Infighting continues between factions in the SPLM-IO group led by South Sudan FVP Riek Machar

South Sudan opposition factions clash killing 20

By Simon Deng

At least 20 soldiers were killed in fresh clashes on Monday between rival factions of South Sudan’s opposition group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army- in opposition.

Lam Paul Gabriel, spokesperson for the SPLA-IO faction under First Vice President Riek Machar revealed that the clashes that occurred at Morjala and Gazal area of Upper Nile state with another SPLA-IO splinter group left 20 soldiers dead including three senior military officers.

“The SPLA-IO forces came under aggressive attack around Magenis, 14 people were killed in Morjalla including three major generals, and the other five soldiers got killed in Ghazal area,” Gabriel told The Juba Echo in Juba on Tuesday.

On August 4th, the breakaway SPLM/A-IO faction led by Machar’s former chief of staff Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual clashed at Magenis with soldiers loyal to the latter leaving 34 soldiers killed.

This came after Dual’s faction had declared to have deposed Machar from the chairmanship of the former rebel movement, while accusing him of nepotism and weakening it’s hand in the transitional unity government formed since February last year.

“The breakaway faction (Kit-Guang) are working to widen their area of operation, they want to expand their territory but we are fighting in self-defense,” said Gabriel.

The latest fighting could undermine ongoing efforts to help reconcile the two factions.

Gabriel revealed that Machar has dispatched a team to neighboring Sudan to help resolve the dispute with Dual’s group.

 “There was heavy fighting and the tension is still there between SPLA-IO forces and Kit-Guang forces but the commander on the ground has pushed back the Kit-Guang forces,” said the spokesman.

He expressed doubts over the graduation of the first batch of 53,000 unified forces that were promised by President Salva Kiir during his independence address on July 9th and citing the delay by the parties within the coalition government to agree on ratios within the unified military command structure.

“I do not think that there is going to be graduation of unified forces soon, as long as the unification of the military command is not put in place. Who is going to command those forces?” said Gabriel.

South Sudan descended into conflict in December 2013, following a political dispute between Kiir and his deputy Machar that caused a split within the army leaving soldiers loyal to the respective leader to fight.

A peace deal signed in 2015 collapsed in the aftermath of renewed violence in July 2016.

The revitalized peace deal signed in 2018 under pressure from regional leaders and the international community remains the only hope to durable peace in the youngest nation, following years of violence that killed tens of thousands and displaced millions both internally and externally.

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