By William Madouk Garang
Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO), spokesperson Col. Lam Paul Gabriel has dismissed a claim from Gen. Simon Gatwech’s faction that 135 non-commissioned officers and four generals had defected to their military camp.
In an exclusive interview with No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper, Col. Gabriel referred to the allegation coming from Kitgwang Declaration as ‘fake’ and strictly warned Gatwech’s group against using SPLA-IO name to gain popularity.
“The SPLA-IO currently, didn’t get any information or any message from the ground that its commanders have defected to Gatwech Dual, [he]Gatwech should just continue recruiting from whatever he is recruiting and absolutely avoid the name of SPLA-IO,” said Col. Gabriel.
“No one has gone to him from our [SPLA-IO] side since he left us. No defection, we are not aware of any defection,” he continued.
Mr. Gabriel claimed that Gatwech has lost credibility to stand strong and wage a genuine fight thus he’s only left with these verbal agenda against Machar’s party to regain trust from his followers.
He was responding to a letter dated October 30, from the alleged defectors who claimed that members of SPLM/A-IO including four top commanders have reportedly joined Gatwech’s camp.
“We declare our allegiance to the Kitgwang movement under the leadership of 1st Lt-Gen Simon Gatwech Dual. We are switching our allegiance from SPLA-IO leadership of Riek Machar,” reads a joint statement seen by No.1 Citizen.
Among the commanders who absconded include; Brig-Gen. John Jock Lul Kuoth, Brig-Gen. Paulino Biel Lul Kuon, Col. Tesloach Yak Chamjock, and Maj. Wiyual Bithou Deng. They accused the First Vice President of “failed leadership”.
However, SPLA-IO military spokesman, Mr. Gabriel downplayed the alleged failure in SPLA-IO leadership, citing that Machar has succeeded in implementing peace which saw progress in security, return of refugees and free movement of civilians.
From his part, the spokesperson of Gatwech, Alfred Gach Thot said members defected on October 30, 2022, in Nasir and they were received by Latjor Zonal Commander, Lt-Gen Koang Ruot Luach. “The SPLA-IO KD military leadership would like to welcome the courageous decision taken by the senior military officers who defected from SPLA-IO under the command of Machar and joined the ranks and files of SPLM/A-IO KD under the Chairman and commander in chief, 1st Lt-Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual,” Thot said.