By Lotole Lo Luri
A week has elapsed since Lt, General James Koang Chuol and three other Generals switched sides from SPLM IO to its arch-rival SPLM IG. They gave three reasons for their defection, which are:
1. Officers being left in a state of neglect.
2. Lack of consultations regarding the nominees to the Cabinet.
Further, it became apparent that the Generals were particularly resentful of the appointment of Angelina Teny, the wife of Dr Riek Machar as Minister of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs.
Observers were baffled by the timing of these defections and the officers involved. Two of the above reasons raise questions about what is happening within the Movement. Angelina Teny has been the Chairperson of the National Committee for Security and Defense in the SPLM IO since the 6th of November 2015. It’s fair to say that the position is equivalent to Minister of Defense. General James Koang Chuol and his colleagues have been under Angelina Teny leadership for years, then why now are they against her appointment as Minister of Defense? Is it a misogynic thing or that they have real concerns about her ability to fill up the position. But should that be the case, then why did they wait for over four years to bring it up? Moreover, their move will not change the situation much in terms of military hierarchy in the RTGONU. As Minister of Defense and Veterans’ Affairs, Angelina Teny will remain their boss whether they like it or not.
Furthermore, General James Koang Chuol and some of his colleagues have continuously been in Juba for nearly a year or more. He has been working closely with the Chief of Staff of the SSPDF General Gabriel Jok Rial. We all remember the joint Press Conference, where both declared joining hands to fight the National Salvation Front (NAS). It makes one wonders whether Kiir’s government managed to drive a wedge between these officers and their leadership and that Kiir’s agents orchestrated the whole thing.
Whatever may be the implications of the recent move, the turmoil within the SPLM IO appears to be deepening. The interview of the Chief of General Staff of the SPLM IO, General Simon Gatwech Dual over Radio Tamazuj was no solace to Riek Machar. He was very diplomatic in his answers. The critical points to be taken from what he said are:
i- He and his forces are waiting for Dr Riek Machar to visit them at his Headquarters at Dhiel and brief them.
ii- That his troops are undergoing training in their different locations and he cannot go to Juba before the completion of training.
iii- He urged the parties to implement the security arrangements; otherwise, people will disperse.
He further said he does not see any reason for the Generals to defect as the decisions taken by the leadership are political rather than military. Of course, many could see through his answers that he was concealing his real position regarding the new developments.
The SPLM IO appears to have entered unchartered waters. The discontent with the recent appointments to the Cabinet is commonplace among its members. It took regional and kith and kin dimensions. The Equatorian IO and the Lions of Western Bahr Ghazal feel they have been left out in the cold. Some Nuer clans are bitter that they were underrepresented in the Cabinet or should have been given particular portfolios. Rumours are rife creating uncertainty and rocking the entire SPLM IO “ship”.
As the turmoil continues within the Movement, exceptional leadership skills would be required to mitigate the damage and save the SPLM IO from falling apart. But does Riek Machar possess them?!
SPLM IO = Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition.
SPLM IG = Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Government.
RTGONU = Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity.
SSPDF = South Sudan People’s Defence Force
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