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Juba-based armed opposition commander joins Machar

February 8, 2018 (JUBA) - A senior armed opposition (SPLM-IO) commander allied to South Sudan’s First Vice-President, Taban Deng Gai has abandoned the government and rejoined rebels loyal to Riek Machar, citing alleged favoritism and corruption in the coalition government.

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Machar speaks on a mobile phone after an interview with Reuters in Kenya’s capital Nairobi July 8, 2015

Dickson Gatluak Jock, a spokesperson for the Gai-led faction, confirmed that they had indeed lost contacts with the commander.

“I know some supporters may be annoyed that Gen. Abieth is back to the bush, but it probably doesn’t have a direct impact on the SPLA-IO success,” Gatluak told Sudan Tribune Thursday.

Maj. Gen. Samuel Bidit Puot, nicknamed Abieth, claimed the leadership of Gai failed to resolve the main issues in the peace deal.

“The lack of clear rules in the system and recognition of fighters who fought the battle for the last four years in Malakal, Bentiu, and Bor within the SPLA-IO is a major issue,” said Puot.

According to the defected official, few Nuer officers in Gai’s circle are the ones benefiting from the Juba-based coalition government.

“There is no government in Juba it is about a group of elite who have a personal interest, therefore such activities has forced me not to build trust and confidence,” Puot said in a phone interview.

The spokesperson for the Gai-led faction, however, admitted that any institution of governance has challenges that can be resolved.

“Some of these administrative challenges are truly minor and they have no negative impact on the movement,” Gatluak stressed.

Puot, a Lou-Nuer, hails from Akobo area. Before he switched sides, he was among the rebel commanders that fought government forces in Malakal while serving with the “white army”, a local militia group recruited from Lou and Nasir areas of South Sudan.