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South Sudan senior SPLA-IO commanders defect to SPLA in Unity region

August 21, 2016 (BENTIU) – A number of senior military commanders, mainly from Guit, the home county of the newly appointed First Vice President, Taban Deng Gai, in Unity region, have defected to the South Sudanese army (SPLA) under the leadership of President Salva Kiir.

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First Vice President, Riek Machar, accompanied by SPLA-IO officers, Juba, 27 May, 2016 (ST Photo)

Lt. Gen. Dor Manjuor, Gen. Liah Diu and Gen. Makal Kuol have confirmed to Sudan Tribune in separate satellite phone interviews that they are no longer supporting former first vice president Riek Machar, adding they are part of the group allied to new South Sudan first vice president Taban Deng Gai.

Although the three Generals were reported last month to have defected to Gai with their bodyguards, Gen. Liah denied that he defected to Gand told Sudan Tribune he did not support the new South Sudan first vice president.

But on Sunday Gen. Liah indeed told Sudan Tribune he is not any longer loyal to Machar, a move which contradicted his earlier last month’s statement. Observers said he refused to declare his open support to Gai because he feared for his life in the location where he was as he was only with his bodyguards and could be attacked by Machar’s loyalist forces in Guit area.

However, Gen. Manjuor, another army officer hailing from Gai’s home town, declared his allegiance to Gai, and claimed he joined Gai group in support of President Kiir to defend the country.

“What I want to tell you the whole of Guit county is for peace. We support the peace under President Salva Kiir and his deputy Taban Deng Gai,” he said.

The declaration came as the SPLA Chief of General Staff, Paul Malong Awan flew to Guit county with some senior officers including SPLA spokesperson, Brigadier Gen. Lul Ruai Koang.

The group claimed they have defected from the SPLA-IO to President Kiir’s SPLA with 11,000 troops currently allegedly stationed in Guit area, waiting for full integrations into the SPLA under the command of President Kiir.

However, Major Weirial Puok Baluang, press secretary for the opposition’s appointed governor of Unity state, has dismissed as “propaganda” the alleged number of troops that defected to President Kiir for integration.

He said the three Generals only defected with the total of 80 soldiers, describing the claim as “white lies” from desperate people in need of cash money from the regime of Juba.