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South Sudan rebels claim more defections from government troops

June 15, 2015 (JUBA) - South Sudanese rebel forces in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state under the overall command of Major General Dau Aturjong, on Monday claimed they received new defecting officers and officials joining their ranks and file from the government. General Dau is a senior commander under the leadership of the rebel leader, Riek Machar.

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Rebel commander Brig General Joseph Gai Gatluak (left) pictured in front of his troops in Upper Nile state’s Manyo county in March 2015 (ST)

Abdallah Kuot, spokesperson of the group told Sudan Tribune on Monday they have received up to 200 officials and military officers after launching offensives in response to large scale offences in the area.

The group, according to the opposition official, was led by Lieutenant Colonel Deng Deng Aliel, whom he said defected from Gaj, a local administrative headquarters where the government troops in the area had established military outpost.

If confirmed, Colonel Aliel’s defection will be the latest in a series of such moves by high-profile government officials, raising questions about the stability of president Salva Kiir’s government two years into the civil war gripping the country.

Lt. Col. Aliel had previously served as the head of logistics and supply for the government troops fighting the armed opposition fighters in Jonglei state at the start of the conflict between late 2013 and early 2014. He led retreating government soldiers in June 2014 from Jonglei state to some of the states in greater Bahr el Ghazal region.

The new defecting officers, he said, claimed that many soldiers still serving in president Kiir’s government had lost faith and morale and were ready to join the movement any time soon.

“Colonel Deng Deng and his group have told us that those still serving in the government of Salva Kiir and his friends are only for appearance’s sake to present an image to the international community showing that the regime is the one that pulls together all segments of South Sudan,” Kuot explained.

“He had been working with rebels to defect”, he said.

There was no immediate reaction from the government on the reported defection.