ARMY-No known talks with Kitgwang group

By James Atem Kuir

The national army, the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) has denied being in negotiations with the intention of joining forces with the break away faction of the SPLA-IO known as the Kitgwang group amid emerging reports of engagement.

General Johnson Olony – one of the renegades of the group that claimed to have deposed First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny as the leader of the main opposition group, SPLM/A-IO in a coup spearheaded by former Chief of Staff, General Simon Gatwech Duallast month- had on Tuesday revealed that his group was in talks with the government to join the SSPDF.

Gen. Olony who allegedly spoke exclusively to RadioTamazuj in a conversation carried by the Dawn Newspaper yesterday, also disclosed that his side wanted to discuss implementation of peace under the supervision of Sudan.

Colonel Lam Paul Gabriel, spokesperson of the SPLA-IO under Dr. Machar, which had been accusing anti-peace elements within the SSPDF of sponsoring the Kitgwang split, said Olony’s revelation was a confirmation of what had been happening behind the curtain.

“The message that is coming from Johnson Olony is a clear mark that it has been happening,” he said in an interview yesterday.Col. Lam added thatit would change their position if the group defected to their peace partner, SSPDF.

However, in an interview with Juba Monitor yesterday, SSPDF spokesperson Major-general Lul Ruai Koang bluntly refuted the claims by Gen. Olony describing the assertion by the Kitgwang group as a ‘lie’.

“As far as the top leadership of the SSPDF is concerned, we are not in talks with General Olony. It is a lie, we in the SSPDF arenot in negotiations with Olony or Simon Gatwech or anyone else in the Kitgwang group,”Gen. Koang stressed, adding that: “ Ihave just confirmed this from the SSPDF Chief of Defense forces,who is the senior most officer that is managing our affairs.”

Gen. Koang said the Kitgwang splitwas an internal dispute within SPLM/A-IO, and that SSPDF bore no blame for it whatsoever. He added the dispute would not affect peace implementation.

The Kitgwang Declaration had in the past resulted in deadly clashes between the rival forces leading to killing of scores from both sides, with each group blaming the other for attacking first.

General SimonDual has since maintained that he was the interim chairman of SPLM/A-IO after replacing Dr. Machar on August 4 in Magenis, accusing his former boss of weakening the position of the group in the revitalized peace agreement and alleged nepotism.

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