SPLM/A denies defection of high-ranking commander

Thursday, 5 July 2001 (IRIN)

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) on Thursday denied that a high-ranking commander from the Nubah Mountains had defected to the government, as had been claimed.

SPLM/A spokesman Samson Kwaje said in a press statement that the man involved, a former "junior SPLA officer of the rank of captain", Muhammad Ali Tayih, was no longer an officer or civilian official of the movement - having been suspended for alleged inefficiency and corrupt practices - before he was "lured back to Khartoum" from Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya.

"On a more serious note," Kwaje stated, the SPLM/A regretted "the attitude of the UNHCR of allowing covert operations by the government of Sudan in Kakuma refugee camp, which is in violation of international convention regarding refugees".

He alleged that Sudanese embassy officials had been accorded free access to Kakuma, "and that their activities of forming recruitment cells among the refugees have gone unchallenged by UNHCR officials".

The SPLM/A was once more appealing to the UNHCR and other UN agencies "not to allow these activities to continue as this would make them appear as agents of the National Islamic Front [as the SPLM/A calls the Sudanese ruling party, now known as the National Congress party]".

UNHCR spokesman Paul Stromberg said the SPLM/A accusations were a nonsense and "not worth [a] comment".