A new rebel group in war-torn South Sudan has gained some high-level supporters, both within the country and the South Sudanese diaspora.
General Faiz Ismail Futur announced this week that he has resigned his post in the main rebel group, the SPLM-IO, to join the National Salvation Front.
Futur, who was the SPLM-IO's commander in the Wester Bahr al Ghazal area, told VOA's South Sudan in Focus program that the rebel soldiers under his command had been ignored by rebel chief Riek Machar since 2015.
"I am practical person; I need to work closely with my army in the front line as I did for the past years," the general said. " ... I am really sorry to find out that there is no institutional plan in IO.’
Early last week, another official within Machar’s rebel group resigned. VOA obtained the resignation letter of former deputy spokesman Colonel Nyarji Jermlili Roman who worked briefly in Machar’s office after the SPLM-IO signed a peace deal with the government in August 2015.
Jermlili cited lack of accountability and tribalism as some of the institutional problems within the SPLM IO. He also accused Machar of failing to supply his forces in Equatoria with arms and necessary logistical support.
The SPLM-IO's director for public relations denied there is any leadership crisis among the rebels. Puok Both Bulang said General Futur was relieved of his duties last September "based on some administrative issues."
Meanwhile, senior members of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the diaspora have defected to the National Salvation Front.
The former chairman of SPLM secretariat in the United States, Ladu Jada Gubek, told VOA in an interview Thursday that he and 10 other executive members of the secretariat have switched to the NSF.
He said he has lost confidence in the ability and the leadership of President Salva Kiir to end the violence in South Sudan.
‘’The SPLM-led government under General Salva Kiir Mayardit has turned from democracy to dictatorship, from freedom to oppression, from equal treatment and participation to marginalization, from nationalism to tribalism and from peace to war,’’ he said.
Jada said the government in Juba has endangered the union of South Sudanese by pitting tribes against each other.
He said the SPLM secretariat in the United States tried to reform the party, but faced resistance from what he called tribal supporters of the status quo.
"And therefore non-Dinka South Sudanese are often treated with second class status and viewed with suspicions and distrust,’’ he said.
Jada, who hails from the Equatoria region of South Sudan, said his decision to join the National Salvation Front has no connection to the ethnicity of the NSF's leader, General Thomas Cirillo Swaka, who also hails from Equatoria.
Other reported defectors to the NSF include the army's former director of military justice Brigadier General Henry Oyay Nyago; army commander of logistics support General Kamilo Otwari Alerado Paul; politician Lado Jada Kwajok and six SPLM-IO shadow governors from the Equatoria region.
Mired in war
South Sudan has been mired in war since fighting between pro- and anti-Kiir factions broke out at the end of 2013. The war has killed tens of thousands, displaced more than two million people from their homes and triggered ongoing food shortages in many areas.
Opponents of Kiir accuse him of seizing power and property for his own Dinka tribe at the expense of the many other tribes that make up South Sudan, which became an independent country only six years ago.
Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar signed a peace deal in August 2015, but the agreement has made little progress since fighting in the capital, Juba, last July killed 300 people and forced Machar to flee the country.
The leader of the NSF, General Cirillo, has said Kiir is destroying the East African nation and must be overthrown.