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SPLM/A-IO downplays defection of top division commander

September 25, 2019 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s armed opposition faction (SPLM/SPLA (IO) has downplayed the recent defection of one its top generals to the government led by President Salva Kiir.

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SPLM-Io leader Riek Machar speaks at the peace celebration day in Juba on 31 October 2018 (AP Photo).

Major Gen. James Ochan Puot, one of the SPLM/A-IO’s top commanders, announced on Sunday that he had defected from the armed opposition group led by Riek Machar and joined Kiir.

Maj. Gen. Puot was deputy commander of the SPLA-IO’s division 5.

The former commander said he defected from the armed opposition group after “deliberate attacks, killings and displacement of Cie-waw community in Adar State where thousands of civilians were displaced from their homes by SPLA-IO forces since July 31, 2019.”

But the SPLM/A-IO, in a statement, said the decision by the ex-deputy commander to quit at a time of implementing the revitalized peace agreement is a “counter insurgency tactic of the security”.

“The SPLM/SPLA (IO), therefore, reserves the right to natural self-defense since Gen. James Ochan Puot has declared to be part of the government. The People’s Movement will thereby consider any attack by his forces as an attack by the SSPDF,” reads the statement.

Meanwhile, the SPLM/A-IO reiterated its full commitment to the implementation of revitalized peace deal in letter and spirit, saying it is the only to attain lasting peace in South Sudan.

South Sudan descended into war in December 2013 when Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup.

In September 2018, the rival factions involved in the conflict signed a peace deal to end the conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced over 2 million people in the country.

(ST)