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138 South Sudanese rebels abandon Gen Cirilo, rejoin SPLM-IO

June 16, 2018 (JUBA) – A total of 138 members of South Sudan Liberation Army-In-Opposition (SPLM-IO), who initially joined the National Salvation Front (NAS), led by Gen Thomas Cirilo have denounced the group and returned to the armed opposition movement led by Riek Machar.

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Colonel John Kaden Elisa (courtesy photo)

In a statement, Col John Kaden Elisa, who led the group of defectors, said they incorporated into NAS by Lt Gen John Kenny Latio, a senior commander of SPLA-IO, when he also joined the NAS.

While with the NAS, Kaden said they were ordered to fight the SPLA-IO, instead of pro-government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir.

“On behalf of my comrades in arms and on my own behalf, I Lt Col John Kaden Elisa and 137 other comrades decided to resign from NAS effective 15/06/2018 and rejoin the SPLA-IO under the leadership of Dr Riek Machar Teny. When Lt Gen John Kenyi Latio defected to NAS in July 2017, he forced us and conscripted others to join him and fight for NAS under Gen Thomas Cirillo. However, we ended up fighting against the SPLA-IO instead of the regime in Juba as it happened in Kajo Keji and many other places,” explained Kaden.

He said their decision to join the SPLA-IO was not through coercion, but willingly, claiming that they were instead ordered by Lt Gen Kenyi to join General Cirilo-led NAS.

Those who defected, according to Kaden, were promised logistics to fight the Juba regime, but to date nothing has been delivered, but instead ordered to attack SPLA-IO position to get arms and support from willing people in the diaspora.

“When we joined the SPLA-IO in 2014, it was out of our free will not force; this was however, not the case with NAS where we were forced to join by Gen Kenyi being the sector commander. We were also deceived that Gen Cirillo would supply us with logistics to fight the regime in juba. Up to now nothing has so far happened in that line, NAS forces are entirely depending on attacking SPLA-IO positions and support from some well-wishers in diaspora,” said Kaden.

“The above reasons and many others not mentioned here made us resign and rejoin the SPLA-IO so that lasting peace and freedom is achieved in South Sudan for all South Sudanese. The struggle continues,” he added.

Meanwhile the SPLA-IO has welcomed the group, saying they will incorporate them to fight the oppressive regime in South Sudan.

The SPLM-IO deputy spokesperson, Lt Col Paul Gabriel Lam, said the defection is a testimony that their group is united.

“The SPLA-IO this evening (June 15), would like to welcome back Lt Col John Kaden Elisa and 137 comrades who were forced to join NAS last year 2017. The resistance continues,” said Lam.

(ST)