to create confusion, but the entire community is not standing with them. There was no fighting because I believe we are in the same government but only that we are waiting for the security arrangements to be implemented fully,” he said.
Two years after independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan plunged into a civil war. A peace agreement was reached, but another conflict erupted in 2016 before a second peace accord—the 2018 peace agreement—was signed.
The partners to the peace agreement are yet to unify and deploy armed forces. The formation of a unified army is a cornerstone of the September 2018 peace agreement.