Malong bags senior SSPDF men

The South Sudan United FRONT/Army under the leadership of former Chief of General Staff Paul Malong Awan says it has received new senior commanders who defected from the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) with all their artilleries and vehicles.

According to the SSUF/A press unit, Malong says, the senior ranking commanders have joined his movement including officers and NCOs as a response to his revolutionary quest for a change to come to South Sudan.

“We would like to welcome our new forces who defected from the government with all the artilleries and military vehicles and joined general Paul Malong Awan” he said in a statement.

“Thousands of congratulations to the following SSPDF officers who have defected from the SSPDF respective units along with their officers, NCOS and men and joined the SSUF/, in response to my revolutionary call for a regime change in the country,” the statement continues.

He said the current chaotic situation in the country requires a radical transformation that can install a good system of governance with a permanent constitution that is owned by the people.

“Our country is in a desperate situation which requires tough and truly radical solutions to install a genuinely democratic government with a people-driven permanent constitution,” he emphasized.

“The situation in our country is characterised by rampant corruption, cattle raiding, revenge killings, rape, robbery,  intercommunal violence, lack of freedom of expression, lack of political and democratic space and inhumane treatment of political dissidents by national security forces which the regime is incapable of handling,” he further narrated.

According to details obtained by City Review, the people who defected include Lt.Col Chierey James Geeh – 4th Infantry Division (Unity State),  Lt. Col Thon Achuilau Dong – (Lakes State),  Major Chipak Karay Gai – 1st Infantry Division (Renk), Capt. Nyah Wicyoak  –  Mayom Special Operations (Unity state), and Capt Chan Deng Ring – Special Force (Juba).

The senior commander is also urging SSPDF wherever they might be to reconsider the suffering of the South Sudanese population whom he said have been abandoned by their government.

“The only hope for our masses was the revitalised peace agreement which has already been sabotaged and undermined by the regime in order to further its stay in power for an indefinite period of time,” he said.  

“I urge the rest of the SSPDF forces wherever they are to follow suit and stand with our masses who have been abandoned to unenviable fates as the regime doesn’t care of their suffering. Let us take advantage of general feelings of dislike among the masses towards the despotic regime”, he emphasised.

Malong was part of the government he claims to change. His tenure as the General Chief of Staff, a position he held from April 23, 2014, to May 2017, was marred by reports of violence perpetrated against civilians by soldiers.

The SSUF/A Commander-in-Chief was sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council in 2018 for “actions or policies that threaten transitional agreements or undermine the political process in South Sudan, the targeting of civilians, including women and children, through the commission of acts of violence (including killing, maiming, torture, or rape or other sexual violence), abduction, enforced disappearance, forced displacement, or attacks on schools, hospitals, religious sites, or locations where civilians are seeking refuge”.

SSPDF answers

When contacted for comments, SSPDF Spokesperson Gen. Lul Ruai Koang said two of the commanders who defected were sent for capacity-building training.

“We git a report of officers who were sent for a capacity-building but they decided to go their way because they could not meet the criteria,” Lul said without specifically naming the officers in question.

The SSPDF boss added that some of the defectors were due for disciplinary action and opted to jump the ship before the hammer of justice could strike.

‘Maj. Cherey James Gek, and Capt. Nyak Wiyoah defected to SSUF/A. They had administrative issues with their respective commands. They defected to evade administrative measures being taken against them,’’ he told the City Review.

The development comes after the Minister of Presidential Affairs Dr Barnaba Marial Benjamin wrote to Sant’Egidio, asking for the postponement of Rome talks which scheduled for July 10 to July 10.

Even though Dr Barnaba said he would be busy with the preparation for independence, and the burial of former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda scheduled for July 9; the latest development may imply lots of hidden details. It covertly portrays the message where both the government and SSOMA plays their political card closer to their chest.

”I would like to request you to extend the date of SSOMA Rome peace talks with Gen. Paul Malong leader of SSUFA and Pagan Amum leader of SPLM to be held between 10 and 18 July.

“This is because I have been tasked to head the organising of a High-Level Committee for the celebration of tenth anniversaries of South Sudan independence,” Barnaba said in a statement.

Tables turn

In May 2021, SSOMA suffered a serious defection blow when the secretary of political affairs and SPLM national secretariat, Santo Malek Anai, and the other 12 members decamped to the government side describing it ‘as a step back home’.

“It will be a surprise to others… what happened [was that] these people responded to a peace call by President Kiir [and] that is why they are here coming back home to join peace implementation.

“They were all senior members and those who have come now are 12….there are other officers about 1000, [who] are on the way. They will declare themselves in a matter of time,” Anai explained.

Peace stakeholders such as IGAD and RJMEC have warned against shifting allegiance saying the trend jeopardises the peace implementation, ceasefire efforts and the unification of forces.