By William Madouk Garang
More than two hundred members from Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition, under Dr. Riek Machar have reportedly shifted allegiance to President Salva Kiir’s camp on Friday according to the govern of Unity State.
The alleged group of defectors, who hail from Panyijiar County in Unity State include politicians and senior SPLA-IO military generals led by Michael Loot Gatluok.
While receiving the group, the governor of Unity state, Dr. Joseph Manytuil Wejang stressed that people of Panyijiar County are always ‘the beginning of change’ and ‘symbol of peace and unity’ in the state.
“The people of Panyijiar are always the beginning of change and stressed that the people of Panyijiar (Nyoung) are symbol of peace and unity in Unity state,” partially reads the statement by the governor’s office.
Manytuil further called upon the people of Panyijiar County to join SPLM under the leadership of Cde Gen Salva Kiir Mayardit,” it added.
Ringleader, Michael Loot Gatluok said defection from the Machar-led group was due to serious suppression, political denial and sidelining of ‘Nyoung Nuer’ by Machar’s leadership at state and national levels.
“Gatluok said their defection from SPLM-IO was aggravated by suppression, political deprivation and marginalization of Nyoung Nuer people by the SPLM-IO leadership both in the national and state level,” Gatluok noted.
The group also overwhelmingly pledged to continue mobilizing more people in Panyijiar County to join SPLM and to disregard the SPLM-IO which is a family party that promote autocracy and nepotism.
However, in his rebuttal the SPLM-IO deputy director for information and public relation and acting press Secretary in the office of Dr. Machar, Puok Both Baluang refuted the alleged defection, asserting that this was doctored to mislead public.
“This is some group who gathered themselves around and the governor and his team is trying to twist and also deceive the public, that there are some people deserting SPLM-IO and joining IG, we don’t have any members that have joined IG completely,” he rejected.
Baluang further said SPLM-IO party is not shaken by those defections, asserting that those joining the party are more than defectors as well as members who believe in vision and mission of the party are still in large number.
He said they are aware of, an SPLM-IO member who is called Machine among those who shifted allegiance but the number shared by governor Manytuil was truly inflated.
“I think there is exaggeration in that number but some of them like I mentioned Machine was a former office manager in the Office of the Ministry of Defense and was contesting for the position of commissionership in Unity state,” he said.
He denied the claim that Panyijiar County is under represented, adding that the SPLM-IO party believes and respects the diversity of the people of South Sudan.
“This is the same song that is being chanted by everyone [who] decides to defect from SPLM-IO, they created all these false information so that they can be accepted and to please the other group that they decided to join,” he continued.
“So, all these accusations are baseless and they are only meant to tarnish the good reputation of SPLM-IO and I would also like to reiterate that we are national movement where every group or tribes in South Sudan is represented,” he continued.
Baluang cited that shifting of allegiance in politics is acceptable but urged defectors not to work in destructive ways that may spoil the country or their states.