A wave of defections to the government has hit several South Sudanese rebel groups since an amnesty was granted to armed groups in the country’s civil war early this month, a spokesman for the military said.
Lul Ruai Koang, Spokesperson for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), told journalists in Juba that at least four senior rebel commanders and hundreds of forces have crossed over to the government since the start of the week, and security agencies are negotiating more returns.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir last week pardoned his rival and former deputy Riek Machar and other estranged groups, after they signed a new peace deal in neighbouring Sudan on Aug. 5.
“Every group that has come back to us will have a very positive impact in terms of reducing insecurity, in terms of encouraging others who have not joined the peace process,” Koang said when he received some of the defectors at the airport.
The opposition groups most hit by the latest defections are the South Sudan United Front led by former army chief Paul Malong, the South Sudan United Movement/Army commanded by Peter Gadet and the SPLA- IO led by Machar.
William Weithiang Mut, who was Gadet’s deputy until recently arrived at the capital, Juba on Wednesday accompanied by some 300 forces.
The rebel defector said he abandoned rebellion to join the path of reconciliation in the war-torn East African nation.
James Okuk, a lecturer of Political Science at the University of Juba said the mass defecation is prompted by the recently signed peace deal as many armed groups scramble for opportunities in the proposed power sharing government.
“These guys are realizing that rebellion is not lucrative anymore and there are consequences ahead. So the perceived opportunities in the peace deal are attracting them,” Okuk said.
South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world. The UN estimates that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally.