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JUBA - 14 May 2024

Group of generals announces Gen. Simon Gatwech ouster

A group of generals in the SPLA-IO Kit-Gwang Faction announced that they had dismissed Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual as commander of the group, accusing him of reneging on the movement's vision.

In August 2021, the then SPLA-IO Chief of Staff, Gen Simon Gatwech Dual, and Gen. Johnson Olony declared a coup against their erstwhile leader and First Vice President, Dr Riek Machar.  The two renegade generals formed the SPLA-IO Kit-Gwang faction and signed a peace agreement in Khartoum with President Salva Kiir's government in January 2022.  

But the two renegade commanders ended up fighting each other and splitting ranks with Gen. Johnson Olony now ensconced in the capital Juba.

The group of the SPLM-IO Kit-Gwang generals said Tuesday they have replaced General Simon Gatwech with 1st Lt. Gen. Gatkuoth Biel Nyang, with immediate effect. Gen. Gatkuoth Biel, who was once a senior officer in the SPLA-IO Kit-Gwang Faction led by Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual, is currently based in Juba.

He was reportedly deported from Sudan on 14 December 2023 after disagreements over peace processes in South Sudan.

 "The military leadership has assigned me, 1st Lt. Gen. Gatkuoth Biel Nyang, as the interim chairman and commander in chief of the SPLA-IO Kit-Gwang Faction Peace Wing," Gen. Gatkuoth told Radio Tamazuj Tuesday.

 "We have been in consultation since January with our forces on the ground because Gen. Simon Gatwech Dual lost vision after we signed the Khartoum Peace Agreement in January 2022. He was supposed to come to Juba to implement the agreement," said the group leader, Gen. Gatkuoth Biel.

According to the Juba-based general, Gen. Simon Gatwech no longer represents the interest of the SPLA-IO Kit-Gwang Faction, and his leadership style is not helping the movement. "Gen. Simon Gatwech has delayed the implementation of the peace agreement we signed with the government. We have been pushing him hard to return to Juba to work for peace, but he refused to return. Our declaration today comes after consultations with the forces on the ground so that we implement the 2022 agreement with the government," he said.

"We have consulted the forces on the group in Jonglei and Upper Nile, and they agree that General Simon Gatwech Dual has lost vision and that the forces on the ground are suffering. So, the forces on the ground are unhappy with Simon Gatwech because he does not want to join the peace process," he added.

When asked about the number of the army generals who endorsed the new declaration, Gen. Gatkuoth said: "We have a number of generals and senior offices, including the general in charge of the forces in Jonglei, Solomon Taidor."

The breakaway group also expressed interest in joining the Nairobi peace talks if invited by the Kenya mediation in coordination with the transitional government in Juba." We are requesting to join the Nairobi peace talks, although we have previously signed a peace agreement with the government since the president is appealing to all the opposition groups to join the peace process. But if the government wants to implement the Khartoum peace agreement with us, it is also fine because we want peace and stability in the country," he said.

It was unclear whether, under the structures of the SPLA-IO Kit-Gwang Faction, the decision could hold and ensure General Gatwech's ouster.

The group of the SPLM-IO Kit-Gwang generals who announced Gatwech's ouster Tuesday accused him of loss of vision and abandoning SPLA-IO Kit-Gwang Faction soldiers in the bushes.

The spokesperson of the SPLA-IO Kit-Gwang Faction led by Gen. Simon Gatwech could not immediately be reached for comment.

Nairobi peace talks

A South Sudanese political analyst on Monday predicted that the ongoing Nairobi peace talks between the government and some members of the holdout group will serve as a basis for the extension of elections slated for December 2024.

Dr. Abraham Kuol Nyuon, Dean of the School of Social and Economic Studies at the University of Juba, said: "This is another possibility, which I said three years ago. It could be another possibility of postponing general elections this year so that the Nairobi agreement will be the basis for another extension of the current transitional period.”