SOUTH SUDAN: Top SPLA-IO General Crosses to Kiir’s SSPDF

Brigadier General Solomon Peter Angelo Ihile

AGENCIES | © Radio Tamazuj – A top Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) General last week abandoned Dr. Riak Machar’s outfit and joined the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) under president Salva Kiir.

Brigadier General Solomon Peter Angelo Ihile was the head of administration for SPLA-IO Anyanya Division at the Achwa Cantonment Site before he moved to the Rambur Unified Training Center. He defected from the training centre to SSPDF in Lirya Payam of central Equatoria state. 

Gen. Ihile is the first senior opposition military officer in Eastern Equatoria State to desert Dr Machar for the SSPDF since the 2013 crisis.

In a statement declaring his defection, Gen Ihile wrote, “Having observed with grave concerns political and military fragmentation within SPLA/M (IO) for a long time, it has now come to our genuine conclusion that SPLM/A-IO is no longer relevant with political realities for which it was formed. The SPLM/A-IO has lost direction and command of the forces.”

The statement added: “It’s therefore, against this backdrop, in the interest of implementation of Sept 12 / 2018 agreement and in the Spirit of ensuring stability and our love for our country of South Sudan that we are hereby declaring our defection from the SPLM/A-IO with effect from September 07, 2021.”

Gen. Ihila’s statement he will work with the SSPDF to ensure that troops that have been abandoned in bushes without food, shelter, and medicine are promptly recognized and integrated into the SSPDF. 

Sounded out by Radio Tamazuj, he said, “There are many reasons that make people defect from the opposition to the government. The opposition is not capable and failed to take care of its soldiers. All the soldiers have scattered and even in barracks, soldiers are suffering and the children of soldiers are suffering in their houses. I have decided to defect because I have seen there is a failure in SPLA-IO. That is why I see I should go back home to work together with my brothers.”

He said staying in the bush had lost meaning and cited the defection of the SPLA-IO’s former Chief of Staff, Gen. Simon Gatwich Dual who he said also defected. 

For his part, SPLA-IO spokesperson Col. Lam Paul Gabriel confirmed the defection and said it was against the spirit of implementing the peace agreement because the SPLA-IO and SSPDF are peace partners who are going to have a unified command and that there was no need for defections.

“His defection from Rambur Training Center in Juba to SSPDF in Lirya is not right. First of all, he is among the first batch of which if they graduated, they would be the first people to administer this south Sudan but now he has returned himself backwards. Even if he goes elsewhere, these forces will still be unified so this is not good. It is a violation of the peace agreement,” Col. Lam said. 

He acknowledged that forces, including the SSPDF, are facing several challenges including hunger but said it did not warrant desertion. 

“This is a clear violation, it is not good. I know there are conditions in different barracks and centers, there is hunger, suffering, and death,” Col. Lam said. “It is not only our soldiers there but even government soldiers are also suffering. If you want peace, patience is good. Suffering is everywhere and there is no happy South Sudanese, we are all suffering as soldiers and civilians. This is a big violation.” 

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