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South Sudan Cabinet Minister Resigns, Joins Rebels


FILE - South Sudanese rebel soldiers raise their weapons at a military camp in the capital Juba, South Sudan, April 7, 2016.

A top South Sudanese government official, Minister of Labor Gabriel Duop Lam, has resigned from his position, accusing the Kiir administration of failing to address the country's problems.

In his resignation letter, seen by VOA's South Sudan in Focus, Lam said he has been frustrated for some time by President Salva Kiir's inability to restore peace and stability across the war-torn country.

Lam said he is leaving the government to rejoin a faction of the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement. The SPLA-IO faction (SPLA in Opposition) is loyal to former First Vice President Riek Machar, the leader of rebel forces that have fought Kiir's government since December 2013.

Information Minister Michael Makuei emerged from a Cabinet meeting Friday to confirm Lam's defection.

"The minister of labor, public service and human resource development, Mr. Gabriel Duop Lam, has defected," Makuei said. "And earlier, his deputy has defected," he said, referring to former Deputy Labor Minister Nasike Allan Lochul, who resigned in December.

Makuei said it was Lam's job to fix the country's public service problems.

"He is the minister of public service, and if he is the minister, if he is seeing that there are any shortcomings or any defects in the public service, then he is the right person to fix it," Makuei said.

Lam was appointed a Cabinet minister last April following formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity, established under a 2015 peace deal intended to resolve South Sudan's bitter factional divides.

Machar resigned from the transitional government last year and went into exile, but some of his SPLM-IO colleagues — Lam among them — had remained in the government.

The labor minister stepped down just days after Lieutenant General Thomas Cirillo Swaka, a senior official in South Sudan's army, the SPLA, resigned from the military and his position as deputy chief of staff for logistics and operations.

Information Minister Makuei said the recent defections do not threaten the stability of the Kiir administration. "Defection of A or B, defection of one or two [officials] does not mean anything. It will not have any impact and it is just individual behavior," he said.

Makuei said Lam left Juba for the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, shortly before his resignation letter was tendered.

VOA’s John Tanza contributed to this report.

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