July 21, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudan’s former vice president, Riek Machar and current leader of the armed opposition faction of the ruling Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), has issued orders relieving senior military commanders amid rumours of a rift within the rebel group.
- Rebel General Peter Gatdet Yaka gestures as he speaks to South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar (not seen) in a rebel controlled territory in Jonglei February 1, 2014. (Photo Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
In the orders on Tuesday, 21 July, Machar relieved Major General James Koang Chuol Ranley from his position as commander of Special Division (I) and reappointed him to more senior position as chief of general staff for operations, replacing Major General Peter Gatdet Yaka, who was also earlier relieved from the position in a separate order on the same day.
The commander-in-chief of the armed opposition also relieved Major General Gathoth Gatkuoth Hothnyang from his position as deputy chief of general staff for logistics.
Major General Johnson Olony, former commander of Aguelek forces who joined with the opposition faction early this month, has been appointed as commander of Special Division (I) in the oil-rich Upper Nile state, replacing Major General James Koang Chuol Ranley.
The copy of the order extended to Sudan Tribune on Tuesday also said there shall be no any appointment to the position of deputy chief of staff for logistics.
“The logistics shall be handled from the office of the Commander-in-Chief,” it said.
No new assignments have been issued for Major General Peter Gatdet and Major General Gathoth Gatkuoth. And no explanation has been given in regard to the first major changes in the military leadership.
It was not clear what provoked the unexpected decisions. The rebel officials were not reachable for comment, though several government sources claimed in a series of interviews with Sudan Tribune Tuesday that the decision could be linked with indirect negotiations the affected commanders had initiated with the government over the past weeks.
Gordon Buay, one of the South Sudanese diplomats to the United States of America told Sudan Tribune that the development was expected because rebel commanders were dissatisfied with their leadership and it plans to return to the government without providing them with a clarification on the ongoing discussions over a draft peace agreement expected to be finalized soon.
Also, South Sudanese deputy head of mission to Kenya, James Morgan attributed the removal of General Peter Gadet to rumours that the later was “planning to switch allegiance from Machar”.
“So when Riek realized it was too late, he retaliated by issuing an order, dismissing him and his partner in crimes, Gatkouth,” he announced on without elaborating on the circumstances leading to the development.
General Gadet is under international sanctions, as he is accused of targeted civilians on the basis of ethnicity..