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South Sudan army denies tension in Unity state in wake of opposition defections

The South Sudan People’s Defense Force (SSPDF) has denied claims by the opposition Sudan People’s Liberation Army-opposition (SPLA-IO) that tension was mounting in Unity state amid mobilization by some of it’s former officers who defected to the SSPDF.

 Lul Ruai Koang, the army spokesman said there was no mobilization taking place particularly in Leer County of the northern oil-rich state where soldiers led by former SPLA-IO commander Simon Maguek Gai Majak have assembled.

On 6th October, Gai defected with about 200 soldiers to the SSPDF leading the SPLA-IO to issue statement last week of ongoing mobilization by the latter to attack their bases in Leer County.

 “I am completely not aware about any mobilization that is being done in Leer County, even today the commissioner of Leer County got in touch with the leadership and he said there Is no any mobilization being done,” Koang told Juba Echo in Juba on Monday.

“I am not aware of new wave of defections apart from the one where Simon Maguek announced defection and was received at SPLM house,” he said.

This comes after Lam Paul Gabriel, the SPLA-IO spokesperson issued statement warning of an imminent attack by soldiers led by Simon Maguek on their bases.

“Tension is high in Leer County as Maguek Gai who recently defected to the SPLM-IG is preparing to launch an attack against the SPLA-IO bases in and around the county using the SSPDF,” Gabriel said.

He added that the alleged mobilization is aimed at causing another round of unrest and displacement of civilians from not only Leer County but the whole of Unity State.

“It should be noted that the defection of Maguek Gai to the SPLM-IG exposed how the SSPDF is being controlled by a party rather than the constitution of this country. This in a nutshell is a remedy for destruction,” Gabriel said.

Defections within the former warring parties in South Sudan have been rife since fighting broke out in December 2013.

The latest development comes as the parties prepare to deploy the first batch of the 52,000 unified forces which are charged with taking up security of the country as it prepares to hold national elections in December 2024.

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