September 28, 2016 (KAMPALA) – At least 26 supporters of South Sudanese former vice president, Riek Machar in Kampala, Uganda said they have defected to the faction headed by his successor, Taban Deng Gai.
The defectors included former members of the armed opposition faction (SPLM-IO) office in the Ugandan capital.
Those who abandoned Machar’s faction included ex-Mayom county commissioner Charles Kuol.
Malek Cook, a defector, described Gai as the only leader capable of restoring peace and stability.
“Taban’s [Deng] faction is pursuing peaceful means using non-violence that is why we have defected to support peace. The compromise peace agreement is to be implemented in later and spirit whereby Taban now is [implementing]. There are so many milestones that we can see the positive part compromise peace agreement two is moving on very well,” Malek told Sudan Tribune on Thursday.
He said those who joined the country’s new first vice president were due to traverse the various camps accommodating South Sudanese refugees in Uganda to rally support for the ex-rebel chief negotiator.
“Our strategy [is] to bring the community on board. We are very soon to launch some conferences peace conferences here in Kampala whereby we should encourage debate and dialogue and preaching the message of peace to the community,” further stressed Malek.
James Magok Chuol, a member of the Machar-led faction, however, said they were undeterred by the alleged defection of some youth to Gai’s group, stressing that the defectors supported the Juba regime.
“They are none SPLM [South Sudan’s ruling party] members since the incident of 2013 and if you look at some of them is government supporters, some of them came to Uganda for school. They are not even participating in the SPLM activities in Uganda,” Chuol told Sudan Tribune in an interview.
He said the economic crisis in the country forced many South Sudanese students to drop out of school.
Those claiming to be Gai’s supporters were simply seeking financial gains having dropped out of school.
“Some of the students drop out from school if there is any opportunity for them to get mean then because they are too desperate, because if you look at Taban group, they are after money,” he added.
Stephen Waat Bipal, who supports Machar, says he too believes his colleagues who defected to Deng’s faction are expecting to receive funds from the South Sudanese government under President Salva Kiir.
“I think those members they are the members who want to manipulate the community and I know that even they know themselves and their chairman comrade Taban when he defected from the SPLM-IO to the government and then the decision we know the chairman dismissed general Taban from the membership of the SPLM-IO and all the positions he held in the SPLM-IO,” he said.
Machar fled the South Sudan capital, Juba in July after his residence was attacked prompting his immediate replacement from the coalition government. The armed opposition leader has vowed not to return to Juba unless a protection force has been deployed, along the United Nations peacekeepers to restore calm in Juba city.