The government of Unity State has ordered military commanders of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO), the main armed opposition group in South Sudan, to vacate Bentiu town with immediate effect.
In statement extended to TheJubaMirror news Unity State Acting Governor and Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement Agencies William Dak Koch mandated the evacuation of the generals, including the most senior, General Turuk Khor Kuai, commander of SPLA-IO Division 4A.
The acting governor asserted in the directive dated November 4,2023 that the decision is intended to de-escalate tensions and preclude armed clashes, without specifying the parties involved.
“This is only to prevent violence and military confrontation,” he emphasized, adding that the order is effective from November 4, 2023. The directive orders General Turuk to relocate to Tong, situated a few kilometers northwest of Bentiu.
It also mandates SPLA-IO troops stationed at Guit County headquarters to abandon their base and assign former SPLA-IO commander Maj. Gen. Wun, who joined forces with the SSPDF alongside General Maguek Gai, to the base.
When contacted by Sudans Post, Unity State SPLA-IO spokesperson Maj. Kerbino Yai Pazale acknowledged receiving the order but stated that they would not vacate the Bentiu town as their presence in the town is part of the peace implementation process.
“We are not evacuating anywhere. We will maintain our presence in Bentiu because we are here for peace, and we will not relocate to any other location as our mission is to implement the peace agreement,” he declared.
The high-ranking SPLA-IO officer attributed the decision to the state governor’s security advisor on security, Salam Maluit, for allegedly fomenting trouble by approaching them with a request to defect from First Vice President Riek Machar’s faction, which they declined. “This directive originates from the state’s security advisor. He attempted to persuade the SPLA-IO forces in Bentiu to join forces with the SSPDF. Upon realizing that we were not joining forces with them, he began creating these issues between us and the government,” he stated.
It is noteworthy that opposition forces who were initially stationed at Dingding have come to Bentiu town due to floods that have submerged the cantonment site.“In Bentiu SPLM/A IO have ministers, members of parliament and commissioner of Rubkona county where Bentiu is located. How can we abandon them, if the government of Unity State destroyed the revitalized peace agreement, the entire world should know,” Maj. Yai added.