Fragile Kit Gwang unity put to the test by fresh clashes

Fragile Kit Gwang unity put to the test by fresh clashes
The chairman of SPLM/A-IO Kit Gwang faction, Simon Gatwech Dual and the deputy chairman of Kit Gwang faction and commander of Agwelek forces, Johnson Olony Thubo. [Photo: Courtesy]

The SPLM/A-IO Kit Gwang faction has called for a ceasefire within its ranks after clashes which left 18 dead, among them civilians in Wij Panyikang, Upper Nile State. 

 The faction is led by Gen. Simon Gatwech and deputised by Jonhson Olony of Agwelek forces.

Another attack happened Wednesday, but both sides have not yet revealed casualties so far despite attempts to acquire such information.

The spokesperson of the Kit Gwang faction, Alfred Gach Thot, said in a statement yesterday that the clashes were due to a disagreement within SPLM/A-IO Kit Gwang, but he failed to elaborate more on it. 

“The SPLA-IO Kit Gwang under the wise and able leadership of First Lt Gen Simon Gatwech Dual is deeply concerned about the ongoing clashes within SPLA-IO Kit Gwang, which also involved the killing of innocent civilians in Wunkur village, and the SPLA-IO Kit Gwang call to end the violent and the misunderstanding can be resolved amicably by the two leaders,” Gach stated.

He stressed that the speculations about the ousting of Simon Gatwech Dual by his deputy, Johnson Olony were “fake and baseless”.

The Kit Gwang spokesperson added, “The office of the Spokesperson would like to inform the public and SPLM/A-IO Kit Gwang members and supporters to disregard the fake and baseless reports which circulated on social media that 1st Lt Gen Simon Gatwech Dual has been removed by Gen Johnson Olony.” 

“Gen Johnson himself during the interview by radio Tamazuj dismissed the circulated news as fake and he vowed that he still under 1st Lt Gen Simon Gatwech Dual as his chairman and commander-in-chief of SPLA/M-IO Kit Gwang.”

Clashes confirmed

The head of Agwelek forces’ delegation in Juba, Paul Achot Achobek, told the City Review that there were clashes yesterday but had not received any reports of casualties.

He dismissed the claims that the forces that clashed with Agwelek forces were loyal to Gatwech. He said the forces that clashed with their forces might have been civilians.

“There were clashes in Wij Panyikang (near Tunga in Panyikang County) between our forces (Agwelek forces) and some unidentified forces, even though there are claims that they are Gen. Gatwech forces – these claims are not true as Gen. Gatwech (is) still our C in C Commander-in-Chief),” Achot stressed.

“The report of two days ago; 18 were killed from the other side and Agwelek had two wounded. There were clashes today, but we still don’t (have) any reports. “

No ouster

Last week, Gach acknowledged a little misunderstanding within the faction of Gatwech and Johnson Olony but noted that it did not lead to an ouster.

Kit Gwang’s spokesperson said the misunderstanding was in relation to January 16, 2022 Khartoum Peace agreement for integration of Kit Gwang and Agwelek forces into South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF).

“The misunderstanding happened on the nature of interpretation of the 16 January deal, signed under security arrangements.” “Now the two can sit and solve the issue any time and they still trust themselves, and even all our officers that were detained were all released three days ago,” he said.

“They were detained by Gen. Paromi Angui, the deputy of Agwelek Division, during the aftermath of a misunderstanding in Magenis.” I will not comment on the fate of the signed 16 January agreement since our chairman is here to give his view on it but what I know, our chairman is a man of peace and he is ready to discuss peace with any peace lover’s advocate.”

Peace spoilers

Paul Achot Achobek, the head of Agwelek delegates in Juba, also noted that Olony was still under the leadership of Simon Gatwech Dual.

“I think about a week ago, there was an interview by Johnson Olony regarding what you just mentioned. “And he stated clearly that there is no change in command of Kit Gwang, Simon Gatwech is still the leader of Kit Gwang and Commander-in-Chief, and is deputised by Johnson Olony Thubo,” Achot reiterated.

He also disputed the allegations of ouster, adding that they were rumours peddled by “anti-peace” elements wishing to spoil Khartoum Peace Agreement.

“What you have just mentioned is an unfounded allegation. To be frank with you, there are some elements who actually want this to happen. They are anti-peace and want to advance their agenda,” he said. 

“They don’t want this peace agreement to be implemented, and so they resort to releasing such allegations so that the peace is not implemented. And that allegation is unfounded.”

The government delegation led by the Presidential Advisor on National Security, Tut Gatluak Manime, signed a peace agreement with Kit Gwang forces and Agwelek forces to end bloodshed in Northern Upper Nile State.

President Salva Kiir Mayardit granted them amnesty, and urged them to give their apology to the people of South Sudan for what he called “wrongdoing.”