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Tiger faction of ethnic Shilluk kingdom dismisses integration into SPLM-IO

March 10, 2016 (JUBA) - An ethnic Shilluk force, known as the Tiger Faction New Forces (TFNF), which defected from Commander Johnson Olony’s Aguelek forces last year, has rejected appointment of their top leader as commander of Special Brigade One, saying they will not join the peace agreement unless President Salva Kiir revoked his creation of 28 states and gave back the annexed Shilluk lands including Malakal, capital of the newly established East Nile state (Upper Nile state).

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A member of South Sudanese rebel patrols the streets of Malakal, on March 4, 2014 (Photo AFP/Andrei Pungovschi)

In the recent preliminary deployments of hundreds of senior military officers of the armed Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) from Greater Upper Nile region, which Sudan Tribune published on Thursday, Major General Yoanis Okich of the TFNF was deployed as commander of the Special Brigade One by the opposition leader, Riek Machar.

However, the spokesperson for the TFNF dismissed the appointment, saying his forces will not join the SPLM-IO or take part in the implementation of the August 2015 peace agreement until the issue of the 28 states is resolved.

“TFNF was established by patriotic sons/daughters of South Sudan as a loud rejection to the un-constitutional establishment order 36/2015 which divided the Republic of South Sudan into 28 unpopular states. Hence it would only seize its political and military struggle against the dictatorial regime in Juba if its revokes the unpopular establishments order 36/2015 and restore Shilluk territories as per 1956 borders,” partly reads a press statement signed by Brigadier General Otowang Achwang, military spokesperson of TFNF, and extended to Sudan Tribune on Thursday.

“Once again we seize this opportunity to reassure our supporters that your gallant people’s revolutionary movement the Tigers will not be part of any forces or agreement that does not address the political grievances upon which it was established,” it said.

He said the ethnic Shilluk breakaway faction will continue with the armed struggle, saying appointing their commander in the SPLM-IO army structure was rejected and would therefore not shake their “revolutionary convictions.”

Forces in the Shilluk kingdom split last year from the main stream faction of Aguelek which joined the SPLM-IO under the overall command of Lt. General Johnson Olony.

General Olony is the appointed overall commander of the SPLA-IO’s Sector 1 headquarters, which includes Division 1, Division 7 and Aguelek forces based in Upper Nile state.

President Salva Kiir on 2 October 2015 unilaterally decreed creation of 28 states in contravention to the peace deal which is based on the existing 10 states.

The decision has been controversial since last year with the East African regional bloc, IGAD, intervening and calling on Kiir’s government to suspend the operationalization of the new states until the parties to the agreement reach a consensus and without which they should revert to the 10 states.