Troops loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar have engaged the SPLA in Pagak town.

Opposition forces in Western Equatoria region have rejected calls by the newly appointed controversial First Vice President, Taban Deng Gai, to assemble in cantonment areas the forces of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO), saying they are loyal to their leader, Riek Machar.

In a statement the commander of the SPLA-IO forces in the area said they did not rebel in order to be simply cantoned but to resolve the underlying problems prevailing under the leadership of the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.

“The approval of the cantonment areas for Greater Equatorial region will never bring peace because Cantonment is not the real grievance that made us to go to the bush, and fight against the regime of SPLM under the leadership of Salva Kirr,” party reads the statement signed by Brigadier General John Sunday Martin, SPLA (IO) 3rd Brigade Commander, Division 9 based in Western Equatoria.

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He said Machar remains the recognized First Vice President and the leader of the armed opposition, warning that any security arrangements implementation or the transitional government of national unity without his participation will not be accepted.

“We will neither accept any transitional Government without Dr. Riek Macher being part of it, nor accept cantonment areas in Greater Equatoria without Dr. Riek Macher being part to the Transition Government,” the statement declared.

“The Government of Salva Kirr and Taban Deng with their International partners must know that, the SPLM-IO forces in Greater Equatoria Region remained royal to the leadership of Dr. Riek Macher and therefore, we are not going to these Cantonment areas, but will continue to fight with objectivity of ousting the regime of SPLM-IG that is manifested by corruption, tribalism, dictatorship, injustices and lack of political will to bring an end to the sufferings of the innocent souls in South Sudan.”

The senior military officer of the opposition faction was responding to the calls by government leadership to assemble in cantonment areas members of the SPLA-IO in greater Equatoria region.

The government last week announced it had identified up to four cantonment sites in Equatoria region.