A South Sudanese minister has defected to the rebels, the second high-level resignation this week from the government side locked in a civil war which has displaced more than 3 million people.
Lieutenant General Gabriel Duop Lam, the minister of Labour, sent a one-page letter saying he would join the rebellion of former vice president Riek Machar.
“I reaffirm my full allegiance and commitment to the … wise leadership of H.E. Dr. Riek Machar,” he wrote in the letter seen by Reuters on Friday.
“With sound mind and excellent rule of reasoning, (I) do hereby officially resigned from the position as being the Minister of Labour, Public Service and Human Development in what so call partial Government of National Unity with effect from 17 February 2017 and from there I reaffirm my full allegiance to the SPLM/SPLA-IO under the wise leadership of H.E. Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon (sic),” partly reads Duop’s letter.
Duop was appointed labour minister in August 2016 by First Vice President Taban Deng having been appointed by Machar, serving as Minister of Interior from April-July 2016.
The former Jonglei state minister for law enforcement and rebel governor of territories controlled by the SPLM IO in Jonglei survived the fighting in State House J1 in July 2016 and praised the leadership of President Salva Kiir for protecting his life.
When Machar fled the capital, Juba, following three days of intensive streets battle, Duop remained in Juba and shifted allegiance to Machar’s controversial replacement, Taba Deng Gai.
However, in his resignation letter, the former labour and public service minister claimed the government of President Kiir attempted to kill Machar last year.
Duop reportedly left Juba early this week on an official trip, but lost touch with the ministry.
This is the second resignation of a top politician from president Kiir’s government after the deputy chief of general staff for logistics, Thomas Cirillo quit last week.
Oil-rich South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, was plunged into civil war in 2013 after President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, fired Machar, his deputy and an ethnic Nuer.
The fighting that followed has increasingly followed ethnic lines, and in December the United nations warned that it was setting the stage for genocide.
Government spokesman Michael Makuei Lueth, speaking at a news conference in Juba on Friday, confirmed Lam’s defection, the second resignation of a senior figure in a matter of days.
Lieutenant General Thomas Cirillo Swaka, the well-respected deputy head of logistics, resigned from the military six days ago but did not say he was joining the rebels.
He cited massive human rights abuses by the military and rampant ethnic favouritism, charging that Kiir was filling key posts in the security forces with Dinka from his home area.
Many human rights groups have reported that the military has looted, raped and killed civilians.
Days after Swaka resigned, the government released a statement saying he had been implicated in a corruption investigation and had fled to avoid justice, reports Sudan Tribune.