Will Kit Gwang withstand the stormy cracks?

Will Kit Gwang withstand the stormy cracks?
The former spokesperson for the SPLM/A-IO splinter group, Kit Gwang declaration, currently in SSPDF, William Gatjiath. [Photo: Courtesy]

On January 27, 2022, the SPLA-IO splinter faction, Kit Gwang, was destined for a bumper political deal. After the on and off armed tussles with their former colleagues in SPLM/A-IO under the leadership of the First Vice President, Dr Riek Machar, the breakaway outfit gave in to a ceasefire arrangement after a series of talks with the government through the ruling party, SPLM-IG.

A government delegation led by the Presidential Advisor on National Security Affairs, Tut Gatluak, jetted in Khartoum, Sudan, to tie Kit Gwang to a deal after lengthy haggling to have them brought on board. A historic deal was midwifed by the Sudanese military ruler, Maj Gen Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, allowing the SPLA-IO splinter faction to land a return to the Juba formula on a raft of ceasefire terms with the Juba administration.

Signed on January 27, 2022, the Khartoum Peace Agreement defined six irreducible minimums to be met by the signatories

The government was to grant amnesty to the leaders, Gen Simon Gatwech, the leader of Kit Gwang and Johnson Olony, his deputy who leads the Agwelek forces. 

The two factions agreed in the declaration that internally displaced persons were to be settled and the Joint Security Committee, which would be formed within three months, was to ensure that the Kit Gwang forces are relocated to Manyo, Southern Malakal, and Eastern Jonglei.

Apart from providing security to the civilians and their coordination offices built in Bor, Juba, and Malakal the SSPDF was to provide food and medical supplies.

Trouble within

But with over six months having gone to the drain, there have been no substantial achievements made in the Khartoum Peace deal. Kit Gwang, a well-oiled force that demonstrated the military might in the states, particularly Upper Nile, has been embroiled in infighting characterised by deadly fights, even as the two leaders hold the opinion that they are still together and they profess the same ideologies.

On Monday, the spokesperson of the Kit Gwang, Alfred Gach Thot, acknowledged in a statement that there was indeed a clash but he failed to spill more details. 

“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.

But the head of the Agwelek forces’ delegation in Juba, Paul Achot Achobek, gave The City Review a different account. He said he was yet to receive reports of a clash or casualties on the same. Achobek was categorical that the forces within KitGwang did not turn guns on each other. 

“…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).’’

Last month, Olony’s delegation in Juba met President Salva Kiir for a brief in Juba, where an agreement was struck for joint police force recruitment in Upper Nile. 

Despite this development, their leader, Gen Gatwech has grown impatient with their stay in Juba saying the agreement was shredded by the government. 

The delay in the implementation of the Khartoum deal and the increasing unease in the outfit are no doubt Gatwech’s headaches. 

On Monday, Sudan Tribune quoted the Kit-Gwang supremo calling on the Khartoum government to bring the government to its sense and implement the deal.

“They are not serious and our team went to Juba with the guarantee of Sudan because Sudan is the guarantor of the negotiations, but now nothing is going on. Our team members in Juba are returning and the peace which we signed is not being implemented and there is no communication. The Sudanese leaders are engaged in their own affairs and nobody is talking to those in Juba”, Gatwech said, as quoted by Sudan Tribune. 

With pressure piling up from within and time running out: what are Gatwech’s options? And, with security arrangements having moved slightly ahead, will they get their wish?