SSPDF denies welcoming NAS forces

SSPDF denies welcoming NAS forces
SSPDF Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang (photo credit: file)

The South Sudan People’s Defence Force’s (SSPDF) general headquarters has denied any knowledge of any defection of forces of the Gen. Thomas Cirilo-led National Salvation Front (NAS). The forces allied to the holdout group reportedly defected to the government.

The SSPDF Spokesperson, Major Gen. Lul Ruai, told The City Review on Friday that the army leadership had no details about the purported NAS defection.

Gen. Lul was responding to an alleged document signed by five officers announcing their defection from the forces, of the government in Yei River County, Central Equatoria State, four days ago.

According to the document dated April 19, 2022, the NAS Commander of Military Operation in Central Equatoria State, Maj. Gen. Martin Batali Sebit, accused Gen. Cirilo of five counts, among them a lack of vision, corruption, and nepotism.

”We, the officers of the National Salvation Front (NAS), led by Maj. Gen. Martin Sebit Batali, the Commander of Military Operations for Central Equatoria State Sector, with our troops numbering two hundred (200) strong forces based within Yei River County of Morobo, Lasu, and Senimo Payams areas, are writing to express our gratitude.

“Have decided wholeheartedly to join the government of South Sudan under H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit, the President of the Republic of South Sudan, in the request for peace and stability in our beloved country, such that together we can usher in the realisation of development for our citizens and bring the suffering of our people to an end,” partly read the statement.

Poised for the next move

It added, “Together we will set a new direction for our country and South Sudan to reclaim its status regionally and internationally as a country of peace, democracy, justice, equality, freedom, the rule of law, and opportunity for all.”

Other signatories to the document included Brig. Gen. David Simon Thomson, Brig. Gen. Bullum Walter, Brig. Gen. James Benjamin Remo, and Col. Agele Emmanuel Severino.

“The leadership of the National Salvation Front (NAS) under Gen. Thomas Cirilo Swaka failed to show a true leadership quality in how it runs the party’s affairs, especially in building the young, capable and energetic youth to prepare them for a better future generation.”

“The leadership lacks a clear, sound vision that can unite the members of diverse communities of South Sudan who joined the party to turn it into a formidable force that could contribute effectively to the transformation of the country as the people yearn for a true leader who could ably lead them to live in sustainable peace and unity of purpose regardless of their ethnic affiliations,” the statement further alleged.

Had it been confirmed, this would have marked the second blow to Gen. Cirilo in less than four months.

On January 28, an estimated 1,500 NAS forces headed by Lt Gen Richard Lokole Loteka dumped Gen. Cirilo’s camp and joined the former Army leader, Gen. Paul Malong Awan.

NAS has been blamed for causing insecurity, especially in Central Equatoria State, causing massive displacement in Lainya. Morobo and villages around Yei River County.

The peace negotiations between the government and the South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance (SSOMA), of which NAS is a part, are yet to resume.