By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
May 24, 2011 (RUMBEK) – South Sudan’s army set fire to over 7,000 homes in Mankien payam [district] of Unity state after they took the area back from southern rebels on Sunday.
The southern military (SPLA), has been accused by civilians and an official in Mayom of burning down the villages of Watna Buma, Lony Buma, Loath Buma and Bore Buma, which are situated south of Mankiem.
The SPLA accused citizens in the area of hosting a rebel militia that had clashed with the southern army last week.
The operational commander of the SPLA’s division four, Major General Koang Chuol, warned that citizens who side with the militias would be given the same treatment as them.
Mayom commissioner Charles Machieng Kuol told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday that on 20 May the SPLA attacked rebel militias at four Payams of Mankien South leaving 7,800 homes burnt to ashes.
Kuol said that he was surprised that the SPLA had set fire to so many villages. He said, he did not know why the SPLA had burned the homes and strongly condemned the destruction.
He added that the SPLA were responsible for giving protection to civilians rather than being against it citizens. Kuol said he had tried to appeal to the Unity state governor about the actions of the SPLA but the governor said he had not been informed of what had happened.
Kuol said the governor told him he will discuss these issues with division four commanders to find solutions to the situation.
The Mayom commissioner urged the Mayom members of the state level and South Sudan parliaments to discuss ways of helping displaced people from the areas and to help those who had lost their homes.
SPLA Maj. Gen. Koang Chuol from Unity State has told Sudan Tribune that their forces did set fire to house in the area but it was caused by cross-firing between them and the rebels.
He denied that houses were burnt deliberately but as a consequence of fighting with the militia. He added that the role of the SPLA was to protect citizens rather than turning against them.
Following recent deadly clashes last week in Unity State, the United Nation Mission in Sudan has expressed concern over the violence and heavy loss of life.
Around 100 people were killed in clashes in March this year. The South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) claim that 150 people have been killed in the recent clashes.
The SSLA are led by former SPLA general Peter Gatdet Yaka who took up arms against the South Sudan government in March, accusing them of corruption and being dominated by the Dinka tribe.
The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has regularly expressed concern for civilians in the area.
The UN mission has urged all groups in South Sudan to look for a means to enter peaceful negotiations to solve disputes and desist from targeting civilians.