August 23, 2014 (JUBA) – A top rebel official on Friday announced his defection from opposition forces led by former vice-president Riek Machar, accusing the latter of “misinforming” his fighters on the actual cause of the ongoing conflict.
- South Sudan’s former vice-president turned rebel leader, Riek Machar, South Sudan’s rebel leader, Riek Machar, pictured in rebel-controlled territory in Jonglei state on 1 February 2014 (Photo: Reuters)
However, Machar’s rebel group has denied membership of the alleged official, saying James Khan Jok had never joined the rebel movement.
James Khan Jok, a former education minister in Upper Nile state, returned to Juba with three others and was received by Upper Nile’s information, Peter Hoth Tuach, among other officials.
“Riek Machar was telling us [defectors] on the ground that the fighting is between Nuer and Dinka while in Addis Ababa he is appointing Dinkas to key, top positions of rebels,” said Jok.
He however said he was surprised to discover that the rebel external relations spokesman, Mabior Garang de Mabior and foreign affairs coordinator, Dhieu Mathok, were Dinkas serving in the movement.
“I question him [Machar] why you are telling us on the ground that the fighting is between Nuer and Dinka and here you are appointing Dinkas in [to] key positions? This one was not understandable to me. It means that there is a hidden agenda with Riek Machar,” said Khan, who arrived in Juba aboard Kenyan Airways.
The ex-rebel official, in a separate interview, claimed Machar lacked control of forces on the ground and that each commanding officer operated independently without taking orders from the rebel leader.
“Because of this lack of control of forces, the commanding officers continue to operate in their own, thereby resulting to lack of implementation of the cessation hostilities agreement”, he told Sudan Tribune Saturday.
Jok dismissed as “unconstitutional” recent calls by the former vice president-turned rebel leader for dissolution of elected institutions, removal of the president, elected lawmakers and state governors.
“These institutions can only be replaced through election and not any other means”, he stressed.
The rebels, Jok said, are now urging the mediators to grant them 70% representation in the transition government, with 28% for the former political detainees and that government only gets 2% slots.
“So you see that the whole thing in this conflict is about position and does not care about people at all. I said no, peace and unity of our people and the country comes first, not positions,” he remarked.
Upper Nile’s information minister welcomed Khan’s decision to abandon rebellion for the sake of peace and stability in the country.
“The return of comrade Jok is very important for our country and our leadership. I played is a very important role because I want our people and the country to be in peace and stable”, he said.
South Sudanese interior Minister, Aleu Ayieny Aleu, said the return of the former rebels was crucial in efforts to restore peace and unity.
“This is encouraging step and we as the government looks forward to receiving more people who were misled by Riek and the other group. It is time we come together to move this country forward instead of dwelling on the past and looking backward. It is not helpful”, said Aleu.
“James Khan Jok has never been a member of our movement. He fled Malakal as a fugitive when he got himself into administrative problems with the state government, but never joined us. He had been in Nairobi, maybe trying to solve his personal problems with the government. He is simply reporting himself back to his government after running away for personal reasons,” Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak told Sudan Tribune in reaction to the allegation.
"Mr Jok should have been honest about it," he added.
Dak also added that Machar never minced his words when he had been telling members of the movement and fighters that the war was imposed on the people of South Sudan by Salva Kiir and should not be allowed to become Nuer versus Dinka war.
“It is Salva Kiir, not Dinkas, who has imposed this fratricidal war and its subsequent predicament. Kiir is the one who wants the war to become a tribal war,” he said.
He said it was clear that the alleged defecting official was not well informed about the positions of the opposition faction as indicated by his incorrect percentages of power sharing.