A group of politicians and army generals who returned to Juba after denouncing and defecting from Riek Machar have come together and formed a new SPLM group that aims to ensure the government in Juba fulfils and implements all its promises to these‘former rebels’.
The new group, conveniently named SPLM-Former Rebels (SPLM-FR), has already accused the government of neglect and not following up on some of its original promises. The group is asking for regional and international recognition, and has demanded inclusion and insists on taking part in the Arusha Intra-party dialogue.
Among some of their concerns cited in the press statement distributed to journalists during their first ever press conference in Juba, the spokesperson of the group said they were abandoned by the government along with their families ‘leaving them in limbo waiting with unpaid hotel bills’ for months sitting under the mango trees at riverside hotels in Juba.
“Some of us were promised our old jobs back, none of that has happened since we returned..” read the statement in part.
“Now the government is offering to Pagan Amum and Dr. Riek Machar everything and more than what they originally promised us… we feel a little bit cheated. We want to make it clear that we still support President Kiir as the one and only constitutional President of this peace-loving country, but we did not just return for nothing”
Shortly after the current conflict started in December 2013, the government in Juba appeared to have put in action a series of well-orchestrated publicity campaigns involving these ‘former rebels’ – those who failed to find what they were looking for within the rebel cause and decided, or were convinced, to return. Plans for this style of high profile defections normally involves an undisclosed number of promises to the leader or leaders of the defecting group including a warm reception at the airport, lots of smiles and back patting, a press conference loaded with anti-Machar rhetoric and a staged 5-minute photo-op with the President.
But some observers say the defectors have been too short-sighted and careless in their aspirations to retain the things as they were.
“A lot of these defectors, (or SPLM-FR as they are now called) returned expecting to be hailed as heroes after they returned. They expected to be handed back their old posts, new cars and everything if they just praised President Kiir and denounced Riek Machar and his rebel group. That was too hopeful of them…”
The SPLM Secretariat in Juba could not be reached for comments at this time.