JUBA – South Sudan’s main armed opposition Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) in Western Bahr el Ghazal state has downplayed the defection of its sector seven commander Gen. Thomas Baselio Tendo Kali who declared his allegiance to former SPLA-IO chief of staff General Simon Gatwech Dual last week, saying the senior opposition commander has no forces in the area.
In a statement on September 8th 2021, 1st Lt. Gen. Thomas Baselio Tendo Kali said he is no longer loyal to First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar and that he will start supporting General Simon Gatwech Dual in his talks with the government of President Salva Kiir Mayardit to implement the security arrangements provided for in the revitalized peace agreement.
Machar who is the chairman and commander in chief of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/SPLA-IO) signed a revitalized version of a 2015 peace agreement to end the country’s deadly conflict. The peace deal provided for the reunification of the rival forces under a close known as the ‘security arrangements’ on which basis the country’s security sector shall be reformed.
However, tactical delay from the parties to the implementation of the security arrangements have sparked international and regional concerns and has badly caused political and military infighting in the main armed opposition group leading to defection of the General Simon Gatwech Dual, the SPLA-IO’s chief of staff, in August this year.
In his statement declaring allegiance to Gen. Gatwech Dual, Gen. Baselio accused First Vice President of being the stumbling block to the implementation of the security arrangements and said he will now support General Simon Gatwech Dual in his quest for the implementation to implement the revitalized peace agreement from President Salva Kiir Mayardit.
“On my own behalf as the commander of Western Bahr el Ghazal Lions Front in SPLA-IO’s sector 7, and on behalf of the leaders, officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the front, we are making this statement to announce that we support the ongoing peace process between General Simon Gatwech Dual, the Interim Chairman and Commander in Chief of the SPLM/SPLA (IO),” Gen. Baselio said in his statement dated September 8.
“The negligence by the previous leadership on the security arrangements is about throwing the forces to an unknown fate that has no end. We want real peace, not the peace of personal interests, a peace in which all parties guarantee their rights and turning the pages of war once and for all through the merger of the forces to become unified forces with the sole mandate to protect the homeland and the people, not forces belonging to individuals or specific parties,” he added.
In respond, General Ashab Khamis Fahal, a member of the SPLA-IO High Command Council from Western Bahr el Ghazal said the defection by Gen. Baselio will have no negative impact on the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement and the leadership of the SPLA-IO saying the defecting opposition commander has no forces on the ground.
“His declaration of joining Kit-Gwang group is a personal decision. It does not represent the Lions of Sector 7, Western Bahr el Ghazal front. His accusations to SPLM- IO leadership for not taking care to the implementation of Chapter Two of the security arrangement are baseless. The source of the delay is well-known to each and every one,” the Machar-allied commander said in the statement.
“We respect any individual decision based on our belief in the freedom of expression and right of everyone to decide his future, but we do not accept any an individual to return to his position as the concept of all especially in the issue that has something to do with consent,” he added.