10 January 2013

South Sudan: SPLA Acknowledges Soldiers Defection to Other Armed Groups

Juba — At least eleven soldiers are thought to have defected to David Yau Yau's rebel group in Jonglei State since he re-launched his localised insurgency in April 2012, the spokesman of South Sudan army told Sudan Tribune.

Photo ID of a SPLA soldier found at the scene of fighting in Makuach on January 2, 2013, bearing SPLA logo and name of James Yangtalar Kek, a soldier, belong to Division VII (ST)

Col. Philip Aguer admitted Thursday that some members of South Sudan's military (SPLA) had defected to join cattle raiding and other armed groups.

The army spokesperson was responding to questions about an identification (ID) card found at the scene of fighting on the New Year Day raid in Makuach Payam [district] bearing the logo of the SPLA.

Col. Aguer said the soldier might be a "defector".

Since David Yau Yau rebelled again in April eleven soldiers are suspected to have joined his rebel group. The card found on 2 January might be of one of the soldiers who defected, Aguer added.

The army ID card was found on January 2, 2013 at the scene of fighting that left three people dead in Makuach, east of Bor, the capital of Jonglei State. Another raider was killed in Cuei-keer, in the north of Bor County.

A gun marked as belonging to the South Sudan Police Services in Jonglei State was recovered from the scene, according to authorities.

The ID card, seen by Sudan Tribune, gave the name, division and rank of the soldier but did not indicate where he is from.

The wallet in which the ID card contained 25 South Sudanese pounds (SSP) and appeared to have been torn by bullet. Sudan Tribune did not see the gun allegedly belonging to Jonglei State police.

There has been no comment from Jonglei State on how the soldiers have managed to escape to join cattle raiders or the rebels in Pibor County.

On his part, Col. Aguer said the army does punish people who leave the army, adding that only those who defect can fight against the government.

"Since formation of SPLA in 1983, defection has been there and is punishable by capital punishment," he said adding that the cases of defection are now minimal.

The civil war meant that many civilians own weapons in South Sudan but this has been made illegal as authorities attempt to restore to security in Jonglei and other states that have suffered from cattle raiding.

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