JUBA, OCTOBER 27, 2023 (SUDANS POST) – The SPLM-IO Kitgwang Agwelek faction under General Johnson Olony Thabo has denied that its leader is being prevented by the government security agencies to travel back to Upper Nile State’s capital Malakal.
Olony who signed a peace deal with the government in January 2022 in the Sudanese capital Khartoum returned to Juba for the first time since 2013 in May this year. At the time, he said he would stay in the capital for a week and would return to Malakal to help in the dissemination of peace in Upper Nile.
A week later, Agwelek officials told Sudans Post that Olony’s return to Malakal has been delayed because he was meeting with senior government and army officials to discuss the integration plans for his forces.
Last week, rumors surfaced on social media alleging that the opposition commander who has declared his allegiance to the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) and the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) faction was being prevented from returning to Malakal.
But speaking to Sudans Post yesterday, the SPLM-IO Kitgwang Agwelek faction’s head of political affairs Paul Achot denied the claims and said Olony was busy in the capital preparing his forces for integration into the SSPDF and would return to Malakal once he finishes the process.
“The general’s movement is not restricted. He is free to go anywhere, but at the time he has to stick around to attend to issues pertaining to the agreement implementation. He will eventually leave for Upper Nile when the Integration process begins,” Achot said.
General Olony joined the government at the onset of the South Sudanese civil war in 2013 after returning from Sudan where he was being hosted as a rebel. He later defected in 2015 after suspected government-linked militiamen killed his deputy in Malakal weeks earlier.
He joined the main armed opposition Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition SPLM/SPLA (IO) under First Vice President Riek Machar later on but defected after President Salva Kiir refused to accept his nomination by Machar to be the governor of Upper Nile state following the signing of the revitalized peace agreement in 2018.
Kiir had said that Olony was a “warmonger” who cannot be the governor responsible for reuniting the bitter Upper Nile state communities.
He later on defected along with the SPLA-IO military chief of staff General Simon Gatwech Dual after they attempted to remove Machar as leader of the group. They two signed separate agreements with President Kiir in January 2022 and later on split sparking deadly violence among their forces in Upper Nile.
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