March 4, 2016 (JUBA) – In a seemingly ongoing sign of disorganization within the military communications office of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), officials claiming to be spokespersons in the top military command have criticized their boss over comments on security arrangements in the national capital, Juba.
However, a senior opposition military leader dismissed the criticism, saying this was also a responsibility of his team in Juba.
On Thursday, the SPLM-IO’s undersecretary of the national committee for information and public relations, William Ezekiel Kujo Deng, told Eye Radio in Juba that the 1,370 SPLA-IO forces may arrive in Juba within two days.
Ezekiel who is also the head of information team in Juba and spokesman of the advance team led by their chief negotiator, Taban Deng Gai, also explained that some of the forces will be airlifted from Malakal, capital of Eastern Nile state (former Upper Nile state).
The information and public relations undersecretary is the spokesman of the SPLM-IO officials in the meetings of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) in Juba who discuss the security arrangements including their cantonment sites, shelter, feeding and medical care.
However, two of his junior officers residing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, have publicly come out with criticisms against Ezekiel’s comments, saying he was not the right person to talk about the security arrangements.
Nyarji Jermlili Roman, deputy spokesperson in the office of the chairman of SPLM-IO, Riek Machar, appealed to journalists in the country and in the world not to take comments from Ezekiel on military issues, but to contact the army’s spokesman, Colonel William Gatjiath Deng, who took up his position last year.
“Dear all media correspondence, kindly contact the military spokesperson of SPLA-IO for any information concerning or related to the time frame and date of arrival of our forces to Juba… SPLA-IO forces will not be in juba after 2 days as its being stated earlier on eye radio by Cde. William Ezekiel. Kindly follow up with Colonel William Gatjiath the Military Spokesperson,” Roman, also a Colonel in the army, wrote on his facebook page on Thursday.
“The media outlets should deal with right person for such information,” he added, in the public message seen by Sudan Tribune.
Another junior officer, Dickson Gatluak Jock Nyuot, also seconded Roman, asking Ezekiel to “lower” his voice.
“A good piece of advice Col. Nyarji Remlili Roman, let them lower their voices on military issues. As per now, non of SPLA/IO soldiers is going to Juba in the next two days,” Nyuot said.
Last year, Dickson Gatluak Nyuot was disowned by his former boss, Colonel Lony Thichot Ngundeng, who said Nyuot was a self-appointed deputy spokesperson who was never officially appointed in the military office.
He made the comment in reaction to an allegation against the Ethiopian governor of Gambella region, Gatluak Tut Khot, who Nyuot accused of being allegedly bribed by the South Sudanese government with millions of money in order to turn against the SPLM-IO.
The allegation almost caused a row between the SPLM-IO and the Ethiopian government until the former military spokesman, Ngundeng, came out publicly disowning both the statement and the author.
Ngundeng however in the statement he forwarded to Sudan Tribune last year, admitted that Nyuot was his helper in the office, acting like a messenger in his office, who also used to assist him in mailing his press statements to the media. He said Nyuot was not however authorized to issue a press statement since he was not officially appointed.
Nyuot has however continued to sign and send press statements to the media outlets; Sudan Tribune included, previously as a Major of rank in the army and the deputy spokesman in the military office. He has recently also changed his title as deputy spokesman in the office of the first vice president designate.
The official military spokesman, Colonel William Gatjiath Deng, whose office is supposed to be under the office of the army’s chief of general staff, according to the military administration, has been quiet for sometimes now.
James Gatdet Dak, the official spokesperson in the office of the chairman and commander-in-chief, Riek Machar, has declined to comment when contacted by Sudan Tribune to comment on this story.
“No comment for now,” Dak replied to Sudan Tribune.
JUBA COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE
However, Lt. General James Koang Chuol Ranley, deputy chief of general staff for administration and head of the SPLA-IO team of the Joint Military Ceasefire Committee (JMCC) for the security arrangements, in response to the criticism by the two junior officials, said it was also a responsibility of his team in Juba to update public on the status of the force transportation and deployments.
General Ranley said any military comments to do with the status of the forces deployment to Juba should be done in consultation with his team in Juba, who are dealing with the implementation of the security arrangements.
“If you want to talk on behalf of [the] army you should consult authority concerned with the security arrangements, which is the work of chairman of JMCC and the members of this institution,” wrote Lt. General Ranley in a public comment seen by Sudan Tribune, while responding to Roman’s facebook posting.
This is not the first time officials of the SPLM-IO publicly criticized themselves. Last year a conflict arose between the chairman of the national committee for information and public relations, Mabior Garang de Mabior, and the former SPLA-IO military spokesperson, Brigadier General Lul Ruai Koang.
The two officials went public by posting criticisms and counter-criticisms over origin and fate of a web-page for the opposition faction during which they used unpleasant words against each other. The top leadership of the opposition group had to personally intervene to stop the infighting between the two political and military officials.
Many observers from the supporters of the SPLM-IO believe that the conflict partly resulted to the defection of the former spokesperson, Ruai, to join the government a few months later.