SPLM-IO warns against ‘dangerous’ party defections

SPLM-IO warns against ‘dangerous’ party defections
Press Secretary in the Office of First Vice President, Puok Both Baluang (photo credit: courtesy)

Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) has warned against the risks of admitting party defectors saying it could roil the ongoing peace implementation.

The warning comes after a Member of Parliament from the SPLM-IO representing Fangak  County in Jonglei State, James Kok Ruey, defected to the SPLM under President Salva Kiir.

But as he spoke to The City Review, the Press Secretary in the Office of First Vice President, Puok Both Baluang, said the SPLM-IO party was not surprised by the defection of James Kok but warned of the risks it could have on the implementation of the agreement.

However, Puok admitted that it was Kok’s democratic right to abandon the party and head to the peace partners.     

He described the defection and recruitment as an unfortunate scheme that works against the principles of the 2018 revitalised peace agreement.

Addressing the media during his defection in Juba on Thursday, James Kok claimed that he had been betrayed by the SPLM-IO Chairman, Dr Riek Machar, arguing the latter’s expectation to bring change in the country through the party [SPLM-IO] had not been realised.

 “We are concerned that this departure happened in the time of peace instead of focusing on how to implement the agreement.” It’s very unfortunate now to recruit from another side to join and defect, ” Puok protested.

“All this process is an attempt to slow down the implementation of the peace agreement, but we are committed to implementing the agreement in letter and spirit,” he said.

However, Puok downplayed any impact the defection may have had on the SPLM-IO, saying the party is doing well in Jonglei and all parts of the country.

 No communication

“We are not surprised with the defection of James Kok because this is not the first time. He is known for that; defecting here and there. We believe he has all rights to choose his side,” he said.

Puok added that the leadership of the SPLM-IO did not receive any demands or concerns from Kok before he resigned from the party.

“He had not raised any concern internally that made him leave the party,” he said.

Other departures

As far as party-hopping is concerned, SPLM-IO, the country’s main armed opposition outfit, has been on the receiving end. And in the face of individual and en masse defections from the leading party, the Dr Riek Machar-led outfit has remained unflinching in its reassurance, saying it remains unfazed by the political events.

Kok’s exit adds to a chain of departures that included that of Henry Odwar, the former Minister of Mining, who joined the Kit-Gwang splinter faction in August.

Earlier this week, the SPLM-IO revealed plans to replace Odwar in the ministry.

Also in August 2021, Major Gen. Khor Chuol along with three other officers defected from the SPLA-IO to the SSPDF.

Chapter two Article 4.1 of the 2018 revitalised peace agreement, under mechanism for security arrangement of the revitalized agreement stipulates that ‘‘all head of opposition armed group shall continue as Commander-Chief of their forces until the end of Pre-Transitional period or until end of the unification process’’.

Apart from the peace deal that prohibits shifting allegiance, other peace stakeholders such as Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC) have warned against the trend, saying it threatens the peace agreement.

For instance, in February 2021, RJMEC noted that the defections could stifle the unification process and this will only translate into more roadblocks.

“These growing defections and intercommunal violence could destabilise the permanent ceasefire and insufficient resources devoted to the training and redeployment of the NUF, with the potential to derail unification.” RJMEC’s report partly read.