February 6, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudanese rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army In Opposition (SPLM/A In Opposition) have claimed more defections from government troops to the rebels side in Lakes state.
The military spokesperson for the rebels, Brig Lul Ruai Koang, in a press release seen by the Sudan Tribune said over 700 government troops defected from Rumbek East county at Kerich village in the central Lakes state on 5th February, killing many government’s troops including the commander of the force in the area.
He said the defection occurred when the government was trying to launch yet another attack on the position of the rebels in the neighbouring Unity state in violation of the ceasefire agreement recently signed in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
"Kiir’s army experienced this internal revolt at Kerich village in Rumbek East County in Lakes state while on transit to attack our forces at Panyijiar County in the neighbouring Unity state,” the rebels’ spokesperson said.
He pointed out that a new commander immediately took over and fought their way through up to Unity state.
"Major Changkuoth Puok then took over the command of the servicemen and joined the rebellion with their equipment," he said, adding that the mutinied soldiers took with them 16 trucks and land cruisers, some mounted with 12.7, 14.5 and Zoo 23 heavy weapons.
Koang further accused the Ugandan army of interfering with the fighting in Lakes state, saying their helicopter gunships carried out the bombing in the area.
“While the fighting was raging on between the divided army, the Ugandan’s gunships and attack helicopters conducted air interdictions and close air support in support of Kiir’s troops,” he said, adding that the mission by the helicopter gunships however failed to achieve the desired fire effects and instead ended in failure.
Koang said the hundreds of the mutinied soldiers will join up with the rebel forces of division 4 under the overall command of Maj. Gen. James Koang Chol.
REBEL POSITIONS TARGETED NEAR MALAKAL
In a separate development, Koang said SPLA forces loyal to president Kiir and their allied militias of Gen. Johnson Olony carried out joint attacks against the forces of the former vice-president Riek Machar at Achep-Al-Nil and Canal in Pigi county of Jonglei state, about 25km from Malakal town.
He said 60 Kiir’s soldiers were killed in the battle and their remnants were repulsed, leaving some equipment behind.
While confirming the two incidences, Machar’s spokesperson James Gatdet Dak told the Sudan Tribune that more defections are expected from "Kiir’s forces to the pro-democracy forces in the next coming phase".
"You will hear about more defections in the coming period unless Salva Kiir embraces peace and heeds to the popular demand for him to step down as a failed leader," Dak said.