The leader of the main opposition group, Dr. Riek Machar has dismissed two military leaders assigned to the crucial Joint Defense Board.
Those relieved from their positions are General James Koang Chuol and General Yiel Dak Wie.
JDB is one of the main mechanisms under the National Pre-Transitional Committee in charge of the implementation of the security arrangements.
According to the revitalized peace agreement, the JDB is tasked to organize forces to exercise command and control over all forces during the pre-transitional period.
The body was set up in 2018 at the level of chiefs of staff and directors general of national security service, police and all other organized forces.
General James Koang Chuol, SPLA-IO’s Deputy Chief of General Staff for Administration and Finance, and was also the acting Chief of Staff was working closely with the SSPDF’s Chief of Defense Forces to assemble, train and build trust among the forces, in anticipation of the unification process.
Many observers, including civil society activists in Juba, have previously praised the cordial relations between Gen. James Koang and SSPDF’s Gen. Jok Riak.
But on Wednesday, the opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar wrote a letter to IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan, informing him that Gen. Koang is being replaced by General Gabriel Duop Lam as Co-chair of Joint Defense Board.
Gen. Duop Lam previously served as the Minister of Labor, after remaining with First Vice President Taban Deng’s group during the violence and split of the SPLM/A-IO in 2016.
But he later deserted the position and opted to rejoin Riek Machar’s group.
Machar also replaced General Yiel Dak Wie with Brigadier General, Pal Yiech in the JDB.
The SPLA-in Opposition has defended the move saying it is part of the movement’s “reorganization” process.
It stressed that the replacement of the two generals in the Joint Defense Board is meant to prepare them to take up political posts in the new government expected to be formed next month.
“We are preparing to form a government by the 22nd February, this formation of the government needs reshuffle that will be taking place beginning from the politicians coming down to the military,” affirmed Colonel Lam Paul Gabriel, SPLA-IO deputy spokesperson.
He told Eye Radio that the replacement would not affect the work of the JDB or derail the implementation of the security arrangements.
“It is administrative in such a way that our chairman and commander in chief may need some people from the military to go to the political way. So it is something to do with the movement, reorganization in its structure.”
No new assignments have been given to the two Generals.
Gen. James Koang welcomed the move.
“Comrade Chairman, I have signed off…hopeful that your current engagement with H.E the President continue to bear fruit which shall lead to lasting peace in our country,” James Koang in a letter dated 9 January 2020.
“The people of South Sudan have suffered…they need peace. It is incumbent upon the leaders to deliver peace,” he concluded.
The National Pre-Transitional Committee and the IGAD Special Envoy to South Sudan, Dr. Ismail Wais is yet to comment on the matter.
It is not clear when the new SPLA-IO generals will take up their new tasks.
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