February 10, 2014 (RUMBEK) - Authorities in Lakes state’s Rumbek East county have denied rebel claims that hundreds of South Sudan government troops defected to the rebels’ side in Kerich village on Thursday.
According to a statement issued by rebel military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang and extended to Sudan Tribune, more than 700 troops from the South Sudan army (SPLA) had defected, killing government troops, including the area commander of forces.
Ruai alleged the defections occurred as government were attempting to launch an attack on rebel positions inside neighbouring Unity state.
However, Rumbek East County commissioner David Marial Gumke has strongly denied the claims, demanding Ruai apologise for making false statements and distorting the situation on the ground in Lakes state.
“First of all, there is no [army] barracks in Kerich; under my command neither a civil servant or in army, nobody has defected. No one admires [former vice-president] Riek Machar”, he said,
“People either old or young are mostly very loyal to democratically elected president Salva Kiir Mayardit - there is nobody in Rumbek East loyal to Riek Machar, and I am very confident”, he added.
Gumke stressed that troops within his administration were well organised, comprising of forces from prison, police and fire services, and that there had been no reports of defections.
“Those you see in those complex uniforms are organised forces and these are people imposing [the] rule of law in this county”, he said.
The commissioner said that authorities in Rumbek East county intended to pursue Machar over alleged atrocities committed against Lakes state citizens in other regions, including Malakal, Akobo, Bor and Bentiu.
“We are now filing the court case against Riek [Machar] ... We will bring his rebellion to an end”, he said.
Violence erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, on 15 December following clashes between rival factions of the presidential guards, quickly spreading throughout the country.
The conflict has pitted government forces loyal to president Kiir against pro-Machar rebels, with both sides accused to violating the terms of a ceasefire agreement signed between the warring parties last month.