Rebel leader defects in Jonglei State: S. Sudan

By Okech Francis, Monday, March 17, 2014

The army spokesman said government troops had repulsed a rebel attack near Malakal Sunday

The army spokesman said government troops had repulsed a rebel attack near Malakal Sunday

JUBA – The Sudan People's Liberation Army has said that a rebel commander loyal to sacked vice president Riek Machar had defected to the government side in South Sudan's Jonglei State over the weekend.

"On Saturday rebel force commander Lt. Col. Gatkek Colchik decided to denounce the rebellion and come out of the bush," army spokesman Col. Philip Aguer told reporters in Juba.

"He attacked rebel forces of Peter Gadet and fierce fighting ensued," said Aguer, adding that Colchik had articulated his support for the government.

Aguer, however, said Colchik's reported defection was still being looked into by the army.

"We're working on this. Full details and a comprehensive report will be made available to the public later," he added.

South Sudan has been shaken by violence since mid-December, when President Salva Kiir accused Machar of attempting to overthrow his regime.

The conflict has already claimed more than 10,000 lives, while the UN estimates that some 3.7 million people in South Sudan are now "severely food insecure" and more than 820,000 have been displaced.

-Repulsed-

Aguer said government troops on Sunday had repulsed a rebel attack in Makal near Malakal, capital of Upper Nile State.

"It was yesterday morning when a group of rebels decided to attack our base in Makal, but they were repulsed by our gallant forces," he told reporters.

"Our forces are keeping vigilant for rebel attacks, but we're also committed to the cessation of hostilities agreement," the army spokesman said.

Following a month-long first round of peace talks in the Ethiopian capital, the two sides signed a cessation of hostilities agreement in January.

According to Aguer, people wounded in last week's rebel attacks in Jonglei's Duk County had been flown to capital Juba for treatment.

"Yesterday, people injured in the fighting between the rebels and our forces and the youth were brought to Juba for treatment," he said, stopping short of providing the number of injured.

But Duk County MP Philip Thon Leek Deng said 14 people had been injured in attacks on Saturday, including 12 youths and two soldiers.

"On Friday, 17 rebels and six youths were killed, while on Sunday three youths and nine attackers were killed," he asserted.

The lawmaker advised young people to refrain from attacking rebel forces and only defend themselves when attacked.

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