15th April 2024
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NAS spy chief, top commander join unity government

Author: Emmanuel J. Akile | Published: Thursday, February 22, 2024

Defecting commanders and officers of the National Salvation Front pose for a picture with National Security Service. (Photo: Emmanuel J. Akile).

National Salvation Front’s chief of military intelligence and its Lainya-based commander said they have abandoned the opposition movement and joined the unity government along with 600 soldiers.

Major generals Robert Ladu Marko and Ezbon Lotur Benjamin were received by senior officers from the National Security Service at Juba International Airport on Thursday morning.

The ex-NAS generals said they have defected to the government in response to President Salva Kiir’s repeated calls on the holdout groups to lay down their arms and join the peace process.

In his written address on New Year’s Eve, the Head of State called on the opposition groups fighting the government to come “back home” and try a non-violent way of unseating him, such as participating in the upcoming elections.

General Robert Ladu, who spoke upon their arrival at Juba International Airport on Thursday, said they came to contribute to the peace process.

“Today I’m in Juba based on the call of our President Salva Kiir Mayardit for peace, that whoever take up arms against the government will be the reason for destruction of the country,” he declared.

“We decided to join the national army. We want to assure the people of South Sudan, political and military leadership that today, we have come to support peace and we are for peace, because we know our country has suffered enough, there is no development and improvement, we came to contribute to the peace.”

“Our forces in areas under our control, we as their commanders, we want to assure to the people of South Sudan and the government that we listen to the call for peace, and we are for peace.”

His comrade, General Ezbon Lotur Benjamin, NAS’s area commander in Lainya said fighting the government will only add more suffering to the population.

He apologized to the South Sudanese people for the past conflicts and said they have joined the government to see the way forward for peace.

“We are very sorry, we South Sudanese, during these 8 or 9 years there were a lot of losses, and those losses were for our people, our mothers, our fathers, our sisters, our brothers, our wives and children,” Ezbon said.

“That’s why we said this is not right, war is a destruction in the country, this is our chance, God gave this country to us and that’s why we said there must be peace in South Sudan.”

“Our President said rebels in the bushes or anybody who has a problem with the government should join peace, that’s why we came before the government of South Sudan to see the way forward for peace.”

On his part, David John Kumuri, the Director of Public Relation at the National Security Service, and the spokesperson, assured the defectors of their safety, adding that the former NAS soldiers will be integrated into the armed organized forces.

“As a result of the amnesty call by the President, the commanders of Gen. Thomas, the chief of military intelligent and the area commander of Lainya decided that they are not surrendering, but they are responding to the President call for amnesty.”

“We want to assure them safety, we want to assure them that their forces will be integrated into all the organized forces. President says he doesn’t need war, he needs peace, there is no meaning of war.”

“Without peace the country will not move forward and today we received them with more than 600 forces of NAS, they are going to assemble in Kuda and Lainya.”

In response to the defection, the Central Committee of NAS command council condemned the defection of its senior commanders, while maintaining the betrayal has no impact on NAS.

NAS said the defection is not in conformity with objectives for which the opposition group stands for.

In June 2023, a senior military commander of the National Salvation Front also abandoned the opposition group and defected to the unity government.

Brigadier General Kennedy Kenyi Abdu, a high-ranking NAS commander appeared in pictures with Central Equatoria State Governor Emmanuel Adil Anthony while announcing his defection.

The former operation commander of NAS declared his allegiance to the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity(R-TOGNU) in a closed-door meeting with Governor Adil.

In December 2023, the National Minister of Information said the government discourages military defections but added it cannot turn away defectors returning to the SSPDF as this could trigger another rebellion.

Michael Makuei said if the government rejects those who want to join the government, they may also establish another rebel group, which, according to him, is not good for the sake of peace.

He said there are those who also defect from the national army under President Kiir to SPLA-IO, SSOA and NAS.

The government spokesperson also denounced defection, saying those deserting their camps should know that they are circulating within the same government.

The 2018 peace agreement has discouraged defection as it is a violation of the security arrangements.






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