JUBA – A senior SPLA-IO commander has been arrested by South Sudan People’s Defense Force (SSPDF) in the country’s Tonj County, an opposition spokesman close to First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar said this evening.
Colonel Lam Paul Gabriel, the deputy spokesman of the main armed opposition group, said in a statement extended to Sudans Post this evening that their commander Brigadier General Gabriel Bol Wek was arrested while on the way to Wau ahead of the arrival of the newly appointed governor of Western Bahr el Ghazal there.
“On Saturday 18/07/2020, at about 11:30 AM, a convoy of SSPDF disarmament force under the command of Lt. Gen. Ring Tueny met with Brig. Gabriel Bol Wek and some few soldiers of the SPLA-IO in Nyabor as they were going to Wadho Alel to prepare to receive the Governor of Western Bar El Gazal State,” Lam said in the statement.
“Noticing that the SPLA-IO soldiers were armed, the SSPDF decided to disarm and arrest them including Brig. Bol Wek; even after they introduced themselves as SPLA-IO soldiers,”
Lam said the arrest led to anger among IO soldiers in the area who “blocked the road between Wau and Tonj and arrested some IG soldiers and civilians who were together with the soldiers at that time.”
“This brought in tension that led to exchange of fire between the SSPDF and the IO on the ground, in complete violation of the permanent ceasefire in particular and the R-ARCSS in general.
“The SPLA-IO respects the decision of the SSPDF to disarm civilians in their areas of control but not the SPLA-IO forces or civilians in areas controlled by the SPLA-IO.
“The SPLA-IO leadership asks the civilians to remain calm as this incident is a result of misunderstanding by soldiers on the ground and is being handled by the leadership of both sides in Juba.
Lam said his group has directed its forces to “release those SSPDF soldiers and civilians arrested including their belongings. At the same time, the SPLA-IO calls upon the SSPDF command to release Brig. Bol Wek with all his soldiers and all their guns so that they go back to their base.”
He further urged the “RJMEC, JDB, and CTSAMVM to investigate this violation and bring those responsible to book.”