SPLA-IO chief of staff assures Machar of support amid defections
SPLA-IO Chief of Staff Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual has affirmed his support for opposition leader Riek Machar amid defections in the main opposition group’s military wing.
Gen. Gatwech's assurance came barely three days after his deputy Lt. Gen. James Koang Chuol defected with three other top generals to the country’s president Salva Kiir.
In an exclusive interview with Radio Tamazuj on Thursday, the most powerful general said he supports Machar in his agenda to create unified forces.
According to 1st Lt. Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual, entire SPLA-IO fighters are supporting the leadership’s endeavour to restore peace and stability. “I want to assure the public that all my forces are in their locations and training camps. So, there is no any problem,” he said.
The Chief of General Staff stated that the defection of Lt. Gen. James Koang and other top military commanders would not affect the main opposition group.
“I don’t see any reason for those officers to defect. The distribution of ministerial portfolios as part of the peace agreement was meant for politicians, not military officers,” he said.
Gatwech, an ally of Machar since 2013, affirmed his commitment to support peace and follow through the full implementation of the security arrangements.
“I am working to ensure all my forces are trained together with government troops. I cannot go to Juba right now because my forces are still undergoing military training. Why should I go to Juba before my forces are trained, integrated and deployed?” He asked.
The top general urged all parties to the peace agreement to expedite implementation of the security arrangement deal in order to shore up the peace process in the country.
“I am following what is stipulated in the peace agreement. I am also calling upon President Salva Kiir to expedite the implementation of the security arrangements because resources are in his hand,” said Gatwech.
The former rebel commander warned that the political settlement in the country could collapse if peace partners are not serious to reform the security sector.
Gatwech says he is still waiting to receive a briefing from Machar following the formation of the transitional government of national unity.
"We are expecting the first vice president to come and brief his forces in our headquarters in Diehl, following the formation the transitional government. Also, I have no problem with the newly appointed SPLM-IO ministers," said Gatwech.
Gatwech, who hails from Uror County in Jonglei State, joined Machar in 2013. He was appointed as Chief of General Staff of the opposition Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In-Opposition (SPLA-IO) on 21 December 2014.