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Thousands of Machar-led fighters "defect" to new rebel group

July 29, 2017 (KAMPALA) - At least 20,000 rebel troops loyal to South Sudan’s Former First Vice-President, Riek Machar have allegedly declared allegiance to the National Salvation Front (NASA), led by ex-South Sudan army’s deputy chief of logistics, Gen. Cirilo Swaka.

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Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirilo Swaka, the ex-SPLA deputy chief of general staff for training (youtube photo)

In a statement, Lt. Gen. John Kenyi Loburon, the overall commander of the Central Equatoria command of armed opposition movement faction (SPLM-IO) said his group had sealed links with the Machar-led rebel faction.

It remains unclear as to how many rebels could have defected, although Loburon put the figure at 20,000 in Equatoria region alone.

He cited divisions in the armed opposition faction soon after Agreement on Resolution of the Conflict of South Sudan (ARCSS), which allegedly created political differences in the ruling party.

“Despite continuous solidarity of my forces with SPLM-IO before and after the signing of ACRSS agreement in August 2015, the SPLM-IO leadership intentionally neglected our forces and only polluted us with the unnecessary and random promotion of officers,” said Loburon.

“For the above reasons and others too numerous to enumerate; I, along with my entire forces have decided to join the National Salvation Front (NAS) under the Leadership of Gen. Thomas Cirillo Swaka,” he added.

According to Swaka, NAS has shown a clear and bright path with a political road map for the restoration of the unity of the people.

“Known to many, Gen. Cirillo demonstrated his dedication and commitment to the cause of human dignity and freedom throughout the time of the liberation of South Sudan which resulted in the independence of South Sudan in 2011. But also unknown to many, Gen. Cirillo ever since has taken the risk to his life by providing us with logistics support, and tactical guidance when he was inside the country,” he said.

Sudan Tribune could, however, not confirm the rebels’ claims on the alleged defection.