REBEL? Former SPLA commander Gen Paul Awan Malong

The top military command of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the official army of South Sudan, has continued to reject the presence of the armed opposition forces under the overall leadership of the First Vice-President, Riek Machar.

Chief of general staff of the SPLA, General Paul Malong Awan, said forces of the armed opposition faction of the SPLA-IO will not be allowed to assemble in Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal regions, arguing that they only have a presence in Upper Nile region, home to First Vice-President, Machar.

Awan, an ally to President Salva Kiir, also accused the opposition army of allegedly making demands to assemble forces in Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria regions, saying he is committed to implementing security arrangements but will not accept the demand.

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The chief of general staff of the government forces, while speaking on the occasion marking the day which the SPLA was formed as the rebel movement in 1983, reiterated objection of the government not to allow cantonment areas for the SPLA-IO in the two regions.

“We are committed to implementing security arrangements. Their forces have come to Juba, which is a clear commitment on our side. It is they (SPLM-IO) who are not making commitment. They are making other conditions. They are talking of assembling points in Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria,” said General Awan.

“They are saying they have forces there, which is not true. Do you know where their forces are operating,” Awan mockingly asked soldiers on Friday ahead of the 33rd day of formation of the SPLA.

General Awan asked the basis on which the armed opposition forces should be allowed to assembling points in the two regions without established bases at the height of the 21 months of the conflict.

The military spokesperson of the government forces, Lul Ruai Koang, himself a former rebel spokesperson, echoed the comments of the chief of general staff, saying the SPLM-IO has no presence in Bahr al Ghazal and Equatoria regions.

Contacted, SPLM-IO’s leader’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, said it was important to recognize the presence of the opposition forces in the two regions in order to successfully implement the security arrangements.

“We have forces in Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria regions. Dismissing this truth is not helpful to the implementation of the security arrangements in the country,” said Dak on Monday.

He said it is important to assemble all the SPLA-IO forces that are in the two regions so that every unit of the forces is contained and abide by the security arrangements.

Observers fear that denying opposition forces assembling in the two regions may cause continued insecurity by such forces.

The newly formed transitional government of national unity has not yet discussed the matter to resolve it.