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Over 200 government forces join rebel movement, official claims

January 9, 2017 (BENTIU) – Major defections have hit the South Sudanese army (SPLA) in Unity State after dozens of its forces reportedly joined the armed opposition allied to first Vice-President, Riek Machar in the north of the state.

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SPLA forces in Wau town on May 16; 2016 (ST Photo)

In a statement, the armed opposition spokesperson, Col. William Deng, claimed 250 soldiers defected from Mayom county, northwest of Bentiu town.

Those who defected, he said, were commanded by Col. Simon Mayiel Kulang from brigade 12, division 3 and reported at Panakuach, north of Unity state.

“These huge forces defected with 11 PKM, seven RPGs and a vehicle mounted with enough ammunition,” he said in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune.

The defectors, Deng further said, were received by their sector two commander, Lt. General Maguek Gai Majak at the armed opposition base in Panakuach.

The anticipated the numbers of those who defected to steadily rise with time.

“At least 250 soldiers defected to us yesterday [Sunday] and we have welcomed them to division 4 headquarters in the area,” the rebel official said.

“The number of the [pro-government] soldiers may be more than that. But this is a preliminary report I received from the ground,” he further told Sudan Tribune.

Meanwhile, Kulang accused the Juba government of allegedly practicing tribalism and nepotism, which has forced soldiers to defect to the rebels.

The rebel spokesperson also renewed claims the Sudanese rebels still exist in Unity State to fight alongside forces allied to President Salva Kiir’s soldiers.

“The regime in Juba has also maintained it close relationship with the Sudanese rebels, including the Justice and Equality Movement or JEM and SPLA-North that the regime has been relying on since it imposed this war on the people of South Sudan,” further stressed the armed opposition’s statement.

The rebel faction warned that there could be further escalation of the current conflict should government and its allied forces continue attacking armed opposition troops.

(ST)