OSINT sources on Tuesday, 21 July reported the change in the leadership of the South Sudan rebel group. The group’s leader, former vice president Riek Machar issued orders relieving senior military commanders amid rumors of an intense rift within the rebel group.
Machar’s Changes in Opposition
- On Tuesday, Machar relieved Major General James Koang Chuol Ranley as commander of Special Division (I), reappointing him as chief of general staff for operations
- In the event, he replaced Major General Peter Gatdet Yaka
- Machar removed Major General Gathoth Gatkuoth Hothnyang as deputy chief of general staff for logistics.
- Major General James Koang Chuol Ranley has been replaced by Major General Johnson Olony as commander of Special Division (I) in the oil-rich Upper Nile state.
Intelligent reports indicate a growing rift within South Sudan armed opposition movement, the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO). This has prompted the movement’s leader Machar to make shifts in the group’s leadership.
The reports link Machar’s decision with indirect negotiations the affected commanders have earlier initiated with the government.
Rebel commanders are probably dissatisfied with their leadership and its indirect plans to return to the government without providing them with a clarification on the ongoing discussions over a draft peace agreement expected to be finalized soon.
South Sudan’s governing SPLM party has expressed optimism of reaching negotiations with the leadership of the armed opposition faction of SPLM-IO led by Riek Machar. However, the rebel group continues to remain unresponsive.
The 19-month long civil war in South Sudan was spurred in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir fired his deputy Riek Machar on suspicion of plotting a coup. Since then followers of Riek Machar have organized themselves into an armed opposition fighting the government in the worst civil conflict that has led to deaths of hundreds of thousands and other hundreds of thousands fleeing the warring nation to neighboring countries as refugees.
Possible Outcomes of the Dismissals
The leadership shake-up in the South Sudan rebel group comes amid dissatisfaction of the ejected military men. This is likely to spur anger against the group’s leader Riek Machar who are also likely to forge vengeance strategies.
The likelihood of former rebel leaders pledging allegiance to the government is also significant. These are former executioners of civil crimes who might surrender to the government and be subjected to either trial or government amnesty.