By William Madouk
Over 100 members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) loyal to Dr. Riek Machar and a section of Kitgwang and Agwelek advance team have defected to the ruling party – SPLM.
Those who joined from advanced team allied to Gen. Simon Gatwech and Johnson Olony are 24 members led by Sebit Kong. While SPLM-IO loyal to Dr. Riek Machar who hail from Panyijar are 48 members led by Yohanies Kujiek.
It included 47 members of the SPLM-IO Lou area headed by PhD. Kuajien Lual Wechtour, a former SPLM/A-IO representative to Germany. This brings the total of three categories combined to 119 members.
SPLM secretary General, Peter Lam Both said when he welcomed the new defectors, that this is the first declaration since the party’s renaissances.
“The SPLM welcome you in a special way – and this is the first declaration after our SPLM renaissance in Nuer Counties of Upper Nile of Jonglei state,” Both said.
“We decided to take the message of SPLM and the message of peace to areas which were been sealed-off by the opposition because our people did not understand exactly what took place,” he added.
Mr. Both cited that for a decade now people have been misinformed by SPLM-IO about what transpired when conflict erupted, adding that SPLM party is all for all tribes in South Sudan.
“So, you have made a right decision, at right time – a right decision because the SPLM is multiethnic political party with a political program for this country and right time because we are now near elections period,” he noted.
He also warned the new defectors who might have joined the party for positions, asserting that SPLM have many cadres, and should there be any vacancy it must be allocated based on seniority.
“We don’t ask people to come join party in order to become ministers, advisors or something that’s not what we do – we have so many cadres in party already if we have vacancy, we will bring the old cadres in then you join the queue,”
The SPLM secretary general implored the defectors to join the SPLM weekly political forum that is organized by SPLM Youth League every Sunday to understand the party’s mission, vision and programs.
From his part, the SPLM Secretary for Political Affairs, Kuol Atem stated that SPLM has so many rooms for those willing to join, boasting that the SPLM party with 5 million members registered is poised to win upcoming polls.
“The SPLM has so many rooms when you left, it become empty and when you come back you will be shown your room. Because SPLM is a mother of all political parties in South Sudan,” Atem said.
“Almost 5 million members that we have register now, 5 million members are you not sure that SPLM is going to win? SPLM is going to win and when we win,” he added.
Mr. Atem explained that SPLM was having wound when those members left the party but as they come back the wound is gradually healing.
He added that “There is no one tribe even if you are million, Dinka cannot have a party, Nuer, Azande cannot have a party – there is not any tribe that can have a party even if you are millions,”
According to him, a party can be strong if have all tribes in its political organization rather than being dominated by one tribe.
Those who defected to Salva Kiir’s camp, accused Dr. Machar of marginalization, dictatorship and weak administration that destroy the SPLM-IO party internally.
They also claimed that SPLM-IO party has becomes ‘enterprises to the few individuals or family leadership’ that recruit and appoint people based on blood relationship, just to mention but a few.
A section of advance team also accused Gatwech and Olony of tactical delay in implementing the 2022 peace deal that was signed with the government, and rather formed new front to overthrow the regime.
Defectors noted that they have joined Kiir’s camp to help peace prevail in all corners of South Sudan and to develop together as one team and country.
However, SPLM-IO under Dr. Riek Machar, Kitgwang faction loyal to Gen. Simon Gatwech and Agwelek allied to Gen. Johnson Olony are yet to comment on the matter.
Recently, close to 36 bodyguards loyal to Gen. Olong arrived in the capital to lay the groundwork for his much-anticipated return, and it was expected that May 2, 2023, would be his red-carpet moment.
The delegation said last month that Olony had agreed to join President Salva Kiir in Juba to fully implement the Khartoum Declaration, which was signed between the SPLM-IG and the SPLM-IO Kitgwang faction.
According to Gen. Paul Achut Nyibek, the head of the Agwelek advance delegation to Juba, Olony’s arrival had to be delayed due to some logistical arrangements that were taking longer.
He did not however break down what the arrangements were.